The Life of Cesare Borgia
Part 7 out of 7
should give him the countersigns of the strongholds, together with
security for their surrender. This being all that the Pope could desire,
he issued orders that Cesare be brought back to Rome, and in Consistory
advised the Sacred College--by way, no doubt, of exculpating himself to
men who knew that he was refusing to pay the price at which he had bought
the Papacy--that the Venetians in the Romagna were not moving against the
Church, but against Cesare himself--wherefore he had demanded of Cesare
the surrender of the towns he held, that thus there might be an end to
It was specious--which is the best that can be said for it.
As for putting an end to the war, the papal brief was far indeed from
achieving any such thing, as was instantly plain from the reception it
met with in the Romagna, which persisted in its loyalty to Cesare in
despite of the very Pope himself. When that brief was read in Cesena a
wild tumult ensued, and the people ran through the streets clamouring
angrily for their duke.
It was very plain what short work would have been made of such men as the
Ordelaffi and the Malatesta had Cesare gone north. But Cesare was fast
at the Vatican, treated by the Pope with all outward friendliness and
consideration, but virtually a prisoner none the less. Julius continued
to press for the surrender of the Romagna strongholds, which Remolino had
promised in his master's name; but Cesare persisted obstinately to
refuse, until the news reached him that Michele da Corella and della
Volpe, who had gone north with seven hundred horse to support his
Romagnuoli, had been cut to pieces in Tuscany by the army of Gianpaolo
Cesare bore his burning grievance to the Pope. The Pope sympathized with
him most deeply; then went to write a letter to the Florentines to thank
them for what had befallen and to beg them to send him Michele da Corella
under a strong escort--that redoubtable captain having been taken
prisoner together with della Volpe.
Corella was known to be fully in the duke's confidence, and there were
rumours that he was accused of many things perpetrated on the duke's
behalf. Julius, bent now on Cesare's ruin, desired to possess himself of
this man in the hope of being able to put him upon his trial under
charges which should reflect discredit upon Cesare.
At last the duke realized that he was betrayed, and that all was lost,
and so he submitted to the inevitable, and gave the Pope the countersigns
he craved. With these Julius at once dispatched an envoy into the
Romagna, and, knowing the temper of Cesare's captains, he insisted that
this envoy should be accompanied by Piero d'Orvieto, as Cesare's own
commissioner, to demand that surrender.
But the intrepid Pedro Ramires, who held Cesena, knowing the true facts
of the case, and conceiving how his duke had been constrained, instead of
making ready to yield, proceeded further to fortify for resistance. When
the commissioners appeared before his gates he ordered the admission of
Piero d'Orvieto. That done, he declared that he desired to see his duke
at liberty before he would surrender the citadel which he held for him,
and, taking d'Orvieto, he hanged him from the battlements as a traitor
and a bad servant who did a thing which the duke, had he been at liberty,
would never have had him do.
Moncalieri, the papal envoy, returned to Rome with the news, and this so
inflamed the Pope that the Cardinals Lodovico Borgia and Francesco
Remolino, together with other Borgia partisans, instantly fled from Rome,
where they no longer accounted themselves safe, and sought refuge with
Gonzalo de Cordoba in the Spanish camp at Naples, imploring his
protection at the same time for Cesare.
The Pope's anger first vented itself in the confiscation of the Duke of
Valentinois's property wherever possible, to satisfy the claims of the
Riarii (the Pope's nephews) who demanded an indemnity of 50,000 ducats,
of Guidobaldo, who demanded 200,000 ducats, and of the Florentine
Republic, which claimed the same. The duke's ruin was by now--within six
weeks of the election of Julius II--an accomplished fact; and many were
those who chose to fall with him rather than abandon him in his
extremity. They afford a spectacle of honour and loyalty that was
exceedingly rare in the Italy of the Renaissance; clinging to their duke,
even when the last ray of hope was quenched, they lightened for him the
tedium of those last days at the Vatican during which he was no better
than a prisoner of state.
Suddenly came news of Gonzalo de Cordoba's splendid victory at
Garigliano--a victory which definitely broke the French and gave the
throne of Naples to Spain. Naturally this set Spanish influence once
more, and mightily, in the ascendant, and the Spanish cardinals, together
with the ambassador of Spain, came to exert with the Pope an influence
suddenly grown weighty.
As a consequence, Cesare, escorted by Carvajal, Cardinal of Santa Croce,
was permitted to depart to Ostia, whence he was to take ship for France.
Leastways, such was the understanding upon which he left the Vatican.
But the Pope was not minded, even now, to part with him so easily, and
his instructions to Carvajal were that at Ostia he should await further
orders before sailing.
But on December 26, news reaching the Spanish cardinal that the Romagna
fortresses--persuaded that Cesare had been liberated--had finally
surrendered, Carvajal took it upon himself to allow Cesare to depart,
upon receiving from him a written undertaking never to bear arms against
Pope Julius II.
So the Duke of Valentinois at last regained his freedom. Whether, in
repairing straight to Naples, as he did, he put a preconceived plan into
execution, or whether, even now, he mistrusted his enlargement, and
thought thus to make himself secure, cannot be ascertained. But straight
to Gonzalo de Cordoba's Spanish camp he went, equipped with a safe-
conduct from the Great Captain, obtained for Cesare by Cardinal Remolino.
There he found a court of friends already awaiting him, among whom were
his brother Giuffredo and the Cardinal Lodovico Borgia, and he received
from Gonzalo a very cordial welcome.
Spain was considering the invasion of Tuscany with the ultimate object of
assailing Milan and driving the French out of the peninsula altogether.
Piero de'Medici--killed at Garigliano--had no doubt been serving Spain
with some such end in view as the conquest of Florence, and, though Piero
was dead, there was no reason why the plan should be abandoned; rather,
all the more reason to carry it forward, since now Spain would more
directly profit by it. Bartolomeo d'Alviano was to have commanded the
army destined for that campaign; but Cesare, by virtue of his friends and
influence in Pisa, Siena, and Piombino, was so preferable a captain for
such an expedition that Gonzalo gave him charge of it within a few days
of his arrival at the Spanish camp.
To Cesare this would have been the thin end of a mighty edge. Here was a
chance to begin all over again, and, beginning thus, backed by Spanish
arms, there was no saying how far he might have gone. Meanwhile, what a
beginning! To avenge himself thus upon that Florentine Republic which,
under the protection of France, had dared at every turn to flout him and
had been the instrument of his ultimate ruin! Sweet to him would have
been the poetic justice he would have administered--as sweet to him as it
would have been terrible to Florence, upon which he would have descended
like another scourge of God.
Briskly and with high-running hopes he set about his preparations during
that spring of 1504 what time the Pope's Holiness in Rome was seeking to
justify his treachery by heaping odium upon the Borgias. Thus he thought
to show that if he had broken faith, he had broken faith with knaves
deserving none. It was in pursuit of this that Michele da Corella was
now pressed with questions, which, however, yielded nothing, and that
Asquino de Colloredo (the sometime servant of Cardinal Michaeli) was
tortured into confessing that he had poisoned his master at the
instigation of Alexander and Cesare--as has been seen--which confession
Pope Julius was very quick to publish.
But in Naples, it may well be that Cesare cared nought for these matters,
busy and hopeful as he was just then. He dispatched Baldassare da
Scipione to Rome to enlist what lances he could find, and Scipione put it
about that his lord would soon be returning to his own and giving his
enemies something to think about.
And then, suddenly, out of clearest heavens, fell a thunderbolt to shiver
this last hope.
On the night of May 26, as Cesare was leaving Gonzalo's quarters, where
he had supped, an officer stepped forward to demand his sword. He was
Julius II had out-manoeuvred him. He had written to Spain setting forth
what was his agreement with Valentinois in the matter of the Romagna--the
original agreement which was the price of the Pontificate, had, of
course, been conveniently effaced from the pontifical memory. He
addressed passionate complaints to Ferdinand and Isabella that Gonzalo de
Cordoba and Cardinal Carvajal between them were affording Valentinois the
means to break that agreement, and to undertake matters that were hostile
to the Holy See. And Ferdinand and Isabella had put it upon Gonzalo de
Cordoba, that most honourable and gallant captain, to do this thing in
gross violation of his safe-conduct and plighted word to Valentinois. It
was a deed under the shame of which the Great Captain confessedly
laboured to the end of his days, as his memory has laboured under it ever
since. For great captains are not afforded the immunity enjoyed by
priests and popes jointly with other wearers of the petticoat from the
consequences of falsehood and violated trust.
Fierce and bitter were Valentinois's reproaches of the Great Captain for
this treachery--as fierce and bitter as they were unavailing. On August
20, 1504, Cesare Borgia took ship for Spain--a prisoner bound for a
Spanish dungeon. Thus, at the early age of twenty-nine, he passed from
Italy and the deeds that well might have filled a lifetime.
Conspicuous amid those he left behind him who remained loyal to their
duke was Baldassare Scipione, who published throughout Christendom a
cartel, wherein he challenged to trial by combat any Spaniard who dared
deny that the Duke of Valentinois had been detained a prisoner in Naples
in spite of the safe-conduct granted him in the name of Ferdinand and
Isabella, "with great shame and infamy to their crown."(1)
1 Quoted by Alvisi, on the authority of a letter of Luigi da Porto,
March 16, 1510, in Lettere Storiche.
This challenge was never taken up.
Amongst other loyal ones was that fine soldier of fortune, Taddeo della
Volpe, who, in his Florentine prison, refused all offers to enter the
service of the Signory until he had learnt that his lord was gone from
Fracassa and Mirafuente had held Forli until they received guarantees for
Cesare's safety (after he had left Ostia to repair to the Spanish camp).
They then rode out, with the honours of war, lance on thigh. Dionigio di
Naldo, that hardy captain of foot, entered the service of Venice; but to
the end he wore the device of his dear lord, and imposed the same upon
all who served under his banner.
Don Michele da Corella was liberated by Julius II after an interrogatory
which can have revealed nothing defamatory to Cesare or his father; as it
is unthinkable that a Pope who did all that man could do to ruin the
House of Borgia and to befoul its memory, should have preserved silence
touching any such revelations as were hoped for when Corella was put to
torture. That most faithful of all Cesare's officers--and sharer of the
odium that has been heaped upon Cesare's name--entered the service of the
Signory of Florence.
Vain were the exertions put forth by the Spanish cardinals to obtain
Cesare's enlargement, and vainer still the efforts of his sister
Lucrezia, who wrote letter after letter to Francesco Gonzaga of Mantua--
now Gonfalonier of the Church, and a man of influence at the Vatican--
imploring him to use his interest with the Pope to the same end.
Julius II remained unmoved, fearing the power of Cesare Borgia, and
resolved that he should trouble Italy no more. On the score of that, no
blame attaches to the Pope. The States which Borgia had conquered in the
name of the Church should remain adherent to the Church. Upon that
Julius was resolved, and the resolve was highly laudable. He would have
no duke who controlled such a following as did Cesare, using those States
as stepping-stones to greater dominions in which, no doubt, he would
later have absorbed them, alienating them, so, from the Holy See.
In all this Julius II was most fully justified. The odious matter in his
conduct, however, is the abominable treachery it entailed, following as
it did upon the undertaking by virtue of which he gained the tiara.
For some months after his arrival in Spain, Cesare was confined in the
prison of Chinchilla, whence--as a result, it is said, of an attempt on
his part to throw the governor bodily over the battlements--he was
removed to the fortress of Medina del Campo, and kept well guarded by
orders of the Pope.
Rumours that he had been liberated by the King of Spain overran the
Romagna more than once, and set the country in a ferment, even reaching
the Vatican and shaking the stout-hearted Julius into alarm.
One chance of regaining his ancient might, and wreaking a sweet and
terrific vengeance upon his betrayers came very close to him, but passed
him by. This chance occurred in 1505, when--Queen Isabella being dead--
King Ferdinand discovered that Gonzalo de Cordoba was playing him false
in Naples. The Spanish king conceived a plan--according to the
chronicles of Zurita--to employ Cesare as a flail for the punishment of
the Great Captain. He proposed to liberate the duke, set him at the head
of an army, and loose him upon Naples, trusting to the formidable
alliance of Cesare's military talents with his hatred of Gonzalo--who had
betrayed him--to work the will of his Catholic Majesty.
Unfortunately for Cesare, there were difficulties. Ferdinand's power was
no longer absolute in Castille now that Isabella was dead. He sought to
overcome these difficulties; but the process was a slow one, and in the
course of it, spurred also by increased proofs of his lieutenant's
perfidy, Ferdinand lost patience, and determined--the case having grown
urgent--to go to Naples in person to deal with Gonzalo.
Plainly, Cesare's good fortune, which once had been proverbial, had now
utterly deserted him.
He had received news of what was afoot, and his hopes had run high once
more, only to suffer cruel frustration when he learnt that Ferdinand had
sailed, himself, for Naples. In his despair the duke roused himself to a
last effort to win his freedom.
His treatment in prison was fairly liberal, such as is usually measured
out to state prisoners of consideration. He was allowed his own chaplain
and several attendants, and, whilst closely guarded and confined to the
Homenaje Tower of the fortress, yet he was not oppressively restrained.
He was accorded certain privileges and liberties; he enjoyed the faculty
of corresponding with the outer world, and even of receiving visits.
Amongst his visitors was the Count of Benavente--a powerful lord of the
neighbourhood, who, coming under the spell of Cesare's fascination,
became so attached to him, and so resolved to do his will and effect his
liberation, that--says Zurita--he was prepared even to go the length of
accomplishing it by force of arms should no other way present itself.(1)
1 Sanuto confirms Zurita, in the main, by letters received by the
Another way, however, did present itself, and Benavente and the duke
hatched a plot of evasion in which they had the collaboration of the
chaplain and a servant of the governor's, named Garcia.
One September night a cord was let down from the crenels of the tower,
and by this the duke was to descend from his window to the castle ditch,
where Benavente's men awaited him. Garcia was to go with him since,
naturally, it would not be safe for the servants to remain behind, and
Garcia now let himself down that rope, hand over hand, from the terrible
height of the duke's window. It was only when he had reached the end of
it that he discovered that the rope was not long enough, and that below
him there was still a chasm that might well have appalled even desperate
To return was impossible. The duke above was growing impatient. Garcia
loosed his hold, and dropped the remainder of the distance, breaking both
his legs in the fall. Groaning, he lay there in the ditch, whilst hand
over hand now came the agile, athletic duke, unconscious of his
predecessor's fate, and of what awaited him at the end. He reached it,
and was dangling there, perhaps undecided whether or not to take that
daring leap, when suddenly his doubts were resolved for him. His evasion
was already discovered. The castle was in alarm, and some one above him
cut the rope and precipitated him into the ditch.
Benavente's men--we do not know how many of them were at hand--ran to him
instantly. They found him seriously injured, and that he, too, had
broken bones is beyond doubt. They lifted him up, and bore him with all
speed to the horses. They contrived, somehow, to mount him upon one,
and, holding him in the saddle, they rode off as fast as was possible
under the circumstances. There was no time to go back for the
unfortunate Garcia. The castle was all astir by now to stop the
fugitives, and to have returned would have been to suffer capture
themselves as well as the duke, without availing the servant.
So poor Garcia was left to his fate. He was found by the governor where
he had fallen, and he was immediately put to death.
If the people of Medina organized a pursuit it availed them nothing, for
Cesare was carried safely to Benavente's stronghold at Villalon.
There he lay for some five or six weeks to recover from the hurts he had
taken in escaping, and to allow his hands--the bones of which were
broken--to become whole again. At last, being in the main recovered,
though with hands still bandaged, he set out with two attendants and made
for Santander. Thence they took ship to Castro Urdiales, Cesare aiming
now at reaching the kingdom of Navarre and the protection of his brother-
in-law the king.
At the inn at Santander, where, weary and famished, they sat down to dine
after one of the grooms had made arrangements for a boat, they had a near
escape of capture. The alcalde, hearing of the presence of these
strangers, and his suspicions being aroused by the recklessly high price
they had agreed to pay the owner of the vessel which they had engaged,
came to examine them. But they had a tale ready that they were wheat-
merchants in great haste to reach Bernico, that a cargo of wheat awaited
them there, and that they would suffer great loss by delay. The tale was
smooth enough to satisfy the alcalde, and they were allowed to depart.
They reached Castro Urdiales safely, but were delayed there for two days,
owing to the total lack of horses; and they were forced, in the end, to
proceed upon mules obtained from a neighbouring convent. On these they
rode to Durango, where they procured two fresh mules and a horse, and so,
after further similar vicissitudes, they arrived at Pampeluna on December
3, 1506, and Cesare startled the Court of his brother-in-law, King Jean
of Navarre, by suddenly appearing in it--"like the devil."
The news of his evasion had already spread to Italy and set it in a
ferment, inspiring actual fear at the Vatican. The Romagna was
encouraged by it to break out into open and armed insurrection against
the harsh rule of Julius II--who seems to have been rendered positively
vindictive towards the Romagnuoli by their fidelity to Valentinois. Thus
had the Romagna fallen again into the old state of insufferable
oppression from which Cesare had once delivered it. The hopes of the
Romagnuoli rose in a measure, as the alarm spread among the enemies of
Cesare--for Florence and Venice shared now the anxiety of the Vatican.
Zurita, commenting upon this state of things, pays Cesare the following
compliment, which the facts confirm as just:
"The duke was such that his very presence was enough to set all Italy
agog; and he was greatly beloved, not only by men of war, but also by
many people of Tuscany and of the States of the Church."
Cesare's wife--Charlotte d'Albret--whom he had not seen since that
September of 1499, was at Bourges at the Court of her friend, the
saintly, repudiated first wife of Louis XII. It is to be supposed that
she would be advised of her husband's presence at her brother's Court;
but there is no information on this score, nor do we know that they ever
Within four days of reaching Pampeluna Cesare dispatched his secretary
Federico into Italy to bear the news of his escape to his sister Lucrezia
at Ferrara, and a letter to Francesco Gonzaga, of Mantua, which was
little more than one of introduction, the more important matters to be
conveyed to Gonzaga going, no doubt, by word of mouth. Federico was
arrested at Bologna by order of Julius II, after he had discharged his
France was now Cesare's only hope, and he wrote to Louis begging his
royal leave to come to take his rank as a prince of that country, and to
You may justly have opined, long since, that the story here set down is
one never-ending record of treacheries and betrayals. But you will find
little to surpass the one to come. The behaviour of Louis at this
juncture is contemptible beyond words, obeying as it does the maxim of
that age, which had it that no inconvenient engagement should be observed
if there was opportunity for breaking it.
Following this detestable maxim, Louis XII had actually gone the length
of never paying to Charlotte d'Albret the dot of 100,000 livres Tournois,
to which he had engaged himself by written contract. When Cesare, in
prison at Medina and in straits for money, had solicited payment through
his brother-in-law of Navarre, his claim had been contemptuously
But there was worse to follow. Louis now answered Cesare's request for
leave to come to France by a letter (quoted in full by M. Yriarte from
the Archives des Basses Pyrénées) in which his Very Christian Majesty
announces that the duchy of Valentinois and the County of Dyois have been
restored to the crown of France, as also the lordship of Issoudun. And
then follows the pretext, of whose basely paltry quality you shall judge
for yourselves. It runs:
"After the decease of the late Pope Alexander, when our people and our
army were seeking the recovery of the kingdom of Naples, he [Cesare] went
over to the side of our enemies, serving, favouring, and assisting them
at arms and otherwise against ourselves and our said people and army,
which resulted to us in great and irrecoverable loss."
The climax is in the deliberate falsehood contained in the closing words.
Poor Cesare, who had served France at her call--in spite of what was
rumoured of his intentions--as long as he had a man-at-arms to follow
him, had gone to Naples only in the hour of his extreme need. True, he
had gone to offer himself to Spain as a condottiero when naught else was
left to him; but he took no army with him--he went alone, a servant, not
an ally, as that false letter pretends. He had never come to draw his
sword against France, and certainly no loss had been suffered by France
in consequence of any action of his. Louis's army was definitely routed
at Garigliano, with Cesare's troops fighting in its ranks.
But Pope Alexander was dead; Cesare's might in in Italy was dissipated;
his credit gone. There lay no profit for Louis in keeping faith with
him; there lay some profit in breaking it. Alas, that a king should
stain his honour with base and vulgar lies to minister to his cupidity,
and that he should set them down above his seal and signature to shame
him through centuries still in the womb of Time!
Cesare Borgia, landless, without right to any title, he that had held so
many, betrayed and abandoned on every side, had now nothing to offer in
the world's market but his stout sword and his glad courage. These went
to the first bidder for them, who happened to be his brother-in-law King
Navarre at the time was being snarled and quarrelled over by France and
Spain, both menacing its independence, each pretending to claims upon it
which do not, in themselves, concern us.
In addition, the country itself was torn by two factions--the Beaumontes
and the Agramontes--and it was entrusted to Cesare to restore Navarre to
peace and unity at home before proceeding--with the aid upon which he
depended from the Emperor Maximilian--to deal with the enemies beyond her
The Castle of Viana was being held by Louis de Beaumont--chief of the
faction that bore his name--and refused to surrender to the king. To
reduce it and compel Beaumont to obedience went Cesare as Captain-General
of Navarre, early in February of 1507. He commanded a considerable
force, some 10,000 strong, and with this and his cannon he laid siege to
The natural strength of the place was such as might have defied any
attempt to reduce it by force; but victuals were running low, and there
was every likelihood of its being speedily starved into surrender. To
frustrate this, Beaumont conceived the daring plan of attempting to send
in supplies from Mendavia. The attempt being made secretly, by night and
under a strong escort, was entirely successful; but, in retreating, the
Beaumontese were surprised in the dawn of that February morning by a
troop of reinforcements coming to Cesare's camp. These, at sight of the
rebels, immediately gave the alarm.
The most hopeless confusion ensued in the town, where it was at once
imagined that a surprise attack was being made upon the Royalists, and
that they had to do with the entire rebel army.
Cesare, being aroused by the din and the blare of trumpets calling men to
arms, sprang for his weapons, armed himself in haste, flung himself on a
horse, and, without pausing so much as to issue a command to his waiting
men-at-arms, rode headlong down the street to the Puerta del Sol. Under
the archway of the gate his horse stumbled and came down with him. With
an oath, Cesare wrenched the animal to its feet again, gave it the spur,
and was away at a mad, furious gallop in pursuit of the retreating
The citizens, crowding to the walls of Viana, watched that last reckless
ride of his with amazed, uncomprehending eyes. The peeping sun caught
his glittering armour as he sped, so that of a sudden he must have seemed
to them a thing of fire--meteoric, as had been his whole life's
trajectory which was now swiftly dipping to its nadir.
Whether he was frenzied with the lust of battle, riding in the reckless
manner that was his wont, confident that his men followed, yet too self-
centred to ascertain, or whether--as seems more likely--it was simply
that his horse had bolted with him, will never be known until all things
Suddenly he was upon the rearguard of the fleeing rebels. His sword
flashed up and down; again and again they may have caught the gleam of it
from Viana's walls, as he smote the foe. Irresistible as a thunderbolt,
he clove himself a way through those Beaumontese. He was alone once
more, a flying, dazzling figure of light, away beyond that rearguard
which he left scathed and disordered by his furious passage. Still his
mad career continued, and he bore down upon the main body of the escort.
Beaumont sat his horse to watch, in such amazement as you may conceive,
the wild approach of this unknown rider.
Seeing him unsupported, some of the count's men detached themselves to
return and meet this single foe and oblige him with the death he so
obviously appeared to seek.
They hedged him about--we do not know their number--and, engaging him,
they drew him from the road and down into the hollow space of a ravine.
And so, in the thirty-second year of his age, and in all the glory of his
matchless strength, his soul possessed of the lust of combat, sword in
hand, warding off the attack that rains upon him, and dealing death about
him, he meets his end. From the walls of Viana his resplendent armour
renders him still discernible, until, like a sun to its setting, he
passes below the rim of that ravine, and is lost to the watcher's view.
Death awaited him amid the shadows of that hollow place.
Unhorsed by now, he fought with no concern for the odds against him, and
did sore execution upon his assailants, ere a sword could find an opening
in his guard to combine with a gap in his armour and so drive home. That
blade had found, maybe, his lungs. Still he swung his sword, swaying now
upon his loosening knees. His mouth was full of blood. It was growing
dark. His hands began to fail him. He reeled like a drunkard, sapped of
strength, and then the end came quickly. Blows unwarded showered upon
He crashed down in all the glory of his rich armour, which those brigand-
soldiers already coveted. And thus he died--mercifully, maybe happily,
for he had no time in which to taste the bitterness of death--that awful
draught which he had forced upon so many.
Within a few moments of his falling, this man who had been a living
force, whose word had carried law from the Campagna to the Bolognese, was
so much naked, blood-smeared carrion--for those human vultures stripped
him to the skin; his very shirt must they have. And there, a stark,
livid corpse, of no more account than any dog that died last Saturday,
they left Cesare Borgia of France, Duke of Romagna and Valentinois,
Prince of Andria, and Lord of a dozen Tyrannies.
The body was found there anon by those who so tardily rode after their
leader, and his dismayed troopers bore those poor remains to Viana. The
king, arriving there that very day, horror-stricken at the news and sight
that awaited him, ordered Cesare a magnificent funeral, and so he was
laid to rest before the High Altar of Sainte Marie de Viane.
To rest? May the soul of him rest at least, for men--Christian men--have
refused to vouchsafe that privilege to his poor ashes.
Nearly two hundred years later--at the close of the seventeenth century,
a priest of God and a bishop, one who preached a gospel of love and mercy
so infinite that he dared believe by its lights no man to have been
damned, came to disturb the dust of Cesare Borgia. This Bishop of
Calahorra--lineal descendant in soul of that Pharisee who exalted himself
in God's House, thrilled with titillations of delicious horror at the
desecrating presence of the base publican--had his pietist's eyes
offended by the slab that marked Cesare Borgia's resting-place.(1)
1 It bore the following legend:
AQUI YACE EN POCA TIERRA
AL QUE TODO LE TEMIA
EL QUE LA PAZ Y LA GUERRA
EN LA SUA MANO TENIA.
OH TU QUE VAS A BUSCAR
COSAS DIGNAS DE LOAR
SI TU LOAS LO MAS DIGNO
AQUI PARE TU CAMINO
NO CURES DE MAS ANDAR.
which, more or less literally may be Englished as follows: "Here in a
little earth, lies one whom all did fear; one whose hands dispensed both
peace and war. Oh, you that go in search of things deserving praise, if
you would praise the worthiest, then let your journey end here, nor
trouble to go farther."
The pious, Christian bishop had read of this man--perhaps that life of
him published by the apostate Gregorio Leti under the pen-name of Tommaso
Tommasi, which had lately seen the light--and he ordered the tomb's
removal from that holy place. And thus it befell that the ashes of
Cesare Borgia were scattered and lost.
Charlotte d'Albret was bereft of her one friend, Queen Jeanne, in that
same year of Cesare's death. The Duchess of Valentinois withdrew to La
MotteFeuilly, and for the seven years remaining of her life was never
seen other than in mourning; her very house was equipped with sombre,
funereal furniture, and so maintained until her end, which supports the
view that she had conceived affection and respect for the husband of whom
she had seen so little.
On March 14, 1514, that poor lady passed from a life which appears to
have offered her few joys.
Louise de Valentinois--a handsome damsel of the age of fourteen--remained
for three years under the tutelage of the Duchess of Angoulême--the
mother of King Francis I--to whom Charlotte d'Albret had entrusted her
child. Louise married, at the age of seventeen, Louis de la Trémouille,
Prince de Talmont and Vicomte de Thouars, known as the Knight Sans Peur
et Sans Reproche. She maintained some correspondence with her aunt,
Lucrezia Borgia, whom she had never seen, and ever signed herself "Louise
de Valentinois." At the age of thirty--Trémouille having been killed at
Pavia--she married, in second nuptials, Philippe de Bourbon-Busset.
Lucrezia died in 1519, one year after her mother, Vanozza de'Catanei,
with whom she corresponded to the end.
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