On 17 August 1498, Cesare Borgia became the first man to ever resign from the cardinalate.
Cesare’s father, Pope Alexander VI, had placed many of his children into church offices. Cesare was made bishop of Pamplona when he was 15 and raised to the cardinalate at 18. However, Cesare himself did not desire a church career and when his brother Giovanni mysteriously died, some blamed Cesare for the death, Cesare saw the opportunity to inherit his brother’s position as captain general of the armies of the papacy. Cesare was 23 when he resigned the cardinalate.
With the approval of Pope Alexander VI, Cesare resigned from the cardinalate to pursue a secular and a military career. As long as Alexander VI was pope, Cesare’s position was secure, but with Alexander’s death and the rise of anti-Borgia popes such as Pius III and Julius II – Cesare found himself imprisoned and then exiled.