Christopher Hibbert – The Borgias and Their Enemies, 1431–1519
A history of the Renaissance family famous for its corruption, intrigue, and decadence. It begins with papacy’s move from Avignon back to Rome, but mostly as a setup for all the naughty bits that would happen once the Borgias became cardinals and popes. Their rise was somewhat improbable; the Borgias were originally from Castilian Spain, and nearly all popes were expected to be Italian.
Beyond those notes, Hibbert doesn’t take a great deal of interest in the Borgia’s greater historical context and significance. He does note that the Borgias gave commissions to famous artists including Botticelli. The Medici family and the religious fanatic Savonarola put in cameos; they were not on good terms with the Borgias.
Hibbert is instead more interested in the Borgias themselves, and one can see why. Politics, simony, sex, murder, incest allegations, orgies, corruption, bribes, illegitimate children, and more provide plenty of page-turning stories. Hibbert might have gone further in developing the personalities and motivations that animated the famous triumvirate of Rodrigo, Cesare, and Lucrezia. Why did they act as they did? How did they fit into the larger picture of Renaissance Italy? Did they help or hinder its achievements? Did their antics play a role in fomenting the Reformation’s reactions against papal excess? Readers will have to look elsewhere for anything beyond passing stabs at these deeper questions.