CHAPTER VIII: Escape and Death of Caesar

Lucretia Borgia

CHAPTER VIII: Escape and Death of Caesar

翻訳:John Leslie Garner
引用サイト:The Project Gutenberg

 It was at the time of this great tragedy in Ferrara, which must have vividly reminded Lucretia of her own experiences in the papal city, that Julius II left Rome for the purpose of carrying out his bold plans for reestablishing the pontifical states by driving out the tyrants who had succeeded in escaping Caesar's sword. Alfonso, as a vassal of the Church, sent him some troops, but he did not take part personally in the expedition. Guidobaldo of Urbino, who had adopted Francesco Maria Rovere as his son and heir, and the Marchese Gonzaga served in the army of Julius II. September 12, 1506, the Pope entered Perugia, whose tyrants, the Baglioni, surrendered. November 11th he made his entry into Bologna, Giovanni Bentivoglio and his wife Ginevra having fled with their children. There Julius halted, casting longing looks at Romagna, formerly Caesar's domain, but now occupied by the Venetian army.

 It is a curious coincidence that it was at this very moment that the Duke of Romagna, who had vanished from the stage, again appeared. In November Lucretia received news that her brother had escaped from his prison in Spain, and she immediately communicated the fact to the Marchese Gonzaga, who, as field marshal of the Church, was in Bologna.

 In the record of her household expenses, under date of November 20, 1506, there is the following entry: A Garzia Spagnolo per andare a Venezia per la nova del Duca Valentino che era fugito de progione. November 27, she wrote to Gonzaga.

 Lucretia had frequently exerted herself to secure Caesar's freedom and had remained in constant communication with him by messenger. Her petitions, however, had produced no effect upon the King of Spain. Finally, owing to favorable circumstances, Caesar succeeded in effecting his escape. Zurita says that Ferdinand the Catholic intended to remove him from his prison in the spring of 1506 to Aragon, and then to take him to Naples, whither he was going to place the affairs of the kingdom in order, and to assure himself of Gonsalvo, whose loyalty he suspected. His son-in-law, the Archduke Philip, with whom he was at variance on account of his pretensions to the kingdom of Castile, refused to allow Caesar to be released from Medina, a Castilian place. While Ferdinand was absent on his journey, Philip died at Burgos, September 5, 1506, and Caesar took advantage of this opportunity and the king's absence to escape. This he did with the help of the Castilian party, who hoped to profit by the services of the famous condottiere.

 October 25th he escaped from the castle of Medina to the estates of the Count of Benavente, where he remained. Some of the barons who wished to place the government of Castile in the hands of Maximilian, Philip's father, were anxious to send him to Flanders as their messenger to the emperor's court. As this plan fell through, Caesar betook himself to Pamplona to his brother-in-law, the King of Navarre, who had become embroiled in this Castilian intrigue and was at war with his rebellious constable the Count of Lerin.

 From that place Caesar wrote the Marchese of Mantua, and this is the last letter written by him which has been discovered.

 Illustrious Prince: I inform you that after innumerable disappointments it has pleased God, our Master, to free me and to release me from prison. How this happened you will learn from my secretary Federigo, the bearer. May this, by God's never-failing mercy, redound to his great service. At present I am with the illustrious King and Queen of Navarre in Pamplona, where I arrived December 3d, as your Majesty will learn from the above-named Federigo, who will also inform you of all that has occurred. You may believe whatever he tells you in my name, just as if I myself were speaking to you.

 I commend myself to your Excellency forever. From Pamplona, December 7, 1506. Your Majesty's friend and younger brother,


 The letter has a wafer bearing the combined arms of Caesar with the inscription Caesar Borgia de Francia Dux Romandiolæ. One shield has the Borgia arms, with the French lilies, and a helmet from which seven snarling dragons issue; the other the arms of Caesar's wife, with the lilies of France, and a winged horse rising from the casque.

 Caesar's secretary reached Ferrara the last day of December. This same Federigo had been in that city once before, —during July of the year 1506, and had been sent back to Spain by the duchess.

 Record of Lucretia's household expenses for the year 1506 (Archives of Modena): July 31, 1506, a Federigo Cancelliere del Duca Valentino per andare per le poste in Spagna dal Duca.

He now returned to Italy, not for the purpose of bringing the news of his master's escape, but to learn how matters stood and to ascertain whether there was any prospect of restoring the Duke of Romagna. His majordomo, Requesenz, who was in Ferrara in January, had come for the same purpose. No time, however, could have been less favorable for such schemes than the year 1506, for Julius II had just taken possession of Bologna. The Marchese Gonzaga, upon whose good will Caesar still reckoned, was commander of the papal army, which—it was believed—was planning an expedition into the Romagna. This was the only country where there was the slightest possibility of Caesar's succeeding in reacquiring his power, for his good government had left a favorable impression on the Romagnoles, who would have preferred his authority to that of the Church. Zurita, the historian of Aragon, is correct when he says:"Caesar's escape caused the Pope great anxiety, for the duke was a man who would not have hesitated to throw all Italy in turmoil for the purpose of carrying out his own plans; he was greatly beloved, not only by the men of war, but also by many people in Ferrara and in the States of the Church—something which seldom falls to the lot of a tyrant."

 Caesar's messenger ventured to Bologna in spite of the presence of the Pope, and there the latter had him seized. This was reported to Lucretia, who immediately wrote to the Marchese of Gonzaga as follows:

 Illustrious Brother-in-Law and Honored Brother: I have just learned that by command of his Holiness our Federigo, the chancellor of the duke, my brother, has been seized in Bologna; I am sure he has done nothing to deserve this, for he did not come here with the intention of doing or saying anything that would displease or injure his Holiness—his Excellency would not countenance or risk anything of this sort against his Holiness. If Federigo had been given any order of this nature he would have first informed me of it, and I should never have permitted him to give any ground for complaint, for I am a devoted and faithful servant of the Pope, as is also my illustrious husband. I know of no other reason for his coming than to inform us of the duke's escape. Therefore I consider his innocence as beyond question. This apprehension of the courier is especially displeasing to me because it will injure my brother, the duke, making it appear that he is not in his Holiness's favor, and the same may be said of myself. I, therefore, urgently request your Excellency—of course if you are disposed to do me a favor—to use every means to induce his Holiness to release the messenger promptly, which I trust he will do out of his own goodness, and owing to the mediation of your Excellency. There is no way your Majesty could give me greater pleasure than by doing this, for the sake of my own honor and every other consideration, and in no way could I become more beholden to you. Therefore, I commend myself again to you with all my heart. Your Majesty's Sister and Servant,

The Duchess of Ferrara.
Ferrara, January 15, 1507.

 Caesar had sent his former majordomo, Don Jaime de Requesenz, from Pamplona to the King of France to ask him to allow him to return to his court and enter his service. To this, however, Louis XII would not listen. The messenger met with a severe rebuff when he demanded in Caesar's name the duchy of Valentinois and the revenue which he had formerly enjoyed as a prince of the French house.

 Despatch of the Ferrarese ambassador to France, Manfredo Manfredi, to Duke Alfonso, January, 1507.

 Death soon put an end to the hopes of the famous adventurer. While in the service of his brother-in-law, the King of Navarre, he conducted the siege of the castle of Viana, which was defended by the king's vassal Don Loys de Beamonte, Count of Lerin. There he fell, bravely fighting, March 12, 1507. This place is situated in the diocese of Pamplona, and, as Zurita remarks, Caesar's death by a curious coincidence occurred on the anniversary of the day on which to him had been given the bishopric of Pamplona. There he was interred with high honors. Like Nero he was only thirty-one years of age at the time of his demise.

 The fall of this terrible man, before whom all Italy had once trembled, and whose name was celebrated far and wide, relieved Julius II of a pretender who in time might have been a hindrance to him; for Caesar, as an ally and a condottiere of Venice, would have spared no effort to force him into a war with the Republic for the possession of Romagna, or into a war with France on his withdrawal from the League of Cambray, and the revengeful Louis XII would certainly have brought Caesar back to the Romagna for the purpose of availing himself both of his former connections in that country, and also of his great talents as a soldier.

 The news of Caesar's death reached Ferrara while the duke was absent, in April, 1507, by way of Rome and Naples. His counselor Magnanini and Cardinal Ippolito withheld the news from the duchess, who was near her confinement. She was merely told that her brother had been wounded in battle. Greatly distressed, she betook herself to one of the convents in the city, where she spent two days in prayer before returning to the castle. As soon as the talk regarding Caesar's death reached her ears she despatched her servant Tullio for Navarre, but on the way he received are port of the burial and turned back to Ferrara. Grasica, one of Cassar's equerries, also came to Ferrara and gave a full report of the circumstances attending the death of his master, at whose interment in Pamplona he had been present. The cardinal therefore decided to tell Lucretia the truth, and gave her her husband's letter containing the news of Caesar's death.

 Letters of Hieronymus Magnaninus to his master, Alfonso, Ferrara, April 11 to 22, archives of the Este.

 The duchess displayed more self-control than had been expected. Her sorrow was mingled with the bitter recollection of all she had experienced and suffered in Rome, the memory of which had been dulled but not wholly obliterated by her life in Ferrara. Twice the murder of her young husband Alfonso must have come back to her in all its horror—once on the death of her father and again on that of her terrible brother. If her grief was not inspired by the overwhelming memories of former times, the sight of Lucretia weeping for Caesar Borgiais a beautiful example of sisterly love—the purest and most noble of human sentiments.

 Valentino certainly did not appear to his sister or to his contemporaries in the form in which we now behold him, for his crimes seem blacker and blacker, while his good qualities and that which—following Macchiavelli—we may call his political worth, are constantly diminishing. To every thinking man the power which this young upstart, owing to an unusual combination of circumstances, acquired is merely a proof of what the timid, short-sighted generality of mankind will tolerate. They tolerated the immature greatness of Caesar Borgia, before whom princes and states trembled for years, and he was not the last bold but empty idol of history before whom the world has tottered.

 Although Lucretia may not have had a very clearly defined opinion of her brother, neither her memory nor her sight could have been wholly dulled. She herself forgave him, but she must, nevertheless, have asked herself whether the incorruptible Judge of all mankind would forgive him—for she was a devout and faithful Catholic according to the religious standards of the age. She doubtless had innumerable masses said for his soul, and assailed heaven with endless prayers.

 Ercole Strozzi sought to console her in pompous verse; in 1508 he dedicated to her his elegy on Caesar. This fantastic poem is remarkable as having been the production of this man, and it might be defined as the poetic counterpart of Macchiavelli's "Prince." First the poet describes the deep sorrow of the two women, Lucretia and Charlotte, lamenting the deceased with burning tears, even as Cassandra and Polyxena bewailed the loss of Achilles. He depicts the triumphant progress of Caesar, who resembled the great Roman by his deeds as well as in name. He enumerated the various cities he had seized in Romagna, and complained that an envious Fate had not permitted him to subjugate more of them, for if it had, the fame of the capture of Bologna would not have fallen to Julius II. The poet says that the Genius of Rome had once appeared to the people and foretold the fall of Alexander and Caesar, complaining that all hope of the savior of the line of Calixtus, —whom the gods had promised, —would expire with them. Eratus had told the poet of these promises made in Olympus. Pallas and Venus, one as the friend of Caesar and Spain, the other as the patron of Italy, unwilling that strangers should rule over the descendants of the Trojans, had complained to Jupiter of his failure to fulfil his promise to give Italy a great king who would be likewise her savior. Jupiter had reassured them by saying that fate was inexorable. Caesar like Achilles had to die, but from the two lines of Este and Borgia, which sprang from Troy and Greece, the promised hero would come. Pallas thereupon appeared in Nepi, where, after Alexander's death, Caesar lay sick of the pest, in his camp, and, in the form of his father, informed him of his approaching end, which he, conscious of his fame, must suffer like a hero. Then she disappeared in the form of a bird and hastened to Lucretia in Ferrara. After the poet described Caesar's fall in Spain he sought to console the sister with philosophic platitudes, and then with the assurance that she was to be the mother of the child who was destined for such a great career.

 Caesaris Borgiæ Ducis Epicedium per Herculem Strozzam ad Divam Lucretiam Borgiam Ferrariæ Ducem. In Strozzi Poetæ Pater et Filius, Paris, 1530.

 According to Zurita, Caesar left but one legitimate child, a daughter, who was living with her mother under the protection of the King of Navarre. Her name was Luisa; later she married Louis de la Tremouille, and on his death Philipp of Bourbon, Baron of Busset. Her mother, Charlotte d'Albret, having suffered much in life, gave herself up to holy works. She retired from the world, and died March 11, 1504. Two natural children of Caesar, a son Girolamo and a daughter Lucretia were living in Ferrara, where the latter became a nun and died in 1573, she being at the time abbess of San Bernardino.

 See Cittadella's genealogy of the house of Borgia.

As late as February, 1550, an illegitimate son of Caesar's appeared in Paris. He was a priest, and he announced that he was the natural son of the Duke of Romagna, and called himself Don Luigi. He had come from Rome to ask assistance of the King of France, because, as he said, his father had met his death while he was in the service of the French crown in the kingdom of Navarre. They gave him a hundred ducats, with which he returned to Rome.

 Letter of Giulio Alvarotti from France, February 14, 1550, in the archives of Modena.


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