List Of Contents | Contents of The Borgias, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

of May had sent his vanguard before him, soon to be followed by the
main body of the army.  The forces he was employing in this second
campaign of conquest were 1600, lances, 5000 Swiss, 9000 Gascons, and
3500 infantry, raised from all parts of France.  On the 13th of
August this whole body, amounting to nearly 15,000 men, who were to
combine their forces with the Venetians, arrived beneath the walls of
Arezzo, and immediately laid siege to the town.

Ludovico Sforza's position was a terrible one: he was now suffering
from his imprudence in calling the French into Italy; all the allies
he had thought he might count upon were abandoning him at the same
moment, either because they were busy about their own affairs, or
because they were afraid of the powerful enemy that the Duke of Milan
had made for himself.  Maximilian, who had promised him a
contribution of 400 lances, to make up for not renewing the
hostilities with Louis XII that had been interrupted, had just made a
league with the circle of Swabia to war against the Swiss, whom he
had declared rebels against the Empire.  The Florentines, who had
engaged to furnish him with 300 men-at-arms and 2000 infantry, if he
would help them to retake Pisa, had just retracted their promise
because of Louis XII's threats, and had undertaken to remain neutral.
Frederic, who was holding back his troops for the defence of his own
States, because he supposed, not without reason, that, Milan once
conquered, he would again have to defend Naples, sent him no help, no
men, no money, in spite of his promises.  Ludovico Sforza was
therefore reduced to his own proper forces.

But as he was a man powerful in arms and clever in artifice, he did
not allow himself to succumb at the first blow, and in all haste
fortified Annona, Novarro, and Alessandria, sent off Cajazzo with
troops to that part of the Milanese territory which borders on the
states of Venice, and collected on the Po as many troops as he could.
But these precautions availed him nothing against the impetuous
onslaught of the French, who in a few days had taken Annona, Arezzo,
Novarro, Voghiera, Castelnuovo, Ponte Corona, Tartone, and
Alessandria, while Trivulce was on the march to Milan.

Seeing the rapidity of this conquest and their numerous victories,
Ludovico Sforza, despairing of holding out in his capital, resolved
to retire to Germany, with his children, his brother, Cardinal
Ascanio Sforza, and his treasure, which had been reduced in the
course of eight years from 1,500,000 to 200,000 ducats. But before he
went he left Bernardino da Carte in charge of the castle of Milan.
In vain did his friends warn him to distrust this man, in vain did
his brother Ascanio offer to hold the fortress himself, and offer to
hold it to the very last; Ludovico refused to make any change in his
arrangements, and started on the 2nd of September, leaving in the
citadel three thousand foot and enough provisions, ammunition, and
money to sustain a siege of several months.

Two days after Ludovico's departure, the French entered Milan.  Ten
days later Bernardino da Come gave up the castle before a single gun
had been fired.  Twenty-one days had sufficed for the French to get
possession of the various towns, the capital, and all the territories
of their enemy.

Louis XII received the news of this success while he was at Lyons,
and he at once started for Milan, where he was received with
demonstrations of joy that were really sincere.  Citizens of every
rank had come out three miles' distance from the gates to receive
him, and forty boys, dressed in cloth of gold and silk, marched
before him singing hymns of victory composed by poets of the period,
in which the king was styled their liberator and the envoy of
freedom.  The great joy of the Milanese people was due to the fact
that friends of Louis had been spreading reports beforehand that the
King of France was rich enough to abolish all taxes.  And so soon as
the second day from his arrival at Milan the conqueror made some
slight reduction, granted important favours to certain Milanese
gentlemen, and bestowed the town of Vigavano on Trivulce as a reward
for his swift and glorious campaign.  But Caesar Borgia, who had
followed Louis XII with a view to playing his part in the great
hunting-ground of Italy, scarcely waited for him to attain his end
when he claimed the fulfilment of his promise, which the king with
his accustomed loyalty hastened to perform.  He instantly put at the
disposal of Caesar three hundred lances under the command of Yves
d'Alegre, and four thousand Swiss under the command of the bailiff of
Dijon, as a help in his work of reducing the Vicars of the Church.

We must now explain to our readers who these new personages were whom
we introduce upon the scene by the above name.

During the eternal wars of Guelphs and Ghibelines and the long exile
of the popes at Avignon, most of the towns and fortresses of the
Romagna had been usurped by petty tyrants, who for the most part hard
received from the Empire the investiture of their new possessions;
but ever since German influence had retired beyond the Alps, and the
popes had again made Rome the centre of the Christian world, all the
small princes, robbed of their original protector, had rallied round
the papal see, and received at the hands of the pope a new
investiture, and now they paid annual dues, for which they received
the particular title of duke, count, or lord, and the general name of
Vicar of the Church.

It had been no difficult matter for Alexander, scrupulously examining
the actions and behaviour of these gentlemen during the seven years
that had elapsed since he was exalted to St. Peter's throne, to find
in the conduct of each one of them something that could be called an
infraction of the treaty made between vassals and suzerain;
accordingly he brought forward his complaints at a tribunal
established for the purpose, and obtained sentence from the judges to
the effect that the vicars of the Church, having failed to fulfil the
conditions of their investiture, were despoiled of their domains,
which would again become the property of the Holy See.  As the pope
was now dealing with men against whom it was easier to pass a
sentence than to get it carried out, he had nominated as captain-
general the new Duke of Valentinois, who was commissioned to recover
the territories for his own benefit.  The lords in question were the
Malatesti of Rimini, the Sforza of Pesaro, the Manfredi of Faenza,
the Riarii of Imola and Farli, the Variani of Camerina, the
Montefeltri of Urbino, and the Caetani of Sermoneta.

But the Duke of Valentinois, eager to keep as warm as possible his
great friendship with his ally and relative Louis XII, was, as we
know, staying with him at Milan so long as he remained there, where,
after a month's occupation, the king retraced his steps to his own
capital, the Duke of Valentinois ordered his men-at-arms and his
Swiss to await him between Parma and Modena, and departed posthaste
for Rome, to explain his plans to his father viva voce and to receive
his final instructions.  When he arrived, he found that the fortune
of his sister Lucrezia had been greatly augmented in his absence, not
from the side of her husband Alfonso, whose future was very uncertain
now in consequence of Louis's successes, which had caused some
coolness between Alfonso and the pope, but from her father's side,
upon whom at this time she exercised an influence mare astonishing
than ever.  The pope had declared Lucrezia Borgia of Aragon life-
governor of Spoleto and its duchy, with all emoluments, rights, and
revenues accruing thereunto.  This had so greatly increased her power
and improved her position, that in these days she never showed
herself in public without a company of two hundred horses ridden by
the most illustrious ladies and noblest knights of Rome.  Moreover,
as the twofold affection of her father was a secret to nobody, the
first prelates in the Church, the frequenters of the Vatican, the
friends of His Holiness, were all her most humble servants; cardinals
gave her their hands when she stepped from her litter or her horse,
archbishops disputed the honour of celebrating mass in her private

But Lucrezia had been obliged to quit Rome in order to take
possession of her new estates; and as her father could not spend much
time away from his beloved daughter, he resolved to take into his
hands the town of Nepi, which on a former occasion, as the reader
will doubtless remember, he had bestowed on Ascanio Sforza in
exchange for his suffrage.  Ascanio had naturally lost this town when
he attached himself to the fortunes of the Duke of Milan, his
brother; and when the pope was about to take it again, he invited his
daughter Lucrezia to join him there and be present at the rejoicings
held in honour of his resuming its possession.

Lucrezia's readiness in giving way to her father's wishes brought her
a new gift from him: this was the town and territory of Sermoneta,
which belonged to the Caetani.  Of course the gift was as yet a
secret, because the two owners of the seigneury, had first to be
disposed of, one being Monsignore Giacomo Caetano, apostolic
protonotary, the other Prospero Caetano, a young cavalier of great
promise; but as both lived at Rome, and entertained no suspicion, but
indeed supposed themselves to be in high favour with His Holiness,
the one by virtue of his position, the other of his courage, the
matter seemed to present no great difficulty.  So directly after the
return of Alexander to Rome, Giacomo Caetano was arrested, on what
pretext we know not, was taken to the castle of Sant' Angelo, and
there died shortly after, of poison: Prospero Caetano was strangled
in his own house.  After these two deaths, which both occurred so
suddenly as to give no time for either to make a will, the pope
declared that Sermoneta and all of her property appertaining to the
Caetani devolved upon the apostolic chamber; and they were sold to
Lucrezia for the cum of 80,000 crowns, which her father refunded to

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: