Episode 4 deals with the retreat of the French army from Naples and the Battle of Fornovo, where the Holy League – a combined force of Venice, Milan, Spain (King Ferdinand of Aragon was also King of Sicily), England, the Holy Roman Empire and, of course, the Pope – formed a army to prevent further French conquest in Italy.
True to the series, the historical events are duly mangled and replaced with the sexual conspiracies that were developed in earlier episodes. The Holy League is shown to have been formed to capitalize on the French retreat, rather than the reality that its formation was a proximate cause of that retreat. The involvement of the Spanish is completely neglected, removing this as the beginning of the wars between the HRE/Spain and France that will be fought in and over Italy for the next six decades.
Instead [don’t read further if you intend to watch], we see Cesare Borgia incensed over the sacking of a French convent by French scouts and determined to take revenge. He forms a motley band of villains and, having captured a few of the culprits, manages to tease out of them Charles’ secret hiding place for the French army’s gunpowder. Thus, the inability of the French to deploy their cannon at Fornovo is credited to, not the rain (although rain it does in the show), but to Cesare and his guerilla tactics.
Yes, it is still a bit silly, but it is a silly I can make peace with.
As before, I was impressed with the style of the armies as portrayed on screen. In particular, the Papal States army again has a combination Roman/Medieval style that, well almost certainly not accurate, portrays at a glance the disconnect between the mentality, at that snapshot in time, of the Italians towards warfare and the reality of the world advancing into modernity. I also really liked how much the actor captured the look of contemporary paintings of Condottiero Francesco II of Gonzaga.
Can you remember whom this actor played in Game of Thrones? I couldn’t, even after looking at pictures from that series.