Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Less Bad Borgia; Compared with the Rest of Her Clan, Lucrezia Was Really Pretty Harmless

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Less Bad Borgia; Compared with the Rest of Her Clan, Lucrezia Was Really Pretty Harmless

Article excerpt

Byline: ROY STRONG

Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love and Death in Renaissance Italy by Sarah Bradford (Viking, [pounds sterling]25)

TO MISQUOTE Ogden Nash: "How would you like to be up a dark alley with Lucrezia Borgia coming towargia." Well, a bit more so after reading Sarah Bradford's fine biography.

No other family has gone down in history as the living epitome of lust, perversion, violence and crime on quite such a scale. To evoke them in contemporary terms you would have to think of something akin to a cross between the Kray brothers and the Beckhams, for the Borgias had their Hello!

magazine side. They revelled in public spectacle and had a passion for fashion and showing off on a grand scale.

Compared with the rest of her clan, Lucrezia was pretty harmless, suffering from being cast by historians as the female equivalent of her notorious brother, Cesare. Sarah Bradford is not the first biographer to whitewash Lucrezia away from her customary role as a Hammer Films extra with a dagger in one hand and a poisoned chalice in the other.

However, she argues that earlier resurrections erred too far in the direction of recasting her as a dumb blonde caught up in she knew not what, whereas she emerges from this finely written and vivid narrative as a woman who was educated, who spoke and wrote four languages and had some taste in literature and music. The downside is that the truth about her makes her less fascinating than the fiction.

Dying in her 40th year, the first 20 of Lucrezia's life are a virtual vacuum. She was born in 1480, one of the numerous children of Pope Alexander VI.

The Borgias were a pushy Catalan family who emerged when Alexander's uncle was elected Pope Calixtus III. Like all Renaissance popes, Alexander's main aim was to feather his own family's nest, in the case of his favourite son, Cesare, by carving out a principality for him, and in that of his favourite daughter, Lucrezia, by marrying her dynastically up. …

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