Light on Lucrezia - By Plaidy, Jean


After delving into the lives of the Borgias it is difficult to understand why Lucrezia has been given such an evil reputation. It could have been because many of the writers of the past believed, with reason, that lurid sensationalism was more acceptable than truth. To the more intelligent reader of today, this is not so; and a bewildered girl, born into a corrupt society, struggling to maintain her integrity, is, I think, a more interesting and convincing figure than an evil and sordid poisoner.

What, I asked myself, is the solution to the enigma of Lucrezia? Did that unnatural devotion to father and brother really exist? Why was it that, when she left her family for Ferrara, she appeared to lead an almost exemplary life, and there was so little scandal about her? It is true that there were two love affairs after her marriage to Alfonso d’Este, but one of these seems to have been almost entirely platonic, while the other was carried on in the glamorous glow of secret correspondence; and considering the licentious nature of the times, such affairs would not be considered of any special significance. Where was the evil poisoner—depicted in such works as the Donizetti opera—hiding in this serene and gentle girl?

So I have thrown this light on Lucrezia and what I have found is set out in this book.

In my search for the true Lucrezia I have been considerably helped by the undermentioned works.

An Outline of Italian Civilization. Decio Pettoello, Ph.D.

History of the Italian Republics in the Middle Ages. J. C. L. Sismondi. (Recast and supplemented in the light of historical research by William Boulting.)

France. William Henry Hudson.

The Old Régime in France. Frantz Funck-Brentano.

The Life and Times of Lucrezia Borgia. Maria Bellonci. Translated by Bernard Wall.

Lucrezia Borgia. A Chapter from the Morals of the Italian Renaissance. Ferdinand Gregorovius.

The Marriage at Ferrara. Simon Harcourt-Smith.

Lucrezia Borgia. Joan Haslip.

Alma Roma. Albert G. MacKinnon, M.A.

Hadrian the Seventh. Fr. Rolfe (Frederick Baron Corvo).

Isabella d’Este, Marchioness of Mantua, 1474-1539, A Study of the Renaissance. 2 Vols. Julia Cartwright.

Lucretia Borgia, The Chronicles of Tebaldeo Tebaldei, Renaissance Period. Algernon Swinburne, with commentary and notes by Randolph Hughes.

Memoirs of the Dukes of Urbino, Illustrating the Arms, Arts and Literature of Italy from 1440-1630. 3 Vols. James Dennistoun of Dennistoun.

Cesare Borgia. Charles Yriarte. Translated by William Stirling.

Cesare Borgia. William Harrison Woodward.

The Life and Times of Roderigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI. The Most Reverend Arnold H. Mathew, D.D.

Chronicles of the House of Borgia. Frederick, Baron Corvo.

Life of Cesare Borgia. A History and Some Criticisms. Rafael Sabatini.





At the head of the cavalcade which was traveling northward from Naples to Rome, rode an uneasy young man of seventeen. He was very handsome and richly dressed. His doublet was embroidered with gold and he wore a necklace of rubies; those who rode with him showed a deep respect when they addressed him, and it was obvious that he was of high rank.

Yet his mood was reflected in his followers who did not sing or shout to one another as they habitually did; there was among them an atmosphere of reluctance, almost of dread which indicated that although they rode steadily on, they were longing to go back along the road they had come.

“We cannot be far from Rome now,” the young man called to a member of his guard.

“Less than a day’s ride, my lord,” came the answer.

The words seemed to echo through the company like a distant rumble of thunder.

The young man looked at his men, and he knew that there was not one of them who would wish to change places with him. What did they whisper to one another? What was the meaning of their pitying glances? He knew. It was: Our little Duke is riding straight into the net.

Panic possessed him. His fingers tightened on the reins. He wanted to pull up, to address them boyishly, to tell them that they were not going to Rome after all; he wanted to suggest that as they dared not return to Naples they should form themselves into a little band and live in the mountains. They would be bandits. The King of Naples would be their enemy. So would His Holiness the Pope. But, he would cry, let us accept their enmity. Anything is preferable to going to Rome.

Yet he knew it was useless to protest; he knew that he must ride on to Rome.

A few months ago he had had no notion that his peaceful life would be disturbed. Perhaps he had