Rumors of the possibility of depravity within the Borgia family spread. Lucrezia, possibly because of her youth and beauty, was singled out. The stories about their supposed sexual antics soon spiraled into tales of their other illicit actions – it was suggested, for instance, that they poisoned their enemies. I mean, this is certainly true. They did. But it was also suggested that Lucrezia had a hand in this.
Literally. People claimed that Lucrezia had her own special poison recipes, and that she carried around poison in a hollow ring. In some accounts the ring is said to have a needle in it which she could use to stab people. Just like a James Bond villain!
It’s a particularly horrifying idea because it means you’d be stabbed when she was stroking you, or patting your back, or hugging you, or otherwise engaging in acts that would be considered affectionate. Again, this could have been tied to the idea that Lucrezia was so seductive that members of her own family couldn’t resist her (and this was blamed on her, because being a woman at the dawn of the 16th century was a nightmare).
These rumors didn’t help Giovanni’s case. His own family pressured him to agree to the Pope’s proposal and annul the marriage, saying that they would withdraw their protection if he didn’t. Giovanni finally, reluctantly, agreed to.
He finally pleaded impotence, saying that the marriage had never been consummated. Given that Giovanni had supposedly fathered several illegitimate children, and as he pointed out, his former wife died in childbirth, this seems unlikely. It seems even more unlikely when you consider that Pope Alexander reportedly followed Lucrezia and Giovanni into the bedroom on the night of their nuptials to insure they consummated the marriage.
So, that’s odd.