Shelved Dolls: Lucrezia Borgia – How To Win Friends By Poisoning Everyone

lucrezia borgia

Not that innocent

Look, I was ready to do a really nuanced piece on Anna Wintour. It was going to contain great lines like “British people aren’t so great, they’re just like really cranky Americans.” I don’t know. Stuff like that, but much wittier. I was going to play with that sentiment and turn it into a silk purse of a bon mot just in time for fashion week.

Not anymore.

I crowdsourced and Lucrezia Borgia won with 94% of the vote.

I guess you people don’t like ladies being quick tempered with their assistants so much as you like ladies who supposedly poison everybody.

But did she? The Jeremy Irons Showtime spectacular The Borgias seems to indicate that Lucrezia was just a nice teenager used by her family. There is, of course, debate about that. I’m reluctant to think that she was just an innocent, unknowing pawn in her family’s dealings. She was incredibly close to her family! And it would be pretty hard to stay innocent around them, as her family, was, legitimately, a tough bunch of cookies.

I guess I’m initially reluctant to assume that Lucrezia Borgia was just a nice, virtuous victim.

A lot of people are inclined to point out that whenever women are said to have done bad things in history it’s a case of misogyny running rampant. There will always be people who claim that, when it comes to historical women, other people try to discredit them because they couldn’t handle the existence of powerful women. Certainly, some people are apt to say that about, say, Elizabeth Bathory. The thing is, Elizabeth Bathory kept a personal diary keeping a record of the girls she bit to death and fed to her male servants. So, that seems to be a pretty effective counterargument to the notion that people just made up mean lies about her.

And I think this argument is actually the opposite of progressive. Women aren’t saints.Women can do bad things. Men can do bad things. And both men and women are more likely to do bad things when they have massive amounts of power and no laws in place to stop them from doing very bad things.

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    • Cookie

      “Lucrezia wasn’t enthusiastic, but Alfonso did seem like her had a pretty good personality.”

      Sorry to be that guy, but there’s errors like this all over the post and it’s super distracting. Not to mention really confusing in some spots.

      • Jennifer Wright

        It is so great that you are volunteering to be a copyeditor! Let me know how you want to work that. The position is unpaid.

      • Maggie

        Editing fail.

      • Lerie

        “there are errors like this”, not “there’s” which would mean there “is” which is incorrect. Since we’re pointing out mistakes and all.

    • Lii

      Anna Wintour would definitely have been more interesting. I love this series, but this has been the least interesting of them all. Thank goodness it was saved by your wit, anecdotes, and parrot pictures.
      and just to throw it out there, I’m still hoping for a second round on la Casati…

    • endn

      hey I liked it! Yes there were less murders and insanity but lucrezia’s definitely an interesting character. I’m going to go read up on what the people thought of her and italian politics. yay!

    • Cee

      I think you may have hit on something Jennifer! If there are sites paying for editing, they can just rely on their trusty comments to correct this for free!

      I just think it sucks that instead of sparking some sort of discussion or having some interesting opinion, that these people reduce the article to how many errors they find. It’s nice to have them pointed out every now and then but after a while..either have a better contribution or go become a professor!

      By the way I’m sure many people have told you this but you should really write a Shelved Dolls book!

      • Jennifer Wright

        I do wish we had a copyeditor. For the record, my own errors make me sad and frustrated and tired. They also make me go around the office grinding my teeth and muttering “why can’t we hire a fucking copyeditor?” like a crazy person. Because I ain’t no good at grammar. I ain’t never been no good at it.

    • Nicole

      I love reading about the crazies. Keep ‘em coming!

    • Rebecca

      Cesare likely murdered Alfonso not out of jealousy but more than likely because during that period, family honor was held above all else. Although not from or about the period in question, the story of the horatii triplets is a good illustration. The three horatii brothers fought the three curatii brothers, the fiances and husbands of their sisters. When the eldest sister protested to having her husband slain she was also murdered.

      It didn’t really matter how close you were to your sister, as the son of a family in this time it was your family honor that was top priority.

    • Jennifer Wright

      A volunteer copyeditor has been secured! Success!

    • Jenniwren

      Oh I don’t know. The thing is, I keep thinking about Anne Boleyn, who was also accused of incest with her brother like 60 years later, during her divorce from Henry VIII. Historians are now pretty sure she never slept with her brother, but it was just one of several nasty things (witchcraft and treason and adultery, oh my) that the folks at court were saying in an attempt to ruin her reputation. I mean, there was a lot of that around at that time. So I always think that with the Borgias it could have been the same thing. Obviously, they were crooked as a spoon, but they were hardly the only ones (pre-reformation history never being as pure as everyone expects) and they were so very, very powerful; that kind of thing attracts these kind of rumors.

      As to the specific Cesare/Lucrezia relationship; well, Cesare was a bit of nutter all over, if you believe half the rumors that circulated about him. He was totally stabby, I don’t think he needed an especially good reason. Although sibling relationships were just more intense back then; noble children didn’t really have many other friends, and the language people used was also more flowery and “romantic” by modern standards. So maybe they were involved; but it’s at least as likely, I think, that they were just very, very close and a bit too dependent on each other.

    • Kj

      Will you do Anna Wintour next? There wasn’t enough palpable evil in this one. Just weird, semi-incestuous (almost Shakespearean!) melodrama.

    • Courtney

      “ensure” not “insure”

    • Larissa

      After the one about the serial killer woman (which was super interesting but I swear gave me nightmares!) it’s nice to see a historical figure who’s not completely and utterly batshit crazy. I liked it! Make sure to follow the really scary lady with this one in the book we all demand you write every week.