For others named Rodrigo Borgia, please see Rodrigo Borgia.
What would Rome be without a good plot?
~ Rodrigo Borgia

Pope Alexander VI, born Rodrigo de Borja and more commonly known as Rodrigo Borgia, is the central character of the Showtime series The Borgias. He is an ambitious, power-hungry patriarch who uses bribery and murder to secure his election to the papacy. Once placing himself and his family into power, he struggles to maintain his grip on Italy and hold off any threats against him. 

With Vannozza dei Cattanei, Rodrigo Borgia had 4 children: Cesare, Juan, Lucrezia, and Gioffre. Although he is a family man at heart, Borgia is not above using his children as pawns in his game of Renaissance politics. 

He is portrayed by Jeremy Irons, who also portrayed Scar in The Lion King, Simon Gruber in Die Hard With a Vengeance, Profion in Dungeons & Dragons, Alan Rikkin in Assassin's Creed, and Ozymandias in the HBO series Watchmen.

The Showtime series reversed the order of Cesare and Juan from the Canal+ series and generally accepted real world history, making Cesare the eldest child.


Season 1:

Prior to becoming Pope, Borgia served as the Vice-Chancellor to Pope Innocent VIII - second in rank only to the Pope. By the summer of 1492 Innocent was a frail, sickly old man. After Innocent VIII received the Viaticum (last Communion), the Cardinals of the Church, including Borgia and his arch-rival Giuliano della Rovere gathered around Innocent. Innocent's last words were a regretful statement about the church being sullied by greed and lechery, and asked the Cardinals which of them would wash it clean, words that seemed to be directed at Borgia and della Rovere.


Rodrigo Borgia as a Cardinal

Before the Vatican is sealed for the conclave, Borgia gives his son Cesare directions on how to bribe a majority of the cardinals using gold, food, and offers of promotion. This scheme works, and he is elected pope. In a lavish ceremony, he takes the papal name Alexander.

The night after his election, Cardinal Orsini tried to have Alexander poisioned. However, Cesare convinced Orsini's assassin Micheletto Corella to switch sides, and so Orsini dies to his own poison. 

After becoming Pope, Alexander sets his heart set on a new mistress, Giulia Farnese. Alexander utilizes a tunnel connecting Orsini's now-abandoned palace to the Vatican to meet up with Guila to have sex. Delle Rovere (now Alexander's archenemy) tries to expose this lechery to the College of Cardinals, but Cesare has Micheletto kill the only witness who knew the tunnel existed. 

Alexander spends the next several years as Pope plotting and scheming to cement his power. He has the brother of the Turkish sultan killed (while he is staying with the Borgias in Italy) to collect money offered as a reward. With his treasury filled, he arranges the marriage of Lucrezia to Giovanni Sforza, to form an alliance. He also marries Gioffre to Sancia of Naples, and tries to find a bride for Juan. 


Season 2

Alexander and Giulia go hunting and discover a cave filled with ancient Roman depictions of sexual pleasure. This inspires him to throw a pagan-themed festival for the people of Rome. He also takes a new lover, the artist Vittoria. 

Season 3 

Alexander starts the season in a coma from Antonello's poison. He is almost killed by Ascanio Sforza (who was offered a reward by Caterina if he switches sides), but the assassination is averted when Cesare walks in and Ascanio has to hide his blade. Lucrezia uses a charcoal mixture to save her father. When he awakes, surrounded by cardinals (including Della Rovere), plotting to benefit from his death, he swears revenge. He imprisons Della Rovere, but the cardinal is freed by his allies. 

Alexander formally purges the College of Cardinals of those disloyal to him. He is stabbed by Cardinal Orsini during a "final confession" but manages to kill Orsini in hand-to-hand combat. He also appoints Giulia's brother Alessandro as a Cardinal, putting him in charge of Vatican finances. 

In the final episode, Alexander has successfully cornered the market on sulfur and fortified the papal armies. He considers making the Papacy a hereditary monarchy, telling Cesare that there is nothing scripturally wrong with it. Cesare promises to make his father both Pope and King of an Italian empire he will carve out. 

In his final appearance, Alexander visits the imprisoned Caterina Sforza in the Castel Sant'Angelo. He tries to make her kiss his papal ring, but she bites at him. Alexander orders her taken away to private quarters. 

Physical Appearance

Rodrigo Borgia is an elegant, handsome man in his 60s. He is a "silver fox" who seduces women decades younger than him. 

Usually he is seen wearing a white silk papal coat/robe and, sometimes, a red stole with white fur lining. On formal occasions he wears the papal tiara and a lavish cope. 

He is played by the famous British actor Jeremy Irons, who also voiced Scar. Oddly enough, Irons looks nothing like the historical Borgia (a heavyset Spaniard with darker skin and a beaky nose). Irons said in an interview that he was chosen for the role because of his personality and ability to convey Rodrigo's cunning and ambition. 

In The Borgia Apocalypse

The Borgias was originally going to have four seasons, but when Neil Jordan thought about doing the fourth season, he didn't have the energy or even story to do ten episodes. Instead of that, he proposed Showtime to wrap up everything with a two-hour television movie. He even wrote a rough screenplay, but the network refused, arguing it was too expensive and the season 3 ending worked as a series finale. Jordan would eventually published the screenplay as an e-book called The Borgia Apocalypse.

Reception to this book on sites like Amazon and Goodreads was somewhat positive to negative. Many reviewers argued that the book was a rushed attempt to make an ending, and that characterization was extremely altered. 

The Borgia Apocalypse happens right after the end of Alfonso was killed by Cesare. Rodrigo arrived at the murder scene. He was shocked and angry by what Cesare did. He argued with Cesare for murdering his future son-in-law, and Cesare tried to explain what he did. However, Rodrigo slapped his son and threatened him to throw Alfonso's body into Tiber River, and Cesare had to do so. He also said Cesare need assistance from Micheletto, who had already left the side of Cesare.

The Pope was later visted by Micheletto, who demanded the latter to pay a visit. Still being struck by his guilt riddance, Micheletto refused to serve the Pope or God, since he deemed himself to be utterly sinned. Rodrigo then encouraged him to return back to Cesare instead. Later, Rodrigo was visited by Cardinal D'Ambroise, who sent him a message about the French King Louis XII's arrival with his army.

Coming soon


  • The real Rodrigo Borgia is considered one of the most controversial and infamous Popes in history. Although many of the accusations against him were likely made up by his enemies, it is true that he took many mistresses, violated his celibacy vows, engaged in nepotism and bribery, and overall had villainous tendencies. These behaviors were hardly unusual for Popes during that time in history. 
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