List Of Contents | Contents of The Borgias, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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people were complaining of the venality of justice, "God wills not
that a sinner die, but that he live and pay,"--that the capital of
the Christian world felt for one brief moment restored to the happy
days of the papacy.  So, at the end of a year, Alexander VI had
reconquered that spiritual credit, so to speak, which his
predecessors lost.  His political credit was still to be established,
if he was to carry out the first part of his gigantic scheme.  To
arrive at this, he must employ two agencies--alliances and conquests.
His plan was to begin with alliances.  The gentleman of Aragon who
had married Lucrezia when she was only the daughter of Cardinal
Roderigo Borgia was not a man powerful enough, either by birth and
fortune or by intellect, to enter with any sort of effect into the
plots and plans of Alexander VI; the separation was therefore changed
into a divorce, and Lucrezia Borgia was now free to remarry.
Alexander opened up two negotiations at the same time: he needed an
ally to keep a watch on the policy of the neighbouring States.  John
Sforza, grandson of Alexander Sforza, brother of the great Francis I,
Duke of Milan, was lord of Pesaro; the geographical situation of this
place, an the coast, on the way between Florence and Venice, was
wonderfully convenient for his purpose; so Alexander first cast an
eye upon him, and as the interest of both parties was evidently the
same, it came about that John Sforza was very soon Lucrezia's second

At the same time overtures had been made to Alfonso of Aragon, heir
presumptive to the crown of Naples, to arrange a marriage between
Dana Sancia, his illegitimate daughter, and Goffreda, the pope's
third son; but as the old Ferdinand wanted to make the best bargain
he could out of it; he dragged on the negotiations as long as
possible, urging that the two children were not of marriageable age,
and so, highly honoured as he felt in such a prospective alliance,
there was no hurry about the engagement.  Matters stopped at this
point, to the great annoyance of Alexander VI, who saw through this
excuse, and understood that the postponement was nothing more or less
than a refusal.  Accordingly Alexander and Ferdinand remained in
statu quo, equals in the political game, both on the watch till
events should declare for one or other.  The turn of fortune was for

Italy, though tranquil, was instinctively conscious that her calm was
nothing but the lull which goes before a storm.  She was too rich and
too happy to escape the envy of other nations.  As yet the plains of
Pisa had not been reduced to marsh-lands by the combined negligence
and jealousy of the Florentine Republic, neither had the rich country
that lay around Rome been converted into a barren desert by the wars
of the Colonna and Orsini families; not yet had the Marquis of
Marignan razed to the ground a hundred and twenty villages in the
republic of Siena alone; and though the Maremma was unhealthy, it was
not yet a poisonous marsh: it is a fact that Flavio Blando, writing
in 1450, describes Ostia as being merely less flourishing than in the
days of the Romans, when she had numbered 50,000 inhabitants, whereas
now in our own day there are barely 30 in all.

The Italian peasants were perhaps the most blest on the face of the
earth: instead of living scattered about the country in solitary
fashion, they lived in villages that were enclosed by walls as a
protection for their harvests, animals, and farm implements; their
houses--at any rate those that yet stand--prove that they lived in
much more comfortable and beautiful surroundings than the ordinary
townsman of our day.  Further, there was a community of interests,
and many people collected together in the fortified villages, with
the result that little by little they attained to an importance never
acquired by the boorish French peasants or the German serfs; they
bore arms, they had a common treasury, they elected their own
magistrates, and whenever they went out to fight, it was to save
their common country.

Also commerce was no less flourishing than agriculture; Italy at this
period was rich in industries--silk, wool, hemp, fur, alum, sulphur,
bitumen; those products which the Italian soil could not bring forth
were imported, from the Black Sea, from Egypt, from Spain, from
France, and often returned whence they came, their worth doubled by
labour and fine workmanship.  The rich man brought his merchandise,
the poor his industry: the one was sure of finding workmen, the other
was sure of finding work.

Art also was by no means behindhand : Dante, Giotto, Brunelleschi,
and Donatello were dead, but Ariosto, Raphael, Bramante, and Michael
Angelo were now living.  Rome, Florence, and Naples had inherited the
masterpieces of antiquity; and the manuscripts of AEschylus,
Sophocles, and Euripides had come (thanks to the conquest of Mahomet
II) to rejoin the statue of Xanthippus and the works of Phidias and
Praxiteles.  The principal sovereigns of Italy had come to
understand, when they let their eyes dwell upon the fat harvests, the
wealthy villages, the flourishing manufactories, and the marvellous
churches, and then compared with them the poor and rude nations of
fighting men who surrounded them on all sides, that some day or other
they were destined to become for other countries what America was for
Spain, a vast gold-mine for them to work.  In consequence of this, a
league offensive and defensive had been signed, about 1480, by
Naples, Milan, Florence, and Ferrara, prepared to take a stand
against enemies within or without, in Italy or outside.  Ludovico
Sforza, who was more than anyone else interested in maintaining this
league, because he was nearest to France, whence the storm seemed to
threaten, saw in the new pope's election means not only of
strengthening the league, but of making its power and unity
conspicuous in the sight of Europe.


On the occasion of each new election to the papacy, it is the custom
for all the Christian States to send a solemn embassy to Rome, to
renew their oath of allegiance to the Holy Father.  Ludovico Sforza
conceived the idea that the ambassadors of the four Powers should
unite and make their entry into Rome on the same day, appointing one
of their envoy, viz. the representative of the King of Naples, to be
spokesman for all four.  Unluckily, this plan did not agree with the
magnificent projects of Piero dei Medici.  That proud youth, who had
been appointed ambassador of the Florentine Republic, had seen in the
mission entrusted to him by his fellow-citizens the means of making a
brilliant display of his own wealth.  From the day of his nomination
onwards, his palace was constantly filled with tailors, jewellers,
and merchants of priceless stuffs; magnificent clothes had been made
for him, embroidered with precious stones which he had selected from
the family treasures.  All his jewels, perhaps the richest in Italy,
were distributed about the liveries of his pages, and one of them,
his favourite, was to wear a collar of pearls valued by itself at
100,000 ducats, or almost, a million of our francs.  In his party the
Bishop of Arezzo, Gentile, who had once been Lorenzo dei Medici's
tutor, was elected as second ambassador, and it was his duty to
speak.  Now Gentile, who had prepared his speech, counted on his
eloquence to charm the ear quite as much as Piero counted on his
riches to dazzle the eye.  But the eloquence of Gentile would be lost
completely if nobody was to speak but the ambassador of the King of
Naples; and the magnificence of Piero dei Medici would never be
noticed at all if he went to Rome mixed up with all the other
ambassadors.  These two important interests, compromised by the Duke
of Milan's proposition, changed the whole face of Italy.

Ludovico Sforza had already made sure of Ferdinand's promise to
conform to the plan he had invented, when the old king, at the
solicitation of Piero, suddenly drew back.  Sforza found out how this
change had come about, and learned that it was Piero's influence that
had overmastered his own.  He could not disentangle the real motives
that had promised the change, and imagined there was some secret
league against himself: he attributed the changed political programme
to the death of Lorenzo dei Medici.  But whatever its cause might be,
it was evidently prejudicial to his own interests: Florence, Milan's
old ally, was abandoning her for Naples.  He resolved to throw a
counter weight into the scales; so, betraying to Alexander the policy
of Piero and Ferdinand, he proposed to form a defensive and offensive
alliance with him and admit the republic of Venice; Duke Hercules III
of Ferrara was also to be summoned to pronounce for one or other of
the two leagues.  Alexander VI, wounded by Ferdinand's treatment of
himself, accepted Ludovico Sforza's proposition, and an Act of
Confederation was signed on the 22nd of April, 1493, by which the new
allies pledged themselves to set on foot for the maintenance of the
public peace an army of 20,000 horse and 6,000 infantry.

Ferdinand was frightened when he beheld the formation of this league;
but he thought he could neutralise its effects by depriving Ludovico
Sforza of his regency, which he had already kept beyond the proper
time, though as yet he was not strictly an usurper.  Although the
young Galeazzo, his nephew, had reached the age of two-and-twenty,
Ludovico Sforza none the less continued regent.  Now Ferdinand
definitely proposed to the Duke of Milan that he should resign the
sovereign power into the hands of his nephew, on pain of being
declared an usurper.

This was a bold stroke; but there was a risk of inciting Ludovico
Sforza to start one of those political plots that he was so familiar
with, never recoiling from any situation, however dangerous it might
be.  This was exactly what happened: Sforza, uneasy about his duchy,
resolved to threaten Ferdinand's kingdom.

Nothing could be easier: he knew the warlike nations of Charles VIII,
and the pretensions of the house of France to the kingdom of Naples.

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