If you have not seen the show and would not like to know what happens in season one, venture no further. There will be spoilers.
Vanozza Cattaneo is the matriarch of the Borgia family. She is Rodrigo Borgia's mistress before he becomes Pope Alexander VI, and although she is jealous when Pope Alexander falls for a younger woman, she never lets her jealousy overtake her. The phrase “Spanish whore” is gleefully bandied about and her daughter's fiancé tries to ban Vanozza from their wedding. What I love about Vanozza is that she is a graceful older woman. She never apologizes for who she is or for her feelings. While Rodrigo is overwhelmed in his quest for papal power, Vanozza makes certain that she is not forgotten.
|Joanne Whalley as Vanozza Cattaneo|
Near the end of the season, when she and Giulia Farnese are taken captive by the enormous French army marching to Rome to wreak havoc on the city and dispose the pope, Lucrezia succeeds in charming the king with her beauty and wit. When he shows her how his cannons will decimate the Papal Army, Lucrezia asks him to hold fire. Riding out into the battlefield alone in between the two armies, Lucrezia meets her brother Juan and through a fair bit of deception, convinces him to lead the Papal Army in a tactical retreat. “That was my brother,” she tells the French king, words dripping with honey. “He thought you meant to sack Rome, like the Goths. I told him you're a gentleman. You had no such idea. You had no such idea, had you? Your goal is Naples...” With these words she convinces the French king not to pursue a fight. Juan Borgia is left with less shame than if his troops had been massacred, the French army enters Rome peacefully, and thousands of lives and all of Rome are spared thanks to one Lucrezia Borgia. No big deal.
[Insert spontaneous applause for Lucrezia here]
Throughout history, women have been maligned and discredited for having the audacity to pursue and possess power. Maybe these three women were prostitutes, adulterers, or incestuous women. Maybe they weren't. Their sexual activity is irrelevant. Whatever the case is, these women are amazing because they lived in a time and a place dominated by men, where they were supposed to be seen and not heard. Instead, they used whatever resources they had to exert their influence, to stand up for themselves and to, if not alter the course of history, then at the very least alter the plot of hit cable show.
Season Two of The Borgias airs Sunday April 8 at 10pm ET/PT. Watch the season two trailer below.