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List Of Contents | Contents of The Borgias, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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left everyone in suspense: had the mighty Duke of Romagna, the
powerful condottiere who had taken thirty towns and fifteen
fortresses in five years, been seated, sword in hand, upon his
charger, nothing would have been uncertain of fluctuating even for a
moment; far, as Caesar afterwards told Macchiavelli, his ambitious
soul had provided for all things that could occur on the day of the
pope's death, except the one that he should be dying himself; but
being nailed down to his bed, sweating off the effects the poison had
wrought; so, though he had kept his power of thinking he could no
longer act, but must needs wait and suffer the course of events,
instead of marching on in front and controlling them.

Thus he was forced to regulate his actions no longer by his own plans
but according to circumstances.  His most bitter enemies, who could
press him hardest, were the Orsini and the Colonnas: from the one
family he had taken their blood, from the other their goods.

So he addressed himself to those to whom he could return what he had
taken, and opened negotiations with the Colonnas.

Meanwhile the obsequies of the pope were going forward: the vice-
chancellor had sent out orders to the highest among the clergy, the
superiors of convents, and the secular orders, not to fail to appear,
according to regular custom, on pain of being despoiled of their
office and dignities, each bringing his own company to the Vatican,
to be present at the pope's funeral; each therefore appeared on the
day and at the hour appointed at the pontifical palace, whence the
body was to be conveyed to the church of St. Peter's, and there
buried.  The corpse was found to be abandoned and alone in the
mortuary chamber; for everyone of the name of Borgia, except Caesar,
lay hidden, not knowing what might come to pass.  This was indeed
well justified; for Fabio Orsino, meeting one member of the family,
stabbed him, and as a sign of the hatred they had sworn to one
another, bathed his mouth and hands in the blood.

The agitation in Rome was so great, that when the corpse of Alexander
VI was about to enter the church there occurred a kind of panic, such
as will suddenly arise in times of popular agitation, instantly
causing so great a disturbance in the funeral cortege that the guards
drew up in battle array, the clergy fled into the sacristy, and the
bearers dropped the bier.

The people, tearing off the pall which covered it, disclosed the
corpse, and everyone could see with impunity and close at hand the
man who, fifteen days before, had made princes, kings and emperors
tremble, from one end of the world to the other.

But in accordance with that religious feeling towards death which all
men instinctively feel, and which alone survives every other, even in
the heart of the atheist, the bier was taken up again and carried to
the foot of the great altar in St. Peter's, where, set on trestles,
it was exposed to public view; but the body had become so black, so
deformed and swollen, that it was horrible to behold; from its nose a
bloody matter escaped, the mouth gaped hideously, and the tongue was
so monstrously enlarged that it filled the whole cavity; to this
frightful appearance was added a decomposition so great that,
although at the pope's funeral it is customary to kiss the hand which
bore the Fisherman's ring, not one approached to offer this mark of
respect and religious reverence to the representative of God on

Towards seven o'clock in the evening, when the declining day adds so
deep a melancholy to the silence of a church, four porters and two
working carpenters carried the corpse into the chapel where it was to
be interred, and, lifting it off the catafalque, where it lay in
state, put it in the coffin which was to be its last abode; but it
was found that the coffin was too short, and the body could not be
got in till the legs were bent and thrust in with violent blows; then
the carpenters put on the lid, and while one of them sat on the top
to force the knees to bend, the others hammered in the nails: amid
those Shakespearian pleasantries that sound as the last orison in the
ear of the mighty; then, says Tommaso Tommasi, he was placed on the
right of the great altar of St. Peter's, beneath a very ugly tomb.

The next morning this epitaph was found inscribed upon the tomb:


that is,

    "Pope Alexander sold the Christ, the altars, and the keys:
     But anyone who buys a thing may sell it if he please."


>From the effect produced at Rome by Alexander's death, one may
imagine what happened not only in the whole of Italy but also in the
rest of the world: for a moment Europe swayed, for the column which
supported the vault of the political edifice had given way, and the
star with eyes of flame and rays of blood, round which all things had
revolved for the last eleven years, was now extinguished, and for a
moment the world, on a sudden struck motionless, remained in silence
and darkness.

After the first moment of stupefaction, all who had an injury to
avenge arose and hurried to the chase.  Sforza retook Pesaro,
Bagloine Perugia, Guido and Ubaldo Urbino, and La Rovere Sinigaglia;
the Vitelli entered Citta di Castello, the Appiani Piombino, the
Orsini Monte Giordano and their other territories; Romagna alone
remained impassive and loyal, for the people, who have no concern
with the quarrels of the great, provided they do not affect
themselves, had never been so happy as under the government of

The Colonnas were pledged to maintain a neutrality, and had been
consequently restored to the possession of their castles and the
cities of Chiuzano, Capo d'Anno, Frascati, Rocca di Papa, and
Nettuno, which they found in a better condition than when they had
left them, as the pope had had them embellished and fortified.

Caesar was still in the Vatican with his troops, who, loyal to him in
his misfortune, kept watch about the palace, where he was writhing on
his bed of pain and roaring like a wounded lion.  The cardinals, who
had in their first terror fled, each his own way, instead of
attending the pope's obsequies, began to assemble once more, some at
the Minerva, others around Cardinal Caraffa.  Frightened by the
troops that Caesar still had, especially since the command was
entrusted to Michelotto, they collected all the money they could to
levy an army of 2000 soldiers with.  Charles Taneo at their head,
with the title of Captain of the Sacred College.  It was then hoped
that peace was re-established, when it was heard that Prospero
Colonna was coming with 3000 men from the side of Naples, and Fabio
Orsino from the side of Viterbo with 200 horse and more than 1000
infantry.  Indeed, they entered Rome at only one day's interval one
from another, by so similar an ardour were they inspired.

Thus there were five armies in Rome: Caesar's army, holding the
Vatican and the Borgo; the army of the Bishop of Nicastro, who had
received from Alexander the guardianship of the Castle Sant' Angelo
and had shut himself up there, refusing to yield; the army of the
Sacred College, which was stationed round about the Minerva; the army
of Prospero Colonna, which was encamped at the Capitol; and the army
of Fabio Orsino, in barracks at the Ripetta.

On their side, the Spaniards had advanced to Terracino, and the
French to Nepi.  The cardinals saw that Rome now stood upon a mine
which the least spark might cause to explode: they summoned the
ambassadors of the Emperor of Germany, the Kings of France and Spain,
and the republic of Venice to raise their voice in the name of their
masters.  The ambassadors, impressed with the urgency of the
situation, began by declaring the Sacred College inviolable: they
then ordered the Orsini, the Colonnas, and the Duke of Valentinois to
leave Rome and go each his own, way.

The Orsini were the first to submit: the next morning their example
was followed by the Colonnas.  No one was left but Caesar, who said
he was willing to go, but desired to make his conditions beforehand:
the Vatican was undermined, he declared, and if his demands were
refused he and those who came to take him should be blown up

It was known that his were never empty threats they came to terms
with him.

[Caesar promised to remain ten miles away from Rome the whole time
the Conclave lasted, and not to take any action against the town or
any other of the Ecclesiastical States: Fabio Orsino and.  Prospero
Colonna had made the same promises.]

[It was agreed that Caesar should quit Rome with his army, artillery,
and baggage; and to ensure his not being attacked or molested in the
streets, the Sacred College should add to his numbers 400 infantry,
who, in case of attack or insult, would fight for him.
The Venetian ambassador answered for the Orsini, the Spanish
ambassador for the Colonnas, the ambassador of France for Caesar.]

At the day and hour appointed Caesar sent out his artillery, which
consisted of eighteen pieces of cannon, and 400 infantry of the
Sacred College, on each of whom he bestowed a ducat: behind the
artillery came a hundred chariots escorted by his advance guard.

The duke was carried out of the gate of the Vatican: he lay on a bed
covered with a scarlet canopy, supported by twelve halberdiers,
leaning forward on his cushions so that no one might see his face
with its purple lips and bloodshot eyes: beside him was his naked
sword, to show that, feeble as he was, he could use it at need: his
finest charger, caparisoned in black velvet embroidered with his
arms, walked beside the bed, led by a page, so that Caesar could
mount in case of surprise or attack: before him and behind, both
right and left, marched his army, their arms in rest, but without
beating of drums or blowing of trumpets: this gave a sombre, funereal
air to the whole procession, which at the gate of the city met
Prospero Colonna awaiting it with a considerable band of men.

Caesar thought at first that, breaking his word as he had so often

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