Sarah Bradford

Worse Than The Baglioni?

The House of Borgia


Constable & Robinson 328pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

Were the Borgias the wickedest family in history? Certainly their Italian contemporaries depicted them as such, but many of the signorial families of the Italian Renaissance were as bad, if not worse, in their public and private lives. Sigismondo Malatesta, lord of Rimini, had two wives murdered, allegedly slept with his daughter and attempted to sodomise his son. Pope Pius II excommunicated him and consigned him to hell while he was still alive, but it was for heresy and not his sexual misdemeanours that he was condemned. Francesca Manfredi of Faenza lured her husband into her bedchamber and had him stabbed there by concealed assassins, then finished him off herself when they failed to do the job properly. In July 1500, in a bloodbath known as the ‘Red Wedding’, half the feuding Baglioni family of Perugia murdered the other half in their beds. Almost no one today has heard of the Baglioni but the Borgias are still a legend.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,
    • 'We read from left to right and from start to finish. Or do we?' Stuart Hannabus considers the merits of reading i… ,