Fortunately, Hibbert only devotes a few chapters near the beginning to Borgias Who Were Not Pope, and in the rest takes up Rodrigo Borgia who became His Holiness Alexander VI and his children Cesare and Lucrezia, i.e. The Sweeps-Week of Borgias. Incest! Murder! Attractive young widows! Poisonings! Illicit pregnancies! Those feasts where the host suddenly turns on his guests and has them all garrotted (why do people go to those?)!
It is verrrra descriptive, down to whose slippers are embroidered with pearls and how many trumpeteers there were and in what colors the horses are caparisoned and sometimes it seems like everyone is named ‘Juan.’ You know that problem people have with British history where all the kings are Edwards and Henrys? Exactly that, but more Italian. And then one of the many, many characters leaves Naples ‘with a four-year-old mule, named Idrontina, which he was given as a present by the king’ and if that mule ever re-surfaced again I’d see the need for this detail but I am already very lightly whiplashed due to ALL THE NAMES, so.
Hibbert scrupulously notes who said what, which is admirable in a historian but leads to a lot of ‘Buchard recorded that several cardinals had noted’ and ‘Cattaneo reported that the pope had assured one cardinal that Louis XII was most anxious’ etc.
Fortunately for Hibbert, the Borgias were soap operatic in their own right, and nothing you say can boring their shit. Cesare needed $$$ for his army one time so his father the pope started countermanding various perfectly legal wills and having himself named as heir to seize the assets. That is some creatively devious fundraising right there.
If I were me (which…hmmm) I would read this before reading Sins of the House of Borgia, just to have some context to put everything in. I mean, if I read it at all, which I might not do. It’s sloggy going.