List Of Contents | Contents of The Borgias, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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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, an 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

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