Lucrezia Borgia is probably the most polarizing Italian figure you’ve never heard of. Why is she polarizing? Probably because no one is really sure weather she was a wanton murderess or the virtuous daughter of a corrupt political family. Lucrezia was born in 1480 to Rodrgio Borgia (later known as Alexander VI) and Vannozza die Cattanei. Vannozza was Rodrigo’s favorite mistress and he had a total of four children with her, the other three were all boys, Cesare (he’ll be important later), Giovanni and Gioffre (they won’t be). Being that her parents were unmarried Lucrezia was raised by relatives of her father. Like most of us Lucrezia spent the early years of her life being unproductive, doing that whole growing up thing. Unlike most of us that changed when she was twelve and her father arranged a marriage between Lucrezia and a man named Giovanni Storza. At the time the marriage had been a political move on the parts of Rodrigo, now Alexander VI, and her brother Cesare. Not long after the marriage Alexander and Cesare realized that they could have made a better match for Lucrezia, politically speaking, if they had waited a while longer. So they decided to have Giovanni killed. It didn’t work out though, it appears Lucrezia had developed a fondness for her husband and warned him of the plan, giving him ample time flee. The marriage was annulled albeit rather unpleasantly at least for Giovanni, who was made to declare himself impotent publicly, although evidence points to the contrary. As a result he began spreading rumors that Alexander, Cesare, and Lucrezia were involved in incestuous relationships with one another. I think this story, above all else, is the reason why I’ll never be formally married. After that fiasco Lucrezia was married to Alfonso d’Aragon, who Alexander had executed successfully when his connections where no longer of use to the family. By this time accusations of the Borgia’s depravity had spiraled out of control. While most of them were true to some extent, Lucrezia and Cesare were known to have a relationship that many would find uncomfortable and Alexander and Cesare had many men who had gotten in their way or grown useless to them murdered. However no one is entirely sure how Lucrezia came to be singled out for poisoning people. There isn’t an overwhelming amount of evidence that indicates she was out murdering people like a more glamorous, Italian, version of Elizabeth Bathory. Yet it is claimed that she had special recipes for poison which she carried in a hollow ring. The ring was also said to have a small needle meant for stabbing people. The last part seems most terrifying to me since it means she would have been stabbing her victims while being engaged in otherwise affectionate acts, like hugging. The rumors around Lucrezia swirled for the remained of her life. Although she didn’t seem to let them affect her much. She married a third, and final, time to a man named Alfonso d’Este, with whom she had six children. Her father died shortly after the marriage and Cesare lost most of his political weight. Lucrezia went on to be a respectable duchness and eventually was able to shed he scandalizing reputation, being referred to by many as “the good duchess.” It was only after her death in 1519 that stories of her death ring and rampant affairs were resurrected. Probably because we’re infinitely more entertained by the thought of a woman who poisons her political rivals than we are one who hosts pleasant dinner parties.