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Sibling Revelry: Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

I first heard of the name Borgia from the short-lived TV show back in 2011. I found out that The Godfather saga had apparently been somewhat inspired by the Borgias, the so-called 'the original crime family'. It's also how the Horrible Histories sketch portrayed them - set in the 15th century with New York Gangster accents.

Thinking about the Borgias, I found myself wondering, what is fiction, what is fact, and just how depraved this family could have been? Were they simply the product of their time?

I had to know. I was actually in the middle of my The Borgias binge when Pen & Sword Books invited me to participate in this blog tour. Naturally, I was delighted to accept and learn all there was about this family, particularly, the two characters that stand out even in this colourful clan: Cesare & Lucrezia.

The book is quite a thrill to read, as the vigorous narrative takes you through the lives of this clan, starting with the first Borgia that mattered: Alonso de Borja, uncle to Rodrigo Borgia and thus great-uncle to Cesare and Lucrezia.

On the way, the author busts popular myths about the Borgia name, debunking them one by one. It's a real page-turning affair, finding out the next thing that these two did, albeit mostly separately. It turns out, that even without the extra spice of incest and fratricide (the jury is still out on who killed one of their brothers) their stories are very much awe-inspiring: he was the cardinal-turned-military-leader and she was the notorious femme fatale. The peripeteias of their lives are the main focus of this book. It takes us full circle, through to their posthumous infamy and media presence, centuries after they died.

The fact that these two made history while being illegitimate children of a man of the cloth who is not even supposed to have children to begin with, is definitely worth a chuckle. Link to book here.

The fact that Niccolò Machiavelli modelled his realpolitik treatise 'The Prince' on Cesare, is worth finding out, what did he do precisely? He wasn't even a Prince himself, he wasn't of royal blood, and yet his leadership and decision-making process garnered him a well-deserved place in history. Today he'd probably be giving TED talks. After retiring from the army.

N.B.1. I was also pleasantly surprised that there is a piece of armour that belonged to Cesare currently housed in a London museum.

N.B.3. Here are the two sketches from Horrible Histories about them Borgias: #wheresmypizza

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