Alfonso of Aragon (1481–1500)

Alfonso of Aragon
Duke of Bisceglie, Prince of Salerno

Alfonso of Aragon (age 7) by Pinturicchio
Born 1481
Kingdom of Naples
Died 18 August 1500 (age 18–19)
Rome, Papal States
Burial Santa Maria della Febbre?
Spouse Lucrezia Borgia
(m. 1498–1500; his death)
Issue Rodrigo of Aragon
House House of Trastámara
Father Alfonso II of Naples
Mother Trogia Gazzela
Religion Roman Catholicism

Alfonso of Aragon (1481– 18 August 1500), Duke of Bisceglie and Prince of Salerno of the House of Trastámara, was the illegitimate son of Alfonso II King of Naples and his mistress Trogia Gazzela. His father, cousin of Ferdinand II King of Aragon, abdicated in favour of his legitimate son Ferdinand II of Naples.[1]

Early life

Alfonso received a thorough education in the humanities. His first tutor was Giuniano Maio who was then followed by the Florentine poet Raffaele Brandolini (also known as "Lippus Brandolinus" because of his blindness). From an early age Alfonso was involved in the crisis that hit the Aragonese dynasty of Naples. In 1495, during the French occupation, his father fled and later died in Sicily. Alfonso, aged 14, fought for the return to the throne of his half-brother Ferdinand, who became king of Naples in 1495 but died one year later. In 1497, with the restoration of the Aragonese control under his uncle Frederick IV of Naples, Alfonso was assigned to the first position of responsibility and became the Lieutenant general of Abruzzo.[2]


"He was the most beautiful youth that I have ever seen in Rome" - The chronicler Talini [3]

In order to strengthen ties with Naples, Pope Alexander VI arranged marriages between the House of Borgia and the royal family of Aragon. Alfonso's sister Sancha of Aragon was already given to the Pope's youngest son Gioffre Borgia in 1494. Alexander VI's idea was for his son Cesare Borgia to marry Carlotta of Naples, legitimate daughter of the newly crowned King Frederick IV of Naples, but Carlotta would not agree to marry him. To appease the Pope, King Frederick eventually consented to a match between the Pope's daughter Lucrezia Borgia, aged 18, and the 17-year-old Alfonso of Aragon.

On 15 July 1498 Alfonso entered Rome in disguise. Alfonso and Lucrezia were married in the Vatican on 21 July with the celebrations being held behind closed doors.[4] With Alfonso came the princely cities of Salerno, Quadrata and Bisceglie. Lucrezia brought with her a dowry of 40,000 ducats. It was part of the agreement that they would remain in Rome for at least one year and not be forced to live permanently at the Kingdom of Naples until her father's death. According to Gregorovius, "the youthful Alfonso was fair and amiable", "the most handsome young man ever seen in the Imperial city." By all evidence, Lucrezia was genuinely fond of him. In February 1499, Lucrezia reportedly lost her first baby with Alfonso. However, she was soon pregnant again.[5]

As the political situation changed, Pope Alexander VI looked to align with France, enemy of Alfonso's family. To this end he arranged a marriage between Cesare Borgia and Charlotte of Albret, sister of King John III of Navarre. Alfonso sensed betrayal when France planned to invade Naples and on 2 August 1499 left Rome without his wife, who was six months pregnant. His flight incensed the Pope who sent troops after him but failed to find him. Meanwhile, Lucrezia was awarded the governorship of Spoleto and Foligno, meaning that Alfonso was a consort without formal responsibilities. Eventually Alfonso was discovered through the letters he was sending to his wife in an attempt to persuade her to join him in Genazzano. With this discovery her family ordered her to lure Alfonso to Rome. Lucrezia met her husband in Nepi. They then returned to the Vatican in September 1499. On the night of 31 October/1 November, Lucrezia gave birth to their son, who was christened Rodrigo after her father.[6][7][8]


"Since Don Alfonso refused to die of his wounds, he was strangled in his bed" - Burchard [9]
Lucrezia Borgia (left) with Rodrigo (on the right next to her) and Alfonso of Aragon (to the very right), 1500

On the evening of 15 July 1500, at the top of the steps before the entrance to St. Peter's Basilica, Alfonso was attacked by hired killers and stabbed in the head, right arm, and leg. When the assassins attempted to take Alfonso with them, his own guards put them to flight. The prince was residing in the palace of Santa Maria in Portico, but so desperate was his condition that he was taken to the chamber of the Borgia Tower[10] where he was cared for by his doctors from Naples, his sister, Sancha, and his wife, Lucrezia. But on the night of 18 August, as Alfonso was still recovering from his wounds, Michelotto Corella and a group of armed men entered his room and strangled him in his bed until he was dead.[2] Following his death, his body was carried to the Basilica of St Peter and there placed in the Chapel of the Virgin Mary of the Fever.[11]

In the political context of a French campaign against Naples, Cesare Borgia was primarily accused of being behind the assassination. However, Alfonso's death remains shrouded in mystery. In his own defence, Cesare argued that Alfonso had attempted to kill him with a crossbow shot as he walked in the garden, but not many believed him.[4] Alfonso, given his sympathy for the Colonna family,[2] had enemies at Rome amongst the Orsini too, and it seems possible that the Orsini could have engineered the attempt on his life in July 1500. Among the accused was also Alfonso's uncle Giovan Maria Gazzera, mysteriously killed in Rome shortly after, and even Pope Alexander VI, because Alfonso, in May 1500, showed his discontent with the Pope's decision to nullify the marriage between Alfonso's cousin Beatrice of Naples and the King Matthias I.[2]

Two years later Lucrezia was given in marriage to Alfonso I d'Este. Lucrezia was obliged to simulate the appearance of a virgin spouse in order to marry d'Este. Accordingly, she was forced to leave Rodrigo of Aragon, her only child by Alfonso of Aragon, behind forever. Rodrigo Borgia of Aragon died of a disease in Bari at the age of 12.[4]



  1. Bradford, Sarah (1976). Cesare Borgia: His Life and Times. London: George Weidenfeld and Nicolson Limited.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Alfonso d'Aragona Biography". Treccani Encyclopedia (in Italian). Retrieved 4 Nov 2012.
  3. Corvo, Frederick Baron (1931). A history of the Borgias. Rome: Modern Library. p. 189. ISBN 0-8371-8274-3
  4. 1 2 3 Bradford, Sarah (2005). Lucrezia Borgia. Milan: Mondadori. ISBN 978-88-04-51245-5
  5. Bradford, Sarah. "Lucrezia Borgia". p. 46.
  6. Royalwomen Tripod
  7. Female rulers in early modern Europe by Sharon L. Jansen
  8. Alfonso of Aragon Historical Profile
  9. Cloulas, Ivan (1989). Borgia. Rome: Salerno Editore. ISBN 88-8402-009-3
  10. "The murder of Alfonso". Retrieved 12 Jun 2012.
  11. Burchard, Johann (1963). At the Court of the Borgia. Geoffrey Parker Editor. p. 182.
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