Let's face it: TV period dramas simply can't get every detail right. There will always be some level of historical inaccuracy, no matter how hard the producers try to get things correct. However, some TV versions of historical personages are exceptionally off-base.
While these TV characters were all quite villainous, the real-life historical figures they were based on were actually pretty decent. Here are some prime examples of TV shows where the fictionalized villains are far more dastardly than the people who inspired them.
Giovanni Sforza, "The Borgias"
In "The Borgias," Giovanni Sforza is a pretty detestable man. Angered at being strong-armed into a political marriage with the Borgia clan, and prideful to a fault, he thinks Lucrezia is beneath his dignity. Therefore, he has no qualms about raping her nightly, despite her sweet, innocent, and kind nature. He's one of the most hated characters on the show, and it's his abuse of Lucrezia that starts her down a path to darkness.
But in real life, Sforza was a far gentler man. True, he married Lucrezia when she was young … but he held off on consummating their marriage for quite some time, as she was so childlike.
Prince John, "The New Adventures of Robin Hood"
The feud between Robin Hood and Prince John has been the subject of multiple TV shows and movies over the years. In nearly all of them, Prince John is basically turned into a caricature of evil. However, the mid-1990s TV series "The New Adventures of Robin Hood" deserves a special mention for their treatment of Prince John. In this take on the classic story, Prince John is more than the regular amount of "evil." He's actually seen sacrificing peasants to Celtic goddesses, with a maniacal grin. In real life, this of course never happened.
Piero de Medici, "Leonardo"
The Medicis were powerful, and some were quite corrupt. But the treatment of Piero de Medici in the UK children's series "Leonardo" is still a bit off-base. "Leonardo" follows the adventures of da Vinci as a teenage boy, along with his friends Niccolo "Mac" Machiavelli and Lorenzo de Medici. Piero is Lorenzo's father, who leads a shadowy cabal of men in their quest to steal ideas from the young da Vinci and use them for starting a war against the Duke of Florence.
In real life, Piero de Medici and his family were already in control of Florence, and really would have had no reason to harass da Vinci, or try and overthrow the Duke of Florence. The show takes place in the 1400s: a Duke wasn't even installed in Florence until 1532.
Kind of makes you wonder what kind of "villainy upgrade" the antagonist will get in the upcoming Starz series "Da Vinci's Demons."