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List Of Contents | Contents of The Borgias, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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1482.  D'jem was defeated after a seven hours' fight, and pursued by
his brother, who gave him no time to rally his army: he was obliged
to embark from Cilicia, and took refuge in Rhodes, where he implored
the protection of the Knights of St. John.  They, not daring to give
him an asylum in their island so near to Asia, sent him to France,
where they had him carefully guarded in one of their commanderies, in
spite of the urgency of Cait Bey, Sultan of Egypt, who, having
revolted against Bajazet, desired to have the young prince in his
army to give his rebellion the appearance of legitimate warfare.  The
same demand, moreover, with the same political object, had been made
successively by Mathias Corvinus, King of Hungary, by Ferdinand, King
of Aragon and Sicily, and by Ferdinand, King of Naples.

On his side Bajazet, who knew all the importance of such a rival, if
he once allied himself with any one of the princes with whom he was
at war, had sent ambassadors to Charles VIII, offering, if he would
consent to keep D'jem with him, to give him a considerable pension,
and to give to France the sovereignty of the Holy Land, so soon as
Jerusalem should be conquered by the Sultan of Egypt.  The King of
France had accepted these terms.

But then Innocent VIII had intervened, and in his turn had claimed
D'jem, ostensibly to give support by the claims of the refugee to a
crusade which he was preaching against the Turks, but in reality to
appropriate the pension of 40,000 ducats to be given by Bajazet to
any one of the Christian princes who would undertake to be his
brother's gaoler.  Charles VIII had not dared to refuse to the
spiritual head of Christendom a request supported by such holy
reasons; and therefore D'jem had quitted France, accompanied by the
Grand Master d'Aubusson, under whose direct charge he was; but his
guardian had consented, for the sake of a cardinal's hat, to yield up
his prisoner.  Thus, on the 13th of March, 1489, the unhappy young
man, cynosure of so many interested eyes, made his solemn entry into
Rome, mounted on a superb horse, clothed in a magnificent oriental
costume, between the Prior of Auvergne, nephew of the Grand Master
d'Aubusson, and Francesco Cibo, the son of the pope.

After this he had remained there, and Bajazet, faithful to promises
which it was so much his interest to fulfil, had punctually paid to
the sovereign pontiff a pension of 40,000 ducats.

So much for Turkey.

Ferdinand and Isabella were reigning in Spain, and were laying the
foundations of that vast power which was destined, five-and-twenty
years later, to make Charles V declare that the sun never set on his
dominions.  In fact, these two sovereigns, on whom history has
bestowed the name of Catholic, had reconquered in succession nearly
all Spain, and driven the Moors out of Granada, their last
entrenchment; while two men of genius, Bartolome Diaz and Christopher
Columbus, had succeeded, much to the profit of Spain, the one in
recovering a lost world, the other in conquering a world yet unknown.
They had accordingly, thanks to their victories in the ancient world
and their discoveries in the new, acquired an influence at the court
of Rome which had never been enjoyed by any of their predecessors.

So much for Spain.

In France, Charles VIII had succeeded his father, Louis XI, on the
30th of August, 1483.  Louis by dint of executions, had tranquillised
his kingdom and smoothed the way for a child who ascended the throne
under the regency of a woman.  And the regency had been a glorious
one, and had put down the pretensions of princes of the blood, put an
end to civil wars, and united to the crown all that yet remained of
the great independent fiefs.  The result was that at the epoch where
we now are, here was Charles VIII, about twenty-two years of age, a
prince (if we are to believe La Tremouille) little of body but great
of heart; a child (if we are to believe Commines) only now making his
first flight from the nest, destitute of both sense and money, feeble
in person, full of self-will, and consorting rather with fools than
with the wise; lastly, if we are to believe Guicciardini, who was an
Italian, might well have brought a somewhat partial judgment to bear
upon the subject, a young man of little wit concerning the actions of
men, but carried away by an ardent desire for rule and the
acquisition of glory, a desire based far more on his shallow
character and impetuosity than on any consciousness of genius: he was
an enemy to all fatigue and all business, and when he tried to give
his attention to it he showed himself always totally wanting in
prudence and judgment.  If anything in him appeared at first sight to
be worthy of praise, on a closer inspection it was found to be
something nearer akin to vice than to virtue.  He was liberal, it is
true, but without thought, with no measure and no discrimination.  He
was sometimes inflexible in will; but this was through obstinacy
rather than a constant mind; and what his flatterers called goodness
deserved far more the name of insensibility to injuries or poverty of

As to his physical appearance, if we are to believe the same author,
it was still less admirable, and answered marvellously to his
weakness of mind and character.  He was small, with a large head, a
short thick neck, broad chest, and high shoulders; his thighs and
legs were long and thin; and as his face also was ugly--and was only
redeemed by the dignity and force of his glance--and all his limbs
were disproportionate with one another, he had rather the appearance
of a monster than a man.  Such was he whom Fortune was destined to
make a conqueror, for whom Heaven was reserving more glory than he
had power to carry.

So much for France.

The Imperial throne was occupied by Frederic III, who had been
rightly named the Peaceful, not for the reason that he had always
maintained peace, but because, having constantly been beaten, he had
always been forced to make it.  The first proof he had given of this
very philosophical forbearance was during his journey to Rome,
whither he betook himself to be consecrated.  In crossing the
Apennines he was attacked by brigands.  They robbed him, but he made
no pursuit.  And so, encouraged by example and by the impunity of
lesser thieves, the greater ones soon took part in the robberies.
Amurath seized part of Hungary.  Mathias Corvinus took Lower Austria,
and Frederic consoled himself for these usurpations by repeating the
maxim, Forgetfulness is the best cure for the losses we suffer.  At
the time we have now reached, he had just, after a reign of fifty-
three years, affianced his son Maximilian to Marie of Burgundy and
had put under the ban of the Empire his son-in-law, Albert of
Bavaria, who laid claim to the ownership of the Tyrol.  He was
therefore too full of his family affairs to be troubled about Italy.
Besides, he was busy looking for a motto for the house of Austria, an
occupation of the highest importance for a man of the character of
Frederic III.  This motto, which Charles V was destined almost to
render true, was at last discovered, to the great joy of the old
emperor, who, judging that he had nothing more to do on earth after
he had given this last proof of sagacity, died on the 19th of August,
1493; leaving the empire to his son Maximilian.

This motto was simply founded on the five vowels, a, e, i, o, u, the
initial letters of these five words


This means

"It is the destiny of Austria to rule over the whole world."

So much for Germany.

Now that we have cast a glance over the four nations which were on
the way, as we said before, to become European Powers, let us turn
our attention to those secondary States which formed a circle more
contiguous to Rome, and whose business it was to serve as armour, so
to speak, to the spiritual queen of the world, should it please any
of these political giants whom we have described to make
encroachments with a view to an attack, on the seas or the mountains,
the Adriatic Gulf or the Alps, the Mediterranean or the Apennines.

These were the kingdom of Naples, the duchy of Milan, the magnificent
republic of Florence, and the most serene republic of Venice.

The kingdom of Naples was in the hands of the old Ferdinand, whose
birth was not only illegitimate, but probably also well within the
prohibited degrees.  His father, Alfonso of Aragon, received his
crown from Giovanna of Naples, who had adopted him as her successor.
But since, in the fear of having no heir, the queen on her deathbed
had named two instead of one, Alfonso had to sustain his rights
against Rene.  The two aspirants for some time disputed the crown.
At last the house of Aragon carried the day over the house of Anjou,
and in the course of the year 1442, Alfonso definitely secured his
seat on the throne.  Of this sort were the claims of the defeated
rival which we shall see Charles VIII maintaining later on.
Ferdinand had neither the courage nor the genius of his father, and
yet he triumphed over his enemies, one after another he had two
rivals, both far superior in merit to him self.  The one was his
nephew, the Count of Viana, who, basing his claim on his uncle's
shameful birth, commanded the whole Aragonese party; the other was
Duke John of Calabria, who commanded the whole Angevin party.  Still
he managed to hold the two apart, and to keep himself on the throne
by dint of his prudence, which often verged upon duplicity.  He had a
cultivated mind, and had studied the sciences--above all, law.  He
was of middle height, with a large handsome head, his brow open and
admirably framed in beautiful white hair, which fell nearly down to
his shoulders.  Moreover, though he had rarely exercised his physical
strength in arms, this strength was so great that one day, when he
happened to be on the square of the Mercato Nuovo at Naples, he
seized by the horns a bull that had escaped and stopped him short, in
spite of all the efforts the animal made to escape from his hands.
Now the election of Alexander had caused him great uneasiness, and in

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