In the last two episodes of Season 3, this much was historic fact: Continue reading
Since the Showtime Borgia series began I have been pointing out what is fact and what is fiction. (I know the difference because I worked hard to keep the history accurate in my .99 historical mystery, A Borgia Daughter Dies.) The series has strayed further and further from the historical record, and become stranger and stranger in the process.
Season 3 so far is completely fictional, though Continue reading
History reverberates with rumors that the Borgias–father, son Cesare and daughter Lucrezia–committed incest. Showtime could have taken the high road and avoided the rumors all together, since they are unlikely to be true. (See http://maryannphilip.com/cesare-borgia-pope-alexander-vi-lucrezia-borgia-involved-incest/).
But judging from the preview to the third season, it appears Showtime is taking the lowest of low roads: pretend there was incest, and blame it on Lucrezia. This is blaming the victim in the story. Continue reading
The Borgia miniseries has highlighted some of the technological advances of the Renaissance, to its credit. The writers haven’t always gotten the details right, but they are good at showing the essence. Continue reading
Rumors of incest between Lucrezia and her father and brother have dogged the Borgia family since Lucrezia’s first marriage. Are they true? No one knows for sure, but probably not. You can get the whole story of how the rumors got started and why they aren’t credible in A Borgia Daughter Dies, available at Amazon and Smashwords.
This is documented: the rumors were started by Lucrezia’s soon-to-be-ex first husband, who was very angry with the Pope for accusing him of impotence in order to grant Lucrezia a divorce. (Non-consummation of marriage was one of few available grounds for divorce then.) Hubby #1 wrote a letter to a cousin stating that the Pope “wanted Lucrezia for himself”–a statement as ambiguous in Italian as it is in English– and the rumors went viral from there. Soon Lucrezia was rumored to be having sex with both her father and brother. Roman poets, the yellow journalists of the day, wrote doggerel about Borgia incest and sold it on the street, thanks to the newly-invented printing press.
A mysterious baby fueled the rumors, too. Lucrezia hid herself for months in a convent while her first husband and father fought over the divorce, and likely had a baby there. The pope and Cesare successively declared themselves the father of a baby “by an unknown mother,” which led their enemies to declare that Lucrezia was confused about who the father was. This is pure malice—the Borgias were way too smart for that. The pope and Cesare acknowledged fatherhood to give this child–-who obviously had a very important mother, whoever she was—-rights to financial support and inheritance. The pope was close to seventy, so it made more sense to have Cesare assume these obligations, which he did. Lucrezia herself cared for this “half-brother” from afar her whole life.
Why is Lucrezia the likely mother? First, she spent a lot of time hiding in a convent. Second, the bodies of her maidservant and a handsome young man who had visited while she was in the convent were found in the Tiber, tied up and stabbed. And before that, a prominent individual witnessed Cesare chasing this handsome young man down the hallways of the Vatican and stabbing him as he clung to the pope’s ankles, begging for mercy.
But the young man was not a former groom named Paolo, the fictional “daddy” in the Showtime series. If you want to know who he really was, read my book.
Here are more reasons incest is improbable: Cesare and his father had plenty of sexual outlets and didn’t live in the same place Lucrezia did. The pope was close to 70, fat, running the papacy hands-on, and absolutely besotted with “La Bella Giulia,” his young mistress who was supposedly the most beautiful woman in Italy. How did he have time for incest, much less the energy?
As for Cesare, who had multiple mistresses and a number of acknowledged bastards: he had already contracted syphilis by the time this baby was born. But there is no evidence that Lucrezia ever had syphilis—she had a number of healthy children and lived much longer than Cesare did.
Incest ? Very unlikely.