40 Facts About the Borgias, One of History's More Scandalous Dynasties
40 Facts About the Borgias, One of History’s More Scandalous Dynasties

40 Facts About the Borgias, One of History’s More Scandalous Dynasties

Tim Flight - October 27, 2019

40 Facts About the Borgias, One of History’s More Scandalous Dynasties
Thérèse Tietjens portrays Lucrezia Borgia in the opera named after the latter, 1870. Wikimedia Commons

2. The reputation of the Borgias has been a vast cultural influence

Once Lucrezia was dead, rumors about the Borgias spread like wildfire. They’d already been fermenting during Alexander’s reign, but with no one powerful to quash them the family’s popular image developed. Cesare’s reputation was secured by Machiavelli’s The Prince, published after both men died. Lucrezia and Alexander’s evil repute was immortalized in Barnabe Barnes’s 1606 play, The Devil’s Charter. Lucrezia’s legendary deeds also inspired Victor Hugo’s 1833 play, Lucrèce Borgia, which in turn became Donizetti’s 1834 opera. The 20th century produced numerous Borgia books and films, and the recent TV series further popularised the historic allegations.

40 Facts About the Borgias, One of History’s More Scandalous Dynasties
Pope Alexander VI in prayer, depicted on a fresco in the late 15th-century Borgia Apartments. Wikimedia Commons

1. But much of the above may be false…

How bad were the Borgias? We will never know, but allegations of incest and poison rings must be viewed skeptically. As foreigners rose to the top of Renaissance Italy, the Borgias made many powerful enemies. Most of the rumors are unsubstantiated, and the products of envy and malice. But there is no doubt that the Borgias were corrupt, sexually promiscuous, and did bump off rivals. They did what was necessary to achieve power, and were hardly unusual in this. Renaissance Italy was a place of murder, corruption, and political intrigue. The Borgias were just the most successful at it.

 

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

Bradford, Sarah. Cesare Borgia: His Life and Times. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1976.

Bradford, Sarah. Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love and Death in Renaissance Italy. London: Viking, 2004.

Hibbert, Christopher. The Borgias. London: Constable, 2011.

Kelly, J.N.D. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Mallett, Michael. The Borgias: The Rise and Fall of a Renaissance Family. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1969.

McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to John Paul II. San Francisco: Harper, 2000.

Meyer, G. J. The Borgias: The Hidden History. New York: Random House, 2013.

Alexander VI: Demon or Angel? Jason Rodarte. Medium. Dec 7, 2020

Sinister Facts About Cesare Borgia, The Dark Lord Of Rome. Kyle Climans. Fascinate. May 21, 2020

The Banquet of the Chestnuts — The Pope’s Halloween Party Turned Orgy. Carlyn Beccia. History of Yesterday. Oct 29, 2020

The Pope Who Threw Orgies And Tortured His Enemies. Melissa Sartore. Ranker. September 23, 2021

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