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Book Title: Lucrezia Borgia|
The author of the book: Sarah Bradford
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Reader ratings: 4.1
Date of issue: 2004
ISBN 13: 9780739456033
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 536 KB
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I could not disagree more with the reviewers who are lambasting this book for its lack of purple prose and for not having the Antonia Frasier approach of “just make stuff up”. Meticulously referenced and using vast amounts of primary sources, as well as looking in a measured way at historical debates, this is exactly what a biography should be – and Lucrezia emerges from her own voice and those of the people around her, rather than as a trashy historical fiction heroine.
What emerges is fascinating – a woman surrounded by violence and intrigue and incredibly able and politically adept; with the Borgia “resilience” that allowed her to quickly recover from the horrible fates of those she loved without losing any of her devotion to their murderers’ a woman of great and apparently sincere piety and complete sexual amorality; a woman who would condone her brother’s hideous miscarriages of justice and yet spent much of her time pleading for clemency for prisoners; a loving and happily married wife who carried on long-term adulterous affairs. Her contradictions are the most interesting part. Given great power and riches at a very young age, living a life of almost obscene self-indulgence, governing cities by seventeen, thrust into “temporary” marriages as stepping stones for her family, and loving excessively a father and brothers of stunning brutality, the Lucrezia depicted here is morally ambiguous but very definitely a strong and intelligent woman of unusual gifts and capabilities, neither the monster nor the passive innocent of fiction.
Perhaps the most fascinating part of her life is the part most ignored by sensationalists who focus on her Borgia connection – her life in Ferrarra. That she could largely negotiate her own marriage into a family who were desperate to escape having to accept her marrying into them, and win the hearts, minds and trust of at least the male members of the family – though never her sister-in-law – is an incredible achievement. That the marriage wasn’t annulled when the Borgia connection became a disadvantage (and there were reasons enough for an annulment) and that in fact she was frequently trusted to rule Ferrarra for long periods of time, is even more impressive. Lucrezia’s delicate handling of her lover’s affection and trust to help save Ferrarra from a hostile Pope shows her great ability, and the fact that she managed to transform herself from the notorious bastard Lucrezia Borgia to the beloved and almost universally respected Duchess of Ferrarra – hailed on all sides as a beautiful, modest, wise and above all *good* princess - is an incredible story. I spent most of the book marvelling at, not just her canny intelligence, but the incredible charm she must have exerted to win so many hostile men – including her family’s implacable enemies – over to her side.
This is an excellent telling of her life – scholarly but not dense, readable but not sensationalised, measured and fair, and using sources unique to this book. It relies on the authentic voices of the Renaissance to bring out the extraordinary impact this woman managed to have on her time.
It’s probably sad, then, that the most striking fact that remains with me is that Lucrezia and her father-in-law shared a hobby of collecting nuns.
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Read information about the authorEducated at St. Mary’s Convent, Shaftesbury Dorset, where she won a State Scholarship and at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she won a College Scholarship in History, Sarah Bradford is an historian and biographer who has travelled extensively, living in the West Indies, Portugal and Italy. She speaks four languages which have been invaluable in her research for her various books, particularly The Englishman’s Wine, the Story of Port (the first book on the subject written by a woman), Portugal and Madeira. She worked in the Manuscript Department of Christie’s London, travelling for the Department and valuing manuscripts from the fifteenth to twentieth centuries, an experience which enabled her to write Cesare Borgia (used by the BBC as the source of their series ‘The Borgias’, for which she wrote the novelisation of the scripts) and, most recently, Lucrezia Borgia
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