Parents: Jofré Llançol i Escrivà and Isabel de Borja y Cavanilles
Date of Birth: 1 January 1431
Predecessor: Innocent VIII
Reign: 1492 – 1503
Summary: Few popes of Rome deserve a television series named after them, yet thus is the legacy and fame of Rodrigo Borja, the contentious cleric that became Pope Alexander VI at the time when Spain was discovering the New World. He was born in a Catalan town in the Kingdom of Valencia, in Spain. His mother was named Borja, but Rodrigo took the name when his uncle, Alonso de Borja, became Pope Calixtus III. Rodrigo studied at Bologna where he became a doctor of law. Under his uncle's support, he became a deacon and then a cardinal-deacon at San Nicola in Carcere in 1456. The very next year, his uncle made him Vice Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church, a nepotistic appointment not unusual in the Renaissance era. Ten years later, he was ordained a priest and consecrated a bishop, soon after becoming the Cardinal-Bishop of Albano. As a member of the Roman Curia, Rodrigo was an apt administrator with significant wealth and influence in Rome and within the Catholic Church. Throughout this time, Rodrigo was also serving as bishop of Valencia since 1458. In 1492, Pope Innocent VIII elevated the position to a metropolitan archbishopric, which Rodrigo continued to hold in his name throughout his papacy. When Innocent died in Jult 1492, the campaign to become the next pope began, with Rodrigo, Ascanio Sforza, and Guiliano della Roverese competing for the papal seat. Despite numerous rumors of simony on the part of Rodrigo, all three candidates were guilty of buying votes and the Borja faction was leading from the start of the election. Rodrigo Borja won in the end and took the name Alexander VI, skipping the name Alexander V as the canonists had yet to decide on the legitimacy of that pope (Alexander V was later declared an antipope).
Soon after becoming pope, Alexander granted his young sons various titles within Europe. His eldest, Cesare, became regent for Alexander in Valencia; Giovanni became the Duke of Gandia, a Borja hereditary title; for Gioffre, Alexander hoped to carve out a section of the Papal States or Naples for him. This last move put Alexander at odds with Ferrante I, king of Naples, whom he went to war with in 1493. Naples allied with Florence, Milan, and Venice, while the Papacy was allied with the Spanish states. For their aide, Castile was granted the vast majority of the New World in the papal bull Inter Caetera. Alexander sought the aide of France in his Neapolitan war. Yet everything switched in mid-1493 when Alexander made peace with Naples by marrying Gioffre to the Neapolitan princess Sancha. To win over the Roman Curia, Alexander created 12 new cardinals, including his own son Cesare. When King Ferrante died in 1494, King Charles VIII of France declared himself the king of Naples and prepared for war. When the French army was marching toward Rome, Alexander declared his alliance with Naples and its legitimate king, Alfonso II, then everything began to fall apart. Parts of the Papal States and allies to Rome fled from France or were quickly captured. When Charles entered Rome on the last day of 1494, Alexander managed to win the day by granting Charles' confessor a cardinal's hat. Charles captured Naples within two months. As Charles languished in Naples, trying to consolidate his power, the rest of Europe responded. A Holy League was established between the Papacy, the Holy Roman Empire, Venice, Spain, and Milan. It's one goal was to expel the French from Italy. Only a short battle was fought before Charles was allowed to flee to France. Ferrante's grandson, Ferrante II, was installed as king soon after. The Borja's suffered many tragedies during their time in power, and the first of those was the murder of Giovanni, duke of Gandia, whose body was found in the Tiber in 1497 under suspicious circumstances. Though Cesare was later accused, no evidence has ever been found naming the murderer. Cesare soon after resigned his cardinalate and acted as ambassador to France during King Louis XII's annulment, from which he received the duchy of Valentinois. He became the gonfaloniere—standard bearer—of the Papacy and, in 1499, led a charge to centralize northern Italy under Papal Rule with French assistance. Unfortunately, he was defeated in 1500 when Milan reorganized and managed to expel France from the peninsula. 1500 was a jubilee year and thousands of people from across Europe flocked to Rome to purchase indulgences to help build Saint Peter's Basilica and fund Cesare's wars in the north. Twelve new cardinals were again appointed, and with the extra revenue, Cesare went out to centralize Central Italy. In 1501, Alexander created the Dukedom of Romagna for his eldest son. That same year, as France and Spain invaded Naples, Alexander led an army to defeat a rival family, leaving his daughter on the papal seat as his regent. In 1502 and 1503, Alexander, Cesare, and his brother Gioffre, defeated the Orsini and Colonna factions and finally centralized most of Italy under Borja rule. In August 1503, Cesare was preparing to invade Naples when he and his father became deathly kill. Cesare recovered but Pope Alexander VI died at the age of 72. The short-lived Pope Pius III succeeded Alexander one month later, and then in turn was succeeded by Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere under the name Julius II.
Date of Death: 18 August 1503
Successor: Pius III
Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
- Decentius, usurper of Rome (353)
- Sixtus III, pope of Rome (440)
- Theodore II, emperor of Nicaea (1258)
- Adrian V, pope of Rome (1276)
- Paul IV, pope of Rome (1559)
- Wanli, emperor of China (1620)
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