Today might be the birthday (1475) of Cesare Borgia April 1476), Duke of Valentinois, an Italian condottiero (mercenary leader), nobleman, politician, and cardinal, whose fight for power was a major inspiration for The Prince by Machiavelli. He was the illegitimate son of Pope Alexander VI (r. 1492–1503) (Rodrigo Borgia) and his long-term mistress Vannozza dei Cattanei. He was the brother of Lucrezia Borgia; Giovanni Borgia (Juan), Duke of Gandia; and Gioffre Borgia, Prince of Squillace. He was half-brother to Don Pedro Luis de Borja and Girolama de Borja, children of unknown mothers.
Like nearly all aspects of Cesare Borgia’s life, the date of his birth is a subject of dispute. He was born in Rome—in either 1475 or 1476—the illegitimate son of Cardinal Roderic Llançol i de Borja, (usually known as Rodrigo Borgia), later Pope Alexander VI, and his mistress Vannozza dei Cattanei, about whom information is sparse. The Borgia family originally came from the Kingdom of Valencia, and rose to prominence during the mid-15th century; Cesare’s grand-uncle Alphonso Borgia (1378–1458), bishop of Valencia, was elected Pope Callixtus III in 1455. Cesare’s father, Pope Alexander VI, was the first pope who openly recognized his children born out of wedlock.
Cesare was initially groomed for a career in the Church. He was made Bishop of Pamplona at the age of 15. Following school in Perugia and Pisa, Cesare studied at the Studium Urbis (nowadays Sapienza University of Rome), along with his father’s elevation to the papacy, Cesare was made Cardinal at the age of 18.
Alexander VI staked the hopes of the Borgia family in Cesare’s brother, Giovanni, who was made captain general of the military forces of the papacy. Giovanni was assassinated in 1497 in mysterious circumstances. Several contemporaries suggested that Cesare might have been his killer, since Giovanni’s disappearance could finally open to him a long-awaited military career and also solve the jealousy over Sancha of Aragon, wife of Cesare’s younger brother, Gioffre, and mistress to both Cesare and Giovanni. Cesare’s role in the act has never been clear. However, he had no definitive motive, as he was likely to be given a powerful secular position, whether or not his brother lived. It is more likely that Giovanni was killed over a private matter with a rival.
On 17 August 1498, Cesare became the first person in history to resign the cardinalate. On the same