Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love, and Death in Renaissance Italy

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Overview

The very name Lucrezia Borgia conjures up everything that was sinister and corrupt about the Renaissance—incest, political assassination, papal sexual abuse, poisonous intrigue, unscrupulous power grabs. Yet, as bestselling biographer Sarah Bradford reveals in this breathtaking new portrait, the truth is far more fascinating than the myth. Neither a vicious monster nor a seductive pawn, Lucrezia Borgia was a shrewd, determined woman who used her beauty and intelligence to secure...

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Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love, and Death in Renaissance Italy

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Overview

The very name Lucrezia Borgia conjures up everything that was sinister and corrupt about the Renaissance—incest, political assassination, papal sexual abuse, poisonous intrigue, unscrupulous power grabs. Yet, as bestselling biographer Sarah Bradford reveals in this breathtaking new portrait, the truth is far more fascinating than the myth. Neither a vicious monster nor a seductive pawn, Lucrezia Borgia was a shrewd, determined woman who used her beauty and intelligence to secure a key role in the political struggles of her day.

Drawing from a trove of contemporary documents and fascinating firsthand accounts, Bradford brings to life the art, the pageantry, and the dangerous politics of the Renaissance world Lucrezia Borgia helped to create.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Sarah Bradford's lively biography of Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519) manages to somewhat rehabilitate this notorious "monster of cruelty and deceit" without depriving us of the lurid gossip that makes her so appealing. Thus, this biography is rife with reports of incest, assassination, sexual debauchery and abuse, poisonings, court intrigue, and palace cabal, yet Lucrezia emerges as a shrewd, determined, tragic woman -- not as an ogre.
The New Yorker
Historians who have attempted to rescue Lucrezia Borgia from her legend as a poisoner who slept with both her father, Pope Alexander VI, and her brother, Cesare Borgia, have mostly described her as a pawn. Indeed, before she was twenty-one she was twice married off to men who were disposed of once their political usefulness expired. (The first had to declare himself impotent and grant her a divorce; the second was strangled in his bed.) Bradford sees Lucrezia neither as a helpless victim nor a femme fatale but as a resourceful individual—an able administrator, a genuinely religious woman, and the equal in political skill, if not in brutality, of her notorious male relatives. When the family of her third husband balked at alliance with a woman described as the “greatest whore there ever was in Rome,” she used all her craft and charm to win them over—by, among other things, making her pious prospective father-in-law a gift of several nuns.
Deirdre Donahue
Bradford's enthusiasm for the Borgia dynasty positively vibrates … Bradford's zest for this era is contagious, and the book would make a great gift for any young woman.
— USA Today
Publishers Weekly
Lucrezia Borgia is legendary as the archetypal villainess who carried out the poisoning plotted by her scheming father-Pope Alexander VI, aka Rodrigo Borgia-and by her ruthlessly ambitious brother Cesare. The facts of Lucrezia's case are sorted out from fiction by Bradford's humanizing biography, which presents Lucrezia as an intelligent noblewoman, powerless to defy her family's patriarchal order, yet an enlightened ruler in her own right as Duchess of Ferrara. Drawing on extensive archival evidence, Bradford (Disraeli; Princess Grace) explains how Lucrezia's first husband, after their marriage was annulled, vengefully tarnished her name with accusations of incest. Bradford discredits the popular belief that Lucrezia helped Cesare assassinate her second husband. Lucrezia emerges as a political realist who participated with her father and brother in a campaign to marry into the powerful Este family, winning the affections of her new husband, Alfonso d'Este, later Duke of Ferrara. Bradford portrays Lucrezia's extramarital affairs as daring and passionate romances of the heart and describes her cultivated court life and her kindness to artists and poets. Although Bradford's portrait is not immune to a fictionalizing style, especially when ascribing emotional states to its subject, as a project designed to distinguish the historical Lucrezia Borgia from the legend, Bradford's readable biography resoundingly succeeds. Maps and illus. not seen by PW. Agent, Gillon Aitken Associates. (On sale Oct. 25) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The best-selling biographer of Elizabeth, Disraeli, and Cesare Borgia himself takes on Lucrezia. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A sympathetic view of the Renaissance beauty's progress through a maze of political marriages to become the Duchess of Ferrara. Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519) has been unduly maligned by history, says veteran biographer Bradford (Elizabeth, 1996, etc.), attributing much of the bile to contemporary enemies of her family. The British author makes a good case, based on material from the relevant archives and careful reading of others' treatments. She depicts Lucrezia as a woman of great administrative skill who ruled Ferrara while her husband was continually absent, thanks to battles both political and martial. Her father Rodrigo was a cardinal and then pope, her brother Cesare an ambitious schemer, warrior, and murderer; Lucrezia outlived them both. Educated by her infamous family, as well as by circumstance to survive and thrive in a precarious world, she even managed to maintain an intimate correspondence with a lover who was fighting with forces opposed to her husband. (She also survived him.) All three of her marriages were arranged. Her father had already promised her to two other men by the time she was first wed at 13, but Rodrigo dissolved that marriage and arranged for another to the son of Alfonso II of Naples, with whom she had a son. When that marriage also became an inconvenience for the scheming Borgias, they made the young Alfonso an offer he couldn't refuse, certified that Lucrezia remained a virgin, and married her to another Alfonso, son of the Duke of Ferrara. After some initial problems with conception, she remained continually pregnant until the end of her life; the last birth killed her at age 39. Bradford lavishly describes the opulent particulars of Lucrezia'slife-clothing, food, dwellings, parties, bling-bling-but always keeps her focus on this most astonishing woman. A thoroughly researched, gracefully written revision of the most beguiling Borgia. Agency: Gillon Aitken
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781433224706
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/1/2009
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Pages: 13
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Bradford is a historian and biographer. Her previous books include Cesare Borgia, Disraeli, Princess Grace, George VI, Splendours and Miseries: A Life of Sacheverell Sitwell, Elizabeth: A Biography of Her Majesty the Queen, America’s Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Lucrezia Borgia.

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Table of Contents

Author's Note
List of Illustrations
Maps
Genealogical Tables showing the Borgia, Este and Aragona Families
Acknowledgments
Foreword

The Scene
Cast of Principal Characters

Part One: The Pope's Daughter 1480-1501
1. The Pope's Daughter

2. Countess of Pesaro

3. The Borgia Renscent

4. The Tragic Duchess of Bisceglie

5. Turning Point

6. Farewell to Rome

Part Two: Duchess to Ferrara 1502-19
7. The Road to Ferrara

8. A New Life

9. The Heavens Conspire

10. The Dark Marquis

11. Duchess of Ferrara

12. The Congiura

13. Horrors and Tears

14. The Years of War, 1509-12

15. Lucrezia Triumphant

16. The Last year of Tranquillity

17. The End

Postscript

Archives
Source Notes
Bibliography
Index

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 9 )
Rating Distribution

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(3)

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(2)

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 14, 2010

    Tough Going

    Bradford is an undisputed master of thorough research, demonstrationg that a virtue can be a vice at the same time. Countless and long citations interrupt the flow of the book, and the reader invariably struggles to keep up.

    Bradford's attempt to portrait L. Borgia as the historical personality that she was rather than to follow popularist misconceptions has turned into a forced march through the bog of quotations and endless descriptions of "who is who", or "how-does-he/she-relate-to-others", often confined to insertions in main sentences rather than separate sentences, thus requiring enormous stamina to stay on track. A grammatical "tour-de-force".

    Not designed for the light or faint hearted, Bradford has managed to turn a fascinating historical character into a stress-causing personality, often shying away from drawing conclusions by giving preference to quotations from third party correspondence.

    Yet, it it worth reading because Bradford, perhaps unintentionally, works hard to provide all the pieces to the puzzle, leaving the final picture barely unfinished. Not a light winter's night reading - it requires serious effort and determination.

    Perhaps a few additional portraits of LB would have been useful.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Bradford's "Lucreza Borgia" Supurb Insight to Renaissance Life

    Any student or casual reader of the Renaissance will venture into the worlds of numerous Italian families. The Medici, Sforza, Gonzaga, Strozzi, Orsini and Este heritages run deep and widely populate the Renaissance.

    Sarah Bradford's "Lucreza Borgia" ties together the chronolgies and escapades of these families as the Borgias -- from Popes to Duchesses -- interact, intermarry and collide with them. Bradford provides meaning and clairity to how these nobles conspired, loved and battled with each other to maintain statis or gain upon each other durning the richness, politics and religon of the Renaissance.

    Lucreza's story of love, marriages, deaths and intrigue inside the Italian courts is a faciinating account. This one woman crosses all the lives and history of the period. And her connection to it all illuminates the personalities and times in which she lived.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Easy-to-read, sensationalized-telling of Lucrezia's story

    Most of the facts given in this book conflict with contemporary sources, and birthdates and relationships between the key players are quite confused. Even so, it's a quick and entertaining read, for a romanticized tale about the Borgias, but far too much stock was given to the accounts of Guicciardini, in his History of Italy.
    As you read this book or any other about the Borgias, it should be kept in mind that a lot of the rumors about incest were generated by Giovanni Sforza and his family, after his marriage with Lucrezia was annulled on grounds that he was impotent (though the consummation was witnessed, and he later had children).

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2004

    Where is Lucrezia?

    This is not a biography of Lucrezia Borgia. It is a general look at what is going on around her. In one very short paragraph the author tells us that Lucrezia, not quite 20 at the time, administered the Vatican. And everybody thought she did a good job. Say what?!? A girl running the Vatican! And who is everybody? But instead of saying one additional word about what she did, what decisions she made, who she met with, we get a description of her father and brother's activities. As Duchess we are told she administered her husband's territories. That is it. Entire statement. Then we get pages on pages of her husband and his brother's fights, along with the information that she stayed strictly out of it. Lucrezia is incidental to the story this author is telling and there is not enough attention paid to her to warrent selling this as a biography. I'd like my money back.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 5, 2012

    Just Fair

    I know the author put a tremendous amount of research in this book. The storytelling is somehow lacking despite all the details she unearthed. There just wasn't any real life drawn into the character that made Lucrezia. Perhaps that is a problem for anyone attempting to bring life her story.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2012

    Check it out

    Excellent read.See a different side of the Pope's infamous daughter..

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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