引用サイト：The Project Gutenberg
The First——Lucretia Borgia In Rome
Chapter II: Lucretia's Mother
Chapter III: Lucretia's First Home
Chapter IV: Lucretia's Education
Chapter V: Nepotism—Giulia Farnese—Lucretia's Betrothals
Chapter VI: Her Father Becomes Pope—Giovanni Sforza
Chapter VII: Lucretia's First Marriage
Chapter VIII: Family Affairs
Chapter IX: Lucretia Leaves Rome
Chapter X: History and Description Of Pesaro
Chapter XI: The Invasion of Italy—The Profligate World
Chapter XII: The Divorce and Second Marriage
Chapter XIII: A Regent and a Mother
Chapter XIV: Social Life of the Borgias
Chapter XV: Misfortunes of Catarina Sforza
Chapter XVI: Murder of Alfonso of Aragon
Chapter XVII: Lucretia at Nepi
Chapter XVIII: Caesar at Pesaro
Chapter XIX: Another Marriage Planned for Lucretia
Chapter XX: Negotiations with the House of Este
Chapter XXI: The Eve of the Wedding
Chapter XXII: Arrival and Return of the Bridal Escort
The Second——Lucretia in Ferrara
Chapter II: Formal Entry into Ferrara
Chapter III: Fêtes Given in Lucretia's Honor
Chapter IV: The Este Dynasty—Description of Ferrara
Chapter V: Death of Alexander VI
Chapter VI: Events Following the Pope's Death
Chapter VII: Court Poets—Giulia Bella and Julius II—The Este Dynasty Endangered
Chapter VIII: Escape and Death of Caesar
Chapter IX: Murder of Ercole Strozzi—Death of Giovanni Sforza and of Lucretia's Eldest Son
Chapter X: Effects of the War—The Roman Infante
Chapter XI: Last Years and Death of Vannozza
Chapter XII:Death of Lucretia Borgia—Conclusion
Chapter XX: Negotiations with the House of EsteThe hereditary Prince of Ferrara made a determined resistance before yielding to his father's pressure, but the latter was now so anxious for the marriage to take place that he told his son that, if he persisted in his refusal, he would be compelled to marry Lucretia himself. After the duke had overcome his son's pride and secured his consent, he regarded the marriage merely as an advantageous piece of statecraft. He sold the honor of his house at the highest price obtainable. The Pope's agents in Ferrara, frightened by Ercole's demands, sent Ramondo Remolini to Rome to submit them to Alexander, who sought the intervention of the King of France to secure more favorable terms from the duke. A letter from the Ferrarese ambassador to France to his master throws a bright light on this transaction.
My Illustrious Master: Yesterday the Pope's envoy told me that his Holiness had written him about the messenger your Excellency had sent him demanding two hundred thousand ducats, the remission of the annual tribute, the granting of the jus patronatus for the bishopric of Ferrara, by decree of the consistory, and certain other concessions. He told me that the Pope had offered a hundred thousand, and as to the rest—your Excellency should trust to him, for he would grant them in time and would advance the interests of the house of Este so that everyone would see how high in his favor it stood. In addition, he told me that he was instructed to ask his most Christian Majesty to write to the illustrious cardinal to advise your Excellency to agree. As your Excellency's devoted servant I mention this, although it is superfluous; for if this marriage is to take place, you will arrange it in such a way that "much promising and little fulfillment" will not cause you to regret it. I informed your Excellency in an earlier letter how his most Christian Majesty had told me that his wishes in this affair were the same as your own, and that if the marriage was to be brought about, you might derive as much profit from it as possible, and if it was not to take place, his Majesty stood ready to give Don Alfonso the lady whom your Excellency might select for him in France.
Lyons, August 7, 1501.
Alexander did not wish to send his daughter to Ferrara with empty hands, but the portion which Ercole demanded was not a modest one. It was larger than Blanca Sforza had brought the Emperor Maximilian; moreover, one of the duke's demands involved an infraction of the canon law, for, in addition to the large sum of money, he insisted upon the remission of the yearly tribute paid the Church by the fief of Ferrara, the cession of Cento and Pieve, cities which belonged to the archbishopric of Bologna, and even on the relinquishment of Porto Cesenatico and a large number of benefices in favor of the house of Este. They wrangled violently, but so great was the Pope's desire to secure the ducal throne of Ferrara for his daughter that he soon announced that he would practically agree to Ercole's demands, which Caesar urged him to do.
|Cavallieri to Ercole, Lyons, August 8, 1501. The Pope has written his nuncio that he agreed to the duke's demands, for the purpose of concluding the marriage, which would be extraordinarily advantageous to himself and the Duke of Romagna.|
Nor was Lucretia herself less urgent in begging her father to consent; she was the duke's most able advocate in Rome, and Ercole knew that it was due largely to her skilful pleading that he succeeded in carrying his point.
The negotiations took this favorable turn about the end of July or the beginning of August, and the earliest of the duke's letters to Lucretia and the Pope, among those preserved in the archives of the house of Este, belong to this period.
August 6th Ercole wrote his future daughter-in-law, recommending to her for her agent one Agostino Huet (a secretary of Caesar's), who had shown the greatest interest in conducting the negotiations.
August 10th he reported to the Pope the result of the conferences which had taken place, and urged him not to look on his demands as unreasonable. This he repeated in a letter dated August 21st, in which he stated in plain, commercial terms that the price was low enough; in fact, that it was merely nominal.
In the meantime the projected marriage had become known to the world, and was the subject of diplomatic consideration, for the strengthening of the papacy was agreeable to neither the Powers of Italy nor those beyond the peninsula. Florence and Bologna, which Caesar coveted were frightened; the Republic of Venice, which was in constant friction with Ferrara, and which had designs upon the coast of Romagna, did not conceal her annoyance, and she ascribed the whole thing to Caesar's ambition.
|Despatches of the Ferrarese ambassador, Bartolomeo Cartari, from Venice, June 25, July 28, and August 2, 1501. Archives of Modena.|
The King of France put a good face upon the matter, as did also the King of Spain; but Maximilian was so opposed to the marriage that he endeavored to prevent it. Ferrara was just beginning to acquire the political importance which Florence had possessed in the time of Lorenzo de' Medici, consequently its influence was such that the German emperor could not be indifferent to an alliance between it and the papacy and France. Moreover, Bianca Sforza was Maximilian's wife, and at the German court there were other members and retainers of the overthrown house—all bitter enemies of the Borgias.
In August the Emperor despatched letters to Ferrara in which he warned Ercole against any marital alliance between his house and that of Alexander. This warning of Maximilian's must have been highly acceptable to the duke, as he could use it to force the Pope to accede to his demands. He mentioned the letter to his Holiness, but assured him that his determination would remain unshaken. Then he instructed his counselor, Gianluca Pozzi, to answer the Emperor's letter.
|Ercole's letter to Pozzi in Ferrara, August 25, 1501. Maximilian's letters are not in the Este archives but in Vienna.|
Ercole's letter to his chancellor is dated August 25th, but before its contents became known in Rome the Pope hastened to agree to the duke's conditions, and to have the marriage contract executed. This was done in the Vatican, August 26, 1501.
|The instrument was drawn by Beneimbene.|
He immediately despatched Cardinal Ferrari to Ercole with the contract, whereupon Don Ramiro Remolini and other proxies hastened to Ferrara,
|Cardinal Ferrari to Ercole, Rome, August 27, 1501.|
where, in the castle of Belfiore, the nuptial contract was concluded ad verba, September 1, 1501.
On the same day the duke wrote Lucretia, saying that, while he hitherto had loved her on account of her virtues and on account of the Pope and her brother Caesar, he now loved her more as a daughter. In the same tone he wrote to Alexander himself, informing him that the betrothal had taken place, and thanking him for bestowing the dignity of Archpriest of S. Peter's on his son, Cardinal Ippolito.
|Ducal Records, September 1, 1501.|
Less diplomatic was Ercole's letter to the Marchese Gonzaga informing him of the event. It clearly shows what was his real opinion, and he tries to excuse himself for consenting by saying he was forced to take the step.
Illustrious Sir and Dearest Brother: We have informed your Majesty that we have recently decided—owing to practical considerations—to consent to an alliance between our house and that of his Holiness—the marriage of our eldest son, Alfonso, and the illustrious lady Lucretia Borgia, sister of the illustrious Duke of Romagna and Valentinois, chiefly because we were urged to consent by his Most Christian Majesty, and on condition that his Holiness would agree to everything stipulated in the marriage contract. Subsequently his Holiness and ourselves came to an agreement, and the Most Christian King persistently urged us to execute the contract. This was done to-day in God's name, and with the assistance of the (French) ambassador and the proxies of his Holiness, who were present; and it was also published this morning. I hasten to inform your Majesty of the event because our mutual relations and love require that you should be made acquainted with everything which concerns us—and so we offer ourselves to do your pleasure.
Ferrara, September 2, 1501.
|The letter is reproduced in Zucchetti's Lucrezia Borgia, Duchessa di Ferrara, Milan, 1869.|
September 4th a courier brought the news that the nuptial contract had been signed in Ferrara. Alexander immediately had the Vatican illuminated and the cannon of Castle S. Angelo announce the glad tidings. All Rome resounded with the jubilations of the retainers of the house of Borgia.
This moment was the turning point in Lucretia's life. If her soul harbored any ambition and yearning for worldly greatness, what must she now have felt when the opportunity to ascend the princely throne of one of Italy's oldest houses was offered her! If she had any regret and loathing for what had surrounded her in Rome, and if longings for a better life were stronger in her than were these vain desires, there was now held out to her the promise of a haven of rest. She was to become the wife of a prince famous, not for grace and culture, but for his good sense and earnestness. She had seen him once in Rome, in her early youth, when she was Sforza's betrothed. No sacrifice would be too great for her if it would wipe out the remembrance of the nine years which had followed that day. The victory she had now won by the shameful complaisance of the house of Este was associated with deep humiliation, for she knew that Alfonso had condescended to accept her hand only after long urging and under threats. A bold, intriguing woman might overcome this feeling of humiliation by summoning up the consciousness of her genius and her charm; while one less strong, but endowed with beauty and sweetness, might be fascinated by the idea of disarming a hostile husband with the magic of her personality. The question, however, whether any honor accrued to her by marrying a man against his will, or whether under such circumstances a high-minded woman would not have scornfully refused, would probably never arise in the mind of such a light-headed woman as Lucretia certainly was, and if it did in her case, Caesar and her father would never have allowed her to give voice to any such undiplomatic scruples. We can discover no trace of moral pride in her; all we discern is a childishly naive joy at her prospective happiness.
The Roman populace saw her, accompanied by three hundred knights and four bishops, pass along the city streets, September 5th, on her way to S. Maria del Popolo to offer prayers of thanksgiving. Following a curious custom of the day, which shows Folly and Wisdom side by side, just as we find them in Calderon's and Shakespeare's dramas, Lucretia presented the costly robe which she wore when she offered up her prayer, to one of her court fools, and the clown ran merrily through the streets of Rome, bawling out, "Long live the illustrious Duchess of Ferrara! Long live Pope Alexander!" With noisy demonstrations the Borgias and their retainers celebrated the great event.
Alexander summoned a consistory, as though this family affair were an important Church matter. With childish loquacity he extolled Duke Ercole, pronouncing him the greatest and wisest of the princes of Italy; he described Don Alfonso as a handsomer and greater man than his son Caesar, adding that his former wife was a sister-in-law of the Emperor. Ferrara was a fortunate State, and the house of Este an ancient one; a marriage train of great princes was shortly to come to Rome to take the bride away, and the Duchess of Urbino was to accompany it.
|Ed altre cose che egli disse per maggiormente magnificare il fatto. Matteo Carlo to the Duke of Ferrara, Rome, September 11, 1501.|
September 14th Caesar Borgia returned from Naples, where Federico, the last Aragonese king of that country, had been forced to yield to France. To his great satisfaction he found Lucretia prospective Duchess of Ferrara. On the fifteenth Ercole's envoys, Saraceni and Bellingeri, appeared. Their object was to see that the Pope fulfilled his obligations promptly. The duke was a practical man; he did not trust him. He was unwilling to send the bridal escort until he had the papal bull in his own hands. Lucretia supported the ambassador so zealously that Saraceni wrote his master that she already appeared to him to be a good Ferrarese.
|Quale mi pare già essere optima Ferrarese. Despatch from Rome, September 15th.|
She was present in the Vatican while Alexander carried on the negotiations. He sometimes used Latin for the purpose of displaying his linguistic attainments; but on one occasion, out of regard for Lucretia, he ordered that Italian be used, which proves that his daughter was not a perfect mistress of the classic tongue.
From this ambassador's despatches it appears that life in the Vatican was extremely agreeable. They sang, played and danced every evening. One of Alexander's greatest delights was to watch beautiful women dancing, and when Lucretia and the ladies of her court were so engaged he was careful to summon the Ferrarese ambassadors so that they might note his daughter's grace. One evening he remarked laughingly that "they might see that the duchess was not lame."
|Che voleva havessimo veduto che la Duchessa non era zoppa. Saraceni to Ercole, Rome, September 16th.|
The Pope never tired of passing the nights in this way, although Caesar, a strong man, was worn out by the ceaseless round of pleasure. When the latter consented to grant the ambassadors an audience, a favor which was not often bestowed even on cardinals, he received them dressed, but lying in bed, which caused Saraceni to remark in his despatch, "I feared that he was sick, for last evening he danced without intermission, which he will do again tonight at the Pope's palace, where the illustrious duchess is going to sup."
|Rome, September 23d, Saraceni.|
Lucretia regarded it as a relief when, a few days later, the Pope went to Civitacastellana and Nepi. September 25th the ambassadors wrote to Ferrara, "The illustrious lady continues somewhat ailing, and is greatly fatigued; she is not, however, under the care of any physician, nor does she neglect her affairs, but grants audiences as usual. We think that this indisposition merely indicates that her Majesty should take better care of herself. The rest which she will have while his Holiness is away will do her good; for whenever she is at the Pope's palace, the entire night, until two or three o'clock, is spent in dancing and at play, which fatigues her greatly."
|Despatch, September 25th.|
About this time occurred a disagreeable episode in connection with Giovanni Sforza, Lucretia's divorced husband, which the Pope discussed with the Ferrarese ambassadors. What they feared from him is revealed by the following despatch:
Illustrious Prince and Master: As his Holiness the Pope desires to take all proper precautions to prevent the occurrence of anything that might be unpleasant to your Excellency, to Don Alfonso, and especially to the duchess, and also to himself, he has asked us to write your Excellency and request that you see to it that Lord Giovanni of Pesaro—who, his Holiness has been informed, is in Mantua—shall not be in Ferrara at the time of the marriage festivities. For, although his divorce from the above named illustrious lady was absolutely legal and according to prescribed form, as the records of the proceedings clearly show, he himself fully consenting to it, he may, nevertheless, still harbor some resentment. If he should be in Ferrara there would be a possibility of his seeing the lady, and her Excellency would therefore be compelled to remain in concealment to escape disagreeable memories. He, therefore, requests your Excellency to prevent this possibility with your usual foresight. Thereupon his Holiness freely expressed his opinion of the Marchese of Mantua, and censured him severely because he of all the Italian princes was the only one who offered an asylum to outcasts, and especially to those who were under not only his own ban, but under that of his Most Christian Majesty. We endeavored, however, to excuse the marchese by saying that he, a high-minded man, could not close his domain to such as wished to come to him, especially when they were people of importance, and we used every argument to defend him. His Holiness, however, seemed displeased by our defense of the marchese. Your Excellency may, therefore, make such arrangements as in your wisdom seem proper. And so we, in all humility, commend ourselves to your mercy.
Rome, September 23, 1501.
|To this Ercole replied in reassuring terms. Letter to his orators in Rome, September 18, 1501.|
As a result of Ercole's insistence, the question of the reduction of Ferrara's yearly tribute as a fief of the Holy See from four hundred ducats to one hundred florins was brought to a vote in the consistory, September 17th. It was expected that there would be violent opposition. Alexander explained what Ercole had done for Ferrara, his founding convents and churches, and his strengthening the city, thus making it a bulwark for the States of the Church. The cardinals were induced to favor the reduction by the intervention of the Cardinal of Cosenza—one of Lucretia's creatures—and of Messer Troche, Caesar's confidant. They authorized the reduction and the Pope thanked them, especially praising the older cardinals—the younger, those of his own creation, having been more obstinate.
|Despatch of Matteo Carlo to Ercole, Rome, September 18, 1501.|
The same day he secured possession of the property he had wrested from the barons who had been placed under his ban August 20th. These domains, which embraced a large part of the Roman Campagna, were divided into two districts. The center of one was Nepi; that of the other Sermoneta—two cities which Lucretia, their former mistress, immediately renounced. Alexander made these duchies over to two children, Giovanni Borgia and Rodrigo. At first the Pope ascribed the paternity of the former child to his own son Caesar, but subsequently he publicly announced that he himself was its father.
It is difficult to believe in such unexampled shamelessness, but the legal documents to prove it are in existence. Both bulls are dated September 1, 1501, and are addressed to my beloved son, "the noble Giovanni de Borgia and Infante of Rome." In the former, Alexander states that Giovanni, a child of three years, was the natural son of Caesar Borgia, unmarried (which he was at the time of its birth), by a single woman. By apostolic authority he legitimated the child and bestowed upon it all the rights of a member of his family. In the second brief he refers to the proceedings in which the child had been declared to be Caesar's son, and says verbatim: "Since it is owing, not to the duke named (Caesar), but to us and to the unmarried woman mentioned that you bear this stain (of illegitimate birth), which for good reasons we did not wish to state in the preceding instrument; and in order that there may be no chance of your being caused annoyance in the future, we will see to it that that document shall never be declared null, and of our own free will, and by virtue of our authority, we confirm you, by these presents, in the full enjoyment of everything as provided in that instrument." Thereupon he renews the legitimation and announces that even if this his child, which had hitherto been declared to be Caesar's, shall in future, in any document or act be named and described as his (Caesar's), and even if he uses Caesar's arms, it shall in no way inure to the disadvantage of the child, and that all such acts shall have the same force which they would have had if the boy had been described not as Caesar's, but as his own, in the documents referring to his legitimation.
|Both bulls are in the archives of Modena. The first is a copy, the second an original. The lead seal is wanting, but the red and yellow silk by which it was attached is still preserved. I first discovered the facts in a manuscript in the Barberiniana in Rome.|
It is worthy of note that both these documents were executed on one and the same day, but this is explained by the fact that the canon law prevented the Pope from acknowledging his own son. Alexander, therefore, extricated himself from the difficulty by telling a falsehood in the first bull. This lie made the legitimation of the child possible, and also conferred upon it the rights of succession; and this having once been embodied in a legal document, the Pope could, without injury to the child, tell the truth.
September 1, 1501, Caesar was not in Rome. Even a man of his stamp may have blushed for his father, when he thus made him the rival of this bastard for the possession of the property. Later, after Alexander's death, the little Giovanni Borgia passed for Caesar's son; he had, moreover, been described as such by the Pope in numerous briefs.
|Mandate of the Pope regarding certain taxes, dated July 21, 1502: Nobili Infanti Johanni Borgia, nostro secundum carnem nepoti; and in another brief, dated June 12, 1502, Dil filii nobilis infantis Johannis Borgia ducis Nepesini delecti filii nobilis viri Caesaris Borgia de Francia, etc. Archives of Modena.|
It is not known who was the mother of this mysterious child. Burchard speaks of her merely as a "certain Roman." If Alexander, who described her as an "unmarried woman," told the truth, Giulia Farnese could not have been its mother.
It is possible, however, that the Pope's second statement likewise was untrue, and that the "Infante of Rome" was not his son, but was a natural child of Lucretia. The reader will remember that in March, 1498, the Ferrarese ambassador reported to Duke Ercole that it was rumored in Rome that the Pope's daughter had given birth to a child. This date agrees perfectly with the age of the Infante Giovanni in September, 1501. Both documents regarding his legitimation, which are now preserved in the Este archives, were originally in Lucretia's chancellery. She may have taken them with her from Rome to Ferrara, or they may have been brought to her later. Eventually we shall find the Infante at her court in Ferrara, where he was spoken of as her "brother." These facts suggest that the mysterious Giovanni Borgia was Lucretia's son—this, however, is only a hypothesis. The city of Nepi and thirty-six other estates were conferred upon the child as his dukedom.
The second domain, including the duchy of Sermoneta and twenty-eight castles, was given to little Rodrigo, Lucretia's only son by Alfonso of Aragon.
Under Lucretia's changed conditions, this child was an embarrassment to her, for she either was not allowed or did not dare to bring a child by her former husband to Ferrara. For the sake of her character let us assume that she was compelled to leave her child among strangers. The order to do so, however, does not appear to have emanated from Ferrara, for, September 28th, the ambassador Gerardi gave his master an account of a call which he made on Madonna Lucretia, in which he said, "As her son was present, I asked her—in such a way that she could not mistake my meaning—what was to be done with him; to which she replied, 'He will remain in Rome, and will have an allowance of fifteen thousand ducats.'"
|Geradi to Ercole, Rome, September 28th.|
The little Rodrigo was, in truth, provided for in a princely manner. He was placed under the guardianship of two cardinals—the Patriarch of Alexandria and Francesco Borgia, Archbishop of Cosenza. He received the revenues of Sermoneta, and he also owned Biselli, his unfortunate father's inheritance; for Ferdinand and Isabella of Castile authorized their ambassador in Rome, Francesco de Roxas, January 7, 1502, to confirm Rodrigo in the possession of the duchy of Biselli and the city of Quadrata. According to this act his title was Don Rodrigo Borgia of Aragon, Duke of Biselli and Sermoneta, and lord of Quadrata.
|Datum in civitate Hispali, January 7, 1502. Yo el rey. Archives of Modena. In Liber Arrendamentorum Terrarum ad Illmos Dnos Rodericum Bor. de Aragonia Sermoneti, et Jo. de bor., Nepesin. Duces infantes spectantium et alearq. scripturar. status eorundem tangentium. Biselli, 1502.|
Chapter XXI: The Eve of the WeddingLucretia was impatient to leave Rome, which, she remarked to the ambassador of Ferrara, seemed to her like a prison; the duke himself was no less anxious to conclude the transaction. The preparation of the new bull of investiture, however, was delayed, and the cession of Cento and Pievi could not be effected without the consent of Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, Archbishop of Bologna, who was then living in France. Ercole, therefore, postponed despatching the bridal escort, although the approach of winter would make the journey, which was severe at any time, all the more difficult. Whenever Lucretia saw the Ferrarese ambassadors she asked them how soon the escort would come to fetch her. She herself endeavored to remove all obstacles. Although the cardinals trembled before the Pope and Caesar, they were reluctant to sign a bull which would lose Ferrara's tribute to the Church. They were bitterly opposed to allowing the descendants of Alfonso and Lucretia, without limitation, to profit by a remission of the annual payment; they would suffer this privilege to be enjoyed for three generations at most. The duke addressed urgent letters to the cardinal and to Lucretia, who finally, in October, succeeded in arranging matters, thereby winning high praise from her father-in-law. During the first half of October she and the duke kept up a lively correspondence, which shows that their mutual confidence was increasing. It was plain that Ercole was beginning to look upon the unequal match with less displeasure, as he discovered that his daughter-in-law possessed greater sense than he had supposed. Her letters to him were filled with flattery, especially one she wrote when she heard he was sick, and Ercole thanked her for having written it with her own hand, which he regarded as special proof of her affection.
|Lucretia to Ercole, October 18th; Ercole to Lucretia, October 23d.|
The ambassadors reported to him as follows: "When we informed the illustrious Duchess of your Excellency's illness, her Majesty displayed the greatest concern. She turned pale and stood for a moment bowed in thought. She regretted that she was not in Ferrara to take care of you herself. When the walls of the Vatican salon tumbled in, she nursed his Holiness for two weeks without resting, as the Pope would allow no one else to do anything for him."
|Gerardo to Ercole, October 15, 1501.|
Well might the illness of Lucretia's father-in-law frighten her. His death would have delayed, if not absolutely prevented, her marriage with Alfonso; for up to the present time she had no proof that her prospective husband's opposition had been overcome.
There are no letters written by either to the other at this time—a silence which is, to say the least, singular. Still more disturbing to Lucretia must have been the thought that her father himself might die, for his death would certainly set aside her betrothal to Alfonso. Shortly after Ercole's illness Alexander fell sick. He had caught cold and lost a tooth. To prevent exaggerated reports reaching Ferrara, he had the duke's envoy summoned, and directed him to write his master that his indisposition was insignificant. "If the duke were here," said the Pope, "I would—even if my face is tied up—invite him to go and hunt wild boars." The ambassador remarked in his despatch that the Pope, if he valued his health, had better change his habits, and not leave the palace before daybreak, and had better return before nightfall.
|Ercole to Don Francesco de Roxas, October 24, 1501.|
Ercole and the Pope received congratulations from all sides. Cardinals and ambassadors in their letters proclaimed Lucretia's beauty and graciousness. The Spanish envoy in Rome praised her in extravagant terms, and Ercole thanked him for his testimony regarding the virtues of his daughter-in-law.
|Gerardo Saraceni to Ercole, Rome, October 26, 1501.|
Even the King of France displayed the liveliest pleasure at the event, which, he now discovered, would redound greatly to Ferrara's advantage. The Pope, beaming with joy, read the congratulations of the monarch and his consort to the consistory. Louis XII even condescended to address a letter to Madonna Lucretia, at the end of which were two words in his own hand. Alexander was so delighted thereby that he sent a copy of it to Ferrara. The court of Maximilian was the only one from which no congratulations were received. The emperor exhibited such displeasure that Ercole was worried, as the following letter to his plenipotentiaries in Rome shows:
The Duke of Ferrara, etc.
Our Well-Loved: We have given his Holiness, our Lord, no further information regarding the attitude of the illustrious Emperor of the Romans towards him since Messer Michele Remolines departed from here, for we had nothing definite to communicate. We have, however, been told by a trustworthy person with whom the king conversed, that his Majesty was greatly displeased, and that he criticised his Holiness in unmeasured terms on account of the alliance which we have concluded with him, as he also did in letters addressed to us before the betrothal, in which he advised us not to enter into it, as you will learn from the copies of his letters which we send you with this. They were shown and read to his Holiness's ambassador here. Although, so far as we ourselves are concerned, we did not attach much importance to his Majesty's attitude, as we followed the dictates of reason, and are daily becoming more convinced that it will prove advantageous for us; it nevertheless appears proper, in view of our relations with his Holiness, that he should be informed of our position.
You will, therefore, tell him everything, and also let him see the copies, if you think best, but you must say to him in our name that he is not to ascribe their authorship to us, and that we have not sent you these copies because of any special importance that we attached to them.
The duke now allowed nothing to shake his resolution. Early in October he selected the escort whose departure from Ferrara, he frankly stated, would depend upon the progress of his negotiations with the Pope. The constitution of the bridal trains, both Roman and Ferrarese, was an important question, and is referred to in one of Gerardo's despatches.
Illustrious Sir, etc.: To-day at six o'clock Hector and I were alone with the Pope, having your letters of the twenty-sixth ultimo and of the first of the present month, and also a list of those who are to compose the escort. His Holiness was greatly pleased, the various persons being people of wealth and standing, as he could readily see, the rank and position of each being clearly indicated. I have learned from the best of sources that your Excellency has exceeded all the Pope's expectations. After we had conversed a while with his Holiness, the illustrious Duke of Romagna and Cardinal Orsini were summoned. There were also present Monsignor Elna, Monsignor Troche, and Messer Adriano. The Pope had the list read a second time, and again it was praised, especially by the duke, who said he was acquainted with several of the persons named. He kept the list, thanking me warmly when I gave it to him again, for he had returned it to me.
We endeavored to get the list of those who are to come with the illustrious Duchess, but it has not yet been prepared. His Holiness said that there would not be many women among the number, as the ladies of Rome were not skilful horsewomen.
|Per essere queste romane salvatiche et male apte a cavallo.|
Hitherto the Duchess has had five or six young ladies at her court—four very young girls and three married women—who will remain with her Majesty. She has, however, been advised not to bring them, as many of the great ladies in Ferrara will offer her their services. She has also a certain Madonna Girolama, Cardinal Borgia's sister, who is married to one of the Orsini. She and three of her women will accompany her. These are the only ladies of honor she has hitherto had. I have heard that she will endeavor to find others in Naples, but it is believed that she will be able to secure only a few, and that these will merely accompany her. The Duchess of Urbino has announced that she expects to come with a mounted escort of fifty persons. So far as the men are concerned, his Holiness said that there would not be many, as there were no Roman noblemen except the Orsini, and they generally were away from the city. Still, he hoped to be able to find sufficient, provided the Duke of Romagna did not take the field, there being a large number of nobles among his followers. His Holiness said that he had plenty of priests and scholars to send, but not such persons as were fit for a mission of this sort. However, the retinue furnished by your Majesty will serve for both, especially as—according to his Holiness—it is better for the more numerous escort to be sent by the groom, and for the bride to come accompanied by a smaller number. Still I do not think her suite will number less than two hundred persons. The Pope is in doubt what route her Majesty will travel. He thinks she ought to go by way of Bologna, and he says that the Florentines likewise have invited her. Although his Holiness has reached no decision, the Duchess has informed us that she would journey through the Marches, and the Pope has just concluded that she might do so. Perhaps he desires her to pass through the estates of the Duke of Romagna on her way to Bologna.
Regarding your Majesty's wish that a cardinal accompany the Duchess, his Holiness said that it did not seem proper to him for a cardinal to leave Rome with her; but that he had written the Cardinal of Salerno, the Legate in the Marches, to go to the seat of the Duke in Romagna and wait there, and accompany the Duchess to Ferrara to read mass at the wedding. He thought that the cardinal would do this, unless prevented by sickness, in which case his Holiness would provide another.
When the Pope discovered, during this conversation, that we had so far been unable to secure an audience with the illustrious Duke, he showed great annoyance, declaring it was a mistake which could only injure his Majesty, and he added that the ambassadors of Rimini had been here two months without succeeding in speaking with him, as he was in the habit of turning day into night and night into day. He severely criticized his son's mode of living. On the other hand, he commended the illustrious Duchess, saying that she was always gracious, and granted audiences readily, and that whenever there was need she knew how to cajole. He lauded her highly, and stated that she had ruled Spoleto to the satisfaction of everybody, and he also said that her Majesty always knew how to carry her point-even with himself, the Pope. I think that his Holiness spoke in this way more for the purpose of saying good of her (which according to my opinion she deserved) than to avoid saying anything ill, even if there were occasion for it. Your Majesty's Ever devoted.
The Pope seldom allowed an opportunity to pass for praising his daughter's beauty and graciousness. He frequently compared her with the most famous women of Italy—the Marchioness of Mantua and the Duchess of Urbino. One day, while conversing with the ambassadors of Ferrara, he mentioned her age, saying that in October (1502) she would complete her twenty-second year, while Caesar would be twenty-six the same month.
|Gerardo to Ercole, October 26, 1501.|
The Pope was greatly pleased with the members of the bridal escort, for they all were either princes of the house of Este or prominent persons of Ferrara. He also approved the selection of Annibale Bentivoglio, son of the Lord of Bologna, and said laughingly to the Ferrarese ambassadors that, even if their master had chosen Turks to come to Rome for the bride, they would have been welcome.
The Florentines, owing to their fear of Caesar, sent ambassadors to Lucretia to ask her to come by way of their city when she went to Ferrara; the Pope, however, was determined that she should make the journey through Romagna. According to an oppressive custom of the day, the people through whose country persons of quality traveled were required to provide for them, and, in order not to tax Romagna too heavily, it was decided that the Ferrarese escort should come to Rome by way of Tuscany. The Republic of Florence firmly refused to entertain the escort all the time it was in its territory, although it was willing to care for it while in the city or to make a handsome present.
|The orator Manfredo Manfredi to Ercole, Florence, November 22 and 24, 1501.|
In the meantime preparations were under way in Ferrara for the wedding festivities. The Duke invited all the princes who were friendly to him to be present. He had even thought of the oration which was to be delivered in Ferrara when Lucretia was given to her husband. During the Renaissance these orations were regarded as of the greatest importance, and he was anxious to secure a speaker who could be depended upon to deliver a masterpiece. Ercole had instructed his ambassadors in Rome to send him particulars regarding the house of Borgia for the orator to use in preparing his speech.
|The duke to his ambassadors in Rome, October 7, 1501.|
The ambassadors scrupulously carried out their instructions, and wrote their sovereign as follows:
Illustrious Prince and Master: We have spared no efforts to learn everything possible regarding the illustrious house of Borgia, as your Excellency commanded. We made a thorough investigation, and members of our suite here in Rome, not only the scholars but also those who we knew were loyal to you, did the same. Although we finally succeeded in ascertaining that the house is one of the noblest and most ancient in Spain, we did not discover that its founders ever did anything very remarkable, perhaps because life in that country is quiet and uneventful—your Excellency knows that such is the case in Spain, especially in Valencia.
Whatever there is worthy of note dates from the time of Calixtus, and, in fact, the deeds of Calixtus himself are those most worthy of comment; Platina, however, has given an account of his life, which, moreover, is well known to everybody. Whoever is to deliver the oration has ample material, therefore, from which to choose. We, illustrious Sir, have been able to learn nothing more regarding this house than what you already know, and this concerns only the members of the family who have been Popes, and is derived chiefly from the audience speeches. In case we succeed in finding out anything more, we shall inform your Excellency, to whom we commend ourselves in all humility.
When the descendant of the ancient house of Este read this terse despatch he must have smiled; its candor was so undiplomatic that it bordered on irony. The doughty ambassadors, however, apparently did not go to the right sources, for if they had applied to the courtiers who were intimate with the Borgia—for example, the Porcaro—they would have obtained a genealogical tree showing a descent from the old kings of Aragon, if not from Hercules himself.
In the meantime the impatience of the Pope and Lucretia was steadily increasing, for the departure of the bridal escort was delayed, and the enemies of the Borgia were already beginning to make merry. The duke declared that he could not think of sending for Donna Lucretia until the bull of investiture was in his hands. He complained at the Pope's delay in fulfilling his promises. He also demanded that the part of the marriage portion which was to be paid in coin through banking houses in Venice, Bologna, and other cities be handed over on the bridal escort's entry into Rome, and threatened in case it was not paid in full to have his people return to Ferrara without the bride.
|Ercole to Gerardo Saraceni, November 24, 1501. Other letters of like import were written by the duke to his plenipotentiaries.|
As it was impossible for him to bring about the immediate cession of Cento and Pievi, he asked from the Pope as a pledge that either the bishopric of Bologna be given his son Ippolito, or that his Holiness furnish a bond. He also demanded certain benefices for his natural son Don Giulio, and for his ambassador Gianluca Pozzi. Lucretia succeeded in securing the bishopric of Reggio for the latter and also a house in Rome for the Ferrarese envoy.
Another important question was the dowry of jewels which Lucretia was to receive. During the Renaissance the passion for jewels amounted to a mania. Ercole sent word to his daughter-in-law that she must not dispose of her jewels, but must bring them with her; he also said that he would send her a handsome ornament by the bridal escort, gallantly adding that, as she herself was a precious jewel, she deserved the most beautiful gems—even more magnificent ones than he and his own consort had possessed; it is true he was not so wealthy as the Duke of Savoy, but, nevertheless, he was in a position to send her jewels no less beautiful than those given her by the duke.
|Ercole to Gerardo Saraceni in Rome, October 11, 1501.|
The relations between Ercole and his daughter-in-law were as friendly as could be desired, for Lucretia exerted herself to secure the Pope's consent to his demands. His Holiness, however, was greatly annoyed by the duke's conduct; he sent urgent requests to him to despatch the escort to Rome, and assured him that the two castles in Romagna would be delivered over to him before Lucretia reached Ferrara, but in case she did arrive there first that everything she asked would be granted—his love for her was such that he even thought of paying her a visit in Ferrara in the spring.
|Despatch of the Ferrarese ambassadors to Ercole, Rome, October 31, 1501.|
The Pope suspected, however, that the delay in sending the bridal escort was due to the machinations of Maximilian. Even as late as November the emperor had despatched his secretary, Agostino Semenza, to the duke to warn him not to send the escort to Rome, adding that he would show his gratitude to Ercole. November 22d the duke wrote the imperial plenipotentiary a letter in which he stated that he had immediately sent a courier to his ambassador in Rome; it would soon be winter, and the time would therefore be unfavorable for bringing Lucretia; if the Pope was willing, he would postpone the wedding, but he would not break off with him entirely. His Majesty should remember that if he did this, the Pope would become his bitterest enemy, and would persecute him, and might even make war on him. It was, he stated, for the express purpose of avoiding this that he had consented to enter into an alliance with his Holiness. He, therefore, hoped that his Majesty would not expose him to this danger, but that, with his usual justice, he would appreciate his excuses.
|Il quale mal effecto volendo nui fugire, seamo condescesi a contrahere la affinita cum soa Santità. Responsum illmi Dni ducis Ferrarie D. Augustino Semetie Ces Mtis secretario. Ferrara, November 22, 1501.|
ERCOLE D'ESTE, DUKE OF FERRARA.
At the same time he instructed his ambassadors in Rome to inform the Pope of the emperor's threats, and to say to him that he was ready to fulfil his own obligations and also to urge his Holiness to have the bulls prepared at once, as further delay was dangerous.
Alexander thereupon fell into a rage; he overwhelmed the ambassadors with reproaches, and called the duke a "tradesman." On December 1st Ercole announced to the emperor's messenger that he was unable longer to delay sending the bridal escort, for, if he did, it would mean a rupture with the Pope. The same day he wrote to his ambassadors in Rome and complained of the use of the epithet "tradesman," which the Pope had applied to him.
|Che il procedere del Duca era un procedere da mercatante. Ercole to Gerardo Saraceni, December 1, 1501.|
He, however, reassured his Holiness by informing him that he had decided to despatch the bridal escort from Ferrara the ninth or tenth of December.
|Ercole to Alexander VI, December 1, 1501.|
Chapter XXII: Arrival and Return of the Bridal EscortIn the meantime Lucretia's trousseau was being prepared with an expense worthy of a king's daughter. On December 13, 1501, the agent in Rome of the Marchese Gonzaga wrote his master as follows: "The portion will consist of three hundred thousand ducats, not counting the presents which Madonna will receive from time to time. First a hundred thousand ducats are to be paid in money in instalments in Ferrara. Then there will be silverware to the value of three thousand ducats; jewels, fine linen, costly trappings for horses and mules, together worth another hundred thousand. In her wardrobe she has a trimmed dress worth more than fifteen thousand ducats, and two hundred costly shifts, some of which are worth a hundred ducats apiece; the sleeves alone of some of them cost thirty ducats each, being trimmed with gold fringe." Another person reported to the Marchesa Isabella that Lucretia had one dress worth twenty thousand ducats, and a hat valued at ten thousand. "It is said," so the Mantuan agent writes, "that more gold has been prepared and sold here in Naples in six months than has been used heretofore in two years. She brings her husband another hundred thousand ducats, the value of the castles (Cento and Pieve), and will also secure the remission of Ferrara's tribute. The number of horses and persons the Pope will place at his daughter's disposal will amount to a thousand. There will be two hundred carriages—among them some of French make, if there is time—and with these will come the escort which is to take her."
|Despatch of Giovanni Lucido, in the archives of Mantua.|
The duke finally concluded to send the bridal escort, although the bulls were not ready for him. As he was anxious to make the marriage of his son with Lucretia an event of the greatest magnificence, he sent a cavalcade of more than fifteen hundred persons for her. At their head were Cardinal Ippolito and five other members of the ducal house; his brothers, Don Ferrante and Don Sigismondo; also Niccolò Maria d'Este, Bishop of Adria; Meliaduse d'Este, Bishop of Comacchio; and Don Ercole, a nephew of the duke. In the escort were numerous prominent friends and kinsmen or vassals of the house of Ferrara, lords of Correggio and Mirandola; the Counts Rangone of Modena; one of the Pio of Carpi; the Counts Bevilacqua, Roverella, Sagrato, Strozzi of Ferrara, Annibale Bentivoglio of Bologna, and many others.
These gentlemen, magnificently clad, and with heavy gold chains about their necks, mounted on beautiful horses, left Ferrara December 9th, with thirteen trumpeters and eight fifes at their head; and thus this wedding cavalcade, led by a worldly cardinal, rode noisily forth upon their journey. In our time such an aggregation might easily be mistaken for a troop of trick riders. Nowhere did this brave company of knights pay their reckoning; in the domain of Ferrara they lived on the duke; in other words, at the expense of his subjects. In the lands of other lords they did the same, and in the territory of the Church the cities they visited were required to provide for them.
In spite of the luxury of the Renaissance, traveling was at that time very disagreeable; everywhere in Europe it was as difficult then as it is now in the Orient. Great lords and ladies, who to-day flit across the country in comfortable railway carriages, traveled in the sixteenth century, even in the most civilized states of Europe, mounted on horses or mules, or slowly in sedan-chairs, exposed to all the inclemencies of wind and weather, and unpaved roads. The cavalcade was thirteen days on the way from Ferrara to Rome—a journey which can now be made in a few hours.
Finally, on December 22d, it reached Monterosi, a wretched castle fifteen miles from Rome. All were in a deplorable condition, wet to the skin by winter rains, and covered with mud; and men and horses completely tired out. From this place the cardinal sent a messenger with a herald to Rome to receive the Pope's commands. Answer was brought that they were to enter by the Porta del Popolo.
The entrance of the Ferrarese into Rome was the most theatrical event that occurred during the reign of Alexander VI. Processions were the favorite spectacles of the Middle Ages; State, Church, and society displayed their wealth and power in magnificent cavalcades. The horse was symbolic of the world's strength and magnificence, but with the disappearance of knighthood it lost its place in the history of civilization. How the love of form and color of the people of Italy—the home of processions—has changed was shown in Rome, July 2, 1871, when Victor Emmanuel entered his new capital. Had this episode—one of the weightiest in the whole history of Italy—occurred during the Renaissance, it would have been made the occasion of a magnificent triumph. The entrance into Rome of the first king of united Italy was made, however, in a few dust-covered carriages, which conveyed the monarch and his court from the railway station to their lodgings; yet in this bourgeois simplicity there was really more moral greatness than in any of the triumphs of the Caesars. That the love of parades which existed in the Renaissance has died out is, perhaps, to be regretted, for occasions still arise when they are necessary.
CASTLE OF S. ANGELO, ROME.
Alexander's prestige would certainly have suffered if, on the occasion of a family function of such importance, he had failed to offer the people as evidence of his power a brilliant spectacle of some sort. The very fact that Adrian VI did not understand and appreciate this requirement of the Renaissance made him the butt of the Romans.
At ten o'clock on the morning of December 23d the Ferrarese reached the Ponte Molle, where breakfast was served in a nearby villa. The appearance of this neighborhood must at that time have been different from what it is to-day. There were casinos and wine houses on the slopes of Monte Mario—whose summit was occupied even at that time by a villa belonging to the Mellini—and on the hills beyond the Flaminian Way. Nicholas V had restored the bridge over the Tiber, and also begun a tower nearby, which Calixtus III completed. Between the Ponte Molle and the Porta del Popolo there was then,—just as there is now,—a wretched suburb.
At the bridge crossing the Tiber they found a wedding escort composed of the senators of Rome, the governor of the city, and the captain of police, accompanied by two thousand men, some on foot and some mounted. Half a bowshot from the gate the cavalcade met Caesar's suite. First came six pages, then a hundred mounted noblemen, followed by two hundred Swiss clothed in black and yellow velvet with the arms of the Pope, birettas on their heads, and bearing halberds. Behind them rode the Duke of Romagna with the ambassador of France at his side, who wore a French costume and a golden sash. After greeting each other mid the blare of trumpets, the gentlemen dismounted from their horses. Caesar embraced Cardinal Ippolito and rode at his side as far as the city gate. If Valentino's following numbered four thousand and the city officials two thousand more, it is difficult to conceive, taking the spectators also into account, how so large a number of people could congregate before the Porta del Popolo. The rows of houses which now extend from this gate could not have been in existence then, and the space occupied by the Villa Borghese must have been vacant. At the gate the cavalcade was met by nineteen cardinals, each accompanied by two hundred persons. The reception here, owing to the oration, required over two hours, consequently it was evening when it was over.
Finally, to the din of trumpets, fifes, and horns, the cavalcade set out over the Corso, across the Campo di Fiore, for the Vatican, where it was saluted from Castle S. Angelo. Alexander stood at a window of the palace to see the procession which marked the fulfilment of the dearest wish of his house. His chamberlain met the Ferrarese at the steps of the palace and conducted them to his Holiness, who, accompanied by twelve cardinals, advanced to meet them. They kissed his feet, and he raised them up and embraced them. A few moments were spent in animated conversation, after which Caesar led the princes to his sister. Leaning on the arm of an elderly cavalier dressed in black velvet, with a golden chain about his neck, Lucretia went as far as the entrance of her palace to greet them. According to the prearranged ceremonial she did not kiss her brothers-in-law, but merely bowed to them, following the French custom. She wore a dress of some white material embroidered in gold, over which there was a garment of dark brown velvet trimmed with sable. The sleeves were of white and gold brocade, tight, and barred in the Spanish fashion. Her head-dress was of a green gauze, with a fine gold band and two rows of pearls. About her neck was a heavy chain of pearls with a ruby pendant. Refreshments were served, and Lucretia distributed small gifts—the work of Roman jewelers—among those present. The princes departed highly pleased with their reception. "This much I know," wrote El Prete, "that the eyes of Cardinal Ippolito sparkled, as much as to say, She is an enchanting and exceedingly gracious lady."
The cardinal likewise wrote the same evening to his sister Isabella of Mantua to satisfy her curiosity regarding Lucretia's costume. Dress was then an important matter in the eyes of a court; in fact there never was a time when women's costumes were richer and more carefully studied than they were during the Renaissance. The Marchioness had sent an agent to Rome apparently for the sole purpose of giving her an account of the bridal festivities, and she had directed him to pay special attention to the dresses. El Prete carried out his instructions as conscientiously as a reporter for a daily paper would now do.
|The report of this agent, who signs himself El Prete, is preserved in the archives of Mantua.|
From his description an artist could paint a good portrait of the bride.
The same evening the Ferrarese ambassadors paid their official visit to Donna Lucretia, and they promptly wrote the duke regarding the impression his daughter-in-law had made upon them.
Illustrious Master: To-day after supper Don Gerardo Saraceni and I betook ourselves to the illustrious Madonna Lucretia, to pay our respects in the name of your Excellency and his Majesty Don Alfonso. We had a long conversation regarding various matters. She is a most intelligent and lovely, and also exceedingly gracious lady. Your Excellency and the illustrious Don Alfonso—so we were led to conclude—will be highly pleased with her. Besides being extremely graceful in every way, she is modest, lovable, and decorous. Moreover, she is a devout and God-fearing Christian. To-morrow she is going to confession, and during Christmas week she will receive the communion. She is very beautiful, but her charm of manner is still more striking. In short, her character is such that it is impossible to suspect anything "sinister" of her; but, on the contrary, we look for only the best. It seems to be our duty to tell you the exact truth in this letter. I commend myself to your Highness's merciful benevolence. Rome, December 23, 1501, the sixth hour of the night.
Pozzi's letter shows how anxious were the duke and his son, even up to the last. It must have been a humiliation for both of them to have to confide their suspicions to their ambassador in Rome, and to ask him to find out what he could regarding the character of a lady who was to be the future Duchess of Ferrara. The very phrase in Pozzi's letter that there was nothing "sinister" to be suspected of Lucretia shows how black were the rumors that circulated regarding her. His testimony, therefore, is all the more valuable, and it is one of the most important documents for forming a judgment of Lucretia's character. Had she been afforded a chance to read it, her mortification would, no doubt, have outweighed her satisfaction.
|The Farrarese agent, Bartolomeo Bresciani, who had been sent to Rome on matters connected with the Church, is no less complimentary. He says, la Excell. V. remagnera molto ben satisfacto da questa Illma Madona per essere dotada de tanti costumi et buntade. (To the duke, October 30, 1501.) He informed him also that Lucretia often conversed with a saintly person who had been secluded in the Vatican for eight years.|
The Ferrarese princes took up their abode in the Vatican; other gentlemen occupied the Belvedere, while the majority were provided for by the citizens, who were compelled to entertain them. At that time the popes handled their private matters just as if they were affairs of state, and met expenses by taxing the court officials, who, in spite of this, made a good living, and even grew rich by the Pope's mercy. The merchants likewise were required to bear a part of the expense of these ecclesiastical functions. Many of the officials grumbled over entertaining the Ferrarese, and provided for them so badly that the Pope was compelled to interfere.
|Despatch of Gianluca Pozzi to Ercole, Rome, December 25, 1501.|
During the Christmas festivities the Pope read mass in S. Peter's. The princes were present, and the duke's ambassador described Alexander's magnificent and also "saintly" bearing in terms more fitting to depict the appearance of an accomplished actor.
|Pozzi to Ercole, Rome, December 25, 1501.|
The Pope now gave orders for the carnival to begin, and there were daily banquets and festivities in the Vatican.
El Prete has left a naive account of an evening's entertainment in Lucretia's palace, in which he gives us a vivid picture of the customs of the day. "The illustrious Madonna," so wrote the reporter, "appears in public but little, because she is busy preparing for her departure. Sunday evening, S. Stephen's Day, December 26th, I went unexpectedly to her residence. Her Majesty was in her chamber, seated by the bed. In a corner of the room were about twenty Roman women dressed a la romanesca, 'wearing certain cloths on their heads'; the ladies of her court, to the number of ten, were also present. A nobleman from Valencia and a lady of the court, Niccola, led the dance. They were followed by Don Ferrante and Madonna, who danced with extreme grace and animation. She wore a camorra of black velvet with gold borders and black sleeves; the cuffs were tight; the sleeves were slashed at the shoulders; her breast was covered up to the neck with a veil made of gold thread. About her neck she wore a string of pearls, and on her head a green net and a chain of rubies. She had an overskirt of black velvet trimmed with fur, colored, and very beautiful. The trousseaux of her ladies-in-waiting are not yet ready. Two or three of the women are pretty; one, Catalina, a native of Valencia, dances well, and another, Angela, is charming. Without telling her, I picked her out as my favorite. Yesterday evening (28th) the cardinal, the duke, and Don Ferrante walked about the city masked, and afterwards we went to the duchess's house, where there was dancing. Everywhere in Rome, from morning till night, one sees nothing but courtesans wearing masks, for after the clock strikes the twenty-fourth hour they are not permitted to show themselves abroad."
Although the marriage had been performed in Ferrara by proxy, Alexander wished the service to be said again in Rome. To prevent repetition, the ceremony in Ferrara had been performed only vis volo, the exchange of rings having been deferred.
On the evening of December 30th, the Ferrarese escorted Madonna Lucretia to the Vatican. When Alfonso's bride left her palace she was accompanied by her entire court and fifty maids of honor. She was dressed in gold brocade and crimson velvet trimmed with ermine; the sleeves of her gown reached to the floor; her train was borne by some of her ladies; her golden hair was confined by a black ribbon, and about her neck she wore a string of pearls with a pendant consisting of an emerald, a ruby, and a large pearl.
Don Ferrante and Sigismondo led her by the hands; when the train set forth a body of musicians stationed on the steps of S. Peter's began to play. The Pope, on the throne in the Sala Paolina, surrounded by thirteen cardinals and his son Caesar, awaited her. Among the foreign representatives present were the ambassadors of France, Spain, and Venice; the German envoy was absent. The ceremony began with the reading of the mandate of the Duke of Ferrara, after which the Bishop of Adria delivered the wedding sermon, which the Pope, however, commanded to be cut short.
|Fu necessario che la abreviasse, Gianluca and Gerardo to Ercole, Rome, December 30, 1501.|
A table was placed before him, and by it stood Don Ferrante—as his brother's representative—and Donna Lucretia. Ferrante addressed the formal question to her, and on her answering in the affirmative, he placed the ring on her finger with the following words: "This ring, illustrious Donna Lucretia, the noble Don Alfonso sends thee of his own free will, and in his name I give it thee"; whereupon she replied, "And I, of my own free will, thus accept it."
The performance of the ceremony was attested by a notary. Then followed the presentation of the jewels to Lucretia by Cardinal Ippolito. The duke, who sent her a costly present worth no less than seventy thousand ducats, attached special weight to the manner in which it was to be given her. On December 21st he wrote his son that in presenting the jewels he should use certain words which his ambassador Pozzi would give him, and he was told that this was done as a precautionary measure, so that, in case Donna Lucretia should prove untrue to Alfonso, the jewels would not be lost.
|E ciò nello scopo, che se mancasse essa Duchessa verso lo Illmo Don Alfonso non fosse più obbligato di quanto voleva esserlo circa dette gioje. Ercole to Cardinal Ippolito, December 21, 1501. There is a letter of the same date regarding the subject, written by Ercole to Gianluca Pozzi.|
Until the very last, the duke handled the Borgias with the misgivings of a man who feared he might be cheated. On December 30th Pozzi wrote him: "There is a document regarding this marriage which simply states that Donna Lucretia will be given, for a present, the bridal ring, but nothing is said of any other gift. Your Excellency's intention, therefore, was carried out exactly. There was no mention of any present, and your Excellency need have no anxiety."
Ippolito performed his part so gracefully that the Pope told him he had heightened the beauty of the present. The jewels were in a small box which the cardinal first placed before the Pope and then opened. One of the keepers of the jewels from Ferrara helped him to display the gems to the best advantage. The Pope took the box in his own hand and showed it to his daughter. There were chains, rings, earrings, and precious stones beautifully set. Especially magnificent was a string of pearls—Lucretia's favorite gem. Ippolito also presented his sister-in-law with his gifts, among which were four beautifully chased crosses. The cardinals sent similar presents.
After this the guests went to the windows of the salon to watch the games in the Piazza of S. Peter; these consisted of races and a mimic battle for a ship. Eight noblemen defended the vessel against an equal number of opponents. They fought with sharp weapons, and five people were wounded.
This over, the company repaired to the Chamber of the Parrots, where the Pope took his position upon the throne, with the cardinals on his left, and Ippolito, Donna Lucretia, and Caesar on his right. El Prete says: "Alexander asked Caesar to lead the dance with Donna Lucretia, which he did very gracefully. His Holiness was in continual laughter. The ladies of the court danced in couples, and extremely well. The dance, which lasted more than an hour, was followed by the comedies. The first was not finished, as it was too long; the second, which was in Latin verse, and in which a shepherd and several children appeared, was very beautiful, but I have forgotten what it represented. When the comedies were finished all departed except his Holiness, the bride, and her brother-in-law. In the evening the Pope gave the wedding banquet, but of this I am unable to send any account, as it was a family affair."
The festivities continued for days, and all Rome resounded with the noise of the carnival. During the closing days of the year Cardinal Sanseverino and Caesar presented some plays. The one given by Caesar was an eclogue, with rustic scenery, in which the shepherd sang the praises of the young pair, and of Duke Ercole, and the Pope as Ferrara's protector.
|Pozzi to Ercole, January 1, 1502. Archives of Modena.|
The first day of the new year (1502) was celebrated with great pomp. The various quarters of Rome organized a parade in which were thirteen floats led by the gonfalonier of the city and the magistrates, which passed from the Piazza Navona to the Vatican, accompanied by the strains of music. The first car represented the triumph of Hercules, another Julius Caesar, and others various Roman heroes. They stopped before the Vatican to enable the Pope and his guests to admire the spectacle from the windows. Poems in honor of the young couple were declaimed, and four hours were thus passed.
Then followed comedies in the Chamber of the Parrots. Subsequently a moresca or ballet was performed in the "sala of the Pope," whose walls were decorated with beautiful tapestries which had been executed by order of Innocent VIII. Here was erected a low stage decorated with foliage and illuminated by torches. The lookers-on took their places on benches and on the floor, as they preferred. After a short eclogue, a jongleur dressed as a woman danced the moresca to the accompaniment of tamborines, and Caesar also took part in it, and was recognized in spite of his disguise. Trumpets announced a second performance. A tree appeared upon whose top was a Genius who recited verses; these over, he dropped down the ends of nine silk ribbons which were taken by nine maskers who danced a ballet about the tree. This moresca was loudly applauded. In conclusion the Pope asked his daughter to dance, which she did with one of her women, a native of Valencia, and they were followed by all the men and women who had taken part in the ballet.
El Prete to Isabella, Rome, January 2, 1502.|
Comedies and moresche were in great favor on festal occasions. The poets of Rome, the Porcaro, the Mellini, Inghirami, and Evangelista Maddaleni, probably composed these pieces, and they may also have taken part in them, for it was many years since Rome had been given such a brilliant opportunity to show her progress in histrionics. Lucretia was showered with sonnets and epithalamia. It is strange that not one of these has been preserved, and also that not a single Roman poet of the day is mentioned as the author of any of these comedies. On January 2d a bull fight was given in the Piazza of S. Peter's. The Spanish bull fight was introduced into Italy in the fourteenth century, but not until the fifteenth had it become general. The Aragonese brought it to Naples, and the Borgias to Rome. Hitherto the only thing of the sort which had been seen was the bull-baiting in the Piazza Navona or on the Testaccio. Caesar was fond of displaying his agility and strength in this barbarous sport. During the jubilee year he excited the wonder of all Rome by decapitating a bull with a single stroke in one of these contests. On January 2d he and nine other Spaniards, who probably were professional matadors, entered the enclosure with two loose bulls, where he mounted his horse and with his lance attacked the more ferocious one single-handed; then he dismounted, and with the other Spaniards continued to goad the animals. After this heroic performance the duke left the arena to the matadors. Ten bulls and one buffalo were slaughtered.
In the evening the Menæchmi of Plautus and other pieces were produced in which was celebrated the majesty of Caesar and Ercole. The Ferrarese ambassador sent his master an account of these performances which is a valuable picture of the day.
This evening the Menæchmi was recited in the Pope's room, and the Slave, the Parasite, the Pandor, and the wife of Menæchmus performed their parts well. The Menæchmi themselves, however, played badly. They had no masks, and there was no scenery, for the room was too small. In the scene where Menæchmus, seized by command of his father-in-law, who thinks he is mad, exclaims that he is being subjected to force, he added: "This passes understanding; for Caesar is mighty, Zeus merciful, and Hercules kind."
Before the performance of this comedy the following play was given: first appeared a boy in woman's clothes who represented Virtue, and another in the character of Fortune. They began to banter each other as to which was the mightier, whereupon Fame suddenly appeared, standing on a globe which rested on a float, upon which were the words, "Gloria Domus Borgiæ." Fame, who also called himself Light, awarded Virtue the prize over Fortune, saying that Caesar and Ercole by Virtue had overcome Fortune; thereupon he described a number of the heroic deeds performed by the illustrious Duke of Romagna. Hercules with the lion's skin and club appeared, and Juno sent Fortune to attack him. Hercules, however, overcame Fortune, seized her and chained her; whereupon Juno begged him to free her, and he, gracious and generous, consented to grant Juno's request on the condition that she would never do anything which might injure the house of Ercole or that of Caesar Borgia. To this she agreed, and, in addition, she promised to bless the union of the two houses.
Then Roma entered upon another float. She complained that Alexander, who occupied Jupiter's place, had been unjust to her in permitting the illustrious Donna Lucretia to go away; she praised the duchess highly, and said that she was the refuge of all Rome. Then came a personification of Ferrara—but not on a float—and said that Lucretia was not going to take up her abode in an unworthy city, and that Rome would not lose her. Mercury followed, having been sent by the gods to reconcile Rome and Ferrara, as it was in accordance with their wish that Donna Lucretia was going to the latter city. Then he invited Ferrara to take a seat by his side in the place of honor on the float.
All this was accompanied by descriptions in polished hexameters, which celebrated the alliance of Caesar and Ercole, and predicted that together they would overthrow all the latter's enemies. If this prophecy is realized, the marriage will result greatly to our advantage. So we commend ourselves to your Excellency's mercy.
Finally the date set for Lucretia to leave—January 6th—arrived. The Pope was determined that her departure should be attended by a magnificent display; she should traverse Italy like a queen. A cardinal was to accompany her as legate, Francesco Borgia, Archbishop of Cosenza, having been chosen for this purpose. To Lucretia he owed his cardinalate, and he was a most devoted retainer; "an elderly man, a worthy person of the house of Borgia," so Pozzi wrote to Ferrara. Madonna was also accompanied by the bishops of Carniola, Venosa, and Orte.
Alexander endeavored to persuade many of the nobles of Rome, men and women, to accompany Lucretia, and he succeeded in inducing a large number to do so. The city of Rome appointed four special envoys, who were to remain in Ferrara as long as the festivities lasted—Stefano del Bufalo, Antonio Paoluzzo, Giacomo Frangipane, and Domenico Massimi. The Roman nobility selected for the same purpose Francesco Colonna of Palestrina and Giuliano, Count of Anguillara. There were also Ranuccio Farnese of Matelica and Don Giulio Raimondo Borgia, the Pope's nephew, and captain of the papal watch, together with eight other gentlemen belonging to the lesser nobility of Rome.
Caesar equipped at his own expense an escort of two hundred cavaliers, with musicians and buffoons to entertain his sister on the way. This cavalcade, which was composed of Spaniards, Frenchmen, Romans, and Italians from various provinces, was joined later by two famous men—Ivo d'Allegre and Don Ugo Moncada. Among the Romans were the Chevaliers Orsini; Piero Santa Croce; Giangiorgio Cesarini, a brother of Cardinal Giuliano; and other gentlemen, members of the Alberini, Sanguigni, Crescenzi, and Mancini families.
Lucretia herself had a retinue of a hundred and eighty people. In the list—which is still preserved—are the names of many of her maids of honor; her first lady-in-waiting was Angela Borgia, una damigella elegantisima, as one of the chroniclers of Ferrara describes her, who is said to have been a very beautiful woman, and who was the subject of some verses by the Roman poet Diomede Guidalotto. She was also accompanied by her sister Donna Girolama, consort of the youthful Don Fabio Orsini. Madonna Adriana Orsini, another woman named Adriana, the wife of Don Francesco Colonna, and another lady of the house of Orsini, whose name is not given, also accompanied Lucretia. It is not likely, however, that the last was Giulia Farnese.
A number of vehicles which the Pope had ordered built in Rome and a hundred and fifty mules bore Lucretia's trousseau. Some of this baggage was sent on ahead. The duchess took everything that the Pope permitted her to remove. He refused to have an inventory made, as Beneimbene the notary had advised. "I desire," so he stated to the Ferrarese ambassadors, "that the duchess shall do with her property as she wishes." He had also given her nine thousand ducats to clothe herself and her servants, and also a beautiful sedan-chair of French make, in which the Duchess of Urbino was to have a seat by her side when she joined the cavalcade.
Pozzi to Ercole, Rome, December 28, 1501.|
While Alexander was praising his daughter's graciousness and modesty, he expressed the wish that her father-in-law would provide her with no courtiers and ladies-in-waiting but those whose character was above question. She had told him—so the ambassadors wrote their master—that she would never give his Holiness cause to be ashamed of her, and "according to our view he certainly never will have occasion, for the longer we are with her, and the closer we examine her life, the higher is our opinion of her goodness, her decorum, and modesty. We see that life in her palace is not only Christian, but also religious."
Pozzi and Saraceni, Rome, December 28, 1501.|
Even Cardinal Ferrante Ferrari ventured to write Ercole—whose servant he had been—a letter in which he spoke of the duke's daughter-in-law in unctuous terms and praised her character to the skies.
Rome, January 9, 1502.|
January 5th the balance of the wedding portion was paid to the Ferrarese ambassadors in cash, whereupon they reported to the duke that everything had been arranged, that his daughter-in-law would bring the bull with her, and that the cavalcade was ready to start.
La Illma Madama Lucrezia porta tutte le bolle piene et in optima forma. Pozzi and Gerardo to Ercole, Rome, January 6, 1502.|
Alexander had decided at what towns they should stop on their long journey. They were as follows: Castelnovo, Civitacastellana, Narni, Terni, Spoleto, and Foligno; it was expected the Duke Guidobaldo or his wife would meet Lucretia at the last-named place and accompany her to Urbino. Thence they were to pass through Caesar's estates, going by way of Pesaro, Rimini, Cesena, Forli, Faenza, and Imola to Bologna, and from that city to Ferrara by way of the Po.
As the places through which they passed would be subjected to very great expense if the entire cavalcade stopped, the retinue was sometimes divided, each part taking a different route. The Pope's brief to the Priors of Nepi shows to what imposition the people were subjected.
Dear Sons: Greeting and the Apostolic Blessing. As our dearly beloved daughter in Christ, the noble lady and Duchess Lucretia de Borgia, who is to leave here next Monday to join her husband Alfonso, the beloved son and first born of the Duke of Ferrara, with a large escort of nobles, two hundred horsemen will pass through your district; therefore we wish and command you, if you value our favor and desire to avoid our displeasure, to provide for the company mentioned above for a day and two nights, the time they will spend with you. By so doing you will receive from us all due approbation. Given in Rome, under the Apostolic seal, December 28, 1501, in the tenth year of our Pontificate.
In the archives of the municipality of Nepi, where I copied the brief from the records. There is a similar letter in the same form and of the same date, addressed to the commune of Trevi, in the city archives of that place. The latter is printed in Tullio Dandolo's Arte christiána—Passeggiate nell' Umbria, 1866, p. 358.|
Numerous other places had similar experiences. In every city in which the cavalcade stopped, and in some of those where they merely rested for a short time, Lucretia, in accordance with the Pope's commands, was honored with triumphal arches, illuminations, and processions—all the expense of which was borne by the commune.
January 6th Lucretia, leaving her child Rodrigo, her brother Caesar, and her parents, departed from Rome. Probably only two persons were present when she took leave of Vannozza. None of those who describe the festivities in the Vatican mention this woman by name.
The Chamber of the Parrots was the scene of her leave-taking with her father. She remained with the Pope some time, departing on Caesar's entrance. As she was leaving, Alexander called after her in a loud voice, telling her to be of good cheer, and to write him whenever she wanted anything, adding that he would do more for her now that she had gone from him than he had ever done for her while she was in Rome. Then he went from place to place and watched her until she and her retinue were lost to sight.
Beltrando Costabili to Ercole, Rome, January 6, 1502.|
Lucretia set forth from Rome at three o'clock in the afternoon. All the cardinals, ambassadors, and magistrates of the city accompanied her as far as the Porta del Popolo. She was mounted on a white jennet caparisoned with gold, and she wore a riding habit of red silk and ermine, and a hat trimmed with feathers. She was surrounded by more than a thousand persons. By her side were the princes of Ferrara and the Cardinal of Cosenza. Her brother Caesar accompanied her a short distance, and then returned to the Vatican with Cardinal Ippolito.
Thus Lucretia Borgia departed, leaving Rome and a terrible past behind her forever.
Chapter I: Lucretia's Journey to FerraraAlthough the escort which was taking the Duchess Lucretia to Ferrara traveled by easy stages, the journey was fatiguing; for the roads, especially in winter, were bad, and the weather, even in the vicinity of Rome, was frequently wet and cold.
Not until the seventh day did they reach Foligno. As the report which the Ferrarese ambassadors sent their lord from that place contains a vivid description of the journey, we quote it at length:
Illustrious and Honored Master: Although we wrote your Excellency from Narni that we would travel from Terni to Spoleto, and from Spoleto to this place without stopping, the illustrious Duchess and her ladies were so fatigued that she decided to rest a day in Spoleto and another in Foligno. We, therefore, shall not leave here until to-morrow morning, and shall not arrive at Urbino before next Tuesday, that is the eighteenth of the current month, for to-morrow we shall reach Nocera, Saturday Gualdo, Sunday Gubbio, Monday Cagli, and Tuesday Urbino, where we shall rest another day, that is Wednesday. On the twentieth we shall set out for Pesaro, and so on from city to city, as we have already written your Excellency.
We feel certain, however, that the duchess will stop frequently to rest, consequently we shall not reach Ferrara before the last of the present or the first of next month, and perhaps not until the second or third. We therefore thought it well to write your Excellency from here, letting you know where we were and where we expected to be, so that you might arrange matters as you thought best. If you wish us not to arrive in Ferrara until the second or third, it would not be difficult so to arrange it; but if you think it would be better for us to reach the city the last of this month or the first of February, write us to that effect, and we will endeavor, as we have hitherto done, to shorten the periods of rest.
I mention this because the illustrious Donna Lucretia is of a delicate constitution and, like her ladies, is unaccustomed to the saddle, and because we notice that she does not wish to be worn out when she reaches Ferrara.
In all the cities through which her Majesty passes she is received with every show of affection and with great honors, and presented with numerous gifts by the women. Everything is done for her comfort. She was welcomed everywhere and, as she was formerly ruler of Spoleto, she was well known to the people. Her reception here in Foligno was more cordial and accompanied by greater manifestations of joy than anywhere else outside of Rome, for not only did the signors of the city, as the officials of the commune are called, clad in red silk, come on foot to meet her and accompany her to her inn on the Piazza, but at the gate she was confronted by a float upon which was a person representing the Roman Lucretia with a dagger in her hand, who recited some verses to the effect that her Majesty excelled herself in graciousness, modesty, intelligence, and understanding, and that therefore she would yield her own place to her.
There was also a float upon which was a cupid, and on the summit, with the golden apple in his hand, stood Paris, who repeated some stanzas, the gist of which was as follows: he had promised the apple to Venus, the only one who excelled both Juno and Pallas in beauty; but he now reversed his decision, and presented it to her Majesty as she, of all women, was the only one who surpassed all the goddesses, possessing greater beauty, wisdom, riches, and power than all three united.
Finally, on the Piazza we discovered an armed Turkish galley coming toward us, and one of the Turks, who was standing on the bulwarks, repeated some stanzas of the following import: the sultan well knew how powerful was Lucretia in Italy, and he had sent him to greet her, and to say that his master would surrender everything he had taken from the Christians. We made no special effort to remember these verses, for they were not exactly Petrarchian, and, moreover, the ship did not appear to us to be a very happy idea; it was rather out of place.
We must not forget to tell you that all the reigning Baglione came from Perugia and their castles, and were waiting for Lucretia about four miles from Foligno, and that they invited her to go to Perugia.
Her Majesty, as we wrote your Excellency from Narni, persists in her wish to journey from Bologna to Ferrara by water to escape the discomfort of riding and traveling by land.
His Holiness, our Lord, is so concerned for her Majesty that he demands daily and even hourly reports of her journey, and she is required to write him with her own hand from every city regarding her health. This confirms the statement which has frequently been made to your Excellency—that his Holiness loves her more than any other person of his blood.
We shall not neglect to make a report to your Excellency regarding the journey whenever an opportunity offers.
Between Terni and Spoleto, in the valley of the Strettura, one of the hostlers of the illustrious Don Sigismondo engaged in a violent altercation about some turtle doves with one of his fellows in the service of the Roman Stefano dei Fabii, who is a member of the duchess's escort. Both grasped their arms, whereupon one Pizaguerra, also in the service of the illustrious Don Sigismondo, happening to ride by on his horse, wounded Stefano's hostler on the head. Thereupon Stefano, who is naturally quarrelsome and vindictive, became so angry that he declared he would accompany the cavalcade no farther. About this time we reached the castle of Spoleto, and he passed the illustrious Don Sigismondo and Don Ferrante without speaking to them or even looking at them. The whole affair was due to a misunderstanding which we all regretted very much, and as Pizaguerra and Don Sigismondo's hostler had fled, there was nothing more to be done; the Cardinal of Cosenza, the illustrious Madonna, and all the others agreed that Stefano was in the wrong. He, therefore, was mollified, and continued on the journey. We commend ourselves to your Excellency's mercy. From Foligno, January 13, 1502.
Postscript: The worthy Cardinal of Cosenza, we understand, is unwilling to pass through the territory of the illustrious Duke of Urbino.
From Foligno the journey was continued by way of Nocera and Gualdo to Gubbio, one of the most important cities in the duchy of Urbino. About two miles from that place the Duchess Elisabetta met Lucretia and accompanied her to the city palace. After this the two remained constantly in each other's company, for Elisabetta kept her promise and accompanied Lucretia to Ferrara.
Cardinal Borgia returned to Rome from Gubbio, and the two ladies occupied the comfortable sedan-chair which Alexander had presented his daughter. January 18th, when the cavalcade was near Urbino, Lucretia was greeted by Duke Guidobaldo, who had come with his entire court to meet her. He accompanied Lucretia to the residence set apart for her—Federico's beautiful palace—where she and the princes of Este were lodged, the duke and duchess having vacated it for them. The artful Guidobaldo had set up the Borgia arms and those of the King of France in conspicuous places in Urbino and throughout the various cities of his domain.
Although Lucretia's wedding was regarded by the Montrefeltre with great displeasure, they now, on account of Ferrara and because of their fear of the Pope, hastened to show her every honor. They had been acquainted with Lucretia in Rome when Guidobaldo, Alexander's condottiere, conducted the unsuccessful war against the Orsini, and they had also known her in Pesaro. Perhaps they now hoped that Urbino's safety would be assured by Lucretia's influence and friendship. However, only a few months were to pass before Guidobaldo and his consort were to be undone by the fiendishness of their guest's brother and driven from their domain.
After resting a day, Lucretia and the duchess, accompanied for a short distance by Guidobaldo, set out from Urbino, January 20th, for Pesaro, which they reached late in the evening. The road connecting these cities is now a comfortable highway, traversing a beautiful, undulating country, but at that time it was little more than a bridlepath; consequently the travelers were thoroughly fatigued when they reached their destination.
When Lucretia entered the latter city she must have been overcome by painful emotions, for she could not fail to have been reminded of Sforza, her discarded husband, who was now an exile in Mantua, brooding on revenge, and who might appear at any moment in Ferrara to mar the wedding festivities. Pesaro now belonged to her brother Caesar, and he had given orders that his sister should be royally received in all the cities she visited in his domain. A hundred children clad in his colors—yellow and red—with olive branches in their hands, greeted her at the gates of Pesaro with the cry, "Duca! Duca! Lucretia! Lucretia!" and the city officials accompanied her to her former residence.
Lucretia's colors were yellow and dark brown (morrelo aperto), while Alexander's were yellow and black.|
Lucretia was received with every evidence of joy by her former subjects, and the most prominent of the noble women of the city, among whom was the matron Lucretia Lopez, once her lady-in-waiting, and now wife of Gianfrancesco Ardizi.
Spogli di Giambattista Almerici. i, 284. Ms. in the Oliveriana in Pesaro.|
Lucretia remained a day in Pesaro without allowing herself to be seen. In the evening she permitted the ladies of her suite to dance with those of the city, but she herself took no part in the festivities. Pozzi wrote the duke that she spent the entire time in her chamber "for the purpose of washing her head, and because she was naturally inclined to solitude." Her seclusion while in Pesaro may be explained as more likely due to the gloomy thoughts which filled her mind.
Si per attendere a lavarse il capo, como anche per essere assai solitaria et remota di soa natura. Despatch from Rimini, January 22, 1502.|
In every town belonging to the Duke of Romagna there was a similar reception; everywhere the magistrates presented Lucretia with the keys of the city. She was now accompanied by her brother's lieutenant in Cesena, Don Ramiro d'Orco,—a monster who was quartered by Caesar's orders a few months later.
Passing Rimini and Cesena she reached Forli, January 25th. The salon of the palace was hung with costly tapestries, and even the ceiling was covered with many-colored cloth; a tribune was erected for the ladies. Presents of food, sweetmeats, and wax tapers were offered the duchess. In spite of the stringent laws which Caesar's rectors, especially Ramiro, had passed, bands of robbers made the roads unsafe. Fearing that the bold bandit Giambattista Carraro might overtake the bridal train after it had left the boundaries of Cervia, a guard of a thousand men on foot and a hundred and fifty troopers was furnished by the people, apparently as an escort of honor.
Ferrante to Ercole, Rimini, January 23, 1502.|
In Faenza Lucretia announced that she would be obliged to spend Friday in Imola to wash her head, as she would not have an opportunity to do this again until the end of the carnival. This washing of the head, which we have already had occasion to notice as an important part of the toilet in those days, must, therefore, have been in some manner connected with dressing the hair.
The expression is lavarsi il capo.|
The Ferrarese ambassador spoke of this practice of Lucretia's as a repeated obstacle which might delay the entrance of her Majesty into Ferrara until February 2d. Don Ferrante likewise wrote from Imola that she would rest there a day to put her clothes in order and wash her head, which, said she, had not been done for eight days, and she, therefore, was suffering with headache.
Ferrante to Ercole, Imola, January 27, 1502.|
On the way from Faenza to Imola the cavalcade stopped at Castle Bolognese, which had been abandoned by Giovanni Bentivoglio when he was threatened by Caesar. They found the walls of the town razed, the moat filled up, and even its name changed to Cesarina.
After resting a day in Imola the cavalcade set out January 28th for Bologna. When they reached the borders of the territory belonging to the city they were met by Bentivoglio's sons and his consort Ginevra, with a brilliant retinue, and two miles from the city gate Giovanni himself was waiting to greet them.
The tyrant of Bologna, who owed his escape from Caesar wholly to the protection of the French, spared nothing to honor his enemy's sister. Accompanied by several hundred riders, he led her in triumph through the city, where the arms of the Borgias, of Caesar, the Pope, and Lucretia, and those of France, and of the Este met her eye on every side. The proud matron Ginevra, surrounded by a large number of noble ladies, received Lucretia at the portals of her magnificent palace. How this famous woman, the aunt of Giovanni Sforza of Pesaro, must in her soul have hated this Borgia! However, it was neither Alexander nor Caesar, but Giuliano della Rovere, subsequently Julius II, who was destined, only four years later, to drive her and all her race from Bologna forever.
January 30th was devoted to gorgeous festivities, and in the evening the Bentivoglio gave a ball and a banquet.
The following day they accompanied Lucretia for a part of the way, as it was her purpose to continue her journey to Ferrara, which now was not far distant, by boat on the canal, which at that time ran from Bologna to the Po.
The same day—January 31st—towards evening, Lucretia reached Castle Bentivoglio, which was but twenty miles from Ferrara. She had no sooner arrived at that place than her consort Alfonso suddenly appeared. She was greatly overcome, but promptly recovered herself and received him "with many professions of esteem and most graciously," to all of which he responded with great gallantry.
Gianluca to Ercole, January 31, 1502.|
Hitherto the hereditary Prince of Ferrara had sullenly held aloof from the wife that had been forced upon him. Men of that age had not a trace of the tenderness or sentimentality of those of to-day, but, even admitting this, it is certainly strange that there is no evidence of any correspondence between Lucretia and Alfonso during the time the marriage was being arranged, although a great many letters then passed between the duchess and Ercole. Either owing to a desire to please his father or to his own curiosity or cunning, the rough and reticent Alfonso now threw off his reserve. He came in disguise, remained two hours, and then suddenly left for Ferrara.
During this short interview he was greatly impressed by his wife. Lucretia in those two hours had certainly brought Alfonso under the spell of her personality, even if she had not completely disarmed him. Not wholly without reason had the gallant burghers of Foligno awarded the apple of Paris to Lucretia. Speaking of this meeting, one of the chroniclers of Ferrara says, "The entire people rejoiced greatly, as did also the bride and her own followers, because his Majesty had shown a desire to see her and had received her so well—an indication that she would be accepted and treated still better."
Bernardino Zambotto. See Monsignor Giuseppe Antonelli's work, Lucrezia Borgia in Ferrara, sposa a Don Alfonso d'Este, Memorie storiche.... Ferrara, 1867.|
Probably no one was more pleased than the Pope. His daughter immediately informed him of her reception, for she sent him daily letters giving an account of her journey; and he also received numerous despatches from other persons in her train. Up to this time he had felt some misgivings as to her reception by the Este, but now he was relieved. After she had left Rome he frequently asked Cardinal Ferrari to warn the duke to treat his daughter-in-law kindly, remarking, at the same time, that he had done a great deal for her, and would do still more. He declared that the remission of Ferrara's tribute would, if paid for in money, require not less than two hundred thousand ducats, and that the officials of the chancellery had demanded between five and six thousand ducats merely for preparing the bulls. The kings of France and Spain had been compelled to pay the Duke of Romagna a yearly tribute of twenty thousand ducats for the remission of the taxes of Naples, which consisted only in the payment of a single white horse. Ferrara, on the other hand, had been granted everything.
The ambassador Beltrando Costabili to Duke Ercole, Rome, January 7, 1502.|
The duke replied to the cardinal January 22d, assuring him that his daughter-in-law would meet with a most affectionate reception.
The duke to his ambassador in Rome, Ferrara, January 22, 1502, in the Minute Ducali a Costabili Beltrando Oratore a Roma.|
Chapter II: Formal Entry into FerraraFebruary 1st Lucretia continued her journey to Ferrara by the canal. Near Malalbergo she found Isabella Gonzaga waiting to meet her. At the urgent request of her father, the marchioness, much against her will, had come to do the honors during the festivities in his palace. "In violent anger," so she wrote her husband, who remained at home, she greeted and embraced her sister-in-law. She accompanied her by boat to Torre della Fossa, where the canal empties into a branch of the Po. This river, a majestic stream, flows four miles from Ferrara, and only a branch—Po di Ferrara—now known as the Carlo di Cento, reaches the city, where it divides into two arms, the Volano and Primaro, both of which empty into the Adriatic. They are very small canals, and, therefore, it could have been no pleasure to travel on them, nor was it an imposing spectacle.
The duke, with Don Alfonso and his court, awaited Lucretia at Torre della Fossa. When she left the boat the duke saluted her on the cheek, she having first respectfully kissed his hand. Thereupon, all mounted a magnificently decorated float, to which the foreign ambassadors and numerous cavaliers came to kiss the bride's hand. To the strains of music and the thunder of cannon the cavalcade proceeded to the Borgo S. Luca, where they all descended. Lucretia took up her residence in the palace of Alberto d'Este, Ercole's illegitimate brother. Here she was received by Lucretia Bentivigolio, natural daughter of Ercole, and numerous ladies of her court. The duke's seneschal brought to her Madonna Teodora and twelve young women who were to serve her as ladies-in-waiting. Five beautiful carriages, each drawn by four horses, a present from her father-in-law, were placed at her disposal. In this villa, which is no longer in existence, Lucretia spent the night. The suburb of S. Luca is still there, but the entire locality is so changed that it would be impossible to recognize it.
The seat of the Este was thronged with thousands of sightseers, some of whom had been invited by the duke and others drawn thither by curiosity. All the vassals of the State, but not the reigning princes, were present. The lords of Urbino and Mantua were represented by the ladies of their families, and the house of Bentivoglio by Annibale. Rome, Venice, Florence, Lucca, Siena, and the King of France had sent ambassadors, who were lodged in the palaces of the nobles. The Duke of Romagna had remained in Rome and sent a representative. It had been Alexander's wish that Caesar's wife, Charlotte d'Albret, should come from France to attend the wedding festivities in Ferrara and remain a month, but she did not appear.
With royal extravagance Ercole had prepared for the festivities; the magazines of the court and the warehouses of the city had been filled with supplies for weeks past. Whatever the Renaissance had to offer, that she provided in Ferrara; for the city was the seat of a cultivated court and the home of a hospitable bourgeoisie, and also a town where science, art, and industry thrived.
Lucretia's entrance, February 2d, was, therefore, one of the most brilliant spectacles of the age, and, as far as she herself was concerned, it was the greatest moment of her life; for she was entering into the enjoyment of the highest and best of which her nature was capable.
At two o'clock in the afternoon, the duke and all the ambassadors betook themselves to Alberto's villa to fetch his daughter-in-law to the city. The cavalcade set out over the bridge, crossing the branch of the Po, to pass through the gate of Castle Tedaldo, a fortress no longer in existence.
At its head were seventy-five mounted archers in the livery of the house of Este—white and red—who were accompanied by eighty trumpeters and a number of fifes. Then came the nobility of Ferrara without regard to rank, followed by the members of the courts of the Marchioness of Mantua, who remained behind in the palace, and of the Duchess of Urbino. Behind them rode Alfonso, with his brother-in-law, Annibale Bentivoglio, at his side, and accompanied by eight pages. He was dressed in red velvet in the French fashion, and on his head he wore a black velvet biretta, upon which was an ornament of wrought gold. He wore small red boots and French gaiters of black velvet. His bay horse was caparisoned in crimson and gold.
On the way to Ferrara, Don Alfonso did not ride by the side of his consort as this would have been contrary to the etiquette of the day. The bridegroom led the procession, near the middle of which was the bride, while the father-in-law came last. This arrangement was intended to indicate that Lucretia was the chief personage in the parade. Just behind Alfonso came her escort, pages, and court officials, among whom were several Spanish cavaliers; then five bishops, followed by the ambassadors according to rank; the four deputies of Rome, mounted upon beautiful horses and wearing long brocade cloaks and black birettas coming next. These were followed by six tambourines and two of Lucretia's favorite clowns.
Then came the bride herself, radiantly beautiful and happy, mounted upon a white jennet with scarlet trappings, and followed by her master of horse. Lucretia was dressed in a loose-sleeved camorra of black velvet with a narrow gold border, and a cape of gold brocade trimmed with ermine. On her head she wore a sort of net glittering with diamonds and gold—a present from her father-in-law. She did not wear a diadem. About her neck she had a chain of pearls and rubies which had once belonged to the Duchess of Ferrara—as Isabella noticed with tears in her eyes. Her beautiful hair fell down unconfined on her shoulders. She rode beneath a purple baldachin, which the doctors of Ferrara—that is, the members of the faculties of law, medicine, and mathematics—supported in turn.
For the purpose of honoring the King of France, the protector of Ferrara and of the Borgias, Lucretia had summoned the French ambassador, Philipp della Rocca Berti, to ride at her left, near her, but not under the baldachin. This was intended to show that it was owing to this powerful monarch that the bride was entering the palace of the Este.
Behind Lucretia came the duke, in black velvet, on a dark horse with trappings of the same material. On his right was the Duchess of Urbino clad in a dark velvet gown.
Isabella Gonzaga, who watched the parade from a window of the palace, describes this scene to the duke. Letter to her husband, Ferrara, February 2d, in the Archivio Storico Ital. App. ii, 305. Her report excels in some particulars the picture given by Marino Sanuo (Diar. vol. iv, fol. 104, sq.). Ordine di le pompe e spectaculi di le noze de mad. Lucretia Borgia. Reprinted in Rawdon Brown's Ragguaglio sulla vita e le opere di M. Sanudo, ii, 197, sq.|
Then followed nobles, pages, and other personages of the house of Este, each of whom was accompanied by one of Lucretia's ladies. The only important member of the family not present was Cardinal Ippolito, who had remained in Rome, and who, from that city, wrote Lucretia, January 16th, saying he had called on her son Rodrigo and found him asleep. February 9th he wrote that the Pope had invited Caesar and himself together with Cardinal Borgia and the Signora Principessa—this was Sancia—to supper.
Letters in the archives of Modena.|
Of the women who accompanied Lucretia, only three were mounted—Girolama Borgia, wife of Fabio Orsini; another Orsini, who is not described more explicitly; and Madonna Adriana, "a widowed noblewoman, a kinswoman of the Pope."
This is according to Isabella Gonzaga; Cagnolo's report mentioned, instead of this woman, another Adriana, the wife of Francesco Colonna of Palestrina.|
Behind them came fourteen floats upon which were seated a number of the noble women of Ferrara, beautifully dressed, including the twelve young ladies who had been allotted to Lucretia as maids of honor. Then followed two white mules and two white horses decked with velvet and silk and costly gold trappings. Eighty-six mules accompanied the train bearing the bride's trousseau and jewels. When the good people of Ferrara saw them slowly wending their way through the streets, they must have thought that Alfonso had chosen a rich bride. It never occurred to them that these chests, boxes, and bales which were being carried through the streets with such ostentation were filled with the plunder of various cities of Christendom.
At the gate near Castle Tedaldo, Lucretia's horse was frightened by the discharge of a cannon, and the chief actor was thrown. The bride rose without assistance, and the duke placed her upon another horse, whereupon the cortege started again. In honor of Lucretia there were triumphal arches, tribunes, orations, and mythological scenes. Among the last was a procession of nymphs, with their queen at their head, riding upon a bull, with satyrs disporting themselves about her. Sannazzaro may have thought that the epigram in which he had referred to Giulia Farnese as Europa on the bull suggested this representation of the Borgia arms.
When the cavalcade reached the Piazza before the church, two rope-walkers descended from the towers and addressed compliments to the bride; thus was the ludicrous introduced into public festivities at that time.
It was now night, and the procession had reached the palace of the duke, and at the moment it did so all prisoners were given their liberty. At this point all the trumpeters and fifes were massed.
It is impossible to tell exactly where the palace was situated to which Lucretia was conducted. The Este had built a number of residences in the city, which they occupied in turn. Among them were Schifanoja, Diamanti, Paradiso, Belvedere, Belfiore, and Castle Vecchio. A local chronicler in the year 1494 mentions, in enumerating the palaces of the lords of the house of Este, the Palazzo del Cortile and Castle Vecchio as belonging to the duke; Castle Vecchio to Alfonso and the palace of the Certosa to Cardinal Ippolito.
Ms. chronicle of Mario Equicola in the library of Ferrara, in the University, formerly the Paradiso.|
Ercole, therefore, in the year 1502, was residing in one of the two palaces mentioned above, which were connected with each other by a row of structures extending from the old castle to the Piazza before the church, which ended in the Palazzo della Ragione. They are still connected, although the locality has greatly changed.
The duke's palace was opposite the church. It had a large court with a marble stairway, and was therefore called the Palazzo del Cortile. This court is doubtless the one now known as the Cortile Ducale. It was entered from the Piazza through a high archway, at the sides of which were columns which formerly supported statues of Niccolò III and Borso. The writers who describe Lucretia's entrance into the city say that she dismounted from her horse at the steps of the marble court (a le scale del Cortile di Marmo).
Here she was received by the Marchioness Gonzaga and numerous other prominent ladies. Alfonso's young wife must have smiled—if in the excitement of the moment she noticed it—when she found that the noble house of Este had selected such a large number of their bastard daughters to welcome her. She was greeted at the stairway by Lucretia, Ercole's natural daughter, wife of Annibale Bentivoglio, and three illegitimate daughters of Sigismondo d'Este—Lucretia, Countess of Carrara; the beautiful Diana, Countess of Uguzoni; and Bianca Sanseverino.
Paolo Zerbinati, Memorie, Ms. in the library of Ferrara, p. 3.|
It was night, and lights and torches illuminated the palace. To the sound of music the young couple was conducted to the reception hall, where they took their places on a throne. Here followed the formal introduction of the court officials, and an orator delivered a speech apparently based upon the information which the duke had instructed his ambassadors to secure regarding the house of Borgia. It is not known who was the fortunate orator, but we are familiar with the names of some of the poets who addressed epithalamia to the beautiful princess. Nicolaus Marius Paniciatus composed a number of spirituelle Latin poems and epigrams in honor of Lucretia, Alfonso, and Ercole, which were collected under the title of "Borgias." Among them are some ardent wishes for the prosperity of the young couple. Lucretia's beauty is described as excelling that of Helen because it was accompanied by incomparable modesty.
The Ms. is in the library of Ferrara: Nicolai Marii Paniciati ferrariensis, Borgias. Ad. Excell. D. Lucretiam Borgiarm III. Alphonsi Estensis Sponsam celeber MDII. One epigram is as follows: |
Tyndaridem jactant Heroica secula cujus
Armavit varies forma superba Duces,
Haec collata tibi, merito Luoretia cedit,
Nam tuus omne Helenes lumen obumbrat honor:
Illa neces populis, diuturnaque bella paravit:
Tu bona tranquillae pacis opima refers.
Moribus illa suis speciem temeravit honestam:
Innumeris speciem dotibus ipsa colis:
Ore deam præstas: virtute venustior alma:
Foeda Helenæ facies æquiparata tuæ.
Apparently this youthful poet did not have his stanzas printed, for they exist only in a manuscript in the library of Ferrara. Before Lucretia's entry the printer Laurentius published an epithalamium by a young Latinist, the celebrated Celio Calcagnini, who subsequently became famous as a mathematician. He was a favorite of Cardinal Ippolito, and a friend of the great Erasmus. The subject matter of the poem is very simple. Venus leaves Rome and accompanies Lucretia. Mnemosyne admonishes her daughters, the Muses, to celebrate the noble princess, which they accordingly do. The princes of the house are not forgotten, for Euterpe sings the praises of Ercole, Terpsicore lauds Alfonso, and Caliope recites Caesar's victories in the Romagna.
Cælii Calcagnini Ferrariensis. In Illustriss. Divi Alphonsi Primogeniti Herculis Ducis Ferr. ac Divæ Lucretiæ Borgiæ Nuptias Epithalamium. Laurentius de Valentia Imprimebat Ferrariæ Deo Opt. Max. Favente. Calend. Febr. MDII.|
Another Ferrarese poet makes his appearance on this occasion, a man of whom much was expected, Ariosto, who was then twenty-seven years old, and already known at the court of the Este and in the cultivated circles of Italy as a Latinist and a writer of comedies. He also wrote an epithalamium addressed to Lucretia. It is graceful, and not burdened with mythological pedantry, but it lacks invention. The poet congratulates Ferrara,—which will henceforth be the envy of all other cities,—for having won an incomparable jewel. He sympathizes with Rome for the loss of Lucretia, saying that it has again fallen into ruins.
Est levis hæc jactura tamen, ruat hoc quoque quicquid
Est reliquum, juvet et nudis habitare sub antris,
Vivere dura liceat tecum pulcherrima virgo.
Ludovici Areosti Ferrariensis Epithalamion, in vol. i of Carmina Illustrium Poetarum Italorum, p. 342-346.
He describes the young princess as "pulcherrima virgo," and refers to Lucretia of ancient times.
On the conclusion of the festivities which greeted her on her arrival, the duke accompanied Lucretia to the apartments which had been prepared for her. She must have been pleased with her reception by the house of Este, and the impression made by her own personality was most favorable. The chronicler Bernardino Zambotto speaks of her as follows: "The bride is twenty-four years of age (this is incorrect); she has a beautiful countenance, sparkling and animated eyes; a slender figure; she is keen and intellectual, joyous and human, and possesses good reasoning powers. She pleased the people so greatly that they are perfectly satisfied with her, and they look to her Majesty for protection and good government. They are truly delighted, for they think that the city will greatly profit through her, especially as the Pope will refuse her nothing, as is shown by the portion he gave her, and by presenting Don Alfonso with certain cities."
Lucretia's face, judging by the medal, must have been fascinating. Cagnolo of Parma describes her as follows: "She is of medium height and slender figure. Her face is long, the nose well defined and beautiful; her hair a bright gold, and her eyes blue; her mouth is somewhat large, the teeth dazzlingly white; her neck white and slender, but at the same time well rounded. She is always cheerful and good-humored."
Di mediocre statura, gracile in aspetto, di faccia alquanto lunga, il naso profilato e bello, li capelli aurei, gli occhi bianchi, la bocca alquanto grande con li denti candidissimi; la gola schietta e bianca ornata con decente valore, ed in essere continuamente allegra e ridente. See Lucrezia Borgia in Ferrara. Ferrara, 1867.|
To indicate the color of the eyes, Cagnolo uses the word "bianco," which in the language of the people still means blue. In the folk songs of Tuscany collected by Tigri, there is frequent mention of occhi bianchi,—that is, "blue eyes." The Florentine Firenzuola, in his work on "the perfect beauty of woman," says she must have blond hair and blue eyes, with the pupil not quite black, although the Greeks and Italians preferred it so. The most beautiful color for the eyes, according to this writer, is tané.
Agnolo Firenzuola, vol. i. Della perfetto bellezza di una donna.|
The poets of Ferrara, who immediately began to sing the dazzling power of the eyes of their beautiful duchess, did not mention their color.
This remarkable woman charmed all beholders with her indescribable grace, to which there was added something of mystery, and not by any classic beauty or dignity. Vivacity, gentleness, and amiability are the qualities which all Lucretia's contemporaries discovered in her.
Fu essa Lucrezia di venusto e mansueto aspetto, prudente, di gratissime maniere negli atti, e nel parlare di molta grazia e allegrezza, says Alfonso's secretary, Bonaventura Pistofilo, in his Vita di Alfonso I d'Este. The epithets venusta, gentile, graziosa, amabile, are conferred upon her by all her contemporaries.|
This animated and delicate face, with large blue eyes, and surrounded with golden hair, suggests the ethereal beauty of Shakespeare's Imogene.
Chapter III: Fêtes Given in Lucretia's HonorThe wedding festivities in Ferrara continued for six days during the carnival. At the period of the Renaissance, court functions and festivities, so far as the intellectual part is concerned, were not unlike those of the present day; but the magnificent costumes, the highly developed sense of material beauty, and the more elaborate etiquette of the age which gave birth to Castiglione's Cortegiano lent these festivities a higher character.
The sixteenth century was far behind our own in many of its productions—theatrical performances, displays of fireworks, and concert music. There were illuminations, and mounted torchlight processions; and rockets were frequently used; but an illuminated garden fête such as the Emperor of Austria gave for the Shah of Persia at Schönbrunn would at that time have been impossible. The same might be said of certain forms of musical entertainment; for example, concerts. Society in that age would have shuddered at the orchestral music of to-day, and the ear-splitting drums would have appeared barbarous to the Italians of the Renaissance, just as would the military parades, which are still among the favorite spectacles with which distinguished guests are either honored or intimidated at the great courts of Europe. Even then tourneys were rare, although there were occasional combats of gladiators, whose costumes were greatly admired.
The duke and his master of ceremonies had spent weeks in preparing the program for the wedding festivities, although these did not admit of any great variety, being limited as they are now to banquets, balls, and theatrical productions. It was from the last-named form of entertainment that Ercole promised himself the most, and which, he expected, would win for him the applause of the cultivated world.
He was one of the most active patrons of the theater during the Renaissance. Several years before he had commissioned the poets at his court to translate some of the plays of Plautus and Terence into terza rima, and had produced them. Guarino, Berardo, Collenuccio, and even Bojordo had been employed in this work by him. As early as 1486 an Italian version of the Menæchmi, the favorite play of Plautus, had been produced in Ferrara. In February, 1491, when Ercole, with most brilliant festivities, celebrated the betrothal of his son Alfonso and Anna Sforza, the Menæchmi and one of the comedies of Terence were given. The Amphitryon, which Cagnolo had prepared for the stage, was also played.
There was no permanent theater in Ferrara, but a temporary one had been erected which served for the production of plays which were given only during the carnival and on other important occasions. Ercole had arranged a salon in the palace of the Podestà—a Gothic building opposite the church—which is still standing and is known as the Palazzo della Ragione. The salon was connected with the palace itself by a passage way.
A raised stage called the tribune was erected. It was about one hundred and twenty feet long and a hundred and fifty feet wide. It had houses of painted wood, and whatever was necessary in the way of scenery, rocks, trees, etc. It was separated from the audience by a wooden partition in which was a sheet-metal curtain. On the forward part of the stage—the orchestra—sat the princes and other important personages, and in the amphitheater were thirteen rows of cushioned seats, those in the middle being occupied by the women, and those at the sides by the men. This space accommodated about three thousand people.
According to Strozzi, Ariosto, Calcagnini, and other humanists of Ferrara, it was Ercole himself who constructed this theatre. They and other academicians probably took part in the performances, but the duke also brought actors from abroad, from Mantua, Siena, and Rome. They numbered in all no less than a hundred and ten persons, and it was necessary to build a new dressing-room for them. The theatrical performances on this brilliant occasion must, therefore, have aroused great expectations.
The festivities began February 3d, and it was soon apparent that the chief attraction would be the beauty of three famous women—Lucretia, Isabella, and the Duchess of Urbino. They were regarded as the three handsomest women of the age, and it was difficult to decide which was the fairer, Isabella or Lucretia. The Duchess of Mantua was six years older than her sister-in-law, but a most beautiful woman, and with feminine curiosity she studied Lucretia's appearance. In the letters which she daily wrote to her husband in Mantua, she carefully described the dress of her rival, but said not a word regarding her personal charms. "Concerning Donna Lucretia's figure," so she wrote February 1st, "I shall say nothing, for I am aware that your Majesty knows her by sight." She was unable to conceal her vanity, and in another letter, written February 3d, she gave her husband to understand that she hoped, so far as her own personality and her retinue were concerned, to be able to stand comparison with any of the others and even to bear away the prize. One of the ladies of her suite, the Marchesana of Cotrone, wrote the duke, saying, "The bride is not especially handsome, but she has an animated face, and in spite of her having such a large number of ladies with her, and notwithstanding the presence of the illustrious lady of Urbino, who is very beautiful, and who clearly shows that she is your Excellency's sister, my illustrious mistress Isabella, according to our opinion and of those who came with the Duchess of Ferrara, is the most beautiful of all. There is no doubt about this; compared with her Majesty, all the others are as nothing. Therefore we shall bring the prize home to the house of our mistress."
Isabella's remarkable letters regarding the marriage festivities in Ferrara are printed in the Notizie di Isabella Estense by Carlo d'Arco. Archivio Storico Ital. App. ii. 223, sq. The letter of the Marchesa of Cotrone of February 1st is in the library of Mantua, and there are several other letters in the archives of that city written by her to Gonzaga regarding the festivities.|
The first evening of the festivities a ball was given in the great salon of the palace at which the attendance was so large that many were unable to gain admission. Lucretia was enthroned upon a tribune, and near her were the princesses of Mantua and Urbino. Other prominent ladies and the ambassadors also came and took up a position near her. The guests, therefore, in spite of the crowd, had a chance to admire the beautiful women, and their gowns and jewels. During the Renaissance, balls were less formal than they are now. Pleasures then were more natural and simple; frequently the ladies danced with each other, and sometimes even alone. The dances were almost exclusively French, for even at that time France had begun to impose her customs on all the rest of the world; still there were some Spanish and Italian ones. Lucretia was a graceful dancer, and she was always ready to display her skill. She frequently descended from the tribune and executed Spanish and Roman dances to the sound of the tambourine.
Qual Madama Sposa danzò molte danze al suono delli suoi Tamburini alla Romanesca e Spagnuola: report of Niccolò Gagnolo of Parma, who had accompanied the French ambassador to Ferrara. Zambotto used this description of the wedding festivities in his chronicle, and it was subsequently reprinted in Lucrezia Borgia in Ferrara, etc.|
The following day the eagerly expected dramatic performances were given. First the duke had the actors appear in masks and costumes for the purpose of reviewing them. The director of the troop then came forward in the character of Plautus and read the program and the argument of each piece which was to be rendered during the five evenings. The selection of comedies by living dramatists in the year 1502 could not have cost the duke much thought, for there were none of any special importance. The Calandra of Dovizi, which a few years later caused such a sensation, was not yet written. It is true Ariosto had already composed his Cassaria and the Suppositi, but he had not yet won sufficient renown for him to be honored by their presentation at the wedding festivities.
The Cassaria was first produced in 1508, and the Suppositi in 1509. Giuseppe Campori, Notizie per la vita di Lod. Ariosto, 2d ed. Modena, 1871, p. 67.|
Moreover, the duke would have none but classic productions. He wanted to set all the world talking; and, in truth, Italy had never seen any theatrical performances equal to these. We possess careful descriptions of them which have not yet been incorporated in the history of the stage. They show more clearly than do the reports regarding the Vatican theater in the time of Leo X what was the real nature of theatrical performances during the Renaissance; consequently, they constitute a valuable picture of the times.
If one could follow the reports of Gagnolo, Zambotto, and Isabella, and reproduce in imagination the brilliant wedding and the guests in their rich costumes seated in rows, he would behold one of the fairest and most illustrious gatherings of the Renaissance. This scene, rich in form and color, taken in conjunction with the stage, and the performances of the comedies of Plautus, and with the pantomimes and the moresche which occupied the time between the acts, is so romantic that we might imagine ourselves translated to Shakespeare's Midsummer-Night's Dream, and that Duke Ercole had changed places with Theseus, Duke of Athens, and that the comedies were being performed before him and the happy bridal pair.
According to the program, from February 3d to February 8th—with the exception of one evening—five of the plays of Plautus were to be given. The intermissions were to be devoted to music and moresche. The moresca resembled the modern ballet; that is, a pantomime dance. It is of very ancient origin, and traces of it appear in the Middle Ages. At first it was a war dance in costume, which character it preserved for a long time. The name is, I believe, derived from the fact that in all the Latin countries which suffered from the invasions of the Saracens, dances in which the participants were armed and which simulated the battles of the Moor and Christian were executed. The Moors, for the sake of contrast, were represented as black. Subsequently the meaning of the term moresca was extended to include the ballet in general, and all sorts of scenes in which dances accompanied by flutes and violins were introduced. The subjects were derived from mythology, the age of chivalry, and everyday life.
There were also comic dances performed by fantastic monsters, peasants, clowns, wild animals, and satyrs, during which blows were freely dealt right and left. The classico-romantic ballet appears to have reached a high development in Ferrara, which was the home of the romantic epics—the Mambriano and the Orlando. It is needless to say that the ballet possessed great attraction for the public in those days, just as it now does. The presentation of the comedies of Plautus would have no more effect upon people of this age than would a puppet show. They lasted from four to five hours—from six in the evening until midnight.
The first evening the duke conducted his guests into the theater, and when they had taken their seats, Plautus appeared before the bridal couple and addressed some complimentary verses to them. After this the Epidicus was presented. Each act was followed by a ballet, and five beautiful moresche were given during the interludes of the play. First entered ten armed gladiators, who danced to the sound of tambourines; then followed a mimic battle between twelve people in different costumes; the third moresca was led by a young woman upon a car which was drawn by a unicorn, and upon it were several persons bound to the trunk of a tree, while seated under the bushes were four lute players. The young woman loosed the bonds of the captives, who immediately descended and danced while the lute players sang beautiful canzone—at least so says Gagnolo; the cultured Duchess of Mantua, however, wrote that the music was so doleful that it was scarcely worth listening to. Isabella, however, judging by her remarkable letters, was a severe critic, not only of the plays but of all the festivities. The fourth moresca was danced by ten Moors holding burning tapers in their mouths. In the fifth there were ten fantastically dressed men with feathers on their heads, and bearing lances with small lighted torches at their tips. On the conclusion of the Epidicus there was a performance by several jugglers.
Friday, February 4th, Lucretia did not appear until the afternoon. In the morning the duke showed his guests about the city, and they went to see a famous saint, Sister Lucia of Viterbo, whom the devout Ercole had brought to Ferrara as a great attraction. Every Friday the five wounds of Christ appeared on the body of this saint. She presented the ambassador of France with a rag with which she had touched her scars, and which Monseigneur Rocca Berti received with great respect. At the castle the duke showed his guests the artillery, to the study of which his son Alfonso was eagerly devoted. Here they waited for Lucretia, who, accompanied by all the ambassadors, soon appeared in the great salon. A dance was given which lasted until six in the evening. Then followed a presentation of the Bacchides which required five hours. Isabella found these performances excessively long and tiresome. Ballets similar to those which accompanied the Epidicus were given; men dressed in flesh-colored tights with torches in their hands, which diffused agreeable odors, danced fantastic figures, and engaged in a battle with a dragon.
The following day Lucretia did not appear, as she was engaged in writing letters and in washing her hair, and the guests amused themselves by wandering about the city. No entertainments were given for the populace. The French ambassador, in the name of the King of France, sent presents to the princes of the house. The duke received a golden shield with a picture of S. Francis in enamel, the work of a Parisian artist, which was highly valued; to the hereditary Prince Alfonso was given a similar shield with a portrait of Mary of Magdala, the ambassador remarking that his Majesty had chosen a wife who resembled the Magdalene in character: Quæ multum meruit, quia multum credidit. Perhaps presenting Alfonso with a gift suggestive of the Magdalene was an intentional bit of irony on the part of the French king. In addition to this he received a written description of a process for casting cannon. A golden shield was likewise presented to Don Ferrante. Lucretia's gift was a string of gold beads filled with musk, while her charming maid of honor, Angela, was honored with a costly chain.
Everything was done to flatter the French ambassador. He was invited to dinner in the evening by the Marchioness of Mantua, and was placed between his hostess and the Duchess of Urbino. The evening was passed, according to Gagnolo, in gallant and cultivated conversation. On leaving the table the marchioness sang the most beautiful songs to the accompaniment of the lute, for the entertainment of the French ambassador. After this she conducted him to her chamber, where, in the presence of two of her ladies-in-waiting, they held an animated conversation for almost an hour, at the conclusion of which she drew off her gloves and presented them to him, "and the ambassador received them with assurances of his loyalty and his love, as they came from such a charming source; he told her that he would preserve them until the end of time, as a precious relic." We may believe Gagnolo, for doubtless the fortunate ambassador regarded this memento of a beautiful woman as no less precious than the rag poor Saint Lucia had given him.
Sunday, February 6th, there was a magnificent ceremony in the church; one of the Pope's chamberlains in the name of his Holiness presented Don Alfonso with a hat and also a sword which the Holy Father had blessed, and which the archbishop girded on him at the altar. In the afternoon the princes and the princesses of the house of Este went to Lucretia's apartments to fetch her to the banquet hall. They danced for two hours; Lucretia herself, with one of her ladies-in-waiting, taking part in some French dances. In the evening the Miles Gloriosus was presented; it was followed by a moresca in which ten shepherds with horns on their heads fought with each other.
February 7th there was a tourney in the piazza before the church between two mounted knights, one of whom was a native of Bologna and the other a citizen of Imola. No blood was shed. In the evening the Asinaria was presented, together with a wonderful moresca in which appeared fourteen satyrs, one of which carried a silvered ass's head in his hands, in which there was a music-box, to the strains of which the clowns danced. This play of the satyrs was followed by an interlude performed by sixteen vocalists,—men and women,—and a virtuoso from Mantua who played on three lutes. In conclusion there was a moresca in which was simulated the agricultural work of the peasants. The fields were prepared, the seed sown, the grain cut and threshed, and the harvest feast followed. Finally a native dance to the accompaniment of the bagpipe was executed.
The last day of the festivities, February 8th, also marked the end of the carnival. The ambassadors, who were soon to depart, presented the bride with costly gifts consisting of beautiful stuffs and silverware. The most remarkable present was brought by the representatives of Venice. The Republic at its own expense had sent two noblemen to the festivities, Niccolò Dolfini and Andrea Foscolo, both of whom were magnificently clothed. In those days dress was as costly as it was beautiful, and the artists who made the clothes for the men and women of the Renaissance would look with contempt upon those of the present time, for in that aesthetic age their productions were works of art. The most magnificent stuffs, velvet, silk, and gold embroidery were used, and painters did not scorn to design the color schemes and the shapes and folds of the garments. Dress, therefore, was a most weighty consideration, and one to which great value was attached, as it indicated the importance of the wearer. All who have left accounts of the festivities in Ferrara describe in detail the costumes worn on each occasion by Donna Lucretia and the other prominent women, and even those of the men. The reports which the Venetians sent home and the description in the diary of Marino Sanuto show how great was the importance attached to these matters. The following is even more striking evidence: before the two ambassadors of Venice set out for Ferrara they were required to appear before the whole senate in their robes of crimson velvet trimmed with fur, and wearing capes of similar material. More than four thousand persons were present in the great council hall, and the Piazza of S. Marco was crowded with people who gazed with wonder on these strange creatures. One of these robes contained thirty-two and the other twenty-eight yards of velvet.
Despatch of the Ferrarese orator, Bartolomeo Cartari, to Ercole, Venice, January 25, 1502. Archives of Modena.|
Following the instructions of the Seignory of Venice, the ambassadors sent their robes to Duchess Lucretia as a bridal gift.
Cartari says in the same despatch that the robes he had described were intended for presents. Li Ambasciatori Veneziani le presentarono due vesti grandi in forma di palii velluto Cremesino foderati di ermelini, quali levatesi di sopra loro le presentarono. Cagnolo.|
This wonderful gift was presented in the most naive way imaginable. One of the noble gentlemen delivered a Latin oration, and the other followed with a long discourse in Italian; thereupon they retired to an adjoining room, removed their magnificent robes, and sent them to the bride. This present and the pedantry of the two Venetians excited the greatest mirth at the Ferrarese court.
Ano dato materia di ridere ad hogni homo cum suo presente. The Marchesana of Cotrone to the Marquis of Mantua, Ferrara, February 8th.|
In the evening they danced for the last time, and attended the final theatrical performance, the Casina. Before the comedy began, music composed by Rombonzino was rendered, and songs in honor of the young couple were sung. Everywhere throughout the Casina, musical interludes were introduced. During the intermission six violinists, among them Don Alfonso, the hereditary prince, who was a magnificent amateur performer, played. The violin seems to have been held in great esteem in Ferrara, for when Caesar Borgia was about to set out for France he asked Duke Ercole for a violin player to accompany him, as they were much sought after in that country.
Violas arcu pulsantes. Caesar Borgia to Ercole, Rome, September 3, 1498.|
The ballet which followed was a dance of savages contending for the possession of a beautiful woman. Suddenly the god of love appeared, accompanied by musicians, and set her free. Hereupon the spectators discovered a great globe which suddenly split in halves and began to give forth beautiful strains. In conclusion twelve Swiss armed with halberds and wearing their national colors entered, and executed an artistic dance, fencing the while.
If this scene, as Cagnolo says, ended the dramatic performances we are forced to conclude that they were exceedingly dull and spiritless. The moresca partook of the character of both the opera and ballet. It was the only new form of spectacle offered during all the festivities. Compared with those which were given in Rome on the occasion of Lucretia's betrothal, they were much inferior. Among the former we noticed several pastoral comedies with allegorical allusions to Lucretia, Ferrara, Caesar, and Alexander.
In spite of the outlay the duke had made, his entertainments lacked novelty and variety, although they probably pleased most of those present. Isabella, however, did not hesitate to mention the fact that she was bored. "In truth," so she wrote her husband, "the wedding was a very cold affair. It seems a thousand years before I shall be in Mantua again, I am so anxious to see your Majesty and my son, and also to get away from this place where I find absolutely no pleasure. Your Excellency, therefore, need not envy me my presence at this wedding; it is so stiff I have much more cause to envy those who remained in Mantua." Apparently the noble lady's opinion was influenced by the displeasure she still felt on account of her brother's marriage with Lucretia, but it may also have been due partly to the character of the festivities themselves, for the marchesa in all her letters complains of their being tiresome.
See Isabella's letters of February 3d and 5th.|
Soon after the conclusion of the festivities the marchioness returned to Mantua; her last letter from Ferrara to her husband is dated February 9th. Her first letter from Mantua to her sister-in-law, which was written February 18th, is as follows:
Illustrious Lady: The love which I feel for your Majesty, and my hope that you continue in the same good health in which you were at the time of my departure, cause me to believe that you have the same feelings for me; therefore I inform you—hoping that it will be pleasant news to you—that I returned to this city on Monday in the best of health, and that I found my illustrious consort also well. There is nothing more for me to write but to ask your Majesty to tell me how you are, for I rejoice like an own sister in your welfare. Although I regard it as superfluous to offer you what belongs to you, I will remind you once for all, I and mine are ever at your disposal. I am also much beholden to you, and I ask you to remember me to your illustrious consort, my most honored brother.
Lucretia replied to the marchioness's letter as follows:
My Illustrious Lady, Sister-in-Law, And Most Honored Sister: Although it was my duty to anticipate your Excellency in the proof of affection which you have given me, this neglect on my part only makes me all the more beholden to you. I can never tell you with what pleasure and relief I learned that you had reached Mantua safely and had found your illustrious husband well. May he and your Majesty, with God's help, continue to enjoy all happiness, and the increase of all good things, according to your desires. In obedience to your Majesty's commands I am compelled, and I also desire, to let you know that I, by God's mercy, am well, and shall ever be disposed to serve you.
Lucrezia Estensis de Borgia.
Zuccheti reproduces the letter.|
These letters, written with diplomatic cunning, are the beginning of the correspondence of these two famous women which was carried on for seventeen years, and which shows that Isabella's displeasure gradually passed away, and that she became a real friend of her sister-in-law.
The duke was heartily glad when his guests finally departed. Madonna Adriana, Girolama, and the woman described simply as "an Orsini" seemed in no haste to return to Rome. Alexander had instructed them to remain until Caesar's wife arrived. They were to wait for her in Lombardy, and then accompany her to Rome. The Duchess of Romagna, however, in spite of the urgent requests of the nuncio, refused to leave France. Her brother, Cardinal d'Albret, reached Ferrara February 6th, and shortly afterwards set out for Rome.
Adriana, as a near connection of the Pope and Lucretia, had been treated with the highest respect at Ercole's court, where she had enjoyed a close intimacy with the Marchioness Isabella, as is shown by a letter which the latter addressed to Adriana, February 18th, the same day on which she wrote Lucretia. It is regarding a certain person whom Adriana while in Ferrara had recommended to her in her own name and also in that of Donna Giulia. It, therefore, appears that the anonymous Orsini was not Giulia Farnese.
Ercole was exceedingly anxious for the women to leave. In a letter, dated February 14th, to his ambassador in Rome, Costabili, he complains bitterly about their "useless" stay at his court. "I tell you," so he wrote, "that these women by remaining here cause a large number of other persons, men as well as women, to linger, for all wish to depart at the same time, and it is a great burden and causes heavy expense. The retinue of these ladies, taken into consideration with the other people, numbers not far from four hundred and fifty persons and three hundred and fifty horses." Ercole instructed his ambassador to inform the Pope of this, also to tell him that the supplies were about exhausted, and that the Duchess of Romagna would not arrive before Easter, and that he could stand the expense no longer, as the wedding festivities had already cost twenty-five thousand ducats. The Pope should therefore direct the ladies to return. In a postscript to the same letter the duke says: "After the noble ladies of the Duchess of Romagna had been here twelve days, I sent them away because they were impertinent, and because their presence would not do his Holiness or the duchess any good."
P.S. Li gentilhomini de lo Illmo. Sig. Duca de Romagna poichè sono stati qui XII giorni sono stati da me licentiate per essere impertinente e senza fructo alcuno a la Santità de N.S. et allo Illmo. Sig. Duca de Romagna. Minute Ducali a Costabili Beltrando, February 14, 1502.|
The troublesome women finally departed. There is a despatch of the orator Girardo Saraceni, dated Rome, May 4th, in which he informs the duke that Monsignor Venosa and Donna Adriana had returned from Ferrara, and had expressed to the Pope their gratitude for the affectionate reception which had been accorded them.
February 14th Ercole wrote the Pope a letter whose meaning is perfectly clear, if we eliminate one or two phrases.
Holy Father and Master: Before the illustrious Duchess, our daughter, came here, it was my firm determination to receive her, as was meet, with all friendliness and honor, and to show her in every way how great was the affection I felt for her. Now that her Majesty is here, I am so pleased with her on account of the virtues and good qualities which I have discovered in her that I am not only strengthened in that determination, but also am resolved to do even more than I had intended, and all the more because your Holiness has asked me to do so in the autographic letter which you wrote me. Your Holiness need have no fears, for I shall treat the Duchess in such a way that your Holiness will see that I regard her as the most precious jewel I have in the world.
Chapter IV: The Este Dynasty—Description of FerraraOn entering the castle of the Este, Lucretia found a new environment, new interests—one might almost say a new world. She was a princess in one of the most important Italian States, and in a strange city, which, during the latter half of the century, had assumed a place of the first importance, for the spirit of Italian culture had there developed new forms. She had been received with the highest honors into a family famous and princely; one of the oldest and most brilliant in the peninsula. It was a piece of supreme good fortune that had brought her to this house, and now she would endeavor to make herself worthy of it.
The family of Este, next to that of Savoy, was the oldest and most illustrious in Italy, and it forced the latter into the background by assuming the important position which the State of Ferrara, owing to its geographical position, afforded it.
The history of the Este is briefly as follows:
These lords, whose name is derived from a small castle between Padua and Ferrara, and who first appeared about the time of the Lombard invasion, were descended from a family whose remote ancestor was one Albert. The names Adalbert and Albert assume in Italian the form Oberto, from which we have the diminutives Obizzo and Azzo. In the tenth century the reappears a Marquis Oberto who was first a retainer of King Berengar and later of Otto the Great. It is not known from what domain he and his immediate successors derived their title of marquis; they were, however, powerful lords in Lombardy as well as in Tuscany. One of Oberto's ancestors, Alberto Azzo II, who is originally mentioned as Marchio de Longobardia, governed the territory from Mantua to the Adriatic and the region about the Po, where he owned Este and Rovigo. He married Kunigunde, sister of Count Guelf III of Swabia, and in this way the famous German family of Guelf became connected with the Oberti and drawn into Italian politics. When Alberto Azzo died in the year 1096—more than a hundred years old—he left two sons, Guelf and Folco, who were the founders of the house of Este in Italy and the Guelf house of Braunschweig in Germany, for Guelf inherited the property of his maternal grandfather, Guelf III, in whom the male line of the house became extinct in the year 1055. He went to Germany, where he became Duke of Bavaria and founded the Guelf line.
Folco inherited his father's Italian possessions, and in the great struggle of the German emperor with the papacy, the Margraves of Este were aggressive and determined soldiers. At first they were simply members of the Guelf faction, but subsequently they became its leaders, and thus were able to establish their power in Ferrara.
The origin of the city is lost in the mists of antiquity. By the gift of Pipin and Charles it passed to the Church. It was also included in the deed of Matilda. In the war between the Pope and the Emperor, occasioned by this gift of Matilda, Ferrara succeeded in regaining its independence as a republic.
The Este first appeared there about the end of the twelfth century. Folco's grandson, Azzo V, married Marchesella Adelardi, who was the heir of the leader of the Guelfs in that city, where Salinguerra was the head of the Ghibellines. From that time the Margraves of Este possessed great influence in Ferrara. They were likewise leaders of the Guelf party in the north of Italy.
In the year 1208 Azzo VI succeeded in driving Salinguerra out of Ferrara, and the city having wearied of the long feud made the victor its hereditary Podestà. This is the first example of a free republic voluntarily submitting to a lord. In this way the Este established the first tyranny on the ruins of a commune. The brave Salinguerra, one of the greatest captains of Italy in the time of the Hohenstaufen, repeatedly drove Azzo VI and his successor, Azzo VII, from Ferrara, but he himself was finally defeated in 1240 and cast into prison, where he died. Thenceforth the Este ruled Ferrara.
About the time of the removal of the papacy to Avignon they were expelled from the city by the Church, but they returned on the invitation of the citizens who had risen against the papal legate. John XXII issued a diploma of investiture by the terms of which they were to hold Ferrara as a fief of the Church on payment of an annual tribute often thousand gold ducats. The Este now set themselves up as tyrants in Ferrara, and in spite of numerous wars maintained the dynasty for a great many years. This dominion was not, like that in many other Italian States, due to a lucky stroke on the part of an upstart, but it was ancient, hereditary, and firmly established.
It was due to a succession of remarkable princes, beginning with Aldobrandino, Lord of Ferrara, Modena, Rovigo, and Comacchio, that Ferrara succeeded in winning the important position she held at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Aldobrandino was followed by his brothers, Niccolò, from 1361 to 1388, and Alberto until 1393. After that his son Niccolò III, a powerful and bellicose man, ruled until the year 1441. As his legitimate children Ercole and Sigismondo were minors, he was succeeded by his natural son Lionello. This prince not only continued the work begun by his father, but also beautified Ferrara. In the year 1444 the great Alfonso of Naples gave him his daughter Maria as wife, and the Este thus entered into close relations with the royal house of Aragon. Lionello was intelligent and liberal, a patron of all the arts and sciences, a "prince of immortal name." In the year 1450 he was succeeded by his brother Borso, illegitimate like himself, as an effort was being made to displace the legitimate sons of Niccolò II.
Borso was one of the most magnificent princes of his age. Frederick II, when he stopped in Ferrara on his return from his coronation in Rome, made him Duke of Modena and Reggio, and Count of Rovigo and Comacchio, all of which territories belonged to the empire. The Este thereupon adopted for their arms, instead of the white eagle they had hitherto borne, the black eagle of the empire, to which were added the lilies of France, the use of which had been granted them by Charles VII. April 14, 1471, Paul VII in Rome created Borso Duke of Ferrara. Soon after this—May 27th—this celebrated prince died unmarried and childless.
He was succeeded by Ercole, the legitimate son of Niccolò II, the direct line of the Este thereby reacquiring the government of Ferrara, the importance of the State having been greatly increased by the efforts of the two illegitimate sons. In June, 1473, amid magnificent festivities, Ercole married Eleonora of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand of Naples. Twenty-nine years—years of conflict—had passed when the second Duke of Ferrara married his son to Lucretia with similar pomp. By putting an end to the war with Venice and Pope Sixtus IV, in the year 1482, Ercole had succeeded in saving his State from the great danger which threatened it, although he had been forced to relinquish certain territory to the Venetians. This danger, however, might arise again, for Venice and the Pope continued to be Ferrara's bitterest enemies. Political considerations, therefore, compelled her to form an alliance with France, whose king already owned Milan and might permanently secure possession of Naples. For the same reason he had married his son to Lucretia on the best terms he was able to make. She, therefore, must have been conscious of her great importance to the State of Ferrara, and this it was which gave her a sense of security with regard to the noble house to which she now belonged.
The Duke presented the young couple Castle Vecchio for their residence, and there Lucretia established her court. This stronghold, which is still in existence, is one of the most imposing monuments of the Middle Ages. It overlooks all Ferrara, and may be seen for miles around. Its dark red color; its gloominess, which is partly due to its architectural severity; its four mighty towers—all combine to cause a feeling of fear, especially on moonlight nights, when the shadows of the towers fall on the water in the moat, which still surrounds the castle as in days of old. The figures of the great ones who once lived in the stronghold—Ugo and Parisina Malatesta, Borso, Lucretia Borgia and Alfonso, Renée of France, and Calvin, Ariosto, Alfonso II, the unfortunate Tasso and Eleonora—seem to rise before the beholder.
CASTLE VECCHIO AT Ferrara.
The Marchese Niccolò, owing to an uprising of the citizens began Castle Vecchio in the year 1385, and his successor completed it and decorated the interior. It is connected by covered passage-ways with the palace opposite the church. Before Ercole extended Ferrara on the north, the castle marked the boundary of the city. One of the towers, called the Tower of the Lions, protected the city gate. A branch of the Po, which at that time flowed near by, supplied the moat—over which there were several drawbridges—with water.
In Lucretia's time only the main features of the stronghold were the same as they are now; the cornices of the towers are of a later date, and the towers themselves were somewhat lower; the walls were embattled like those of the Gonzaga castle in Mantua. Cannon, cast under the direction of Alfonso, were placed at various points. There is an interior quadrangular court with arcades, and there Lucretia was shown the place where Niccolò II had caused his son Ugo and his stepmother, the beautiful Parisina, to be beheaded. This gruesome deed was a warning to Alexander's daughter to be true to her husband.
A wide marble stairway led to the two upper stories of the castle, one of which, the lower, consisting of a series of chambers and salons, was set aside for the princes. In the course of time this has suffered so many changes that even those most thoroughly acquainted with Ferrara do not know just where Lucretia's apartments were.
|Cittadella (Guida del Forestiere in Ferrara, Ferrara, 1873) ridicules the story of the looking-glass that disclosed the love of Ugo and Parisina. See his Castello di Ferrara, Turin, 1873, and the description of the castle in the Notizie storico-artistiche sui primarii palazzi d'Italia, Firenze, Cennini, 1871.|
Very few of the paintings with which the Este adorned the castle are left. There are still some frescoes by Dossi and another unknown master.
The castle was always a gloomy and oppressive residence. It was in perfect accord with the character of Ferrara, which even now is forbidding. Standing on the battlements, and looking across the broad, highly cultivated, but monotonous fields, whose horizon is not attractive, because the Veronese Alps are too far distant, and the Apennines, which are closer, are not clearly defined; and gazing down upon the black mass of the city itself, one wonders how Ariosto's exuberant creation could have been produced here. Greater inspiration would be found in the sky, the land, and the sea of idyllic Sorrento, which was Tasso's birthplace, but this is only another proof of the theory that the poet's fancy is independent of his environment.
Ferrara is situated in an unhealthful plain which is traversed by a branch of the Po and several canals. The principal stream does not contribute to the life of the city or its suburbs, as it is several miles distant. The town is surrounded by strong walls in which are four gates. In addition to Castle Vecchio on the north, there was, in Lucretia's time, another at the southwest—Castle Tealto or Tedaldo—which was situated on one of the branches of the Po, and which had a gate opening into the city and a pontoon bridge connecting it with the suburb S. Giorgio. Lucretia had entered by this gate. Nothing is now left of Castle Tedaldo, as it was razed at the beginning of the seventeenth century, when the Pope, having driven out Alfonso's successors, erected the new fortress.
Ferrara has a large public square, and regular streets with arcades. The church, which faces the principal piazza, and which was consecrated in the year 1135, is an imposing structure in the Lombardo-Gothic style. Its high façade is divided in three parts and gabled, and it has three rows of half Roman and half Gothic arches supported on columns. With its ancient sculptures, black with time, it presents a strange appearance of mediæval originality and romance. In Ferrara there is now nothing else so impressive on first sight as this church. It seems as if one of the structures of Ariosto's fairy world had suddenly risen before us. Opposite one side of the castle, the Palazzo del Ragione is still standing, and there are also two old towers, one of which is called the Rigobello. Opposite the façade was the Este palace in which Ercole lived, and which Eugene IV occupied when he held the famous council in Ferrara. In front of it rose the monuments of the two great princes of the house of Este, Niccolò III and Borso. One is an equestrian statue, the other a sitting figure; both were placed upon columns, and therefore are small. The crumbling pillars by the entrance archway are still standing, but the statues were destroyed in 1796.
The Este vied with the other princes and republics in building churches and convents, of which Ferrara still possesses a large number. In the year 1500 the most important were: S. Domenico, S. Francesco, S. Mariain Vado, S. Antonio, S. Giorgio before the Porta Romana, the convent Corpus Domini, and the Certosa. All have been restored more or less, and although some of them are roomy and beautiful, none have any special artistic individuality.
As early as the fifteenth century there were numerous palaces in Ferrara which are still numbered among the attractions of the gloomy city, and which are regarded as important structures in the history of architecture, from the early Renaissance until the appearance of the rococo style. Many of them, however, are in a deplorable state of decay. Marchese Alberto built the Palazzo del Paradiso (now the University) and Schifanoja at the end of the sixteenth century. Ercole erected the Palazzo Pareschi. He also restored a large part of Ferrara and extended the city by adding a new quarter on the north, the Addizione Erculea, which is still the handsomest part of Ferrara. The city is traversed by two long, wide streets—the Corso di Porta Po, with its continuation, the Corso di Porta Mare, and the Strada dei Piopponi. Strolling through these quiet streets one is astonished at the long rows of beautiful palaces of the Renaissance, reminders of a teeming life now passed away. Ercole laid out a large square which is surrounded by noble palaces, and which is now known as the Piazza Ariostea, from the monument of the great poet which stands in the center. This is, doubtless, the most beautiful memorial ever erected to a poet. The marble statue stands upon a high column and looks down upon the entire city. The history of the monument is interesting. Originally it was intended that an equestrian statue of Ercole on two columns should occupy this position. When the columns were being brought down the Po ona raft, one of them rolled overboard and was lost; the other was used in the year 1675 to support the statue of Pope Alexander VII, which was pulled down during the revolution of 1796 and replaced with a statue of Liberty, the unveiling of which was attended by General Napoleon Bonaparte. Three years later the Austrians overthrew the statue of Liberty, leaving the column standing, and in the year 1810 a statue of the Emperor Napoleon was placed upon it. This fell with the emperor. In the year 1833 Ferrara set Ariosto's statue upon the column, where it will remain in spite of all political change.
Magnificent palaces rose in Ercole's new suburb. His brother Sigismondo erected the splendid Palazzo Diamanti, now Ferrara's art gallery, while the Trotti, Castelli, Sacrati, and Bevilacqua families built palaces there which are still in existence. Ferrara was the home of a wealthy nobility, some of whom belonged to the old baronial families. In addition there were the Contrarii, Pio, Costabili, the Strozzi, Saraceni, Boschetti, the Roverella, the Muzzarelli, and Pendaglia.
The Ferrarese aristocracy had long ago emerged from the state of municipal strife and feudal dependence, and had set up their courts. The Este, especially the warlike Niccolò III, had subjugated the barons, who originally lived upon their estates beyond the city walls, and who were now in the service of the ruling family, holding the most important court and city offices; they were also commanders in the army. They tookpart, probably more actively than did the nobility of the other Italian States, in the intellectual movement of the age, which was fostered by the princes of the house of Este. Consequently many of these great lordswon prominent places in the history of literature in Ferrara.
The university, which had flourished there since the middle of the fifteenth century, was, excepting those of Padua and Bologna, the most famous in Italy. Founded by the Margrave Alberto in 1391, and subsequently remodeled by Niccolò III, it reached the zenith of its fame in the time of Lionello and Borso. The former was a pupil of the celebrated Guarino of Verona, and was himself acquainted with all the sciences. The friend and idol of the humanists of his age, he collected rare manuscripts and disseminated copies of them. He founded the library, and Borso continued the work begun by him.
As early as 1474 the University of Ferrara had forty-five well paid professors, and Ercole increased their number. Printing was introduced during his reign. The earliest printer in Ferrara after 1471 was the Frenchman Andreas, called Belforte.
Luigi Napoleone Cittadella, La Stampa in Ferrara. Ferrara, 1873.|
Like the city, the people seemed to have been of a serious cast of mind, which led to speculation, criticism, and the cultivation of the exact sciences. From Ferrara came Savonarola, the fanatical prophet who appeared during the moral blight which characterized the age of the Borgias, and Lucretia must frequently have recalled this man in whom her father, by the executioner's hand, sought to stifle the protestations of the faithful and upright against the immorality of his rule.
Astronomy and mathematics, and especially the natural sciences and medicine, which at that time were part of the school of philosophy, were extensively cultivated in Ferrara. It is stated that Savonarola himself had studied medicine; his grandfather Michele, a famous physician of Padua, had been called to Ferrara by Niccolò II.
See first part of Villari's well known biography of Savonarola.|
Niccolò Leoniceno, a native of Vincenza, at whose feet many of the most famous scholars and poets had sat, enjoyed great renown in Ferrara about 1464 as a physician, mathematician, philosopher, and philologist. He was still the pride of the city when Lucretia arrived there, as the great mathematician, Domenico Maria Novara, was then teaching in Bologna, where Copernicus had been his pupil.
Many famous humanists, who at the time of Lucretia's arrival were still children or youths—for example, the Giraldi and genial Celio Calcagnini, who dedicated an epithalamium to her on her appearance in the city—were members of the Ferrarese university. All of these men were welcome at the court of the Este because they were accomplished and versatile. It was not until later, after the sciences had been classified and their boundaries defined, that the graceful learning of the humanists degenerated into pedantry.
It was, however, especially the art of poetry which gave Ferrara, in Lucretia's time, a peculiarly romantic cast. This it was which first attracted attention to the city as one of the main centers of the intellectual movement. Ferrara produced numerous poets who composed in both tongues—Latin and Italian. Almost all the scholars of the day wrote Latin verses; most of them, however, it must be admitted, were lacking in poetic fire. Some of the Ferrarese, however, rose to high positions in poetry and are still remembered; preeminent were the two Strozzi, father and son, and Antonio Tebaldeo. The poets, however, who originated the romantic epic in Italian were much more important than the writers of Latin verse. The brilliant and sensuous court of Ferrara, together with the fascinating romance of the house of Este—which really belongs to the Middle Ages—and the charming nobility and modern chivalry, all contributed to the production of the epic, while the city of Ferrara, with its eventful history and its striking style of architecture, was a most favorable soil for it. Monuments of Roman antiquity are as rare in Ferrara as they are in Florence; everything is of the Middle Ages. Lucretia did not meet Bojardo, the famous author of the Orlando Inamorato, at the court of his friend Ercole, but the blind singer of the Mambriano, Francesco Cieco, probably was still living. We have seen how Ariosto, who was soon to eclipse all his predecessors, greeted Lucretia on her arrival.
The graphic arts had made much less progress in Ferrara than had poetry and the sciences; but while no master of the first rank, no Raphael or Titian appeared, there were, nevertheless, some who won a not unimportant place in the history of Italian culture. The Este were patrons of painting; they had their palaces decorated with frescoes, some of which, still considered noteworthy on account of their originality, are preserved in the Palazzo Schifanoja, where they were rediscovered in the year 1840. About the middle of the fifteenth century, Ferrara had its own school, the chief of which was Cosimo Tura. It produced two remarkable painters, Dosso Dossi and Benvenuto Tisio, the latter of whom, under the name of Garofalo, became famous as one of Raphael's greatest pupils. The works of these artists, who were Lucretia's contemporaries—Garofalo being a year younger—still adorn many of the churches, and are the chief attractions in the galleries of the city.
From an engraving by G. Batt. Cecchi.
Such, broadly sketched, was the intellectual life of Ferrara in the year1502. We, therefore, see that in addition to her brilliant court and her political importance as the capital of the State, she possessed a highly developed spiritual life. The chroniclers state that her population at that time numbered a hundred thousand souls; and at the beginning of the sixteenth century—her most flourishing period—she was probably more populous than Rome. In addition to the nobility there was an active bourgeoisie engaged in commerce and manufacturing, especially weaving, who enjoyed life.
Chapter V: Death of Alexander VIAlexander carefully followed everything that took place in Ferrara. He never lost sight of his daughter. She and his agents reported every mark of favor or disfavor which she received. Following the excitement of the wedding festivities there were painful days for Lucretia, as she was forced to meet envy and contempt, and to win for herself a secure place at the court.
Alexander was greatly pleased by her reports, especially those concerning her relations with Alfonso. He never for a moment supposed that the hereditary prince loved his daughter. All he required was that he should treat her as his wife, and that she should become the mother of a prince. With great satisfaction he remarked to the Ferrarese ambassador on hearing that Alfonso spent his nights with Lucretia,"During the day he goes wherever he likes, as he is young, and in doing this he does right."
Maxime intendendo che continuano dormire insieme la nocte. Se ben intende ch'el Sig. Don Alfonso el dì va a piacere in diversi loci come giovene; il quale, dice S. Stà. fa molto bene. Beltrando Costabili to the duke, Rome, April 1, 1502.|
Alexander also induced the duke to grant his daughter-in-law a larger allowance than he had agreed to give her. The sum stipulated was six thousand ducats. Lucretia was extravagant, and needed a large income. The amount she received from her father-in-law did not, however, exceed ten thousand ducats.
In the meantime Caesar was pursuing his own schemes, the success of which was apparently insured by his alliance with Ferrara and the sanction of France. The youthful Astorre Manfredi having been strangled in the castle of S. Angelo by his orders, Valentino set out for Romagna, June 13th, where he succeeded in ensnaring the unsuspecting Guidobaldo of Urbino and in seizing his estates, June 21st. Guidobaldo fled and found an asylum in Mantua, whence he and his wife eventually went to Venice.
Caesar now turned toward Camerino, where he surprised the Varano, destroying all but one of them. He reported these doings to the court of Ferrara, and the duke did not hesitate to congratulate him for a crime which had resulted in the overthrow of princes who were not only friendly to himself but were also closely connected with him. From Urbino Caesar wrote his sister as follows:
Illustrious Lady and Dearest Sister: I know nothing could be better medicine for your Excellency in your present illness than the good news which I have to impart. I must tell you that I have just had information that Camerino will yield. We trust that on receiving this news your condition will rapidly improve, and that you will inform us at once of it. For your indisposition prevents us from deriving any pleasure from this and other news. We ask you to tell the illustrious Duke Don Alfonso, your husband, our brother-in-law, at once, as, owing to want of time, we have not been able to write him direct.
Urbino, July 20, 1502.
Shortly after this he surprised his sister by visiting her in the palace of Belfiore, whither he came in disguise with five cavaliers. He remained with her scarcely two hours, and then hastily departed, accompanied by his brother-in-law Alfonso as far as Modena, intending to go to the King of France, who was in Lombardy.
In the meantime Alexander had arrived at a decision regarding the seizure of Camerino which conflicted with Caesar's plans, and which shows that the father's will was not wholly under his son's control. September 2, 1502, Alexander bestowed Camerino as a duchy upon the Infante Giovanni Borgia, whom he sometimes described as his own son and at others as Caesar's. Giovanni had already been invested with the title of Nepi, and Francesco Borgia, Cardinal of Cosenza, as the child's guardian, administered these estates. There are coins of this ephemeral Duke of Camerino still in existence.
Silver carlins. Obverse: JOANNES. BOR. DVX. CAMERINI; the Borgia arms surrounded with lilies and the crest of the Lenzuoli. Reverse: S. VENANTIVS DE CAMERI. They are described in the Periodico di Numismatica e Sfragistica per la Storia d'Italia diretto dal March. C. Strozzi, Flor. 1870, A. III, Fascic. ii, 70-77, by G. Amati, and also in A. IV, fasc. vi, 259-265, by M. Santoni. Both writers erroneously describe this Giov. Borgia as the son of the Duke of Gandia, and Amati even confuses Valence in Dauphiné with Valencia in Spain.|
September 5th Lucretia gave birth to a still-born daughter, to the great disappointment of Alexander, who desired an heir to the throne. She was sick unto death, and her husband showed the deepest concern, seldom leaving her for a moment. September 7th Valentino came to see her. The secretary Castellus sent a report of this visit to Ercole, who was in Reggio, whither he had gone to meet Caesar, who was returning from Lombardy. "To-day," he wrote,"at the twentieth hour, we bled Madama on the right foot. It was exceedingly difficult to accomplish it, and we could not have done it but for the Duke of Romagna, who held her foot. Her Majesty spent two hours with the duke, who made her laugh and cheered her greatly." Lucretia had a codicil added to her will, which she had made before leaving for Ferrara, in the presence of her brother's secretary and some monks. She, however, recovered. Caesar remained with her two days and then departed for Imola. When Ercole returned he found his daughter-in-law attended by Alexander's most skilful physician, the Bishop of Venosa, and out of all danger.
In the state archives of Modena there are several letters regarding Lucretia's illness written by the Ferrarese physicians Ludovicus Carrus and J. Castellus.|
As Lucretia felt oppressed in Castle Vecchio, and yearned for the free air, she removed October 8th, accompanied by the entire court, to the convent of Corpus Domini. Her recovery was so rapid that she was able again to take up her residence in the castle, October 22d, to the great joy of every one, as Duke Ercole wrote to Rome. Alfonso even went to Loretto in fulfilment of a vow he had made for the recovery of his wife. The solicitude which was displayed for Lucretia on this occasion shows that she had begun to make herself beloved in Ferrara.
The duke to Costabili, his ambassador in Rome, October 9-23, 1502.|
In this same month of October occurred the disaffection of Caesar's condottieri which nearly ended in his overthrow. In consequence of the desertion of his generals, the country about Urbino rose, and Guidobaldo even succeeded in reentering his capital city, October 18th. The protection of France and the lack of decision on the part of his enemies, however, saved the Duke of Romagna from the danger which threatened him. December 31st he relieved himself of the barons by the well-known coup of Sinigaglia. This was his masterstroke. He had Vitellozzo and Oliverotto strangled forthwith; the Orsini—Paolo, father-in-law of Girolama Borgia, and Francesco, Duke of Gravina, who had once been mentioned as a possible husband for Lucretia—suffered the same fate January 18, 1503.
The Duke of Ferrara congratulated Caesar, as did also the Gonzaga. Even Isabella did not hesitate to write a graceful letter to the man that had driven her dear sister-in-law, —whose husband had been forced to flee a second time, —from Urbino. The Gonzaga, who were anxious to marry the little hereditary Prince Federico to his daughter Luisa, were endeavoring to secure this end with the help of Francesco Trochio in Rome. Isabella's contemptible letter to Caesar is as follows:
To His Highness, the Duke of Valentino.
Illustrious Sir: The happy progress of which your Excellency has been good enough to inform us in your amiable letter has caused us all the liveliest joy, owing to the friendship and interest which you and my illustrious husband feel for each other. We, therefore, congratulate you in his and our own name for the good fortune which has befallen you, and for your safety, and we thank you for informing us of it and for your offer to keep us advised of future events, which we hope will be no less favorable, for, loving you as we do, we hope to hear from you often regarding your plans so that we may be able to rejoice with you at the success and advancement of your Excellency. Believing that you, after the excitement and fatigue which you have suffered while engaged in your glorious undertakings, will be disposed to give some time to recreation, it seems proper to me to send you by our courier, Giovanni, a hundred masks. We, of course, know how slight is this present in proportion to the greatness of your Excellency, and also in proportion to our desires; still it indicates that if there were anything more worthy and more suitable in this our country, we certainly would send it you. If the masks, however, are not as beautiful as they ought to be, your Highness will know that this is due to the makers in Ferrara, who, as it has been for years against the law to wear masks, long ago ceased making them. May, however, our good intentions and our love make up for their shortcomings. So far as our own affairs are concerned there is nothing new to tell you until your Excellency informs us as to the decision of his Holiness, our Master, concerning the articles of guaranty upon which we, through Brognolo, have agreed. We, therefore, look forward to this, and hope to reach a satisfactory conclusion. We commend ourselves to your service.
Caesar replied to the marchioness from Aquapendente as follows:
Most Illustrious Lady, Friend, and Honored Sister: We have received your Excellency's present of the hundred masks, which, owing to their diversity and beauty, are very welcome, and because the time and place of their arrival could not have been more propitious. If we neglected to inform your Excellency of all our plans and of our intended return to Rome, it was because it was only to-day that we succeeded in taking the city and territory adjacent to Sinigaglia together with the fortress, and punished our enemies for their treachery; freed Città di Castello, Fermo, Cisterna, Montone, and Perugia from their tyrants, and rendered them again subject to his Holiness, our Master; and deposed Pandolfo Petrucci from the tyranny which he had established in Siena, where he had shown himself such a determined enemy of ourselves. The masks are welcome especially because I know that the present is due to the affection which you and your illustrious husband feel for us, which is also shown by the letter which you send with it. Therefore we thank you a thousand times, although the magnitude of your and your husband's deserts exceeds the power of words. We shall use the masks, and they are so beautiful that we shall be saved the trouble of providing ourselves with any other adornment. On returning to Rome we will see that his Holiness, our Master, does whatever is necessary to further our mutual interests. We, in compliance with your Excellency's request, will grant the prisoner his liberty. We will inform your Illustrious Majesty at once, so that you may rejoice in it the moment he is free. We commend ourselves to you. From the papal camp near Aquapendente, February 1st.
Caesar was then near the zenith of his desires—a king's throne in central Italy. This project, however, was never realized; Louis XII forbade him further conquests. The Orsini (the cardinal of this house had just been poisoned in the castle of S. Angelo) and other barons whose estates were in the vicinity of Rome rose for a final struggle, and Caesar was compelled to hasten back to the papal city. Alexander and his son now turned toward Spain, as Gonsalvo had defeated the French in Naples and had entered the capital of the kingdom May 14th. Louis XII, however, despatched a new army under La Tremouille to recapture Naples. The Marquis of Mantua was likewise in his pay, and in August, 1503, the army entered the Patrimonium Petri.
Alexander and Caesar were suddenly taken sick at the same moment. The Pope died August 18th. It has been affirmed and also denied that both were poisoned, and proofs equally good in support of both views have been adduced; it is, therefore, a mooted question.
Aside from her grief due to affection, the death of Lucretia's father was a serious event for her, as it might weaken her position in Ferrara. Alexander's power was all that had given her a sense of security, and now she could no longer feel certain of the continuance of the affection of her father-in-law or of that of her husband. Well might Alfonso now recall the words Louis XII had uttered to the effect that on the death of Alexander he would not know who the lady was whom he had married. The king one day asked the Ferrarese plenipotentiary at his court how Madonna Lucretia had taken the Pope's death. When the ambassador replied that he did not know, Louis remarked, "I know that you were never satisfied with this marriage; this Madonna Lucretia is not Don Alfonso's real wife."
Despatch of Bartolomeo Cavalieri to Ercole, Macon, September 8, 1503.|
Lucretia would have been frightened had she read a letter which Ercole wrote to Giangiorgio Seregni, then his ambassador in Milan, which at that time was under French control, and in which he disclosed his real feelings on the Pope's demise.
Giangiorgio: Knowing that many will ask you how we are affected by the Pope's death, this is to inform you that he was in no way displeasing to us. At one time we wished, for the honor of God, our Master, and for the general good of Christendom, that God in his goodness and foresight would provide a worthy shepherd, and that his Church would be relieved of this great scandal. Personally we had nothing to wish for; we were concerned chiefly with the honor of God and the general welfare. We may add, however, that there was never a Pope from whom we received fewer favors than from this one, and this, even after concluding an alliance with him. It was only with the greatest difficulty that we secured from him what he had promised, but beyond this he never did anything for us. For this we hold the Duke of Romagna responsible; for, although he could not do with us as he wished, he treated us as if we were perfect strangers. He was never frank with us; he never confided his plans to us, although we always informed him of ours. Finally as he inclined to Spain, and we remained good Frenchmen, we had little to look for either from the Pope or his Majesty. Therefore his death caused us little grief, as we had nothing but evil to expect from the advancement of the above-named duke. We want you to give this our confidential statement to Chaumont, word for word, as we do not wish to conceal our true feelings from him—but speak cautiously to others about the subject and then return this letter to our worthy councilor Gianluca.
This statement was very candid. In view of the advantages which had accrued to Ercole's State through the marriage with Lucretia, he might be regarded as ungrateful; he had, however, never looked upon this alliance as anything more than a business transaction, and so far as his relations with Caesar were concerned his view was entirely correct.
Let us now hear what another famous prince—one who was in the confidence of the Borgias—says regarding the Pope's death. At the time of this occurrence the Marquis of Mantua was at his headquarters with the French army in Isola Farnese, a few miles from Rome. From there, September 22, 1503, he wrote his consort, Isabella, as follows:
Illustrious Lady and Dearest Wife: In order that your Majesty may be familiar with the circumstances attending the Pope's death, we send you the following particulars. When he fell sick, he began to talk in such a way that anyone who did not know what was in his mind would have thought that he was wandering, although he was perfectly conscious of what he said; his words were, "I come; it is right; wait a moment." Those who know the secret say that in the conclave following the death of Innocent he made a compact with the devil, and purchased the papacy from him at the price of his soul. Among the other provisions of the agreement was one which said that he should be allowed to occupy the Holy See twelve years, and this he did with the addition of four days. There are some who affirm that at the moment he gave up his spirit seven devils were seen in his chamber. As soon as he was dead his body began to putrefy and his mouth to foam like a kettle over the fire, which continued as long as it was on earth. The body swelled up so that it lost all human form. It was nearly as broad as it was long. It was carried to the grave with little ceremony; a porter dragged it from the bed by means of a cord fastened to the foot to the place where it was buried, as all refused to touch it. It was given a wretched interment, in comparison with which that of the cripple's dwarf wife in Mantua was ceremonious. Scandalous epigrams are everyday published regarding him.
The reports of Burchard, of the Venetian ambassador Giustinian, of the Ferrarese envoy Beltrando, and of numerous others describe Alexander's end in almost precisely the same way, and the fable of the devil or "babuino" that carried Alexander's soul off is also found in Marino Sanuto's diary. The highly educated Marquis of Gonzaga, with a simplicity equal to that of the people of Rome, believed it.
The Mephisto legend of Faust and Don Juan, which was immediately associated with Alexander's death—even the black dog running about excitedly in St. Peter's is included—shows what was the opinion of Alexander's contemporaries regarding the terrible life of the Borgia, and the extraordinary success which followed him all his days. Alexander's moral character is, however, so incomprehensible that even the keenest psychologists have failed to fathom it.
In him neither ambition nor the desire for power, which, in the majority of rulers, is the motive of their crimes, was the cause of his evil deeds. Nor was it hate of his fellows, nor cruelty, nor yet a vicious pleasure in doing evil. It was, however, his sensuality and also his love for his children—one of the noblest of human sentiments. All psychological theory would lead us to expect that the weight of his sins would have made Alexander a gloomy man with reason clouded by fear and madness, like Tiberius or Louis XI; but instead of this we have ever before us the cheerful, active man of the world—even until his last years. "Nothing worries him; he seems to grow younger every day," wrote the Venetian ambassador scarcely two years before his death.
It is not his passions or his crimes that are incomprehensible, for similar and even greater crimes have been committed by other princes both before and after him, but it is the fact that he committed them while he was Pope. How could Alexander VI reconcile his sensuality and his cruelty with the consciousness that he was the High Priest of the Church, God's representative on earth? There are abysses in the human soul to the depths of which no glance can penetrate. How did he overcome the warnings, the qualms of conscience, and how was it possible for him constantly to conceal them under a joyous exterior? Could he believe in the immortality of the soul and the existence of a divine Being?
When we consider the utter abandon with which Alexander committed his crimes, we are forced to conclude that he was an atheist and a materialist. There is a time in the life of every philosophic and unhappy soul when all human endeavor seems nothing more than the despairing, purposeless activity of an aggregation of puppets. But in Alexander VI we discover no trace of a Faust, nothing of his supreme contempt of the world, of his Titanic skepticism; but we find, on the contrary, that he possessed an amazingly simple faith, coupled with a capacity for every crime. The Pope who had Christ's mother painted with the features of the adulteress Giulia Farnese believed that he himself enjoyed the special protection of the Virgin.
From an engraving by G. Benaglia.
Alexander's life is the very antithesis of the Christian ideal. To be convinced of this it is only necessary to compare the Pope's deeds with the teachings of the Gospel. Compare his actions with the Commandments: "Thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not bear false witness."
The fact that Rodrigo Borgia was a pope must seem to all the members of the Church the most unholy thing connected with it, and one which they have reason bitterly to regret. This fact, however, can never lessen the dignity of the Church—the greatest production of the human mind—but does it not destroy a number of transcendental theories which have been associated with the papacy?
The execrations which all Italy directed against Alexander could scarcely have reached Lucretia's ears, but she doubtless anticipated them. Her distress must have been great. Her entire life in Rome returned and overwhelmed her. Her father had been the cause, first, of all her unhappiness, and subsequently of all her good fortune. Filial affection and religious fears must have assailed her at one and the same time. Bembo describes her suffering. This man, subsequently so famous, came to Ferrara in 1503, a young Venetian nobleman of the highest culture and fairest presence. He was warmly received by Lucretia, for whom he conceived great admiration. The accomplished cavalier wrote her the following letter of condolence:
I called upon your Majesty yesterday partly for the purpose of telling you how great was my grief on account of your loss, and partly to endeavor to console you, and to urge you to compose yourself, for I knew that you were suffering a measureless sorrow. I was able to do neither the one nor the other; for, as soon as I saw you in that dark room, in your black gown, lying weeping, I was so overcome by my feelings that I stood still, unable to speak, not knowing what to say. Instead of giving sympathy, I myself was in need of it, therefore I departed, completely overcome by the sad sight, mumbling and speechless, as you noticed or might have noticed. Perhaps this happened to me because you had need of neither my sympathy nor my condolences; for, knowing my devotion and fidelity, you would also be aware of the pain which I felt on account of your sorrow, and you in your wisdom may find consolation within and not look to others for it. The best way to convey to you an idea of my grief is for me to say that fate could cause me no greater sorrow than by afflicting you. No other shot could so deeply penetrate my soul as one accompanied by your tears. Regarding condolence, I can only say to you, as you yourself must have thought, that time soothes and lessens all our griefs. So high is my opinion of your intelligence and so numerous the proofs of your strength of character that I know that you will find consolation, and will not grieve too long. For, although you have now lost your father, who was so great that Fortune herself could not have given you a greater one, this is not the first blow which you have received from an evil and hostile destiny. You have suffered so much before that your soul must now be inured to misfortune. Present circumstances, moreover, require that you should not give any one cause to think that you grieve less on account of the shock than you do on account of any anxiety as to your future position. It is foolish for me to write this to you, therefore I will close, commending myself to you in all humility. Farewell. In Ostellato.
Bembo, Opp. iii, 309.|
Chapter VI: Events Following the Pope's DeathAfter Lucretia's first transports had passed she may well have blessed her good fortune, for to what danger would she have been exposed if she now, instead of being Alfonso's wife, was still forced to share the destiny of the Borgias! She was soon able to convince herself that her position in Ferrara was unshaken. She owed this to her own personality and to the permanent advantages which she had brought to the house of Este. She saw, however, that the lives of her kinsmen in Rome were in danger; there were her sick brother, her child Rodrigo, and Giovanni, Duke of Nepi; while the Orsini, burning with a desire to wipe out old scores, were hastening thither to avenge themselves for the blood of their kinsmen.
She besought her father-in-law to help Caesar and to preserve his estates for him. Ercole thought that it would be more to his own advantage for Caesar to hold the Romagna than to have it fall into the hands of Venice. He, therefore, sent Pandolfo Collenuccio thither to urge the people to remain true to their lord. To his ambassador in Rome he confided his joy that Caesar was on the road to recovery.
Minute Ducali a Costabili Beltrando, Ferrara, August 28, 1503.|
With the exception of the Romagna, the empire of Alexander's son at once began to crumble away. The tyrants he had expelled returned to their cities. Guidobaldo and Elisabetta hastened from Venice to Urbino and were received with open arms. Still more promptly Giovanni Sforza had returned from Mantua to Pesaro. The Marquis Gonzaga had sent him the first news of Alexander's death and of Caesar's illness, and Sforza thanked him in the following letter:
Illustrious Sir and Honored Brother: I thank your Excellency for the good news which you have given me in your letter, especially regarding the condition of Valentino. My joy is great because I believe my misfortunes are now at an end. I assure you that if I return to my country, I shall regard myself as your Excellency's creature, and you may dispose of my person and my property as you will. I ask you, in case you learn anything more regarding Valentino, and especially of his death, that you will send me the news, for by so doing you will afford me great joy. I commend myself to you at all times.
As early as September 3d, Sforza was able to inform the Marquis that he had entered Pesaro amid the acclamations of the people. He immediately had a medal struck in commemoration of the happy event. On one side is his bust and on the other a broken yoke with the words PATRIARECEPTA.
One of these medals is preserved in the cabinet of the Oliveriana in Pesaro. It is reproduced in the Nuova Raccolta delle Monete e Zecche d'Italia di Guidantonio Zanetti, p. 1.|
Filled with the desire for revenge he punished the rebels of Pesaro by confiscating their property, casting them into prison, or by putting them to death. He had a number of the burghers hanged at the windows of his castle. Even Collenuccio, who had placed himself under the protection of Lucretia and the duke, in Ferrara, was soon to fall into his hands. With flattering promises Giovanni induced him to come to Pesaro, and then on the ground of the complaint he had addressed to Caesar Borgia, which Sforza claimed he had only just discovered, he cast him into prison. Collenuccio, not wholly guiltless as far as his former master and friend was concerned, resigned himself to his fate and died in July, 1504.
See Giulio Perticari, Op. Bol. 1839, vol. ii. Intorno la morte di Pandolfo Collenuccio. Perticari's opinion is too one-sided and optimistic. The beautiful elegy which he states Collenuccio wrote shortly before his death was written at a much happier time.|
Meanwhile Lucretia was anxiously following the course of events in Rome. None of her letters to Caesar written at this time are preserved, nor are any of Caesar's to her. The only ones we have are those which he exchanged with the Duke of Ferrara, who continued to write him. September 13th Ercole wrote congratulating him on his recovery, and informing him that he had sent a messenger to the people of Romagna urging them to remain true to him.
Caesar was in Nepi when he received this letter, having gone there September 2d after he had arranged with the French ambassador in Rome, on the suggestion of the cardinal, to place himself under the protection of France. He was accompanied by his mother, Vannozza, his brother Giuffrè, and, doubtless, also by his little daughter Luisa and the two children Rodrigo and Giovanni, the latter of whom was Duke of Nepi. There he was safe, as the French army was camped in the neighborhood. Just as if nothing had happened, he wrote letters to the Marquis Gonzaga, who was then at his headquarters in Campagnano. He even sent him some hunting dogs as a present. There is also in existence a letter written by Giuffrè to the same Gonzaga, dated Nepi, September 18th. While here Caesar learned that his protector and friend, Amboise, had not been elected pope as he had hoped, but that Piccolomini had been chosen. September 22d this cardinal, senile and moribund, ascended the papal throne, assuming the name Pius III. He was the happy father of no less than twelve children, boys and girls, who would have been brought up in the Vatican as princes but for his early death. He permitted Caesar to return to Rome and even showed him some favor; but scarcely had the Borgia appeared—October 3d—when the Orsini rose in their wrath and clamored for the death of their enemy. He and the two children took refuge in Castle S. Angelo, and October 18th Piccolomini died.
The two children now had no protector but Caesar and the cardinals whom Alexander had appointed as their guardians. On the death of the Pope their duchies crumbled away. The Gaetani returned from Mantua and again took possession of Sermoneta and all the other estates which had been bestowed upon the little Rodrigo. Ascanio Sforza demanded either Nepi or the position of chamberlain, and the last Varano again secured Camerino.
Rodrigo was Duke of Biselli, and as such under the protection of Spain, Alexander having succeeded in obtaining, May 20, 1502, from Ferdinand and Isabella of Castile, a diploma by virtue of which the royal house of Spain confirmed the Borgia family in the possession of all their Neapolitan estates. In this act Caesar and his heirs, Don Giuffrè of Squillace; Don Juan, son of the murdered Gandia; Lucretia, as Duchess of Biselli, and her son and heir Rodrigo are explicitly named.
The document is in the Este archives.|
There is likewise in the Este archives an instrument which was drawn up in Lucretia's chancellery, referring to the control of Rodrigo's property, and also others regarding the little Giovanni.
This is the record already mentioned, Liber Arrendamentorum terrarum ad IIImos Dominos Rodericum Borgiam de Aragonia, Sermoneti, etc., et Johannem Borgiam Nepesini Duces, infantes spectantium. Biselli, 1502|
The two children, Rodrigo and Giovanni, during their early years were reared together. Lucretia provided for them from Ferrara, as is shown by the record of her household expenses in 1502 and 1503. There are numerous entries for velvet and silk and gold brocade which she bought for the purpose of clothing the children.
Raxo pavonazo trovato in Guardaroba. De dito raso se ne fodrato dui ziponi e dui boniti per Don Rodrigo e Don Joanne (Braccia 6). De dito raso se ne posto in la capa de Don Rodrigo—Tela d'oro. De dita tela se ne posto a fodrare due cape de raxo pavonazo per Don Rodrigo e Don Joane—braza 12. Dite peze de fuxo doro tirato se ne pose per commission de la Signora nei saioni de Don Rodrigo e Don Joanne, etc. Estratti dall' inventario di roba di Lucrezia Borgia, 1502-1503. Archives of Modena.|
In spite of the protection of Spain, Lucretia's son's life was in danger in Rome, and it was her duty to have the child brought to her; but this she neglected to do, either because she did not dare to do so, or she was not strong enough to bring it about, or because she perhaps feared that the child would be in still greater danger in Ferrara. The Cardinal of Cosenza, Rodrigo's guardian, suggested to her that she sell all his personal property and send him to Spain, where he would be safe. In a letter she informed her father-in-law of this, and he replied as follows:
Illustrious Lady, Our Dearest Daughter-in-law And Daughter: We have received your Majesty's letter, and also the one which his Eminence the Cardinal of Cosenza addressed to you and which you sent us; this we return to you with our letter; no one but ourselves read it. We note the unanimity with which your Majesty and the cardinal write. His advice shows such solicitude that it is at once apparent that it is due to his affection and wisdom. We have considered everything carefully, and it seems to us that your Majesty can and ought to do what the worthy monsignor suggests. In fact I think your Majesty is bound to do as he advises on account of the affection which he displays for you and the illustrious Don Rodrigo, your son, who, I am told, owes his life to the cardinal. Although Don Rodrigo will be at a distance from you, it is better for him to be away and safe than for him to be near and in danger, as the cardinal thinks he would be. Your mutual love would in no way suffer by this separation. When he grows up he can decide, according to circumstances, whether it is best for him to return to Italy or remain away. The cardinal's suggestion to convert his personal property into money to provide for his support and to increase his income—as he states he is anxious to do—is a good idea. In brief, as we have said, it seems to us that you had best consent. Nevertheless, if your Majesty, who is perfectly competent to decide this, determine otherwise, we are perfectly willing. Farewell.
Codegorio, October 4, 1503.
In the meantime, November 1, 1503, Della Rovere ascended the papal throne as Julius II. The Rovere, the Borgias, and the Medici, each gave the Church two popes, and they impressed upon the papacy the political form of the modern state. In the entire annals of the Church there are no other families which have so deeply affected the course of history. Their names suggest innumerable political and moral revolutions. Della Rovere now released Caesar, whose bitterest enemy he had once been. It was apparent that Valentino's destruction was imminent.
Elsewhere we may read how Julius II first used Caesar for the purpose of assuring his election by means of his influence on the Spanish cardinals, and how he subsequently—after the surrender of the fortresses in the Romagna—cast him aside. Caesar threw himself into the arms of Spain, going from Ostia to Naples in October, 1504, where the great Captain Gonsalvo represented Ferdinand the Catholic. Don Giuffrè accompanied him. Cardinals Francesco Remolini of Sorrento and Ludovico Borgia had preceded him to Naples to escape a prosecution with which they were threatened. There Gonsalvo broke the safe-conduct which he had given Caesar. May 27th he seized him in the name of King Ferdinand and confined him in the castle of Ischia.
From an engraving published in 1580.
We hear nothing of the fate of the Borgia children; apparently they remained under the protection of the Spanish cardinals in Rome or Naples. Caesar, saving nothing, and barely escaping with his life, set out for Spain. He had previously placed his valuables in the hands of his friends in Rome to keep for him or to send to Ferrara. December 31, 1503, Duke Ercole wrote his ambassador in Rome to take charge of Caesar's chests when the Cardinal of Sorrento should send them to him, and forward them to Ferrara as the property of the Cardinal d'Este.
Ercole to his ambassador in Rome, December 31, 1503.|
Cardinal Remolini died in May, 1507, and Julius II confiscated in his house twelve chests and eighty-four bales which contained tapestries, rich stuffs, and other property belonging to Caesar.
Costabili to Ercole, May 6, 1507.|
The Pope ordered the Florentines to return certain other property of Caesar's consisting of gold, silver, and similar valuables which he had sent to their city. The Florentine Signory,
Manfredo Manfredi's despatch to Ercole, Florence, August 20, 1504.|
however, stated that they would have nothing to do with the matter.
The removal of Caesar to Spain caused great excitement. No one, neither Gonsalvo, the Pope, nor King Ferdinand was willing to assume the responsibility for it. It was even stated that it was due to Gandia's widow, who was at the Castilian court endeavoring to secure the arrest of her husband's murderer.
Perche la mogliera del Duca di Candia, che fu morto dal Duca Valentino ha procurato questo acto de tencione et vendicta et che Lei è parente del Re di Spagna. Letter of Giovanni Alberto della Pigna to Ercole, Venice, June 18, 1504.|
The Spanish cardinals and Lucretia exerted themselves to obtain Caesar's release. The first news of him came from Spain in October, 1504. Costabili wrote to Ferrara: "The affairs of the Duke of Valentino do not appear to be in such a desperate condition as has been represented, for the Cardinal of Salerno has a letter of the third instant from Requesenz, the duke's majordomo, which his Majesty despatched before he reached there, and letters from several cardinals to his Majesty of Spain. Requesenz writes that the duke was confined with one servant in the castle of Seville, which, although very strong, is roomy. He was soon furnished with eight servants. He also writes that he has spoken to the king regarding freeing Caesar, and that his Majesty stated that he had not ordered the duke's confinement but had given instructions for him to be brought to Spain on account of certain charges which Gonsalvo had made against him. If these were found to be untrue he would do as the cardinal requested concerning Caesar. However, nothing could be done until the queen recovered. He made the same answer to the ambassador of the King and Queen of Navarre, who endeavored to secure the duke's release, and consequently Requesenz hoped that he would soon be set free."
Costabili's despatch to Duke Ercole, Rome, October 27, 1504.|
From this letter of Requesenz it appears that Caesar was first taken to Seville and from there was sent to the castle of Medina del Campo in Castile. The King of France turned a deaf ear to his petitions. No one in Italy wanted him set free. His sister was the only person in the peninsula who took any interest in the overthrown upstart, and her appeals found little support among the Este. It was well known that if Caesar returned to Italy he would only cause uneasiness at the court of Ferrara, and would in all probability make it the center of his intrigues. The Gonzaga alone appeared not to have entirely withdrawn their favor from him, although, instead of wishing, as they once had done, to establish a matrimonial alliance with him, they now connected themselves with the Rovere, the Marquis of Mantua marrying his young daughter Leonora to Julius's nephew, Francesco Maria della Rovere, heir of Urbino, April 9, 1505.
The contract is in Beneimbene's protocol-book.|
It was especially Isabella who, owing to her affection for her sister-in-law Lucretia, seconded her appeals to her husband. In the archives of the house of Gonzaga are several letters written by Lucretia to the marquis in the interests of her brother.
Reduced facsimile of a letter written by Lucretia Borgia to Marchese Gonzaga.
August 18, 1505, she wrote him from Reggio that she had taken steps in Rome to induce the Pope to permit Cardinal Petro Isualles to go to the Spanish court to endeavor to secure Caesar's freedom, and she hoped to succeed. She, therefore, asked the marquis himself to request the Pope to allow the cardinal to undertake this mission. She wrote to him again from Belriguardo thanking him for his promise to despatch an agent to Spain, and she sent him a letter for King Ferdinand and another for her brother. It is not known whether the cardinal actually undertook this journey to Madrid, but it is hardly likely that Julius would have allowed him to do so.
Chapter VII: Court Poets—Giulia Bella and Julius II The Este Dynasty EndangeredDuring the year, when Lucretia, filled with a sister's love, was grieving over the fate of her terrible brother, a great change occurred in her own circumstances, she having become Duchess of Ferrara, January 25, 1505. Her husband, Alfonso, in compliance with his father's wishes, had undertaken a journey to France, Flanders, and England for the purpose of becoming acquainted with the courts of those countries. He was to return to Italy by way of Spain, but while he was at the court of Henry VII of England he received despatches informing him that his father was sick. He hastened back to Ferrara, and Ercole died shortly after his return.
Alfonso ascended the ducal throne at a time when a strong hand and high intelligence were required to save his State from the dangers which threatened it. The Republic of Venice had already secured possession of a part of Romagna, and was planning to cut Ferrara off from the mouth of the Po; at the same time Julius II was scheming to take Bologna, and if he succeeded in this he would doubtless also attack Ferrara. In view of these circumstances it was a fortunate thing for the State that its chief was a practical, cool-headed man like Alfonso. He was neither extravagant nor fond of display, and he cared nothing for a brilliant court. He was indifferent to externals, even to his own clothing. His chief concern was to increase the efficiency of the army, build fortresses, and cast cannon. When the affairs of state left him any leisure he amused himself at a turning-lathe which he had set up, and also in painting majolica vases, in which art he was exceedingly skilful. He had no inclination for the higher culture—this he left to his wife.
The small collection of books which Lucretia brought with her from Rome shows that she possessed some education and an inclination to take part in the intellectual movement of Ferrara. We have a catalogue of these books, of the years 1502 and 1503, which shows what were Lucretia's tastes. According to this list she possessed a number of books, many of which were beautifully bound in purple velvet, with gold and silver mountings: a breviary; a book with the seven psalms and other prayers; a parchment with miniatures in gold, called De Coppelle a la Spagnola; the printed letters of Saint Catharine of Siena; the Epistles and Gospels in the vulgar tongue; a religious work in Castilian; a manuscript collection of Spanish canzone with the proverbs of Domenico Lopez; a printed work entitled Aquilla Volante; another, called Supplement of Chronicles, in the vulgar tongue; the Mirror of Faith, in Italian; a printed copy of Dante, with a commentary; a work in Italian, on philosophy; the Legend of the Saints in the vulgar tongue; an old work, De Ventura; a Donatus; a Life of Christ in Spanish; a manuscript of Petrarch on parchment, in duodecimo. From this catalogue it is evident that Lucretia's studies were not very profound. Her books were confined to religious works and belles-lettres.
Another list of the year 1516 contains a number of magnificently bound breviaries and books of offices, but there are no additional works of a secular nature. For this catalogue I am indebted to Foucard, who copied it from an inventory of the personal property of Lucretia Borgia in the archives of Modena.|
ALPHONSO D'ESTE, DUKE OF Ferrara.
Lucretia established her ducal court in accordance with the dictates of her own fancy. She was now the soul and center of the intellectual life of Ferrara. Her cultivated intellect, her beauty, and the irresistible joyousness of her being charmed all who came into her presence. The opposition which the members of the house of Este at first had shown her had disappeared, and, especially in the case of Isabella Gonzaga, had changed into affection, as is proved by the extensive correspondence which the two women maintained up to the time of Lucretia's death. In the archives of the house of Gonzaga there are several hundred of her letters to the Marchesa of Mantua.
Her relations with the house of Urbino were no less pleasant, and they continued so even after the death of Guidobaldo in April, 1508, for his successor was Francesco Maria della Rovere, son-in-law of Isabella Gonzaga. She was frequently visited by these princes, and she enjoyed the friendship of a number of remarkable men—Baldassar Castiglione, Ottaviano Fregoso, Aldus Manutius, and Bembo.
Bembo, who was in love with the beautiful duchess, constantly sang her praises, and, August 1, 1504, he dedicated to her his dialogue on love, the Asolani, in a letter in which he celebrated her virtues. His friend Aldo first spent some time in Ferrara at the court of Ercole, and subsequently went to the Pio at Carpi; finally he settled in Venice, where he printed the Asolani in the year 1505 and dedicated it to Lucretia. There is no doubt about Bembo's passion for the duchess, but it would be a fruitless undertaking to endeavor to prove, from the evidences of affection which the beautiful woman bestowed upon him, that it passed the bounds of propriety. The belief that it did is due to the letters which Bembo wrote her, and which are printed in his works, and still more to those which Lucretia addressed to him. From 1503 to 1506—in which year he removed to the court of Guidobaldo—the intellectual Venetian enjoyed the closest friendship with Lucretia. He corresponded with her while he was living with his friends the Strozzi in Villa Ostellato. These letters, especially those addressed to an "anonymous friend," by which designation he clearly meant Lucretia, are inspired by friendship, and display a tender confidence. Lucretia's letters to Bembo are preserved in the Ambrosiana in Milan, where they and the lock of blond hair near them are examined by every one who visits the famous library. The letters are written in her own hand, and there is no doubt of their authenticity; concerning the lock of hair there is some uncertainty; still it may be one of the pledges of affection which the happy Bembo carried away with him. Lucretia's letters to Bembo were first examined and described by Baldassare Oltrocchi, and subsequently by Lord Byron; in 1859 they were published in Milan by Bernardo Gatti.
Dissertazione del Sig. Dottor Baldassare Oltrocchi sopra i primi amori di Pietro Bembo, indirizzata al sig. Conte Giammaria Mazzucchelli Bresciana. In the Nuova Raccolta d'Opuscoli Scientifici del Calogerà, vol. iv. Lettere di Lucrezia Borgia a messer Pietro Bembo dagli autografi conservati in un Codice della Bibl. Ambrosiana. Milano eoi Tipi dell' Ambrosiana, 1859.|
There are nine in all—seven in Italian and two in Spanish. They are accompanied by a Castilian canzone.
It seems certain that she felt more than mere friendship for Bembo, for she was young, and he was an accomplished cavalier, fair, amiable, and witty, who cast the rough Alfonso completely in the shade. He excited the latter's jealousy, and the danger which threatened him may have been the cause of his removal to Urbino. Lucretia kept up her friendly relations with him until the year 1513.
Several other poets in Ferrara devoted their talents to her glorification. The verses which the two Strozzi addressed to her are even more ardent than those of Bembo—perhaps because their authors possessed greater poetical talent. Tito, the father, experienced the same feelings for the beautiful duchess as did his genial son Ercole, and he expressed them in the same poetical forms and imagery. This very similarity indicates that their devotion was merely æsthetic. Tito sang of a rose which Lucretia had sent him, but his son excelled him in an epigram on the Rose of Lucretia, which could hardly have been the same one his father had received.
Laeto nata solo, dextrâ, rosa, pollice carpta;
Unde tibi solito pulcrior, unde color?
Num te iterum tinxit Venus? an potius tibi tantum
Borgia purpureo praebuit ore decus?
Tito, in his epigram, described himself as senescent, and consequently not likely to be wounded by Cupid's darts, but he, nevertheless, was ensnared by Lucretia's charms. "In her," so he says,"all the majesty of heaven and earth are personified, and her like is not to be found on earth." He addressed an epigram to Bembo, with whose passion for Lucretia he was acquainted, in which he derives the name Lucretia from "lux" and "retia," and makes merry over the net in which Bembo was caught.
Ad Bembum de Lucretia.
Si mutatur in X. C. tertia nominis hujus
Littera lux fiet, quod modo luc fuerat.
Retia subsequitur, cui tu hæc subiunge paraque,
Subscribens lux hæc retia, Bembe, parat.
His son Ercole describes her as a Juno in good works, a Pallas indecorum, and a Venus in beauty. In verses in imitation of Catullus he sang of the marble Cupid which the duchess had set up in her salon, saying that the god of Love had been turned into stone by her glance. He compared Lucretia's beautiful eyes with the sun, that blinds whosoever ventures to look at it; like Medusa, whose glance turned the beholder to stone, yet in this case "the pains of love still continued immortalized in the stone."
Is it possible to believe that these poets would have written such verses if they had considered Lucretia Borgia guilty of the crimes which, even after her father's death, had been ascribed to her by Sannazzaro?
Antonio Tebaldeo, Calcagnini, and Giraldi sang of Lucretia's beauty and virtue. Marcelle Filosseno dedicated a number of charming sonnets to her, in which he compared her with Minerva and Venus. Jacopo Caviceo, who in the last years of his life (he died in 1511) was vicar of the bishopric of Ferrara, dedicated to her his wonderful romance "Peregrino," with an inscription in which he describes her as beautiful, learned, wise, and modest. The number of poets who threw themselves at her feet was certainly large, and she doubtless received their flattery with the same satisfied vanity with which a beautiful woman of to-day would accept such offerings. Some of these poets may really have been in love with her, while others burned their incense as court flatterers; all, doubtless, were glad to find in her an ideal to serve as a platonic inspiration for their rhymes and verses.
Ariosto excepted, these poets are to us nothing more than names in the history of literature. The great poet's relations with the princely house of Ferrara began about 1503, when he entered the service of Cardinal Ippolito. Soon after this—in the year 1505—he began his great epic, and the beautiful duchess appears to have had very little influence on his work. He refers to her occasionally, especially in a stanza for which she owed the poet little thanks if she foresaw his immortality—the eighty-third stanza in the forty-second canto of the Orlando Furioso, in which he places Lucretia's portrait in the temple to woman. The inscription under her portrait says that her fatherland, Rome, on account of her beauty and modesty must regard her as excelling Lucretia of old.
A recent Italian writer, speaking of Ariosto's adulation, says, "However much of it may be looked upon as court flattery, and as due to the poet's obligations to the house of Este, we know that the art off lattery had also its laws and bounds, and that one who ascribed such qualities to a prince who was known to be entirely lacking in them would be regarded as little acquainted with the world and with court manners, for he would cause the person to be publicly ridiculed. In this case the praise would degenerate into satire and the incautious flatterer would fare badly."
See the Marquis Giuseppe Campori's work: Una Vittima della Storia, Lucrezia Borgia, in the Nuova Antologia, August 31, 1866.|
Flattery has always been the return which court poets make for their slavery. Ariosto and Tasso were no more free from it than were Horace and Virgil. When the poet of the Orlando Furioso discovered that Cardinal Ippolito was beginning to treat him coldly, he thought to strike out everything he had said in his praise. Although it was probably merely the name Lucretia which Ariosto and other poets used—comparing it with the classic ideal of feminine honor—it is, nevertheless, difficult wholly to reject the interpretation of Lucretia's modern advocates, for, even when this comparison was not made, other admirers—Ariosto especially—praised the beautiful duchess for her decorum. This much is certain: her life in Ferrara was regarded as a model of feminine virtue.
There was a young woman in her household who charmed all who came in contact with her until she became the cause of a tragedy at the court. This was the Angela Borgia whom Lucretia had brought with her from Rome, and who had been affianced to Francesco Maria Rovere. It is not known when the betrothal was set aside, although it may have been shortly after Alexander's death. The heir of Urbino married, as has been stated, Eleonora Gonzaga. Among Angela's admirers were two of Alfonso's brothers, who were equally depraved, Cardinal Ippolito and Giulio, a natural son of Ercole. One day when Ippolito was assuring Angela of his devotion, she began to praise the beauty of Giulio's eyes, which so enraged his utterly degenerate rival that he planned a horrible revenge. The cardinal hired assassins and commanded them to seize his brother when he was returning from the hunt, and to tear out the eyes which Donna Angela had found so beautiful. The attempt was made in the presence of the cardinal, but it did not succeed as completely as he had wished. The wounded man was carried to his palace, where the physicians succeeded in saving one of his eyes. This crime, which occurred November 3, 1505,
Frizzi Storia di Ferrara, iv, 205.|
aroused the whole court. The unfortunate Giulio demanded that it be paid in kind, but the duke merely banished the cardinal. The injured man brooded on revenge, and the direst consequences followed.
Ariosto, the wicked cardinal's courtier, fell into difficulties from which he escaped in a way not altogether honorable, which lessens the worth of the praise he bestowed upon Lucretia. He wrote a poem in which he endeavored to clear the murderer by blackening Giulio's character and concealing the motive for the crime. In this same eclogue he poured forth the most ardent praise of Lucretia. He lauded not only her beauty, her good works, and her intellect, but above all her modesty, for which she was famous before coming to Ferrara.
Cose tutte che sono in ontà del vero, says Antonio Cappelli. Introduction to his Lettere di Lodovico Ariosto, Bologna, 1866. The eclogue is in Ariosto's Opere Minori i. 267. Angela Borgia is mentioned in the last canto (stanza 4) of the Orlando.|
A year later, December 6, 1506, Lucretia married Donna Angela to Count Alessandro Pio of Sassuolo, and by a remarkable coincidence her son Giberto subsequently became the husband of Isabella, a natural daughter of Cardinal Ippolito.
In November, 1505, an event occurred in the Vatican which aroused great interest on the part of Lucretia, and likewise caused her most painful memories. Giulia Farnese, the companion of her unhappy youth, made her appearance there under circumstances which must have overcome her. We know nothing of the life of Alexander's mistress during the years immediately preceding and following his death. She and her husband, Orsini, were living in Castle Bassanello, to which her mother Adriana had also removed. At least Giulia was there in 1504, about which time one of the Orsini committed one of those crimes with which the history of the great families of Italy is filled. Her sister, Girolama Farnese, widow of Puccio Pucci, had entered into a second marriage—this time with Count Giuliano Orsini of Anguillara—and had been murdered by her stepson, Giambattista of Stabbia, because, as it was alleged, she had tried to poison him. Giulia buried her deceased sister in 1504, at Bassanello.
She must have gone to Rome the following year and taken up her abode in the Orsini palace. Her husband was not living, and Adriana may also have been dead, for she was not present at the ceremony in the Vatican in November, 1505, when Giulia, to the great astonishment of all Rome, married her only daughter, Laura, to the nephew of the Pope, Niccolò Rovere, brother of Cardinal Galeotto.
Laura passed among all those who were acquainted with her mother's secrets as the child of Alexander VI and natural sister of the Duchess of Ferrara. When she was only seven years old her mother had betrothed her to Federico, the twelve-year-old son of Raimondo Farnese; this was April 2, 1499. This alliance was subsequently dissolved to enable her to enter into a union as brilliant as her heart could possibly desire.
The consent of Julius II to the betrothal of his nephew with the bastard daughter of Alexander VI is one of the most astonishing facts in the life of this pope. It perhaps marks his reconciliation with the Borgia. He had hated the men of this family while he was hostile to them, but his hatred was not due to any moral feelings. Julius II felt no contempt for Alexander and Caesar, but, on the other hand, it is more likely that he marveled at their strength as did Macchiavelli. We do not know that he had any personal relations with Lucretia Borgia after he ascended the papal throne, although this certainly would have been probable owing to the position of the house of Este. On one occasion he deeply offended Lucretia when, in reinstating Guglielmo Gaetani in possession of Sermoneta by a bull dated January 24, 1504, he applied the most uncomplimentary epithets to Alexander VI, describing him as a "swindler" who had enriched his own children by plundering others.
The bull is in the archives of the house of Gaetani.|
This especially concerned Lucretia, for she had been mistress of Sermoneta, which had subsequently been given to her son Rodrigo.
Later, after Alfonso ascended the ducal throne, the relations between the Pope and Lucretia must have become more friendly. She kept up a lively correspondence with Giulia Farnese, and doubtless received from her the news of the betrothal of her daughter to a member of the Pope's family.
As late as January 15, 1519, a few months before her death, Lucretia wrote to Giulia. The 13th of that month, Pietro Torelli, the Ferrarese ambassador in Florence, reported that he had received a letter for Giulia and would attend to it. Archives of Modena.|
The betrothal took place in the Vatican, in the presence of Julius II, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, and the mother of the young bride. This was one of the greatest triumphs of Giulia's romantic life—she had overcome the opposition of another pope, and one who had been the enemy of Alexander VI, and the man who had ruined Caesar. She, the adulteress, who had been branded by the satirists of Rome and of all Italy as mistress of Alexander VI, now appeared in the Vatican as one of the most respectable women of the Roman aristocracy,"the illustrious Donna Giulia de Farnesio," Orsini's widow, for the purpose of betrothing the daughter of Alexander and herself to the Pope's nephew, thereby receiving absolution for the sins of her youth. She was still a beautiful and fascinating woman, and at most not more than thirty years of age.
This good fortune and the rehabilitation of her character (if, in view of the morals of the time, we may so describe it) she owed to the intercession of her brother the cardinal. Political considerations likewise induced the Pope to consent to the alliance, for, in order to carry out his plan for extending the pontifical States, it was necessary for him to win over the great families of Rome. He secured the support of the Farnese and of the Orsini; in May, 1506, he married his own natural daughter Felice to Giangiordano Orsini of Bracciano, and in July of the same year he gave his niece, Lucretia Gara Rovere, sister of Niccolò, to Marcantonio Colonna as wife.
Again Giulia Farnese vanished from sight, and neither under Julius II nor Leo X does she reappear. March 14, 1524, she made a will which was to be in favor of her nieces Isabella and Costanza in case her daughter should die without issue. March 23d the Venetian ambassador in Rome, Marco Foscari, informed his Signory that Cardinal Farnese's sister, Madama Giulia, formerly mistress of Pope Alexander VI, was dead. From this we are led to assume that she died in Rome. No authentic likeness of Giulia Bella has come down to us, but tradition says that one of the two reclining marble figures which adorn the monument of Paul III—Farnese—in St. Peter's, Justice, represents his sister, Giulia Farnese, while the other, Wisdom, is the likeness of his mother, Giovanella Gaetani.
Giulia's daughter was mistress of Bassanello and Carbognano. She had one son, Giulio della Rovere, who subsequently became famous as a scholar.
Fioravanti Martinelli Carbognano illustrado, Rome, 1644.|
In the meantime the attempt against Giulio d'Este had been attended by such consequences that the princely house of Ferrara found itself confronted by a grave danger. Giulio complained to Alfonso of injustice, while the cardinal's numerous friends considered his banishment too severe a punishment. Ippolito had a great following in Ferrara. He was a lavish man of the world, while the duke, owing to his utilitarian ways and practical life, repelled the nobility. A party was formed which advocated a revolution. The house of Este had survived many of these attempts. One had occurred when Ercole ascended the throne.
Giulio succeeded in winning over to his cause certain disaffected noble sand conscienceless men who were in the service of the duke; among them Count Albertino Boschetti of San Cesario; his son-in-law, the captain of the palace guard; a chamberlain; one of the duke's minstrels, and a few others. Even Don Ferrante, Alfonso's own brother, who had been his proxy when he married Lucretia in Rome, entered into the conspiracy. The plan was, first to despatch the cardinal with poison; and, as this act would be punished if the duke were allowed to live, he was to be destroyed at a masked ball, and Don Ferrante was to be placed on the throne.
The cardinal, who was well served by his spies in Ferrara, received news of what was going on and immediately informed his brother Alfonso. This was in July, 1506. The conspirators sought safety in flight, but only Giulio and the minstrel Guasconi succeeded in escaping, the former to Mantua and the latter to Rome. Count Boschetti was captured in the vicinity of Ferrara. Don Ferrante apparently made no effort to escape. When he was brought before the duke he threw himself at his feet and begged for mercy; but Alfonso in his wrath lost control of himself, and not only cast him from him but struck out one of his eyes with a staff which he had in his hand. He had him confined in the tower of the castle, whither Don Giulio, whom the Marchese of Mantua had delivered after a short resistance, was soon brought. The trial for treason was quickly ended, and sentence of death passed upon the guilty. First Boschetti and two of his companions were beheaded in front of the Palazzo della Ragione. This scene is faithfully described in a contemporaneous Ferrarese manuscript on criminology now preserved in the library of the university.
The two princes were to be executed in the court of the castle, August 12th. The scaffold was erected, the tribunes were filled, the duke took his place, and the unfortunate wretches were led to the block. Alfonso made a signal—he was about to show mercy to his brothers. They lost consciousness and were carried back to prison. Their punishment had been commuted to life imprisonment. They spent years in captivity, surviving Alfonso himself. Apparently it caused him no contrition to know that his miserable brothers were confined in the castle where he dwelt and held his festivities. Such were the Este whom Ariosto in his poem lauded to the skies. Not until February 22, 1540, did death release Don Ferrante, then in the sixty-third year of his age. Don Giulio was granted his freedom in 1559, and died March 24, 1561, aged eighty-three.
CHAPTER VIII: Escape and Death of CaesarIt 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,
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.|
Chapter IX: Murder of Ercole Strozzi Death of Giovanni Sforza and of Lucretia's Eldest SonAlfonso's hopes of having an heir had twice been disappointed by miscarriages, but April 4, 1508, his wife bore him a son, who was baptized with the name of his grandfather.
Ercole Strozzi regarded the birth of this heir to the throne as the fulfilment of his prophesy. In a genethliakon he flatters the duchess with the hope that the deeds of her brother Caesar and of her father Alexander would be an incentive to her son—both would remind him of Camillus and the Scipios as well as of the heroes of Greece.
Only a few weeks after this the genial poet met with a terrible end. His devotion to Lucretia was doubtless merely that of a court gallant and poet celebrating the beauty of his patroness. The real object of his affections was Barbara Torelli, the youthful widow of Ercole Bentivoglio, who gave him the preference over another nobleman. Strozzi married her in May, 1508.
Thirteen days later, on the morning of June 6th, the poet's dead body was found near the Este palace, which is now known as the Pareschi, wrapped in his mantle, some of his hair torn out by the roots, and wounded in two and twenty places. All Ferrara was in an uproar, for she owed her fame to Strozzi, one of the most imaginative poets of his time, the pet of everybody, the friend of Bembo and Ariosto, the favorite of the duchess and of the entire court. On his father's death he had succeeded to his position as chief of the twelve judges of Ferrara. He was still in the flower of his youth, being only twenty-seven years old.
This terrible event must have reminded Lucretia of the day when her brother Gandia was slain. The mystery attending these crimes has never been dispelled. "No one named the author of the murder, for the pretor was silent," says Paul Jovius in his eulogy of the poet. But who, except those who had the power to do so could have compelled the court tore main silent?
Some have ascribed the deed to Alfonso, stating that he destroyed Strozzi on account of his passion for the latter's wife; others claim that he simply revenged himself for the favor which Lucretia had shown the poet. Recent writers who have endeavored to fathom the mystery and who have availed themselves of authentic records of the time regard Alfonso as the guilty one.
Campori; Una Vittima della Storia; Antonio Capelli, Lettere di L. Ariosto, Introduction, p. lxi. Also W. Gilbert, Lucrezia Borgia, Duchess of Ferrara, ii, 240.|
One of the strongest proofs of his guilt is found in the fact that the duke, who not only had punished the conspirators against his own life so cruelly, and who had always shown himself an unyielding supporter of the law, allowed the matter to drop.
Lucretia has even been charged with the murder on the ground of her jealousy of Barbara Torelli, or owing to her fear that Strozzi might disclose her relations with Bembo, especially as he had hoped to obtain the cardinal's hat through the influence of the duchess, in which he was disappointed. None of the later historians has given any credence to this theory. Ariosto did not believe it, for if he did how could he have made Ercole Strozzi the herald of her fame in the temple of honor in which he placed the women of the house of Este? Even if he wrote this stanza before the poet's death—which is not probable—he would certainly have changed it before the publication of the poem, which was in 1516.
Nor did Aldo Manuzio believe in Lucretia's guilt, for in 1513 he dedicated to her an edition of the poems of the two Strozzi, father and son, accompanied by an introduction in which he praises her to the skies.
In the meantime Julius II had formed the League of Cambray, which was to crush Venice, and which Ferrara had also joined. The war kept Alfonso away from his domain much of the time, and consequently he made Lucretia regent during his absence. In former days she had occasionally acted as regent in the Vatican and in Spoleto—but in a different way. In 1509 she saw the war clouds gathering about Ferrara, for it was in that year that her husband and the cardinal attacked the Venetian fleet on the Po. August 25th of this same year Lucretia bore a second son, Ippolito.
The war which convulsed the entire peninsula immediately drew Ferrara into the great movement which did not subside until Charles V imposed a new order of things on the affairs of Italy. Lucretia's subsequent life, therefore, was largely influenced by politics. Her first peaceful years in Ferrara, like her youth, were past. She now devoted herself to the education of her children, the princes of Este, and to affairs of state whenever her husband entrusted them to her. She was a capable woman; her father was not mistaken in his opinion of her intellect. She made herself felt as regent in Ferrara. She was regent for the first time in May, 1506, and she acquitted herself most creditably. The Jews in Ferrara were being oppressed, and Lucretia had a law passed to protect them, and all who transgressed it were severely punished. In the dedication of the poems of the Strozzi addressed to her by Aldo, he lauds, among her other good qualities, not only her fear of God, her benevolence to the poor, and her kindness toward her relatives, but also her ability as a ruler, saying that she made an excellent regent, whose sound opinions and perspicacity were greatly admired by the burghers. Even if we make allowances for the flattery, there is still much truth in what he says.
From an engraving by Angustin de St. Aubin.
Owing to these facts it is not strange that Lucretia's personality was quite obliterated or eclipsed by the political history of Ferrara during this period. The chroniclers of the city make no mention of her except on the occasion of the birth of her children, and Paul Jovius speaks of her only two or three times in his biography of Alfonso, although in each case with the greatest respect. The personal interest which the early career of this woman had excited died out with the change in her life. Even her letters to Alfonso and those to her friend Isabella Gonzaga contain little of importance to her biographers. No one now questioned her virtues; even the Emperor Maximilian, who had endeavored to prevent her marriage with Alfonso, acknowledged them. One day in February, 1510, in Augsburg, while in conversation with the Ferrarese ambassador, Girolamo Cassola—having discussed the ladies and the festivities of Augsburg at length—he questioned the ambassador about the women of Italy, and especially about those of Ferrara, whereupon "much was said regarding the good qualities of our duchess. I spoke of her beauty, her graciousness, her modesty, and her virtues. The emperor asked me what other beauties there were in Ferrara, and I named Donna Diana and Donna Agnola, one the sister and the other the wife of Ercole d'Este." Such was the report the ambassador sent to Ferrara.
Despatch of Girolamo Cassola, Augsburg, February 27, 1510. Archives of Modena.|
Lucretia's nature had become more composed, thanks to the stability of the world to which she now belonged and owing to the important duties she now had, and only rarely was it disturbed by any reminder of her experiences in Rome. The death of Giovanni Sforza of Pesaro, however, in 1510, served to recall her early life.
On returning to his State, Sforza had been confirmed in its possession as a vassal of the Church by a bull of Julius II. He endeavored to rule wisely, made many improvements, and strengthened the castle of Pesaro. He was a cultivated man given over to the study of philosophy. Ratti, a biographer of the house of Sforza, mentions a catalogue which he compiled of the entire archives of Pesaro. In 1504 he married a noble Venetian, Ginevra, of the house of Tiepolo, whose acquaintance he had made while in exile. November 4, 1505, she bore him a son, Costanzo.
This he announced to the Marchese Gonzaga from Pesaro, November 4, 1505. Archives of Mantua.|
What were his exact relations with the Este, with whom he was connected, we do not know, although they, doubtless, were not altogether pleasant. Sforza could not have found much pleasure in life, for his famous house was fast becoming extinct, and he could not foresee a long future for his race. He died peacefully July 27, 1510, in the castle of Gradara, where he had been in the habit of spending much of his time alone.
As his son was still a small child his natural brother Galeazzo, who had married Ginevra, a daughter of Ercole Bentivoglio, assumed the government of Pesaro. Giovanni's child died August 15, 1512, whereupon Pope Julius II withdrew his support from Galeazzo, and forced the last of the Sforza of Pesaro to enter into an agreement by which, October 30, 1512, he surrendered the castle and domain to Francesco Maria Rovere, who had been Duke of Urbino since the death of Guidobaldo in April, 1508. Pesaro therefore was united with this State. Galeazzo died in Milan in 1515, having made the Duke Maximilian Sforza his heir. The line of the lords of Pesaro thus became extinct, for Giovanni Sforza had left only a natural daughter, Isabella, who in 1520 married Sernigi Cipriano, a noble Florentine, and who died in Rome in 1561, famous for her culture and intellect. Her epitaph may still be read on a stone in the wall of the passageway behind the tribune in the Lateran basilica.
Copies of the following instruments concerning the last Sforza of Pesaro are in the archives of Florence: will of Giovanni Sforza, July 24, 1510; agreement between Galeazzo and the Papal Legate, October 30, 1512; Galeazzo's will, March 23, 1515; Isabella's marriage contract, Pesaro, September 29, 1520. The epitaph in the Lateran is as follows: Isabellas Sfortiæ Joannis Pisaurensium P. Feminæ Sui Temporis Prudentia Ac Pietate Insigni Exec. Test. P. Vix. Ann LVII. M. VII. D. III Obiit Ann. MDLXI. XI Kal. Febr. Consensu Nobilium De Mutis De Papazurris. Above is a profile in marble.|
The death of Lucretia's first husband must have vividly reminded her of the wrong she had done him, because she had now reached the age when frivolity no longer dulled conscience; but the times were so troublous that she directed her thoughts into other channels. August 9, 1510, a few days after the death of Sforza, Julius II placed Alfonso under his ban and declared that he had forfeited all his Church fiefs. The Pope again took up the plans of his uncle Sixtus, who, in conjunction with the Venetians, had schemed to wrest Ferrara from the Este. After the Venetians had appeased him by withdrawing from the cities of Romagna, he had made peace with the Republic, and commanded Alfonso to withdraw from the League and to cease warring against Venice. The duke refused, and this was the reason for the ban. Ferrara thereupon, together with France, found itself drawn into a ruinous war which led to the famous battle of Ravenna, April 1, 1512, which was won by Alfonso's artillery.
It was during this war, and on the occasion of the attempt of Julius II to capture Ferrara by surprise, that the famous Bayard made the acquaintance of Lucretia. After the French cavaliers, with their companions in arms, the Ferrarese, had captured the fortress they returned in triumph to Ferrara where they were received with the greatest honors. In remembrance of this occasion the biographer Bayard wrote in praise of Lucretia as follows: "The good duchess received the French before all the others with every mark of favor. She is a pearl in this world. She daily gave the most wonderful festivals and banquets in the Italian fashion. I venture to say that neither in her time nor for many years before has there been such a glorious princess, for she is beautiful and good, gentle and amiable to everyone, and nothing is more certain than this, that, although her husband is a skilful and brave prince, the above-named lady, by her graciousness, has been of great service to him."
J'ose bien dire que, de son temps, ni beaucoup avant, il ne s'est point trouvé de plus triomphante princesse, car elle était belle, bonne, douce et courtoise, à toutes gens. Le Loyal Serviteur Histoire du bon Chevalier, le seigneur de Bayard, chap. xlv.|
Owing to the death of Gaston de Foix at the battle of Ravenna, the victory of the French turned to defeat and the rout of the Pope into victory. Alfonso finding himself defenseless, hastened to Rome in July, 1512, to ask forgiveness from Julius, and, although this was accorded him, he was saved from destruction, or a fate similar to Caesar Borgia's, only by secret flight. With the help of the Colonna, who conducted him to Marino, he reached Ferrara in disguise.
These were anxious days for Lucretia; for, while she was trembling for the life of her husband, she received news of the death, abroad, of her son. August 28, 1512, the Mantuan agent Stazio Gadio wrote his master Gonzaga from Rome, saying news had reached there that the Duke of Biselli, son of the Duchess of Ferrara and Don Alfonso of Aragon, had died at Bari, where he was living under the care of the duchess of that place.
Despatch of this ambassador in the archives of Mantua.|
Lucretia herself gave this information to a person whose name is not known, in a letter dated October 1st, saying, "I am wholly lost in bitterness and tears on account of the death of the Duke of Biselli, my dearest son, concerning which the bearer of this will give you further particulars."
Per trovarmi tuttavia involta in lachryme et amaritudine per la morte del Duca di Biselli mio figliolo carrissimo.|
We do not know how the unfortunate Rodrigo spent the first years following Alexander's death and Caesar's exile in Spain, but there is ground for believing that he was left in Naples under the guardianship of the cardinals Ludovico Borgia and Romolini of Sorrento. By virtue of a previous agreement, the King of Spain recognized Lucretia's son as Duke of Biselli, and there is an official document of September, 1505, according to which the representative of the little duke placed his oath of allegiance in the hands of the two cardinals above named.
The instrument is in the Liber Arrendamentorum, from Lucretia's chancellery.|
Rodrigo may have been brought up by his aunt, Donna Sancia, for she was living with her husband in the kingdom of Naples, where Don Giuffrè had been confirmed in the possession of his property. Sancia died childless in the year 1506, just as Ferdinand the Catholic appeared in Naples. The king, consequently, appropriated a large part of Don Giuffrè's estates, although the latter remained Prince of Squillace. He married a second time and left several heirs. Of his end we know nothing. One of his grandchildren, Anna de Borgia, Princess of Squillace, the last of her race, brought these estates to the house of Gandia by her marriage with Don Francesco Borgia at the beginning of the seventeenth century.
It may have been on the death of Sancia that Rodrigo was placed under the protection of another aunt, Isabella d'Aragona, his father's eldest sister, the most unfortunate woman of the age, wife of Giangaleazzo of Milan, who had been poisoned by Ludovico il Moro. The figure of Isabella of Milan is the most tragic in the history of Italy of the period beginning with the invasion of Charles VIII—an epoch filled with a series of disasters that involved every dynasty of the country. For she was affected at one and the same time by the fall of two great houses, that of Sforza and that of Aragon. The saying of Caracciolo in his work, De varietate fortunæ, regarding the Sforza, namely, that there is no tragedy however terrible for which this house would not furnish an abundance of material may well be applied to both these families. Isabella had beheld the fall of her once mighty house, and she had seen her own son Francesco seized and taken to France by Louis XII, where he died, a priest, in his early manhood. She herself had retired to Bari, a city which Ludovico il Moro had given up to her in 1499, and of which she remained duchess until her death, February 11, 1524.
Donna Isabella had taken Lucretia's son to herself, and from the records of the household expenses of the Duchess of Ferrara it appears that he was with her in Bari in March, 1505, for on the twenty-sixth of that month there is the following entry: "A suit of damask and brocade which her Majesty sent her son Don Rodrigo in Bari as a present."
El quale zipon de Dernascho e brochato, sua Signoria el manda a donare a don Rodrigo suo figliolo a Barri.|
April 3d his mother sent his tutor, Baldassare Bonfiglio, who had come to Naples, back to him. This man is named in the register under date of February 25, 1506, as tutor of Don Giovanni. It appears, therefore, that this child also was in Bari, and was being educated with his playfellow Rodrigo. In October, 1506, we find the little Giovanni in Carpi, where he was probably placed at the court of the Pio. From there Lucretia had him brought to the court of Ferrara on the date mentioned. She therefore was allowed to have this mysterious infante, but not her own child Rodrigo, with her. In November, 1506, Giovanni must again have been in Carpi, for Lucretia sent him some fine linen apparel to that place.
October 24, 1506. Spesa per un nocchiero, che ha condotto Don Giovanni Borgia de Finale a Ferrara. November 5, 1506. Tela di renso sottile per far camicie mandato a Carpi al sig. Don Giovanni Borgia.|
Both children were together again in Bari in April, 1508, for in the record of the household expenses the expenditures for both, beginning with May of that year, are given together, and a certain Don Bartolommeo Grotto is mentioned as instructor to both.
May 15, 1508. Berette per Don Giovanni e Don Rodrigo Borgia. May 25th. Spesa per guanti a Don Giovanni e Don Rodrigo Borgia. October 16th. Bartolommeo Grotto, maestro de li ragazzi, per pagare certi libri zoè Donati e regule per detti ragazzi. December 15. Per un Virgilio comprato da Don Bartolommeo Grotto a don Giovanni.|
The son of Lucretia and of the murdered Alfonso, therefore, died in the home of Donna Isabella in Bari, which was not far from his hereditary duchy of Biselli.
We have a letter written by this unhappy Princess Isabella a few weeks after the death of the youthful Rodrigo, to Perot Castellar, Governor of Biselli:
Monsignor Perot: We write this merely to ask you to compel those of Corato to pay us what they have to pay, from the revenue of the illustrious Duke of Biselli, our nephew of blessed memory, for shortly a bill will come from the illustrious Duchess of Ferrara, and in case the money is not ready we might be caused great inconvenience. Those of Corato may delay, and we might be compelled to find the money at once. Therefore you must see to it that we are not subjected to any further inconvenience, and that we are paid immediately; for by so doing you will oblige us, and we offer ourselves to your service.
Unica in disgracia.|
Letters in the Este archives show that there was another Don Rodrigo Borgia, who, in the year 1518, was described as the "brother" of the Duchess Lucretia, and was then under the care of tutors in Salerno. His guardians were Madama Elisabetta—who may have been his mother—and her daughter Giulia. Lucretia, to whom the letters of Giovanni Cases (Rome, May 12, September 3, 1518) and another by Don Giorgio de Ferrara (Rome, December, 1518, ) are addressed, seems to have acted as a mother to this child. This second Rodrigo died, a young clerk, in 1527. August 30th of that year the Ferrarese ambassador in Naples, Baldassare da Fino, wrote from Posilipo as follows: Lo Illmo et Rev. Signor Don Rodrico de Casa Borgia, stando in Ciciano, cum la Signora Madama sua matre, sono da 15 giorni che, prima vexato da Febre continua, se ne morse—a sheet without any address, in the archives of Modena. Again, in January, 1535, this deceased son of Alexander VI is mentioned in a report sent from Rome, which contains the following words: Era venuta nuovamente un Vescovo fratello di Don Roderico Borgia, figliuolo che fu di Papa Alessandro.... Avvisi di Roma. State archives of Modena.|
mother laid claim to the property he left, which, as is shown by certain documents, she recovered from Isabella d'Aragona as guardian of the deceased, to the amount of several thousand ducats. To do this she was forced to engage in a long suit, and as late as March, 1518, she sent her agent, Giacomo Naselli, to Rome and Naples regarding it. His report to Cardinal Ippolito is still in existence.
Whatever were the circumstances which had compelled Lucretia to send her son away, on whom, as we have shown, she always lavished her maternal care, the unfortunate child's experience will always be a blot on her memory.
Chapter X: Effects of the War—The Roman InfanteThe war about Ferrara, thanks to Alfonso's skill and the determined resistance of the State, had ended. Julius II had seized Modena and Reggio, which was a great loss to the State of Ferrara, and consequently the history of that country for many years hence is taken up with her efforts to regain these cities. Fortunately for Alfonso, Julius II died in February, 1513, and Leo X ascended the papal throne. Hitherto he had maintained friendly relations with the princes of Urbino and Ferrara, who continued to look for only amicable treatment from him; but both houses were destined to be bitterly deceived by the faithless Medici, who deceived all the world. Alfonso hastened to attend Leo's coronation in Rome, and, believing a complete reconciliation with the Holy See would soon be effected, he returned to Ferrara.
There Lucretia had won universal esteem and affection; she had become the mother of the people. She lent a ready ear to the suffering and helped all who were in need. Famine, high prices, and depletion of the treasury were the consequences of the war; Lucretia had even pawned her jewels. She put aside, as Jovius says, "the pomps and vanities of the world to which she had been accustomed from childhood, and gave herself up to pious works, and founded convents and hospitals. This was due as much to her own nature as it was to her past life and the fate she had suffered. Most women who have lived much and loved much finally become fanatics; bigotry is often only the last form which feminine vanity assumes. The recollection of a world of vice, and of crimes committed by her nearest kinsmen, and also of her own sins, must have constantly disturbed Lucretia's conscience. Other women who, like her, were among the chief characters in the history of the Borgias developed precisely the same frame of mind and experienced a similar need of religious consolation. Caesar's widow ended her life in a convent; Gandia's did the same; Alexander's mistress became a fanatic; and if we had any record of the adulteress Giulia Farnese we should certainly find that she passed the closing years of her life either as a saint in a convent or engaged in pious works."
From an engraving published in 1580.
The year 1513, following the war in Ferarra, marked a decided change in Lucretia's life, for from that time it took a special religious turn. It did not, however, degenerate into bigotry or fanaticism; this was prevented by the vigorous Alfonso and her children, and by her court duties. The war had deprived Ferrara of much of its brilliancy, although it was still one of the most attractive of the princely courts of Italy. During the following years of peace Alfonso devoted himself to the cultivation of the arts. The most famous masters of Ferrara—Dossi, Garofalo, and Michele Costa—worked for him in the castle, in Belriguardo, and Belfiore. Titian, who was frequently a guest in Ferrara, executed some paintings for him, and the duke likewise gave Raphael some commissions. He even founded a museum of antiquities. In Lucretia's cabinet there was a Cupid by Michael Angelo. The predilection of the duchess for the fine arts, however, was not very strong; in this respect she was not to be compared with her sister-in-law, Isabella of Mantua, who maintained constant relations with all the prominent artists of the age and had her agents in all the large cities of Italy to keep her informed regarding noteworthy productions in the domain of the arts.
From 1513 Ferrara's brilliancy was somewhat dimmed by the greater fame of the court of Leo X. The passion of this member of the Medici family for the arts attracted to Rome the most brilliant men of Italy, among whom were the poets Tebaldeo, Sadoleto, and Bembo—the last became Leo's secretary. Both the Strozzi were dead. Aldo, upon whose career as a printer and scholar during his early years Lucretia had not been without influence, was living in Venice, and from there he kept up a literary correspondence with his patroness. Celio Calcagnini remained true to Ferrara. The university continued to flourish. Lucretia was very friendly with the noble Venetian, Trissino, Ariosto's not altogether successful rival in epic poetry. There are in existence five letters written by Trissino to Lucretia in her last years.
Printed in the Italian edition of Roscoe's Life of Leo X, vii, 300.|
Ferrara's pride, however, was Ariosto, and Lucretia knew him when he was at the zenith of his fame. He, however, dedicated his poem neither to her nor to Alfonso, but to the unworthy Cardinal Ippolito, in whose service a combination of circumstances had placed him. No princely house was ever glorified more highly than was the house of Este by Ariosto, for the Orlando Furioso will cause it to be remembered for all time; so long as the Italian language endures it will hold an immortal place in literature. Lucretia too was given a position of honor in the poem; but however beautiful the place which she there holds, Ariosto ought to have bestowed greater praise on her if she was the inspiration which he required for his great work.
Lucretia's relations with her husband, which had never been based upon love, and which were not of a passionate nature, apparently continued to grow more favorable for her. In April, 1514, she had borne him a third son, Alessandro, who died at the age of two years; July 4, 1515, she bore a daughter, Leonora, and November 1, 1516, another son, Francesco. With no little satisfaction Alfonso found himself the father of a number of children—all his legitimate heirs. He was engrossed in his own affairs, but, nevertheless, he was highly pleased with the esteem and admiration now bestowed upon his wife. While the admiration she excited in former years was due to her youthful beauty, it was now owing to her virtues. She who was once the most execrated woman of her age had won a place of the highest honor. Caviceo even ventured, when he wished to praise the famous Isabella Gonzaga, to say that she approached the perfection of Lucretia. Her past, apparently, was so completely forgotten that even her name, Borgia, was always mentioned with respect.
About this time Lucretia was reminded of her life in Rome by a member of her family who was very near to her, Giovanni Borgia, the mysterious Infante of Rome, formerly Duke of Nepi and Camerino, and companion in destiny of the little Rodrigo who died in Bari. He had disappeared from the stage in 1508, and where he was during several succeeding years we do not know; but in 1517, a young man of nineteen or twenty, he came from Naples to Romagna, where he was shipwrecked. His baggage had been saved by the commune of Pesaro, and was claimed by a representative of Lucretia, December 2d; in the legal document Giovanni Borgia was described as her "brother." Other instruments show that he remained at his sister's court as late as December, 1517.
Cittadella N 31. She endeavored to secure the Prebend of S. Jacopo for him. In her record of household expenses there are entries of purchases of clothing for him, beginning with December 23, 1517.|
Her husband, therefore, did not refuse to allow her to shelter her kinsman. In December, 1518, Don Giovanni went to France, where the Duke Alfonso had him presented to the king. Lucretia had given him presents to take to the king and queen.
Two golden bracelets—per donare alla Regina de Franza, 27 Aprile, 1518; other articles of personal adornment—mandati per lo Illmo D. Joanne Borgia al Re de Franza (November 16, 1518). The ambassadors Carlo da Correggio and Pistofilo Bonaventura informed Lucretia of his favorable reception at the court of France, in letters dated December, 1518, and January to March, 1519. State archives of Modena.|
He remained at the French court some time for the purpose of making his fortune, in which, however, he did not succeed.
Thereupon the Infante of Rome again disappeared from view until the year 1530, when we find him in Rome, laying claim to the Duchy of Camerino. The last Varano, Giammaria, had returned thither on Caesar's overthrow, and had been recognized by Julius II as a vassal of the Church. In April, 1515, Leo X made him Duke of Camerino and married him to his own niece, the beautiful Catarina Cibò. Giammaria died in August, 1527, leaving as his sole heir his daughter Giulia, who was not yet of age. An illegitimate son of the house of Varano laid claim to Camerino, and he was ready to enforce his demands with arms, but he was frustrated in his attempt by a suit brought by Giovanni Borgia, the first duke, who was supported by Alfonso of Ferrara in his efforts. He furnished him with several documents dating from the time of Alexander VI which referred to his rights to Camerino, and which had been placed by Lucretia in the chancellery of the house of Este. Don Giovanni had even gone to Charles V, in Bologna, where the famous congress had been sitting since December, 1529. The emperor had advised him to endeavor to secure his rights by process of law in Rome, through the Pope. From that city, in 1530, the infante wrote a letter to Duke Alfonso, in which he informed him of his affairs, and asked him to have further search made in the archives of the Este for documents concerning himself.
Don Giovanni began suit. In a voluminous document dated June 29, 1530, he describes himself not only as Domicellus Romanus Principalis, but also as "orator of the Pope." From this it appears that he—one of the illegitimate sons of Alexander VI—was a prominent gentleman in Rome, and was even in the Pope's service. The Roman Ruota decided the suit against Giovanni, who had to pay the costs. In a brief dated June 7, 1532, Clement VII commanded him to cease annoying Giulia Varano and her mother with any further claims.
Documents in the State archives of Florence, among the papers regarding Urbino. CI. I. Div. C. Fil. xiv. In 1534 Giulia Varano married Guidobaldo II of Urbino and brought him Camerino, which, however, he was compelled to relinquish in 1539 to Paul III, who gave it to his nephew Octavio Farnese.|
From that time we hear nothing more of this Borgia except from a letter written in Rome, November 19, 1547, apparently by a Ferrarese agent to Ercole II, then reigning duke. In it he mentions the death of Don Giovanni. The letter is as follows:
Don Giovanni Borgia has just died in Genoa; it is said he left many thousand ducats in Valencia. Here (in Rome) he had a little clothing, two horses, and a vineyard worth about three hundred ducats. As he left no will the property will be divided between your Excellency, your brothers, and among others the nobles of the Mattei family here, the Duke of Gandia, and the children of the Duke of Valentino, provided their rights are not prejudiced by the fact that they are natural children. I will not omit to inform myself regarding the money in Valencia, and will report to your Excellency.
Copia di una lettera da Roma di 19 Novembre, 1547. State archives of Modena.|
Chapter XI: Last Years and Death of VannozzaIn the same year that this her father's last son appeared at her court Lucretia also learned of the death of her mother. Vannozza was already a widow when Alexander VI died. During his last illness she had placed herself under the protection of the troops of her son Caesar. This she was able to do as he himself was sick at the same time. There are documents in existence which show that immediately after Alexander's death, and while the papal throne was vacant, she was living in the palace of the Cardinal of S. Clemente in the Borgo. As Caesar was compelled to betake himself to Nepi she accompanied him thither, and on the election of Piccolomini she returned to the papal city.
She did not follow her sons to Naples, but remained in Rome, where affairs became normal after the election of Rovere to the papacy. The retainers of the Borgia feared that certain suits would be brought against them. March 6, 1504, a chamberlain of Cardinal S. Angelo, who had been poisoned, was condemned to death, and in a loud voice he proclaimed that he had committed the murder on the explicit command of Alexander and Caesar.
Despatch of Beltrando Costabili to Ercole, Rome, March 7, 1504.|
Cardinals Romolini and Ludovico Borgia at once fled to Naples. Don Micheletto, the man who executed Caesar's bloody orders, was a prisoner in the castle of S. Angelo. The Venetian ambassador, Giustinian, informed his government in May, 1504, that Micheletto was charged with having caused the death of a number of persons, among them the Duke of Gandia, Varano of Camerino, Astorre and Ottaviano Manfredi, the Duke of Biselli, the youthful Bernardino of Sermoneta, and the Bishop of Cagli. Micheletto was brought before the representatives of the Senate for examination. He was placed upon the rack and confessed, among other things, that it was the Pope Alexander himself who had given the command for the murder of the youthful Alfonso of Biselli. This the magistrate immediately reported to Ferrara.
Magnifico et prestanti viro maiori honorandmo D. Ludovico Romanellio Ducali Secretario Ferrarie. Omissis. Il Papa mi ha mandato Don Michiele il quale habiamo cominciato examinare cum turtura de queste sue sceleranze fin qui [=e] sta saldo et nulla confessa non so m[=o] se fara cussi in futurum. Omissis. Dixe che Papa Alexandro fù quello che fece ammazzare Don Alfonso, marito che fù della Ducessa. Rome XX. Lulii, 1504. Thadeus Locumtenens Senatus. In the archives of Modena.|
As Caesar was out of the way, Vannozza was still able to reckon on the protection of certain powerful friends, especially the Farnese, the Cesarini, and several cardinals. She feared her property would be confiscated, for the title to much of it was questionable. Early in 1504 Ludovico Mattei charged her with having stolen, in March, 1503, through her paid servants, eleven hundred and sixty sheep while Caesar was carrying on his war against the Orsini. These sheep had been sent by Maria d'Aragona, wife of Giovanni Giordano Orsini, to Mattei's pastures for safety. Vannozza was found guilty.
The documents are in the archives of the Sancta Sanctorum.|
She endeavored in every way to save her property. December 4, 1503, she gave the Church of S. Maria del Popolo a deed of her house on the Piazza Pizzo di Merlo and of her family chapel, reserving the use of it during her life. The Augustinians on their part bound themselves to say a mass for Carlo Canale March 24th, another October 13th for Giorgio di Croce, and a third on the day of Vannozza's own death. In this instrument she calls herself widow of Carlo Canale of Mantua, apostolic secretary of the deceased Alexander VI, and she speaks of Giorgio di Croce as her first husband. This deed was executed in the Borgo of St. Peter's in the residence of Agapitus of Emelia.
Act of December 4, 1503, in the same archives.|
From this it appears that at the close of December Vannozza was still living in the Borgo, and under the protection of her son's own chancellor, while Caesar himself was a prisoner in the Torre Borgia in the Vatican, and not until he left Rome forever did she remove from the Borgo.
April 1, 1504, a dwelling on the Piazza of the Holy Apostles in the Trevi quarter, which was situated in a district where the Colonna were all-powerful, was specified as her residence. The Colonna had suffered less than others from Caesar, and by virtue of an agreement made with him they were enabled to retain their property after the death of Alexander. Vannozza had sold certain other houses which she owned to the Roman Giuliano de Lenis, and April 1, 1504, he annulled the sale, declaring that it was only through fear of force in consequence of the death of Alexander that it had taken place.
Archives of the Sancta Sanctorum. The instrument is dated April 1, 1504.|
As she now had nothing more to fear, she again took up her abode in the house on the Piazza Branca, as is shown by an instrument of November, 1502, in which she is described as "Donna Vannozza de Cataneis of the Regola Quarter, " where this house was situated. This document is regarding a complaint which the goldsmith Nardo Antonazzi of this same quarter had lodged against her.
The artist demanded payment for a silver cross which he had made for Vannozza in the year 1500; he charged her with having appropriated this work of art without paying for it, which, he stated, frequently happened "at the time when the Duke of Valentino controlled the whole city and nearly all of Italy." We have not all the documents bearing on the case, but from the statements of witnesses for the accused it appears that she had grounds for bringing a suit for libel.
Archives of the Sancta Sanctorum.|
While Vannozza may not have been actually placed in possession of the castle of Bleda near Viterbo by Alexander VI, some of its appanages were allotted to her. July 6, 1513, she complained to the Cardinal-Vicar Rafael Riario that the commune of the place was withholding certain sums of money which, she claimed, belonged to her. This document, which is on parchment, is couched in pompous phraseology and is addressed to all the magistrates of the world by name and title.
Vannozza lived to witness the changes in affairs in the Vatican under three of Alexander's successors. There the Rovere and the Medici occupied the place once held by her own all-powerful children. She saw the Papacy changing into a secular power, and she must have known that but for Alexander and Caesar it could never have done this. If, perchance, she saw from a distance the mighty Julius II, for example, when he returned to Rome after seizing Bologna, entering the city with the pomp of an emperor, this woman, lost in the multitude, must have exclaimed with bitter irony that her own son Caesar had a part in this triumph, and that he had been instrumental in raising Julius II to the Papacy. It must have been a source of no little satisfaction to her to know that this pope recognized her son's importance when he wrote to the Florentines in November, 1503, saying that "on account of the preeminent virtues and great services of the Duke of Romagna" he loved him with a father's love. She may also have been acquainted with Macchiavelli's "Prince, " in which the genial statesman describes Caesar as the ideal ruler.
Although the power of the Borgias had passed away and their children were either dead or scattered, their greatness was felt in the city as long as Vannozza lived. Her past experiences caused her to be looked upon as one of the most noteworthy personalities of Rome, where every one was curious to make her acquaintance. If we may compare two persons who differed in greatness, but whose destinies and positions were not dissimilar, it might be said that Vannozza at that time occupied the same position in Rome in which Letitia Bonaparte found herself after the overthrow of her powerful offspring.
She looked with pride on her daughter, the Duchess of Ferrara, "la plus triomphante princesse, " as the biographer Bayard calls her. She never saw her again, for she would scarcely have ventured to undertake a journey to Ferrara, but she continued to correspond with her. In the archives of the house of Este are nine letters written by Vannozza in the years 1515, 1516, and 1517. Seven of them are addressed to Cardinal Ippolito and two to Lucretia. These letters are not in her own handwriting but are dictated. They disclose a powerful will, a cast of mind that might be described as rude and egotistical, and an insinuating character. They are devoted chiefly to practical matters and to requests of various sorts. On one occasion she sent the cardinal a present of two antique columns which had been exhumed in her vineyard. She also kept up her intercourse with her son Giuffrè, Prince of Squillace. In 1515 she had received his ten-year-old son into her house in Rome apparently for the purpose of educating him.
This was reported to Cardinal Ippolito by Girolamo Sacrati from Rome, November 2, 1515. Archives of Modena.|
An expression which Vannozza used in signing her letters defines her attitude and position, —"The fortunate and unfortunate Vannozza de Cataneis, " or "Your fortunate and unfortunate mother, Vannozza Borgia, "—she used the family name in her private affairs, but not officially.
Her last letter to Lucretia, written December 19, 1515, which refers to her son Caesar's former secretary, Agapitus of Emelia, is as follows:
Illustrious Lady: My greeting and respects. Your Excellency will certainly remember favorably the services of Messer Agapitus of Emelia to his Excellency our duke, and the love which he has always shown us. It is, therefore, meet that his kinsmen be helped and advanced in every way possible. Shortly before his death he relinquished all his benefices in favor of his nephew Giambattista of Aquila; among them are some in the bishopric of Capua which are worth very little. If your Excellency wishes to do me a kindness I will ask you, for the reasons above mentioned, to interest yourself in behalf of these nephews to whom I have referred. Nicola, the bearer of this, who is himself a nephew of Agapitus, will explain to your Excellency at length what should be done. And now farewell to your Excellency, to whom I commend myself.
Postscript: In this matter your Excellency will do as you think best, as I have written the above from a sense of obligation. Therefore you may do only what you know will please his Worthiness and, so far as the present is concerned, you may answer as you see fit.
Vannozza clearly was an honor to the Borgia school of diplomacy.
Agapitus dei Gerardi, who wrote so many of Caesar's letters and documents, had remained true to the Borgias, as is shown by this letter, until his death, which occurred in Rome, August 2, 1515. Vannozza, of a truth, had seen many of the former friends, flatterers, and parasites of her house desert it; but a number, among whom were several important personages, remained true. She, as mother of the Duchess of Ferrara, was still able to exert some influence; she was living a respectable life, in comfortable circumstances, as a woman of position, and was described as la magnifica e nobile Madanna Vannozza. She also kept up her relations with such of the cardinals as were Spaniards and relatives of Alexander VI, or who were his creatures. She survived most of them. Of the two cardinals Giovanni Borgia, one had passed away in 1500, the other in 1503; Francesco and Ludovico died in 1511 and 1512 respectively. Cardinal Giuliano Cesarini passed away in 1510. Vannozza, in fact, survived all the favorites and creatures of Alexander in the College of Cardinals with the exception of Farnese, Adrian Castellesi, and d'Albret, —Caesar's brother-in-law.
By that sort of piety to which senescent female sinners everywhere and at all times devote themselves she secured new friends. She was an active fanatic and was constantly seen in the churches, at the confessionals, and in intimate intercourse with the pious brothers and hospitalers. In this way she made the acquaintance of Paul Jovius, who describes her as an upright woman (donna dabbene). If she had lived another decade she would probably have been canonized. She endowed a number of religious foundations—the hospitals of S. Salvator in the Lateran, of S. Maria in Porticu, the Consolazione for the Company of the Annunziata in the Minerva, and the S. Lorenzo in Damaso, as is shown by her will, which is dated January 15, 1517.
Vannozza's will, in the archives of the Capitol, Cred. xiv, T. 72, p. 305, among the instruments drawn by the notary Andrea Carosi.|
For years there were inscriptions in the hospitals of the Lateran and of the Consolazione which referred to her endowments and also to provisions for masses on the anniversaries of her death and those of her two husbands.
Vannozza died in Rome, November 26, 1518. Her death did not pass unnoticed, as the following letter, written by a Venetian, shows:
The day before yesterday died Madonna Vannozza, once the mistress of Pope Alexander and mother of the Duchess of Ferrara and the Duke of Valentino. That night I happened to be at a place where I heard the death announced, according to the Roman custom, in the following formal words: 'Messer Paolo gives notice of the death of Madonna Vannozza, mother of the Duke of Gandia; she belonged to the Gonfalone Company.' She was buried yesterday in S. Maria del Popolo, with the greatest honors, —almost like a cardinal. She was sixty-six years of age. She left all her property, —which was not inconsiderable, —to S. Giovanni in Laterano. The Pope's chamberlain attended the obsequies, which was unusual.
In the diary of Marino Sanuto, vol. xxvi, fol. 135.|
Marcantonio Altieri, one of the foremost men of Rome, who was guardian of the Company of the Gonfalone ad Sancta Sanctorum, and as such made an inventory of the property of the brotherhood in 1527, drew up a memorial regarding her, the manuscript of which is still preserved in the archives of the association, and is as follows:
We must not forget the endowments made by the respected and honored lady, Madonna Vannozza of the house of Catanei, the happy mother of the illustrious gentlemen, the Duke of Gandia, the Duke of Valentino, the Prince of Squillace, and of Madonna Lucretia, Duchess of Ferrara. As she wished to endow the Company with her worldly goods she gave it her jewels, which were of no slight value, and so much more that the Company in a few years was able to discharge certain obligations, with the help also of the noble gentlemen, Messer Mariano Castellano, and my dear Messer Rafael Casale, who had recently been guardians. She made an agreement with the great and famous silversmith Caradosso by which she gave him two thousand ducats so that he with his magnificent work of art might gratify the wish of that noble and honorable woman. In addition she left us so much property that we shall be able to take care of the annual rent of four hundred ducats and also feed the poor and the sick, who, unfortunately, are very numerous. Out of gratitude for her piety and devout mind and for these endowments our honorable society unanimously and cheerfully decided not only to celebrate her obsequies with magnificent pomp, but also to honor the deceased with a proud and splendid monument. It was also decided from that time forth to have mass said on the anniversary of her death in the Church del Popolo, where she is buried, and to provide for other ceremonies, with an attendance of men bearing torches and tapers, in all devotion, for the purpose of commending her soul's salvation to God, and also to show the world that we hate and loathe ingratitude.
Thus this woman's vanity led her to provide for a ceremonious funeral; she wanted all Rome to talk of her on that day as the mistress of Alexander VI and the mother of so many famous children. Leo X bestowed an official character upon her funeral by having his court attend it; by doing this he recognized Vannozza either as the widow of Alexander VI or as the mother of the Duchess of Ferrara. As the Company of the Gonfalone was composed of the foremost burghers and nobles of Rome, almost the entire city attended her funeral. Vannozza was buried in S. Maria del Popolo in her family chapel, by the side of her unfortunate son Giovanni, Duke of Gandia. We do not know whether a marble monument was erected to her memory, but the following inscription was placed over her grave by her executor: "To Vanotia Catanea, mother of the Duke Caesar of Valentino, Giovanni of Gandia, Giuffrè of Squillace, and Lucretia of Ferrara, conspicuous for her uprightness, her piety, her discretion, and her intelligence, and deserving much on account of what she did for the Lateran Hospital. Erected by Hieronymus Picus, fiduciary-commissioner and executor of her will. She lived seventy-seven years, four months, and thirteen days. She died in the year 1518, November 26th."
Vannozza doubtless had passed away believing that she had expiated her sins and purchased heaven with gold and silver and pious legacies. She had even purchased the pomp of a ceremonious funeral and a lie which was graven deep on her tombstone. For more than two hundred years the priests in S. Maria del Popolo sang masses for the repose of her soul, and when they ceased it was perhaps less owing to their conviction that enough of them had been said for this woman than from a growing belief in the trustworthiness of historical criticism. Later, owing either to hate or a sense of shame, her very tombstone disappeared, not a trace of it being left.
Chapter XII:Death of Lucretia Borgia—ConclusionThe State of Ferrara again found itself in serious difficulties, for Leo X, following the example of Alexander VI, was trying to build up a kingdom for his nephew Lorenzo de' Medici. As early as 1516 Leo had made him Duke of Urbino, having expelled Guidobaldo's legitimate heirs from their city. Francesco Maria Rovere, his wife, and his adopted mother, Elisabetta, were in Mantua, —the asylum of all exiled princes. Leo was consuming with a desire also to drive the Este out of Ferrara, and it was only the protection of France that saved Alfonso from a war with the Pope. The duke, to whom the Pope refused to restore the cities of Modena and Reggio, therefore went to the court of Louis XII in November, 1518, for the purpose of interesting him in his affairs. In February, 1519, he returned to Ferrara, where he learned of the death of his brother-in-law, the Marchese Francesco Gonzaga, of Mantua, which occurred February 20th. The last of March Lucretia wrote to his widow, Isabella, as follows:
Illustrious Lady, Sister-in-law, and Most Honored Sister: The great loss by death of your Excellency's husband, of blessed memory, has caused me such profound grief, that instead of being able to offer consolation I myself am in need of it. I sympathize with your Excellency in this loss, and I cannot tell you how grieved and depressed I am, but, as it has occurred and it has pleased our Lord so to do, we must acquiesce in his will. Therefore I beg and urge your Majesty to bear up under this misfortune as befits your position, and I know that you will do so. I will at present merely add that I commend myself and offer my services to you at all times.
The Marchese was succeeded by his eldest son, Federico. In 1530 the Emperor Charles V created him first Duke of Mantua. The following year he married Margherita di Montferrat. This was the same Federico who had formerly been selected to be the husband of Caesar's daughter Luisa. His famous mother lived, a widow, until February 13, 1539.
Alfonso again found his wife in a precarious condition. She was near her confinement, and June 14, 1519, she bore a child which was still-born. Eight days later, knowing that her end was near, she dictated an epistle to Pope Leo. It is the last letter we have of Lucretia, and as it was written while she was dying, it is of the deepest import, enabling us to look into her soul, which for the last time was tormented by the recollection of the terrors and errors of her past life of which she had long since purged herself.
Most Holy Father and Honored Master: With all respect I kiss your Holiness's feet and commend myself in all humility to your holy mercy. Having suffered for more than two months, early on the morning of the 14th of the present, as it pleased God, I gave birth to a daughter, and hoped then to find relief from my sufferings, but I did not, and shall be compelled to pay my debt to nature. So great is the favor which our merciful Creator has shown me, that I approach the end of my life with pleasure, knowing that in a few hours, after receiving for the last time all the holy sacraments of the Church, I shall be released. Having arrived at this moment, I desire as a Christian, although I am a sinner, to ask your Holiness, in your mercy, to give me all possible spiritual consolation and your Holiness's blessing for my soul. Therefore I offer myself to you in all humility and commend my husband and my children, all of whom are your servants, to your Holiness's mercy. In Ferrara, June 22, 1519, at the fourteenth hour.
The letter is so calm and contained, so free from affectation, that one is inclined to ask whether a dying woman could have written it if her conscience had been burdened with the crimes with which Alexander's unfortunate daughter had been charged.
She died in the presence of Alfonso on the night of June 24th, and the duke immediately wrote his nephew Federico Gonzaga as follows:
Illustrious Sir and Honored Brother and Nephew: It has just pleased our Lord to summon unto Himself the soul of the illustrious lady, the duchess, my dearest wife. I hasten to inform you of the fact as our mutual love leads me to believe that the happiness or unhappiness of one is likewise the happiness or unhappiness of the other. I cannot write this without tears, knowing myself to be deprived of such a dear and sweet companion. For such her exemplary conduct and the tender love which existed between us made her to me. On this sad occasion I would indeed seek consolation from your Excellency, but I know that you will participate in my grief, and I prefer to have some one mingle his tears with mine rather than endeavor to console me. I commend myself to your Majesty. Ferrara, June 24, 1519, at the fifth hour of the night.
This letter is quoted by Zucchetti.|
The Marchese Federico sent his uncle Giovanni Gonzaga to Ferrara, who wrote him from there as follows:
Your Excellency must not be surprised when I tell you that I shall leave here tomorrow, for no obsequies will be celebrated, only the offices said in the parish church. His Excellency the Duke accompanied his illustrious consort's body to the grave. She is buried in the Convent of the Sisters of Corpus Christi in the same vault where repose the remains of his mother. Her death has caused the greatest grief throughout the entire city, and his ducal majesty displays the most profound sorrow. Great things are reported concerning her life, and it is said that she has worn the cilice for about ten years, and has gone to confession daily during the last two years, and has received the communion three or four times every month. Your Excellency's ever devoted servant,
Printed in Zucchetti's work. Che da forse dieci anni in qua la portava el silizio.... This is not, as Zucchetti supposes, the goat-hair shirt.|
Among the numerous letters of condolence which the duke received was one in Spanish from the mysterious Infante Don Giovanni Borgia, who was then in Poissy, France. The duke himself had informed him of the death of his consort, and Don Giovanni lamented the loss of his "sister, " who had also been his greatest patron.
The graves of Lucretia and Alfonso and numerous other members of the house of Este in Ferrara have disappeared. No picture of the famous woman exists either in that city or in Modena. Although many, doubtless, were painted, none has been preserved. In Ferrara there were numerous artists, Dossi, Garofalo, Cosma, and others. Titian may have painted the beautiful duchess's portrait. His likeness of Isabella d'Este Gonzaga, Lucretia's rival in beauty, is preserved in the Belvedere gallery in Vienna; it shows a charming feminine face of oval contour, with regular lines, brown eyes, and an expression of gentle womanliness. There is no portrait of Lucretia from this master's hand, for the one in the Doria Gallery in Rome, which some ascribe to him and others to Paul Veronese, —although this artist was not born until 1528, —is one of the many fictions we find in galleries. In the Doria Gallery there is a life-sized figure of an Amazon with a helmet in her hand, ascribed to Dosso Dossi, which is said to be a likeness of Vannozza.
Monsignor Antonelli, custodian of the numismatic collection of Ferrara, has a portrait in oil which may be that of Lucretia Borgia, —not because it has her name in somewhat archaic letters, but because the features are not unlike those of her medals. This portrait, however (the eyes are gray), is uncertain, as are also two portraits in majolica in the possession of Rawdon Brown, in Venice, which he regards as the work of Alfonso himself, who amused himself in making this ware. Even if there were any ground for this belief, the portraits, as they are merely in the decorative style of majolica, would resemble the original but slightly.
The portrait in the Dresden gallery which is catalogued as a likeness of Lucretia Borgia is not authentic. There are no undoubted portraits of her except those on the medals which were struck during her life in Ferrara. One of these is reproduced as the frontispiece
In this translation it appears on the cover.|
of the present volume; it is the finest of all and is one of the most noteworthy medals of the Renaissance. It probably was engraved by Filippino Lippi in 1502, on the occasion of Lucretia's marriage. On the reverse is a design characteristic not only of the age but especially of Lucretia. It is a Cupid with out-stretched wings bound to a laurel, suspended from which are a violin and a roll of music. The quiver of the god of love hangs broken on a branch of the laurel, and his bow, with the cord snapped, lies on the ground. The inscription on the reverse is as follows: "Virtuti Ac Formæ Pudicitia Præciosissimum." Perhaps the artist by this symbolism wished to convey the idea that the time for love's free play had passed and by the laurel tree intended to suggest the famous house of Este. Although this interpretation might apply to every bride, it is especially appropriate for Lucretia Borgia.
Whoever examines this girlish head with its long flowing tresses will be surprised, for no contrast could be greater than that between this portrait and the common conception of Lucretia Borgia. The likeness shows a maidenly, almost childish face, of a peculiar expression, without any classic lines. It could scarcely be described as beautiful. The Marchesana of Cotrone spoke the truth when in writing to Francesco she said that Lucretia was not especially beautiful, but that she had what might be called a "dolce ciera, "—a sweet face. The face resembles that of her father—as shown by the best medals which we have of him—but slightly; the only likeness is in the strongly outlined nose. Lucretia's forehead was arched, while Alexander's was flat; her chin was somewhat retreating while his was in line with the lips.
Another medal shows Lucretia with the hair confined and the head covered with a net, and has the so-called lenza, a sort of fillet set with precious stones or pearls. The hair covers the ear and descends to the neck, according to the fashion of the day, which we also see in a beautiful medal of Elizabetta Gonzaga of Urbino.
The original sources from which the material for this book has been derived would place the reader in a position to form his own opinion regarding Lucretia Borgia, and his view would approximate a correct one, or at least would be nearer correct than the common conception of this woman. Men of past ages are merely problems which we endeavor to solve. If we err in our conception of our contemporaries how much more likely are we to be wrong when we endeavor to analyze men whose very forms are shadowy. All the circumstances of their personal life, of their nature, the times, and their environment, —of which they were the product, —all the secrets of their being exist only as disconnected fragments from which we are forced to frame our conception of their characters. History is merely a world-judgment based upon the law of causality. Many of the characters of history would regard their portraits in books as wholly distorted and would smile at the opinion formed of them.
From a painting in the Musée de Nîmes.
Lucretia Borgia might correspond with the one derived from the documents of her time, which show her as an amiable, gentle, thoughtless, and unfortunate woman. Her misfortunes, in life, were due in part to a fate for which she was in no way responsible, and, after her death, in the opinion which was formed regarding her character. The brand which had been set upon her forehead was removed by herself when she became Duchess of Ferrara, but on her death it reappeared. How soon this happened is shown by what the Rovere in Urbino said of her. In the year 1532 it was arranged that Guidobaldo II, son of Francesco Maria and Eleonora Gonzaga, should marry Giulia Varano, although he himself wished to marry a certain Orsini. His father directed his attention to the unequal alliances into which princes were prone to enter, and among others to that of Alfonso of Ferrara, who, he said, had married Lucretia Borgia, a woman "of the sort which everybody knows, " and who had given his son a monster (Renée) for wife. Guidobaldo acquiesced in this view and replied that he knew he had a father who would never compel him to take a wife like Lucretia Borgia, "one as bad as she and of so many disreputable connections."
Di quella mala sorte che fù quella, e con tante disoneste parti. See Ugolino Storia dei Duchi d'Urbino, ii, 242.|
Thus the impression grew and Lucretia Borgia became the type of all feminine depravity until finally Victor Hugo in his drama, and Donizetti in his opera, placed her upon the stage in that character.
In conclusion a few words regarding the descendants of Lucretia and Alfonso, —the Duke of Ferrara survived his wife fifteen stormy years. He, however, succeeded in defending himself against the popes of the Medici family, and he revenged himself on Clement VII by sacking Rome with the aid of the emperor's troops. Charles V gave him Modena and Reggio, and he was therefore able to leave his heir the estates of the house of Este in their integrity. He never married again, but a beautiful bourgeoise, Laura Eustochia Dianti, became his mistress. She bore him two sons, Alfonso and Alfonsino. The duke died October 31, 1534, at the age of fifty-eight; his brothers, Cardinal Ippolito and Don Sigismondo, having passed away before him, the former in 1520 and the latter in 1524.
By Lucretia Borgia he had five children. Ercole succeeded him; Ippolito became a cardinal, and died December 2, 1572, in Tivoli, where the Villa d'Este remains as his monument; Elenora died, a nun, in the Convent of Corpus Domini, July 15, 1575; Francesco finally became Marchese of Massalombarda, and died February 22, 1578.
Lucretia's son Ercole reigned until October, 1559. In 1528 his father had married him to Renée, the plain but intellectual daughter of Louis XII. Lucretia had never seen her daughter-in-law nor had she ever had any intimation that it was to be Renée. The life of this famous duchess forms a noteworthy part of the history of Ferrara. She was an active supporter of the Reformation, which was inaugurated to free the world from a church which was governed by the Borgia, the Rovere, and the Medici. Renée was therefore described as a monster by the Rovere. She kept Calvin and Clement Marot in concealment at her court a long time.
By a curious coincidence, in the year 1550 a man appeared at the court of Lucretia's son, who vividly recalled to the Borgias who were still living their family history, which was already becoming legendary. This man was Don Francesco Borgia, Duke of Gandia, now a Jesuit. His sudden appearance in Ferrara gives us an opportunity briefly to describe the fortunes of the house of Gandia.
Of all the progeny of Alexander VI the most fortunate were those who were the descendants of the murdered Don Giovanni. His widow, Donna Maria, lived for a long time highly respected at the court of Queen Isabella of Castile, and subsequently she became an ascetic bigot and entered a convent. Her daughter Isabella did the same, dying in 1537. Her only son, Don Giovanni, while a child, had succeeded his unfortunate father as Duke of Gandia and had managed to retain his Neapolitan estates, which included an extensive domain in Terra di Lavoro, with the cities of Suessa, Teano, Carinola, Montefuscolo, Fiume, and others. In 1506 the youthful Gandia relinquished these towns to the King of Spain on payment of a sum of money. To the great Captain Gonsalvo was given the Principality of Suessa.
Don Giovanni remained in Spain a highly respected grandee. He married Giovanna d'Aragona, a princess of the deposed royal house of Naples; his second wife was a daughter of the Viscount of Eval, Donna Francesca de Castro y Pinos, whom he married in 1520. The marriages of the Borgias were as a rule exceedingly fruitful. When this grandson of Alexander VI died in 1543 he left no fewer than fifteen children. His daughters married among the grandees of Spain and his sons were numbered among the great nobles of the country, where they enjoyed the highest honors. The eldest, Don Francesco Borgia, born in 1510, became Duke of Gandia and a great lord in Spain and highly honored at the court of Charles V, who made him Vice-Regent of Catalonia and Commander of San Iago. He accompanied the emperor on his expedition against France and even to Africa. In 1529 he married one of the ladies in waiting to the empress, Eleonora de Castro, who bore him five sons and three daughters. When she died, in 1546, the Duke of Gandia yielded to his long-standing desire to enter the Society of Jesus and to relinquish his brilliant position forever. It seemed as if a mysterious force was impelling him thus to expiate the crimes of his house. It is not strange, however, to find a descendant of Alexander VI in the garb of a Jesuit, for the diabolic force of will which had characterized that Borgia lived again in the person of his countryman, Loyola, in another form and directed to another end. The maxims of Macchiavelli's "Prince" thus became part of the political programme of the Jesuits.
In 1550 the Duke of Gandia went to Rome to cast himself at the feet of the Pope and to become a member of the Order. Paul III, brother of Giulia Farnese, had just died, and del Monte as Julius III had ascended the papal throne. Ercole II, cousin of Don Francesco, still occupied the ducal throne of Ferrara. He remembered the relationship and invited the traveler to stop at his city on his way to Rome. Francesco spent three days at the court of Lucretia's son, where he was received by Renée. Whether Loyola's brilliant pupil had any knowledge of the religious attitude of Calvin's friend is not known. The presence of this man in Savonarola's native city and at Lucretia's former residence is, on account of the contrast, remarkable. Francesco left for Rome almost immediately, and then returned to Spain. On the death of Lainez, in 1565, he became general, —the third in order, —of the Society of Jesus. He still held this position at the time of his death, which occurred in Rome in the year 1572. The Church pronounced him holy, and thus a descendant of Alexander VI became a saint.
J. M. S. Daurignac, Histoire de S. François de Borgia, Duc de Gandie, Troisième Général de la Compagnie de Jesus. Paris, 1863.|
The descendants of this Borgia married into the greatest families of Spain. His eldest son, Don Carlos, Duke of Gandia, married Donna Maddalena, daughter of the Count of Oliva, of the house of Centelles, and thus the family to which Lucretia's first suitor belonged, after the lapse of fifty years, became connected with the Borgias. The Gandia branch survived until the eighteenth century, when there were two cardinals of the name of Borgia who were members of it.
Ercole II did not discover the heretical tendencies of his wife Renée until 1554, when he placed her in a convent. The noble princess remained true to the Reformation. As the Inquisition stamped out the reform movement in Ferrara while her son was reigning duke, she returned to France, where she lived with the Huguenots in her Castle of Montargis, dying in 1575. It is worthy of note that the Duke of Guise was her son-in-law.
Renée had borne her husband several children, —the hereditary Prince Alfonso Luigi, who subsequently became a cardinal; Donna Anna, who married the Duke of Guise; Donna Lucretia, who became Duchess of Urbino; and Donna Leonora, who remained single.
Her son Alfonso II succeeded to the throne of Ferrara in 1559. This was the duke whom Tasso made immortal. Just as Ariosto, during the reign of the first Alfonso and Lucretia, had celebrated the house of Este in a monumental poem, so Torquato Tasso now continued to do at the home of his descendant, Alfonso II. By a curious coincidence the two greatest epic poets of Italy were in the service of the same family. Tasso's fate is one of the darkest memories of the house of Este, and is also the last of any special importance in the history of the court of Ferrara. His poem may be regarded as the death song of this famous family, for the legitimate line of the house of Este died out October 27, 1597, in Alfonso II, Lucretia Borgia's grandson. Don Caesar, a grandson of Alfonso I, and son of that Alfonso whom Laura Dianti had borne him and of Donna Giulia Rovere of Urbino, ascended the ducal throne of Ferrara on the death of Alfonso II as his heir. The Pope, however, would not recognize him. In vain he endeavored to prove that his grandfather, shortly before his death, had legally married Laura Dianti, and that consequently he was the legitimate heir to the throne. It availed nothing for the contestants to appear before the tribunal of emperor and pope and endeavor to make Don Caesar's pretensions good, nor does it now avail for the Ferrarese, who, following Muratori, still seek to substantiate these claims. Don Caesar was forced to yield to Clement VIII, January 13, 1598, the grandson of Alfonso I renouncing the Duchy of Ferrara. Together with his wife, Virginia Medici and his children, he left the old palace of his ancestors and betook himself to Modena, the title of duke of that city and the estates of Reggio and Carpi having been conferred upon him.
Don Caesar continued the branch line of the Este. At the end of the eighteenth century it passed into the Austrian Este house in the person of Archduke Ferdinand, and in the nineteenth century this line also became extinct.
No longer do the popes control Ferrara. Where the castle of Tedaldo stood when Lucretia made her entry into the city in 1502, where Clement VIII later erected the great castle which was razed in 1859, there is now a wide field in the middle of which, lost and forgotten, is a melancholy statue of Paul V, and all about is a waste. There is still standing before the castle of Giovanni Sforza in Pesaro a column from which the statue has been overturned, and on the base is the inscription: "Statue of Urban VII—That is all that is left of it."