1492: The Pope dies. Rodrigo Borgia in spite of his age and his many illegitimate children sees a last chance for election to the Papal throne. He sets about achieving it by a mixture of bribery, blackmail and political cunning.
1495: Charles VIII of France, at the head of a vast army, invades Northern Italy on his way to claim the Kingdom of Naples. Rome stands defenceless in his path. Has the power of the Borgias been shortlived?
Having scored a diplomatic victory over the French, the Pope now turns his attention to crushing the treacherous Orsini family. Cesare's jealousy is further inflamed by the appointment of his brother, Juan, as Commander of the Papal Army.
Lucrezia awaits the annulment of her marriage and the birth of her baby in a remote convent. Juan is dead. Lucrezia does not know that Cesare arranged the murder. because of a mistaken belief that Juan had made her pregnant.
Cesare has renounced the priesthood for worldly ambition. King Louis of France has given him a Dukedom and a wife. Alfonso Biselli, Lucrezia's new and adored husband, knows too much about Cesare's secret treaty with the French and fears for his life.
Against the Pope's will, Cesare has caused a rift between Rome and the Kingdom of Naples by the assassination of Lucrezia's second husband. While she mourns at Nepi, he has arranged a secret meeting with another enemy of Naples.