Last weekend my body was in 2015 but my mind was mostly in 1520. What I enjoy the most in my clumsy writing attempts is the time travel for free. I’ve written the epilogue of the famous writing project that probably will never be, but that I think of quite often. I have two “history crushes” and both of them started with a BBC series. My fondness of the Roman Empire started with “I, Claudius” and “The Borgias” ignited my passion for the Borgia family.
Many years have passed since late ’80s; I have read many books about the Borgias, visited exhibitions, places where they actually lived, seen objects that they have touched, letters that they have written. Regarding the books, I recommend you three: one is an historical essay “Lucrezia Borgia” by Maria Bellonci (it’s not an historical fiction but can be read as easily as if it was one), and two novels. O Cesar o nada, by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, and Blood & Beauty by Sarah Dunnant. The last was a real surprise; after several big disappointments (if I’m in a library and come by a novel with some Borgia in it I buy it) this has been a big discovery. I have finally found my Cesare, the one I’ve always had in mind who says this to Caterina Sforza after taking the city of Forlì:
To come back to my time travel, after learning of the existence of Tiziano’s Pala Pesaro, the striking similitude between the unknown soldier carrying the Borgia banner and Richard Armitage, a story is taking form in my head. As I’m inconstant and unreliable I have not started to write it seriously. I have ideas about the outline, and how will his story mix with Lucrezia and Cesare’s; I have thought also about the research I’ll have to do, and so on. Anyway, in the meantime, I’ve written the epilogue. I have done it also as a warm-up. If I don’t write in Spanish for a while I need some practising; luckily I have some patient friends that will correct my grammar and other mistakes, as I don’t have any Spanish dictionary in my word processing programs.
Therefore, last weekend I’ve written my four thousand words exercise; in it there’s an special guest, Cesare Borgia’s sword and its scabbard. I’ve seen both of them in two different exhibitions. The sword is kept here in Rome, and I saw it in an exhibition about Julius Caesar, and the scabbard, which is usually in Victoria & Albert Museum, was in loan in another exhibition about the Borgia family. I checked the catalogue of the scabbard but I did not looked for info in the catalogue of the sword, as I remembered its shape quite well.
In my epilogue, in 1520, he himself (the name of his character is John, couldn’t be otherwise) has the sword, as Cesare gave it to him before his death in Viana (Spain). I didn’t recall if Cesare had taken the sword with him to Spain or where it was kept, but when reading the article about it in the second catalogue, my heart beat hard when I realised that indeed Cesare took the sword with him and that there are no records of the sword’s whereabouts until the XVIIIth century. Therefore, those two details nailed perfectly in my narration. Consider me crazy and/or lunatic, but I felt profoundly happy when I realised that. Most probably that information was stored inside my head and I used it unconsciously, but that moment I felt in heaven, or rather, confirmed me that indeed last weekend I travelled to 1520.
PS. Richard Armitage has just wrapped “Pilgrimage” with Stanley Webber in the cast, among others. He played, in the European Borgia tv series, the part of Juan Borgia. Mr. Webber had indeed the physique du role and made a decent work. Although the art design of the series was gorgeous (and shot in Cinecittà, I’ve visited the set), the script was what it was. As far as Borgias in the screen are concerned, the most faithful version to reality, even if less glamorous, is still BBC 1981 series.