Review: The Borgias ~ Siblings ~ And A Bit Of MythBusting

It seems that after Showtime aired the third episode of The Borgias Season 3 that this blog has had quite a few hits searching for things like “were the Borgias really incestuous?” and even odder requests searching for members of the Borgia family without any clothes on. Considering as how the searches brought people to older mythbusting posts; I thought I would take the opportunity to do another one. And thus, I shall be killing two birds with one stone today ~ a review of 3 x 03, and a Borgia mythbust! I must apologise for my lack of a review for 3 x 02; we can blame Da Vinci’s Demon’s for that one. However, enjoy!

Rumours have filtered down to us throughout the centuries that the Borgia family enjoyed a closer than close relationship. Anti Borgia propaganda has told us that Pope Alexander VI enjoyed incestuous relations with his daughter Lucrezia; but the rumour that has stuck is the one that Cesare Borgia was involved with his own sister. We even have tales that the famous Infans Romanus was actually the child of Cesare and Lucrezia as well as a whole heap of secret bulls stating that the father of the child is Cesare’s and in another bull that it’s Pope Alexander’s. This episode belongs to a post entirely of its own and so I shan’t go into it here in too much detail. The important thing to take from this is that the rumours stated that the child belonged to Cesare and Lucrezia. Did it? We don’t know. Personally, I hold little store in the rumours and am more of the opinion that the child belonged to Cesare and an unknown woman. But again, this will be spoken about in more depth in a future post.

Holliday Grainger doing her best lion impression

“It seems only a Borgia, can truly love a Borgia”
The main origin of the incest myth is really rather simple. In 1493, Lucrezia married Giovanni Sforza – it was a marriage of politics, Pope Alexander VI believed that having the Sforza’s as his allies would help him in his political endeavours and it was a way of thanking the Sforza family for their help in electing him as pope. However, Pope Alexander soon grew tired of the Borgia/Sforza alliance, it was doing nothing for him politically and he needed more powerful allies. Annulment proceedings began and of course, Giovanni Sforza refused. Lucrezia was sent to a convent, and it is said that Giovanni begged the Pope to have his wife returned to him. Alexander refused on the basis that the marriage had never been consummated. Sforza was asked whether this was true or not, and he of course replied that this was untrue; that he had known his wife an infinite number of times and that the only reason a divorce was on the cards was so the Pope could keep his daughter for himself. Add this onto how obviously close Lucrezia and her brother were; and the flames began to spread. 
There are stories throughout the Borgia history of how close Cesare and Lucrezia were. One of my personal favourites is when he rode to Ferrara when she was sick and sat talking to her, holding onto her foot. 
There are thousand other anecdotes I could quote from the smallest up to the moment of Cesare’s death where Lucrezia locked herself in a room, crying out her brother’s name. But again, this could take up a whole post on its own or even a series of posts (there’s an idea!) and so that will have to wait. At any rate, I hope from a brief overview I have managed to put across that the whole “borgiacest” anomaly is based entirely on rumour with no substantial evidence to back it up. And indeed in all my years of researching the family, I have never read a credible report of any such rumours; just propaganda from anti-Borgia factions. Were the stories true? We will never know, not without being handed a hand written note from either Cesare or Lucrezia stating that this actually happened. And what’s the likelihood of that? It is down to us as researchers and historians to draw our own conclusions…
Francois Arnaud making Cesare look all broody again.

These two are big fans are the sex eyes. Have been since season 1
And this is where I come onto the latest episode of The Borgias. This episode has been the talk of the “fandom” ever since it was announced that Neil Jordan was going down the incest route and I have to say, I really didn’t want to watch it. I will say now though, that the actual incesty bit is very short and actually very well done, not seedy at all. That whole part of the storyline, whilst based on little more than rumour, actually ended up being very interesting and I felt ever so sorry for poor Alfonso D’Aragona. He discovers that his marriage into the Borgia family isn’t going to go as well as was first planned, and after discovering Cesare’s political manoeuvres already coming into play he abandons his new wife on their wedding night. Already finding that her love for her brother is getting more and more intense, she finds herself drawn to his chambers where the two of them spend the night together. Lucrezia echoes the words she spoke to him in the first season, “I shall never love a husband as I love you, Cesare”, by telling him that for that night at least he will be her husband.  


Poor Lucrezia; she believes that everyone is out to get her. Then her brother comes in and snogs her face off.
Can I see why Jordan went down this route? Yes, I certainly can. It certainly makes for riveting viewing and a story arc that is quite frankly, rather mind blowing. Mix that in with stellar acting from the amazing cast, beautiful costumes and the most mind blowing sets I’ve ever seen; The Borgias is certainly one of the best shows on television at the moment. What I can’t quite forgive however, despite the fact that this is a historical fantasy, is the complete mess that the script makes of the history. In the first episodes alone I counted more inaccuracies than I could shake a stick at; but when the incest angle was brought into play I honestly felt physically unwell. Neil Jordan always said that he would never go down that route because it wasn’t a story about incest. But it seems he caved and went down the routes that the fans of the show wanted. What makes it worse as well is that there are those fans of the show who honestly believe that the history is true, and refuse to pick up a book because they believe everything that they have seen on The Borgias. I’ve lost count of the amount of snotty emails and comments I’ve had because the things I write on the family aren’t what are on The Borgias. 
So therefore I must be lying…
It’s my hope that the latest episode brings more people here so that they can find out a little bit of background to what the actual Borgia family were like and the history that inspired the show. Because if I’m honest the real history is much more juicy than what’s shown on the series. At any rate, I shall keep watching Season 3 as I’m intrigued to see where they’ll go with the story arc; and I’m always impressed by the dynamics of the actors. Is it worth a watch if you’re new to the history of the Borgia family? Yes. But I’d recommend reading a good biography of the family first of all.

It’s that broody face again

Caterina Sforza and Cesare Borgia. Enemies until the end.

Arnaud is a REALLY big fan of the smoldering broody look.

Having just been abandoned on her wedding night, Lucrezia makes her way towards her brother’s chambers.

“You shall be my husband tonight, Cesare”

Further Reading

1 thought on “Review: The Borgias ~ Siblings ~ And A Bit Of MythBusting

  1. You said the “…actual incesty bit is very short and actually very well done, not seedy at all…” but what you didn’t say is that it was hot! Hot! HOT!!! Never has something so bad (the incesty part) looked soooo goood! And my favorite part was the very end when they smiled at each other…

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