The Borgias

The Borgias Information

The Borgias is a 2011 historical fiction television series created by Neil Jordan.

The series is set around the turn of the 16th century, and follows the Borgia family, an Italian dynasty of Spanish origin. It stars Jeremy Irons as Pope Alexander VI with François Arnaud as Cesare, Holliday Grainger as Lucrezia, David Oakes as Juan and Aidan Alexander as Gioffre Borgia. Colm Feore also stars as cardinal della Rovere.

It premiered on April 3, 2011, at 9 pm ET on Showtime in the United States and 10 pm Eastern (UTC"?04:00) on Bravo! in Canada, and received its first major television network premiere on June 21, 2011 on Canada's CTV Television Network.

On April 25, 2011, Showtime ordered a second season of The Borgias. The second season premiered on April 8, 2012.

On May 4, 2012, Showtime ordered a third season of 10 episodes to air in 2013. Season 3 is set to premiere on April 14, 2013.

Plot overview

The series follows the rise of the Borgia family to the pinnacle of the Roman Catholic Church and their struggles to maintain their grip on power. The beginning of the first season depicts the election of Rodrigo Borgia to the papacy through simony and bribery with the help of his son, Cesare. The triumph in the papal conclave of Borgia, who becomes Pope Alexander VI, enrages his rivals in the College of Cardinals, some of whom decide to plot against him. With the help of his family, Alexander takes on his enemies while striking alliances with other European powers to strengthen his position.

Meanwhile, Alexander's great rival, Cardinal Della Rovere, travels across Italy and France to seek allies to depose the pope. He manages to persuade King Charles VIII of France to assist him in removing Pope Alexander in exchange for supporting the King's claim to the throne of Naples, an ally of the Borgias through marriage. Season one culminates with Charles and his army, accompanied by Della Rovere, marching to Rome and finally coming to a head with the Borgias.


Main cast

  • Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo Borgia / Pope Alexander VI: An ambitious clergyman and head of the Borgia family. He uses his position to acquire power and influence. Shrewd and scheming, he is utterly devoted to his family, but also enjoys the company of beautiful women.
  • François Arnaud as Cesare Borgia: Son of Rodrigo, he is his father's consigliere in the church. However, he desires to leave the priesthood, preferring warfare to the clergy. He has a violent streak, killing anyone to help the family's cause or eliminate romantic rivals. His devotion to his sister Lucrezia is his one weak spot.
  • Holliday Grainger as Lucrezia Borgia: Daughter of Rodrigo, and the apple of her father's eye. From its onset, the series hints at the rumors of an incestuous relationship between her and her brother Cesare. Her first love is Prince Cem, and when he is murdered, she is truly heartbroken, having dreams about him trying to tell her his "secret" (the true manner of his death). These dreams continue even after she marries. Beautiful, clever and brave, she is betrothed at a young age to the cold Giovanni Sforza, and suffers from an unhappy marriage. While married to Sforza, she has a passionate affair with Paolo, a servant, and has a child by him, but he too is murdered. When Lucrezia and Giulia are captured by the French king, she charms him with her wit and beauty and to save Rome.
  • Joanne Whalley as Vannozza dei Cattanei: Courtesan and mother of the pope's children. Her position as the matriarch of the family is threatened by the Borgias' newly acquired powers and the pope's new mistress.
  • Lotte Verbeek as Giulia Farnese: Mistress to the pope. An independent and wise woman herself, she earns the trust of Pope Alexander and becomes a close friend and mentor to Lucrezia.
  • David Oakes as Juan Borgia: Son of Rodrigo and Gonfalonier of the Papal Armies. He behaves recklessly and arrogantly but is an inept coward.
  • Sean Harris as Micheletto: Cesare Borgia's devoted follower and 'hit man'. He carries out ruthless killings under the order of Cesare to keep the Borgia family in power. Micheletto is secretly a homosexual, and briefly engages in an affair with another man in one episode.
  • Aidan Alexander as Joffre Borgia: The barely pubescent youngest son of the pope. He is married to Sancia of Naples by the pope to secure an alliance with the kingdom to consolidate his papacy.
  • Colm Feore as Giuliano della Rovere: A powerful cardinal in the church. After losing the papal election to Rodrigo Borgia, he devotes himself to deposing the new pope, whom he sees as lewd and blasphemous.

Supporting cast

  • Ronan Vibert as Giovanni Sforza: The Lord of Pesaro, picked as the husband of Lucrezia by the pope in exchange for support from the Sforza clan. A cold and brutish man, he rapes Lucrezia repeatedly at the beginning of the marriage, but breaks his leg after falling off a horse thanks to a scheme by Lucrezia. The household staff all hate him and several of them side with Lucrezia and aid her in her affair with Paolo. He betrays the alliance with the Borgias by refusing to support them against the impending French invasion. He is later humiliated by the Borgias, who convene the College of Cardinals to have marriage annulled on the grounds of impotence. When Sforza denies the charges, the Pope declares that he must prove it before the College and two overweight, unattractive prostitutes are brought in. Sforza, unable to bear the humiliation, declares that he is impotent and is sent from Rome in disgrace. He is later killed by Cesare Borgia.
  • Steven Berkoff as Girolamo Savonarola: An influential priest in Florence who preaches against the corruption in the church.
  • Simon McBurney as Johannes Burchard: The Vatican Master of Ceremonies and a scholar with impeccable expertize on canon law. To keep his position (and life), Johannes remains deliberately ambiguous about his loyalties, at times assisting both Pope Alexander VI and his enemies in their scheming.
  • Augustus Prew as Alfonso II of Naples: The eldest son of King Ferdinand I of Naples. His father was old and senile, leaving himself as the effective ruler of Naples. He is eventually tortured to death by King Charles VIII, who blamed him for the plague that swept Naples, and his body is placed in his father's gruesome "Last Supper" as Judas Iscariot.
  • Luke Pasqualino as Paolo: The young servant of Giovanni Sforza. He is outraged by his master's treatment of Lucrezia and sabotages Sforza's saddle, causing his master to suffer a serious injury. He and Lucrezia later have an affair, and he fathers a child with her. After this discovery, he helps her escape from the Sforza household, at the cost of a violent whipping from his master. He travels to Rome to search for her, naively befriending a streetwalker whom Juan Borgia employs to follow him. With the help of Cesare and Micheletto, he is reunited with Lucrezia and his child for one night. Shortly after he is betrayed by the streetwalker and murdered by Juan, who hangs him to make it look like a suicide.
  • Derek Jacobi as Cardinal Orsino Orsini (fictional character): One of the cardinals who plotted against Pope Alexander. Poisoned to death at the instruction of Cesare Borgia.
  • Ruta Gedmintas as Ursula Bonadeo/Sister Martha: A noblewoman who engaged in a passionate extra-marital affair with Cesare Borgia. After Cesare murdered her husband, she rejected his love out of guilt and joined the nunhood, receiving the new name of Sister Martha. She is killed when the Convent of Saint Cecilia is destroyed by Charles VIII, on his way back to France after retreating from Rome.
  • Elyes Gabel as Prince Cem (Djem or Jem): A rival to the Ottoman throne, who was banished by his brother, the Sultan. Pope Alexander accepted the Sultan's offer to host Cem in exchange for financial reward. The handsome and good-hearted young man easily wins over the Borgias, especially Lucrezia. It is heavily implied that Cem and Lucrezia fall in love, but do not consummate their relationship. Cem was eventually killed by the Borgias, who used the much more substantial reward to pay for Lucrezia's dowry.
  • Montserrat Lombard as Maria, a maid in the Orsini Palace during Giulia Farnese's stay there who is willing to testify on her indiscretions with the Pope and pays the price for it.
  • Emmanuelle Chriqui as Sancha of Aragon: The illegitimate daughter of the King of Naples. When a marriage to the Borgias was proposed, Juan refused to marry her due to her illegitimacy. She was married instead to Joffre, but Juan became struck by her beauty and began an affair with her.
  • Vernon Dobtcheff as Cardinal Julius Verscucci (fictional character)
  • Bosco Hogan as Cardinal Piccolomini
  • Gina Mckee as Caterina Sforza: Cousin of Giovanni Sforza and well-known military leader. Like the rest of the Sforzas, she refused to support the pope against the impending invasion by the French.
  • Peter Sullivan as Ascanio Sforza: A powerful cardinal who becomes chancellor in a deal with Rodrigo Borgia to elect Borgia as pope. Sforza arranged the marriage between Lucrezia Borgia and his cousin, Giovanni.
  • Julian Bleach as Niccolò Machiavelli: A senior official in the Republic of Florence and adviser to the Medici family, he carefully considered the offers of alliance by Cardinal Della Rovere and Cesare Borgia. Della Rovere pushes for Florence to give free passage of the French army on their way to Rome. He was upset when the Medicis yield hopelessly to the demands of the King of France in the face of total destruction of Florence by the French armies, He later allies with Cesare Borgia, providing advice on the matter of Savonarola and the location of Medici gold transports for Cesare to steal.
  • Ivan Kaye as Ludovico Sforza: The brutish Duke of Milan, also known as "il Moro," who seized the throne and imprisoned his own nephew in the process. Despite an alliance of the Sforzas and the pope, he allowed the French army free passage through Milan on the way to Rome.
  • Michel Muller as Charles VIII: King of France and commander of one of the most feared armies in Europe. He claimed the throne of Naples, and was enticed by Cardinal Della Rovere to pursue those claims, in return for deposing Pope Alexander. Insecure about his height, looks and faith, he was charmed by Lucrezia Borgia on his way to seizing Rome, and later talked into an alliance by the pope, who agreed to recognize him as King of Naples.
  • Darwin Shaw played Augustino, a childhood friend of Micheletto in series 2
  • David Lowe as the French Ambassador to Rome.
  • Sebastian de Souza as Alfonso of Aragon, Duke of Bisceglie and Prince of Salerno: He arrived in Rome as suitor to Lucrezia, who accepted to marry him as a second husband.
  • Swedish actor Matias Varela will portray King Ferdinand in Season 3.
  • Danish actor Cyron Melville will portray Cardinal Farnese in Season 3.


The series is an international co-production, directed by an Irishman, filmed in Hungary, and produced in Canada. Filming in Hungary mainly took place at the Korda Studios in Etyek, just west of Budapest.

Neil Jordan was trying to direct a film about the Borgia reign for over a decade and the project had many times come close to fruition, with stars such as Colin Farrell and Scarlett Johansson attached to it. In 2010, Steven Spielberg, the head of DreamWorks Pictures (now a producer of The Borgias), suggested the film turned into a cable drama and Neil Jordan took the idea over to Showtime executives who, wanting to fill the void historical series The Tudors was going to leave after its final season, commissioned the series. Neil Jordan has stated that the ideal would be a series of four seasons so he can span at least the period of Rodrigo Borgia's papacy (1492"1503).

For the role of Rodrigo Borgia, Neil Jordan turned to Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons, known for roles of villains and anti-heroes. The actor initially had second thoughts about his being suitable for the role who is in history described as an obese, dark complexioned Spaniard, but Jordan wanted him to focus on the aspects of the character's obsession with power and life, which the actor could play to the hilt.


Main article: List of The Borgias episodes
The first season consists of nine episodes; the premiere encompassed two episodes, with the remaining seven episodes being first-aired each week following. The second season consisted of ten episodes, the first half of which were written by creator Neil Jordan, whereas the latter half was written by the noted English writer-director David Leland, who joined the series' staff as co-showrunner and producer and directed its last two episodes.


The show's first season received generally favorable reviews in the United States, scoring 66 out of 100 based on 25 critics on Metacritic. Robert Bianco of USA Today said: "... seen from a safe distance, captured by a sterling cast led in marvelous high style by Jeremy Irons, and presented with all the brio, flair and sumptuous design TV can muster, the infamous family is almost addictively entertaining". Linda Stasi of the New York Post gave the season a 3.5/4 rating, remarking "'The Borgias' (the series) makes 'The Tudors' look like a bunch of amateurs with bigger lips.

However, it was met with a more mixed reception in the United Kingdom. Rachel Ray of The Daily Telegraph called Irons' performance "disappointingly undiabolical". She added that the show is "for history buffs, not for viewers looking for another Godfather". Sarah Dempster of The Guardian mocked the show's dialogue and visual style: "The ridiculousness mounts. The opening double bill features impromptu palazzo brawls between priapic gadabouts in bejewelled codpieces ("Back to Spain, Borgia!") and flocks of miffed cardinals gliding along darkened corridors like motorised pepperpots". Sam Wollaston recalled the 1981 BBC miniseries of the same name, which had been widely panned, and said there was "more thought to this [2011] version, and attention to character. And Irons is proper". The Independents Holly Williams praised Irons, but said elsewhere, "the acting and script feel about as substantial as a communion wafer. With power struggles, sex, assassinations and sibling rivalries, it should, at least, be racy and fun. Yet the storyline often feels curiously ungripping".

The second season's premiere was met with much more positive reviews, and currently holds a Metacritic score of 81/100, based on six reviews.

Historical notes

  • Prince Cem died in 1495 while in the custody of the French king, but he probably was not murdered. Lucrezia's dowry had nothing to do with Cem's death. The Pope tried to convert Cem to Christianity, without success.
  • Historically, Orsino Orsini was the name of Giulia Farnese's husband, not of a cardinal. The Borgias did murder a cardinal Orsini: it was Giambattista Orsini, poisoned in 1503 and not in 1492.
  • The Spanish emissaries brought - as a present - a Native American, brought by Christopher Columbus. In reality, Columbus brought seven Taino Indians to Spain, where they were baptized, with the King Ferdinand of Aragon and Prince Juan acting as godfathers; they returned as interpreters with Columbus on his second voyage in 1493.
  • It should also be noted as well that in the scene with the captive Taino in the Papal Court, the word "America" would not have been used prior to 1507, when Martin Waldseemuller published the Universalis Cosmographia, which contained world map with the cartographic drawings of North and South Americas by Amerigo Vespucci. The Spanish would have referred to the Americas as the "Indies" from the 1490s onwards.
  • The music that plays during Alexander VI's coronation scene is George Frideric Handel's coronation anthem Zadok the Priest, which was actually composed for that of the British King George II in 1727.
  • The music that plays during Lucrezia's wedding is actually the motet Videte Miraculum, composed by Thomas Tallis (c. 1505"1585), a Tudor court composer.
  • Girolamo Savonarola was executed in Florence, not Rome as seen in the series.
  • Alfonso II of Naples was in fact father to Sancha of Aragon (who married Gioffre Borgia), not her brother as the series suggests. Her brother was Alfonso of Aragon, second husband to Lucrezia Borgia, whose character is introduced towards the end of the second season.
  • Cesare Borgia did not murder Giovanni Sforza. Sforza died in Pesaro in 1510, outliving Cesare by three years.

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "The_Borgias_%282011_TV_series%29" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



Page generated in 0.28480815887451 seconds