List Of Contents | Contents of The Borgias, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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confidential servants, and under the protection of a Spanish
gentleman named Manuel Melchior.

Fortune kept the promises she had made to Roderigo: the pope received
him as a son, and made him successively Archbishop of Valencia,
Cardinal-Deacon, and Vice-Chancellor.  To all these favours Calixtus
added a revenue of 20,000 ducats, so that at the age of scarcely
thirty-five Roderigo found himself the equal of a prince in riches
and power.

Roderigo had had some reluctance about accepting the cardinalship,
which kept him fast at Rome, and would have preferred to be General
of the Church, a position which would have allowed him more liberty
for seeing his mistress and his family; but his uncle Calixtus made
him reckon with the possibility of being his successor some day, and
from that moment the idea of being the supreme head of kings and
nations took such hold of Roderigo, that he no longer had any end in
view but that which his uncle had made him entertain.

>From that day forward, there began to grow up in the young cardinal
that talent for hypocrisy which made of him the most perfect
incarnation of the devil that has perhaps ever existed; and Roderigo
was no longer the same man: with words of repentance and humility on
his lips, his head bowed as though he were bearing the weight of his
past sins, disparaging the riches which he had acquired and which,
according to him, were the wealth of the poor and ought to return to
the poor, he passed his life in churches, monasteries, and hospitals,
acquiring, his historian tells us, even in the eyes of his enemies,
the reputation of a Solomon for wisdom, of a Job for patience, and of
a very Moses for his promulgation of the word of God: Rosa Vanozza
was the only person in the world who could appreciate the value of
this pious cardinal's conversion.

It proved a lucky thing for Roderiga that he had assumed this pious
attitude, for his protector died after a reign of three years three
months and nineteen days, and he was now sustained by his own merit
alone against the numerous enemies he had made by his rapid rise to
fortune: so during the whole of the reign of Pius II he lived always
apart from public affairs, and only reappeared in the days of Sixtus
IV, who made him the gift of the abbacy of Subiaco, and sent him in
the capacity of ambassador to the kings of Aragon and Portugal.  On
his return, which took place during the pontificate of Innocent VIII,
he decided to fetch his family at last to Rome: thither they came,
escorted by Don Manuel Melchior, who from that moment passed as the
husband of Rosa Vanozza, and took the name of Count Ferdinand of
Castile.  The Cardinal Roderigo received the noble Spaniard as a
countryman and a friend; and he, who expected to lead a most retired
life, engaged a house in the street of the Lungara, near the church
of Regina Coeli, on the banks of the Tiber.  There it was that, after
passing the day in prayers and pious works, Cardinal Roderigo used to
repair each evening and lay aside his mask.  And it was said, though
nobody could prove it, that in this house infamous scenes passed:
Report said the dissipations were of so dissolute a character that
their equals had never been seen in Rome.  With a view to checking
the rumours that began to spread abroad, Roderigo sent Caesar to
study at Pisa, and married Lucrezia to a young gentleman of Aragon;
thus there only remained at home Rosa Vanozza and her two sons: such
was the state of things when Innocent VIII died and Roderigo Borgia
was proclaimed pope.

We have seen by what means the nomination was effected; and so the
five cardinals who had taken no part in this simony--namely, the
Cardinals of Naples, Sierra, Portugal, Santa Maria-in-Porticu, and
St. Peter-in-Vinculis--protested loudly against this election, which
they treated as a piece of jobbery; but Roderigo had none the less,
however it was done, secured his majority; Roderigo was none the less
the two hundred and sixtieth successor of St. Peter.

Alexander VI, however, though he had arrived at his object, did not
dare throw off at first the mask which the Cardinal Bargia had worn
so long, although when he was apprised of his election he could not
dissimulate his joy; indeed, on hearing the favourable result of the
scrutiny, he lifted his hands to heaven and cried, in the accents of
satisfied ambition, "Am I then pope?  Am I then Christ's vicar?  Am I
then the keystone of the Christian world?"

"Yes, holy father," replied Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, the same who had
sold to Roderigo the nine votes that were at his disposal at the
Conclave for four mules laden with silver; "and we hope by your
election to give glory to God, repose to the Church, and joy to
Christendom, seeing that you have been chosen by the Almighty Himself
as the most worthy among all your brethren."

But in the short interval occupied by this reply, the new pope had
already assumed the papal authority, and in a humble voice and with
hands crossed upon his breast, he spoke:

"We hope that God will grant us His powerful aid, in spite of our
weakness, and that He will do for us that which He did for the
apostle when aforetime He put into his hands the keys of heaven and
entrusted to him the government of the Church, a government which
without the aid of God would prove too heavy a burden for mortal man;
but God promised that His Spirit should direct him; God will do the
same, I trust, for us; and for your part we fear not lest any of you
fail in that holy obedience which is due unto the head of the Church,
even as the flock of Christ was bidden to follow the prince of the

Having spoken these words, Alexander donned the pontifical robes, and
through the windows of the Vatican had strips of paper thrown out on
which his name was written in Latin.  These, blown by the wind,
seemed to convey to the whole world the news of the great event which
was about to change the face of Italy.  The same day couriers started
far all the courts of Europe.

Caesar Borgia learned the news of his father's election at the
University of Pisa, where he was a student.  His ambition had
sometimes dreamed of such good fortune, yet his joy was little short
of madness.  He was then a young man, about twenty-two or twenty-four
years of age, skilful in all bodily exercises, and especially in
fencing; he could ride barebacked the most fiery steeds, could cut
off the head of a bull at a single sword-stroke; moreover, he was
arrogant, jealous, and insincere.  According to Tammasi, he was great
among the godless, as his brother Francesco was good among the great.
As to his face, even contemporary authors have left utterly different
descriptions; for same have painted him as a monster of ugliness,
while others, on the contrary, extol his beauty.  This contradiction
is due to the fact that at certain times of the year, and especially
in the spring, his face was covered with an eruption which, so long
as it lasted, made him an object of horror and disgust, while all the
rest of the year he was the sombre, black-haired cavalier with pale
skin and tawny beard whom Raphael shows us in the fine portrait he
made of him.  And historians, both chroniclers and painters, agree as
to his fixed and powerful gaze, behind which burned a ceaseless
flame, giving to his face something infernal and superhuman.  Such
was the man whose fortune was to fulfil all his desires.  He had
taken for his motto, 'Aut Caesar, aut nihil': Caesar or nothing.

Caesar posted to Rome with certain of his friends, and scarcely was
he recognised at the gates of the city when the deference shown to
him gave instant proof of the change in his fortunes: at the Vatican
the respect was twice as great; mighty men bowed down before him as
before one mightier than themselves.  And so, in his impatience, he
stayed not to visit his mother or any other member of his family, but
went straight to the pope to kiss his feet; and as the pope had been
forewarned of his coming, he awaited him in the midst of a brilliant
and numerous assemblage of cardinals, with the three other brothers
standing behind him.  His Holiness received Caesar with a gracious
countenance; still, he did not allow himself any demonstration of his
paternal love, but, bending towards him, kissed him an the forehead,
and inquired how he was and how he had fared on his journey.  Caesar
replied that he was wonderfully well, and altogether at the service
of His Holiness: that, as to the journey, the trifling inconveniences
and short fatigue had been compensated, and far mare than
compensated, by the joy which he felt in being able to adore upon the
papal throne a pope who was so worthy.  At these words, leaving
Caesar still on his knees, and reseating himself--for he had risen
from his seat to embrace him--the pope assumed a grave and composed
expression of face, and spoke as follows, loud enough to be heard by
all, and slowly enough far everyone present to be able to ponder and
retain in his memory even the least of his words:

"We are convinced, Caesar, that you are peculiarly rejoiced in
beholding us on this sublime height, so far above our deserts,
whereto it has pleased the Divine goodness to exalt us.  This joy of
yours is first of all our due because of the love we have always
borne you and which we bear you still, and in the second place is
prompted by your own personal interest, since henceforth you may feel
sure of receiving from our pontifical hand those benefits which your
own good works shall deserve.  But if your joy--and this we say to
you as we have even now said to your brothers--if your joy is founded
on ought else than this, you are very greatly mistaken, Caesar, and
you will find yourself sadly deceived. Perhaps we have been
ambitious--we confess this humbly before the face of all men--
passionately and immoderately ambitious to attain to the dignity of
sovereign pontiff, and to reach this end we have followed every path
that is open to human industry; but we have acted thus, vowing an
inward vow that when once we had reached our goal, we would follow no

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