The Borgias
Alexandre Dumas, Pere

Part 2 out of 5

irresolute than ever, had recalled several regiments that had
actually started, when Cardinal Giuliano delta Rovere, driven out of
Italy by the pope, arrived at Lyons, and presented himself before the

The cardinal, full of hatred, full of hope, hastened to Charles, and
found him on the point of abandoning that enterprise on which, as
Alexander's enemy, delta Rovere rested his whole expectation of
vengeance. He informed Charles of the quarrelling among his enemies;
he showed him that each of them was seeking his own ends--Piero dei
Medici the gratification of his pride, the pope the aggrandisement of
his house. He pointed out that armed fleets were in the ports of
Villefranche, Marseilles, and Genoa, and that these armaments would
be lost; he reminded him that he had sent Pierre d'Urfe, his grand
equerry, on in advance, to have splendid accommodation prepared in
the Spinola and Doria palaces. Lastly, he urged that ridicule and
disgrace would fall on him from every side if he renounced an
enterprise so loudly vaunted beforehand, for whose successful
execution, moreover, he had been obliged to sign three treaties of
peace that were all vexatious enough, viz. with Henry VII, with
Maximilian, and with Ferdinand the Catholic. Giuliano della Rovere
had exercised true insight in probing the vanity of the young king,
and Charles did not hesitate for a single moment. He ordered his
cousin, the Duke of Orleans (who later on became Louis XII) to take
command of the French fleet and bring it to Genoa; he despatched a
courier to Antoine de Bessay, Baron de Tricastel, bidding him take to
Asti the 2000 Swiss foot-soldiers he had levied in the cantons;
lastly, he started himself from Vienne, in Dauphine, on the 23rd of
August, 1494, crossed the Alps by Mont Genevre, without encountering
a single body of troops to dispute his passage, descended into
Piedmont and Monferrato, both just then governed by women regents,
the sovereigns of both principalities being children, Charles John
Aime and William John, aged respectively six and eight.

The two regents appeared before Charles VIII, one at Turin, one at
Casale, each at the head of a numerous and brilliant court, and both
glittering with jewels and precious stones. Charles, although he
quite well knew that for all these friendly demonstrations they were
both bound by treaty to his enemy, Alfonso of Naples, treated them
all the same with the greatest politeness, and when they made
protestations of friendship, asked them to let him have a proof of
it, suggesting that they should lend him the diamonds they were
covered with. The two regents could do no less than obey the
invitation which was really a command. They took off necklaces,
rings, and earrings. Charles VIII gave them a receipt accurately
drawn up, and pledged the jewels for 20,000 ducats. Then, enriched
by this money, he resumed his journey and made his way towards Asti.
The Duke of Orleans held the sovereignty of Asti, as we said before,
and hither came to meet Charles both Ludovico Sforza and his father-
in-law, Hercules d'Este, Duke of Ferrara. They brought with them not
only the promised troops and money, but also a court composed of the
loveliest women in Italy.

The balls, fetes, and tourneys began with a magnificence surpassing
anything that Italy had ever seen before. But suddenly they were
interrupted by the king's illness. This was the first example in
Italy of the disease brought by Christopher Columbus from the New
World, and was called by Italians the French, by Frenchmen the
Italian disease. The probability is that some of Columbus's crew who
were at Genoa or thereabouts had already brought over this strange
and cruel complaint that counter balanced the gains of the American

The king's indisposition, however, did not prove so grave as was at
first supposed. He was cured by the end of a few weeks, and
proceeded on his way towards Pavia, where the young Duke John
Galeazzo lay dying. He and the King of France were first cousins,
sons of two sisters of the house of Savoy. So Charles VIII was
obliged to see him, and went to visit him in the castle where he
lived more like prisoner than lord. He found him half reclining on a
couch, pale and emaciated, some said in consequence of luxurious
living, others from the effects of a slow but deadly poison. But
whether or not the poor young man was desirous of pouring out a
complaint to Charles, he did not dare say a word; for his uncle,
Ludovico Sforza, never left the King of France for an instant. But
at the very moment when Charles VIII was getting up to go, the door
opened, and a young woman appeared and threw herself at the king's
feet; she was the wife of the unlucky John Galeazzo, and came to
entreat his cousin to do nothing against her father Alfonso, nor
against her brother Ferdinand. At sight of her, Sforza scowled with
an anxious and threatening aspect, for he knew not what impression
might be produced on his ally by this scene. But he was soon
reassured; for Charles replied that he had advanced too far to draw
back now, and that the glory of his name was at stake as well as the
interests of his kingdom, and that these two motives were far too
important to be sacrificed to any sentiment of pity he might feel,
however real and deep it might be and was. The poor young woman,
who had based her last hope an this appeal, then rose from her knees
and threw herself sobbing into her husband's arms. Charles VIII and
Ludavico Sforza, took their leave: John Galeazzo was doomed.

Two days after, Charles VIII left for Florence, accompanied by his
ally; but scarcely had they reached Parma when a messenger caught
them up, and announced to Ludovico that his nephew was just dead:
Ludovico at once begged Charles to excuse his leaving him to finish
the journey alone; the interests which called him back to Milan were
so important, he said, that he could not under the circumstances stay
away a single day longer. As a fact he had to make sure of
succeeding the man he had assassinated.

But Charles VIII continued his road not without some uneasiness. The
sight of the young prince on his deathbed had moved him deeply, for
at the bottom of his heart he was convinced that Ludovico Sforza was
his murderer; and a murderer might very well be a traitor. He was
going forward into an unfamiliar country, with a declared enemy in
front of him and a doubtful friend behind: he was now at the entrance
to the mountains, and as his army had no store of provisions and only
lived from hand to mouth, a forced delay, however short, would mean
famine. In front of him was Fivizzano, nothing, it is true, but a
village surrounded by walls, but beyond Fivizzano lay Sarzano and
Pietra Santa, both of them considered impregnable fortresses; worse
than this, they were coming into a part of the country that was
especially unhealthy in October, had no natural product except oil,
and even procured its own corn from neighbouring provinces; it was
plain that a whole army might perish there in a few days either from
scarcity of food or from the unwholesome air, both of which were more
disastrous than the impediments offered at every step by the nature
of the ground. The situation was grave; but the pride of Piero dei
Medici came once more to the rescue of the fortunes of Charles VIII.


PIERO DEI MEDICI had, as we may remember, undertaken to hold the
entrance to Tuscany against the French; when, however, he saw his
enemy coming down from the Alps, he felt less confident about his own
strength, and demanded help from the pope; but scarcely had the
rumour of foreign invasion began to spread in the Romagna, than the
Colonna family declared themselves the French king's men, and
collecting all their forces seized Ostia, and there awaited the
coming of the French fleet to offer a passage through Rome. The
pope, therefore, instead of sending troops to Florence, was obliged
to recall all his soldiers to be near the capital; the only promise
he made to Piero was that if Bajazet should send him the troops that
he had been asking for, he would despatch that army for him to make
use of. Piero dei Medici had not yet taken any resolution or formed
any plan, when he suddenly heard two startling pieces of news. A
jealous neighbour of his, the Marquis of Torderiovo, had betrayed to
the French the weak side of Fivizzano, so that they had taken it by
storm, and had put its soldiers and inhabitants to the edge of the
sword; on another side, Gilbert of Montpensier, who had been lighting
up the sea-coast so as to keep open the communications between the
French army and their fleet, had met with a detachment sent by Paolo
Orsini to Sarzano, to reinforce the garrison there, and after an
hour's fighting had cut it to pieces. No quarter had been granted to
any of the prisoners; every man the French could get hold of they had

This was the first occasion on which the Italians, accustomed as they
were to the chivalrous contests of the fifteenth century, found
themselves in contact with savage foreigners who, less advanced in
civilisation, had not yet come to consider war as a clever game, but
looked upon it as simply a mortal conflict. So the news of these two
butcheries produced a tremendous sensation at Florence, the richest
city in Italy, and the most prosperous in commerce and in art. Every
Florentine imagined the French to be like an army of those ancient
barbarians who were wont to extinguish fire with blood. The
prophecies of Savonarola, who had predicted the foreign invasion and
the destruction that should follow it, were recalled to the minds of
all; and so much perturbation was evinced that Piero dei Medici, bent
on getting peace at any price, forced a decree upon the republic
whereby she was to send an embassy to the conqueror; and obtained
leave, resolved as he was to deliver himself in person into the hands
of the French monarch, to act as one of the ambassadors. He
accordingly quitted Florence, accompanied by four other messengers,
and an his arrival at Pietra Santa, sent to ask from Charles VIII a
safe-conduct for himself alone. The day after he made this request,
Brigonnet and de Piennes came to fetch him, and led him into the
presence of Charles VIII.

Piero dei Medici, in spite of his name and influence, was in the eyes
of the French nobility, who considered it a dishonourable thing to
concern oneself with art or industry, nothing more than a rich
merchant, with whom it would be absurd to stand upon any very strict
ceremony. So Charles VIII received him on horseback, and addressing
him with a haughty air, as a master might address a servant, demanded
whence came this pride of his that made him dispute his entrance into
Tuscany. Piero dei Medici replied, that, with the actual consent of
Louis XI, his father Lorenzo had concluded a treaty of alliance with
Ferdinand of Naples; that accordingly he had acted in obedience to
prior obligations, but as he did not wish to push too far his
devotion to the house of Aragon or his opposition to France, he was
ready to do whatever Charles VIII might demand of him. The king, who
had never looked for such humility in his enemy, demanded that
Sarzano should be given up to him: to this Piero dei Medici at once
consented. Then the conqueror, wishing to see how far the ambassador
of the magnificent republic would extend his politeness, replied that
this concession was far from satisfying him, and that he still must
have the keys of Pietra Santa, Pisa, Librafatta, and Livorno. Piero
saw no more difficulty about these than about Sarzano, and consented
on Charles's mere promise by word of mouth to restore the town when
he had achieved the conquest of Naples. At last Charles VIII, seeing
that this man who had been sent out to negotiate with him was very
easy to manage, exacted as a final condition, a 'sine qua non',
however, of his royal protection, that the magnificent republic
should lend him the sum of 200,000 florins. Piero found it no harder
to dispose of money than of fortresses, and replied that his fellow-
citizens would be happy to render this service to their new ally.
Then Charles VIII set him on horseback, and ordered him to go on in
front, so as to begin to carry out his promises by yielding up the
four fortresses he had insisted on having. Piero obeyed, and the
French army, led by the grandson of Cosimo the Great and the son of
Lorenzo the Magnificent, continued its triumphal march through

On his arrival at Lucca, Piero dei Medici learnt that his concessions
to the King of France were making a terrible commotion at Florence.
The magnificent republic had supposed that what Charles VIII wanted
was simply a passage through her territory, so when the news came
there was a general feeling of discontent, which was augmented by the
return of the other ambassadors, whom Piero had not even consulted
when he took action as he did. Piero considered it necessary that he
should return, so he asked Charles's permission to precede him to the
capital. As he had fulfilled all his promises, except the matter of
the loan, which could not be settled anywhere but at Florence, the
king saw no objection, and the very evening after he quitted the
French army Piero returned incognito to his palace in the Via Largo.

The next day he proposed to present himself before the Signoria, but
when he arrived at the Piazza del Palazzo Vecchio, he perceived the
gonfaloniere Jacopo de Nerli coming towards him, signalling to him
that it was useless to attempt to go farther, and pointing out to him
the figure of Luca Corsini standing at the gate, sword in hand:
behind him stood guards, ordered, if need-were, to dispute his
passage. Piero dei Medici, amazed by an opposition that he was
experiencing for the first time in his life, did not attempt
resistance. He went home, and wrote to his brother-in-law, Paolo
Orsini, to come and help him with his gendarmes. Unluckily for him,
his letter was intercepted. The Signoria considered that it was an
attempt at rebellion. They summoned the citizens to their aid; they
armed hastily, sallied forth in crowds, and thronged about the piazza
of the palace. Meanwhile Cardinal Gian dei Medici had mounted on
horseback, and under the impression that the Orsini were coming to
the rescue, was riding about the streets of Florence, accompanied by
his servants and uttering his battle cry, "Palle, Palle." But times
had changed: there was no echo to the cry, and when the cardinal
reached the Via dei Calizaioli, a threatening murmur was the only
response, and he understood that instead of trying to arouse Florence
he had much better get away before the excitement ran too high. He
promptly retired to his own palace, expecting to find there his two
brothers, Piero and Giuliano. But they, under the protection of
Orsini and his gendarmes, had made their escape by the Porto San
Gallo. The peril was imminent, and Gian dei Medici wished to follow
their example; but wherever he went he was met by a clamour that grew
more and more threatening. At last, as he saw that the danger was
constantly increasing, he dismounted from his horse and ran into a
house that he found standing open. This house by a lucky chance
communicated with a convent of Franciscans; one of the friars lent
the fugitive his dress, and the cardinal, under the protection of
this humble incognito, contrived at last to get outside Florence, and
joined his two brothers in the Apennines.

The same day the Medici were declared traitors and rebels, and
ambassadors were sent to the King of France. They found him at Pisa,
where he was granting independence to the town which eighty-seven
years ago had fallen under the rule of the Florentines. Charles VIII
made no reply to the envoys, but merely announced that he was going
to march on Florence.

Such a reply, one may easily understand, terrified the republic.
Florence had no time to prepare a defence, and no strength in her
present state to make one. But all the powerful houses assembled and
armed their own servants and retainers, and awaited the issue,
intending not to begin hostilities, but to defend themselves should
the French make an attack. It was agreed that if any necessity
should arise for taking up arms, the bells of the various churches in
the town should ring a peal and so serve as a general signal. Such a
resolution was perhaps of more significant moment in Florence than it
could have been in any other town. For the palaces that still remain
from that period are virtually fortresses and the eternal fights
between Guelphs and Ghibellines had familiarised the Tuscan people
with street warfare.

The king appeared, on the 17th of November in the evening, at the
gate of San Friano. He found there the nobles of Florence clad in
their most magnificent apparel, accompanied by priests chanting
hymns, and by a mob who were full of joy at any prospect of change,
and hoped for a return of liberty after the fall of the Medici.
Charles VIII stopped for a moment under a sort of gilded canopy that
had been prepared for him, and replied in a few evasive words to the
welcoming speeches which were addressed to him by the Signoria; then
he asked for his lance, he set it in rest, and gave the order to
enter the town, the whole of which he paraded with his army following
him with arms erect, and then went down to the palace of the Medici,
which had been prepared for him.

The next day negotiations commenced; but everyone was out of his
reckoning. The Florentines had received Charles VIII as a guest, but
he had entered the city as a conqueror. So when the deputies of the
Signoria spoke of ratifying the treaty of Piero dei Medici, the king
replied that such a treaty no longer existed, as they had banished
the man who made it; that he had conquered Florence, as he proved the
night before, when he entered lance in hand; that he should retain
the sovereignty, and would make any further decision whenever it
pleased him to do so; further, he would let them know later on
whether he would reinstate the Medici or whether he would delegate
his authority to the Signoria: all they had to do was to come back
the next day, and he would give them his ultimatum in writing.

This reply threw Florence into a great state of consternation; but
the Florentines were confirmed in their resolution of making a stand.
Charles, for his part, had been astonished by the great number of the
inhabitants; not only was every street he had passed through thickly
lined with people, but every house from garret to basement seemed
overflowing with human beings. Florence indeed, thanks to her rapid
increase in population, could muster nearly 150,000 souls.

The next day, at the appointed hour, the deputies made their
appearance to meet the king. They were again introduced into his
presence, and the discussion was reopened. At last, as they were
coming to no sort of understanding, the royal secretary, standing at
the foot of the throne upon which Charles VIII sat with covered head,
unfolded a paper and began to read, article by article, the
conditions imposed by the King of France. But scarcely had he read a
third of the document when the discussion began more hotly than ever
before. Then Charles VIII said that thus it should be, or he would
order his trumpets to be sounded. Hereupon Piero Capponi, secretary
to the republic, commonly called the Scipio of Florence, snatched
from the royal secretary's hand the shameful proposal of
capitulation, and tearing it to pieces, exclaimed:--

"Very good, sire; blow your trumpets, and we will ring our bells."

He threw the pieces in the face of the amazed reader, and dashed out
of the room to give the terrible order that would convert the street
of Florence into a battlefield.

Still, against all probabilities, this bold answer saved the town.
The French supposed, from such audacious words, addressed as they
were to men who so far had encountered no single obstacle, that the
Florentines were possessed of sure resources, to them unknown: the
few prudent men who retained any influence over the king advised him
accordingly to abate his pretensions; the result was that Charles
VIII offered new and more reasonable conditions, which were accepted,
signed by both parties, and proclaimed on the 26th of November during
mass in the cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore.

These were the conditions:

The Signoria were to pay to Charles VIII, as subsidy, the sum of
120,000 florins, in three instalments;

The Signoria were to remove the sequestration imposed upon the
property of the Medici, and to recall the decree that set a price on
their heads;

The Signoria were to engage to pardon the Pisans, on condition of
their again submitting to the rule of Florence;

Lastly, the Signoria were to recognise the claims of the Duke of
Milan over Sarzano and Pietra Santa, and these claims thus
recognised, were to be settled by arbitration.

In exchange for this, the King of France pledged himself to restore
the fortresses that had been given up to him, either after he had
made himself master of the town of Naples, or when this war should be
ended by a peace or a two years' truce, or else when, for any reason
whatsoever, he should have quitted Italy.

Two days after this proclamation, Charles VIII, much to the joy of
the Signoria, left Florence, and advanced towards Rome by the route
of Poggibondi and Siena.

The pope began to be affected by the general terror: he had heard of
the massacres of Fivizzano, of Lunigiane, and of Imola; he knew that
Piero dei Medici had handed over the Tuscan fortresses, that Florence
had succumbed, and that Catherine Sforza had made terms with the
conqueror; he saw the broken remnants of the Neapolitan troops pass
disheartened through Rome, to rally their strength in the Abruzzi,
and thus he found himself exposed to an enemy who was advancing upon
him with the whole of the Romagna under his control from one sea to
the other, in a line of march extending from Piombina to Ancona.

It was at this juncture that Alexander VI received his answer from
Bajazet II: the reason of so long a delay was that the pope's envoy
and the Neapolitan ambassador had been stopped by Gian della Rovere,
the Cardinal Giuliano's brother, just as they were disembarking at
Sinigaglia. They were charged with a verbal answer, which was that
the sultan at this moment was busied with a triple war, first with
the Sultan of Egypt, secondly with the King of Hungary, and thirdly
with the Greeks of Macedonia and Epirus; and therefore he could not,
with all the will in the world, help His Holiness with armed men.
But the envoys were accompanied by a favourite of the sultan's
bearing a private letter to Alexander VI, in which Bajazet offered on
certain conditions to help him with money. Although, as we see, the
messengers had been stopped on the way, the Turkish envoy had all the
same found a means of getting his despatch sent to the pope: we give
it here in all its naivete.

"Bajazet the Sultan, son of the Sultan Mahomet II, by the grace of
God Emperor of Asia and Europe, to the Father and Lord of all the
Christians, Alexander VI, Roman pontiff and pope by the will of
heavenly Providence, first, greetings that we owe him and bestow with
all our heart. We make known to your Highness, by the envoy of your
Mightiness, Giorgio Bucciarda, that we have been apprised of your
convalescence, and received the news thereof with great joy and
comfort. Among other matters, the said Bucciarda has brought us word
that the King of France, now marching against your Highness, has
shown a desire to take under his protection our brother D'jem, who is
now under yours--a thing which is not only against our will, but
which would also be the cause of great injury to your Highness and to
all Christendom. In turning the matter over with your envoy Giorgio
we have devised a scheme most conducive to peace and most
advantageous and honourable for your Highness; at the same time
satisfactory to ourselves personally; it would be well if our
aforesaid brother D'jem, who being a man is liable to death, and who
is now in the hands of your Highness, should quit this world as soon
as possible, seeing that his departure, a real good to him in his
position, would be of great use to your Highness, and very conducive
to your peace, while at the same time it would be very agreeable to
us, your friend. If this proposition is favourably received, as we
hope, by your Highness, in your desire to be friendly towards us, it
would be advisable both in the interests of your Highness and for our
own satisfaction that it should occur rather sooner than later, and
by the surest means you might be pleased to employ; so that our said
brother D'jem might pass from the pains of this world into a better
and more peaceful life, where at last he may find repose. If your
Highness should adapt this plan and send us the body of our brother,
we, the above-named Sultan Bajazet, pledge ourselves to send to your
Highness, wheresoever and by whatsoever hands you please, the sum of
300,000 ducats, with which sum you could purchase some fair domain
for your children. In order to facilitate this purchase, we would be
willing, while awaiting the issue, to place the 300,000 ducats in the
hands of a third party, so that your Highness might be quite certain
of receiving the money on an appointed day, in return for the
despatch of our brother's body. Moreover, we promise your Highness
herewith, for your greater satisfaction, that never, so long as you
shall remain on the pontifical throne, shall there be any hurt done
to the Christians, neither by us, nor by our servants, nor by any of
our compatriots, of whatsoever kind or condition they may be, neither
on sea nor on land. And for the still further satisfaction of your
Highness, and in order that no doubt whatever may remain concerning
the fulfilment of our promises, we have sworn and affirmed in the
presence of Bucciarda, your envoy, by the true God whom we adore and
by our holy Gospels, that they shall be faithfully kept from the
first point unto the last. And now for the final and complete
assurance of your Highness, in order that no doubt may still remain
in your heart, and that you may be once again and profoundly
convinced of our good faith, we the aforesaid Sultan Bajazet do swear
by the true God, who has created the heavens and the earth and all
that therein is, that we will religiously observe all that has been
above said and declared, and in the future will do nothing and
undertake nothing that may be contrary to the interests of your

"Given at Constantinople, in our palace, on the 12th of September
A.D. 1494."

This letter was the cause of great joy to the Holy Father: the aid of
four or five thousand Turks would be insufficient under the present
circumstances, and would only serve to compromise the head of
Christendom, while the sum of 300,000 ducats--that is, nearly a
million francs--was good to get in any sort of circumstances. It is
true that, so long as D'jem lived, Alexander was drawing an income of
180,000 livres, which as a life annuity represented a capital of
nearly two millions; but when one needs ready money, one ought to be
able to make a sacrifice in the way of discount. All the same,
Alexander formed no definite plan, resolved on acting as
circumstances should indicate.

But it was a more pressing business to decide how he should behave to
the King of France: he had never anticipated the success of the
French in Italy, and we have seen that he laid all the foundations of
his family's future grandeur upon his alliance with the house of
Aragon. But here was this house tettering, and a volcano more
terrible than her own Vesuvius was threatening to swallow up Naples.
He must therefore change his policy, and attach himself to the
victor,--no easy matter, for Charles VIII was bitterly annoyed with
the pope for having refused him the investiture and given it to

In consequence, he sent Cardinal Francesco Piccolomini as an envoy to
the king. This choice looked like a mistake at first, seeing that
the ambassador was a nephew of Pius II, who had vigorously opposed
the house of Anjou; but Alexander in acting thus had a second design,
which could not be discerned by those around him. In fact, he had
divined that Charles would not be quick to receive his envoy, and
that, in the parleyings to which his unwillingness must give rise,
Piccolomini would necessarily be brought into contact with the young
king's advisers. Now, besides his ostensible mission to the king,
Piccalamini had also secret instructions for the more influential
among his counsellors. These were Briconnet and Philippe de
Luxembourg; and Piccolomini was authorised to promise a cardinal's
hat to each of them. The result was just what Alexander had
foreseen: his envoy could not gain admission to Charles, and was
obliged to confer with the people about him. This was what the pope
wished. Piccolomini returned to Rome with the king's refusal, but
with a promise from Briconnet and Philippe de Luxembourg that they
would use all their influence with Charles in favour of the Holy
Father, and prepare him to receive a fresh embassy.

But the French all this time were advancing, and never stopped more
than forty-eight hours in any town, so that it became more and more
urgent to get something settled with Charles. The king had entered
Siena and Viterbo without striking a blow; Yves d' Alegre and Louis
de Ligny had taken over Ostia from the hands of the Colonnas; Civita
Vecchia and Corneto had opened their gates; the Orsini had submitted;
even Gian Sforza, the pope's son-in-law, had retired from the
alliance with Aragon. Alexander accordingly judged that the moment
had came to abandon his ally, and sent to Charles the Bishops of
Concordia and Terni, and his confessor, Mansignore Graziano. They
were charged to renew to Briconnet and Philippe de Luxembourg the
promise of the cardinalship, and had full powers of negotiation in
the name of their master, both in case Charles should wish to include
Alfonso II in the treaty, and in case he should refuse to sign an
agreement with any other but the pope alone. They found the mind of
Charles influenced now by the insinuation of Giuliano della Ravere,
who, himself a witness of the pope's simony, pressed the king to
summon a council and depose the head of the Church, and now by the
secret support given him by the Bishops of Mans and St. Malo. The
end of it was that the king decided to form his own opinion about the
matter and settle nothing beforehand, and continued this route,
sending the ambassadors back to the pope, with the addition of the
Marechal de Gie, the Seneschal de Beaucaire, and Jean de Gannay,
first president of the Paris Parliament. They were ordered to say to
the pope--

(1) That the king wished above all things to be admitted into Rome
without resistance; that, an condition of a voluntary, frank, and
loyal admission, he would respect the authority of the Holy Father
and the privileges of the Church;

(2) That the king desired that D'jem should be given up to him, in
order that he might make use of him against the sultan when he should
carry the war into Macedonia or Turkey or the Holy Land;

(3) That the remaining conditions were so unimportant that they could
be brought forward at the first conference.

The ambassadors added that the French army was now only two days
distant from Rome, and that in the evening of the day after next
Charles would probably arrive in person to demand an answer from His

It was useless to think of parleying with a prince who acted in such
expeditious fashion as this. Alexander accordingly warned Ferdinand
to quit Rome as soon as possible, in the interests of his own
personal safety. But Ferdinand refused to listen to a word, and
declared that he would not go out at one gate while Charles VIII came
in at another. His sojourn was not long. Two days later, about
eleven o'clock in the morning, a sentinel placed on a watch-tower at
the top of the Castle S. Angelo, whither the pope had retired, cried
out that the vanguard of the enemy was visible on the horizon. At
once Alexander and the Duke of Calabria went up an the terrace which
tops the fortress, and assured themselves with their own eyes that
what the soldier said was true. Then, and not till then, did the
duke of Calabria mount on horseback, and, to use his own words, went
out at the gate of San Sebastiana, at the same moment that the French
vanguard halted five hundred feet from the Gate of the People. This
was on the 31st of December 1494.

At three in the afternoon the whole army had arrived, and the
vanguard began their march, drums beating, ensigns unfurled. It was
composed, says Paolo Giove, an eye-witness (book ii, p. 41 of his
History), of Swiss and German soldiers, with short tight coats of
various colours: they were armed with short swords, with steel edges
like those of the ancient Romans, and carried ashen lances ten feet
long, with straight and sharp iron spikes: only one-fourth of their
number bore halberts instead of lances, the spikes cut into the form
of an axe and surmounted by a four-cornered spike, to be used both
for cutting like an axe and piercing like a bayonet: the first row of
each battalion wore helmets and cuirasses which protected the head
and chest, and when the men were drawn up for battle they presented
to the enemy a triple array of iron spikes, which they could raise or
lower like the spines of a porcupine. To each thousand of the
soldiery were attached a hundred fusiliers: their officers, to
distinguish them from the men, wore lofty plumes on their helmets.

After the Swiss infantry came the archers of Gascony: there were five
thousand of them, wearing a very simple dress, that contrasted with
the rich costume of the Swiss soldiers, the shortest of whom would
have been a head higher than the tallest of the Gascons. But they
were excellent soldiers, full of courage, very light, and with a
special reputation for quickness in stringing and drawing their iron

Behind them rode the cavalry, the flower of the French nobility, with
their gilded helmets and neck bands, their velvet and silk surcoats,
their swords each of which had its own name, their shields each
telling of territorial estates, and their colours each telling of a
lady-love. Besides defensive arms, each man bore a lance in his
hand, like an Italian gendarme, with a solid grooved end, and on his
saddle bow a quantity of weapons, some for cutting and same for
thrusting. Their horses were large and strong, but they had their
tails and ears cropped according to the French custom. These horses,
unlike those of the Italian gendarmes, wore no caparisons of dressed
leather, which made them more exposed to attack. Every knight was
followed by three horses--the first ridden by a page in armour like
his own, the two others by equerries who were called lateral
auxiliaries, because in a fray they fought to right and left of their
chief. This troop was not only the most magnificent, but the most
considerable in the whole army; for as there were 2500 knights, they
formed each with their three followers a total of 10,000 men. Five
thousand light horse rode next, who carried huge wooden bows, and
shot long arrows from a distance like English archers. They were a
great help in battle, for moving rapidly wherever aid was required,
they could fly in a moment from one wing to another, from the rear to
the van, then when their quivers were empty could go off at so swift
a gallop that neither infantry or heavy cavalry could pursue them.
Their defensive armour consisted of a helmet and half-cuirass; some
of them carried a short lance as well, with which to pin their
stricken foe to the ground; they all wore long cloaks adorned with
shoulder-knots, and plates of silver whereon the arms of their chief
were emblazoned.

At last came the young king's escort; there were four hundred
archers, among whom a hundred Scots formed a line on each side, while
two hundred of the most illustrious knights marched on foot beside
the prince, carrying heavy arms on their shoulders. In the midst of
this magnificent escort advanced Charles VIII, both he and his horse
covered with splendid armour; on his right and left marched Cardinal
Ascanio Sforza, the Duke of Milan's brother, and Cardinal Giuliano
della Rovere, of whom we have spoken so often, who was afterwards
Pope Julius II. The Cardinals Colonna and Savelli followed
immediately after, and behind them came Prospero and Fabrizia
Colonna, and all the Italian princes and generals who had thrown in
their lot with the conqueror, and were marching intermingled with the
great French lords.

For a long time the crowd that had collected to see all these foreign
soldiers go by, a sight so new and strange, listened uneasily to a
dull sound which got nearer and nearer. The earth visibly trembled,
the glass shook in the windows, and behind the king's escort thirty-
six bronze cannons were seen to advance, bumping along as they lay on
their gun-carriages. These cannons were eight feet in length; and as
their mouths were large enough to hold a man's head, it was supposed
that each of these terrible machines, scarcely known as yet to the
Italians, weighed nearly six thousand pounds. After the cannons came
culverins sixteen feet long, and then falconets, the smallest of
which shot balls the size of a grenade. This formidable artillery
brought up the rear of the procession, and formed the hindmost guard
of the French army.

It was six hours since the front guard entered the town; and as it
was now night and for every six artillery-men there was a torch-
bearer, this illumination gave to the objects around a more gloomy
character than they would have shown in the sunlight. The young king
was to take up his quarters in the Palazzo di Venezia, and all the
artillery was directed towards the plaza and the neighbouring
streets. The remainder of the army was dispersed about the town.
The same evening, they brought to the king, less to do honour to him
than to assure him of his safety, the keys of Rome and the keys of
the Belvedere Garden just the same thing had been done for the Duke
of Calabria.

The pope, as we said, had retired to the Castle S. Angelo with only
six cardinals, so from the day after his arrival the young king had
around him a court of very different brilliance from that of the head
of the Church. Then arose anew the question of a convocation to
prove Alexander's simony and proceed to depose him; but the king's
chief counsellors, gained over, as we know, pointed out that this was
a bad moment to excite a new schism in the Church, just when
preparations were being made for war against the infidels. As this
was also the king's private opinion, there was not much trouble in
persuading him, and he made up his mind to treat with His Holiness.

But the negotiations had scarcely begun when they had to be broken
off; for the first thing Charles VIII demanded was the surrender of
the Castle S. Angelo, and as the pope saw in this castle his only
refuge, it was the last thing he chose to give up. Twice, in his
youthful impatience, Charles wanted to take by force what he could
not get by goodwill, and had his cannons directed towards the Holy
Father's dwelling-place; but the pope was unmoved by these
demonstrations; and obstinate as he was, this time it was the French
king who gave way.

This article, therefore, was set aside, and the following conditions
were agreed upon:

That there should be from this day forward between His Majesty the
King of France and the Holy Father a sincere friendship and a firm

Before the completion of the conquest of the kingdom of Naples, the
King of France should occupy, for the advantage and accommodation of
his army, the fortresses of Civita Vecchia, Terracina, and Spoleto;

Lastly, the Cardinal Valentino (this was now the name of Caesar
Borgia, after his archbishopric of Valencia) should accompany the
king in the capacity of apostolic ambassador, really as a hostage.

These conditions fixed, the ceremonial of an interview was arranged.
The king left the Palazzo di Venezia and went to live in the Vatican.
At the appointed time he entered by the door of a garden that
adjoined the palace, while the pope, who had not had to quit the
Castle S. Angelo, thanks to a corridor communicating between the two
palaces, came down into the same garden by another gate. The result
of this arrangement was that the king the next moment perceived the
pope, and knelt down, but the pope pretended not to see him, and the
king advancing a few paces, knelt a second time; as His Holiness was
at that moment screened by some masonry, this supplied him with
another excuse, and the king went on with the performance, got up
again, once mare advanced several steps, and was on the point of
kneeling down the third time face to face, when the Holy Father at
last perceived him, and, walking towards him as though he would
prevent him from kneeling, took off his own hat, and pressing him to
his heart, raised him up and tenderly kissed his forehead, refusing
to cover until the king had put his cap upon his head, with the aid
of the pope's own hands. Then, after they had stood for a moment,
exchanging polite and friendly speeches, the king lost no time in
praying His Holiness to be so good as to receive into the Sacred
College William Bricannet, the Bishop of St. Malo. As this matter
had been agreed upon beforehand by that prelate and His Holiness,
though the king was not aware of it, Alexander was pleased to get
credit by promptly granting the request; and he instantly ordered one
of his attendants to go to the house of his son, Cardinal Valentino,
and fetch a cape and hat. Then taking the king by the hand, he
conducted him into the hall of Papagalli, where the ceremony was to
take place of the admission of the new cardinal. The solemn oath of
obedience which was to be taken by Charles to His Holiness as supreme
head of the Christian Church was postponed till the following day.

When that solemn day arrived, every person important in Rome, noble,
cleric, or soldier, assembled around His Holiness. Charles, on his
side, made his approach to the Vatican with a splendid following of
princes, prelates, and captains. At the threshold of the palace he
found four cardinals who had arrived before him: two of them placed
themselves one on each side of him, the two others behind him, and
all his retinue following, they traversed a long line of apartments
full of guards and servants, and at last arrived in the reception-
room, where the pope was seated on his throne, with his son, Caesar
Borgia; behind him. On his arrival at the door, the King of France
began the usual ceremonial, and when he had gone on from genuflexions
to kissing the feet, the hand, and the forehead, he stood up, while
the first president of the Parliament of Paris, in his turn stepping
forward, said in a loud voice:

"Very Holy Father, behold my king ready to offer to your Holiness
that oath of obedience that he owes to you; but in France it is
customary that he who offers himself as vassal to his lord shall
receive in exchange therefor such boons as he may demand. His
Majesty, therefore, while he pledges himself for his own part to
behave unto your Holiness with a munificence even greater than that
wherewith your Holiness shall behave unto him, is here to beg
urgently that you accord him three favours. These favours are:
first, the confirmation of privleges already granted to the king, to
the queen his wife, and to the dauphin his son; secondly, the
investiture, for himself and his successors, of the kingdom of
Naples; lastly, the surrender to him of the person of the sultan
D'jem, brother of the Turkish emperor."

At this address the pope was for a moment stupefied, for he did not
expect these three demands, which were moreover made so publicly by
Charles that no manner of refusal was possible. But quickly
recovering his presence of mind, he replied to the king that he would
willingly confirm the privileges that had been accorded to the house
of France by his predecessors; that he might therefore consider his
first demand granted; that the investiture of the kingdom was an
affair that required deliberation in a council of cardinals, but he
would do all he possibly could to induce them to accede to the king's
desire; lastly, he must defer the affair of the sultan's brother till
a time more opportune for discussing it with the Sacred College, but
would venture to say that, as this surrender could not fail to be for
the good of Christendom, as it was demanded for the purpose of
assuring further the success of a crusade, it would not be his fault
if on this point also the king should not be satisfied.

At this reply, Charles bowed his head in sign of satisfaction, and
the first president stood up, uncovered, and resumed his discourse as

"Very Holy Father, it is an ancient custom among Christian kings,
especially the Most Christian kings of France, to signify, through
their ambassadors, the respect they feel for the Holy See and the
sovereign pontiffs whom Divine Providence places thereon; but the
Most Christian king, having felt a desire to visit the tombs of the
holy apostles, has been pleased to pay this religious debt, which he
regards as a sacred duty, not by ambassadors or by delegates, but in
his own person. This is why, Very Holy Father, His Majesty the King
of France is here to acknowledge you as the true vicar of Christ, the
legitimate successor of the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, and with
promise and vow renders you that filial and respectful devotion which
the kings his predecessors have been accustomed to promise and vow,
devoting himself and all his strength to the service of your Holiness
and the interests of the Holy See."

The pope arose with a joyful heart; for this oath, so publicly made,
removed all his fears about a council; so inclined from this moment
to yield to the King of France anything he might choose to ask, he
took him by his left hand and made him a short and friendly reply,
dubbing him the Church's eldest son. The ceremony over, they left
the hall, the pope always holding the king's hand in his, and in this
way they walked as far as the room where the sacred vestments are put
off; the pope feigned a wish to conduct the king to his own
apartments, but the king would not suffer this, and, embracing once
more, they separated, each to retire to his own domicile.

The king remained eight days longer at the Vatican, then returned to
the Palazzo San Marco. During these eight days all his demands were
debated and settled to his satisfaction. The Bishop of Mans was made
cardinal; the investiture of the kingdom of Naples was promised to
the conqueror; lastly, it was agreed that on his departure the King
of France should receive from the pope's hand the brother of the
Emperor of Constantinople, for a sum of 120,000 livres. But--the
pope, desiring to extend to the utmost the hospitality he had been
bestowing, invited D'jem to dinner on the very day that he was to
leave Rome with his new protector.

When the moment of departure arrived, Charles mounted his horse in
full armour, and with a numerous and brilliant following made his way
to the Vatican; arrived at the door, he dismounted, and leaving his
escort at the Piazza of St. Peter, went up with a few gentlemen only.
He found His Holiness waiting for him, with Cardinal Valentino on his
right, and on his left D'jem, who, as we said before, was dining with
him, and round the table thirteen cardinals. The king at once,
bending on his knee, demanded the pope's benediction, and stooped to
kiss his feet. But this Alexander would not suffer; he took him in
his arms, and with the lips of a father and heart of an enemy, kissed
him tenderly on his forehead. Then the pope introduced the son of
Mahomet II, who was a fine young man, with something noble and regal
in his air, presenting in his magnificent oriental costume a great
contrast in its fashion and amplitude to the narrow, severe cut of
the Christian apparel. D'jem advanced to Charles without humility
and without pride, and, like an emperor's son treating with a king,
kissed his hand and then his shoulder; then, turning towards the Holy
Father, he said in Italian, which he spoke very well, that he
entreated he would recommend him to the young king, who was prepared
to take him under his protection, assuring the pontiff that he should
never have to repent giving him his liberty, and telling Charles that
he hoped he might some day be proud of him, if after taking Naples he
carried out his intention of going on to Greece. These words were
spoken with so much dignity and at the same time with such
gentleness, that the King of France loyally and frankly grasped the
young sultan's hand, as though he were his companion-in-arms. Then
Charles took a final farewell of the pope, and went down to the
piazza. There he was awaited by Cardinal Valentino, who was about to
accompany him, as we know, as a hostage, and who had remained behind
to exchange a few words with his father. In a moment Caesar Borgia
appeared, riding on a splendidly harnessed mule, and behind him were
led six magnificent horses, a present from the Holy Father to the
King of France. Charles at once mounted one of these, to do honour
to the gift the pope had just conferred on him, and leaving Rome
with the rest of his troops, pursued his way towards Marino, where he
arrived the same evening.

He learned there that Alfonso, belying his reputation as a clever
politician and great general, had just embarked with all his
treasures in a flotilla of four galleys, leaving the care of the war
and the management of his kingdom to his son Ferdinand. Thus
everything went well for the triumphant march of Charles: the gates
of towns opened of themselves at his approach, his enemies fled
without waiting for his coming, and before he had fought a single
battle he had won for himself the surname of Conqueror.

The day after at dawn the army started once more, and after marching
the whole day, stopped in the evening at Velletri. There the king,
who had been on horseback since the morning, with Cardinal Valentine
and D'jem, left the former at his lodging, and taking D'jem with him,
went on to his own. Then Caesar Borgia, who among the army baggage
had twenty very heavy waggons of his own, had one of these opened,
took out a splendid cabinet with the silver necessary for his table,
and gave orders for his supper to be prepared, as he had done the
night before. Meanwhile, night had come on, and he shut himself up
in a private chamber, where, stripping off his cardinal's costume, he
put on a groom's dress. Thanks to this disguise, he issued from the
house that had been assigned for his accommodation without being
recognised, traversed the streets, passed through the gates, and
gained the open country. Nearly half a league outside the town, a
servant awaited him with two swift horses. Caesar, who was an
excellent rider, sprang to the saddle, and he and his companion at
full gallop retraced the road to Rome, where they arrived at break of
day. Caesar got down at the house of one Flores, auditor of the
rota, where he procured a fresh horse and suitable clothes; then he
flew at once to his mother, who gave a cry of joy when she saw him;
for so silent and mysterious was the cardinal for all the world
beside, and even for her, that he had not said a word of his early
return to Rome. The cry of joy uttered by Rosa Vanozza when she
beheld her son was far mare a cry of vengeance than of love. One
evening, while everybody was at the rejoicings in the Vatican, when
Charles VIII and Alexander VI were swearing a friendship which
neither of them felt, and exchanging oaths that were broken
beforehand, a messenger from Rosa Vanozza had arrived with a letter
to Caesar, in which she begged him to come at once to her house in
the Via delta Longara. Caesar questioned the messenger, but he only
replied that he could tell him nothing, that he would learn all he
cared to know from his mother's own lips. So, as soon as he was at
liberty, Caesar, in layman's dress and wrapped in a large cloak,
quitted the Vatican and made his way towards the church of Regina
Coeli, in the neighbourhood of which, it will be remembered, was the
house where the pope's mistress lived.

As he approached his mother's house, Caesar began to observe the
signs of strange devastation. The street was scattered with the
wreck of furniture and strips of precious stuffs. As he arrived at
the foot of the little flight of steps that led to the entrance gate,
he saw that the windows were broken and the remains of torn curtains
were fluttering in front of them. Not understanding what this
disorder could mean, he rushed into the house and through several
deserted and wrecked apartments. At last, seeing light in one of the
rooms, he went in, and there found his mother sitting on the remains
of a chest made of ebony all inlaid with ivory and silver. When she
saw Caesar, she rose, pale and dishevelled, and pointing to the
desolation around her, exclaimed:

"Look, Caesar; behold the work of your new friends."

"But what does it mean, mother?" asked the cardinal. "Whence comes
all this disorder?"

"From the serpent," replied Rosa Vanozza, gnashing her teeth,--"from
the serpent you have warmed in your bosom. He has bitten me, fearing
no doubt that his teeth would be broken on you."

"Who has done this?" cried Caesar. "Tell me, and, by Heaven, mother,
he shall pay, and pay indeed!"

"Who?" replied Rosa. "King Charles VIII has done it, by the hands of
his faithful allies, the Swiss. It was well known that Melchior was
away, and that I was living alone with a few wretched servants; so
they came and broke in the doors, as though they were taking Rome by
storm, and while Cardinal Valentino was making holiday with their
master, they pillaged his mother's house, loading her with insults
and outrages which no Turks or Saracens could possibly have improved

"Very good, very good, mother," said Caesar; "be calm; blood shall
wash out disgrace. Consider a moment; what we have lost is nothing
compared with what we might lose; and my father and I, you may be
quite sure, will give you back more than they have stolen from you."

"I ask for no promises," cried Rosa; "I ask for revenge."

"My mother," said the cardinal, "you shall be avenged, or I will lose
the name of son."

Having by these words reassured his mother, he took her to Lucrezia's
palace, which in consequence of her marriage with Pesaro was
unoccupied, and himself returned to the Vatican, giving orders that
his mother's house should be refurnished more magnificently than
before the disaster. These orders were punctually executed, and it
was among her new luxurious surroundings, but with the same hatred in
her heart, that Caesar on this occasion found his mother. This
feeling prompted her cry of joy when she saw him once more.

The mother and son exchanged a very few words; then Caesar, mounting
on horseback, went to the Vatican, whence as a hostage he had
departed two days before. Alexander, who knew of the flight
beforehand, and not only approved, but as sovereign pontiff had
previously absolved his son of the perjury he was about to commit,
received him joyfully, but all the same advised him to lie concealed,
as Charles in all probability would not be slow to reclaim his

Indeed, the next day, when the king got up, the absence of Cardinal
Valentino was observed, and as Charles was uneasy at not seeing him,
he sent to inquire what had prevented his appearance. When the
messenger arrived at the house that Caesar had left the evening
before, he learned that he had gone out at nine o'clock in the
evening and not returned since. He went back with this news to the
king, who at once suspected that he had fled, and in the first flush
of his anger let the whole army know of his perjury. The soldiers
then remembered the twenty waggons, so heavily laden, from one of
which the cardinal, in the sight of all, had produced such
magnificent gold and silver plate; and never doubting that the cargo
of the others was equally precious, they fetched them down and broke
them to pieces; but inside they found nothing but stones and sand,
which proved to the king that the flight had been planned a long time
back, and incensed him doubly against the pope. So without loss of
time he despatched to Rome Philippe de Bresse, afterwards Duke of
Savoy, with orders to intimate to the Holy Father his displeasure at
this conduct. But the pope replied that he knew nothing whatever
about his son's flight, and expressed the sincerest regret to His
Majesty, declaring that he knew nothing of his whereabouts, but was
certain that he was not in Rome. As a fact, the pope was speaking
the truth this time, for Caesar had gone with Cardinal Orsino to one
of his estates, and was temporarily in hiding there. This reply was
conveyed to Charles by two messengers from the pope, the Bishops of
Nepi and of Sutri, and the people also sent an ambassador in their
own behalf. He was Monsignore Porcari, dean of the rota, who was
charged to communicate to the king the displeasure of the Romans when
they learned of the cardinal's breach of faith. Little as Charles
was disposed to content himself with empty words, he had to turn his
attention to mare serious affairs; so he continued his march to
Naples without stopping, arriving there on Sunday, the 22nd of
February, 1495.

Four days later, the unlucky D'jem, who had fallen sick at Capua died
at Castel Nuovo. When he was leaving, at the farewell banquet,
Alexander had tried on his guest the poison he intended to use so
often later on upon his cardinals, and whose effects he was destined
to feel himself,--such is poetical justice. In this way the pope had
secured a double haul; for, in his twofold speculation in this
wretched young man, he had sold him alive to Charles for 120,000
livres and sold him dead to Bajazet for 300,00 ducats....

But there was a certain delay about the second payment; for the
Turkish emperor, as we remember, was not bound to pay the price of
fratricide till he received the corpse, and by Charles's order the
corpse had been buried at Gaeta.

When Caesar Borgia learned the news, he rightly supposed that the
king would be so busy settling himself in his new capital that he
would have too much to think of to be worrying about him; so he went
to Rome again, and, anxious to keep his promise to his mother, he
signalised his return by a terrible vengeance.

Cardinal Valentino had in his service a certain Spaniard whom he had
made the chief of his bravoes; he was a man of five-and-thirty or
forty, whose whole life had been one long rebellion against society's
laws; he recoiled from no action, provided only he could get his
price. This Don Michele Correglia, who earned his celebrity for
bloody deeds under the name of Michelotto, was just the man Caesar
wanted; and whereas Michelotto felt an unbounded admiration for
Caesar, Caesar had unlimited confidence in Michelotto. It was to him
the cardinal entrusted the execution of one part of his vengeance;
the other he kept for himself.

Don Michele received orders to scour the Campagna and cut every
French throat he could find. He began his work at once; and very few
days elapsed before he had obtained most satisfactory results: more
than a hundred persons were robbed or assassinated, and among the
last the son of Cardinal de St. Malo, who was on his way back to
France, and on whom Michelotto found a sum of 3000 crowns.

For himself, Caesar reserved the Swiss; for it was the Swiss in
particular who had despoiled his mother's house. The pope had in his
service about a hundred and fifty soldiers belonging to their nation,
who had settled their families in Rome, and had grown rich partly by
their pay and partly in the exercise of various industries. The
cardinal had every one of them dismissed, with orders to quit Rome
within twenty-four hours and the Roman territories within three days.
The poor wretches had all collected together to obey the order, with
their wives and children and baggage, on the Piazza of St. Peter,
when suddenly, by Cardinal Valentino's orders, they were hemmed in on
all sides by two thousand Spaniards, who began to fire on them with
their guns and charge them with their sabres, while Caesar and his
mother looked down upon the carnage from a window. In this way they
killed fifty or perhaps sixty; but the rest coming up, made a charge
at the assassins, and then, without suffering any loss, managed to
beat a retreat to a house, where they stood a siege, and made so
valiant a defense that they gave the pope time--he knew nothing of
the author of this butchery--to send the captain of his guard to the
rescue, who, with a strong detachment, succeeded in getting nearly
forty of them safely out of the town: the rest had been massacred on
the piazza or killed in the house.

But this was no real and adequate revenge; for it did not touch
Charles himself, the sole author of all the troubles that the pope
and his family had experienced during the last year. So Caesar soon
abandoned vulgar schemes of this kind and busied himself with loftier
concerns, bending all the force of his genius to restore the league
of Italian princes that had been broken by the defection of Sforza,
the exile of Piero dei Medici, and the defeat of Alfonso. The
enterprise was more easily accomplished than the pope could have
anticipated. The Venetians were very uneasy when Charles passed so
near, and they trembled lest, when he was once master of Naples, he
might conceive the idea of conquering the rest of Italy. Ludovico
Sforza, on his side, was beginning to tremble, seeing the rapidity
with which the King of France had dethroned the house of Aragon, lest
he might not make much difference between his allies and his enemies.
Maximilian, for his part, was only seeking an occasion to break the
temporary peace which he had granted for the sake of the concession
made to him. Lastly, Ferdinand and Isabella were allies of the
dethroned house. And so it came about that all of them, for
different reasons, felt a common fear, and were soon in agreement as
to the necessity of driving out Charles VIII, not only from Naples,
but from Italy, and pledged themselves to work together to this end,
by every means in their power, by negotiations, by trickery, or by
actual force. The Florentines alone refused to take part in this
general levy of arms, and remained faithful to their promises.

According to the articles of the treaty agreed upon by the
confederates, the alliance was to last for five-and-twenty years, and
had for ostensible object the upholding of the majority of the pope,
and the interests of Christendom; and these preparations might well
have been taken for such as would precede a crusade against the
Turks, if Bajazet's ambassador had not always been present at the
deliberations, although the Christian princes could not have dared
for very shame to admit the sultan by name into their league. Now
the confederates had to set on foot an army of 30,000 horse and
20,000 infantry, and each of them was taxed for a contingent; thus
the pope was to furnish 4000 horse, Maximilian 6000, the King of
Spain, the Duke of Milan, and the republic of Venice, 8000 each.
Every confederate was, in addition to this, to levy and equip 4000
infantry in the six weeks following the signature of the treaty. The
fleets were to be equipped by the Maritime States; but any expenses
they should incur later on were to be defrayed by all in equal

The formation of this league was made public on the 12th of April,
1495, Palm Sunday, and in all the Italian States, especially at Rome,
was made the occasion of fetes and immense rejoicings. Almost as
soon as the publicly known articles were announced the secret ones
were put into execution. These obliged Ferdinand and Isabella to
send a fleet of sixty galleys to Ischia, where Alfonso's son had
retired, with six hundred horsemen on board and five thousand
infantry, to help him to ascend the throne once more. Those troops
were to be put under the command of Gonzalvo of Cordova, who had
gained the reputation of the greatest general in Europe after the
taking of Granada. The Venetians with a fleet of forty galleys under
the command of Antonio Grimani, were to attack all the French
stations on the coast of Calabria and Naples. The Duke of Milan
promised for his part to check all reinforcements as they should
arrive from France, and to drive the Duke of Orleans out of Asti.

Lastly, there was Maximilian, who had promised to make invasions on
the frontiers, and Bajazet, who was to help with money, ships, and
soldiers either the Venetians or the Spaniards, according as he might
be appealed to by Barberigo or by Ferdinand the Catholic.

This league was all the more disconcerting for Charles, because of
the speedy abatement of the enthusiasm that had hailed his first
appearance. What had happened to him was what generally happens to a
conqueror who has more good luck than talent; instead of making
himself a party among the great Neapolitan and Calabrian vassals,
whose roots would be embedded in the very soil, by confirming their
privileges and augmenting their power, he had wounded their feelings
by bestowing all the titles, offices, and fiefs on those alone who
had followed him from France, so that all the important positions in
the kingdom were filled by strangers.

The result was that just when the league was made known, Tropea and
Amantea, which had been presented by Charles to the Seigneur de
Precy, rose in revolt and hoisted the banner of Aragon; and the
Spanish fleet had only to present itself at Reggio, in Calabria, for
the town to throw open its gates, being more discontented with the
new rule than the old; and Don Federiga, Alfonso's brother and
Ferdinand's uncle, who had hitherto never quitted Brindisi, had only
to appear at Tarentum to be received there as a liberator.


Charles learned all this news at Naples, and, tired of his late
conquests, which necessitated a labour in organisation for which he
was quite unfitted, turned his eyes towards France, where victorious
fetes and rejoicings were awaiting the victor's return. So he
yielded at the first breath of his advisers, and retraced his road to
his kingdom, threatened, as was said, by the Germans on the north and
the Spaniards on the south. Consequently, he appointed Gilbert de
Montpensier, of the house of Bourbon, viceroy; d'Aubigny, of the
Scotch Stuart family, lieutenant in Calabria; Etienne de Vese,
commander at Gaeta; and Don Juliano, Gabriel de Montfaucon, Guillaume
de Villeneuve, George de Lilly, the bailiff of Vitry, and Graziano
Guerra respectively governors of Sant' Angelo, Manfredonia, Trani,
Catanzaro, Aquila, and Sulmone; then leaving behind in evidence of
his claims the half of his Swiss, a party of his Gascons, eight
hundred French lances, and about five hundred Italian men-at-arms,
the last under the command of the prefect of Rome, Prospero and
Fabrizio Colonna, and Antonio Savelli, he left Naples on the 20th of
May at two o'clock in the afternoon, to traverse the whole of the
Italian peninsula with the rest of his army, consisting of eight
hundred French lances, two hundred gentlemen of his guard, one
hundred Italian men-at-arms, three thousand Swiss infantry, one
thousand French and one thousand Gascon. He also expected to be
joined by Camillo Vitelli and his brothers in Tuscany, who were to
contribute two hundred and fifty men-at-arms.

A week before he left Naples, Charles had sent to Rome Monseigneur de
Saint-Paul, brother of Cardinal de Luxembourg; and just as he was
starting he despatched thither the new Archbishop of Lyons. They
both were commissioned to assure Alexander that the King of France
had the most sincere desire and the very best intention of remaining
his friend. In truth, Charles wished for nothing so much as to
separate the pope from the league, so as to secure him as a spiritual
and temporal support; but a young king, full of fire, ambition, and
courage, was not the neighbour to suit Alexander; so the latter would
listen to nothing, and as the troops he had demanded from the doge
and Ludavico Sforza had not been sent in sufficient number for the
defense of Rome, he was content with provisioning the castle of S.
Angelo, putting in a formidable garrison, and leaving Cardinal Sant'
Anastasio to receive Charles while he himself withdrew with Caesar to
Orvieto. Charles only stayed in Rome three days, utterly depressed
because the pope had refused to receive him in spite of his
entreaties. And in these three days, instead of listening to
Giuliano delta Rovere, who was advising him once more to call a
council and depose the pope, he rather hoped to bring the pope round
to his side by the virtuous act of restoring the citadels of
Terracina and Civita Vecchia to the authorities of the Romagna, only
keeping for himself Ostia, which he had promised Giuliano to give
back to him. At last, when the three days had elapsed, he left Rome,
and resumed his march in three columns towards Tuscany, crossed the
States of the Church, and on the 13th reached Siena, where he was
joined by Philippe de Commines, who had gone as ambassador
extraordinary to the Venetian Republic, and now announced that the
enemy had forty thousand men under arms and were preparing for
battle. This news produced no other effect an the king and the
gentlemen of his army than to excite their amusement beyond measure;
for they had conceived such a contempt for their enemy by their easy
conquest, that they could not believe that any army, however
numerous, would venture to oppose their passage.

Charles, however, was forced to give way in the face of facts, when
he heard at San Teranza that his vanguard, commanded by Marechal de
Gie, and composed of six hundred lances and fifteen hundred Swiss,
when it arrived at Fornova had come face to face with the
confederates, who had encamped at Guiarole. The marechal had ordered
an instant halt, and he too had pitched his tents, utilising for his
defence the natural advantages of the hilly ground. When these first
measures had been taken, he sent out, first, a herald to the enemy's
camp to ask from Francesco di Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua,
generalissimo of the confederate troops, a passage for his king's
army and provisions at a reasonable price; and secondly, he
despatched a courier to Charles VIII, pressing him to hurry on his
march with the artillery and rearguard. The confederates had given
an evasive answer, for they were pondering whether they ought to
jeopardise the whole Italian force in a single combat, and, putting
all to the hazard, attempt to annihilate the King of France and his
army together, so overwhelming the conqueror in the ruins of his
ambition. The messenger found Charles busy superintending the
passage of the last of his cannon over the mountain of Pontremoli.
This was no easy matter, seeing that there was no sort of track, and
the guns had to be lifted up and lowered by main farce, and each
piece needed the arms of as many as two hundred men. At last, when
all the artillery had arrived without accident on the other side of
the Apennines, Charles started in hot haste for Fornovd, where he
arrived with all his following on the morning of the next day.

From the top of the mountain where the Marechai de Gie had pitched
his tents, the king beheld both his own camp and the enemy's. Both
were on the right bank of the Taro, and were at either end of a
semicircular chain of hills resembling an amphitheatre; and the space
between the two camps, a vast basin filled during the winter floods
by the torrent which now only marked its boundary, was nothing but a
plain covered with gravel, where all manoeuvres must be equally
difficult for horse and infantry. Besides, on the western slope of
the hills there was a little wood which extended from the enemy's
army to the French, and was in the possession of the Stradiotes, who,
by help of its cover, had already engaged in several skirmishes with
the French troops during the two days of halt while they were waiting
for the king.

The situation was not reassuring. From the top of the mountain which
overlooked Fornovo, one could get a view, as we said before, of the
two camps, and could easily calculate the numerical difference
between them. The French army, weakened by the establishment of
garrisons in the various towns and fortresses they had won in Italy,
were scarcely eight thousand strong, while the combined forces of
Milan and Venice exceeded a total of thirty-five thousand. So
Charles decided to try once more the methods of conciliation, and
sent Commines, who, as we know, had joined him in Tuscany, to the
Venetian 'proveditori', whose acquaintance he had made when on his
embassy; he having made a great impression on these men, thanks to a
general high opinion of his merits. He was commissioned to tell the
enemy's generals, in the name of the King of France, that his master
only desired to continue his road without doing or receiving any
harm; that therefore he asked to be allowed a free passage across the
fair plains of Lombardy, which he could see from the heights where he
now stood, stretching as far as the eye could reach, away to the foot
of the Alps. Commines found the confederate army deep in discussion:
the wish of the Milanese and Venetian party being to let the king go
by, and not attack him; they said they were only too happy that he
should leave Italy in this way, without causing any further harm; but
the ambassadors of Spain and Germany took quite another view. As
their masters had no troops in the army, and as all the money they
had promised was already paid, they must be the gainer in either case
from a battle, whichever way it went: if they won the day they would
gather the fruits of victory, and if they lost they would experience
nothing of the evils of defeat. This want of unanimity was the
reason why the answer to Commines was deferred until the following
day, and why it was settled that on the next day he should hold
another conference with a plenipotentiary to be appointed in the
course of that night. The place of this conference was to be between
the two armies.

The king passed the night in great uneasiness. All day the weather
had threatened to turn to rain, and we have already said how rapidly
the Taro could swell; the river, fordable to-day, might from tomorrow
onwards prove an insurmountable obstacle; and possibly the delay had
only been asked for with a view to putting the French army in a worse
position. As a fact the night had scarcely come when a terrible
storm arose, and so long as darkness lasted, great rumblings were
heard in the Apennines, and the sky was brilliant with lightning. At
break of day, however, it seemed to be getting a little calmer,
though the Taro, only a streamlet the day before, had become a
torrent by this time, and was rapidly rising. So at six in the
morning, the king, ready armed and on horseback, summoned Commines
and bade him make his way to the rendezvous that the Venetian
'proveditori' had assigned. But scarcely had he contrived to give
the order when loud cries were heard coming from the extreme right of
the French army. The Stradiotes, under cover of the wood stretching
between the two camps, had surprised an outpost, and first cutting
the soldiers' throats, were carrying off their heads in their usual
way at the saddle-bow. A detachment of cavalry was sent in pursuit;
but, like wild animals, they had retreated to their lair in the
woods, and there disappeared.

This unexpected engagement, in all probability arranged beforehand by
the Spanish and German envoys, produced on the whole army the effect
of a spark applied to a train of gunpowder. Commines and the
Venetian 'proveditori' each tried in vain to arrest the combat an
either side. Light troops, eager for a skirmish, and, in the usual
fashion of those days, prompted only by that personal courage which
led them on to danger, had already come to blows, rushing down into
the plain as though it were an amphitheatre where they might make a
fine display of arms. Far a moment the young king, drawn on by
example, was an the point of forgetting the responsibility of a
general in his zeal as a soldier; but this first impulse was checked
by Marechal de Gie, Messire Claude de la Chatre de Guise, and M. de
la Trimauille, who persuaded Charles to adopt the wiser plan, and to
cross the Taro without seeking a battle,--at the same time without
trying to avoid it, should the enemy cross the river from their camp
and attempt to block his passage. The king accordingly, following
the advice of his wisest and bravest captains, thus arranged his

The first comprised the van and a body of troops whose duty it was to
support them. The van consisted of three hundred and fifty men-at-
arms, the best and bravest of the army, under the command of Marechal
de Gie and Jacques Trivulce; the corps following them consisted of
three thousand Swiss, under the command of Engelbert der Cleves and
de Larnay, the queen's grand equerry; next came three hundred archers
of the guard, whom the king had sent to help the cavalry by fighting
in the spaces between them.

The second division, commanded by the king in person and forming the
middle of the army, was composed of the artillery, under Jean de
Lagrange, a hundred gentlemen of the guard with Gilles Carrone far
standard-bearer, pensioners of the king's household under Aymar de
Prie, some Scots, and two hundred cross-bowmen an horseback, with
French archers besides, led by M. de Crussol.

Lastly, the third division, i.e. the rear, preceded by six thousand
beasts of burden bearing the baggage, was composed of only three
hundred men-at-arms, commanded by de Guise and by de la Trimouille:
this was the weakest part of the army.

When this arrangement was settled, Charles ordered the van to cross
the river, just at the little town of Fornovo. This was done at
once, the riders getting wet up to their knees, and the footmen
holding to the horses' tails. As soon as he saw the last soldiers of
his first division on the opposite bank, he started himself to follow
the same road and cross at the same ford, giving orders to de Guise
and de la Trimouille to regulate the march of the rear guard by that
of the centre, just as he had regulated their march by that of the
van. His orders were punctually carried out; and about ten o'clock
in the morning the whole French army was on the left bank of the
Taro: at the same time, when it seemed certain from the enemy's
arrangements that battle was imminent, the baggage, led by the
captain, Odet de Reberac, was separated from the rear guard, and
retired to the extreme left.

Now, Francisco de Gonzaga, general-in-chief of the confederate
troops, had modelled his plans on those of the King of France; by his
orders, Count de Cajazzo, with four hundred men-at-arms and two
thousand infantry, had crossed the Taro where the Venetian camp lay,
and was to attack the French van; while Gonzaga himself, following
the right bank as far as Fornovo, would go over the river by the same
ford that Charles had used, with a view to attacking his rear.
Lastly, he had placed the Stradiotes between these two fords, with
orders to cross the river in their turn, so soon as they saw the
French army attacked both in van and in the rear, and to fall upon
its flank. Not content with offensive measures, Gonzaga had also
made provision for retreat by leaving three reserve corps on the
right bank, one to guard the camp under the instruction of the
Venetian 'proveditori', and the other two arranged in echelon to
support each other, the first commanded by Antonio di Montefeltro,
the second by Annibale Bentivoglio.

Charles had observed all these arrangements, and had recognised the
cunning Italian strategy which made his opponents the finest generals
in the world; but as there was no means of avoiding the danger, he
had decided to take a sideway course, and had given orders to
continue the match; but in a minute the French army was caught
between Count di Cajazzo, barring the way with his four hundred men-
at-arms and his two thousand infantry, and Gonzaga in pursuit of the
rear, as we said before; leading six hundred men-at-arms, the flower
of his army, a squadron of Stradiotes, and more than five thousand
infantry: this division alone was stronger than the whole of the
French army.

When, however, M. de Guise and M. de la Trimouille found themselves
pressed in this way, they ordered their two hundred men-at-arms to
turn right about face, while at the opposite end--that is, at the
head of the army--Marechal de Gie and Trivulce ordered a halt and
lances in rest. Meanwhile, according to custom, the king, who, as we
said, was in the centre, was conferring knighthood on those gentlemen
who had earned the favour either by virtue of their personal powers
or the king's special friendship.

Suddenly there was heard a terrible clash behind it was the French
rearguard coming to blows with the Marquis of Mantua. In this
encounter, where each man had singled out his own foe as though it
were a tournament, very many lances were broken, especially those of
the Italian knights; for their lances were hollowed so as to be less
heavy, and in consequence had less solidity. Those who were thus
disarmed at once seized their swords. As they were far more numerous
than the French, the king saw them suddenly outflanking his right
wing and apparently prepared to surround it; at the same moment loud
cries were heard from a direction facing the centre: this meant that
the Stradiotes were crossing the river to make their attack.

The king at once ordered his division into two detachments, and
giving one to Bourbon the bastard, to make head against the
Stradiotes, he hurried with the second to the rescue of the van,
flinging himself into the very midst of the melee, striking out like
a king, and doing as steady work as the lowest in rank of his
captains. Aided by the reinforcement, the rearguard made a good
stand, though the enemy were five against one, and the combat in this
part continued to rage with wonderful fury.

Obeying his orders, Bourbon had thrown himself upon the Stradiotes;
but unfortunately, carried off by his horse, he had penetrated so far
into the enemy's ranks that he was lost to sight: the disappearance
of their chief, the strange dress of their new antagonists, and the
peculiar method of their fighting produced a considerable effect on
those who were to attack them; and for the moment disorder was the
consequence in the centre, and the horse men scattered instead of
serrying their ranks and fighting in a body. This false move would
have done them serious harm, had not most of the Stradiotes, seeing
the baggage alone and undefended, rushed after that in hope of booty,
instead of following up their advantage. A great part of the troop
nevertheless stayed behind to fight, pressing on the French cavalry
and smashing their lances with their fearful scimitars. Happily the
king, who had just repulsed the Marquis of Mantua's attack, perceived
what was going on behind him, and riding back at all possible speed
to the succour of the centre, together with the gentlemen of his
household fell upon the Stradiotes, no longer armed with a lance, for
that he had just broken, but brandishing his long sword, which blazed
about him like lightning, and--either because he was whirled away
like Bourbon by his own horse, or because he had allowed his courage
to take him too far--he suddenly found himself in the thickest ranks
of the Stradiotes, accompanied only by eight of the knights he had
just now created, one equerry called Antoine des Ambus, and his
standard-bearer. "France, France!" he cried aloud, to rally round
him all the others who had scattered; they, seeing at last that the
danger was less than they had supposed, began to take their revenge
and to pay back with interest the blows they had received from the
Stradiotes. Things were going still better, for the van, which the
Marquis de Cajazzo was to attack; for although he had at first
appeared to be animated with a terrible purpose, he stopped short
about ten or twelve feet from the French line and turned right about
face without breaking a single lance. The French wanted to pursue,
but the Marechal de Gie, fearing that this flight might be only a
trick to draw off the vanguard from the centre, ordered every man to
stay in his place. But the Swiss, who were German, and did not
understand the order, or thought it was not meant for them, followed
upon their heels, and although on foot caught them up and killed a
hundred of them. This was quite enough to throw them into disorder,
so that some were scattered about the plain, and others made a rush
for the water, so as to cross the river and rejoin their camp.

When the Marechal de Gie saw this, he detached a hundred of his own
men to go to the aid of the king, who was continuing to fight with
unheard-of courage and running the greatest risks, constantly
separated as he was from his gentlemen, who could not follow him; for
wherever there was danger, thither he rushed, with his cry of
"France," little troubling himself as to whether he was followed or
not. And it was no longer with his sword that he fought; that he had
long ago broken, like his lance, but with a heavy battle-axe, whose
every blow was mortal whether cut or pierced. Thus the Stradiotes,
already hard pressed by the king's household and his pensioners, soon
changed attack for defence and defence for flight. It was at this
moment that the king was really in the greatest danger; for he had
let himself be carried away in pursuit of the fugitives, and
presently found himself all alone, surrounded by these men, who, had
they not been struck with a mighty terror, would have had nothing to
do but unite and crush him and his horse together; but, as Commines
remarks, "He whom God guards is well guarded, and God was guarding
the King of France."

All the same, at this moment the French were sorely pressed in the
rear; and although de Guise and de la Trimouille held out as firmly
as it was possible to hold, they would probably have been compelled
to yield to superior numbers had not a double aid arrived in time:
first the indefatigable Charles, who, having nothing more to do among
the fugitives, once again dashed into the midst of the fight, next
the servants of the army, who, now that they were set free from the
Stradiotes and saw their enemies put to flight, ran up armed with the
axes they habitually used to cut down wood for building their huts:
they burst into the middle of the fray, slashing at the horses' legs
and dealing heavy blows that smashed in the visors of the dismounted

The Italians could not hold out against this double attack; the
'furia francese' rendered all their strategy and all their
calculations useless, especially as for more than a century they had
abandoned their fights of blood and fury for a kind of tournament
they chose to regard as warfare; so, in spite of all Gonzaga's
efforts, they turned their backs upon the French rear and took to
flight; in the greatest haste and with much difficulty they recrossed
the torrent, which was swollen even more now by the rain that had
been falling during the whole time of the battle.

Some thought fit to pursue the vanquished, for there was now such
disorder in their ranks that they were fleeing in all directions from
the battlefield where the French had gained so glorious a victory,
blocking up the roads to Parma and Bercetto. But Marechal de Gie and
de Guise and de la Trimouille, who had done quite enough to save them
from the suspicion of quailing before imaginary dangers, put a stop
to this enthusiasm, by pointing out that it would only be risking the
loss of their present advantage if they tried to push it farther with
men and horses so worn out. This view was adopted in spite of the
opinion of Trivulce, Camillo Vitelli, and Francesco Secco, who were
all eager to follow up the victory.

The king retired to a little village an the left bank of the Taro,
and took shelter in a poor house. There he disarmed, being perhaps
among all the captains and all the soldiers the man who had fought

During the night the torrent swelled so high that the Italian army
could not have pursued, even if they had laid aside their fears. The
king did not propose to give the appearance of flight after a
victory, and therefore kept his army drawn up all day, and at night
went on to sleep at Medesano, a little village only a mile lower down
than the hamlet where he rested after the fight. But in the course
of the night he reflected that he had done enough for the honour of
his arms in fighting an army four times as great as his own and
killing three thousand men, and then waiting a day and a half to give
them time to take their revenge; so two hours before daybreak he had
the fires lighted, that the enemy might suppose he was remaining in
camp; and every man mounting noiselessly, the whole French army,
almost out of danger by this time, proceeded on their march to Borgo
San Donnino.

While this was going on, the pope returned to Rome, where news highly
favourable to his schemes was not slow to reach his ears. He learned
that Ferdinand had crossed from Sicily into Calabria with six
thousand volunteers and a considerable number of Spanish horse and
foot, led, at the command of Ferdinand and Isabella, by the famous
Gonzalva de Cordova, who arrived in Italy with a great reputation,
destined to suffer somewhat from the defeat at Seminara. At almost
the same time the French fleet had been beaten by the Aragonese;
moreover, the battle of the Taro, though a complete defeat for the
confederates, was another victory for the pope, because its result
was to open a return to France for that man whom he regarded as his
deadliest foe. So, feeling that he had nothing more to fear from
Charles, he sent him a brief at Turin, where he had stopped for a
short time to give aid to Novara, therein commanding him, by virtue
of his pontifical authority, to depart out of Italy with his army,
and to recall within ten days those of his troops that still remained
in the kingdom of Naples, on pain of excommunication, and a summons
to appear before him in person.

Charles VIII replied:

(1) That he did not understand how the pope, the chief of the league,
ordered him to leave Italy, whereas the confederates had not only
refused him a passage, but had even attempted, though unsuccessfully,
as perhaps His Holiness knew, to cut off his return into France;

(2) That, as to recalling his troops from Naples, he was not so
irreligious as to do that, since they had not entered the kingdom
without the consent and blessing of His Holiness;

(3) That he was exceedingly surprised that the pope should require
his presence in person at the capital of the Christian world just at
the present time, when six weeks previously, at the time of his
return from Naples, although he ardently desired an interview with
His Holiness, that he might offer proofs of his respect and
obedience, His Holiness, instead of according this favour, had
quitted Rome so hastily on his approach that he had not been able to
come up with him by any efforts whatsoever. On this point, however,
he promised to give His Holiness the satisfaction he desired, if he
would engage this time to wait for him: he would therefore return to
Rome so soon as the affairs that brought him back to his own kingdom
had been satisfactorily, settled.

Although in this reply there was a touch of mockery and defiance,
Charles was none the less compelled by the circumstances of the case
to obey the pope's strange brief. His presence was so much needed in
France that, in spite of the arrival of a Swiss reinforcement, he was
compelled to conclude a peace with Ludovico Sforza, whereby he
yielded Novara to him; while Gilbert de Montpensier and d'Aubigny,
after defending, inch by inch, Calabria, the Basilicate, and Naples,
were obliged to sign the capitulation of Atella, after a siege of
thirty-two days, on the 20th of July, 1496. This involved giving
back to Ferdinand II, King of Naples, all the palaces and fortresses
of his kingdom; which indeed he did but enjoy for three months, dying
of exhaustion on the 7th of September following, at the Castello
della Somma, at the foot of Vesuvius; all the attentions lavished
upon him by his young wife could not repair the evil that her beauty
had wrought.

His uncle Frederic succeeded; and so, in the three years of his
papacy, Alexander VI had seen five kings upon the throne of Naples,
while he was establishing himself more firmly upon his own pontifical
seat--Ferdinand I, Alfonso I, Charles VIII, Ferdinand II, and
Frederic. All this agitation about his throne, this rapid succession
of sovereigns, was the best thing possible for Alexander; for each
new monarch became actually king only on condition of his receiving
the pontifical investiture. The consequence was that Alexander was
the only gainer in power and credit by these changes; for the Duke of
Milan and the republics of Florence and Venice had successively
recognised him as supreme head of the Church, in spite of his simony;
moreover, the five kings of Naples had in turn paid him homage. So
he thought the time had now come for founding a mighty family; and
for this he relied upon the Duke of Gandia, who was to hold all the
highest temporal dignities; and upon Caesar Borgia, who was to be
appointed to all the great ecclesiastical offices. The pope made
sure of the success of these new projects by electing four Spanish
cardinals, who brought up the number of his compatriots in the Sacred
College to twenty-two, thus assuring him a constant and certain

The first requirement of the pope's policy was to clear away from the
neighbourhood of Rome all those petty lords whom most people call
vicars of the Church, but whom Alexander called the shackles of the
papacy. We saw that he had already begun this work by rousing the
Orsini against the Colonna family, when Charles VIII's enterprise
compelled him to concentrate all his mental resources, and also the
forces of his States, so as to secure his own personal safety.

It had come about through their own imprudent action that the Orsini,
the pope's old friends, were now in the pay of the French, and had
entered the kingdom of Naples with them, where one of them, Virginio,
a very important member of their powerful house, had been taken
prisoner during the war, and was Ferdinand II's captive. Alexander
could not let this opportunity escape him; so, first ordering the
King of Naples not to release a man who, ever since the 1st of June,
1496, had been a declared rebel, he pronounced a sentence of
confiscation against Virginio Orsini and his whole family in a secret
consistory, which sat on the 26th of October following--that is to
say, in the early days of the reign of Frederic, whom he knew to be
entirely at his command, owing to the King's great desire of getting
the investiture from him; then, as it was not enough to declare the
goods confiscated, without also dispossessing the owners, he made
overtures to the Colonna family, saying he would commission them, in
proof of their new bond of friendship, to execute the order given
against their old enemies under the direction of his son Francesco,
Duke of Gandia. In this fashion he contrived to weaken his
neighbours each by means of the other, till such time as he could
safely attack and put an end to conquered and conqueror alike.

The Colonna family accepted this proposition, and the Duke of Gandia
was named General of the Church: his father in his pontifical robes
bestowed on him the insignia of this office in the church of St.
Peter's at Rome.


Matters went forward as Alexander had wished, and before the end of
the year the pontifical army had seized a great number of castles
and fortresses that belonged to the Orsini, who thought themselves
already lost when Charles VIII came to the rescue. They had
addressed themselves to him without much hope that he could be of
real use to there, with his want of armed troops and his
preoccupation with his own affairs. He, however, sent Carlo Orsini,
son of Virginio, the prisoner, and Vitellozzo Vitelli, brother of
Camillo Vitelli, one of the three valiant Italian condottieri who had
joined him and fought for him at the crossing of the Taro: These two
captains, whose courage and skill were well known, brought with them
a considerable sum of money from the liberal coffers of Charles VIII.
Now, scarcely had they arrived at Citta di Castello, the centre of
their little sovereignty, and expressed their intention of raising a
band of soldiers, when men presented themselves from all sides to
fight under their banner; so they very soon assembled a small army,
and as they had been able during their stay among the French to study
those matters of military organisation in which France excelled, they
now applied the result of their learning to their own troops: the
improvements were mainly certain changes in the artillery which made
their manoeuvres easier, and the substitution for their ordinary
weapons of pikes similar in form to the Swiss pikes, but two feet
longer. These changes effected, Vitellozzo Vitelli spent three or
four months in exercising his men in the management of their new
weapons; then, when he thought them fit to make good use of these,
and when he had collected more or less help from the towns of
Perugia, Todi, and Narni, where the inhabitants trembled lest their
turn should come after the Orsini's, as the Orsini's had followed on
the Colonnas', he marched towards Braccianno, which was being
besieged by the Duke of Urbino, who had been lent to the pope by the
Venetians, in virtue of the treaty quoted above.

The Venetian general, when he heard of Vitelli's approach, thought he
might as well spare him half his journey, and marched out to confront
him: the two armies met in the Soriano road, and the battle
straightway began. The pontifical army had a body of eight hundred
Germans, on which the Dukes of Urbino and Gandia chiefly relied, as
well they might, for they were the best troops in the world; but
Vitelli attacked these picked men with his infantry, who, armed with
their formidable pikes, ran them through, while they with arms four
feet shorter had no chance even of returning the blows they received;
at the same time Vitelli's light troops wheeled upon the flank,
following their most rapid movements, and silencing the enemy's
artillery by the swiftness and accuracy of their attack. The
pontifical troops were put to flight, though after a longer
resistance than might have been expected when they had to sustain the
attack of an army so much better equipped than their own; with them
they bore to Ronciglione the Duke of Gandia, wounded in the face by a
pike-thrust, Fabrizia Calonna, and the envoy; the Duke of Urbino, who
was fighting in the rear to aid the retreat, was taken prisoner with
all his artillery and the baggage of the conquered army. But this
success, great as it was, did not so swell the pride of Vitellozza
Vitelli as to make him oblivious of his position. He knew that he
and the Orsini together were too weak to sustain a war of such
magnitude; that the little store of money to which he owed the
existence of his army would very soon be expended and his army would
disappear with it. So he hastened to get pardoned far the victory by
making propositions which he would very likely have refused had he
been the vanquished party; and the pope accepted his conditions
without demur; during the interval having heard that Trivulce had
just recrossed the Alps and re-entered Italy with three thousand
Swiss, and fearing lest the Italian general might only be the advance
guard of the King of France. So it was settled that the Orsini
should pay 70,000 florins for the expenses of the war, and that all
the prisoners on both sides should be exchanged without ransom with
the single exception of the Duke of Urbino. As a pledge for the
future payment of the 70,000 florins, the Orsini handed over to the
Cardinals Sforza and San Severino the fortresses of Anguillara and
Cervetri; then, when the day came and they had not the necessary
money, they gave up their prisoner, the Duke of Urbino, estimating
his worth at 40,000 ducats--nearly all the sum required--and handed
him over to Alexander on account; he, a rigid observer of
engagements, made his own general, taken prisoner in his service,
pay, to himself the ransom he owed to the enemy.

Then the pope had the corpse of Virginio sent to Carlo Orsini and
Vitellozzo Vitelli, as he could not send him alive. By a strange
fatality the prisoner had died, eight days before the treaty was
signed, of the same malady--at least, if we may judge by analogy--
that had carried off Bajazet's brother.

As soon as the peace was signed, Prospero Calonna and Gonzalvo de
Cordova, whom the Pope had demanded from Frederic, arrived at Rome
with an army of Spanish and Neapolitan troops. Alexander, as he
could not utilise these against the Orsini, set them the work of
recapturing Ostia, not desiring to incur the reproach of bringing
them to Rome far nothing. Gonzalvo was rewarded for this feat by
receiving the Rose of Gold from the pope's hand--that being the
highest honour His Holiness can grant. He shared this distinction
with the Emperor Maximilian, the King of France, the Doge of Venice,
and the Marquis of Mantua.

In the midst of all this occurred the solemn festival of the
Assumption; in which Ganzalvo was invited to take part. He
accordingly left his palace, proceeded in great pomp in the front of
the pontifical cavalry, and took his place on the Duke of Gandia's
left hand. The duke attracted all eyes by his personal beauty, set
off as it was by all the luxury he thought fit to display at this
festival. He had a retinue of pages and servants, clad in sumptuous
liveries, incomparable for richness with anything heretofore seen in
Rome, that city of religious pomp. All these pages and servants rode
magnificent horses, caparisoned in velvet trimmed with silver fringe,
and bells of silver hanging down every here and there. He himself
was in a robe of gold brocade, and wore at his neck a string of
Eastern pearls, perhaps the finest and largest that ever belonged to
a Christian prince, while on his cap was a gold chain studded with
diamonds of which the smallest was worth more than 20,000 ducats.
This magnificence was all the more conspicuous by the contrast it
presented to Caesar's dress, whose scarlet robe admitted of no
ornaments. The result was that Caesar, doubly jealous of his
brother, felt a new hatred rise up within him when he heard all along
the way the praises of his fine appearance and noble equipment. From
this moment Cardinal Valentino decided in his own mind the fate of
this man, this constant obstacle in the path of his pride, his love,
and his ambition. Very good reason, says Tommaso, the historian, had
the Duke of Gandia to leave behind him an impression on the public
mind of his beauty and his grandeur at this fete, for this last
display was soon to be followed by the obsequies of the unhappy young

Lucrezia also had come to Rome, on the pretext of taking part in the
solemnity, but really, as we shall see later, with the view of
serving as a new instrument for her father's ambition. As the pope
was not satisfied with an empty triumph of vanity and display for his
son, and as his war with the Orsini had failed to produce the
anticipated results, he decided to increase the fortune of his
firstborn by doing the very thing which he had accused Calixtus in
his speech of doing for him, viz., alienating from the States of the
Church the cities of Benevento, Terracino, and Pontecorvo to form a
duchy as an appanage to his son's house. Accordingly this
proposition was put forward in a full consistory, and as the college
of cardinals was entirely Alexander's, there was no difficulty about
carrying his point. This new favour to his elder brother exasperated
Caesar, although he was himself getting a share of the paternal
gifts; for he had just been named envoy 'a latere' at Frederic's
court, and was appointed to crown him with his own hands as the papal
representative. But Lucrezia, when she had spent a few days of
pleasure with her father and brothers, had gone into retreat at the
convent of San Sisto. No one knew the real motive of her seclusion,
and no entreaties of Caesar, whose love for her was strange and
unnatural, had induced her to defer this departure from the world
even until the day after he left for Naples. His sister's obstinacy
wounded him deeply, for ever since the day when the Duke of Gandia
had appeared in the procession so magnificently attired, he fancied
he had observed a coldness in the mistress of his illicit affection,
and so far did this increase his hatred of his rival that he resolved
to be rid of him at all costs. So he ordered the chief of his sbirri
to come and see him the same night.

Michelotto was accustomed to these mysterious messages, which almost
always meant his help was wanted in some love affair or some act of
revenge. As in either case his reward was generally a large one, he
was careful to keep his engagement, and at the appointed hour was
brought into the presence of his patron.

Caesar received him leaning against a tall chimney-piece, no longer
wearing his cardinal's robe and hat, but a doublet of black velvet
slashed with satin of the same colour. One hand toyed mechanically
with his gloves, while the other rested an the handle of a poisoned
dagger which never left his side. This was the dress he kept for his
nocturnal expeditions, so Michelotto felt no surprise at that; but
his eyes burned with a flame more gloomy than their want, and his
cheeks, generally pale, were now livid. Michelotto had but to cast
one look upon his master to see that Caesar and he were about to
share some terrible enterprise.

He signed to him to shut the door. Michelotto obeyed. Then, after a
moment's silence, during which the eyes of Borgia seemed to burn into
the soul of the bravo, who with a careless air stood bareheaded
before ham, he said, in a voice whose slightly mocking tone gave the
only sign of his emotion.

"Michelotto, how do you think this dress suits me?"

Accustomed as he was to his master's tricks of circumlocution, the
bravo was so far from expecting this question, that at first he stood
mute, and only after a few moments' pause was able to say

"Admirably, monsignore; thanks to the dress, your Excellency has the
appearance as well as the true spirit of a captain."

"I am glad you think so," replied Caesar. "And now let me ask you,
do you know who is the cause that, instead of wearing this dress,
which I can only put an at night, I am forced to disguise myself in
the daytime in a cardinal's robe and hat, and pass my time trotting
about from church to church, from consistory to consistory, when I
ought properly to be leading a magnificent army in the battlefield,
where you would enjoy a captain's rank, instead of being the chief of
a few miserable sbirri?"

"Yes, monsignore," replied Michelotto, who had divined Caesar's
meaning at his first word; "the man who is the cause of this is
Francesco, Duke of Gandia, and Benevento, your elder brother."

"Do you know," Caesar resumed, giving no sign of assent but a nod and
a bitter smile,--"do you know who has all the money and none of the
genius, who has the helmet and none of the brains, who has the sword
and no hand to wield it?"

"That too is the Duke of Gandia," said Michelotto.

"Do you know; continued Caesar, "who is the man whom I find
continually blocking the path of my ambition, my fortune, and my

"It is the same, the Duke of Gandia," said Michelotto.

"And what do you think of it?" asked Caesar.

"I think he must die," replied the man coldly.

"That is my opinion also, Michelotto," said Caesar, stepping towards
him and grasping his hand; "and my only regret is that I did not
think of it sooner; for if I had carried a sword at my side in stead
of a crosier in my hand when the King of France was marching through
Italy, I should now have been master of a fine domain. The pope is
obviously anxious to aggrandise his family, but he is mistaken in the
means he adopts: it is I who ought to have been made duke, and my
brother a cardinal. There is no doubt at all that, had he made me
duke, I should have contributed a daring and courage to his service
that would have made his power far weightier than it is. The man who
would make his way to vast dominions and a kingdom ought to trample
under foot all the obstacles in his path, and boldly grasp the very
sharpest thorns, whatever reluctance his weak flesh may feel; such a
man, if he would open out his path to fortune, should seize his
dagger or his sword and strike out with his eyes shut; he should not
shrink from bathing his hands in the blood of his kindred; he should
follow the example offered him by every founder of empire from
Romulus to Bajazet, both of whom climbed to the throne by the
ladder of fratracide. Yes, Michelotto, as you say, such is my
condition, and I am resolved I will not shrink. Now you know why I
sent for you: am I wrong in counting upon you?"

As might have been expected, Michelotto, seeing his own fortune in
this crime, replied that he was entirely at Caesar's service, and
that he had nothing to do but to give his orders as to time, place,
and manner of execution. Caesar replied that the time must needs be
very soon, since he was on the point of leaving Rome for Naples; as
to the place and the mode of execution, they would depend on
circumstances, and each of them must look out for an opportunity, and
seize the first that seemed favourable.

Two days after this resolution had been taken, Caesar learned that
the day of his departure was fixed for Thursday the 15th of June: at
the same time he received an invitation from his mother to come to
supper with her on the 14th. This was a farewell repast given in his
honour. Michelotto received orders to be in readiness at eleven
o'clock at night.

The table was set in the open air in a magnificent vineyard, a
property of Rosa Vanozza's in the neighbourhood of San Piero-in-
Vinculis: the guests were Caesar Borgia, the hero of the occasion;
the Duke of Gandia; Prince of Squillace; Dona Sancha, his wife; the
Cardinal of Monte Reale, Francesco Borgia, son of Calixtus III; Don
Roderigo Borgia, captain of the apostolic palace; Don Goffredo,
brother of the cardinal; Gian Borgia, at that time ambassador at
Perugia; and lastly, Don Alfonso Borgia, the pope's nephew: the whole
family therefore was present, except Lucrezia, who was still in
retreat, and would not come.

The repast was magnificent: Caesar was quite as cheerful as usual,
and the Duke of Gandia seemed more joyous than he had ever been

In the middle of supper a man in a mask brought him a letter. The
duke unfastened it, colouring up with pleasure; and when he had read
it answered in these words, "I will come": then he quickly hid the
letter in the pocket of his doublet; but quick as he was to conceal
it from every eye, Caesar had had time to cast a glance that way, and
he fancied he recognised the handwriting of his sister Lucrezia.
Meanwhile the messenger had gone off with his answer, no one but
Caesar paying the slightest attention to him, for at that period it
was the custom for have messages to be conveyed by men in domino or
by women whose faces were concealed by a veil.

At ten o'clock they rose from the table, and as the air was sweet and
mild they walked about a while under the magnificent pine trees that
shaded the house of Rosa Vanozza, while Caesar never for an instant
let his brother out of his sight. At eleven o'clock the Duke of
Gandia bade good-night to his mother. Caesar at once followed suit,
alleging his desire to go to the Vatican to bid farewell to the pope,
as he would not be able to fulfil this duty an the morrow, his
departure being fixed at daybreak. This pretext was all the more
plausible since the pope was in the habit of sitting up every night
till two or three o'clock in the morning.

The two brothers went out together, mounted their horses, which were
waiting for them at the door, and rode side by side as far as the
Palazzo Borgia, the present home of Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, who had
taken it as a gift from Alexander the night before his election to
the papacy. There the Duke of Gandia separated from his brother,
saying with a smile that he was not intending to go home, as he had
several hours to spend first with a fair lady who was expecting him.
Caesar replied that he was no doubt free to make any use he liked
best of his opportunities, and wished him a very good night. The
duke turned to the right, and Caesar to the left; but Caesar observed
that the street the duke had taken led in the direction of the
convent of San Sisto, where, as we said, Lucrezia was in retreat; his
suspicions were confirmed by this observation, and he directed his
horse's steps to the Vatican, found the pope, took his leave of him,
and received his benediction.

From this moment all is wrapped in mystery and darkness, like that in
which the terrible deed was done that we are now to relate.

This, however, is what is believed.

The Duke of Gandia, when he quitted Caesar, sent away his servants,
and in the company of one confidential valet alone pursued his course
towards the Piazza della Giudecca. There he found the same man in a
mask who had come to speak to him at supper, and forbidding his valet
to follow any farther, he bade him wait on the piazza where they then
stood, promising to be on his way back in two hours' time at latest,
and to take him up as he passed. And at the appointed hour the duke
reappeared, took leave this time of the man in the mask, and retraced
his steps towards his palace. But scarcely had he turned the corner
of the Jewish Ghetto, when four men on foot, led by a fifth who was
on horseback, flung themselves upon him. Thinking they were thieves,
or else that he was the victim of some mistake, the Duke of Gandia
mentioned his name; but instead of the name checking the murderers'
daggers, their strokes were redoubled, and the duke very soon fell
dead, his valet dying beside him.

Then the man on horseback, who had watched the assassination with no
sign of emotion, backed his horse towards the dead body: the four
murderers lifted the corpse across the crupper, and walking by the
side to support it, then made their way down the lane that leads to
the Church of Santa Maria-in-Monticelli. The wretched valet they
left for dead upon the pavement. But he, after the lapse of a few
seconds, regained some small strength, and his groans were heard by
the inhabitants of a poor little house hard by; they came and picked
him up, and laid him upon a bed, where he died almost at once, unable
to give any evidence as to the assassins or any details of the

All night the duke was expected home, and all the next morning; then
expectation was turned into fear, and fear at last into deadly
terror. The pope was approached, and told that the Duke of Gandia
had never come back to his palace since he left his mother's house.
But Alexander tried to deceive himself all through the rest of the
day, hoping that his son might have been surprised by the coming of
daylight in the midst of an amorous adventure, and was waiting till
the next night to get away in that darkness which had aided his
coming thither. But the night, like the day, passed and brought no
news. On the morrow, the pope, tormented by the gloomiest
presentiments and by the raven's croak of the 'vox populi', let
himself fall into the depths of despair: amid sighs and sobs of
grief, all he could say to any one who came to him was but these
words, repeated a thousand times: "Search, search; let us know how my
unhappy son has died."

Then everybody joined in the search; for, as we have said, the Duke
of Gandia was beloved by all; but nothing could be discovered from
scouring the town, except the body of the murdered man, who was
recognised as the duke's valet; of his master there was no trace
whatever: it was then thought, not without reason, that he had
probably been thrown into the Tiber, and they began to follow along
its banks, beginning from the Via della Ripetta, questioning every
boatman and fisherman who might possibly have seen, either from their
houses or from their boats, what had happened on the river banks
during the two preceding nights. At first all inquiries were in
vain; but when they had gone up as high as the Via del Fantanone,
they found a man at last who said he had seen something happen on the
night of the 14th which might very possibly have some bearing on the
subject of inquiry. He was a Slav named George, who was taking up
the river a boat laden with wood to Ripetta. The following are his
own words:

"Gentlemen," he said, "last Wednesday evening, when I had set down my


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