Review: The Borgias – The Hidden History by G.J. Meyer

They burst out of obscurity in Spain not only to capture the great prize of the papacy, but to do so twice. Throughout a tumultuous half-century—as popes, statesmen, warriors, lovers, and breathtakingly ambitious political adventurers—they held centre stage in the glorious and blood-drenched pageant known to us as the Italian Renaissance, standing at the epicentre of the power games in which Europe’s kings and Italy’s warlords gambled for life-and-death stakes. Five centuries after their fall—a fall even more sudden than their rise to the heights of power—they remain immutable symbols of the depths to which humanity can descend: Rodrigo, the Borgia who bought the papal crown and prostituted the Roman Church; Cesare, the Borgia who became first a teenage cardinal and then the most treacherous cutthroat of a violent time; Lucrezia, the Borgia as shockingly immoral as she was beautiful. These have long been stock figures in the dark chronicle of European villainy, their name synonymous with unspeakable evil. But did these Borgias of legend actually exist? Grounding his narrative in exhaustive research and drawing from rarely examined key sources, Meyer brings fascinating new insight to the real people within the age-encrusted myth. Equally illuminating is the light he shines on the brilliant circles in which the Borgias moved and the thrilling era they helped to shape, a time of wars and political convulsions that reverberate to the present day, when Western civilisation simultaneously wallowed in appalling brutality and soared to extraordinary heights.

I received this book as a pre-release copy, for review purposed and so as a first port of call I would like to let you all know that when this book becomes available on 2nd April, if you are interested in the history of the Borgia family, you all need to purchase it. If I’m honest, my whole review could be summed up in those first few lines. This book is utterly fantastic, and offers a brand new approach to much of what we thought we knew about the Borgia family. In fact, it really makes you rethink much of what we have come to know and trust about the family’s history.

Of course, as a pre-release copy, I was expecting to find a few mistakes and I would like to get these out of the way before I launch into how amazing I thought the book was. But to be honest, there really wasn’t that many mistakes – the only mistakes I really noticed were a few date discrepancies at around the 6% mark (I had a kindle copy) in which instead of dates reading “14xx” when speaking about Alonso De Borja, they read “15xx”. Easily fixed, but could easily be fixed with a bit of proof reading. There were also a couple of grammatical errors that made me have to reread a few sentences a couple of times, but for the most part this can be easily looked over as a reader and doesn’t deviate much from the reading experience.

For the most part though, Meyer’s writing is fluid and provides a very easy read. As I was reading, it really didn’t feel like a non fiction book to me. But then, I have read much heavier tomes than this. Meyers writing is so fluid that at times it really did read like a novel to me, but at the same time I could really see the amount of research that he did into his work. His writing style really did make the story of the Borgia family – from Alonso De Borja right up until the fantastic Saint Francis Borgia – utterly accessible. Easy reading, and doesn’t overload the reader with too much politics – although given the era, politics is really a given.

The book itself concentrates on the history of the Borgia family, history’s most notorious dynasty, and works its way up from the first Borgia Pope – Pope Calixtus III – right up until the end of the dynasty proper with Lucrezia. As a history that spans well over a century, if not longer (taking into account the varied relatives, particularly of Juan Borgia) it can get quite confusing but thankfully Meyer splits it into very easy sections. You have chapters relating to each family member and what they did, followed by mini chapters which give a great background to what else was going on at the time. I thought this was a really good idea, and gives the reader a bit of context into the political background of the era. There was one sub chapter in particular that really grabbed my attention, and it addressed the apparently paternity of Cesare, Juan and Lucrezia Borgia – I won’t go too much into it here as there will be a separate blog post coming but let’s just say Meyer’s findings are incredibly interesting, and very convincing!

In all then an incredibly interesting and quite frankly brilliant read, and one I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone interested in learning about the history of this fascinating family. An inherently interesting read that offers a brand new insight into this wonderful family, and one that discusses (and quite frankly, disinherits) most of the disgusting rumours of this brilliant family! A must read for anyone interested!

The Borgias: The Hidden History is available right now for pre-order from Amazon UK and Amazon US – Please do pick it up if you can!

1 thought on “Review: The Borgias – The Hidden History by G.J. Meyer

  1. I have a review copy of this as well – glad to hear you thought it was good. I don't really know that much about the Borgias but am interested in learning more.

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