Blood & Beauty: The Borgias

By Sarah Dunant; Published In 2013
Genres: Historical, Fiction, Cultural, Italy
Ah, he has too many ideas, that man da Vinci. His mind works faster than his hands.

Ambassadors, of course, do not blush. It is a requisite of the job that they can sustain any manner of insult without any visible change at all to their face.

Any man in love with Cesare is already half in love with his sister.

Any man in love with Cesare is already half in love with his sister. Now, when [Pedro Calderon] shuts his eyes, he cannot see anything else.

A young woman seeks sanctuary with us. It is not for us to deny her that right. Tell His Holiness that we will protect her with our lives and care for her until she is ready to leave.” Not even Alexander VI can storm a convent and get away with it. The

Borgia bastard could never be the social equal of a legitimate Medici.

Cesare Borgia—oh, Cesare Borgia has proved himself a great warrior.

Family. The greatest loyalty after God.

Family. The greatest loyalty after God in the world.

He spends the night in prayer. God’s voice, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, tells him what the politician in him already knows: that whatever he might stand to gain from playing one against the other, the prospect of a foreign army marching through Italy can bring only instability and devastation in its wake for all. He is, it seems, the Church’s shepherd after all.

How do ugly men make their way through life? He thinks of Michelotto. When he walks down the street men take half a step back from him. But he, Cesare, wields a different power. His face has always been his first weapon. Look at me, it says. I am what you see: easy on the eye, strong to the taste, a man with substance, someone to admire, for how can beauty this natural lie?

Johannes Burchard. The only man in Rome whose face remains the same be it perfume or shit under his nose.

One enemy at the time.

She has always felt safe inside his arms, this beautiful, powerful elder brother, whom so many fear but who has always been as tender as a lover with her.

She has never liked sleeping alone. Even as a small child, she would steel herself to brave the black soup of the room as far as her brother’s bed, creeping in beside him. And he, who when awake would rather fight than talk, would put his arms around her and stroke her hair until their warmness mingled and she fell asleep.

The journey from Rome to Siena is harder than its distance warrants. Once outside the great walls of the city the route becomes as treacherous for humans as for animals. Before the coming of Our Lord, when men knew no better than to worship an army of badly behaved gods, the countryside around Rome was legendary for its fertility, with well-kept roads filled with carts and produce pouring into the city’s markets. But over centuries of the true faith, it has degenerated into wilderness and brigandry, divvied up between the families of the great Roman barons; men hidden inside castles and fortresses who would prefer to carry on slaughtering each other than to create stability together.

There have been none like us before. And there will be none afterwards. Be careful what you write.

This then is Borgia Rome: a city where a traveler entering the gates must still cross acres of country before he reaches the center, where animals still outnumber citizens, goats and cattle grazing the imperial ruins, their insistent teeth pulling weeds—and mortar—from between the stones of history. A city still struggling with a chasm of hardship between rich and poor, still ripped apart by gross family violence. But also a place of growing magnificence and confidence where, for the first time in centuries, the future no longer looks bleaker than the past, and where the new Pope has chosen for himself a name designed to foster a belief in magnificence again. Alexander

Uncertainty is more contagious than the plague. Cesare,

What was once the language of secrecy is now the language of power.