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Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia (ePub)

Brother and Sister of History's Most Vilified Family

P&S History > By Century > 15th Century P&S History > Social History

By Samantha Morris
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
File Size: 27.8 MB (.epub)
Pages: 192
ISBN: 9781526724410
Published: 19th October 2020


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Myths and rumour have shrouded the Borgia family for centuries – tales of incest, intrigue and murder have been told of them since they themselves walked the hallways of the Apostolic Palace. In particular, vicious rumour and slanderous tales have stuck to the names of two members of the infamous Borgia family – Cesare and Lucrezia, brother and sister of history’s most notorious family. But how much of it is true, and how much of it is simply rumour aimed to blacken the name of the Borgia family?

In the first ever biography solely on the Borgia siblings, Samantha Morris tells the true story of these two fascinating individuals from their early lives, through their years living amongst the halls of the Vatican in Rome until their ultimate untimely deaths. Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia begins in the bustling metropolis of Rome with the siblings ultimately being used in the dynastic plans of their father, a man who would become Pope, and takes the reader through the separate, yet fascinatingly intertwined, lives of the notorious siblings. One tale, that of Cesare, ends on the battlefield of Navarre, whilst the other ends in the ducal court of Ferrara. Both Cesare and Lucrezia led lives full of intrigue and danger, lives which would attract the worst sort of rumour begun by their enemies.

Drawing on both primary and secondary sources Morris brings the true story of the Borgia siblings, so often made out to be evil incarnate in other forms of media, to audiences both new to the history of the Italian Renaissance and old.

I know very little about the Borgias and found this book to be an excellent introduction. It began with the rise of the Borgia family and then focused on Cesare and Lucrezia and their relationship which has been much maligned over the years. Truly fascinating.

NetGalley, Jen Lynch

I found it a good entry point for people interested in finding out if the Borgias’ reputation is warranted, and to read about that fascinating period of history. It is a balanced account of the biography of these two figures, and I recommend it to readers who want to go beyond the titillation and excess that has surrounded their reputation.

Read the full review here

Author Translator

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I am a huge history fan and it did bother me to think these two were incestuous but this book showed they were just loving siblings. I enjoyed that.

NetGalley, Cynthia Guerra

Throughout the book remains very highly readable and it is undoubtedly an excellent addition to the canon of works, and overall I really liked this book and would unreservedly recommend it.

Well written, well researched, a fascinating story and a great read. What more can you possibly want?

The Pike and Shot Society

I've been interested in the Borgias ever since I watched the Showtime show. Yes, I know it's very inaccurate but it's so good and over the top. But this book takes a look at the actual history, combining both Cesare and Lucrezia's lives and looking at them. It's very interesting to me to see how their fortunes changed over time. It's a book that I definitely want to have on my owned shelf because it was so good and has helped me dip my toes into new historical areas.

NetGalley, Caidyn Young

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Cesare and Lucrezia are two of the most fascinating siblings in history and i loved learning more about them and their life. There's so much rumour surrounding them i liked learning a more objective and fact based account of them.

NetGalley, Rachel Garner

Samantha Morris's book is filled with anecdotes and stories, and is a very readable account of the lives of these two infamous people.

Books Monthly

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is well researched and well written. The level of detail included is quite remarkable. After reading it I felt I’d learnt a lot about the period and Cesare in particular. The subject matter is tricky and complex but the author weaved a clear and informative tale. Excellent.

NetGalley, Rebecca B

Overall I found this a very entertaining and generally convincing look at the lives and times of one of the most infamous families in European history, key figures in the renaissance and the early Italian Wars.

Read the full review here

History of War

If you are looking for facts, you’ll find them in Morris’s book. This author’s admiration of the Borgia family doesn’t cloud her judgment – she strips them of myths and presents a highly readable myth-buster, with exquisite and interesting details (like Cesare’s wedding night!).
Highly recommended to all history enthusiasts.

Read the full review here

GoodReads, Constant Reader

Author Q&A on Adventures of a Tudor Nerd

Adventures of a Tudor Nerd

There is something about the Borgias that has always fascinated me, it is probably the scandal and intrigue mainly as I love a bit of gossip and historical gossip is some of the best and I was pleased to see that the author ackkowlegded this too!

I can easily say that the action of Lucrezia and Cesare Borgia were pretty scandalous for their time, and probably would still be viewed like that today and I found this to be a pretty addictive read, there is plenty of new material in this one, or material that I have not read or seen before so I was really hooked by this one.

I love this period of history and I normally focus on the English history in the main so it was great to be able to look further afield and pop over to Italy, I like most people have seen the TV series but I knew there was much more to them from other brief books I had read, this is the best I have read on them to date.

I liked the way that this book was laid out and it was very well written. It is quite evident that the author had done a lot of research and was clued up on the family to write book and that really comes across. It is 4 stars from me for this one, really interesting read – highly recommended!

Read the full review here

Donnas Book Blog

I have to be honest, before reading this book, I knew next to nothing about Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia. In fact I am not sure I had even heard of Cesare! The name Lucrezia Borgia was familiar to me in that I knew she was a somewhat terrible person in history from a really notorious family, but that was about the extent of my very limited knowledge.

This book is perfect for someone similar to me, with no real prior understanding of the subjects, because it tells their stories really thoroughly – there is so much detail and a whole batch of really interesting photographs – I found it really fascinating.

Even if you are more of a historian than me, this book still has value, with the author having clearly done some indepth research which she has put together to form a really comprehensive biography.

As the author herself says at the end of the epilogue – “…the real story of history’s most notorious siblings is far more interesting than any fictionalised account based on nothing but rumour.”

I agree wholeheartedly – this really is a case of the truth being stranger than fiction. You really couldn’t make this stuff up!

Rating – 5/5 – this would make a perfect gift for a history buff or even for someone with just a passing interests in the Italian Renaissance.

Read the full review here

Daisy Says

I was delighted to accept and learn all there was about this family, particularly, the two characters that stand out even in this colourful clan: Cesare & Lucrezia.

The book is quite a thrill to read, as the vigorous narrative takes you through the lives of this clan, starting with the first Borgia that mattered: Alonso de Borja, uncle to Rodrigo Borgia and thus great-uncle to Cesare and Lucrezia.

Read the full review here

Natalie is a History Buff

I greatly appreciated this book, as it describes exactly, against the background of the story of Lucrezia and Cesare, the Italy of the time, the various kingdoms, duchies and lordships and above all the human story of the two brothers and the Borgia family stands out, which really marked for thirty years or almost that world populated by fantastic characters that was the Italian Renaissance. For my part, investigating the history of my family, I discovered that two brothers, Pedro and Diego Ramirez, of whom I am a maternal descendant, fought first under the formidable Gonzalo de Cordoba and then under the orders of the Duke of Valentinois, Cesare Borgia, and this has brought me even closer to the story told in the beautiful book by Samantha Morris published by Pen & Sword.

Read the full Italian review here

On The Old Barbed Wire

Samantha Morris combines a lively, engaging narrative with keen historical analysis, uncovering the facts embedded in the legends, rumours and scandals. She demonstrates a deep understanding not only of her subjects and their motivations but of the political theatre of Italy, the papacy and Europe in general at that time.

In Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia: Brother and Sister of History’s Most Vilified Family, Samantha Morris expertly separates rumour from fact to provide a balanced appraisal of these famous siblings; their strengths and weakness. Using creditable sources, papal records and even family letters, she clearly establishes the facts behind the lies of the incest accusation, whilst demonstrating how such accusations came about and the various efforts to sully the name of the Borgia family.

Read the full review here


This book gripped me from the first paragraph of Chapter One and, by the end of the book, I wanted to read it again. It shows an entirely new light on the fascinating, but hard, lives and loves of the Borgias and, for Lucrezia at least, I ended up feeling extremely sorry for her.

The author explains how she was used as a political pawn throughout most of her life and was not the scheming woman as normally portrayed. Lucrezia did what she had to do in order to stay alive and keep her father and brother in political power.

This book is a wonderful insight into the 16th century. It is beautifully written and keeps the reader entertained throughout.

For the Love of Books

History is written by the victors, and the for Borgias this appears to be particularly so. Vilified as incestuous, corrupt and violent, a family to be feared, their name has come down through the ages as a synonym for bad behaviour. The author sets out to prove this is not the full story and she does make a good argument.

According to her research, there is virtually no evidence that Cesare and Lucrezia were lovers. They were very much a product of their age, when men were expected to be strong and actions had to be taken to keep property or land which today would be frowned upon. However, despite some cruelty, Cesare was a respected war lord, he unified his dependencies and his vassals prospered under him. He was promiscuous, and did contract syphilis, but this was rife throughout the area at this time. Lucrezia was loved by her people, she married three times and had numerous pregnancies, particularly by her third husband, although she lost nearly all the children early on or as miscarriages. She was a pious woman, a good regent and while perhaps not always a strictly faithful wife, she lived well by her standards.

They were both Spaniards living in Italy, thrust into the limelight by their father Pope Alexander, and determined to improve the standing of their family at every opportunity, regardless of cost. They both had a strong sense of family and were clearly close.

The story the author portrays is quite sad really; both were buffeted by events over which they had little control. If Cesare had not ingested the poison that killed his father he would have been in a much better position to defend himself. Lucrezia had husbands found for her, she was not allowed to choose.

The author brings the story up to date, detailing how Cesare and Lucrezia have been portrayed by Hollywood and modern films as well as detailing what happened to their descendents.

Overall a detailed account of the lives of two very interesting characters.

NetGalley, Sue Andrews

Summary: Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia are remembered for many dark deeds during their time but most of what we “know” is not actually based on fact. They were not the incestuous siblings or murderers of enemies with poison. Samantha Morris gives us a look into the lives of the two most famous Borgias and how they got the reputation that still follows them, 500 years later.

My Thoughts: I first learned about the Borgia family from reading The Borgia Bride by Jeanne Kalogridis. I loved the story of this notorious family. And then I fell in love with the TV show The Borgias on Starz. I knew that much of it was for TV or rumors surrounding the family but it made for good watching and intrigue.

I liked how the author started with the original rise of the family. I knew that the family was Spanish but to hear how tied to Spain they were was new to me. The politics of the time and the way the Pope had so much control is astounding. He controlled kings, armies and much of Italy. Today it seems like the Pope has very limited range and mainly sticks to religious issues. But I am not Catholic so my knowledge is very limited.

My favorite part was the time after the death of Alexander. I was not familiar with this time in their lives so I learned a lot. Cesare was a military genius. Lucrezia married multiple times and led a very religious life. I was happy to read more about them and find out how their stories ended.

FYI: I would recommend this for someone looking for the truth behind the drama.

NetGalley, Ashley Pohlenz

It's a very interesting book, well researched, and you can just feel Samantha Morris' passion for the theme while reading.

NetGalley, Giovana Mazzoni

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

An absorbing read, concentrating on the Borgia siblings, scions of one of the most powerful families of the Italian renaissance. You cannot visit Rome or Florence and not be aware of the influence that this notorious family had on political life. Very interesting.

NetGalley, Gillian Shackleton

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book was most interesting. Not my usual read but I've always been interested in history and I feel that this book has educated me on the borgias.

NetGalley, H L

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A family mired in myths and rumors of incest, murder, and intrigue for centuries. A brother and sister caught in the middle, attracting the attention of gossips and historians alike. No, I am not referring to a royal family in England. In fact, this story starts in Spain with Alonso de Borja, who moved to Italy and helped create the infamous Borgia family. Caught in the middle were the son and daughter of Rodrigo Borgia, Alonso’s nephew, and his mistress Vanozza Cattanei; Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia. How close were these famous siblings? What were their lives really like? In Samantha Morris’ latest biography, “Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia: Brother and Sister of History’s Vilified Family”, she dives deep into the archives to find out the truth about the legendary Borgia family.

I would like to thank Pen and Sword Books and NetGalley for sending me a copy of this book. I will be honest and say that I did not know much about this family before I started reading this book. I knew about the rumors and that they had to do with the papacy, but that was it. I was excited to learn more about them and to understand why so many people are so fascinated with the Borgia siblings.

To understand how the Borgias rose to power, Morris takes her readers on a journey through papal history and the many different councils that occurred in the 14th and 15th centuries. This was familiar to me as I took a class in college on Church History, in which we did discuss these councils, but for those who are not familiar with them, Morris takes the time to explain the significance of each event. We see how Alonso de Borja rose through the ranks to become Pope Calixtus III and how his nephew, Rodrigo Borgia, was the complete opposite of his uncle. Rodrigo, later Pope Alexander VI, was a ladies man, and his children by his mistress, Vanozza Cattanei, were all illegitimate, including Cesare and Lucrezia.

It is the lives of Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia that historians, including Morris, tend to focus on. These siblings created so many enemies that rumors were bound to be associated with them. From incest between them to murder using poison, and numerous affairs, Cesare and Lucrezia endured scandals that made the Tudors look like a normal family. Morris takes on each myth and rumor head on to explore the truth about these siblings, which is of course more complex than the fictional tales of their lives.

I found myself enthralled in the true-life tales of Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia. Like most historical tales, the truth is much more compelling than the fictitious tales. The trials, triumphs, and tribulations of the siblings are so compelling and to realize that they lived when the Renaissance in Italy and the Tudor dynasty was still new in England is remarkable.

This book made me fall in love with the Borgia family. The story of their rise to greatness and what Cesare and Lucrezia had to endure to protect their family and its name was nothing short of extraordinary. Samantha Morris’s writing style is easy to understand but you can tell how much care she took in researching these simply sensational siblings. I want to study the Borgia family even more because of this book. If you want an engrossing nonfiction book about the Borgia family, I would highly suggest you read, “Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia: Brother and Sister of History’s Most Vilified Family” by Samantha Morris. A fabulous introduction to the Borgias and their tumultuous times.

NetGalley, Heidi Malagisi

I liked this! It dispelled a lot of scandalous “history” with real facts. I liked the history of the Borgia family and the various regions of Italy. The final chapter that talked about the various media depictions about the family through the years was also interesting. If this is an area of history you are interested in, or if you want to see how rumors and innuendo can continue for so many centuries, I would recommend this book!

NetGalley, Jennifer Ruth

I was delighted to receive a copy of this book as I have read a few Pen and Sword published works that I have really enjoyed and found very informative.
I had first encountered the Borgia family in Sarah Dunant’s fiction novels about this family. I very much enjoyed those books, but you always question in the back of your mind just how much of these lives have been fictionalised when you read a novel based on an actual life or event. I was relieved to read in this book that the author feels that Dunant’s novels were well researched and come pretty accurate to actual events.
I really found this book very informative. I think the author gave a fair but sensitive approach to the Borgia siblings- there’s no getting away from the murder, power plotting, and sexual misdemeanours that went on around them. However, the author does a good and well backed up argument, using primary and secondary evidence, that shows a lot of the scandal and hinted incest was most likely spread by Borgia enemies who were deliberately trying to discredit them.
A really fascinating read that I think will look stunning in physical print as well. There are some wonderful pictures at the end of this digital review copy that really help to set the scene and give a possible face to some of the names. Highly recommend.

NetGalley, Amanda Lavelle

Fascinating study of Cesare and Lucrezia which effectively dispels many of the more lurid myths surrounding the famous Borgia siblings.

NetGalley, John Laffan

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Whilst I was aware of the Borgia's I have never read much about them but recently I've been expanding my historical reading and interests outside of my usual scope so I was intrigued by this book from Samantha Morris who aims to dispel the rumours of incest murder and poisoning.

I will hold my hand up and admit I have watched the TV show so had a little understanding of who they were and the rumours surrounding them.

Whilst the title is self explanatory and Morris does focus on the siblings the rest of the family are by no means excluded. I was absorbed in to this book from the first page! Yes, its nonfiction but Morris' writing style makes it so easy to read.

The initial chapters focus on the background of the family, who they were and their rise to power before starting to focus on the siblings and the events that have led to them still being discussed hundreds of years later.

>From the dispelling of rumours to the true stories of their successes and failings I am now very interested in reading more about the family.

I thoroughly enjoyed how Morris explains where rumours regarding the family such as incest and poison originated from and how they have been presented in modern day media. Morris analyses media such as the TV show and explains which are most historically correct.

Cesare led a very interesting albeit short life and seems to have been very successful as a soldier although clearly made a few enemies along the way. His journey from cardinal to a Duke and captain of the papal army is extremely interesting and an area i would like to read more about.

Lucrezia, often depicted as a woman who is not averse to using poison is portrayed as a pious woman who seems to have had affairs but also faced much grief in her life but who was loved by her people and had many admirers. Whilst she clearly loved her family I read nothing that gives me the impression their relationship was anything other than a normal sibling relationship.

The book is referenced throughout providing me with more reading to now follow up with in my newly found interest of the Borgia's.

Between the TV show and reading this my opinion has changed of the family and I find myself admiring them in particular Lucrezia, whilst she may have had faults she faced a lot of heartbreak and enemies, her story is actually really sad.

As a newcomer to the Borgia's I found this book incredibly informative and interesting but I'm unsure if it would provide anything new to those who have already read or studied them. This book is clearly the result of much research and Morris obviously has a passion for the subject evident throughout which I think is part of the reason I found the book so engaging... As an introduction to the family and the siblings I can't fault this book and would highly recommend to those who would like to learn more about this intriguing family.

NetGalley, Amy McElroy

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I've long been intrigued by the Borgias and always look forward to reading more about them

This is a well researched biography. Lots of new information to me - and I thought I knew a lot about them !
If you are interested in Renaissance history, Borgias and that period generally you will love this.

NetGalley, Maria Martignetti

A really good read full of lots if little known details. I really felt like I knew the Borgias when I was finished

NetGalley, Shelly Myers

Well documented and objective biography. Puts a new light on the lives of the Borgia family. The author provided many new information about this highly controversial family. If you've watched the Borgias, you'll enjoy this very much.

NetGalley, Donna Pingry

A fine edition to add to the many books tackling these infamous siblings = in both fact and fiction.

Morris make a poignant remark: "... now, as throughout history, people love a good gossip ...", and like us today, they "... want stories that both disgust them and draw them in ...". In their own time, Cesare and Lucrezia are the equivalent of today's Kardashians or Osbornes.

Delving into the family history from its Spanish roots, Morris provides the reader with a concise background of the family including Rodrigo's rise to the Papal throne up until the siblings draw final breath. But the focus here is on the two siblings - Cesare and Lucrezia - as opposed to a complete history of all Borgias. In this easy to read and well presented tome, all the main events are covered off - we are not bogged down in unnecessary detail so readers new to this topic will have no trouble at all keeping pace. For me, I love the Borgias, so much of this was well worn and familiar ground.

Gossip and hearsay were the weapons of the day that were used to destroy reputation - not only powerful, but also long lasting that like a series of chinese whispers, people begin to accept them as truths using that old adage "no smoke without fire" to justify such. And we are more than accustomed to history being written by the victors -as poor old Richard III can attest.

It is easy to forget that what is unseemly to our modern view was very much the norm - here, family is so important, that it is not strange at all to discover that Cesare and Lucrezia were close - afterall, it was the Borgias against the world - who else would they turn to and trust but one of their own.

Morris finishes by taking the reader through the various modern day adaptions of the Borgia story - from film and television, to game and books. Having just taken possession of yet another book on the Borgias, Morris' book will also find a home on my "Borgia" shelf in my personal library.

NetGalley, Melisende d'Outremer

About Samantha Morris

Samantha Morris studied archaeology at the University of Winchester and it was there, whilst working on a dissertation about the battlefield archaeology of the English Civil War that her interest in the Italian Renaissance began. Her main area of interest is the history of the Borgia family and the papacy of Pope Alexander VI, however she also has a keen interest in the history of other Renaissance families. Samantha has previously written on the Borgia family and runs a successful blog based mainly on the history of the Italian Renaissance, but with snippets of other eras thrown in too.

Lucrezia Borgia is born

18th April 1480

Lucrezia Borgia was born on 18 April 1480

The death of Cesare Borgia

12th March 1507

Cesare Borgia died on 12 March 1507 at just 31 years old. He was ambushed and stabbed numerously from all sides. The murderers then stripped him of his armour, leaving Cesare naked and bleeding to death.

View all events View all anniversaries

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