A Sienese patrician family noted from the start of the 13th century for its jurists and municipal officials. Agostino was made a knight by Emperor Sigismund (1410–37) and granted the privilege of carrying the eagle on his escutcheon. During the pontificate of Leo X (1513–21), Pietro served as a Roman senator. Giambattista defended Clement VII (1523–34) during the sack of Rome (1527) by the mutinous imperial army of Charles V. Niccolò is remembered for his biography of Catherine of Siena, whom he claimed was a Borghese. Galgano represented Siena at the Roman court of Nicholas V (1447–55) and later became ambassador to Naples (1456).
Upon the election of Camillo Borghese (1552–1621) as paul v (1605–21), the family acquired great wealth and distinction. Paul's cousin, Camillo, was made bishop of Castro (1594) and Montalcino (1600) and archbishop of Siena (1607). One of the Pope's nephews, Marcantonio, on whom the continuation of the family line would depend, was created Prince of Sulmona (1610), then married to Princess Camilia Orsini (1619), and the next year appointed general of the Church. Another nephew, Scipione (1576–1633), son of Francesco Caffarelli and Ortensia Borghese, sister of Patti V, was invested as cardinal of San Grisogono (1606), given the Borghese coat-ofarms, and made cardinal nephew (secretary of state). He was also appointed legate to Avignon (1607), archpriest of the Lateran, prefect of the Congregation of the Council, abbot of San Gregorio on the Coelian (1608), librarian of the Roman Church (1609), head of the Grand Penitentiary, archbishop of Bologna (1610), Camerlengo of the Roman Church, and prefect of Briefs (1612). Through his large annual income (90,000 scudi in 1609; 140,000 scudi in 1612) Scipione was able to buy extensive estates in Latium and the suburbs of Rome and become a generous patron of the arts. Affable and indulgent, but shrewd, he lived as a Maecenas in the Villa Borghese, which he built outside the Porta Pinciana to house his great collections of art and books and to serve as a setting for fêtes and theatrical performances. At Paul V's death, his prominence in Roman public life decreased, but his building projects and renovation of Roman monuments continued until his own death.
Among other prelates bearing the Borghese name are: Ippolito, a Benedictine monk who became abbot general of the Congregation of Olivetans (1617–18) and bishop of Montalcino (1619) and Pienza (1636); Pier Maria, grandnephew of Paul V, created cardinal of Santa Maria in Cosmedin (1626) and San Grisogono (1633); Enrico, prior general of the Servites (1652), then bishop of Alife in the Kingdom of Naples (1658); Girolamo, Benedictine scholar and bishop of Pienza (1668); Lucio, Bishop of Chiusi (1682); Francesco, titular Archbishop of Trajanopolis (1728) and Cardinal of San Pietro in Montorio (1729), San Silvestro in Capite (1732), and Santa Maria in Trastevere (1743), as well as Bishop of Albano (1752) and of Porto (1759); Scipione, maestro di camera of Clement XIII (1766), Archbishop of Theodosia (1766), created cardinal of Santa Maria della Minerva by Clement XIV (1770); and, finally, Tiberio, Bishop of Soana in Tuscany (1762) and Archbishop of Siena (1772)
In the 19th century the Borghese were prominent in the politics affecting the Papal States. Camillo (1775–1832) married Marie Pauline, sister of Napoleon Bonaparte and widow of Gen. Jacques Leclerc. He was made a brigadier general, the duke of Guastalla (1806), and governor of the French provinces of Piedmont and Genoa. When he died childless, the princely Borghese title passed to his brother Francesco (1776–1839). Because of previous intermarriage, the Borghese by this time also carried the family names of the Salviati and Aldobrandini. Accordingly, Francesco divided the titles among his three sons; Marcantonio (1814-86) as firstborn was Prince Borghese, and married Catherine Gwendolyn, daughter of the last Catholic Duke Talbot Shrewsbury— both were known for their humanitarian interest in supporting schools, asylums, and bettering the lot of the underprivileged—; Camillo (Borghese) Aldobrandini (1816–1902) became a colonel of the papal guard (1848) and war minister in the cabinet of Giacomo antonelli; Scipione (Borghese) Salvati (1823–92) married Arabella Fitz-James, and after 1870 was a leader of Catholic interests in the strained relations of the Church with the Italian State—together with his wife he founded the hospital of the Child Jesus in Rome. The Borghese line was again divided by Marcantonio for his two sons: Paolo, (1845–1920) with the cognomen Borghese and the titles of prince of Montecompatri, prince of Vivaro, duke of Bomarzo, and prince of Nettuno; and Giulio, (1847–1914) with the cognomen Torlonia, and titles of prince of Fucino, duke of Ceri, and marquis of Romavecchia.
The splendor of the Borghese family came to an abrupt halt with the great bankruptcy of 1891 when their wealth fell into the hands of speculators. The palace of Paul V became an emporium and housed a Freemason's lodge. The art collection and library were auctioned. Leo XIII bought the MSS and the family archives for 300,000 francs. The MSS (300) are in the Vatican Museum; the archives, known as the fondi Borghese, became part of the Secret Vatican Archives. In 1902 the state acquired the Villa Borghese and converted it into a public park.
Bibliography: For the early history:g. gigli, ed., Diario Sanese 2 v. (Lucca 1723)) v.1. j. h. douglas The Principal Noble Families of Rome (Rome 1905). p. e. visconti, Città e famiglie nobili e celebri dello stato pontificio, 3 v. (Rome 1847) 3:913–985. e. re, Enciclopedia Italiana di scienzi, littere ed arti (Rome 1929–39) 7:468–469. l. pastor, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages (London-St. Louis 1938–61) v.25. g. wagner, Catholicisme 2:167–68. g. moroni, Dizionario de erudizione storico-ecclesiastica (Venice 1840–61) 6:37–45. p. paschini, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques 9:1213–17.
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