The Borgias (1981 TV series)

For the Showtime television series, see The Borgias (2011 TV series). For the series created by Tom Fontana, see Borgia (TV series).
The Borgias
Created by Mark Shivas
Written by John Prebble
Ken Taylor
Directed by Brian Farnham
Starring Adolfo Celi
Oliver Cotton
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of seasons 1
Producer(s) Mark Shivas
Production company(s) BBCRAI
Original network BBC Two
Original release 1981 – 1981

The Borgias is a British television drama serial produced by the BBC in 1981, in association with the Second Network of the Italian broadcaster RAI. The series, produced by Mark Shivas, was set in Italy during the 15th century and told the story of Rodrigo Borgia (played by Adolfo Celi) – the future Pope Alexander VI – and his family, including his son Cesare (Oliver Cotton) and daughter Lucrezia (Anne Louise Lambert).

The 10 episodes follow events from 1492 when Rodrigo is elected pope and concludes in 1507 with Cesare's violent death.


Intended to be a gripping historical melodrama in the same vein as the earlier BBC series, I, Claudius, and despite credible locations and excellent cinematography, the series was not a critical success. The BBC screened the series at the same time as ITV's lavish Brideshead Revisited, and critics contrasted the high production values and stellar cast of Brideshead with The Borgias seeming focus on frequent graphic violence and nudity.

The Sicilian-born actor Adolfo Celi, well known to have a heavy Sicilian accent, is said to have had much difficulty enunciating his lines. His thickly-accented English proved difficult for viewers to follow.

The series was released on DVD in the UK by 2 Entertain in 2016.


Character Actor
Pope Alexander VI Adolfo Celi
Cesare Borgia Oliver Cotton
Giuliano della Rovere Alfred Burke
Lucrezia Borgia Anne Louise Lambert
Juan Borgia George Camiller
Jofre Borgia Louis Selwyn
Vanozza Canale Barbara Shelley
Giulia Farnese Seretta Wilson
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