List Of Contents | Contents of The Borgias, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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Pentecost was spent in such worthy functions, the celebrations of the
coming of the Holy Ghost on the following day were no less decorous
and becoming to the spirit of the Church; for thus writes the master
of the ceremonies in his journal:

"'The pope made his entry into the Church of the Holy Apostles, and
beside him on the marble steps of the pulpit where the canons of St.
Peter are wont to chant the Epistle and Gospel, sat Lucrezia his
daughter and Sancia his son's wife: round about them, a disgrace to
the Church and a public scandal, were grouped a number of other Roman
ladies far more fit to dwell in Messalina's city than in St.

So at Rome and Naples did men slumber while ruin was at hand; so did
they waste their time and squander their money in a vain display of
pride; and this was going on while the French, thoroughly alive, were
busy laying hands upon the torches with which they would presently
set Italy on fire.

Indeed, the designs of Charles VIII for conquest were no longer for
anybody a matter of doubt.  The young king had sent an embassy to the
various Italian States, composed of Perrone dei Baschi, Brigonnet,
d'Aubigny, and the president of the Provencal Parliament.  The
mission of this embassy was to demand from the Italian princes their
co-operation in recovering the rights of the crown of Naples for the
house of Anjou.

The embassy first approached the Venetians, demanding aid and counsel
for the king their master.  But the Venetians, faithful to their
political tradition, which had gained for them the sobriquet of "the
Jews of Christendom," replied that they were not in a position to
give any aid to the young king, so long as they had to keep
ceaselessly on guard against the Turks; that, as to advice, it would
be too great a presumption in them to give advice to a prince who was
surrounded by such experienced generals and such able ministers.

Perrone dei Baschi, when he found he could get no other answer, next
made for Florence.  Piero dei Medici received him at a grand council,
for he summoned on this occasion not only the seventy, but also the
gonfalonieri who had sat for the last thirty-four years in the
Signoria.  The French ambassador put forward his proposal, that the
republic should permit their army to pass through her States, and
pledge herself in that case to supply for ready money all the
necessary victual and fodder.  The magnificent republic replied that
if Charles VIII had been marching against the Turks instead of
against Ferdinand, she would be only too ready to grant everything he
wished; but being bound to the house of Aragon by a treaty, she could
not betray her ally by yielding to the demands of the King of France.

The ambassadors next turned their steps to Siena.  The poor little
republic, terrified by the honour of being considered at all, replied
that it was her desire to preserve a strict neutrality, that she was
too weak to declare beforehand either for or against such mighty
rivals, for she would naturally be obliged to join the stronger
party.  Furnished with this reply, which had at least the merit of
frankness, the French envoys proceeded to Rome, and were conducted
into the pope's presence, where they demanded the investiture of the
kingdom of Naples for their king.

Alexander VI replied that, as his predecessors had granted this
investiture to the house of Aragon, he could not take it away, unless
it were first established that the house of Anjou had a better claim
than the house that was to be dispossessed.  Then he represented to
Perrone dei Baschi that, as Naples was a fief of the Holy See, to the
pope alone the choice of her sovereign properly belonged, and that in
consequence to attack the reigning sovereign was to attack the Church

The result of the embassy, we see, was not very promising for Charles
VIII; so he resolved to rely on his ally Ludovico Sforza alone, and
to relegate all other questions to the fortunes of war.

A piece of news that reached him about this time strengthened him in
this resolution: this was the death of Ferdinand.  The old king had
caught a severe cold and cough on his return from the hunting field,
and in two days he was at his last gasp.  On the 25th of January,
1494, he passed away, at the age of seventy, after a thirty-six
years' reign, leaving the throne to his elder son, Alfonso, who was
immediately chosen as his successor.

Ferdinand never belied his title of "the happy ruler."  His death
occurred at the very moment when the fortune of his family was

The new king, Alfonso, was not a novice in arms: he had already
fought successfully against Florence and Venice, and had driven the
Turks out of Otranto; besides, he had the name of being as cunning as
his father in the tortuous game of politics so much in vogue at the
Italian courts.  He did not despair of counting among his allies the
very enemy he was at war with when Charles VIII first put forward his
pretensions, we mean Bajazet II.  So he despatched to Bajazet one of
his confidential ministers, Camillo Pandone, to give the Turkish
emperor to understand that the expedition to Italy was to the King of
France nothing but a blind for approaching the scene of Mahomedan
conquests, and that if Charles VIII were once at the Adriatic it
would only take him a day or two to get across and attack Macedonia;
from there he could easily go by land to Constantinople.
Consequently he suggested that Bajazet for the maintenance of their
common interests should supply six thousand horse and six thousand
infantry; he himself would furnish their pay so long as they were in
Italy.  It was settled that Pandone should be joined at Tarentum by
Giorgia Bucciarda, Alexander VI's envoy, who was commissioned by the
pope to engage the Turks to help him against the Christians.  But
while he was waiting for Bajazet's reply, which might involve a delay
of several months, Alfonso requested that a meeting might take place
between Piero dei Medici, the pope, and himself, to take counsel
together about important affairs.  This meeting was arranged at
Vicovaro, near Tivoli, and the three interested parties duly met on
the appointed day.

The intention of Alfonso, who before leaving Naples had settled the
disposition of his naval forces, and given his brother Frederic the
command of a fleet that consisted of thirty-six galleys, eighteen
large and twelve small vessels, with injunctions to wait at Livorno
and keep a watch on the fleet Charles VIII was getting ready at the
port of Genoa, was above all things to check with the aid of his
allies the progress of operations on land.  Without counting the
contingent he expected his allies to furnish, he had at his immediate
disposal a hundred squadrons of heavy cavalry, twenty men in each,
and three thousand bowmen and light horse.  He proposed, therefore,
to advance at once into Lombardy, to get up a revolution in favour of
his nephew Galeazzo, and to drive Ludovico Sforza out of Milan before
he could get help from France; so that Charles VIII, at the very time
of crossing the Alps, would find an enemy to fight instead of a
friend who had promised him a safe passage, men, and money.

This was the scheme of a great politician and a bold commander; but
as everybody had came in pursuit of his own interests, regardless of
the common this plan was very coldly received by Piero dei Medici,
who was afraid lest in the war he should play only the same poor part
he had been threatened with in the affair of the embassy; by
Alexander VI it was rejected, because he reckoned on employing the
troops of Alfonso an his own account.  He reminded the King of Naples
of one of the conditions of the investiture he had promised him, viz.
that he should drive out the Cardinal Giuliano delta Rovere from the
town of Ostia, and give up the town to him, according to the
stipulation already agreed upon.  Besides, the advantages that had
accrued to Virginio Orsini, Alexander's favourite, from his embassy
to Naples had brought upon him the ill-will of Prospero and Fabrizio
Colonna, who owned nearly all the villages round about Rome.  Now the
pope could not endure to live in the midst of such powerful enemies,
and the most important matter was to deliver him from all of them,
seeing that it was really of moment that he should be at peace who
was the head and soul of the league whereof the others were only the
body and limbs.

Although Alfonso had clearly seen through the motives of Piero's
coldness, and Alexander had not even given him the trouble of seeking
his, he was none the less obliged to bow to the will of his allies,
leaving the one to defend the Apennines against the French, and
helping the other to shake himself free of his neighbours in the
Romagna.  Consequently he, pressed on the siege of Ostia, and added
to Virginio's forces, which already amounted to two hundred men of
the papal army, a body of his own light horse; this little army was
to be stationed round about Rome, and was to enforce obedience from
the Colonnas.  The rest of his troops Alfonso divided into two
parties: one he left in the hands of his son Ferdinand, with orders
to scour the Romagna and worry, the petty princes into levying and
supporting the contingent they had promised, while with the other he
himself defended the defiles of the Abruzzi.

On the 23rd of April, at three o'clock in the morning, Alexander VI
was freed from the first and fiercest of his foes; Giuliano delta
Rovere, seeing the impossibility of holding out any longer against
Alfonso's troops, embarked on a brigantine which was to carry him to

>From that day forward Virginio Orsini began that famous partisan
warfare which reduced the country about Rome to the most pathetic
desolation the world has ever seen.  During all this time Charles
VIII was at Lyons, not only uncertain as to the route he ought to
take for getting into Italy, but even beginning to reflect a little
on the chances and risks of such an expedition.  He had found no
sympathy anywhere except with Ludovico Sforza; so it appeared not

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