1502 and Renaissance Italy is in turmoil. Backed by the money and wily power of his ageing father Pope Alexander VI, Cesare Borgia is soaring like a military comet, carving out a state for the Borgia dynasty. From Florence, a young diplomat, one Niccolo Machiavelli, is sent to shadow him to keep track of the danger. While many tremble in the presence of this brilliant unscrupulous man, Machiavelli is entranced and the relationship he forges with Cesare allows him - and us - to witness history in the making. Meanwhile, the Pope's beloved daughter Lucrezia is on her way to a third dynastic marriage in the state of Ferrara, where if she is to survive she must fast produce an heir for the rival Este family.