List Of Contents | Contents of The Borgias, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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unlikely that he would have to fight not the kingdom of Naples alone,
but the whole of Italy to boot.  In his preparations for war he had
spent almost all the money at his disposal; the Lady of Beaujeu and
the Duke of Bourbon both condemned his enterprise; Briconnet, who had
advised it, did not venture to support it now; at last Charles, more
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, far he knew not what impression
might be produced on his ally by this scene.  But he was soon
reassured; far 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 he sacrificed to any sentiment of pity he might feel,
however real and deep it might be arid 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 dawn 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

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