In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Criminally Hot Older Brother.Posted: July 15, 2012
I’m about to drop a TruthBomb on you, For Shame! Faithful, and it’s going to fucking hurt. LHB has barely recovered herself, and she’s known for weeks. I shudder to think what JAF will say. KAB and I are new friends, so she’s probably cool with it.
THE TUDORS HAS BEEN SUPPLANTED AS MY NUMBER 1 FAVORITE PREMIUM CABLE SMUTTY HISTORY PROGRAM.
Shh. Calm down.
I remember all of those things. I do. Which is what makes this so hard. I just…I couldn’t control myself. This whole joblessness thing has turned me into a monster. An online video-streaming monster. I spent a whole month on a Netflix trip, and when I came to, the N just wasn’t enough for me anymore. I needed something else. So I turned to premium cable shows. And that’s where I found it. My new TV drug, The Borgias.
When it premiered last year, I read an article or two about it and dismissed the show as a blatant attempt by Showtime to recapture the success of history/blood/boobs circlejerk model that was The Tudors (RIP 2007-2010 Gone But Never Forgotten). You can’t just fucking put Jeremy Irons in a pope outfit and call it a new show!
But, dear buttons, that was when I was a young, naive little guppy, still in school, writing a thesis and auditing extra classes. I didn’t have time for a new television addiction. I had books to skim and beers to demolish.
Yet now that I am comically un-busy, I have watched this program, this seeming pretender to the Jonathan Rhys-Myers Memorial Sexy Historical Pay Cable Program Crown®, and I have seen the error of my ways.
The Borgias is fucking fantastic for many reasons, so in an effort to be brief and not spoil anything I will summarize, telegram-style: Pope in Renaissance Rome has kids, 3 sons, 1 daughter, a mistress, and an unnofficial wife. -STOP- Eldest son super fucking hot despite Cardinal outfit and curly shoulder-length bob. -STOP- Next son petulant but charming; in command of papal army but shitty at the job. -STOP- Daughter totally pretty and sweet and marriageable. -STOP- Other son unimportant to plot because he’s like 10 and can’t have sex with or kill anyone yet. -STOP- Mistress and wife smart, savvy, respect one another. -STOP- Political intrigue clear and important, but nuanced relationships, personal and divine, are central. -STOP- Phenomenal character arcs. -STOP- Subtle and funny references to Italian Renaissance culture/figures. -STOP- Beautiful costumes and sets. -STOP- Excellent plot development and pacing. -STOP- Lots of butts and boobs, but not too many. -STOP- Appreciate the depiction of my cultural heritage pre-mobs, pre-pizza. -STOP- Did I mention the hot Cardinal son?
So it’s RULL good and I can’t recommend it enough. And much like its inferior stepbrother, The Tudors, The Borgias is absolutely RIPE with based-on-actual-historical-events sexy scandal.
Showtime, you beautiful bastards.
Anyway, I couldn’t resist profiling one of the Borgias after I finished watching the only two seasons that have aired. I’m sort of going through Borgia withdrawal. So today I’m going to focus on the sexytimes of Lucrezia Borgia, the aforementioned sweet and marriageable daughter of Pope Alexander VI, but please rest assured that every fucking one of these mofos was laughably promiscuous and corrupt.
Not much is known of Lucrezia, really, as with most historical ladies. But that’s the way the gender-inequality cookie crumbles, I guess. Historians think she was born in or around Rome in or around April of 1480, but they know she was the daughter of then-Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia (the future Pope Jeremy Irons Primus) and his main mistress, unofficial wife, and mother of his four known children, Vannozza dei Cattanei.
Now the actress they have playing Lucrezia on the show, Holliday Grainger, is wonderful at her job, has a great showbiz name, was in Any Human Heart, and seems pretty visually accurate, given contemporary descriptions of Lucrezia. Additionally, I sort of kind of want to be her.
This is a roundabout way of saying that The Real Miss Borgia was the fucking shining exemplar of ideal feminine beauty in late fifteenth-century Italy. She had blond hair that fell past her knees, hazel eyes, big boobs, straight white teeth (which was a BFD in an era before dentistry, mind you), a long graceful neck, and people said that she walked like she was “floating on air,” which apparently was pretty boner-inducing among the cortigiani. Anyway, she was widely renowned for her beauty, mostly because every painter in the Eternal City wanted to get their paws on her, plus her popedaddy could afford to commission a lot of paintings of her. Plus-plus, in a country without a centralized monarchical system (this was when the Italians were still down with all that feuding kingdoms jazz), she was essentially the Princess of Christendom once pops put on the Holy underpants, which made her HELLA marriageable in addition to being HELLA pretty.
Maybe I should pump the brakes here. From your extensive knowledge of Catholicism, you’re probably thinking that this all seems a little…unCatholic. Because of that little priestly celibacy rule. Were Mr. Borgia celibate, Lady Lucrezia would not exist. And even if Mr. Borgia managed to cover up the fact that he was getting his D wet all over Rome, one would think that perhaps he might not want to parade his beautiful daughter around for suitors, or appoint his younger son Giovanni head of the papal armies, or very publicly name his extremely hot older son Cesare a Cardinal. That’s the thing about these Borgias, people. They just don’t give a fuck! Watch the show! Mr. Pope Borgia was like “I am Pope. I have sex. These are my kids. They exist and will get nice things because I said so. Kiss my goddamn ring and bring me a calzone.”
He spake and it was done.
And one day, while he was calzone-grubbing, Giovanni Sforza, Lord of Pisaro, cousin of the powerful Duke of Milan, barged into the PopeRoom, and was like “GIMME DAT DAUGHTER.” Such a marriage would be politically advantageous, so the Pope finished chewing and was like, “Blokay” and shipped his THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD BABYDAUGHTER off with this hairy caveman of a dude twice her age.
Naturally this was probably not what happened, exactly, but I like to pretend. Keeps me young. Anywhooo, the show depicts this marriage as terrible and abusive for little Lucrezia. No one knows how it really went, but it is known that fairly soon after the wedding, the Pope really didn’t need this cousin-of-someone-important in the papal court so much anymore, politically speaking. He realized he could use Lucrezia’s hand in mawwiage for more useful alliances were she conveniently not married, so after planning to have Sforza murdered, the big softie had a change of heart. Instead, he summoned his daughter and her cavehusband to Rome for a groundless annulment hearing in front of the entire College of Cardinals.
Sforza, although a Neanderthal, knew he had a good thing going with his beautiful Renaissance trophy wife, and refused to agree to the annulment. That’s when Lucrezia, daddy’s little girl, pulled out the big guns and claimed that the marriage had never been consummated due to her husband’s impotence.
EXCEPT, OH YEAH, SHE WAS SEVEN MONTHS PREGNANT. On the witness stand. No one knows who Lucrezia made that little guy with, but she named him Giovanni (possibly after her Neanderhusband) and he went on to be remembered as the Roman Infante.
Sforza, understandably, was pissed. He was being emasculated in front of God, the Pope, and the forty most important men of the cloth in Christendom. So he accused Lucrezia, her father, and her super hot Cardinal brother Cesare (played on the show by up and coming ladyboner insipration Francois Arnaud, whose name is comically sexy) of some kind of incestuous love triangle thing. It was probably a last-ditch effort at saving face, but historians believed for a very long time that the Roman Infante was actually Cesare’s son. Which is icky and most likely untrue, but TOTALLY SCANDALOUS. Now it may seem that Lucrezia did not deserve this divorce, what with being visibly pregnant and really having no case whatsoever, but one of the perks of being the illegitimate child of the Pope is getting whatever the fuck you want, so BOOM, annulment acquired by 1497.
Next, daddy needed a little help from the Neapolitans, so he had Lucrezia marry Alfonso of Aragon, the brother of her youngest brother’s wife (take a second to process it) less than a year after the divorce and a few months after giving birth to her son (and possible son-nephew if the incest thing is true). He died by 1500, and Cesare might or might not have killed him. But probably not. Italians: great at pizza and paintings, not so much at keeping accurate records.
Third time was a charm for Lady Lucrezia, who married Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, early in 1502 (people did not fuck around when it came to getting hitched back then – in frequency or efficiency). By this marriage she’d presumably figured it all out; she popped out a lot of kids for him, but also embarked on a couple long-term affairs almost immediately after the honeymoon was over. First girlfriend flipped back through her 1497 little black book and booty called Francesco of Gonzaga, who’d been her brother-in-law when she was married to Sforza the Milanese Yeti. According to Mother Wiki, their affair lasted a while and was “more sexual than sentimental as can be attested in the fevered love letters the pair wrote one another.” They had to call it quits when Fran got syphilis BUMMER. Lucrezia also boned the poet Pietro Bembo, and their letters have survived. Lord Byron famously called them “the prettiest love letters in the world,” and when Lord Byron gets a woodie from your writing, YOU KNOW shit was hot.
Lucrezia died in 1519 at 39 giving birth to her eighth child, after a life of distinguished boning. Yes, she was essentially a political pawn for her father in the early years, but you’ve got to admire the sexual gumption it must have taken to juggle innumerable lovers (ITALIAN lovers, at that) across marriages, illegitimate kids, and social diseases. Additionally, she might have had sex with her hot brother, and I know incest is bad, or whatever, but………he’s so fucking attractive on the show…let’s just call it a gray area, okay?
So let’s all watch The Borgias, raise a meatball, and pour out some Prosecco in honor of Lucrezia Borgia, who didn’t let Catholicism, conventional gender roles, a Neolithic first husband, or shared genetic material get in the way of her boning spree. Cin cin!
Additionally, I don’t know if I’ve articulated this clearly, but BROTHER HOT ON SHOW.