Category Archives: Blog

Leonardo da Vinci and Ferguson, Missouri


Reading about the United States Justice Department investigation of Ferguson, Missouri has me thinking about what happened to Leonardo da Vinci when he was a young man.

The Justice Department investigation has decided that, after the botched investigation, the evidence was too contradictory to support a criminal prosecution of the Ferguson, Missouri officer who shot Michael Brown.  Instead, they are going after the City of Ferguson, for the way its criminal justice system operated.  DOJ is saying, among other things, that the criminal justice system in Ferguson became a money–making device, which violates due process of law.

Leonardo was a victim of a money–making criminal justice system: the Florentine “Office of the Night.”  The Night Office spearheaded a witch hunt for homosexuals that reached  its zenith around the time Leonardo was anonymously accused of homosexuality and publically arrested, then released for lack of evidence.  The anonymous accusation against Leonardo, three other men and a seventeen year old with no known connections simply labelled them as homosexuals, without explaining how “anonymous” could have known about the intimate lives of all five.  Under modern legal standards Leonardo could not have been arrested, much less jailed indefinitely based on such an accusation.  But that is precisely what happened.

During Leonardo’s time, over 50% of males in Florence were formally accused of homosexuality to the Night Office– sixty percent of men who lived to forty years of age.  It specialized in coerced confessions–but it did not get one from Leonardo.  Which is remarkable, once you understand how it worked.

I wrote about this in  Da Vinci Detects  – a murder mystery from Real History Mystery Press that details, as historical background, the abuses of the Night Office, including  the story of Leonardo’s  treatment and how it changed his life and reputation.  In Da Vinci Detects you will also meet other Renaissance greats, like Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Raphael and Botticelli, all of whom were together in Florence at the time, as a matter of historic fact.  Botticelli, in fact, was also anonymously accused to the Night Office.

Which brings me back to Ferguson, Missouri.  I won’t comment on  the DOJ’s allegations, which I have not followed  closely.  But here is the analogy to fifteenth century Italy:  under the Office of the Night, the judges, police, and anonymous citizen accusers were all paid directly out of the heavy fines imposed on convicted homosexuals–a system that was regarded as “liberal” at the time, since homosexuals were routinely executed elsewhere during that era.  But paying everyone involved for convictions resulted in huge numbers of accusations and arrests, numbers that dwarfed criminal prosecutions for homosexuality elsewhere.  And once arrested, the accused were subjected to a wide variety of pressures, occasionally including torture, to get them to confess.

All this is explained  at greater length and –ironically –in an entertaining way in Da Vinci Detects.

Do you see the analogy here?  When justice becomes about money,  weak and despised minorities get victimized.  In Renaissance Italy, it was homosexuals and juveniles.   In Ferguson, Missouri, it is blacks.  In both places, many were arrested on pretense.  Some were guilty, but many were innocent.  And the facts are so distorted by a biased system that it is impossible to know the guilty from the innocent. In this kind of justice “system,” people get labelled for bad reasons. Even though he was not convicted, Leonardo da Vinci has been labelled a homosexual pedophile for five hundred years, based on no evidence whatsoever.

Guilt or innocence becomes secondary when justice is about money.

Discrimination against Leonardo Da Vinci : The YouTube version

If you are visually oriented, the roots of the controversy around Leonardo da Vinci’s alleged identity as a homosexual pedophile are in this fifteen minute YouTube video:

The basic reason history has labelled da Vinci a homosexual pedophile is covered in the video.  It is anti-gay animus, plain and simple, as there has never been any real evidence that Leonardo was gay, much less that he was a pedophile  I also allude to two secondary reasons: bad biographers (one of whom was undoubtedly a pedophile with ulterior motives for accusing da Vinci) and the fact that he was undoubtedly close to two boys who may have been his adopted sons.


Plot Summary: Da Vinci Detects Murder and Sex: A Mystery of Homosexual Persecution in Renaissance Italy Featuring Its Greatest Artists

back image 1.6Thousands of historical murder mystery fans have enjoyed A Borgia Daughter Dies (4 of 5 stars with 150+ reviews on Amazon!), which tells the true history of the Borgia family and of Leonardo da Vinci’s early life, with Leonardo as principal detective.
Da Vinci cover FINAL 090414
Now Leonardo is back, forced by his real-life patron Niccolo Machiavelli to pursue killer(s) and re-live his arrest during the witch hunt for homosexuals conducted by Florence’s diabolical Office of the Night. My lawyer friends may be as shocked as I was by the Night Office, which methodically violated every principle enshrined in the American Constitution and Bill of Rights to protect the integrity of criminal processes. I had great fun finding an entertaining way to tell this sinister and little-known history, and illustrating it with wonderful Renaissance art.

Leonardo, preoccupied with what he was doing in real life, is assisted by my fictional protagonists, Machiavelli’s brilliant bastard daughter Nicola and her equally winsome mother Caterina. Readers will meet all the greatest artists of the era, and arguably of history. Borgia fans will learn about the Borgias’ greatest enemy, who became Pope Julius II, and find out what he did to Cesare and Lucrezia after the death of their father, the Borgia pope.

Here is a link to my first book, A Borgia Daughter Dies, where you can read (150+ average 4 out of 5 stars) reviews, the plot summary, and of course buy the book:

And here is a link to the new book, with a more detailed plot summary, Da Vinci Detects: For now, it’s only $1.99. The paperback will follow soon.

Those of you who have my personal e-mail, send me a message if you are interested and I’ll give you a gift copy. This actually costs me $1.99, so I ask for a favor in return: do read it, and if you like it, please post a favorable review on Amazon. If you don’t, I will hope you will send me any observations that might be helpful. A wonderful thing about publishing with Amazon is that it is very easy to fix mistakes!

Lucrezia Borgia’s life: second half

Este Castle, Ferrara

Lucrezia Borgia’s home for the second half of her life

Lucrezia Borgia spent the second half her life in Ferrara. After two marriages that ended in bizarre and terrible ways–as you will see if you watch the Showtime series– her last marriage to the Duke of Ferrara, Alfonso I (or Alfonso II if you count how many husbands she had named Alfonso), was relatively tranquil.

In fact, her life had a fairy tale quality. She lived in this  giant brick castle, complete with a moat and dungeons underneath. (There would not normally be ice on the moat. I happened to get to Ferrara during the coldest early spring in the last thirty years. )

Near the castle, Lucrezia attended church in a pink and white striped gothic cathedral, which had  a pink and white striped bell tower that is leaning a bit, after close to a thousand years.  Here they are:

The  cathedral where Lucrezia Borgia attended church for the second half of her life.

The cathedral where Lucrezia Borgia attended church for the second half of her life.




When Lucrezia tired of her castle or her pink striped cathedral, she could visit the castles and hunting Continue reading

The Real History of the Borgias

Contessa of Forli, alsoAn interesting exchange of comments on this website has me once again pondering the difficulties of deciding what is accurate history and what is fiction when writing about Italy five hundred years ago.

I feel I should clarify one thing about my earlier posts: when I refer to “fiction” in critiquing the Showtime Borgia miniseries, I am saying that the version of history the Showtime writers chose to portray is inconsistent with any historical account I have seen.  In other words, they looked at those historical accounts, then made up their own story. In many instances, their falsehoods have been easy to catch.  They got the Neapolitan succession wrong, for example, presumably deliberately.

This is not to say that  “historians” were accurate five hundred years ago, however. Italians of that era loved to vilify each other, and “Renaissance” historians gleefully reported rumor as fact. Guicciardini, a contemporary of the Borgias whose history is often cited, was one of their enemies and made many demonstrably false statements about them.  The printing press was only about 50 years old when all this happened, and may well have perpetuated as “history” rumors that in earlier times would have quickly died out. Eventually, society developed things like libel laws and journalistic/academic standards which tempered this kind of behavior.  But these things evidently did not exist in Italy during the high Renaissance.

For the most part, I can’t claim to have gone back to original documents in “A Borgia Daughter Dies,”  though I relied upon historians who did.  But did they do it every time?  It’s unlikely.

A comment on my blog asserts that Caterina Sforza did not, in fact, send the pope a gift wrapped in blankets from plague victims, a historical reference dramatically portrayed (complete with the  incineration of a papal official in his infected castello that is not in the history books ) on Showtime.  As I’m currently traveling, I  can’t look to see where this “fact” originates, but I’ll look when I get home, and amend this blog post if appropriate.  If the assertion about plague blankets came from the notes of Johann Burchard, the Borgia papal employee who is both a real historical character and  a minor figure in the Borgia miniseries, I’d be inclined to credit it–although it is often hard to tell whether Burkhard speaks from firsthand knowledge, or whether he is simply reporting rumors himself. But as one of the commentators on my blog stated, “who knows, it might be true. Caterina wasn’t exactly known for her restrained behavior.”

A Borgia Daughter Dies  reports the real history of Caterina Sforza as I understand it from credible sources.  The men of her era surely begrudged her accomplishments, which makes me believe that most of the extraordinary assertions about her are true.  (An analogy from legal doctrine  is an “admission against interest,” which says that when people admit something that is against their own interest, the admission must be true because they had no motivation to make it up.)  But am I certain that Caterina’s story is entirely accurate?  No. Colorful, fascinating, and fun, yes.  But completely true? Alas, I can’t be sure.