صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

and arms hung down and struck against the horse as it moved. Two men followed on foot, and all three came forward to the edge of the river. There the horseman turned his horse's tail to the stream, and his two followers took the body, one by the arms and the other by the legs; they swung it for a moment, and then threw it out into the river. When this was done the horseman asked if all was well, and being answered in the affirmative, turned round towards the river; and as the victim's cloak reappeared on the surface, he said a few words in a low voice to his companions, who threw stones at it till the body had disappeared. The unknown then turned back in the direction of the church of San Giacomo.

All Rome was roused to excitement, for Gandia had been loved by all. The different parties accused each other of the deed. First the Orsini were suspected, then Arcanio Sforza, and some arrests were made; but the accused were interrogated in a half-hearted way, for little by little the people began to whisper the name of Cæsar, though no one yet dared to name it aloud. Nine days after the murder, Alexander declared that he suspected some persons of high position:

"His Holiness," says a despatch of the Florentine envoy to the Signoria, "appears always absorbed in his search for the murderer; but this morning some trustworthy persons informed me that he now has sufficient evidence, and that he will confine himself to dissimulation to see whether he can, by his apparent indifference, quiet the fears of the criminals, and thus be able to detect them more easily. The general opinion is that they are persons of the highest position."

Twelve days later the truth begins to show more clearly. "It

is said that the Pope knows all, but that, for reasons I have already given, he will conceal his knowledge. Some are unwilling to believe it; one thing is certain, that his Holiness is taking no further steps; and all those around him hold the same opinion-he must know the truth." It is from external sources that the direct and formal accusation comes, for the same night the ambassadors, writing to the princes whom they represent, give the name of the actual murderer.

Once their despatches in the various collections of Italian State Papers have been deciphered, no doubt remains. Bracci, the Florentine envoy, hesitates for a moment. "He who has done the deed lacks neither talent nor courage, and, every way, must be recognised as a past-master." Soon, however, he hesitates no longer, though he still employs a periphrasis. As for Pigna, the envoy of the Duke of Ferrara, he writes the name of the young Borgia in so many words.

Cæsar remained impassible. He was about to start on his mission, but all the arrangements had been suspended. He had tried several times in vain to see the Pontiff, but from the 14th of June to the 22d of July the latter remained in seclusion. Meanwhile Naples was expecting its legate, and he set out at last accom

panied by the Master of the Ceremonies of the Pontifical chapel; and on the 1st of August 1497 the last king of the Aragonian dynasty, as he was destined to be, received the crown from the hands of the Cardinal of Valencia. On the 4th of September, Cæsar Borgia re-entered Rome in great state. Escorted by the greater number of the cardinals, he was conducted to the Sistine Chapel, where the Pope awaited him. The anxiety was unspeakable: all the princes of the Church who knew the secret

[graphic]

of the sanguinary mystery, and the ambassadors who had denounced the murderer to their masters, vied with each other in watching the scarlet-robed Cain advancing towards the old man whose heart he had broken. The Cardinal made a haughty inclination at the foot of the throne, and his father, with his heart still bleeding from the murder of Gandia, opened his arms in silence and coldly kissed him on the forehead. Then he turned away his eyes, and descended from the throne without saying a word to his son.- "Solo lo baccio," says Sanudo. "Non dixit verbum papæ Valentinus, nec Papa sibi, sed eo deosculato descendit de solio," says the 'Diarium' of the Master of the Ceremonies of the Pontifical Court.

A strange nature, that of Alexander VI.! In him the appetites of life, and the desire to raise his children still higher and higher, are the dominant influences. "His cares and anxieties do not last beyond a single night; he is not of a serious nature, and has no thought except for his own interests. His real ambition is to make his children great; he cares for nothing else. Nè d'altro ha cura."1 Barely a few months had passed when he seemed to have forgotten Gandia: he had done more than forgive his son, he had made himself his accomplice. He recognised in him an indomitable strength of character and a dogged resolution, joined to an immeasurable ambition, which he intended to employ for the realisation of his plans. The two were to make together for the same goal, the indefinite extension of the power of the Borgias. To reach this goal all manner of means would be employed-deceit, fraud, perjury, and even murder.

Lucrezia Borgia, four years

younger than her brother Cæsar, had married, at the age of sixteen, Giovanni Sforza, Lord of Pesaro, a cadet of the great family of the Dukes of Milan, but having little influence with them, and confined to his little lordship. Such an alliance was of no value to the Holy See in the struggles against the barons, and the still graver events which were preparing. Lucrezia, young, beautiful, and rich, whom the Pope had appointed regent on two different occasions, was to become a docile instrument in the hands of the Borgias. Torn by violent hands from the couch of her husband, to be thrown into the arms of a second, doomed to die in his turn should the course of events make the support of their new ally valuelessshe who brought misfortune to all who came near her would take her place, by a third marriage, while still young and beautiful, on a new throne with a more solid base, that of Ferrara.

The Borgias do not kill for the sake of killing; they aim at an end, and if they can reach it without shedding blood, they have patience. They demanded from Lucrezia's young husband a renunciation of his marriage, based on an avowal of impotence. Giovanni Sforza refused. Cæsar, like a thoughtful brother, had warned his sister, who in her turn exposed the conspiracy to her husband. The latter, under the pretext of a walk to San Onofrio, made his way to the gates of the city, and finding a horse there ready saddled, started off at full speed, and rode so fast to Pesaro that his horse fell down dead of fatigue. From Pesaro he issued a protest to all the sovereigns of Italy, and appealed to his cousin of Milan; but he was not to be victorious in the struggle. On

[graphic]

1 Narrative of the Venetian ambassador, Paolo Capello.

He

the 20th December 1497, Lucrezia Cæsar denied all participation was no longer his wife-a commis- in the crime. "I did not strike sion, under the presidency of two the Duke," he said to the Venecardinals, having attested the im- tian ambassador; "but if I had, potence of the husband as admitted he would have well deserved it." by himself; and six months to a He even had the audacity to visit day after this—on the 20th of June the wounded man, who was expect1498-the former lady of Pesaro ed to be soon out of danger; but was united to Alfonso, Duke of he was merely keeping an eye on Bisceglie, and nephew of the King his victim, for as he left the room of Naples "the handsomest young he was heard to mutter, "What man ever seen at Rome," says the is not done at noon can be done chronicler Talini. Lucrezia was by evening." Meanwhile Alfonso only eighteen, and her husband was recovering, though still weak hardly seventeen. She conceived and helpless, and Cæsar lost all paa real passion for Alfonso, and in tience. On the thirty-third day his arms forgot Pesaro, who there- of his illness he came and sat by upon published the terrible accusa- his brother-in-law's bedside. tion against the Borgias which still succeeded in getting rid of Lufinds its echo in history, accusing crezia and his sister-in-law, Donna them of having broken the ties be- Sancha, and then called in his tween him and Lucrezia in order creature Micheletto de Corella; to enjoy in peace the incestuous and this ruffian, the implacable favours of their daughter and sis- executor of Borgia's dark schemes, ter. Ten months later the second coldly and silently strangled the husband was already menaced, young prince in his bed. and, like his predecessor, fled from the Vatican. "He has left his wife far advanced in her pregnancy," says the Venetian ambassador, "and she does nothing but weep." He came back, however, yielding to the supplications of his wife and the promises of her father, and put off his guard at the same time by Cæsar's air of indifference. His son, too, the fruit of a passionate love, was soon to be born. But his security was short-lived, for his fate had been determined. One evening as he was coming back to the Vatican, masked assassins overwhelmed him with daggerthrusts on the very steps of St Peter's. Wounded in the head, the arm, and the thigh, Alfonso dragged himself, all bleeding, to the apartments of Lucrezia, who fell down in a swoon at the sight. He received the last absolution, and was considered as dead; but the attempt had failed, and must be begun over again. At first

What was the object of this new murder? What had happened? Since Lucrezia's last marriage the face of affairs had changed; the Pope had appeared before the Consistory, and had made his proposal for the secularisation of his son Cæsar, who, as he said, "only took orders against his will and under constraint." Caesar's emancipation was certain, for the decision of the Sacred College could be counted on. In fact, the Pope had actually anticipated it, and had already made proposals, on his son's part, for the hand of Carlotta of Aragon, daughter of the King of Naples. A whole vast intrigue was based on this union; but the king refused to marry Carlotta to priest, son of a priest." The Borgias never forgot the affront; the king's nephew, Alfonso, the husband of Lucrezia, paid for the refusal with his life, and King Frederick himself with the loss of his kingdom. The King of France,

a

[graphic]

Louis XII., who was approaching the Pope as a suitor, in face of this refusal, which concerned him too (for the proposal had been made through him), took upon himself to give the Vatican revenge for the insult of the house of Aragon. He had need of Alexander's assistance, and could not do without. him.

After the sudden death of Charles VIII., his successor, Louis XII., sought the hand of his widow, Anne of Brittany, who would bring him as her dowry the beauty which had attracted him, and the duchy of Brittany which he coveted. But he required a papal dispensation to gain his end, on account of the close ties of relationship which connected him with Queen Anne. This was the foundation of a vast conspiracy between the Vatican and the Court of France. Louis XII. was to take up again the unsuccessful scheme of Charles VIII.-that is to say, the conquest of the kingdom of Naples and the invasion of the Milanese territory; and at the same time, the Vatican, which had already triumphed over the Roman barons and destroyed their feudal authority, would bring beneath the sway of the Church all the lordships of the shore of the Adriatic, which had obtained their freedom. To gain this end, the King of France would lend the Vatican the support of the French lances, and in return, the Vatican was to clear the road to the kingdom of Naples for him, and grant the necessary dispensation for the marriage; while by a secret convention the king bound himself to give Cæsar Borgia (failing the hand of Carlotta of Aragon) the hand of another royal princess brought up at the Court of France.

The king was also to convert the county of Valence in Dauphiné into a duchy with an annual income attached to it, so that Cæsar Borgia, Cardinal of Valencia in Spain, might, on re-entering life as a layman, exchange his title of Prince of the Church for that of Duke of Valentinois.1 Cæsar was to have in addition the collar of the Order of St Michael, and twenty thousand livres a-year as dowry; he was to come to France to consummate the marriage and assist the king in all his projects, and for this purpose was to receive a thousand French lances to employ in his own service. Should the king recover the duchy of Milan, he was also to invest Cæsar with the county of Asti. Everything was ready. Villeneuve, the ambassador who carried the ducal patent, had already arrived at Cività Vecchia; the consent of the Sacred College, which had not yet pronounced upon the young Cardinal's demand of secularisation, alone was wanting. The Consistory had assembled, and was about to give its decision. But Spain, in the meantime, had penetrated the secret of this intrigue, and counted on the votes of the cardinals who were in the interest of the Catholic sovereigns, to arrest it, for she foresaw a danger to Aragon, Naples, and Castile in Cæsar Borgia becoming a layman and the ally of France. The Spanish ambassador, Garcilaso, therefore imposed his veto in the name of his sovereign. But here Alexander VI., feeling that he was losing ground, produced a triumphant argument"the private life of the Cardinal of Valencia is a subject of scandal, and his secularisation is for the salvation of his soul." Besides this there was another unanswer

1 That is, the country round Valence,-Translator's note,

able argument; by renouncing his title, Cæsar renounced his benefices, and 35,000 florins of gold would fall in a grateful shower on the cardinals who supported the Holy See. This was the finishing touch; the vote was secured, and the French ambassador passed the gates of Rome and gave the royal letters patent into the Pope's hands. Next spring Cæsar, as a prince of France and husband of Charlotte d'Albret, daughter of the King of Navarre, would impale the lilies of France with the bull gules of the Borgias.

The end was attained at last; from this time it is easy to understand the plan conceived by the two Borgias, and to penetrate the reasons of the crimes which Cæsar had already committed, or was to commit later. Not one of his deeds resulted from hasty passion or spontaneous anger; each is one link of a chain in a well-defined scheme. Indeed it is this element of premeditation which makes the Duke of Valentinois a great historical character, in spite of all that he had to leave unfinished. A master of fence from his youth upward, he announced the blows he was going to strike, and he struck. He had sketched out the programme of his brief and romantic career, and he carried it out up to the day of his father's sudden and awful death, when all Italy made common cause with Spain to hunt down the baffled adventurer, to capture him by treachery, and to crush him as the author of crime and disorder. At an early age the Pope's son had understood that he was never to wear the tiara. Yet though thus condemned to the second place, he aspired to the first; that is known and admitted-even he himself proclaimed it, and he has left a palpable and

VOL. CXLII.-NO. DCCCLXVI.

irrefutable proof of it. On an occasion unparalleled in the life of a prince of the Church, the day his father had deputed him to crown King Ferdinand of Naples, he had engraved on the sword of state which was to be carried before him, as the emblem of the temporal power, the great deeds of the Roman Cæsar, with this motto

CUM NUMINE CÆSARIS OMEN.

It was by no accident that he had received at his baptism the name of a conqueror which has become in course of time the actual title borne by those who wield the supreme power; to him it seemed a fortunate presage. With Cæsar as his patron, under his auspices, he threw himself into life, keeping his eyes fixed on the hero to whom his thoughts always reverted. He had taken for his motto, "Aut Cæsar aut nihil." Like Cæsar, he would pass the Rubicon (not figuratively, but in reality, at the head of his troops); like him, he would traverse Rome in triumph on an antique chariot, clad in chlamys and breastplate, with his head wreathed with green laurel, amidst the acclamations of the people.

We have seen him at the beginning confined within the narrow sphere of the Church; we have seen him break out of it by violence, destroy all obstacles, even at the price of horrible crimes, and pick up the sword which had fallen from the hands of his brother, the Captain-General of the Church. From a general he will become a duke; once duke, he must be king,-"Aut Cæsar aut nihil."

The Cardinal of Valencia has made way for the Duke of Valentinois; we shall soon see him set out for the conquest of a kingdom. CHARLES YRIARTE.

3 L

« السابقةمتابعة »