There have been at least four Popes who were legally married before taking Holy Orders: St Hormisdas (514–523), Adrian II (867–872), John XVII (1003) and Clement IV (1265–68) – though Hormisdas was already a widower by the time of his election. The legitimate children of John XVII and Clement IV – three sons and two daughters respectively – all entered religious orders.
The story of Adrian II is more tragic. When he was appointed Pope at the age of 75, both his wife, Stephania, and daughter lived with him in the Lateran Palace, but were abducted and murdered by a man called Eleutherius.
Complete celibacy, of course, was far from guaranteed. Perhaps the most promiscuous Pope was Alexander VI (1492-1503), who may have fathered as many as ten illegitimate children, including the infamous Lucrezia Borgia.
This article was taken from BBC History Revealed magazine