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List Of Contents | Contents of The Borgias, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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spite of his usual prudence he had not been able to restrain himself
from saying before the bearer of the news that not only did he fail
to rejoice in this election, but also that he did not think that any
Christian could rejoice in it, seeing that Borgia, having always been
a bad man, would certainly make a bad pope.  To this he added that,
even were the choice an excellent one and such as would please
everybody else, it would be none the less fatal to the house of
Aragon, although Roderigo was born her subject and owed to her the
origin and progress of his fortunes; for wherever reasons of state
come in, the ties of blood and parentage are soon forgotten, and,
'a fortiori', relations arising from the obligations of nationality.

Thus, one may see that Ferdinand judged Alexander VI with his usual
perspicacity; this, however, did not hinder him, as we shall soon
perceive, from being the first to contract an alliance with him.

The duchy of Milan belonged nominally to John Galeazzo, grandson of
Francesco Sforza, who had seized it by violence on the 26th of
February, 1450, and bequeathed it to his son, Galeazzo Maria, father
of the young prince now reigning; we say nominally, because the real
master of the Milanese was at this period not the legitimate heir who
was supposed to possess it, but his uncle Ludovico, surnamed
'il Moro', because of the mulberry tree which he bore in his arms.
After being exiled with his two brothers, Philip who died of poison
in 1479, and Ascanio who became the cardinal, he returned to Milan
some days after the assassination of Galeazzo Maria, which took place
on the 26th of December 1476, in St.  Stephen's Church, and assumed
the regency for the young duke, who at that time was only eight years
old.  From now onward, even after his nephew had reached the age of
two-and-twenty, Ludovico continued to rule, and according to all
probabilities was destined to rule a long time yet; for, some days
after the poor young man had shown a desire to take the reins
himself, he had fallen sick, and it was said, and not in a whisper,
that he had taken one of those slow but mortal poisons of which
princes made so frequent a use at this period, that, even when a
malady was natural, a cause was always sought connected with some
great man's interests.  However it may have been, Ludovico had
relegated his nephew, now too weak to busy himself henceforward with
the affairs of his duchy, to the castle of Pavia, where he lay and
languished under the eyes of his wife Isabella, daughter of King
Ferdinand of Naples.

As to Ludovico, he was an ambitious man, full of courage and
astuteness, familiar with the sword and with poison, which he used
alternately, according to the occasion, without feeling any
repugnance or any predilection for either of them; but quite decided
to be his nephew's heir whether he died or lived.

Florence, although she had preserved the name of a republic, had
little by little lost all her liberties, and belonged in fact, if not
by right, to Piero dei Medici, to whom she had been bequeathed as a
paternal legacy by Lorenzo, as we have seen, at the risk of his
soul's salvation.

The son, unfortunately, was far from having the genius of his father:
he was handsome, it is true, whereas Lorenzo, on the contrary, was
remarkably ugly; he had an agreeable, musical voice, whereas Lorenzo
had always spoken through his nose; he was instructed in Latin and
Greek, his conversation was pleasant and easy, and he improvised
verses almost as well as the so-called Magnificent; but he was both
ignorant of political affairs and haughtily insolent in his behaviour
to those who had made them their study.  Added to this, he was an
ardent lover of pleasure, passionately addicted to women, incessantly
occupied with bodily exercises that should make him shine in their
eyes, above all with tennis, a game at which he very highly excelled:
he promised himself that, when the period of mourning was fast, he
would occupy the attention not only of Florence but of the whole of
Italy, by the splendour of his courts and the renown of his fetes.
Piero dei Medici had at any rate formed this plan; but Heaven decreed
otherwise.

As to the most serene republic of Venice, whose doge was Agostino
Barbarigo, she had attained, at the time we have reached, to her
highest degree of power and splendour.  From Cadiz to the Palus
Maeotis, there was no port that was not open to her thousand ships;
she possessed in Italy, beyond the coastline of the canals and the
ancient duchy of Venice, the provinces of Bergamo, Brescia, Crema,
Verona, Vicenza, and Padua; she owned the marches of Treviso, which
comprehend the districts of Feltre, Belluno, Cadore, Polesella of
Rovigo, and the principality of Ravenna; she also owned the Friuli,
except Aquileia; Istria, except Trieste; she owned, on the east side
of the Gulf, Zara, Spalatra, and the shore of Albania; in the Ionian
Sea, the islands of Zante and Corfu; in Greece, Lepanto and Patras;
in the Morea, Morone, Corone, Neapolis, and Argos; lastly, in the
Archipelago, besides several little towns and stations on the coast,
she owned Candia and the kingdom of Cyprus.

Thus from the mouth of the Po to the eastern extremity of the
Mediterranean, the most serene republic was mistress of the whole
coastline, and Italy and Greece seemed to be mere suburbs of Venice.

In the intervals of space left free between Naples, Milan, Florence,
and Venice, petty tyrants had arisen who exercised an absolute
sovereignty over their territories: thus the Colonnas were at Ostia
and at Nettuna, the Montefeltri at Urbino, the Manfredi at Faenza,
the Bentivogli at Bologna, the Malatesta family at Rimini, the
Vitelli at Citta di Castello, the Baglioni at Perugia, the Orsini at
Vicovaro, and the princes of Este at Ferrara.

Finally, in the centre of this immense circle, composed of great
Powers, of secondary States, and of little tyrannies, Rome was set on
high, the most exalted, yet the weakest of all, without influence,
without lands, without an army, without gold.  It was the concern of
the new pope to secure all this: let us see, therefore, what manner
of man was this Alexander VI, for undertaking and accomplishing such
a project.




CHAPTER III

RODERIGO LENZUOLO was barn at Valencia, in Spain, in 1430 or 1431,
and on his mother's side was descended, as some writers declare, of a
family of royal blood, which had cast its eyes on the tiara only
after cherishing hopes of the crowns of Aragon and Valencia.
Roderigo from his infancy had shown signs of a marvellous quickness
of mind, and as he grew older he exhibited an intelligence extremely
apt far the study of sciences, especially law and jurisprudence: the
result was that his first distinctions were gained in the law, a
profession wherein he soon made a great reputation by his ability in
the discussion of the most thorny cases.  All the same, he was not
slow to leave this career, and abandoned it quite suddenly far the
military profession, which his father had followed; but after various
actions which served to display his presence of mind and courage, he
was as much disgusted with this profession as with the other; and
since it happened that at the very time he began to feel this disgust
his father died, leaving a considerable fortune, he resolved to do no
more work, but to live according to his own fancies and caprices.
About this time he became the lover of a widow who had two daughters.
The widow dying, Roderigo took the girls under his protection, put
one into a convent, and as the other was one of the loveliest women
imaginable, made her his mistress.  This was the notorious Rosa
Vanozza, by whom he had five children--Francesco, Caesar, Lucrezia,
and Goffredo; the name of the fifth is unknown.

Roderigo, retired from public affairs, was given up entirely to the
affections of a lover and a father, when he heard that his uncle, who
loved him like a son, had been elected pope under the name of
Calixtus III.  But the young man was at this time so much a lover
that love imposed silence on ambition; and indeed he was almost
terrified at the exaltation of his uncle, which was no doubt destined
to force him once more into public life.  Consequently, instead of
hurrying to Rome, as anyone else in his place would have done, he was
content to indite to His Holiness a letter in which he begged for the
continuation of his favours, and wished him a long and happy reign.

This reserve on the part of one of his relatives, contrasted with the
ambitious schemes which beset the new pope at every step, struck
Calixtus III in a singular way: he knew the stuff that was in young
Roderigo, and at a time when he was besieged on all sides by
mediocrities, this powerful nature holding modestly aside gained new
grandeur in his eyes so he replied instantly to Roderigo that on the
receipt of his letter he must quit Spain for Italy, Valencia for
Rome.

This letter uprooted Roderigo from the centre of happiness he had
created for himself, and where he might perhaps have slumbered on
like an ordinary man, if fortune had not thus interposed to drag him
forcibly away.  Roderigo was happy, Roderigo was rich; the evil
passions which were natural to him had been, if not extinguished,--at
least lulled; he was frightened himself at the idea of changing the
quiet life he was leading for the ambitious, agitated career that was
promised him; and instead of obeying his uncle, he delayed the
preparations for departure, hoping that Calixtus would forget him.
It was not so: two months after he received the letter from the pope,
there arrived at Valencia a prelate from Rome, the bearer of
Roderigo's nomination to a benefice worth 20,000 ducats a year, and
also a positive order to the holder of the post to come and take
possession of his charge as soon as possible.

Holding back was no longer feasible: so Roderigo obeyed; but as he
did not wish to be separated from the source whence had sprung eight
years of happiness, Rosa Vanozza also left Spain, and while he was
going to Rome, she betook herself to Venice, accompanied by two

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