The Borgias

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Borgias, the most notorious family in Renaissance Italy. Famed for their treachery and corruption, the Borgias produced two popes during their time of dominance in Rome in the late 15th century. The most well-known of these two popes is Alexander VI, previously Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia. He was accused of buying votes to elect him to the papacy and openly promoted his children in positions of power. Rodrigo's daughter, Lucrezia, is widely remembered as a ruthless poisoner; his son, Cesare, as a brutal soldier.

Murder, intrigue and power politics characterised their rule, but many of the stories now told about their depraved behaviour and evil ways emerged after their demise and gave rise to the so-called 'Black Legend'. The sullied reputation of the Borgia dynasty endures even today and their lives have provided a major theme for plays, novels and over forty films.


Evelyn Welch
Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary, University of London

Catherine Fletcher
Lecturer in Public History at the University of Sheffield

Christine Shaw
Honorary Research Fellow at Swansea University

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

Release date:

Available now

43 minutes

Last on

Thu 22 Nov 2012 21:30

Related topics


Maria Bellonci, ‘Lucrezia Borgia’ (Phoenix, 2000)


Sarah Bradford, ‘Cesare Borgia: His Life and Times’ (Phoenix, 2001)


Sarah Bradford, ‘Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love and Death in Renaissance Italy’ (Penguin Books, 2005)


Johannes Burchardus, ‘Pope Alexander VI and His Court: Extracts from the Latin Diary of Johannes Burchardus’ (Bibliolife, 2009)


Paula Findlen (ed.), ‘The Italian Renaissance: The Essential Readings’ (Wiley-Blackwell, 2002)


Christopher Hibbert, ‘The House of Borgia’ (Constable, 2009)


Mary Hollingsworth, ‘The Borgia Chronicles: 1414-1572’ (Metro Books, 2011)


Niccolò Machiavelli, ‘The Prince’ (Oxford World Classics, 1984)


Michael Mallett, ‘The Borgias: The Rise and Fall of the Most Infamous Family in History’ (Academy Chicago Publishers, 2005)


John M. Najemy (ed.), ‘Italy in the Age of the Renaissance: 1300-1550’ (Oxford University Press, 2004)


Evelyn Welch, ‘Art in Renaissance Italy: 1350-1500’ (Oxford Paperbacks, 2000)


Featured in...

The In Our Time Listeners' Top 10

Hildegard of Bingen

If you’re new to In Our Time, this is a good place to start.

Topics: an extra way to explore our archive

Topics: an extra way to explore our archive

How you helped us find a fresh way to discover our programmes.



Test your knowledge of the subjects covered by In Our Time.

The Matter of the North


Melvyn Bragg explores the pivotal role of England's north in shaping modern Britain.

In Our Time podcasts

In Our Time podcasts

Every episode of In Our Time is available to download.

Arts and Ideas podcast

Arts and Ideas podcast

Download the best of Radio 3's Free Thinking programme.

Related Links