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

Loved trees too much

She was expected to sleep with someone at a shockingly early age, though.

Lucrezia was engaged at 11, shortly before her father became Pope, to to Giovanni Sforza, a man related to the ruling family in Milan.

In the Showtime series, Giovanni’s defining trait seems to be “being rape-y” (does it seem like there is at least one rape-y character on every TV show right now? Do I just watch the wrong shows? I feel like this wouldn’t happen with such frequency if I watched New Girl more) but this seems somewhat unlikely.

That marriage was awful, though. Lucrezia was, even as a child-bride of 13, used to the court of Rome. She had a difficult time adjusting to life on a country estate. That doesn’t necessarily mean Giovanni was a monster, he just liked trees and avoiding court intrigue.

Shortly after her marriage that Borgia family decided that they disliked Giovanni very passionately. This was for a lot of reasons, one of which – I want to add my own rumor into the historical mill – was probably because the Borgias hated trees.

And they had sex with trees. Also, that.

No, really, most of their reason for hating him seems to be because the engagement was agreed upon before Alexander became Pope. Once he did become Pope Alexander realized that he might have married Lucrezia to someone more influential if he’d just waited one more year.

By all accounts Giovanni Sforza was a nervous, fidgety, charmless, talentless man – something of a Barney Fife type. Nobody says anything terrible about him. He’s just a dork. I do not associate these traits with being super rapey, but, goodness, that will certainly make Andy Griffith re-runs a lot more interesting.

The Borgia family’s concerns about the marriage aren’t commonly reported to be attributed to his ill treatment of Lucrezia – though Alexander was outraged when Giovanni asked that Lucrezia lived with him at his country estate rather than in Rome where Alexander could see her regularly. They’re supposed to have more to do with the Borgias’ suspicion that he was spying against the Borgias for the Milanese.

He was spying against the Borgias for the Milanese. They were right.

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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.