"A Cup Of Champagne Prior To Victory" Interview with Ana Ularu from "The Borgias"

I am incredly honoured to host an interview with Ana Ularu whio played Charlotte D’Albret in “The Borgias”. The interview was conducted by my dear friend Dragos Moldoveanu of Asociaţia „Institutul pentru Studii Renascentiste” (The Institute of Renaissance Studies Association – AISR) and kindly translated into English for Loyalty Binds Me. 

The Romanian actress Ana Ularu (born in 1985) portrays Charlotte d` Albret in the third season of the historical-fiction television series The Borgias (2011). She had the kindness to answer a couple of our questions.
Cinema lovers know Ana Ularu from the award-winning drama Periferic (“Outbound”), directed by Bogdan Apetri, as well as from O vară foarte instabilă (“A Very Unsettled Summer”) and Sunt o babă comunistă (“I’m an Old Communist Hag”), both having the premiere in 2013.
This year, Ana will be seen in the upcoming drama Serena, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, and also in Thursday, along with François Arnaud, her partner from The Borgias` television series.  
Dragoș Moldoveanu: First, thank you for accepting the invitation of Asociaţia “Institutul pentru Studii Renascentiste” (The Institute for Renaissance Studies Association) to talk about your supporting part as Cesare Borgia’s wife. It is a privilege to have you as an interviewee.
Both yours and historical television series fans enjoyed watching you in The Borgias. The Borgia dynasty, whose fascinating saga is depicted in the series produced by Showtime, is one of the most illustrious families of the Renaissance Age. Prior to television broadcasting, what was your information about the Borgia family?
Ana ULARU: As a Cervantes High School graduate, I studied extensively the history of Spain and I came tangential to a short discussion about the two Popes the Borgia family gave to the Vatican. But, obviously, the pop culture chronicled rather the bloody facts and the fascinating figure of Lucrezia. What I had read about them disappeared somehow under a whole lot of other information gathered from other readings, so, it was very nice when I started to do my documentation to find out all sorts of information about them and especially about Charlotte d’Albret. I found out that Her Majesty Queen Anne is one of the descendants of the marriage between Cesare and Charlotte, the House of Bourbon-Parma… I hope I’m not mistaken.
Dragoș Moldoveanu: You anticipated my next question concerning the historical information. You portrayed the Duchess Charlotte d’Albret, wife of Cesare Borgia, son of Pope Alexander VI. Therefore, how did you document for the role?
Ana ULARU: I read everything I could find about Charlotte, I searched for her portraits, I worked with a choreographer for the Ball Scene and I discussed some small costume wearing technicalities with Gabriella Pescucci, the series’ brilliant costume designer. I also had a very short meeting with a dialect coach for the accent. Speaking French, I found it quite simple to include items of musicality and specific phrasing in her accent.
Dragoș Moldoveanu: You said, some time ago, that “nothing is more depressing for an actor than to sit at home and not be called”. How did you react when you got the call about a role in The Borgias series?
Ana ULARU: The story was much more enjoyable than a simple phone call. I went to London to have an audition for another project, when I received an email with a few text pages for another one. After lengthy preparations for the first, I had only a few hours before I begin the journey for the latter that proved to be the Ball Scene from my episode. I was very happy to find out that I got the part. Then it came the training period, travels to Budapest for costume fitting… and all the beautiful rituals in the life of an actor.
Dragoș Moldoveanu: How would you depict the relationship between historical characters Charlotte d’Albret and Cesare Borgia, as it was described in the episode entitled “The Wolf and the Lamb”?
Ana ULARU: I decided along with François (who plays Cesare Borgia) and Kari Skoglund, the Director, that, although it is a marriage of convenience that serves Cesare for getting an army for a counterattack, it would be very interesting that, between the two, there is an attraction between two young, powerful, intelligent and with a sense of humor people. Already it settled that young noble women can experience absolutely disastrous arranged marriages, so Charlotte is fortunate to have destined a handsome and intelligent young man, and with whom she can negotiate very clear and open her preferences. She refuses to live in Rome, she detests the excessive idealization of love and she somehow understands his affection towards someone else, even though she doesn’t know who is the object of this affection. It is decided in my episode that the Vatican can grant the Papal Bull for divorce, and the two remained married until Cesare’s death (despite the impressive number of his illegitimate children). So, we created a relationship with humor and fireworks, Charlotte being like a cup of champagne prior to victory.

Dragoș Moldoveanu: Most of the scenes were filmed along with François Arnaud, the Canadian actor who played the famous Cesare Borgia. Personally, I was impressed by the interpretation of the scene of their last night together. How would you describe the collaboration you had with François Arnaud? What actors you also met on the set?

Ana ULARU: François is a very talented actor and a wonderful partner, and, after two projects together, I can say that I won a beautiful friendship. We are born a few days apart from each other, we have a similar sense of humor, we always had either a tacit understanding about the direction that we want to offer for a scene, either very interesting discussions about the dynamics of our characters (in both movies). I love playing with François, I feel very free to improvise, to discover interesting aspects in a scene. It was also nice because, on the set, I once again met with Sean Harris (Micheletto character) with whom I became friends and collaborated on Serena, Susanne Bier’s film, an excellent actor, with David Johnson, a DOP (Director of Photography) with whom I worked three times in videos directed by Wiz (Magnetic Man and The Hurts), with Thure Lindhardt (Rufio character), who was a member of the jury for Shooting Stars in 2012. I left with a very pleasant memory, I worked with a wonderful team and I felt appreciated and spoiled even if my presence there was brief.
Dragoș Moldoveanu: What was the most enjoyable time you lived on the set?
Ana ULARU: The whole experience was excellent. The Ball Scene remains a very difficult scene, logistically first, but very pleasant, it`s a negotiation and a very interesting exploration to play. The first night after wedding scene was again a very nice moment, a scene so simple and gentle, a discussion, a relaxing time for the characters. I think the most fun I`ve had was during the choreography lessons.

Dragoș Moldoveanu: Thank you once again for your kindness and look eagerly the movies that will occur this year. I hope your phone to ring more often and conquer the Romanian and European public with as many roles!
This interview was conducted by Dragoş Moldoveanu, President of Asociaţia „Institutul pentru Studii Renascentiste” (The Institute of Renaissance Studies Association – AISR).

Cesare Borgia’s Marriage to Charlotte D’Albret

Charlotte in “Borgia”
After Cesare Borgia finally got rid of his Cardinal’s robes, it was down to him to continue on the Borgia dynasty. Since the death of his brother Juan in 1497, there was no male descended destined to carry on the Borgia name and had Cesare remained in the church then there would be no chance of the name continuing. And so, with that in mind, Cesare Borgia left Rome in October 1498 bound for France. His own mission was clear. He wanted to marry Carlotta of Aragon,  and the new French King, Louis XII had agreed to support their marriage wholeheartedly as long as Cesare helped get him a divorce from his wife, Queen Anne. 
On Fridat 17th August 1498, Cesare Borgia formally announced his decision to leave the College of Cardinal’s. By 21st August, he had his way. Pope Alexander had demanded that the cardinal’s voted in Cesare’s favour. Indeed on the very day of the first consistory in which Cesare announced his decision, the French envoy had arrived with letters patent stating that he now had the right to call himself the Duc de Valentinois. The famous “Valentino” had arrived. 
In the months leading up to his departure for France in October 1498, Cesare spent money wildly. He was to determined to impress the French people upon arrival and made sure he would be magnificently attired at all times. This would soon change after spending time there, and Cesare would end up being the black clad dressed young man that would come to be epitomised throughout history. Not only that but he worked on his physical preparation too. He was after all to become a soldier. His preparations included bullfighting on horseback, a feat which amazed contemporary Italians at the time. Indeed it was once reported by Cattaneo that on 18th August 1498 Cesare killed 8 bulls in one sitting. There were times however when his physical prowess failed him, with one occasion ending up with him being knocked out when kicked in the ribs, head and chest after trying to jump onto the back of a mule. At the same time, Cesare was suffering with serious worries over his appearance. The early physical signs of secondary syphilis were beginning to manifest upon his face, which was disastrous for a man who was so intent on stunning the French court with his dashing good looks. It should be noted that Cesare was just twenty three years old at this point, so it must have been devastating for him. He couldn’t have known that this would clear itself up within two or three months  and would have been more worried about his matrimonial prospects being affected due to his handsome face being blotched by syphilis. And whilst he showed outward confidence, he revealed his insecurities at the last moment by continuing to sign himself as Cardinal Valentinus. A precaution in case Carlotta refused him to the unsightly rash upon his face?
On 1st October 1498, Cesare took formal leave of his father and travelled to Ostia where he boarded a ship for France. And upon the day he left Rome, the diarist Cattaneo wrote:
“The ruin of Italy is confirmed…given the plans which father and son have made: but many believe the Holy Spirit has no part in them”.
Cesare arrived in France in late October, departing from the shrine of Marseilles and making his way to Avignon where he met up with Giuliano della Roverre. This was a man who had always been a thorn in Cesare’s side, and whilst seemingly working with him in friendship during Cesare’s months in France was actually working in league with Ludovico ‘Il Moro’ Sforza. Della Roverre met Cesare two miles outside the city and rode into the city seemingly in complete amity. Yet they held off moving to the French court and Cesare grew restless, very likely suspicious of Della Roverre and waiting for news from Rome that would allow him to present Louis with the dispensation to allow his marriage to be dissolved. He certainly wouldn’t be welcome at the French court without it. He slowly made his way northward from Avignon slowly and visited Valence, the capital of his new duchy and on 7th November made a solemn entry into Lyon. But the French were unimpressed with his ostentatiousness and people found his manner brusk and rude. When the King’s envoy tried to present him with the Order of St Michael, Cesare brushed him aside and stated that he would only accept it from the King himself. 
When news of the King’s divorce arrived, it was arranged that Cesare should meet the King at Chinon and on 17th December Cesare arrived in the local area. The day after Cesare’s arrival, the King went hunting and met Cesare two miles outside of town. And later that day, Cesare entered the town and Castle with the King. It was the moment he had been waiting for. He could now impress the French Court and get his hands on Carlotta of Aragon. 
Cesare meeting Carlotta of Aragon in “Borgia”
The court did not stay at Chinon for long. They moved from Chinon to Blois and elsewhere. It was during his time with the moving court that he met Carlotta of Aragon for the first time. She was a lady in waiting to Queen Anne, and the meeting with Cesare can’t have put him in very high spirits. She was a determined young lady and detested the idea of marrying Cesare and openly declared to the court that she had no intention of becoming known as “La Cardinala”. But whilst he failed to win over his intended bride, he won over the French court and the King considered him an asset to the court. Indeed, Louis tried to convince Carlotta to marry Cesare but she remained steadfast, saying she would not marry Cesare Borgia unless her father willed it. 
When the Neopolitan envoy arrived and the issue of the marriage was pressed, the envoy replied:
“To a bastard son of the Pope, the King not only would not give his legitimate daughter, but not even a bastard child”
The King made one last effort to persuade Carlotta to marry Cesare he invited her to dine alone with him. His efforts failed and Cesare talked of leaving France to return to Rome, although this could potentially have been a way of placing pressure upon the King to find him a new bride. And find him a new bride the King did. In the early months of 1499, Louis suggested Charlotte D’Albret to Cesare and indeed Cesare wrote that she ‘pleased him’ greatly. He had every right to be pleased as she was said to be incredibly beautiful. Charlotte’s own feelings on the matter are not recorded, but she wouldn’t have had much choice in the matter after considering pressure was placed upon her by both her Father and the King. 
Charlotte in “Borgia”
Negotiations went on for over 6 weeks. Charlotte’s father was determined to get as much out of the marriage as possible and demanded to see the dispensation that allowed Cesare to marry as well at the 100,00 livres promised as a dowry to be paid in ducats. By the end of April 1499 negotiations were brought to a successful end, and on 10th May the agreement was signed in front of both the King and Queen, with the King formally giving his consent to the marriage.
Cesare and Charlotte in “Borgia”
Two days later, Cesare and Charlotte were married in the Chapel of the Queen’s apartments at Blois. It was followed by a huge wedding breakfast in the fields surrounding the chateau. The marriage was consummated that afternoon, and again in the afternoon. As was usual for the time there was no privacy when this happened. According to reports from the time, Charlotte’s ladies spied on them through the keyhole of the bedroom door and reported a rather embarrassing incident for poor Cesare. Robert de la Marck wrote in his diary:
“To tell you of the Duke of Valentinois’ wedding night, he asked the apothecary for some pills to pleasure his lady, from whom he received a bad turn for, instead of giving him what he asked for, he gave him laxative pills, to such an effect that he never ceased going to the privy the whole night, as the ladies reported in the morning”
But between running to the toilet, he did his duty and it was reported to his father in a letter that the couple consummated their marriage EIGHT times. They spent their honeymoon with the court at Blois and Cesare lavished gifts upon Charlotte. All of these gifts had been intended for Carlotta, 
Yet their time together was coming to an end. Events were taking place in Italy that needed taking care of, and Cesare wanted to hurry up with his soldierly exploits. Cesare was indeed due to accompany Louis to Italy commanding a squadron of heavy cavalry, with plans to attack Milan. At the end of July he left his wife and made to return to Italy.
Charlotte never saw her husband again. She did however bear him an heir, a little girl named Louise. And when Charlotte learned of Cesare’s death in 1507 she spend the remainder of her life in mourning. Did she love him? Personally, I believe that her “love” was simply infatuation. She knew him for such a little time that he must have seemed, to use a modern comparison, like a rockstar to her. And did he return that? I do not believe he loved her, as he never made the effort to go back to her and honestly? Cesare Borgia married Charlotte D’Albret more for political reasons and to help along the relations between France and Rome. After all, if he loved her, surely he would have made more of an effort to see her once he learned she was pregnant? His efforts (there were a few) to try and persuade her were in vain. The few letters he sent to persuade her to Italy fell on deaf ears, and the King even tried to convince her. Yet she herself stayed in France, having heard stories of his exploits in Italy and not wanting to go to her husband. She died in 1514 having only spent a few months in her husband’s presence, probably preferring to remember the handsome young man she had known back in 1499 rather than the impious warrior she had heard stories of. At the age of 32, she died at the Chaeau de la Motte Feuilly having spent seven years in heavy mourning for the memory of her husband.
Further Reading
Cesare Borgia: His Life & Times – Sarah Bradford
The Borgias And Their Enemies – Christopher Hibbert.
The Borgias; History’s Most Notorious Dynasty – Mary Hollingsworth.