Your RDA of Irony

The Continuing Borgia Report

Neil Jordan knows a good story, and he never lets the facts interfere.  I should be outraged by his travesty of history in “The Borgias” but his fabrications are actually quite entertaining.  For example, Jordan imagines the Borgias murdering an exiled Turkish prince for a bounty that will pay for Lucretia’s dowry.  There actually was a Turkish prince living in Rome, a pampered prisoner whose upkeep was paid by his surprisingly kindly brother the Sultan.  (The usual etiquette for superfluous Turkish princes was to have them strangled with a bowstring.)  However, this prince died–of natural causes– in 1495 but Lucretia’s first marriage was in 1493.  So much for that dowry plot, however clever.

Jordan also appreciates a great historical character and will include him in the series, even if it is wildly inaccurate.  Apparently Nicolo Machiavelli was prime minister of Florence in 1494, and the brains behind the Medici.  Well, Machiavelli was alive at the time but he didn’t enter the Florentine civil service until 1498.  And the Medici couldn’t stand him.  The Florentine bureaucrat was a committed republican and only had steady work when the Medici were out of power.  The fact that he would dedicate “The Prince” to an idiot scion of the family, vainly hoping for patronage, shows how desperate and destitute Machiavelli had become.

However, I truly marvel at the series’ depiction of the French King Charles VIII.  We see an old, ugly, shrewd, remorseless cynic, the type of horrible person who makes an excellent king.  But the real Charles VIII was a young, attractive, vacuous jock–and the series already has one of those:  Juan Borgia.  So who was the inspiration of this horrible but fascinating character?  We actually are seeing a portrayal of Louis XI, the father of the dumb jock.  Unfortunately, the repellent but brilliant Louis inconvenienced Neil Jordan by dying in 1483, nine years before the story begins.  But, as we certainly know, historical accuracy is expendable–especially when it interferes with the story.  The Spider King–as the crafty Louis was known–was too interesting to exclude from the series.  Neil Jordan simply grafted Louis’ character onto the dumb jock.  France should have been so lucky.

Showtime has commissioned a second season of “The Borgias”, so expect Jordan to arrange guest appearances by Thomas More, Erasmus and Michelangelo.  (Leonardo actually worked for the Borgias, so for lack of a creative challenge Jordan may skip him.)  And I imagine this scene.  Cardinal Cesare Borgia, after smoking hashish with the Ottoman ambassador, wolfs down an entire platter of consecrated wafers.  This occurs in front of a young German theology major who had hoped to take communion.  Between us, I bet that young German keeps a grudge.

p.s.  Let’s not forget the romantic significance of this day:

  1. Tom Kelso says:

    Minor pedantic nitpick — I know it’s minor because I had to use the little light on my helmet to locate it — this latest exercise in seeing just how much scenery Jeremy Irons can chew without getting indigestion airs on Showtime, not HBO.

    Princes of the Church may dine with abductees from the Seraglio, as much as we might like to see it, Dexter will NEVER turn his homicidal sights on the Big Love crew.

    • Eugene Finerman says:

      Thank you, Tom.

      I must have been thinking of “Boardwalk Archdiocese”.

      The correction has been made, and I am expelling myself from Spain.


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