A post from 2012:
Hooray! The Showtime Borgia miniseries actually features some real history in third season Episode 6, giving me something to blog about!
Did Lucrezia poison the king of Naples, though? Definitely not. First, the King of Naples in 1499—when this episode supposedly occurs—died in France in 1504. Second, Lucrezia never acknowledged baby Giovanni as her son—and he may not have been her son–so the whole premise for poisoning the king is fiction. (See more about that at http://maryannphilip.com/cesare-borgia-pope-alexander-vi-lucrezia-borgia-involved-incest/). Finally, she and Alfonso, who were married in the Vatican (shocking!), never went to Naples together.
I resent that Showtime is making Lucrezia into a villainess, and her brother Cesare into a relatively likeable figure. In real life, it was the opposite. Showtime is slandering a (relatively) innocent woman, and minimizing the conduct of a sociopath.
The rest of this episode, however, has a lot of truth in it. The pope, not Cesare, initiated the alliance with France. But Cesare did bring the new French king a papal bull allowing the king's divorce, and did marry a French princess.
The French king did lend the pope an army to begin re-conquering the Romagna, also known as "the Papal States." This had been a papal goal for centuries. But the papacy was weak until Alexander came along, because of the "Babylonian Captivity" that took the popes to France and the "Great Schism" that created multiple popes who spent all their time excommunicating each other.
Pope Alexander maintained that his wars were for the papacy, not for the Borgias—a point the Showtime writers seem confused about. Granted, it's likely Alexander would have arranged for a permanent Borgia territory in the Romagna had he lived long enough, just as his predecessor Pope Sixtus "gave" Forli to Caterina Sforza's first husband, Pope Sixtus' "nephew"/ illegitimate son. But Alexander's ostensible purpose was laudable, from a papal perspective, whatever his ulterior motives.
One last note about this episode: Caterina Sforza did send the pope a gift, wrapped in the blanket of a plague victim. With real history like that, why do the Showtime writers keep making things up?
For a complete and fun history of this period, the Borgia family and Caterina Sforza (among others), read A Borgia Daughter Dies , which is getting great reviews on Amazon, see http://www.amazon.com/A-Borgia-Daughter-Dies-ebook/product-reviews/B007WONQV2/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1. Versions for Nook/Apple and other miscellaneous e-readers are available at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/151617.