On 24th June 1502, the Florentine politician and diplomat Niccolo Machiavelli came face to face with Cesare Borgia. Borgia's name had long been known to Machiavelli and indeed the Florentine people – he was the son of Pope Alexander VI and an exceptional military tactician, whilst stories of his macabre and evil doings (many of them brought on by nothing more than rumours whispered by his enemies) had been heard throughout Italy for years.
"It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both"
It was when I was at university studying archaeology that I first discovered the Italian Renaissance. I'd been poking around the library looking for books to help me with one essay or another and inadvertently found myself in the Renaissance section. I was instantly drawn to a book that would become my bible when it comes to Cesare Borgia – Sarah Bradford's biography of the man himself.
After reading it (admittedly whilst I should have been reading for one of my archaeology modules), I found myself sucked into the world of the Italian Renaissance and particularly the Borgia family. I'd fallen in love with the corruption of the Church at the time, fallen in love with the murderous young man who had once been a cardinal. An obsession was born, and I often wondered whether or not me writing something on the period, on the Borgia family, would be worth it.
Even after I graduated University and ended up working for the local archaeology unit, my love of the Renaissance stuck and I knew that was what I wanted to concentrate on. I even got myself tattooed with Cesare Borgia's motto. The Renaissance, and the Borgia family, in particular, became what I now consider to be my life's work – I wanted to share my knowledge of the era, and what better way to do it than write a book?
A few years back now, not long after I first started The Borgia Bull, I contacted a gentleman by the name of Hasan Niyazi who ran a fantastic Renaissance blog by the name of Three Pipe Problem. The two of us became friends and would often chat about the myths that surrounded the Borgia family and the best ways to show people that those myths were entirely wrong.
We would call ourselves ‘myth busters', which became something of a little in-joke between us. It was after one of these conversations with Hasan that I decided I would finally try and write the book I had been wanting to write for so long. I would try and write a book that would tell Cesare Borgia's story in a way that would dispel some of the awful myths surrounding his life, that would be accessible reading to both academics who didn't want a massive tome to wade through and the general public. Truthfully, without Hasan, Cesare Borgia In A Nutshell would never have been written.
A few months after starting to write, I put the book down. Life caught up with me and the book was forgotten about. When I heard the sad news that Hasan had passed away, I knew I had to finish the book. Yet it still took me longer than expected to actually pick up the writing again – with only weekends and evenings to be able to write, I was often far too tired to actually do anything. That and there was still the niggling doubt in the back of my mind that anything I wrote would be the worst thing ever.
When I eventually did pick things up again, I found that the words began to flow in a way that they hadn't since I'd written my BA Dissertation on the 1644 Battle of Cheriton. In my break from writing, I had spent my spare time reading books on the Borgia family and watching documentaries on them – I even expanded my horizons and dipped into Medieval and Tudor history.
It was when I re-read Suzannah Lipscomb's works on Henry VIII and began to read Dan Jones' work on the War of the Roses, I realised that I could do it. Whilst I still believe that I will never be in the same vein as them, I look up to the fact that they have been able to make something of themselves in the history world through hard work – they are of the younger generation of historians who have proven that you don't have to be old and dressed in tweed to make something of yourself in the field of history.
The moment I finished the final sentence of Cesare Borgia In A Nutshell, I won't lie here – I was proud of myself. After thinking for so long that I'd never be able to write a non-fiction book, I'd done it. And I couldn't have done it without Hasan's myth busting and our talks, I couldn't have done it without those top historians whose work inspired me.
More so, I couldn't have done it without the encouragement of my publishers, MadeGlobal. The writing of my first book has been a journey and a half, sometimes difficult and full of self-doubt. But it's a journey that I completed with the help of some amazing people, and for that, I owe them all the gratitude in the world.
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About the Author
Samantha Morris studied archaeology at the University of Winchester where her interest in the history of the Italian Renaissance began. Since graduating University, her interest in the Borgia family has grown to such an extent that she is always looking for new information on the subject as well as fighting against the age-old rumours that haunt them. Samantha describes herself as an accountant by day, historian and author by night. Her first published book is Cesare Borgia in a Nutshell, a brief biography which aims to dispel the myths surrounding a key member of the Borgia family. She runs the popular Borgia website https: //theborgiabull.com/ and you can find Samantha on Facebook and Twitter @TheBorgiaBuIl.