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Chronicles of 
The House of Borgia 





" (5o I'etil tjuaigcr / subm^ttc leou euerie wbere 
IPn&cr correction of beniguolencc 
Bn6 wbcrc cnu^e is / loftc >gc come not there 
3For on^ tb^nge / Jjepe :eour tretigc tbens 
JEru'ec is full of frowarft reprcbens 

Bn6 bow to burte l^etb cucr in a vpa^te 
IRepe Tsour quaver / tbat it be not tber baste." 

(William Caxton, in the Boke ofCurtesye, a.d. 1477.) 



I 90 I 





Great Houses win and lose undying fame in a century. 
They shoot, bud, bloom, bear fruit ; — from obscurity they 
rise to dominate their Age, indelibly to write their names in 
History : and, after a hundred years, giving place to others 
who in turn shall take the stage, they descend into the 
crowd, and live on, insignificant, retired, unknown. 

Once upon a time, Caesars were masters of the world ; 
and the genius of Divus Julius, of Divus Augustus, was 
worshipped everywhere on altars. There are Cesarini at 
this day in Rome, cosa grande c/i il sole, masters of wide 
domains, but not of empires. Once upon time, Buonaparte 
held Europe in its grip. Buonaparte at this day keeps exile 
in Muscovy or Flanders. Once upon a time, the Sforza 
were sovereigns-regnant ; and of their daughters were made 
an empress and a queen. There are Sforza at this day at 
Santafiora and at Rome ; peers of princes only, not of kings. 
Once upon a time, Borgia was supreme in Christendom. 
There are Borgia at this day, peers of France ; or patricians 
whose names are written in the Golden Book of Rome. 

In little more than a century, from 1455 to 1572, Borgia 
sprang to the pedestal of fame ; leaping at a bound, from 
little bishoprics and cardinalates, to the terrible altitude of 
Peter's Throne ; producing, in those few years, two Popes, 
and a Saint and General of Jesuits. It is true that there 
died, in the nineteenth century, another Borgia of renown, — 
the Lord Stefano Borgia, Cardinal-Presbyter of the Tide of 




San Clemente — a great and good man, admirable by Eng- 
lishmen for a certain gracious deed which is not yet written 
in English History ; and who preferred a second place to 
that giddy pre-eminence on which his kin formerly had 
played their part. 

The history of the House of Borgia is the history of the 
healing of the Great Schism ; of the Renascence of letters 
and the arts ; of the Invention of Printing ; of the Muslim 
Invasion of Europe ; of the consolidation of that Pontifical 
Sovereignty which endured till 1870; the history of the 
Discovery of a World ; the history of the Discovery, by 
man, of Man. 

" To penetrate the abyss of any human personality is 
impossible. No man truly sees his living neighbour's, 
brother's, wife's, — nay, even his own, soul." {John Adding- 
ton Sy7no7tds.) Much more obscure must be his friend's ; 
and darker still, his enemy's ; — and these alive. What, 
then, can be known of personalities, who are but distant, 
perhaps uninteresting, mere names ? 

Chronicles there are, and chroniclers ; and no more 
reliance can be placed in those, than in modern morning 
and evening newspapers. The same defect is common to 
both, — the personal equation, the human nature of the 
writer, historian, journalist. 

Cardinal Bartolomeo Sacchi (detto Platina) was '*a 
heathen, and a bad one." He had to stand his trial on a 
charge of worshipping false gods, was acquitted for want of 
evidence, and departed this life in the Odour of Sanctity. 
Modern discoveries, in the secret recesses of the catacombs, 
have proved that he was used to carry on his nefarious 
practices there, with a handful of other extravagant 
athenians of like kidney. He wrote a History of the Popes, 
which fairly deserves to be called veracious : but he had a 
personal grudge against the Lord Paul P.P. II, Who had 
put him to trial for paganism and grieved him with the 
torture called The Question ; wherefore, he got even with 



His Holiness when he wrote His life, and a more singular 
example of truth untruly told would be hard to find. 
Platina died in the reign of the Lord Xystus P.P. IV ; and 
his History of the Popes was continued by Onofrio Panvinii, 
who, according to Sir Paul Rycaut, gravely states that, in 
1489, the Lord Innocent P.P. VIII permitted mass to be 
said without wine, in Norway ; because, that country being 
cold and the distance far, the wine either was frozen, or was 
turned to vinegar, before it could be brought thither. 
Obviously, Platina and Panvinii require credible corro- 

Messer Stefano Infessura lays himself open to suspicion, 
as to his bona fides and as to his knowledge, by his remarks 
on the Lord Xystus P.P. IV. 

Monsignor Hans Burchard, whose original Diarium 
awaits discovery, is careless, Teutonic, and petty. 

The Orators of the Powers compile their state-dispatches 
from what they have picked up when hanging about the 
doors of palaces, or from the observations of bribed flunkeys. 

Messer Paolo Giovio, preconised Bishop of Nocera by 
the Lord Clement P.P. VII, Messer Francesco Guicciardini, 
and Messer Benedetto Varchi, were Florentines, who wrote 
in the Florentine manner, of Rome and Roman affairs, from 
an antipathetic point of view, and solely on the gossip and 
titde-tattle that filtered through to Florence after long years. 
Yet they wrote in stately delicate language, " Dante's 
desiderata, — that illustrious cardinal courtly curial mother- 
tongue, proper to each Italian state, special to none, 
whereby the local idioms of every city are to be measured, 
weighed, compared." Only — only — the student of their 
work must know that, (in common with all professional 
manufacturers of squibs, libels, and lampoons, in every age,) 
what they liked they praised ; and what they loathed they 
rhetorically and categorically damned, compiling concise 
catalogues of all the worst crimes known to casuistry, to lay 
at their foe's door. Therefore, the student of history must 



learn the personal sympathies and antipathies of these 
historians ; he must find their personal equation : and, when 
he has deducted that, he may arrive at least in juxtaposition 
with truth. This method has been attempted in the present 
work — in the absence of impersonal authorities. 

Mi senibra che la storia si sia servita della famiglia 
Borgia come di tela sopra la quale abbia voluio dipingere le 
sfenatezze dei secoli XV, XVI . "It appears to me that 
history has made the House of Borgia to serve as a canvas 
whereon to depict the unbridled licence of the Fifteenth and 
Sixteenth Centuries." (Ragguali, sulla vita di Marino 
Samcto, 207. itote.) By some historians, the Borgia women 
are delineated as "poison-bearing maenads," or"veneficous 
bacchantes " ; the Borgia men as monsters utterly flagitious : 
both men and women of a wickedness perfectly impossible 
to human nature, perfectly improbable even in nature kako- 
daimoniacal. By other historians, chiefly, strange to say, 
of the French School, and afllicted with the modern itch for 
rehabilitation, the identical Borgia are displayed in the 
character of stainless innocents who shine in the light of in- 
conceivable virtue. 

No man, save One, since Adam, has been wholly good. 
Not one has been wholly bad. The truth about the Borgia, 
no doubt, lies between the two extremes. They are accused 
of loose morals, and of having been addicted to improper 
practices and amusements. 

Well ; what then ? Does anybody want to judge them } 
Popes, and kings, and lovers, and men of intellect, and men 
of war cannot be judged by the narrow code, the stunted 
standard, of the journalist and the lodging-house keeper, or 
the plumber and the haberdasher. So indecently unjust a 
suggestion only could emanate from persons who expect to 
gain in comparison. 

Why should good hours of sunlight be wasted on the 
judgment seat, by those who, presently, will have to take 


their turn In the dock ? Why not leave the affairs of Borgia 
to the Recordino' Ang^el ? 

All about the Borg-Ia quite truly will be known, some 
day ; and, in the Interim, more profitable entertainment may 
be gained by frankly and openly studying that swift vivid 
violent age, when " the Pope was an Italian Despot with 
sundry sacerdotal additions;" when " what Mill, in his Essay 
on Liberty, desired, — what seems every day more unattain- 
able in modern life, — was enjoyed by the Italians ; there 
was no check to the growth of personality, no grinding of men 
down to match the averaged 

"Amorist, agonist, man, that, incessantly toiling and striving, 
" Snatches the glory of life only from love and from war — 

that Is the formula in which the Borgia best may find 
expression. For they, also, were human beings, who were 
born, struggled through life, and died. 

tF tF "R^ 

In this Ideal Content of the House of Borgia, there is 
matter for a score of specialists. The present writer lays 
no claim to any special knowledge whatever ; although his 
studies obviously have led him more in one direction than 
in another. Curbed by his limitations, he makes no pre- 
tensions to the discovery of new or striking facts : but he 
humbly trusts that he has been enabled to throw new and 
natural light on myths and legends, and to re-arrange 
causes and events In a humanly probable sequence. 

In dealing with circumstantial calumny, he has adopted 
an unworn system ; e.g., in the case of persons said to have 
been raised to the purple In reward for criminal services. 
Here, he furnishes complete lists of the persons raised to 
the purple ; and, when the names of those accused of crime 
do not appear therein, he takes the fact as direct and 
positive refutation of the calumny. 

Touching the matter of names and styles, he has made 
an attempt to correct the slipshod and corrupt translations 



of the same, which, at present, are the vogue. To allude 
to Personages in terms which are appropriate enough for 
one's terrier, or for one's slave ; to speak of sovereigns as 
mere John, or of pontiffs as plain Paul ; are breaches of 
etiquette of unpardonable grossness. The present writer 
has tried, at least, to accord to his characters the use of the 
names, and the courtesy of the styles that they actually 

In his manner of writinof, he has endeavoured to rush 
from mood to mood, in consonance with the subject under 
consideration, with something of the flippant breathless 
masterful versatility which Nature uses. For men were 
very natural in the Borgian Era. 

It is said that the style of a history should be grave and 
stately ; and so it should be, when History is written in 
epic form. But to write of men and women, — human men 
and women, — on those inhuman lines, is nothing but an 
unnatural crime ; and, also, as ridiculously incongruous and 
inconsistent, as it would be to sing the Miserere 7nei Deus 
to the tune of the Marseillaise. For human nature is not 
at all times grave and stately ; but has its dressing-gown- 
and-slipper periods, — being human nature. The aim of this 
work is to display the Borgia alive and picturesque and 
unconventional, as indeed they were ; not monumentally to 
freeze them into ideally heroic moulds, or to chisel them 
into conventionally unrecognisable effigies. 

The writer does not write with the simple object of 
" white-washing" the House of Borgia ; his present opinion 
being that all men are too vile for words to tell. 

Further, he does not write in the Roman Catholic 
interest ; nor in the Jesuit interest ; nor in the interest of 
any creed, or corporation, or even human being : but solely 
as one who has scratched together some sherds of know- 
ledge, which he perforce must sell, to live. 

It should be unnecessary to say that no persuasion of, 



and no offence to, any man, or any school of thought, is 
intended in these pages ; and that the writer, in the alDsence 
of desired advice, has written what he has written under 

He returns thanks to the officers of the Oxford University 
Galleries, of the Bodleian Library, and of the British 
Museum, for courteous and valuable assistance. 


The following works have been studied for the purpose of 
this Jiistory ; and thanks are dtie to the authors for 
copious extracts 7nade therefrom ; 

Ambrogini . (Angelo , detto Poliziano , ) Orfeo . 1749 . 

Ammirato . (Scip , ) Tutti i duchi di Mllano . Fiorenza . 1576 . 

Anales de la Nobleza de Espana . Madrid . 1890 . 

Annuaire de la Noblesse de France . Paris . 1898 . 

Annuario della Nobilita d' Italia . Bari 1882-3 • i893~9 • 

Antiquary . (The,) London . 1882 . 

Anuario de la Nobilita . Madrid . 1882-5-9, i8go . 

Baluzii . (Stephani , ) Miscellanea . 1761-4 . 

Beccadelli . (Antonio, detto Panhormita) . Quinque illustrium poetarum 

Carmina . Paris . 1791 . 
Berni . (Francesco , ) {Milosio . G . pseud . ) Rime Piacevole . 1627 . 

,, ,, Capitoli burleschi . 1645 . 

Blythe . (A . Winter,) Poisons . London . 1895 . 
Borgia . (Alessandro , Prince - Archbishop of Fermo . ) Istoria della chiesa e 

cittd di Vellctri , in I V lib . Nocera . 1723 . 
Borgia . (Bartolomeo , ) La sua Vita . Milan . 1888 . 
Borgia . (Giuseppe di Lorenzo,) Note . 1882 . 
Borgia Mexican Manuscript and Monograph . Rome . 1898 . 
Borgia . (Rosario , ) Poesie^in idioma Calabrese . Naples . 1839 . 
Borgia . (Stefano , Cardie , ) Dissertazione filologica sopra un antica gemma 

intagliata . 1775 . 
,, ,, ,, De crtice Veliterna . Rome . 1780 . 

Bourdeilles . (P . de , ) Memoires — les vies des hommes illusires . Leyde 

1665 . 
Bryce . (J . ) Holy Roman Empire . Lond . 1880 . 
Bulla Monitorii Apostolici . Rome . 1512 . 
Buonarrotti . (Michelangelo , ) Le Rime . Firenze . 1863 . 
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Burgos . (Aug . de , ) Blason de Espana . Madrid . 1853-60 . 
Burckhardt . (Jacob , ) The Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy . London . 

1890 . 
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Carmina Quinque Illustrium Poetarum . Bergamo . 1753 • 
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of Xystus P.P. iiij , Innocent P.P. viij , Alexander P.P. vj . ) Rome . 

1617 . 
Chieregatiis . (L . , Bishop of Concordia) Oration at Funeral of Innocent 

P.P. viij . Eucherius Silber . Rome . 1492 . 

XV b 


Ciacconi . Vitae Pontificum . 

Cienfuegos • (Alvaro, Cardal) . La hcroyca vida virtudes y mila^ros del 

grande San Francisco de Bovja antes diiquc quarto de Gandia . Madrid . 

1717 . _ - 

Circular , addressed to the Princes of Europe , announcing the demise of 

the Lord Alexander P.P. vi , enjoining prayers for the repose of 

His soul . Cologne . 1503 . 
Cittadella .(L.N. {Genealogy of the House of Borgia . Torino .1872 . 
Clarke . {A . M . ) St . Francis Borgia S.J. London . 1872 etc . 
Coluthus . (St . ) Fragmentum Copticum etc . Romae . 1781 . 
Conti . (Sigismondo de ' ) Le Storie de' suoi tempi (1475-1510) Roma, 

Firenze . 1883 . 
Coronelli . (V . M . ) Bibliotheca Universale . Venezia . 1701-6 . 
Cortesii . (Paolo, Bishop of Urbino) De cardinalatu . 1510 . 
Corvus . (Andrea) Excellentissimi et singularis viri in chiromatia exercitatissimi 

Magistri Andree Corvi Mirandulensis . Venice . 1500 . 
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„ ,, II Nobile Romano . Bologna . 1693 . 

Dumas . (Alexandre) Crimes Celebris . Paris . 1842 . 
English Historical Review . Vol . vii . Lond . 1886 etc . 
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Bury .^Lond . 1896 , 
Gilbert . (E . ) Autrefois — Aujourd ' hui . Sorciers et Magiciens . Moulins . 

1895 . .. , o 

J, ,, La pharmacie a travers les siccles . Toulouse . 1886 . 

,, ,, Les plantes magiques et la Sorcellerie . Moulins . 1899 . 

„ ,, Philtres , charmes , poisons . Paris . 1880 . 

Gilbert . (W . ) Liicrezia Borgia . Lond . i86g . 

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1502-1505 . Fiorenza . 1876 . 
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Lond . 1897 . 
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1894 etc . 
Gresswell . (W . P . ) Memoirs of Angelus Politianus . 1801 . 
Guasti . (Cesare,) Opere . Prato . 1894 etc . 

Guicciardini . (Francesco,) L' historia d' Italia . Fiorenza . 1561 . 
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(J . G . von) 1723 . 
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(Oreste,) Fonti per la Storia d' Italia . No . 5 . Roma . 1887 . etc . 
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1649-51 . 
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163 . Milano . 1819 etc . 
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especially to the Lord Alexander P.P. vj . 1545 . 



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binowicz . 1865 . 
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1882 . 
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colkctio . Parisiis . 1724-1733 . 
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1886 . 
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,, ,, La Renaissance en Italic . Paris . 1885 . 

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1870 . 
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,, in Clausura ,, ,, „ „ „ 

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to Broadside Proclamation issued at the landing in Cornwall of Duke 

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Lond . 1497 . 
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,, ,, Un condottiere an XV siecle . Paris . 1882 . 

Zurita . {Geronimo) Indices rerum ab A ragoniae regions gestarum . . . Caesar- 

augustae . 1578 . 

etc. etc. etc. 




The Kindling of the Fire Pa?e 3 




A Flicker from the Embers 
Appendices . . . • 



The Roaring Blaze " 

The Legend of the Borgia Venom . . - „ 214 


Sparks that Die " -54 


The Brilliant Light " 297 

Ashes ^■: t>i 



List of Illustrations 

Alexander P.P. VI (from a Portrait in the 
Vatican Library) 

Calixtus P.P. Ill 

Alfonso of A r agon 

Fridericus IV, Emperor 

Alexander P.P. VI 

Charles VIII of France 

Fra Girolamo Savonarola . 

Lucrezia Borgia, Duchess of Ferrara 

Julius P.P. II ... . 

Saint Francis Borgia . 


To face page 





















The Kindling of the Fire 

" A fire, that is kindled, begins ivith smoke and hissing^ while it lays 
hold on the faggots " 

In the year 1455 of Restored Salvation, Christendom was 
in a parlous way. The Muslim Infidel swarmed from the 
dark Orient, sworn to plant the Crescent on the ruin of the 
Cross. In resisting encroachment. King Wladislaw of 
Hungary and the Apostolic Legate, the Most Illustrious^ 
Lord Giuliano Cesarini, Cardinal- Bishop of Tusculum, a 
Roman of Rome, and scion of a most splendid family,^ had 
laid down life at the Battle of Varna. After three and fifty 
days of siege, Constantinople fell to the Great Turk, the 
Sultan Muhammed II. loannes Palaioloofos, " King- and 
Autocrat of the Romans," was dead ; and his successor 
Konstantinos Dragases XIII, the last Christian Emperor of 
the East, was slain in defence of his capital. By the fall 
of the great Byzantine Empire, the bulwarks of Christendom 
were broken down ; the Infidel was raiding on her borders. 
Alone, with no ally, Jan Hunniades desperately defended 
Hungary's frontier. The Powers of Europe occupied them- 
selves with less important matters. 

^ The epithet Most Eminent (Eminentissimo) was granted to cardinals 
by the Lord Urban P.P. VIII, 1630. Prior to that, they were styled 
Most Illustyious (Illustrissimo) ; or, in the case of the Cardinal-Dean and Car- 
dinal Nephews, Most Honourable and Most Worshipful (Osservantissimo, 

- They claim descent from the Gens Julia. Their armorials show the 
Bear (Orsini) chained to the Column (Colonna) with the Imperial Eagle 
displayed in chief. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

At this time, Rome was the eye, and the brain, of the 
world ; and Rome had seen and realised all that was 

During many years, since the first signs of Muslim 
activity, fugitives from Byzantium descended upon Italian 
shores. The glory of Greece had gone to Imperial Rome. 
The grandeur of Imperial Rome had returned to Byzantium. 
And now the glory and grandeur of Byzantium was going 
to Christian Rome. When danger menaced, when the day 
of stress besfan to dawn, scholars and cunnino- artificers, 
experts skilful in all knowledge, fled westward to the open 
arms of Italy with their treasures of work. Italy welcomed 
all who could enlarge, illuminate, her transcendent genius ; 
learning and culture and skill found with her not exile but 
a home, and a market for wares. Scholarship became the 
fashion. " Literary taste was the regulative principle." It 
was the Age of Acquisition. " Tuscan is hardly known to all 
Italians, but Latin is spread far and wide thoughout the 
world"; said Filelfo. But to know Greek was the real 
test of a gentleman of that day ; and Greek scholars were 
Italy's most honoured guests. Not content with the codices 
and classics of antiquity that these brought with them, 
Italian princes and patricians sent embassies to falling 
Byzantium, to search for manuscripts, inscriptions, or carven 
gems, and bronze, and marble. Greek intaglii and camei 
graced the finger-rings, the ouches, collars, caps, of Venetian 
senators, of the lords of Florence, of the sovereig^ns of the 
Regno, ^ of the barons and cardinals and popes of Rome. 
" They had made the discovery that the body of a man is a 
miracle of beauty, each limb a divine wonder, each muscle 
a joy as great as sight of stars or flowers." Messer Filippo 
Brunelleschi, who truly said that his figure of Christ was a 
crucified contadino, erected the marvellous dome of Florence. 
For the Lord Eugenius P.P. IV, Messer Antonio Filarete 
carved the Rapes of Leda and Ganumedes on the great 
bronze spates of St. Peter's. Messer Lorenzo Ghiberti 
modelled the marvellous doors of the Baptistery. Messer 
Simone Fiorentino (detto Donatello) placed, on the north 
wall of Orsanmichele, his superb St. George in marble ; and 

1 The kingdoms of Aragon, Naples, the two SiciUes, and Jerusalem. 


The Kindling of the Fire 

cast in bronze for Duke Cosmo the nitid David of the 
Bargello. Tommaso di Ser Giovanni degU Scheggia, 
called Masaccio (great hulking Tom), painted St. Peter and 
St. Paul raising the dead, with the skill which he learned 
from Tommaso di Cristoforo Fini, called Masolino (pretty- 
little Tom). Paolo Doni, nicknamed Uccello (Bird), put 
birds into his pictures according to his wont. The Blessed 
Giovangelico da Fiesole filled triptychs with his visions 
of the angelic hierarchy. Fra Filippo Lippi painted the 
St. Gabriel Archangel with the argus-eyed wings in an 
admirable Annunciation. Petrarch and Boccaccio hunted 
convents, abbeys, and museums, of Byzantium for codices. 
Messer Poggio Bracciolini discovered manuscripts of 
Lucretius Carus, of Vitruvius, of Quinctillian, and Cicero's 
Oration For Caecina. "No severity of winter cold, no 
snow, no length of journey, no roughness of road, prevented 
him from bringing the monuments of antiquity to light," 
says Francesco Barbaro. Nor did he hesitate to steal, when 
theft seemed necessary to secure a precious codex. Three 
pupils of Manuel Chrysoloras won renown beyond all com- 
petitors in the distinguished race : Giovanni Aurispa collected 
no fewer than two hundred and thirty eight valuable manu- 
scripts of antiquity ; Guarino da Verona and Francesco 
Filelfo came back laden from Byzantium. 

Drunk with the joy of the new learning, Italy failed to 
perceive the true inwardness of her acquisitions. She was 
blind to the peril which they most surely portended. 

But Rome saw. And, during many years, Rome had 
lifted up her voice and cried aloud that Italy enjoyed these 
accessions to her treasure only because Byzantium was no 
longer a safe repository for them. During many decades, 
Rome proclaimed the danger implied by the advance of the 
Muslim Infidel. But Christendom lent deaf ears, and 
compared Rome to Kassandra. Then Immortal Rome was 
lulled into a kind of apathy : her voice was heard less 
frequently, speaking in feebler, in less insistent tone. And, 
gradually, the potent spell of the Renascence mastered 
Rome ; and, in the reign of the Lord Nicholas P.P. V,^ she 
fell a victim to the fashionable delirium. Churches and 

1 rater Patrum ; the official style of the Roman Pontiff. 

chronicles of the House of Borgia 

palaces were planned, and builded, and decorated. Manu- 
scripts were collected, collated, copied. Libraries and 
colleges were formed. Culture, at last, and for once, was 
supreme ; and the phenomenon of needy genius was un- 
known. It was an age when the demand for learning, and 
for the fine arts, exceeded the supply. 

Then, Rome knew that the beautiful may be purchased 
at too dear a price ; that its essential evanescence needs the 
safeguard of virtue and of heroism, of honour and of arms ; 
precisely as woman needs the protection of man. Rome 
perceived that the irruption of the Muslim Infidel was a 
menace to civilisation, and she cried on Christendom to 
resist the flood of barbarism now outpoured. 

Hungary, alone of all the Occidental Powers, responded; 
but then Hungary was actually in the Muslim clutch. 

England, lately torn by Jack Cade's rebellion, was 
entering upon a conflict bloodier than any American Civil 
War or Boer Revolt. The reign of King Henry VI. 
Plantagenet, gentlest saint that ever wore an earthly dia- 
dem, drew near its close : from those pale prayer-raised 
hands — holy hands that had lifted to Christ's Vicar a peti- 
tion for the canonisation of England's Hero, King Alfred 
the Great^ — the sceptre was about to fall. Trumpets were 
soundinof from Northumberland to Kent. The clean air of 
Yorkshire wolds sang with the hissing of cloth-yard shafts, 
with the clang of steel of lance on shield. England was 
an armed camp ; and the War of the Roses was begun. 

Germany and Austria, under the rule of the Holy 
Roman Emperor, " Caesar Semper Augustus " Friedrich IV 
(The Pacific), seethed with politico-religious discontent. 
Under the guise of a desire for reform, political and personal 
ambitions strove. Caesar Friedrich IV held the reins of 
government but loosely. Excellent as a figure-head, orna- 
mental as an emperor, he had not his empire in the grip of 
a mailed fist. The symbol A.E.I.O. U. (Austriae Est 
ImperatorOrbis Universi — Alle Erde IstOesterreichs 
Unterthan), which he had invented for his motto, repre- 

1 The process of canonisation of King ^Elfred, though initiated by a 
Majesty of England (himself a saint by acclamation), has not yet been com- 
pleted by the Court of Rome after four hundred and fiftv years. 


The Kindling of the Fire 

sented his desire, but not his potentiality. Personal 
aggrandisement employed the feudal sovereigns of the 
empire : their suzerain's influence was no check upon them, 

Italy, then, deserved the designation given to it in 
modern times by Metternich ; it was not a nation, but a 
geographical expression. In the north were the Republics 
of Venice, Genoa, Florence, and their smaller imitators ; 
with the royal duchies of Savoja, Milan, and Ferrara. 
Across the country, from Rome and the Mediterranean, to 
the Mark of Ancona and the Adriatic, in a north-easterly 
direction, stretched the Papal States. The east and south, 
with Sicily, Sardinia, and the Islands, were called The 
Regno ; and were ruled from Naples by kings of the House 
of Aragon. And dotted all over the land were small semi- 
independent cities and territories, held as feudal fiefs by 
local noble houses, whose barons bore the harmless title 
of Tyrant, and exercised absolute lordship within their 
little states, ^.^., the Manfredi, Tyrants of Faenza; the Mala- 
testa, Tyrants of Rimini ; the Sforza, Tyrants of Pesaro, 
Chotignuola, Santafiora, Imola and Forli ; etc. 

France, having burned her greatest glory. The Maid of 
Orleans, was recovering from victories by which, from 1434 
to 1450, she had deprived England of all French territory 
save Calais. Her feeble dastard King Charles VII. was 
dead; and Louis XI., a gentleman of pleasure and piety, 
occupied her throne, 

Spain, united, after centuries of strife among her divers 
kingdoms and antagonistic races, by the marriage of King 
Don Hernando of Aragon to Queen Doiia Isabella of 
Castile, was preparing for an era of colonial expansion. 

Portugal was consolidating African discoveries and 

Norway and Sweden, after brief separation, once more 
were united under the sceptre of Denmark ; and were 
learning the lessons of peace. 

And then, in Rome, in 1455, on the 24th of March, being 
Monday in Passion- week, the Lord Nicholas P.P. V was 
dead : and, with His death, the tide of the Italian Renascence 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

The Colleore of Cardinals assumed the orovernment of 
Rome and of the Universal Church, while the Conclave for 
the election of the Successor of St. Peter was assembling. 
During nine days the Novendialia, the quaint ceremonies 
connected with the obsequies of a Pope, were celebrated. 
On Good Friday, the 4th of April, after the Adoration of 
the Cross, the Mass of the Presanctified, and the Exposition 
of the Vernicle (or True Image of our Divine Redeemer, 
vulgarly known as The Veronica), had been performed in 
the Vatican Basilica, the cardinals were immured ; the doors 
and windows of the Vatican were bricked up ; Pandolfo, 
Prince Savelli, Hereditary Marshal of the Holy Roman 
Church, entered upon the guardianship of the Conclave ; 
and the election was be^un. 

The College of Cardinals consisted then of twenty 
members. Of these, only fifteen assisted at the Conclave 
of 1455. In the fifteenth century, a journey across Europe, 
from some distant see, occupied a longer time than the 
eleven days which should elapse between a Pope's death 
and the enclosure of the Conclave. Of these fifteen 
cardinals present, seven were Italians, four Spaniards, two 
Frenchmen, two Byzantines. As usual they were divided 
into factions ; but, strange to say, the division was not one 
of nationality. The ancient and interminable feud between 
the great Roman baronial houses of Colonna and Orsini, 
penetrated even here. Not temporal policy of the Holy 
See, not differences of pious opinions, but simply rivalry of 
clan, governed this election. 

The Most Illustrious Lord Prospero Colonna, Cardinal- 
Archdeacon of San Giorgio in Vehun Aztreuin, creature 
{creatura) of the Lord Martin P.P. Ill, undoubtedly would 
have been elected had the Lord Nicholas P.P. V died at 
the beginning instead of at the end of a long illness : for, 
according to the dispatch of Nicholas of Pontremoli, Orator 
of Duke Francesco Sforza-Visconti of Milan, dated the 
first of April, 1455, he was then the favourite. Herr 
Ludwig Pastor, whose valuable history of the Popes is also 
the latest, most unaccountably urges that the great age of 
Cardinal Colonna prevented his election. But the accurate 
Ciacconi raises him to the purple with Cardinal Capranica 


The Kindling of the Fire 

at the Lord Martin P.P. Ill's fourth creation in 1426, he 
being then still a youth {'' adkuc iuvenis ") ; the publication 
of his elevation being delayed till the fifth consistory of the 
8th of November 1430. Supposing him to have been of 
the age of twenty-one years in 1426 — a very liberal assump- 
tion in an age when boys became cardinals at thirteen, 
benedicks at puberty, ancl fathers at fifteen — he only would 
have reached the age of fifty in 1455. The disability of 
senility may therefore be dismissed. In default of Cardinal 
Prosper©, the Most Illustrious Lord Domenico Capranica, 
Cardinal- Presbyter of the Title of Santa Croce in Gerusa- 
lemme, Cardinal-Penitentiary, Bishop of Fermo, and him- 
self a Roman noble of the Ghibelline party, was put forward 
by the House of Colonna as their second candidate. 

On the other side, the wealthy business-like Roman 
Guelf, the Lord Latino Orsini di Bari, Cardinal-Presbyter 
of the Title of San Giovanni e San Paolo in Monte Ceho, 
represented the interests of the House of Orsini : who 
offered, as an alternative for the suffrages of the Sacred 
College, the Venetian Lord Pietro Barbo, Cardinal- 
Presbyter of the Tide of San Marco, and Bishop of Vicenza. 

The first three scrutinies produced no result ; and the 
cardinals conferred regarding the merits of the candidates, 
and of the causes that they represented. Much was said on 
behalf of Cardinal Capranica. He was " Romano di Roma," 
his character stood above reproach, his breeding was polite 
and high. But Cardinal Orsini and his faction, though unable 
to bring in their own nominee the Cardinal of Venice, were 
strone enougfh to out-manoeuvre the candidate of Colonna : 
and the electors found themselves at a deadlock. 

In this emergency, the College, sought, and found, a 
neutral ; a partizan neither of Colonna nor of Orsini. There 
were two Byzantine cardinals ; the one, the Lord loannes 
Bessarione, Cardinal- Bishop of Tusculum, Monk of the 
Religion^ of St. Basil, Archbishop of Trebizond ; the other, 
the Lord Isidoroof Thessalonika, Cardinal-Bishopof Sabina, 
Monk of the Religion of St. Basil, Archbishop of Ruthenia. 
Of these two, Cardinal Bessarionehadmany recommendations. 

1 Religion — a gathering together for a pious purpose. It was the fifteenth 
century equivalent for Order or Society. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

He was a convert from the Greek Schism ; he had been a 
pupil of Gemisthos Plethon at Constantinople ; no one was 
of higher repute in Christian piety, more admirable in 
doctrine, more ornate in generous manners. (Ciacconill. 
906.) He had no enemy in the Conclave. At a juncture, 
like the present, the election of a Byzantine Pontiff, who 
naturally sympathised with the hapless Byzantines, would 
have secured for Christendom a champion against the trium- 
phant Muslim Infidel. When night closed the Conclave's 
deliberations, it appeared certain that Cardinal Bessarione 
would ascend the Throne of St. Peter on the morrow ; indeed 
his brother-cardinals asked favours of him, as though he were 
already in possession of the Keys. Had he condescended 
to canvass the other fourteen electors, or to make the 
slightest exertion on his own behalf, his election would have 
been secure. 

But, in the morning of that Easter Monday, the French 
Archbishop of Avignon, the Lord Alain Coetivy Britto, 
Cardinal- Presbyter of the Title of Santa Prassede, created 
a diversion against Cardinal Bessarione. " Shall we Latins," 
he protested, "shall we Latins go to Greece for the Head 
of the Latin Church ? My Lord of Trebizond has not been 
amonor us lono- enough to shave off his beard^ ; he is a mere 
neophyte, a newcomer to Italy and to the Holy Roman 
Church, and shall we set him over us ? " All day long the 
cardinals debated ; but no election was achieved. Night 
came, bringing no solution of the difficulty. 

On the 8th of April a compromise was suggested. It 
was resolved to postpone the contest, by electing an old man 

^ The Lord Clement P.P. VII (Giulio de Medici), 1523-34, appears on 
Cellini's lovely medals in a full beard. Probably, in His case, there was no 
choice ; for, during the Sack of Rome in 1527 by the Lutheran Goths and 
Catholic Catalans of the Elect-Emperor, Carlos V., His Holiness was holding 
the Mola of Hadrian, or Castle of Santangelo, and enduring the hard priva- 
tions of a siege. Afterwards He did not shave ; and full beards became the 
fashion for the clergy. Later, the Lord Alexander P.P. VII (Flavio Chigi), 
made the Vandyke beard and upturned mustachio the clerical mode; and, 
later still, the whole face was shaved according to the present rule. But, at 
the time when the Cardinal of Avignon reflected upon the Cardinal of 
Trebizond's beard, there appears to have been a distinct prejudice in favour 
of a shaven, indeed of a shorn, pope. This may be seen in the medals of 
popes and cardinals of the fifteenth century (when cleanliness was a mark 
of gentility), where the large tonsure and shaven faces are very noticeable. 


The Kindling of the Fire 

whose life was almost at an end. Therefore a cardinal 
was chosen, whose age, in the course of nature, would cause 
a new election in the near future ; whose colourless character 
neither would alter nor interfere with the traditional policy 
of the papacy ; who during a long life had eschewed pomp 
and vain glory ; whose profound learning, wisdom, and 
moderation had won for him his high place ; whose reputation 
was blameless ; whose political capacity was high ; who was 
the intimate of the friend and neighbour of Holy Church, 
Don Alonso de Aragona, King of Naples ; lastly, one who, 
being of the Spanish race, was the hereditary foe of Islam, 
and pre-eminently qualified to defend Christendom from the 
Muslim Infidel. The aforesaid Cardinal of Avignon, and 
the Lord Ludovico Scarampi dell' Arena Mezzaruota, 
Cardinal- Presbyter of the Title of San Lorenzo in Damaso, 
exerted all their influence to this end ; and, after a new 
scrutiny, the Cardinal- Dean, the Lord Giorgio Flisco de 
Savignana, Cardinal- Bishop of Ostia and Velletri, made 
proclamation of election, 

" I announce to you great joy. We have for a Pope 
the Lord Alonso de Borja, Bishop of Valencia, Cardinal- 
Presbyter of the Title of Santi Quattro Coronati, Who wills 
to be called Calixtus the Third. "^ 

* # * 

•V- -it- !^ 

•TV- 'IV- ■TV- 

The Spanish House of Borja claims to originate in King 
Don Ramiro Sanchez de Aragona, A. D. 1035. 

Until the time of Don Pedro, Count of Aybarand Lord 
of Borja, who died in 1152, the family was confined to 
Spain. Then, according to valid authorities, the Junior 
Branch, in the person of Don Ricardo de Borja, migrated to 
the kingdom of Naples and the Two Sicilies, and took service 
there. This Don Ricardo is named in a document of dona- 
tion in the reign of the Lord Lucius P.P. Ill, 1181-1185 

1 In the Acta Consistorialia of the Vatican Secret Archives, this Pope is 
called Calixtus the Fourth, evidently by the stupidity of some Apostolic 
Scribe, who happened to know that one John, Abbot of Struma, called himself 
CaUxtus III. (having got himself schismatically and uncanonically elected in 
the reign of the Lord Alexander P.P. Ill) ; and who had not the sense to 
know that the Holy Roman Church has the habit of ignoring pseudopontiffs 
and other pretenders. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

(Ricchi) ; which should go to prove that the Junior Branch 
was naturaHsed in Italy. Its lineal descendants undoubtedly 
are living there at the beginning of the twentieth century ; 
the latest recorded being Don Alessandro Borgia, who was 
born at Milan in 1897. Fo^ purposes of clear arrange- 
ment, the history of this Junior Branch may be rele- 
gated to later pages ; the main interest lies in descendants 
of Don Ximenes Garcia de Borja, the eldest son of the 
aforesaid Don Pedro, and founder of the Senior Branch ; 
which, though transplanted to Italy in the middle of the 
fifteenth century, and flourishing there for some genera- 
tions, must always be regarded as Spanish and not Italian. 

There is record of a son of Don Ximenes Garcia de Borja 
in 1244, called Gonzales Gil: his son, Don Raymon de 
Borja, was the father of Don Juan Domingo de Borja, Lord 
of La Torre de Canals in the city of Xativa in Valencia. 
By his wife. Dona Francisca, this Don Juan Domingo had 
at least two daughters and a son — Juana, Caterina, and 

Dofia Juana married Don J ofre de Lan9ol; Dona Caterina 
married Don Juan de Mila, Baron of Mazalanes ; a third 
daughter, whose name is missings also married ; and the off- 
spring of these three became later of extreme importance. 

The son, Alonso, was born on St. Sylvester's Eve, 1378, 
the year of the opening of the Great Schism, at Xativa, 
and baptized in the church of St. Mary in that city. He 
himself has told us this, in two Bulls dated 1457.^ His 
youth was spent at the University of Lerida, where he 
specialised in jurisprudence for the degree of Doctor in Civil 
and Canon Law, and obtained a professorship and Holy 
Order. While he was a young priest (1398- 1408) he 
chanced to assist at a sermon preached by the great 
Dominican Vincent Ferrer in a mission at Valencia. At 

1 Villaniieva (I. i8,i8i) quotes two Bulls of the Lord Calixtus P.P. III^ 
giving relics to the church at Xativa. On p. 51, Villanueva alludes to him as 
"Don Alonso de Borja, natural de la Torre de Canals, bautizndo en la Iglesia 
Collegial de Xativa, hoy S. Felipe, electa en 20 de Agosto de 1 ^2g p or el Legado d& 
Martin V. Conscrvo el gohierno de esta Iglesia hasta el aha en que murio, sienda 
yu Papa Calixto III. En 1457 concedio a esta Iglesia un jubileo en el dia de la 
Asuncion de nuestra Sehora, imponicndo para la fabrica la contribucion de diez 


The Kindling of the Fire 

the close of his discourse, the friar singled out from the 
crowd Don Alonso de Borja, to whom he addressed this 
remarkable prediction : " My son, you one day will be 
called to be the ornament of your house and of your country. 
You will be invested with the highest dignity that can fall 
to the lot of man. After my death, I shall be the object of 
your special honour. Endeavour to persevere in a life of 
virtue." Don Alonso was impressed by this saying, for he 
repeated it to St. John Capistran in 1449, and he tena- 
ciously waited for the fulfilment. After His election to the 
papacy. He performed the solemn canonisation of St. Vin- 
cent Ferrer on the twenty-ninth of June, 1455. 

Don Alonso proceeded from his University professor- 
ship to a canonry in the cathedral of Lerida, which was 
conferred upon him by his countryman Don Pedro de Luna, 
the Pseudopontiff Benedict XIII. Later, he entered the 
arena of politics as secretary to King Don Alonso I (The 
Magnanimous) of Naples and the Two Sicilies ; and, here, 
his diplomatic skill and legal training raised him to the 
unofficial but important post of confidential counsellor to the 
Majesty of the Regno. Now that he was domiciled in 
Italy his fortunes moved swiftly. In 1429 he won the 
gratitude of the Lord Martin P.P. Ill (or V) by winning 
for His Holiness the support of Spain, and by negotiating 
the renunciation of the Spanish Pseudopontiff, Don Gil 
Munoz, who called himself Clement VIII. 

These days of the Great Schism, when the Roman 
Pontiffs had much ado to hold Their Own against irregularly 
elected pseudopontiffs, must have been utterly horrible. A 
reigning sovereign is uneasy when pretenders to, or usurpers 
of, his crown appear. Republican France farcically banishes 
men whose nobler forefathers represented other forms of 
government. England sometimes wakes prodigally to spend 
blood and treasure in support of her suzerainty. If secular 
powers, then, strive, struggle for their life ; and, in the 
struggle, cause distress, how many times more distressing 
must have been the rivalry of the Great Schism, when the 
prize at stake was the Headship of Christendom. This 
consideration will make it easy to understand how great an 
obligation the Lord Martin P.P. Ill lay under to the skilful 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

canon, who actually persuaded His rival peaceably to 
renounce his claim to the triple crown, terminating the 
thirty-eighth schism of the Holy Roman Church. As a 
reward. Canon Alonso de Borja received the bishopric of 
Valencia, his native diocese ; and, after his consecration, he 
continued to be useful to King Don Alonso de Aragona, by 
re-organising the government of the Regno, and by super- 
vising the education of the King's Bastard and subsequent 
successor, Don Ferrando. 

# * * 

The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were not more 
filled with improbable situations than the twentieth. The 
situations were different, that is all. The situation of 
bastards was quite curious, and must be realised by any 
one who desires intelligently to understand the time. To 
this intelligent understanding Ludovico Romano's theories 
will lend aid. He argues that it is false to say that bastards 
are infamous and incapable of honours. To the infamous 
is denied the dignity of Decurion (command of ten men). 
But bastards may become Decuriones. Therefore bastards 
are neither infamous nor incapable of honour. Giampietro 
de' Crescenzi Romani, in // Nobile Romano, states the case 
thus : Plebeians are not eligible to the Decurionate. 
Bastards are eligible to the Decurionate. Therefore, 
bastards are not plebeians, but nobles if born of noble stock. 
Bastards are capable of nobility, of secular and civil dignity ; 
for Ishmael was not hunted from his father's house on 
account of his bastardy, but on account of his insolence. 
It is not necessary to quote Crescenzi's argument as to the 
bastards of King David, from whom descends the Son of 
David, Son of Abraham, according to the Scripture, and 
Whom the Fathers of the Church acclaim as One of royal 
generation ; nor to give more of his catalogue of noble 
bastards than Theodoric, King of the Goths of Italy and of 
Spain, the Emperor Charlemagne, Roberto and Pandolfo 
Malatesta, Tyrants of Rimini, Giovanni Sforza, Tyrant of 
Pesaro, William (called The Conqueror), Duke of Normandy 
and King of England. He continues to say that nature 
does not distinguish between bastards and legitimates ; 
that the former are called natural children because they are 


The Kindling of the Fire 

true children of nature. Neither does grace distinguish ; 
and, as bastards are capable of temporal nobility, so also 
they are capable of spiritual, as witness St. Bridget of 
Ireland, and other natural children of signal grace and 
distinguished virtue. Further, he holds that the sons, of 
bastards who lose nobility by rebellion, are not infamous ; 
and recover nobility on their father's death ; that infamy of 
any kind is washed-out by baptism : and that the Pope can 
free from subsequently contracted infamy by His dispensa- 
tion. He distinguishes between bastards only legitimated 
by princes or the emperor, who are ineligible to eccle- 
siastical benefices ; and bastards legitimated only by the 
Pope, who cannot succeed to the fiefs of other princes. He 
concludes that bastardy purges itself at the latest in the 
fourth oreneration. 

In the twentieth century, an inheritance devolves from 
the holder to " the heirs male of his body lawfully be- 
gotten " ; in the fifteenth, the proviso " lawfully begotten " 
did not invariably obtain. A bastard, legitimated and 
recognised by his father, was as valid and capable as the 
son of a lawful marriage. The sin of the father and mother 
was a sin personal to them, and none the less a Sin : but it 
was not allowed to affect their innocent children. The 
Lord Pius P.P. II, on his way to the Congress of Mantua 
in 1459, was met on the frontier of Ferrara by eight 
bastards of the royal House of Este, including the delicious 
Borso, reigning duke, and two bastards of his highness's 
bastard brother and predecessor Duke Leonello. These 
matters should be understood ; for a large proportion of the 
personages in this history were of illegitimate birth, and 
under no disability of any kind thereby. 

^ ^A, ^ 

■Tf* TT "W 

Kincr Don Alonso I de Aragrona did not feel safe with 
the crown of the Regno which he wore. The House of 
Anjou claimed it. Madame Marguerite dAnjou, daughter 
of the poet-king Rene, had ceded or sold her rights to the 
Christian King Louis XI of France, whose claim was 
supported by the Lord Martin P.P. III. The Magnani- 
mous King Don Alonso I threatened to espouse the 
cause and benefit by the aid of the Pseudopontiff (called 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Clement VIII) ; and so the materials for a devastating con- 
flagration were brought together. But the diplomacy of 
Bishop Alonso de Borja was repeated here. Once again, by- 
negotiating the peaceful disappearance of a pseudopontiff, 
he earned the gratitude of the Pope ; and the Lord 
Martin P.P. Ill, Who owed so much to Bishop Alonso, was 
easily persuaded to look favourably also upon Bishop 
Alonso's royal master. Unfortunately the Pope died, and 
His Successor, the Lord Eugenius P.P. IV had a prejudice 
for the French claim, which resulted in a renewal of the 
quarrel in 1439. But a third time the difficulties of the 
Roman Pontiff were turned to account by Bishop Alonso. 
When the schismatic Synod of Basilea, to gain some private 
ends, futilely pronounced a sentence of excommunication 
and deposition upon the Lord Eugenius P.P. IV, and 
elected the ambitious Duke Amadeo of Savoja as Pseudo- 
pontiff with the name Felix V, all Christendom expected 
that King Don Alonso, who was a very crafty potentate, 
would be only too happy to make common cause with the 
rival of that Pope who would not confirm his crown to him. 
But all Christendom was disappointed. King Don Alonso's 
secretary ably manoeuvred in his accustomed manner. 
First, Bishop Alonso de Borja in his proper person refused 
to attend that schismatic Synod of Basilea ; and, by this 
act, became persona gratissima at the Vatican. Second, 
the King of Naples instructed his Orators (ambassadors) to 
play with Pontiff and pseudopontiff, to find out which would 
meet him with a satisfactory concession. Third, Don 
Francesco Sforza-Visconti, Duke of Milan, began to harass 
the Lord Eugenius P.P. IV. And, then, the Pope agreed 
to receive an embassage from the King of Naples, and to 
hear his cause pleaded by Bishop Alonso de Borja. 

This was the cause of King^ Don Alonso. A bastard 
of the House of Aragon, he had been adopted by Queen 
Dona Juana of Naples, who lacked a lineal heir, in 1420. 
He was acknowledged by the people as sovereign of the 
Regno, and was actually in possession of the crown. 

The Christian Kinor Louis XI. also claimed to have 
been adopted by Queen Dona Juana : but he never had 
been acknowledged, nor ever had possessed the crown. 


The Kindling of the Fire 

Then there was the matter of King Don Alonso's 
bastard, Don Ferrandb. The childless Queen believed 
him to be the son of Dona Margarita de Hijar, one of her 
ladies ; and, in jealous rage, she smothered her. Where- 
upon the King banished his wife to Aragon, and legitimated 
Don Ferrando as his heir. 

Let it be recognised that, in the fifteenth century, Popes 
acted, and were expected to act, in the letter, as well as in 
the spirit, of the momentous words which are said by the 
cardinal-archdeacon to all of Them at Their coronation, 
Receive this tiara adorned with three crowns, and know 
Thyself to be the Ruler of the World, the Father of princes 
and of kings, and the Earthly Vicar of Jesus Christ our 
Saviour. The twentieth century is apt to conceive of the 
Pope as an uninteresting, far-away, semi-diplomatic species 
of clergyman, nourishing pretensions of utter insignificance. 
It will be well to remember that once upon a time the Pope 
was a Power, Who saw nothing figurative, metaphorical, or 
extravagant in the exordium just quoted, Who was not by 
any means a negligeable quantity in the world's affairs, and 
Who literally had the unquestioned right of making or 
unmaking princes and kings or even emperors. 

Here was a case in point. King Don Alonso was a 
crowned king ; but he perfectly was aware that he was 
powerless to keep his crown, much less to secure the 
succession for the offspring of his illicit love, unless he could 
o-ain the confirmation, the licence, of the Roman Pontiff — ■ 
in technical phrase, a sovereign found it to be indispensable 
that he should be able to add to his style of King By The 
Grace Of God, And By The Favour Of The Apostolic See. 

Hence the embassage to the Lord Eugenius P.P. IV, 
headed by Bishop Alonso de Borja, to whose incessant 
labour and exquisite mastery of affairs was due the treaty, 
ratified in 1444, by which the Pope's Holiness of the one 
part confirmed the crown of Naples, the Two Sicilies, and 
Jerusalem, to King Don Alonso I. de Aragona, and licensed 
the legitimation of Don Ferrando ; while the King's 
Majesty of the other part agreed to defend the Lord 
Eugenius P.P. IV against His enemies, and especially 
against Duke Francesco Sforza-Visconti of Milan. 

17 B 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

As a reward for his skill in the role of peacemaker, 
Bishop Alonso de Borja was raised to the purple on the 
second of May 1444, as Cardinal- Presbyter of the Title of 
Santi Ouattro Coronati with curial rank ; and so King 
Don Alonso, the Magnanimous, lost his most trusted coun- 
sellor. The Bishop's bastard, Don Francisco de Borja, 
who will appear later in this history, had been born at 
Savina, in Valencia, in 1441. 

# * * 

The Cardinal of Valencia at the Court of Rome gained 
the reputation of being inaccessible to flattery, incapable of 
party-feeling, impregnable in integrity, inconspicuous in 
morals, inexhaustible in capacity for business and in know- 
ledge of canon-law. In 1446, the Lord Eugenius P.P. IV 
restored the Hospital of the Confraternity of Santo Spirito, 
in the Region of Borgc, to something of its pristine glory ; 
and He undertook to contribute a yearly sum whereby its 
usefulness among the poor and needy might be maintained. 
The pontifical example of practical Christian charity set a 
fashion for the cardinals of the curia. The quaint Bull 
containing the subscribers' names is signed by 

/, Eugenius, The Bishop of the Catholic Church, 

and by nine cardinals, of whom the last is 

/, the Cardinal of Valencia, Presbyter of the Title of 
Santi Quattro Coronati. 

Cardinal de Borja assisted at the election of the suc- 
ceeding Pontiff, the Lord Nicholas P.P. V ; at Whose death, 
in 1455, the prediction of St. Vincent Ferrer was fulfilled. 

»y, .\i, oi. 

-A" TV- "Tv- 

At the time of His elevation to the Supreme Pontificate, 
the Lord Calixtus P.P. Ill was a feeble old man of the 
age of seventy-seven years. His duties, as Governor of the 
Bastard of Naples, as Bishop of Valencia, as Orator of 
King to Pope, as Plenipotentiary between Pope and King, 
as Counsellor of King, as Cardinal-Counsellor of Pope, and 
his ceaseless studies in jurisprudence and canon-law, had 
worn away the bodily strength of him — the perishable thin 
scabbard that hid steel indomitable and keen. 

t I 

<^<«^^«a^ ^ c^ ^ 


The Kindling of the Fire 

Outside the Vatican very diverse opinions were enter- 
tained of Him. His long connection with King Don 
Alonso I. caused anxiety, suspicion, and jealousy, among 
the Powers of Italy. They were always disgusted, those 
Powers, to find the Pope on easy terms with a temporal 
sovereign, with one of themselves ; and the Magnanimous 
King Don Alonso was the next-door neighbour, so to 
speak, of the Lord Calixtus P.P. HI. Such a combination 
inevitably inspired distrust. The fear was expressed that 
Naples, through his former secretary, would rule the Holy 
See — and Christendom. The official despatches of the 
Orators of Florence, Genoa, and Venice, hypocritically 
displayed the greatest satisfaction : but their private letters 
were in a diametrically opposing strain. A great grievance 
was made of the fact that the new Pope was a Spaniard 
and a foreigner. Some thought that a handful of dis- 
contented cardinals should leave Rome, set up a pseudo- 
pontiff in another city, and inaugurate a Fortieth Schism. 
Oh, people knew one another to be properly cantankerous 
in the fifteenth century ! But Rome considered the Lord 
Calixtus P.P. HI a just and right-minded man. The 
Procurator-General of the Order of Teutonic Knights wrote 
to the Grand Master on the third of May 1455 : " The new 
Pope is an old man, of honourable and virtuous life, and of 
excellent repute." Messer Bartolomeo Michele, a Sienese, 
wrote to his native city, exhorting the Sienesi to send the 
most splendid possible embassage to congratulate the Pope, 
selecting for the same only eminent and worthy men, inas- 
much as that the Lord Calixtus P.P. HI was excessively 
learned and clear-sighted : " He is a man of great sanctity 
and learning, a friend and adherent of King Don Alonso. 
He has always shown Himself well-disposed to our city, 
and by nature He is peaceable and kindly." But the best 
appreciation of all is given by St. Antonino, that gentle, 
brave Archbishop of Florence, whose quality all the world 
admires and loves. He wrote to Messer Giovanni of 
Orvieto, the 24th of April 1455. 

"The election of the Lord CaUxtus P.P. Ill at first gave little satis- 
faction to the Italians. Inprimis, he was Valencian or Catalan ; and 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

they feared lest He should transfer the Papal Court to another country. 
Also, they feared lest He should entrust to Catalans the fortresses of 
Holy Church, which, only after many difficulties, could be recovered. 
But now they are reassured by more mature reflection, and by the 
reputation that He bears for goodness, penetration, and impartiality. 
And, also, I have seen His solemn promise that He will devote all His 
powers against the Turks and for the conquest of Constantinople. It is 
not to be believed or said that He is attached to one nation more than 
another, but rather that, as a just and prudent man, He will give to 
every one his due. Meanwhile, let us always think well of the Holy 
Father, and judge His actions more favourably than those of any other 
human being. And let us not be frightened by every little shock. Christ 
guides the Barque of Peter, which, therefore, can never sink." 

That letter contains a concise summary of the situation, 
written with the benevolent simplicity of a dignified fine 
gentleman, and with the unerring sapience of a saint. 

^ •?? v? 

The Pope is the Bishop of Rome. The insignia of His 
office are the Fisherman's Ring, the Triple Crown, the 
Triple Cross, and the Keys. At His election by the Con- 
clave, He receives the Ring. Afterwards the insignia are 
conferred, with the Pallium that He wears at all times in 
sign of universal jurisdiction, at His coronation by the 
Cardinal- Archdeacon in the Collegiate- Basilica of St. Peter- 
by-the- Vatican. But yet another ceremony awaits perform- 
ance. As Bishop of Rome, He must take formal possession 
of, and be enthroned in, the cathedral of His diocese, either 
in person or by proxy. That cathedral is not St. Peter's : 
but St. John's m Laterano, which, consequently, bears on 
its facade the magniloquent title 


It is the most important church in Christendom. 

The Lord Calixtus P.P. HI was elected on the eighth 
of April 1455. On the twentieth He was crowned as 
" Ruler of the World, Father of princes and of kings, and 
Earthly Vicar of Jesus Christ our Saviour " ; and the same 
day He made a triumphal progress through the city to take 
possession of the Lateran. In the porch of that cathedral 
there is a low marble throne, called Sedes Stercoraria, on 


The Kindling of the Fire 

which the Pope sits to receive the homage of the Lateran 
Chapter while cantors chant the anthem 

" He raiseth-up the poor out of the dust : 
" and hfteth the needy out of the dung-hill. 

" That He may set him with princes : 
" even with the princes of His people. 

(Ps. cxiii. 7, 8). 

" Suscitans a terra inopem : 

'■'■ et de stercore erigens pauperem. 

" Ut collocet eum ami principibus : 
" cum principibus populi Sui. 

(Vulgate, Ps. cxii. 6, 7). 

It has been seen that the Lord Calixtus P.P. Ill was 
not unnaturally popular. It will be readily admitted that 
the Roman baronial houses of Colonna and Orsini would 
have been more than human had they not felt some mortifi- 
cation at the failure of their conclavial manoeuvres to 
secure the Papacy for one of themselves. Still, the thing 
was done. A Catalan — the Romans of the fifteenth century 
called all Spaniards Catalans — a Catalan indubitably had 
been elected ; but He was old, He was feeble. He might be 
influenced. He might be amenable to intimidation, to a show 
of force. It is so easy for the twentieth century, with its 
jaded physique and sophisticated brain, and the magnificent 
perspective of half a thousand years, to read the motives 
which actuated the physically strong and intellectually 
simple fifteenth, when the world — the dust which makes 
man's flesh — was five centuries younger and fresher ; when 
colour was vivid ; light, a blaze ; virtue and vice, extreme ; 
passion, primitive and ardent ; life, violent ; youth, intense, 
supreme ; and sententious pettifogging respectable medio- 
crity, senile and debile, of no importance whatever. 

So, while the Lord Calixtus P.P. Ill was at the 
Lateran, the barons of Rome took action. A slight quarrel 
arising in the crowd between one of the Orsini and a 
retainer of Anguillara (hereditary foes of Orsini) provided 
a pretext. Instantly shouts ascended, and men of arms 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

coursed through the city roaring Orso, Orso (Bear, Bear — 
war-cry of Orsini, alluding to their badge). From every dark 
and narrow alley of the Regions of Campo Marzo and 
Ponte, from the Albergo dell' Orso (Bear Inn) by the 
Torre di Nona, from the castellated fortress which Orsini 
had made of Pompey's Theatre, came the clang of arms, 
with the rush of hurrying feet of desperate brigands, 
adherents and mercenaries of Orsini ; and Don Napoleone 
Orsini was at the head of three thousand men. Outside 
the cathedral, the hum of a maddened mob swelled into a 
raucous roar as of bears hungry for hot blood, when Count 
Averso of Anguillara fled into the Lateran Basilica, seeking 
sanctuary in the very presence of Christ's Vicar ; and, 
above the roar, the voice of Orsini pierced the holy 
portals of the Prince of Peace, penetrated to the ears 
of Pope Calixtus throned as Bishop of Rome among 
His canons in the centre of the apse, launching a hideous 
threat to storm and sack the Lateran unless the body of 
Anguillara were o-iven to him as meat for his three thousand 
bears. There was a movement in the ermine and scarlet 
college that stood near the papal throne, and Cardinal 
Latino Orsini di Bari hurried down the nave to confer with 
his turbulent brother, Don Napoleone. Though dis- 
appointed that he had failed to win the Triregno^ for him- 
self, this cardinal appears to have had some feeling of 
decency as to what was due to Holy Church. As a 
churchman he felt bound to stand by his order ; although 
as an Orsini he would have preferred a different state of 
affairs. Still, the object of the riot had been attained, 
the Lord Calixtus P. P HI had received an object-lesson 
poignant and pregnant to an ultimate degree, concerning 
the kind of kakodaimons that He would have to quell, the 
species of subject that He was called to rule. No doubt 
these were the arguments used to his brother by the 
cardinal. It was not the writhing mangled body of the 
Eel (Anguillara) that the Bear (Orsini) crav^ed. That was 
the merest subterfuge. But to humiliate the Holiness of 


' The pontifical diadem, consisting of a conical cap woven of the plumage 
of white peacocks and encircled by three crowns of gold. It is sometimes 
called the Tiara, and must be distinguished from the Mitre. 


The Kindling of the Fire 

the Pope at the very moment of His exaltation from Sedes 
Stercoraria to Lateran Throne, to terrify Him into malle- 
ability, into subjugation to Orsini's will — that — that had been 
done, and well done. Surely an aged man, so near His 
grave as was the Lord Calixtus P.P. HI, would wish to pur- 
chase peace with any sacrifice, now that once it had been 
shown to Him what kind of devildom environed His very 
throne-steps. Don Napoleone Orsini allowed himself to take 
this view. He withdrew his myrmidons. The riot was 
over. Presently the Pope was riding on His crimson- 
caparisoned palfrey towards the Vatican, through a peaceful 
city kneeling at the roadside for Apostolic Benediction. 

JA, ^ Ji- 

•VV- ■TV- TV- 

The fashion which foreigners affect in writing of Italy 
makes one laugh — and weep. 

They drawl of a dreamland of subtle sweetness and 
softest light, of delicate fantasy, of neutral hue ; peopled by 
shades from faded frescoes aesthetically tinctured, academic, 
conventional, conformant to the canons of that unspeakably 
abominable dilution which the twentieth century calls Art ; 
and mitigated only by a leavening of organ-grinders and 
fortune-telling paroquets. 

They must be blind, these foreigners — blind, physically 
and mentally — blind, as those who will not see. 

Italy is, and always has been, a land of raw reality, of 
glittering light, of pure primary colour, of nature naked and 
not ashamed, of perfectly transparent souls, of rapidest 
versatility, clearest mystery, ultimate simplicity, steel, and 
brains, and blood. 

Else she had made no mark, no singular distinguished 
mark, in history. 

Has she made no mark ? 

Ah — what a mark she has made ! 

* * # 

The greatest historian of this period, perhaps the most 
alert and agile writer of any period, Enea Silvio Bartolomeo 
de' Piccolhuomini (who afterwards became Pope with the 
title of the Lord Pius P.P. II), says of the Lord Calixtus 
P.P. Ill, that His attention to the duties of His office was 
amazing ; that His patience at audiences was astounding ; 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

that He Himself dictated the Apostolic Briefs and Bulls 
written to kings and princes, nor trusted them to the official 
scribes ; that jurisprudence was His recreation ; that He was 
as familiar with canon-law as though He were still professor 
at the University of Lerida. 

Two problems confronted Him at the beginning of His 
reign : the Renascence of Learning, and the Infidel in 
Christendom. His predecessor had been a man of words. 
The Lord Calixtus P.P. HI was a man of strenuous deeds. 
His attitude to Letters and Art was in strong contrast 
to that of the Lord Nicholas P.P. V. This "withered 
canonist," as a wit styled Him, was not in sympathy with 
Culture. Wholly occupied in matters ecclesiastical and 
political. He had nor time nor means nor inclination to 
patronise the fashionable scholarship of His day. His 
vogue was strictly practical. 

One of the secrets of the success of the Holy Catholic 
Apostolic and Roman Church is her catholicity. All sorts and 
conditions of men can, and do, live within her boundaries. 
The Lord Nicholas P.P. V had been a Maecenas of Letters 
and the Arts. In His reign scholars, scribes, and artificers had 
found their golden age. The Lord Calixtus P. P. 1 1 1 entirely 
employed Himself in the defence of Christendom, and the 
clientsof His predecessorwere consciousof the change. Liter- 
ature and the fine arts have one very sorry effect upon their 
professors. Intellectual culture avidly pursued makes its 
devotees show pitifully by the side of the manly men who 
deal with realities and verities, with life and death, the 
sailors, soldiers, adventurers, and empire-builders. Letters 
and the Arts cultivate the baser parts of man — meanness, 
jealousy, conceit. The touchy nature of the writers and 
artists of 1455 ^^^ ^^ violent denunciations of the Spanish 
Pope. Messer Francesco Filelfo's letter (102) to the Car- 
dinal of Trebizond shows how men of letters hated Him. 
Another writer charged Him with destroying the Vatican 
library. Bishop Vespasiano da Bisticci, of Vicenza, says : 

" When Pope Calixtus began His reign, and saw so many excellent 
books, five hundred of them resplendent in bindings of crimson velvet 
with clasps of silver, He wondered greatly (it should be remembered that 
printing was not invented), for the old canonist only was used to books 


The Kindling of the Fire 

written on linen (?) and stitched together. Instead of commending the 
wisdom of His predecessor, He cried, on entering the library, See now 
where the treasure of God's Church has gone. Soon He began to disperse 
the Greek books. He gave several hundred to the Cardinal of Ruthenia. 
As this latter was in his dotage, the volumes fell into his servants' hands. 
Things which had been bought for golden florins^ were sold for a few 
pence. Many Latin books came to Barcelona : some through the Bishop 
of Vicb, powerful Datary of the Pope ; some as gifts to Catalan nobles. 

Calumny (which, by-the-bye, ranks as mortal sin in 
modern catechisms,) appears to be habitual to the faithful. 
In this particular the fifteenth century meets the twentieth 
on common ground. To speak truth in a paradox, the 
proximate occasion of the sin of calumny is hatred of sin. 
Roman Catholics, like Bishop Vespasiano, are, from their 
conception, imbued and saturated with the idea of the 
hideousness of sin, not of its stupidity and unprofitableness. 
It is their bogey, their forbidden fruit, the covert strictly 
preserved and labelled Trespassers will be prosecuted with 
the utmost rigour of the Law. Consequently, Roman 
Catholic human nature is violently fascinated by the bogey ; 
has singularly well informed itself of the nature, colour, 
shape, condition, and location, of the forbidden fruit ; has 
minutely investigated every inch of ground and every blade 
of grass, and every bird and bush in the strictly preserved 
covert, simply and solely in order that it may avoid poaching, 
sampling the forbidden fruit, or becoming a prey for the 
bogey. When one has the duty of avoiding a thing, it is 
well to know what the thing is which one must avoid ; but 
it is quite easy to know more than enough. All this 
intimate realisation of the hideousness of sin, this systematic 
cataloguing of its divisions and sub-divisions, with elaborate 
excursions along its divers ramifications, certainly inspires 
a loathing of the intensest kind. It also has another effect. 
It induces an exag-p-erated consciousness of virtue. When 
human nature knows, and is able to describe, with a wealth 
of detail ordinarily inaccessible, the horrible things which it 
does not do, it becomes " puffed up," in the words of St. Paul. 
This condition of " unctuous rectitude," inspired entirely by 

* Thefiorino d'oro, ducato d'oro, and scudo d'oro were coins worth about half 
a guinea, which, in the fifteenth century, had a purchasing value of £2 to 

£2 I OS. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

a horror of sin, is a proximate occasion of the sin of calumny. 
Roman CathoHc human nature, not unconscious of its own 
integrity, when confronted by an antipathetic personality, 
instantly conceives of the latter as a sinner. I am right — you 
disagree with me — therefore you are wrong — is the absurd 
syllogism or logical process which it uses. And, drawing 
upon its copious catalogues of sins, on the principle that he 
who offends in the least is guilty of all, Roman Catholic human 
nature will proceed to shew how exceedingly sinful it is 
possible for an enemy to be. The said enemy, or perhaps 
a mere opponent, incontinently finds himself accused of 
breaking the Ten Commandments of God, the various 
Precepts of the Church ; of committing the Seven Deadly 
Sins — Pride, Covetousness, Lust. Anger, Gluttony, Envy, 
Sloth ; the Six Sins against the Holy Ghost — Presumption 
of God's Mercy, Despair, Impugning the Known Truth, 
Envy at another's Spiritual Good, Obstinacy in Sin, Final 
Impenitence; the Four Sins Crying to Heaven for Vengeance 
— Wilful Murder, Sin of the Cities of the Plain, Oppression 
of the Poor, Defrauding Labourers of theirWages ; or, if he 
has not achieved the guilt of these in his proper person, at 
least he has been an accomplice of some other sinner, in the 
Nine Ways by which a Man may be Accessory to Another's 
Sin — i.e., by counsel, command, consent, provocation, by 
praise or flattery, by concealment, by partaking, by silence, 
by defence of the ill which is done. That is, (in the twentieth 
century when Catholics are ruled by a Press ostentatiously 
Fenian and Anglophobe, and was, in the fifteenth century 
when Catholics were also human, but not vulgar or sophisti- 
cated), the predicament of anybody, Pope or peasant, who 
incurs, or incurred, the disesteem of, or who makes, or made, 
himself unpleasant to a brother in the Faith. By hints, 
inferences, insinuations, ill-motives assigned, and a hundred 
ingenious methods, rarely by defined accusations, the sin of 
calumny is, and was, committed, absolutely and utterly 
because the calumniator so hates sin as to have no difficulty 
in persuading himself that the man who flouts him must be 
a sinner. For be it noted, that all the calumnies that 
bespatter the House of Borgia, all the " liability to disesteem," 
which through five centuries has been their portion, and has 


The Kindling of the Fire 

made their very name a synonym of Turpitude, all these 
have a Roman Catholic origin. Roman Catholics are the 
primal calumniators who have muddied, and do muddy, 
God's Vicegerents, the Lord Calixtus P.P. Ill, and His 
nephew the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, with every species 
of ordure, with ascriptions of every crime known to casuistry 
(the science of cases of conscience), including those which 
are unspeakable except in an appendix veiled in a learned 
language quo minus erubescainus. Bishop Vespasiano da 
Bisticci of Vicenza was a Roman Catholic ; Messer Stefano 
Infessura, Monsignor Hans Burchard, Messer Francesco 
Guicciardini, Bishop Paolo Giovio of Nocera, Messer 
Giangiovio Pontano, Sannazar "The Christian Vergil," 
Messer Benedetto Varchi — they were all Roman Catholics 
who inaugurated the campaign of calumny against the 
Supreme Pontiffs of the House of Borgia. In dealing with 
calumny, the difficulty is to obtain definite evidence of a 
definite charge which is intrinsically false and, at the same 
time, derogatory to the person against whom it is laid. 
This difficulty is one that continually confronts the investi- 
gator. Prelates, priests, princes, penmen, sometimes because 
they had a grievance, sometimes confessedly wilfully, 
sometimes by way of wanton babble, habitually launched 
against their enemies or superiors accusations of depravity 
the most loathsome, of crime the most odious. What 
they said by word of mouth cannot surely be known Until 
The Books Are Opened. What they wrote in pasquinades, 
in diaries, in official despatches, in official chronicles, or for 
the mere aesthetic pleasure of recording a salacious gibe in 
curial Tuscan or in golden Latin — these remain. A few 
of the more important icily will be discussed here. The 
student of history knows no more refreshing recreation than 
that of nailing liars, like vermin, to the wall. 

The statement of Bishop Vespasiano da Bisticci of 
Vicenza, quoted above, is a fair example of the less foetid 
species of calumny : it only amounts to an accusation of 
" philistinism." However, it at once may be described as 
being both stupid and improbable. With regard to the 
naif surprize, said to have been shown by the Lord Calixtus 
P.P. Ill, on seeing "so many excellent books," is it likely 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

that, as Bishop Alonso de Borja, Ambassador Plenipoten- 
tiary and Confidential Counsellor of the Majesty of Naples, 
he never had seen fine things before ? Is it likely that 
Cardinal Alonso de Borja, eleven years cardinal of the 
curia residing in the Court of Rome, had never seen splendid 
books before ? Of what kind then were the missals and 
pontificals which, as bishop, he would have used in his 
daily mass? Is it likely that Cardinal Alonso de Borja — 
one of the actual electors of the Lord Nicholas P.P. V, 
constantly at His side from beginning to end of His reign, if 
not assistant to, at least cognizant of. His every action — had 
never seen, had never touched, handled, tasted, those iden- 
tical five hundred books, bound in crimson velvet with clasps 
of silver, with which that august Pontiff enriched the 
Vatican library. The assumption is ridiculous, absurd. 

The calumny that the Lord Calixtus P.P. Ill gave 
books to the Bishop of Vich in the manner of a Vandal 
arose in this way. The Lord Cosimo de Monserrato, Bishop 
of Vich from 1460 to 1471, was ordered by His Holiness 
to compile a catalogue of the books in the Vatican library, 
on the sixteenth of April 1455, four days before His corona- 
tion. A copy of this catalogue was brought to Vich by this 
same Lord Cosimo on his appointment to the bishopric five 
years later. It was most likely made by one of the Vatican 
scribes,^ and it contains numerous marginal notes in the 
bishop's handwriting. From these notes, a precise list of 
the number of books actually given away by the Lord 
Calixtus P.P. Ill may be obtained. They were five — not 
"several hundred" — of no great value, and — duplicates. 
Two of these, a copy of the Epistles of St. Augustine, anno- 
tated by Nicholas of Lira, and a Book on the Truth of the 
Catholic Faith, were presented to the Pope's late patron, 
King Don Alonso de Aragona of Naples, the Two Sicilies, 
and Jerusalem. The note against them in the catalogue is 
S.D.N, dedit hunc domino regi A rag. (" Our Holy Lord 
gave this to the lord king of Aragon.") Now, if He only 
gave two books to His old friend and former employer 
who (as may be judged from the fact that he employed 

' The first printing press in Italy did not arrive till October 1465 a 
Subjaco in the Sabine Hills. 


The Kindling of the Fire 

the renowned Messeri Lorenzo Valla and Giangiovio 
Pontano as his secretaries) had a very pretty taste for 
letters, who was a reigning sovereign, and an extremely 
serviceable and powerful ally of the Holy See, is He likely 
to have o-iven "several hundred" to the Cardinal of 
Ruthenia and Catalan nobles ? Finally, the heathen Cardinal 
Platina, who wrote his History of the Popes in the reign of 
the Lord Xystus^ P.P. IV (the third in succession 
from the Lord Calixtus P.P. HI,) expressly mentions the 
magnificence of the library of the Lord Nicholas P.P. V, 
which, certainly, he could not have known if it had been 
destroyed in the manner described by the lying Bishop 
Vespasiano da Bisticci of Vicenza. 

One " philistine " act may be admitted on behalf of the 
Lord Calixtus P.P. HI. He sold the silver from the bind- 
inors of those books. He sacrificed them for the crusade 
in defence of Christendom. He also sold all the Vatican 
plate. He insisted that the salt-cellar of His Own table 
should be of earthenware, not gold ; and, indeed. He even 
offered His tiara in pledge for the same admirable object. 
He was blamed. 

The Lord Calixtus P. P. HI was by no means the enemy 
of letters. He made havoc among the decadents, the 
affected literary poseurs who infested the Borgian as well 
as the Victorian Era ; but He cherished genius, and to 
scholars of distinction He was a generous patron. The 
diverting case of Messer Lorenzo Valla will serve for 
an example. This notable, being one of the secretaries 
of King Don Alonso I, was well-known to the Holiness of 
the Pope. He was erudite beyond most of his contem- 
pories, of a daring temperament, and impatient of bad 
scholarship, falsehood, and superstition. In 1440 he indited 
a merciless exposure of the monstrous fiction now known as 
the Forged Decretals and Donation of Constantine, upon 

^ The first Pontiff of this name, fifth in succession from the Lord St. Peter 
P.P., is named in the Canon of the Mass as Xystus [Svaros, cf. Xanthus 
(Savdos)]. The same form Xystus occurs in the Kalendarium, and, in fact, in 
all officially issued liturgies ; and is adopted also in the authorised English 
version of the Liturgy. The word Sixxus does not appear to be a Latin word 
at all, and is not in Andrew's Latin-English Lexicon. It most likely is a 
debased corruption from Xystus, when Latin liquefied into the Italian Sisxo. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

which, in perfect good faith, the temporal dominions of the 
Papacy then were held. Also, he attacked the leaden Latin 
of the Vulgate, and lauded the Golden Latin of Vergil and 
Cicero, or the Silver Latin of Tacitus. The twentieth 
century — which knows the Latin of the Roman Mass to be 
the low Latin of Roman plebeians of the first five centuries, 
from the ao-e of the Lord St. Peter P.P. to that of His sue- 
cessor the Lord St. Gelasius P. P., Whose "Prayer for Peace" 
is the latest known addition to the canon — will not find 
Messer Lorenzo Valla to have been guilty of any very 
shocking crime herein. But the clergy of Naples considered 
him in the light of a menace to the Christian Palladium, 
and mentioned him to the Inquisition. When he was 
brought before them, the Inquisitors invited him formally to 
assent to a profession of faith, which was neither the 
Apostles' nor the Nicene Creed, nor the Creed of St. 
Athanasius, but one which they had drawn up to suit the 
fancied needs of his case. The situation was the historical 
parallel of one which sullied the dying years of the last 
century. Messer Lorenzo knew too much ; took an impish 
delight in saying what he knew ; he was a nuisance, a dis- 
turbing influence. To the proposition of the Inquisition he 
opposed a firm refusal ; he would not sign their specimen of 
a creed. The circumstances now were becoming strained. 
But the Inquisitors of the fifteenth century had more ser- 
pentine wisdom than those (3( the nineteenth. They did not 
proceed at once to an abrupt and tactless excommunication, 
exacerbating to all parties. They tried another line. 
Would Messer Lorenzo Valla have the courtesy, then, to 
propound his own creed, that his judges might examine 
whether it were heretical or no ? The reply of Messer 
Lorenzo was delicious. " I believe," he said, " I believe 
what Holy Mother Church believes. She knows nothing. 
But — I believe what she believes.'' Just at this stage the 
king sent a mandate to the Inquisitors of Naples, bidding 
them to leave his Majesty's secretary alone ; and the process 
ended here. But when the news of the case travelled to 
Rome, the Lord Nicholas P.P. V, admiring the wit and 
learning of Messer Lorenzo Valla, being amused, perhaps, 
at the way in which he had taken the wind out of the sail of 


The Kindling of the Fire 

the wily Inquisitors, invited the distinguished scholar to His 
Court, where He named him Apostolic scribe, with magnifi- 
cent appointments. On the death of that Pontiff, Messer 
Lorenzo's sometime colleague, the Lord Calixtus P.P. Ill 
made him Pontifical Secretary, and dignified him with 
several canonries including one at St. John i7t Laierano, the 
cathedral-church of Rome. So fifteenth-century tact and 
mental limberness made a friend, where nineteenth-century 
arrogant stupidity made a host of scornful foes. 

^ *\[, ^ 

•TV* "TV* "TV* 

The first year of the pontificate of the Lord Calixtus 
P.P. Ill was occupied by audiences granted to Orators 
offering the homage of the Powers, and by preparations for 
the Crusade. 

Germany deserved and enjoyed high consideration, 
because the ruler of Germany held the title of Romanorum 
Imperator Caesar Semper Augtistus Mundi Totms Dominus 
Universis Principibus et Populis Semper Venerandus ; 
and an understanding between Pope and Emperor, a friend- 
ship between Peter and Caesar, was desirable for the peace 
and prosperity of Christendom. This friendship, however, 
was subject to frequent breaches. Both Papacy and Empire 
were exceedingly tenacious of their dignity, willing to con- 
sider themselves aa-orieved, or their rigrhts in danger of 
encroachment. Each, in fact, was a power of dimensions 
so gigantic that intermittent paroxysms of megalomania 
were the order of the day. The violence of these attacks was 
allayed, from time to time, by cooling lotions in the shape 
of concessions. There had been a serious relapse not many 
years before, which temporarily had been retrieved by a treaty, 
known as the Concordat of the Lord Eug^enius P.P. IV. 

At the beginning of His reign, while waiting for the 
formal homage of The Pacific Caesar Friedrich IV, the 
Lord Calixtus P.P. Ill observed the terms of this Con- 
cordat. When the news of His election in April reached 
Germany, a Diet of the Empire was held at Neustadt to 
appoint Orators,^ and to consider the chances of squeezing 

1 The business of these Orators (ambassadors) was conducted more by 
means of florid eloquence than by the writing of despatches ; though, of course, 
the last was not neglected. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

fresh concessions, " Now is the time to vindicate our 
Hberty, for hitherto we have only been the handmaid of 
Holy Church," said Jacob of Trier ; and Caesar Friedrich IV 
privately grieved that the Papacy gave him little support in 
his difficulties with turbulent sub-sovereigns and subjects. 
The celebrated Lord Enea Silvio Bartolomeo de' Piccol- 
huomini, Bishop of Siena, poured oil upon the troubled 
waters of the Diet. He had lived many years in Germany, 
as poet-laureate, orator to Utter Britain^ (Scotland), novelist, 
historian, and confidential secretary to Caesar ; and he knew 
his Germany. He deservedly was trusted both by Church 
and State. He soothed Caesar, saying that the mob was 
always inconstant, dangerous, and that a ruler did a vain 
thing when he tried to please. He soothed the Diet, saying 
that the interests of Papacy and Empire were identical, 
and that from a new Pope new favours might be gained. 
The Diet named Bishop Enea Silvio, with the jurist Hans 
Hagenbach, as orators who were to offer to the Lord 
Calixtus P.P. Ill the obedience of the Holy Roman 
Empire, and to lay before Him the grievances of Caesar. 

The Lord Calixtus P.P. HI was more independent 
of Germany than His two predecessors had been ; and 
in a position to command, not compromise. The Lord 
Eugenius P.P. IV, being in need of temporal support, had 
purchased Germany's obedience by secret concessions and 
promises of money. The Lord Nicholas P.P. V was privy 
to these arrangements, and, feeling bound by them, had 
paid His share ; but there was a matter of twenty-five 
thousand ducats yet unpaid. The Lord Calixtus P.P. HI 
had taken no part in these negotiations. During His 
cardinalate. He had had ample opportunities of reckoning up 
Caesar Friedrich IV as a feeble, feckless old simpleton, 
devoid of moral backbone, whom no concessions ever could 
stiffen into any semblance of imperial capacity. The Pope's 
Holiness felt that He could do quite well without the 
Emperor's Augustitude. 

Therefore, when Caesar's Orators arrived in Rome, on 
the tenth of August 1455, and prayed for a private audience, 
(at which, as the custom was, they would try to squeeze the 

' " . . . horribilesque ultimosque Britannos." C. Valerius Catullus XI. 


The Kindling of the Fire 

Holy Father, making the proffer of their sovereign's 
homage dependent upon the Pope's willingness to oblige), 
the Lord Calixtus P.P. Ill refused to entertain requests 
until after the obedience of Germany should have been 

The Orators were confounded, so they said, by this 
demand ; but, as loyal sons of Holy Mother Church, 
(Bishop Enea Silvio was the spokesman), and that scandal 
might be avoided, they would give way. Before a public 
consistory of cardinals, they presented to the Pope the 
homage of Caesar, in an elaborate oration containing no 
mention of unpleasant topics, such as the imperial demands 
and the Concordat of the Lord Eugenius P.P. IV, but 
mainly consisting of a string of formal compliments to the 
Supreme Pontiff, and declamations against the Muslim 
Infidel. (Pii II. Orationes I, 336,) 

After this the Orators could not insist upon the Rights 
of Caesar. On his behalf, they might only approach the 
strenuous Pope as suppliants appealing to His clemency, as 
children begging a father's favour. They had cut the 
ground from under their own feet ; and, as Bishop Enea 
Silvio knew quite well, that was precisely what had been 
intended. The Lord Calixtus P.P. Ill disclaimed any 
obligation of paying His predecessor's debts, having other 
uses for five-and-twenty thousand ducats ; and the question 
of Caesar's rights to nominate to bishoprics, and to have a 
share of the tithe about to be raised for the Crusade, should 
be considered in due season, said the Pope to the Orators. 

.^L. >^ -M" 

TV* "1^ "Tr 

Meanwhile the Eternal City was engaged in making 
ready for war. Immediately after His coronation, the Lord 
Calixtus P.P. HI privately proclaimed the Crusade. In 
August, He made the same proclamation in public consistory, 
and read the following vow : " We, Calixtus the Pontiff, 
swear to God Almighty, the Holy and Undivided Trinity, 
that We relentlessly will follow the Turks, the enemies of 
the Name of Christ, with war, with maledictions, with 
interdicts, with execrations, and indeed with every means 
in Our power." (Ciacconi II., 981.) This oath in holo- 
graph, was constantly before the Pope's eyes during His 

33 c 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

pontificate, and was found hang-ing on the wall by His 
bedside as an ornament of His chamber when at length He 

The infirmities of ag^e chained the Pontiff to His room : 
recreation was to Him a thing unknown, for the business of 
the Crusade consumed His energies. His firm and unre- 
lenting will, set upon this single aim, would brook no 
control, no influence. He knew Himself to be the " Ruler 
of the World," and He shut His mouth down fast against all 
opposition. To the quarrelsome sovereigns of Christendom 
He envoyed ablegates charged to reconcile all differences, 
to urge the setting aside of private squabbles, of petty 
ambitions, in favour of the greater necessity, resistance to 
and annihilation of the Muslim Infidel. Through every 
Christian country He sent Apostolic Missionaries, curial 
bishops and prelates, friars and monks renowned for 
eloquence, to preach the sacred duty of fighting against the 
enemies of the Christian Faith. On every Christian country 
He imposed tax of a tithe to meet the cost of the Crusade. 
Archbishop St. Antonino of Florence nobly seconded His 
efforts, raising the standard of St. George's rose-red cross, 
and preaching like a new St. Bernard. The buildings, 
with which the preceding Pontiff had begun to adorn the 
city, were stopped, and the swarms of workmen dismissed. 
The revenues of the Papal States were applied to the 
construction of a fleet of swift galleys for the harrying of 
the Turk. Daily the Holy Father descended to St. Peter's 
with His Own hands to fix the cross on the breasts of recruits 
enlisting. The papal jewels were pawned, and their price 
added to the war-chest. The Pope's Holiness trusted much 
in Duke Philip of Burgundy : He tried to persuade the 
Magnanimous King Don Alonso de Aragona to take the 

In the east of Europe, the black cloud of the Muslim 
Infidel advanced continually. Skanderbeg, a chieftain of 
romantic past, renowned for military deeds, opposed them. 
The fame of his achievements is the one brightness in the 
holy war. His army, composed of divers races naturally 
antagonistic, only was welded together by the magic of 
success or of his personal influence. Such a bond is but a 


The Kindling of the Fire 

weak one. A cause, that rests upon a single man, will 
stand no strain. Presently his Albanians revolted, at a 
moment when the Infidel pressed him hard. Defeated, he 
withdrew to mountain fastnesses ; and sent couriers to 
Rome with an appeal for reinforcement. The Lord 
Calixtus P.P. Ill replied with money, wherewith Skander- 
beg bought the allegiance of his disaffected troops and 
retrieved his position. But on the heels of triumph came 
fresh disaster. To avenge some slight, his own nephew 
made cause against him, persuaded the Albanians to fresh 
revolt, and deserted with them to the Infidel. 

•^ -^ ^ 

•TV* TV* 'TV' 

In the nature of human things, every man, in every 
rank of life, must submit to some affliction of mind or body. 
Has any one ever troubled to inquire what may be the 
special affliction proper to the Pope .f* It is loneliness — 
utter loneliness — loneliness in a crowd. The Pope cannot 
have a friend ; for friendship postulates equality : and who 
is the equal of the Pope ? The cardinals who surround 
Him are of the faction that opposed His election, or of the 
faction that claims favour in return for support. He, Who 
sits upon the Throne of Peter, looks down from that pinnacle 
upon the peoples, the nations, and the tongues, in His heart 
knowing them to be enemies or suitors. What wonder 
then that, though His spirit indeed be willing. His humanity 
shall crave human sympathy ! 

This consideration is offered to explain the nepotism of 
the Popes of the Renascence. They surrounded Themselves 
with men of Their own families ; men bound to Them by 
ties of blood and kinship. Being generally of mature age 
themselves, They chose Their young relations ; and upon 
these They conferred the rank which qualified them to enter 
the inner circle of the curia. This action appears to have 
been dictated by the natural desire of human man for off- 
spring. Certainly a Pope can always create cardinals, who 
are to Him as spiritual sons ; but to create cardinals of 
those who already are of one's own family is a thing nearer, 
a more intimate relation. So the human heart of the 
Pope would become rejuvenate, would renew its strength, 
would gratify its natural longing for an entourage of 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

creatures in which it might place confidence and trust. 
For the cardinal-nephews, loathed by all other cardinals, 
owing everything to the Pope, would be bound to Him 
and to His interest as by chains of iron. The system is 
proved to be liable to abuse. That is the corollary of all 
human systems. It is indefensible ; but it is explicable ; 
and the foregoing is an attempt only in the direction of 

On the twentieth of February 1456, at the beginning of 
the second year of His reign, the Lord Calixtus P.P. HI 
proclaimed to a stormy consistory the creation of three 
cardinals, two being His Own nephews, and one the son of 
the heir to the crown of Portugal. Let it be remarked that 
He did nothing for His son, Don Francisco de Borja, 
now a charming and eligible young man of fifteen years. 

The Sacred College murmured and objected : but, in 
this matter the will of the Pope is law. The new creatures 
were : — 

(a) Don Luis Juan de Mila y Borja, of the age of 
twenty years, celebrated for vigorous physical beauty. 
He was son of Dofia Caterina de Borja (sister of the 
Pope's Holiness) by her husband Don Juan de Mila, Baron 
of Mazalanes. To him the Pontiff gave the scarlet hat, 
which He had relinquished on His election to the papacy, 
that of Cardinal-Presbyter of the Title of Santi Ouattro 

(|3) Don Rodrigo de Lan^ol y Borja, of the age of 
twenty-five years, distinguished by that marvellous Spanish 
courtliness and magnificence of person which was the theme 
of admiration until he died. He was son of Dona Juana 
de Borja, (sister of the Pope's Holiness,) by her husband 
Don Jofre de LanQol. To him the Pontiff gave the 
scarlet hat of Cardinal- Deacon of ban Niccolo in Car cere 

(-y) Don Jayme de Portugal, Archbishop of Lisbon and 
son of the Infante Don Pedro de Portugal. To him the 
Pontiff gave the scarlet hat of Cardinal- Deacon of Sant* 
Eustachio. There appear to have been reasons of state for 
the elevation of this young man ; and it was usual for the 
reigning Houses of Europe to have one of their junior 


The Kindling of the Fire 

scions in the Sacred College. The Cardinal of Portugal 
lived a retired and saint-like life, distinguished for his 
modesty and maiden purity. He died in 1459 at the age 
of five and twenty years ; and his tomb, by Messer Antonio 
Rossellino, in Samminiato al Monte at Florence, one of the 
most exquisite monuments of the Renascence, bears the 
touching epitaph : 

" Regia stirps Jacobus nomen Lusitana propago, 

" Insignis forma, summa pudicitia, 
" Cardineus titulus, morum nitor, optima vita, 

" Iste fuere mihi : mors iuuenem rapuit ; 

" Ne se poUueret, maluit iste mori. 

Bishop Enea Silvio Bartolomeo de' Piccolhuomini says 
of these creatures in his commentaries, " All are young, 
but of an excellent nature." The only concession that the 
Pope would make to the objecting cardinals, was the post- 
ponement of the ceremonial conferring of insignia until the 
ensuing September ; when many of the malcontents vented 
vain spleen by quitting Rome. 

'^ -7^ tP 

This was a year of strife. The peace of central Italy 
was disturbed by the bandit Niccolo Piccinino, a bastard of 
Visconti ; who, believing the country to be about to be 
denuded of armed men, saw an opportunity for self aggran- 
disement. He collected mercenaries, and marched against 
Siena, a small republic, very loyal to the Holy See, which, 
in this age of culture, had destroyed the lovely Aphrodite 
of Lusippos in its dread of paganism, and consecrated itself 
to Madonna under the title " Sena Ciuitas Virginis." 
Meeting the Papal and Milanese forces which were con- 
centrating for the Crusade, but quite ready for a little 
incidental fighting on the way, Piccinino withdrew to the 
mountains. King Don Alonso of the Regno, as usual, was 
playing a double part. It did not suit him to show con- 
spicuous friendship for the Pope's allies, lest the Lord 
Calixtus P.P. Ill should become independent. Stipula- 
tions were made favourable to Piccinino ; and, their appeal 
to Naples having failed, the Sienesi were forced into a 
disgraceful peace with the brigand. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Sultan Muhammed extended his conquests to Servia, and 
prepared to devour Hungary, launching one hundred and 
fifty thousand infidels against Belgrade. Fra Jan Capistran's 
eloquence and pious zeal roused the Magyars to conscious- 
ness of the imminent peril ; Cardinal Bernardino Caravajal, 
the ablegate, inspired their patriotism with his wisdom and 
devotion ; and Jan Hunniades, the Vaivod of Hungary, 
resolved to resist invasion. Confidence in princes was, as 
always, vain. The terror-stricken King Wladislaw fled 
with his court and his guardian. Count de Cilly, from Buda 
to Venice ; and along the valley of the Danube poured the 
locust-swarms of Infidels to invest Belgrade. The Vaivod 
Jan Hunniades raised an army at his own expense ; whence 
came the means, the men, is still unknown, for most im- 
portant documents connected with the siege of Belgrade yet 
attend discovery : but there was a Magyar army, com- 
manded by Jan Hunniades, ministered to by Fra Jan 
Capistran, which advanced to relieve Belgrade ; and the 
ablegate, Fra Bernardino Caravajal, remained behind at 
Buda, by the Vaivod's request, to collect and forward rein- 
forcements. On the fourteenth day of siege the Magyars 
collided with the Infidels. Already the walls of Belgrade 
sorely were shaken : but the arrival of the Vaivod, breaking 
the Muslim line and winning a complete victory, put courage 
into the hearts of the beleaguered. In three months time, 
once more the Muslim concentrated, and on the twenty-first 
of July the city suffered a second storm. Jan Hunniades 
and Fra Jan Capistran, from one of the towers, directed the 
defence. At a crisis in the fray, the heroic friar rushed, 
like a second Joshua, through the Christian host, waving 
the crucifix and a banner with the sacred monogram 
invented by San Bernardino of Siena. Behind him came 
the Vaivod with aid. Through breaches in the walls many 
times the Infidels streamed in, and always the stream was and driven back. Fra Jan Capistran himself led 
a squadron of Magyar huszars^ who put to flight the fierce 
janissaries of Islam. And, at last, the day was won ; and 
the air resounded with the Most Holy Name shouted by 

1 Huszar, derived by a roundabout route from Italian cossaro, corsair, 
reelance (v. Murray). 


The Kindling of the Fire 

victorious Crusaders, while Sultan Muhammed, wounded, 
was retreating in confusion with the remnant of his conquered 
army. Belgrade was relieved. 

When the news reached Rome, the Holiness of the 
Pope was lying sick, heart-worn, heart-sore, gazing from 
His window at the galleys building in shipwrights' yards on 
Ripa Grande. The relief of a beleaguered city, even as 
late as the last century when decorous indifference was the 
fashionable pose, used to cause deliriously human demons- 
trations. Men were quite as human in the fifteenth as in 
the nineteenth century, less compound, and much more 
simple. Belgrade was relieved, and there was joy in 

JA, Jf- Jt. 

•A- ^ ■t'F 

In May the Lord Ludovico Scarampi dell' Arena Mez- 
zarota. Archbishop of Florence, Patriarch of Aquileia, 
Ablegate to the Regno, Cardinal- Presbyter of tne Title of 
San Lorenzo in Damaso, was appointed Admira. of the 
Pontifical Fleet. Under the Lord Eugenius P.P. IV, as 
Commander-in-Chief of the Pontifical Army, he had used 
Rome at his will. Dismissed from office by the Lord 
Nicholas P.P. V, he had devoted himself to luxurious 
livinpf, and grained the nickname oi the Lord Liicullus. His 
haggard but voluptuous profile makes it probable that he 
deserved the name. Seeing the Lord Calixtus P. P. Ill to 
be an old and feeble man, who conceivably might afford him 
new preferment and a fresh field for his insatiable ambition, 
he had come to Rome to ofifer his service to the Holy 
Father. But the stalwart cardinal-nephews, the Lord 
Luis Juan de Mila y Borja, Cardinal-Presbyter of the Title 
of Santi Quattro Coronati, and the Lord Rodrigo de Lan9ol 
y Borja, Cardinal- Deacon of San Niccolo in Car cere Tul- 
liano, distrusted the professions of Cardinal Scarampi. 
Suspecting his bonafides, they mentioned their suspicions to 
their August Uncle, with the result that he was forbidden 
to approach the Vatican. Not to be beaten, Cardinal 
Scarampi discovered a fervent zeal for the Crusade. There 
could be no surer way into the Pope's favour. His Holiness 
considered that this prelate might devote his enormous 
fortune to the war-fund ; and He lost no time in receiving 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

him in audience, and naming him Pontifical Admiral. The 
Cardinal-Nephews urged the advisability of flying him with 
a string ; and therefore his authority was restricted. A 
man of his fashion and quality could have put in a fine 
dignified time ashore. But that would not have suited the 
Cardinal-Nephews ; and the Lord Calixtus P.P. Ill per- 
ceived no siorns of the unbucklin^ of the Cardinal-Admiral's 
pouches. So they gave him banquets, and his sailing- 
orders. A fleet of transports left the Tiber with five 
thousand troops aboard : but the Cardinal-Admiral stayed 
in Rome to assure the Pope's Holiness that these were 
insufficient for any practical purposes ; and that a fleet of 
thirty galleys was absolutely necessary. 

Then the strenuous Pontiff remembered that King Don 
Alonso had promised to provide Him with such a fleet ; and 
it gently and firmly was intimated to the Cardinal-Admiral 
that he might go to Naples and collect the same : if he failed 
to go, he had the alternative of facing a judicial inquiry into his 
doing's as g-eneralissimo under the Lord Eugrenius P.P. IV. 
Thereon the Cardinal-Admiral scoured away hot-foot for 
Naples ; where he found that King Don Alonso the Mag- 
nanimous had belied his promises, having sent the ships to 
settle a little private dispute in which his Majesty was 
engaged with the Republic of Genoa. This was bad news 
for the Pope : but it did not alter His determination by the 
breadth of a single hair. He was quite well-used to the 
vagaries and magnanimities of the King of Naples, whom 
He had known for more than forty years. He was equally 
well-resolved to use the services which the Cardinal-Admiral 
had volunteered. Men had thought Him to be a feeble old 
man who could be influenced with ease. They found out 
their mistake. We are accustomed to think of youth as 
fiery and headstrong : but what can bend the will of fiery 
headstrong age? His Holiness sent imperative commands 
to the Cardinal- Admiral that he must make the best of the 
ships in hand, and sail for the ^gean Sea, where at least 
he could help the Crusade by creating a diversion among 
the islands that the Infidels owned there. 

* * * 

Fresh troubles were at hand in Hungary. Round 


The Kindling of the Fire 

Belgrade, the putrefying carcases of the Muslim thousands 
envenomed the air. The rudiments of antiseptic sanitation 
were unknown. Those who have had to do with Boers, or 
Cubans, or Filipinos will know the unspeakable horror that 
this implies. Pest decimated the Christian army. Plague 
swept away the Magyar host, that Infidels in vain had tried 
to overcome. When they told him that his end was near, 
that Viaticum was approaching to be his strength on that 
dark road which man must tread alone, the noble Vaivod 
Jan Hunniades, said : " It is not fitting that our Lord should 
visit his servant " ; and, rising from his death-bed, he 
dragged himself to the nearest altar, where, after confession 
and communion, in the priest's hands he fell and yielded up 
his great and splendid soul, the eleventh of August 1456. On 
the twenty-third of October Fra Jan Capistrano also died. 

From Rome came the voice of the Pope strenuously 
appealing to the Powers. His ablegates preached in every 
country. The common people heard Him gladly, and 
responded to His call : but the nobles lent deaf ears. Upper 
Germany and Ntirnberg equipped battalions of crusaders, 
which were increased by contingents from England and 

In November the faineant young King Wladislaw 
returned to Hungary, and visited the field of Belgrade. 
Since the death of Jan Hunniades the Count de Cilly had 
made himself of supreme authority over his royal ward. 
Belgrade still was mourning the mighty Vaivod ; and the 
nobles under Wladislaw Corvinus, Hunniades's son, resenting 
the insolent assumptions and cowardice of De Cilly, slew 
him there. The young king concealed his wrath, and 
persuaded the sons of Jan Hunniades to follow him to Buda. 
All unsuspicious of that treachery of which cowards are 
capable they obeyed, and, on arrival in the capital, the 
Majesty of Hungary had them seized, and Wladislaw 
Corvinus Hunniades publicly beheaded as a traitor. 
Hungary was now in woeful plight. Deprived by axe and 
pest of those strong leaders who had merited her trust, her 
king a venomous child, her throne with no legitimate heir, 
she waited, in fear and trembling, to hear again the Infidel 
thundering at her gate. All discipline was at an end ; the 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Magyar huszars were disbanded, and returned to their 

^ ^ T*' 

In Germany, the question of the Magyar Succession 
was reofarded as confusion worse confounded ; and the 
Electors of the Empire considered the time a suitable one 
for reapplying the screw to feeble needy Caesar Fried- 
rich IV, their suzerain. 

They invited him to preside at a Diet at Niirnberg, 
on St. Andrew's Day, 1456 ; and, indeed, their conduct 
throughout was thoroughly Caledonian. Their ostensible 
object was the projection of a new crusade ; and they 
announced an intention of acting independently if Caesar 
should refuse to come. In reality they meant to pit Pope 
against Emperor, and Emperor against Pope ; so that, in 
the confusion, they might gratify their private ambitions 
by snatching concessions from one or other of those Powers. 
By pretending to desire a new crusade they would gain 
pontifical favour. By taking independent action they 
would arouse imperial ire. The Pope might be trusted 
to grant them what they called Ecclesiastical Reform in 
return for their alliance to His plans against the Infidel. 
Caesar mi^ht be trusted to concede extension of their 
political power, in return for their allegiance to him as 
suzerain. In either case they stood to win something. 

Caesar promptly forbade the assembling of the Diet at 
Niirnberg. His command was slighted ; the Diet sat, and 
was attended by a Papal Ablegate. Purely political dis- 
cussions ensued ; and the Diet adjourned before reaching 
any conclusion. Then the Elector Albrecht of Branden- 
berof found it worth his while to form a stronor Caesarian 
party ; and the Electors of the papal faction were left in a 
minority. The cry for Church Reform was raised. The 
Papacy was threatened with what it was supposed to dread 
more than a General Council — viz., a Pragmatic Sanction,^ 

1 Pragmatic Sanction, term of Byzantine origin, was applied to Imperial 
Edicts (To Upayfj-aTiKov) containing decrees issued as Fundamental Laws. 
The Decrees of the Council of Basilea were embodied in a Pragmatic Sanction 
by the Diet of Mainz, 1434 ; but at the Council of Vienna 1448 most of the 
advantages which it intended to secure for the Church in Germany were 


The Kindling of the Fire 

i.e., a definite assertion of Imperial Supremacy. The 
Electors kept their proceedings secret, and little news was 
allowed to reach Rome, where the curia was determined 
to resist in any case. 

The cry for Church Reform is a popular one. The 
expression of desire for the cultivation and consummation of 
the Christian Ideal invariably wins sympathy. It is, per- 
haps, a little unfortunate that the soi-disant reformers of 
the fifteenth century attached to the word Reform a baser 
meaning than that which it bears in the twentieth. 

Rome had her champion ready in the Lord Enea Silvio 
Bartolomeo de Piccolhuomini, Bishop of Siena, to whom 
she entrusted the task of her defence ; and that he might 
be well-armed with all authority, the Pope's Holiness created 
him Cardinal-Presbyter of the Title of Santa Sabina. " No 
cardinal ever entered the college with greater difficulty than 
I ; rust had so spread over the hinges {cardines, specimen 
of fifteenth-century pun) that the door could not turn and 
open. Calixtus used battering rams and every kind of 
instrument to force it," said the new Cardinal of Siena to 
the Lord Giovanni Castelleone, Bishop and Cardinal of 
Pavia. (Pii 11. Ep. 195) The Sacred College had not 
forgiven the Lord Calixtus P. P. Ill for the creation of the 
Cardinal-Nephews ; and its policy was to oppose God's 
Vicegerent and all His works. This new creature, too, was 
credited with liberal proclivities ; and the conservatism of 
the Italian cardinals was up in arms. The Cardinal of 
Siena had been so long a resident in Germany that he was 
looked upon as more a German than Italian, more of a 
friend to Caesar than to Peter. Above all, his transcendent 
talents and versatility were excessively distasteful to mere 

The adjourned Diet of Niirnberg resumed its session at 
Frankfort-on-the-Main. Here it became definitely hostile 
to Caesar ; and, by announcing its intention to resist the 
collection of tithe, to the Pope also. It committed the 
strategical error of uniting its two enemies by the bond of 
a single interest. The Lord Calixtus P.P. Ill instantly 
appealed to Caesar Friedrich IV on behalf of the Crusade ; 
and so ended the year of grace 1456. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Let it be conceded that Germany was aggrieved ; that 
there were engagements unfulfilled by Rome. What then ? 
Rome, and all the world, knew Germany's habit of cla- 
mouring for Reform, whenever she saw a chance of being 
paid for silence. Rome, and all the world, knew that these 
clamours only originated with insincere and venal prelates 
and Electors, who would become obsequiously dumb on a 
sop being thrown to their personal interests. 

The leader of the Electors was the Lord Hans of 
Baden, Prince Archbishop of Mainz. His chancellor, 
Martin Mayr, in writing congratulations to the Cardinal of 
Siena on his elevation, took occasion to be very bellicose 
about Papal treatment of Germany. " His Holiness ob- 
serves neither the decrees of the Council of Constance, nor 
of Basilea, nor the agreements of His predecessors, but sets 
the German nation at naught," he said. "Our elections of 
bishops arbitrarily are annulled. Reservations are made in 
favour of cardinals and papal secretaries. You yourself 
have a general reservation of benefices in the provinces of 
Mainz, Trier, and Koln, to the value of two thousand 
ducats per annum — an unprecedented and unheard-of grant. 
Annates rigorously are exacted, grants of expectancies 
habitually are given, and his Holiness is not content with 
His due. Bishoprics are not given to the most worthy, but 
to the highest bidder. Fresh tithes are imposed without 
the consent of our bishops, and are paid to the Pope. In 
every way Germany, once so glorious, is used as a hand- 
maid. For years she has groaned in slavery. Now her 
nobles think that the time has come to make her free." 

This letter reads like a genuine cry of distress. The 
Cardinal of Siena was an adept at dealing with such 
dishonesty as this, which would deceive one less expert. 
He could read between the lines ; and he knew this 
Chancellor Mayr. He began by asserting Papal Supre- 
macy, and rejecting the decrees of the schismatic Council 
of Basilea. He agreed that the Concordat of the Lord 
Euorenius P.P. IV should be observed. He said that the 
Lord Calixtus P.P. Ill was willing to redress grievances, 
if the Electors would send envoys to lay them before Him 
in proper form. So far, nothing could be more satisfac- 


The Kindling of the Fire 

tory ; and then the Cardinal of Siena got to work. Papal 
interference with elections, he said, was purely judicial 
intervention, due to the ambition and greed of claimants, 
not to papal rapacity. If any payments had been made by 
would-be bishops to bribe officials ot the curia, the said 
would-be bishops justly could not blame His Holiness, but 
their own ambition, which would do anything for its own 
aggrandisement. Men were not more angelic in Rome 
than in Germany : when money was offered they naturally 
took it. But the Holy Father must not be blamed for 
that. He wished to stop the extortions of his officials. He 
Himself received nothing but His due. Every one thinks it 
a grievance to part with money, and will think so always. 
Bohemia made the same complaint against Germany as 
Germany made against Rome, that money was drained from 
the land : yet Germany, owing to her connection with the 
papacy, steadily had grown in wealth and importance, and 
was richer now than at any previous time, despite of her 
complaints. To descend to personal matters, the Cardinal 
of Siena thought it very hard that Chancellor Mayr should 
object to the provisions which had been made in his 
favour. As poet-laureate of the Empire and orator of 
Caesar he had lived and laboured in Germany so long, that 
he now found it hard to be classed as a stranger. In con- 
clusion, he thanked the Chancellor for his personal offer of 
help to realise the said pi^ovisions ; and would be glad to know 
of any eligible benefices ivhich should fall vacant. 

The stingr was in the tail of this letter. It is evident 
that, while Martin Mayr was writing for publication his 
precious list of grievances, he also was sending to the 
cardinal in private a second letter offering his own services 
as rent-collector. In theory, he pretended to treat his con- 
nection with the Lord Enea Silvio as having no existence. 
In practice, he was very anxious to be employed as agent 
on commission. To such a venal Janus only one reply was 
possible ; and the Cardinal of Siena exposed the worthless 
insincerity of Germany's spokesman by answering his private 
and his public letters together on the same sheet. 

This device, as was intended, provoked a proposition 
from Chancellor Mayr's superior, the Prince Archbishop of 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Mainz ; who sent his secretary to Rome on the tenth of 
September, 1456, with plenary powers to negotiate with 
the Cardinal of Siena towards an alliance with the Pope 
against the Electors. This renegade prelate's terms were, 
that he was prepared to desert the German party of reform, 
if he were conceded the right of confirming episcopal 
elections throughout Germany as the price of his treachery ; 
a right which would enable him to tax candidates for 
bishoprics at his will. 

The Cardinal of Siena lashed the Prince Archbishop 
with courteous but stinging pen. He rejoiced to hear that 
his Hieh Mightiness no lono-er cared to be allied with those 
malignants who attacked the Holy Father ; but regretted 
that he should ask for that which was a right inherent in 
the Papacy, and which none of his predecessors had en- 
joyed. No bribe, no secret understanding, was necessary 
between God's Vicegerent and His subjects. All were 
bound to obey. He was sure that the modesty of the 
Archbishop had been misrepresented by this improper re- 
quest, which he, for his part, could not dare to lay before a 
Pope so blameless and so upright as was the Lord Calixtus. 
(Pii 11. Ep. 338) 

Now that the venal nature of the cry for reform had been 
made clear to all the world, the Cardinal of Siena wrote 
eloquently and reasonably to Caesar Friedrich IV, to the 
King of Hungary, to the Princes and Prelates of Germany, 
pointing out the futility of quarrelling with the Pope, from 
Whom they derived so many benefits. (Pii H. Ep. 320, 
344, 349.) He also expanded his letter to the discomfited 
Chancellor Martin Mayr into a pamphlet called De ritu, 
sitUy conditione, et inoribus Germaniae, in which he shewed 
that Germany had received from Rome far more than she 
ever had given. His wise and irrefragable reasoning, with 
the diplomatic skill of the papal envoy Lorenzo Rovarella, 
made Germany pause. To pause was to weaken. Then 
came the death of King Wladislaw of Hungary on the eve 
of his marriage with Madame Marguerite de France. His 
dominions in Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, were claimed by 
several pretenders. The German Powers became intensely 
interested. Their attention was diverted from their at- 


The Kindling of the Fire 

tempts to blackmail Christ's Vicar. And so the end of 
the Lord Calixtus P. P. Ill was attained ; the crisis was 
averted without issue of a Pragmatic Sanction. 

^ tP ^ 

Meanwhile the Cardinal Admiral was in the y^gean. 
Being neither hero nor enthusiast he merely cruised from 
place to place, making a show of activity, capturing a few 
unimportant islands from the Muslim Infidel, relieving the 
necessities of the Knights of Rhodes. His sole object was 
to avoid that judicial inquiry with which the Cardinal- 
Nephews had threatened him ; and hence he showed him- 
self as but a perfunctory crusader. In fact, his influence was 
bad ; for by giving the ^gean islanders the notion that 
Rome was their defender, he lulled them into false security 
and destroyed their self-reliance. 

The plight of Eastern Christendom became more hope- 
less. Only the Holiness of the Pope, of all the Western 
powers, took any practical measures. France promised, 
but failed to keep her word, and would not pay the tithe. 
The Duke of Burgundy collected the tithe, and kept it. 
Norway, Denmark, and Portugal sat still. The Duke of 
Milan and the Republic of Venice disregarded the Pope's 
entreaties. The Signoria of Florence refused to help Him. 
A few of the Italian barons, tyrants of petty fiefs, provided 
him with money and men. The Republic of Genoa was 
loyal ; and, in return, the strenuous Lord Calixtus P.P. HI 
protected Genoese colonies on the Black Sea littoral, and 
conferred honours on her nobles. The dark outlook 
momentarily was lightened by a victory over the Muslim 
fleet, in which five and twenty galleys became a Christian 
spoil. It must be recorded that it was solely the determin- 
ation, foresight, and energy, with which the aged Pontiff" in 
Rome personally directed naval movements, which inspired 
His sailors to achieve this triumph. Had the Cardinal- 
Admiral Scarampi been endowed with the plenary authority 
which he had desired, very much less enterprising and 
successful would have been the policy of the papal fleet. 

There can be no doubt but that German captiousness 
prevented the accomplishment of the Pope's designs for 
the protection of the Oriental Christians. Skanderbeg had 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

but a handful of huszars wherewith to oppose the Muslim 
Infidel. And there was no encouragement for him ; for the 
apathy of Caesar and the Powers prevented him from 
following up his victories. The King of Naples was as a 
thorn in the Pope's eye. He had hoped for better things 
of His old patron who had brought Him to Italy ; and He 
was bitterly enraged by King Don Alonso's treachery in 
sending the fleet, which, though constructed in the port of 
Naples, had been paid for with papal gold, to carry on a 
private quarrel with a Christian Power, the Republic of 
Genoa, at the very moment when Christendom was in the 
direst peril from, the Infidel. 

The forbearance of the Lord Calixtus P.P. Ill ended 
there, as far as Naples was concerned. Henceforward He 
relentlessly opposed the policy of King Don Alonso, 
especially his scheme for an alliance with Milan by which 
he hoped to make doubly sure the succession of the Bastard 
Ferrando, whose legitimation had been recognised by two 
preceding Pontiffs. 

At the beginning of 1458, Gyorgy Podiebrad renounced 
the Hussite heresy on his election to the throne of Bohemia. 
King Gyorgy made no difhculty about swearing allegiance 
to the Holy See ; and he also promised to take the cross of 
the Crusade. Considering that his dominions immediately 
were menaced by the Infidel, his policy would appear to 
have been dictated by reasons of state rather than by 
religious zeal. 

The Holiness of the Pope was consoled by this ac- 
cession to the thinned ranks of His allies. He hoped that 
the example of King Gyorgy would be of good effect to the 
Bohemian heretics ; for spiritual matters are not un- 
interesting to a Roman Pontiff. It seemed that the occasion 
might be used to bring the powers into line ; and He sum- 
moned a congress to meet in Rome, whose object was the 
Unity of Christendom. Pious men have pursued that 
object ever since — the religious unity. In the days of the 
Lord Calixtus P.P. HI, political unity was the aim desired, 
and striven-for again, in vain. 

^ * * 

After the Crusade, the work nearest to the Pope's heart 

The Kindling of the Fire 

was the promotion of His nephews' interests. Why He 
should never have done anything for His own most charming- 
son remains a historical mystery. The elevation to the 
cardinalate of Don Luis Juan de Mila y Borja, and of Don 
Rodrigo de Langol y Borja, already has been recorded. 
There was a younger brother of Cardinal Rodrigo, younger 
by a year and a half, Don Pedro Luis de Lan^ol y Borja, 
a gorgeously beautiful sneak and coward, to whom the 
Pope extended the envious admiration that feeble age must 
feel for youth and strength ; and for whom nothing had 
been done. The Lord Calixtus P.P. HI, though quite 
independent of the good opinion of the Sacred College, 
did not cause a second storm by raising this young man, 
also, to the purple. He himself preferred a secular career ; 
and it was thought that the hot blood of Borja suited him 
to cut a military figure. On that account, his Uncle, in the 
capacity of an Italian despot, named him Duke of Spoleto, 
Gonfaloniere of the Holy Roman Church, Castellan of all 
pontifical fortresses, and Governor of the cities of Terni, 
Narni, Todi, Rieti, Orvieto, Spoleto, Foligno, Nocera, 
Assisi, Amelia, Civita Castellana, Nepi, and of the 
Patrimony of St. Peter in Tuscany, — an extravagance of 
generosity which is justifiable solely on the score of good- 
will towards His family, which, after long years, an octo- 
genarian was able to put into effect. Of course there arose 
the usual uproar of protest from the Sacred College, led by 
the Lord Domenico Capranica, Cardinal- Presbyter of the 
Title of Santa Croce in Geriisalemme ; and something akin 
to a riot among the citizens of Rome, who always hated 
foreigners, and especially Catalans. For the idea had got 
abroad in Spain that in Rome preferment awaited 
Spaniards, and thither they flocked to receive the good 
gifts which, they imagined, a Spanish Pope would have in 
store. Rome was furious at this immigration ; but Borja 
made overtures of friendship to Colonna, and treated the 
Romans to a display of Spanish arrogance. As for the 
strenuous Lord Calixtus P.P. HI, He announced His 
defiance of public opinion by installing Don Pedro Luis de 
Lan9ol y Borja in the Prefecture of the City, an act which 
involved the surrender into Borja hands of the Mola of 

49 D 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Hadrian, or Castle of Santangelo, the impregnable fortress 
on Tiber which dominates Rome. Don Pedro Luis was 
looked upon by Orsini as a mortal foe, on account of his 
displacing Don Giovantonio Orsini in this Prefecture. 
Thus the inimical relations of Borja with Orsini very 
naturally qualified them for an alliance with Colonna, in a 
simple age when a man's friends were his friend's friends, 
and his enemies his friend's enemies ; and Colonna was the 
most powerful house in Rome. A nursery ditty of the 
period will show in what esteem Colonna was held : 

" Che possa avere cinque figli maschi, 
" E tutti quanti di Casa Colonna, 
" Uno Papa, Taltro cardinale, 
" Ed uno arcivescovo di Colonia, 
" Ed uno possa aver tanta possanza 

" Da levar la corona al re di Franza 
" E I'altro possa aver tanto valore 

" Da levar la corona all' imperatore. 

So, for a brief space, the Eternal City became absolutely 
an appanage of the House of Borja. Catalans pervaded 
the streets, engaged in robbery and murder. The intimi- 
dated Conservators (equivalent to a modern municipal 
council) servilely thanked the Pope for the appointment of 
His nephew, and even suggested that Don Pedro Luis 
should be made King of Rome. 

# # * 

On the twenty-seventh of June 1458 died King Don 
de Alonso Aragona, The Magnanimous, of Naples, the Two 
Sicilies, and Jerusalem. The Lord Calixtus P. P. HI at once 
refused to acknowledge His quondam pupil, the Bastard 
Ferrando, as successor ; and impetuously threatened to 
plunge Italy into war, by declaring on His Own account a 
claim to the Regno as a fief of the Holy See. 

A favourite policy of ecclesiastical persons of all ranks, 
and in all ages, appears correctly to be summarised by 
Patrizzi in this formula : — Advance pretensions and pre- 
sently they will become realities. The Pope's Holiness 
desired to benefit Don Pedro Luis. If His claim, as suzerain 
of the Regno, could be substantiated, then He would be able 


The Kindling of the Fire 

to crown Don Pedro Luis as its King. It was an extensive 
and important domain, including the whole of Southern 
Italy, the Abruzzi, Apulia, and Calabria, with the Three- 
Tongued^ Island of Sicily. From a commercial standpoint^ 
the Pope's action was distinctly smart and businesslike. 
And there was this further consideration : — Supposing that 
the Bastard Ferrando were strong enough to make resis- 
tance, at least some part of the Regno would have to be 
sacrificed as a concession for the sake of peace ; and so a 
fief could be created for Don Pedro Luis, who, in any case, 
stood to win. Failing the Regno, it was the Pope's inten- 
tion strenuously to press the reconquest of Constantinople, 
and to crown His nephew King of Cyprus and Emperor of 
Byzantium. As an earnest of His good- will He lost no time 
in naming him Lieutenant of Benevento and Tarracina 
within the Neapolitan boundary, confirming him in this 
post by Brief of the thirty-first of July 1458. 

In Rome indignation knew no bounds. It was plain 
that these strong young men, the pontifical nephews, were, 
after the Crusade, all-powerful with the Ruler of the World. 
The city seethed with jealousy and revolt, attacking any- 
thing in the shape of a Catalan on sight. Spaniards, rash 
enough to show themselves in the streets, courted assassina- 
tion. As for the Pope, age and mortal sickness seemed to 
fan the flame, to white heat, of His inflexible imperious 
will. The Cardinal of Santa Croce m Gerusalemme was 
banished to distant embassages, and threatened with im- 
prisonment if he again broke silence, on account of the 
protest which he made. The Apostolic Prothonotary, Fra 
Bernadino Caravajal was sent to Germany. The Cardinal- 
Admiral Scarampi was kept at sea. Cardinal Latino 
Orsini and his faction fled into exile. Only four of the 
Most Illustrious preserved their loyalty to the Pope and 
the Cardinal- Nephews ; these were : — The Roman Lord 
Prospero Colonna, Cardinal- Deacon of San Giorgio in 
Velum Aureum ; the Venetian Lord Pietro Barbo, 
Cardinal- Deacon of Santa Maria Nuova ; the French Lord 
Guillaume d'Estouteville, Cardinal- Bishop of Porto ; and 
the Sienese Lord Enea Silvio Bartolomeo de' Piccolhuomini, 

1 Sikelian— Greek — Latin. 

chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Cardinal- Presbyter of the Title of Santa Sabina. Profiting 
by the temporary absence of opposition, the Holiness of 
the Pope gave the Bishopric of Lerida to His nephew, 
Cardinal Luis Juan of Santi Quattro Coronati ; and to 
Cardinal Rodrigo of San Niccolo m Carcere Tulliano he 
gave the Vicechancellorship of the Holy Roman Church. 

At last, the Bastard of Naples decided on his course of 
action ; and summoned the Neapolitan nobles, demanding 
their acceptance of him as their king. He made no claim 
upon the kingdoms of Aragon, Valencia, and Catalonia, in 
Spain ; nor upon Sardinia, the Balearic Islands, and Sicily, 
which King Don Alonso had left by will to his own brother. 
King Don Juan of Navarre : but for the crown of Naples 
and the Sovereignty of the Order of the Stola, which his 
father had founded, he was prepared to fight. Further, in 
defence of his right, he appealed from the Pope to a General 
Council — a stupid enough proceeding, but one of the 
customs peculiar to aggrieved personages of the Borgian 
Era. Incidentally, it may be mentioned that the Lord 
Calixtus P.P. Ill, was not the only disputant of Don 
Ferrando's claim. Even supposing that the right of King 
Rene of Anjou were set aside, he had a third rival in the 
shape of his cousin Don Carlos of Biana, son of King Don 
Juan of Navarre. 

The Pope knew well that, though He might disturb the 
peace of Italy, He, single-handed, could not hope to triumph 
in a war with Naples ; and He, therefore, tried to win over 
Don Francesco Sforza-Visconti, Duke of Milan, who, 
after the Cardinal of Siena, was the greatest and most far- 
seeinof statesman of his time. Duke Francesco answered 
shortly and sharply, that the Neapolitan Succession had 
been settled by the Lord Nicholas P.P. V to the satisfac- 
tion of all Italian princes, and that he intended to fight for 
King Don Ferrando I. sooner than see his country 
devastated by civil war. 

This last bitter disappointment caused the collapse of 
the Pope's health. With the summer heat plague appeared 
in Rome. The Lord Calixtus P.P. Ill lay in the throes 
of fever ; and Orsini took up arms against all Catalans in 
open war. Of the Pontifical Nephews the layman showed 


The Kindling of the Fire 

the white feather ; the stalwart cardinals were staunch. 
Don Pedro Luis de Langol y Borja, as Prefect of Rome, 
sold the Molaof Hadrian to the Sacred College for two and 
twenty thousand ducats ; and fled from the city, escorted by 
his Catalans. The Cardinal of Venice helped him to a 
boat on Tiber, by which means, owing to the darkness of 
the night, he reached Civita Vecchia in safety, having 
avoided Orsini who watched for him at the gates of Rome. 
On the 26th of September, says Lo Spondano, suddenly he 

^ •7'? tP 

One of the claims of the church is that of a Divine 
Promise of Her Maintenance until the end of the world. It 
is interesting to the student of history to notice that, from 
time to time. Her responsible authorities comport themselves 
as though they had no faith in the validity of that predic- 
tion. They seem to think that its fulfilment solely depends 
upon their own exertions. The strange conviction of the 
necessity of his present existence, which is innate in the 
ordinary man, is perhaps the explanation of the extra- 
ordinary expenditure of energy to avert death, to invalidate 
the most fervent and frequent professions of belief in The 
Life Of The World To Come, to consolidate human institu- 
tions and human plans, which obtains on such occasions 
as the close of a prelacy or the end of a pontificate. If 
it be true that actions speak louder than words, then 
the confusion attendant on a Pope's death must tell a sorry 

On the sixth of August 1458 the Lord Calixtus P.P. Ill 
lay dying in the Vatican. Rome was in a turmoil. 
Colonna and Orsini were sharpening their swords. The 
banished cardinals were hurrying back for the ensuing 
Conclave. The four loyal cardinals were fortified in their 
palaces. Only the Cardinal- Nephews attended at the Pope's 

The curious privilege which was accorded to these last, 
at this period, could not be exercised in the present case. 
By the very conditions of their juniority in the Sacred 
College, added to the powerful influence which they were 
supposed to hold over the reigning Pontiff, the Cardinal- 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Nephews were the objects of intense dislike (to put it mildly) 
on the part of their colleagues. Their elevation was an 
offence ; their enrichment, a matter for envy ; their indiffer- 
ence to opinion, a matter for positive hatred. The only 
consolation to the other cardinals, creatures of previous 
Pontiffs, which their situation held, was that it must end 
with the demise of their creator. When their Pontifical 
Uncle ceased to live in this world, the Cardinal-Nephews 
sank at once to their proper place in the Sacred College. 
Under these circumstances, the said Cardinal-Nephews were 
used to make their hay while yet the sun was shining, to 
avail themselves of their opportunities for securing a 
satisfactory future, as junior cardinals, by the acquisition of 
property, real estate, benefices, jewels, or money, at the 
pleasure of the Pope. And when their time was drawing 
near its close, when their August Uncle was entering His last 
agony, it was the custom for the Cardinal- Nephews to 
plunder the apostolic palace of any valuables which already 
had not passed into their hands. This privilege was their 
last chance ; for, at the instant of the Pontiffs death, the 
Cardinal-Chamberlain assumes possession as representative 
of the curia ; and, in an age when self-aggrandisement was 
not less a ruling passion than at the present hour, the prac- 
tice was at least connived at, on the principle that every 
dog should be allowed to have its day. 

But, on the present occasion, there was no plundering 
by the Cardinal- Nephews. The fury of the Romans 
against all Spaniards made it expedient for them to avoid 
the risk of a journey across the City, to their palaces, 
encumbered by the mules which bore their spoils. This 
would seem to be the human explanation of their presence 
in the Vatican, while the Orsini faction made havoc of the 
Catalans, and despoiled all who bore arms in the Borgo or 
pontifical Region of Rome. 

* * * 

The learned Dr. Creighton has well said that men of 
decided opinions and eminent ability who come to their 
power late in life, spend the accumulated passion of a life- 
time in the accomplishment of long cherished desires. The 
Lord Calixtus P.P. Ill would come into that category. 


The Kindling of the Fire 

Though He was unenthusiastic regarding the Renascence 
of Letters and the Arts, and checked the tremendous 
schemes of His predecessor, yet He was by no means 
inattentive to the duties involved by His position. He 
restored the palace and church of Santi Ouattro Coronati, 
because He had occupied them during His cardinalate. He 
improved the church of San Sebastiano extra muros 
above the Catacomb of San Calixto, in honour of the 
saint from whom He took His papal name. He repaired 
the church of Santa Prisca, and began the new roof 
of the Liberian Basilica on the Esquiline. He employed 
the painters, who did not leave Rome on His election, in 
painting banners for the Crusade. The Vatican school 
of arras- weavers, founded by the Lord Nicholas P.P. V, 
was continued, and flourished exceedingly under His 
benevolence. He created nine cardinals in the course 
of His short pontificate. The Porporati of the Consistory 
of the twentieth of February 1456 were named on p. 36. At 
the Consistory at Christmas the same year, He elevated to 
the purple : — 

(a) The Lord Rainaldo Pisciscello, the virtuous and 
learned Archbishop of Naples, as Cardinal- Presbyter 
of the Title of Santa Cecilia : 

(/3) Don Juan de Mella, brother of the celebrated 
Franciscan Frat' Alonso de Mella, and a noble 
of Spain, Auditor of the Ruota to the Lord 
Martin P.P. HI, as Cardinal-Presbyter of the Title 
of Sant' Aquila e Santa Prisca : 

(7) The Lord Giovanni Castelleone, patrician of Milan, 
Legate to Caesar Friedrich IV, and Bishop of 
Pavia, as Cardinal- Presbyter of the Title of San 
Clemente : 

(S) The Lord Giacomo di Collescipoli Teobaldi, a 
Roman citizen, as Cardinal-Presbyter of the Title 
of Santa Anastasia :^ 

^ Note his epitaph in the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, recorded 
by Ciacconi. 

" Cardineo Divus Honore Decoravit Calixtus." 

Obviously the fifteenth century used " Divus " as Tacitus also used it of 
Julius and Augustus; and as the twentieth century would say "the late ." 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

(f) The Lord Richart de Longueil Olivier, Bishop of 
Constance, Archpriest of the Vatican BasiHca, one 
of the judges at the Rehabilitation of Madame 
Jehanne de Lis, the Maid of Orleans, as Cardinal- 
Presbyter of the Title of Sant' Eusebio : 

(^) The Lord Enea Silvio Bartolomeode' Piccolhuomini, 
as Cardinal- Presbyter of the Title of Santa Sa.bina. 

The Lord Calixtus P.P. Ill has no share in the evil 
reputation which has been cast upon His House. The worst 
that has been said of Him is, that He was obstinate, irritable, 
and inspired no affection. They were disappointed suitors 
who so spoke. The Pope's Holiness used Himself ever 
gently to the poor and needy, who found in Him a good 
Samaritan. His benefactions to the hospital of Santo 
Spirito have been recorded. In His will He left five 
thousand ducats to found a hospital in His cardinalitial 
palace of Santo Quattro Coronati. His private life was 
one of rigid piety, simplest habits, apostolic fervour. He 
left one hundred and fifty thousand ducats in the Pontifical 
Treasury, which He had collected for the Holy War. 

But the whole force of His resourceful and masterful 
character was concentrated upon the Crusade, and the 
settlement in life of His beloved nephews. On those two 
points He would brook no opposition. With the violent 
impetuosity of age, of Spanish blood, He was inflexible, 
overbearing, inconsiderate, on all matters connected with 
these projects. All the ardour, and all the zeal, which He 
devoted to the delivery of Christendom from the Muslim 
Infidel, was doomed to fail. The Muslim Infidel defiles 
Constantinople now. But His dealings with His nephews 
produced more permanent results. 

Yet " it must always be an honour to the Papacy that, 
in a great crisis of European affairs, it asserted the import- 
ance of a policy which was for the interest of Europe as a 
whole. Calixtus and his successor^ deserve, as statesmen, 
credit which can be given to no other politicians of the 
time. The Papacy, by summoning Christendom to defend 
the limits of Christian civilisation against the assaults of 

1 The Lord Pius P.P. II (Enea Silvio). 

The Kindling of the Fire 

heathenism, was worthily discharging the chief secular duty 
of the office." (Creighton.) 

The Lord Calixtus P. P. Ill died on the sixth of August 
1458, in the fourth year of His reign ; and was buried by 
four priests in the crypt of the old Basilica of St. Peter-by- 
the- Vatican. 



It has been said that the junior branch of the House of 
Borja (which originated in Don Ricardo de Borja, second 
son of Don Pedro, Count of Aybar, Lord of Borja, who died 
in 1 152), emigrated to the kingdom of Naples, where it 
became naturaHsed, and softened its name into the ItaHan 
Borgia. From Don Fortunio, the son of the aforesaid Don 
Ricardo, descends Don Rodrigo who had two sons : — 

(a) Don Romano Borgia, Monk of Vail' Ombrosa and 

Bishop of Venafri, A.D. 1300. (Ricchi.) 

(/3) Don Ximenes Borgia, Captain in the Army of 

Naples, whose son, Don Antonio Borgia, married 

Madonna Girolama Ruffola of Naples, and had 

issue : — 

(a) Don Niccolo Borgia, familiar of King Don 

Alonso I, The Magnanimous, Regent of Velletri 

141 7, married the Noble Madonna Giovanna 

Lamberti of Naples, and had issue 

(/3) Don Girolamo Borgia, (detto Seniore) 

Reverting to the Senior Branch : — 

The career of Don Francisco de Borja, bastard of 
Bishop Alonso de Borja of Valencia (afterwards the Lord 
Calixtus P.P. Ill), is an unsolved mystery from his birth 
in 1441 until 1497 

Of the five children of Dona Juana de Borja by her 
husband Don Jofre de Lan^ol : — 

(a) Dona Francisca married Don Ximenez Perez de 

Arenas ; 
(/3) Dona Tecla married Don Vitale de Villanueva ; 


The Kindling of the Fire 

(7) Dona Juana married her cousin Don Guillelmo de 
Lan9ol, and had issue : — 

Pedro Luis (Pierludovico) 

Juan (Giovanni seniore) 

(g) Don Rodrigo, Vicechancellor-Cardinal- Deacon of 

San Niccolo in Carcere Tulliano . . . 

(t) Don Pedro Luis, Duke of Spoleto, Castellan of 
Santangelo, Prefect of Rome, died on the twenty- 
sixth of September 1458, leaving two bastards : — 

Juan (Giovanni giuniore) 

Silvia, married Don Alonso Gomiel. 

Of the two children of Dofia Caterina de Borja by her 
husband Don Juan de Mila, Baron of Mazalanes : — 

(a) Don Luis Juan, Cardinal- Presbyter of Santi Quattro 
Coronati, Bishop of Lerida, retired to his diocese 
on the death of his August Uncle and Creator, and 
lived there secluded till his death in 1507. (The 
career and character of this prince of the church, 
cardinal at twenty, bishop at twenty-three, and 
during those three years living in the very arcana 
of the pontifical court ; who then thought fit to 
bury himself in a remote university city during half 
a century, while his nearest kin were ruling Europe 
and Christendom, awaits, and should repay, in- 

/3 Dofia Adriana came to Italy, married Don Luigi 
Orsini, and had issue Don Orso Orsini 

'tP ^ ^ 

The chief personage of the House of Borja, on the death 
of the Lord Calixtus P.P. Ill, was Cardinal Rodrigo, of 
the age of twenty-seven years. 

His position was a precarious one ; and it is perfectly 
amazing that he was not forced to follow his cousin, the 
Cardinal de Mila, into permanent retirement. That he was 
able, not only to remain in Rome but to carve out for him- 
self a unique career there, undoubtedly is due to those 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

superb talents and alert vigour of character which have 
made him such a prominent figure in history. 

He had only two friends in Rome, the Cardinal Enea 
Silvio of Siena and the Cardinal-Archdeacon Prosper© 
Colonna. Quite unmoved by the hatred of the other 
Purpled Ones, he entered the Conclave of 1458 for the 
election of the new Pope, with no such stupid thing as a 
plan of action ; but with a determination to comport him- 
self so, according as opportunities arose, as to improve his 
position and his prospects. It was impossible to know 
beforehand what steps he would have to take : he could 
be guided only by circumstances. To a young man of such 
temper the gods send opportunities. There arrived a dead- 
lock in the Conclave ; and of that deadlock Cardinal 
Rodrigo seized the key. 

There are five ways by which a Pope may be elected : — 

(a) By Compromise — i.e., when the cardinals appoint a 
committee of themselves with power to name the 
Pope : 

()3) By Inspiration — i.e., when a number of cardinals put 
themselves to shout the name of some cardinal, as 
"The Cardinal-Prior-Presbyter is Pope," or " The 
Cardinal-Archdeacon is Pope ; " by which method 
of shouting other voices are attracted, and the 
minimum majority (of two - thirds plus one) 
attained : 

(7) By Adoration — i.e., when the minimum majority (of 
two-thirds plus one) of the cardinals go and adore 
a certain cardinal : 

{t) By Scrutiny — z.^., when each cardinal secretly records 
a vote : 

(t) By Accession — i.e., when, the scrutiny having failed 
to give the minimum majority (of two-thirds plus 
one) to any cardinal, the opponents of that cardinal, 
whose tally is the highest, shall accede to him. 

In the Conclave of 1458 the method of Compromise was 
not used, and no cardinals were moved to proceed by 
Inspiration or to Adoration. Votes were taken by the 


The Kindling of the Fire 

Scrutiny, which revealed an extraordinary state of things. 
The French Cardinal d'Estouteville had a certain number 
of votes ; the Cardinal Enea Silvio of Siena had a higher 
number ; but neither had the minimum majority. The 
cardinals sat upon their green or purple thrones, beneath their 
green or purple canopies, watching and waiting for a sign. 

Then the young Cardinal-Vicechancellor Rodrigo de 
Lan9ol y Borja rose up and proclaimed : " I accede to the 
Lord Cardinal of Siena." His friend and ally, the Cardinal- 
Archdeacon Prospero Colonna, followed him : "I accede to 
the Lord Cardinal of Siena." Cardinal Teobaldi, who, as a 
Roman citizen, followed Colonna, said also : " I accede to 
the Lord Cardinal of Siena." The three lowered their 
green and purple canopies. They were in the presence of 
the Pope, in Whom all authority resides, before Whom none 
may remain covered. The minimum majority had been 
attained. The Lord Enea Silvio Bartolomeo de' Piccol- 
huomini, sometime Caesar's ambassador in "the horrible 
and ultimate Britains " (Scotland), sometime poet laureate, 
novelist, historian, bishop, and cardinal, had become the 
Lord Pius P.P. II. 

By this act, which practically gave the proud triregno 
to his friend, the Cardinal-Vicechancellor put himself into 
high favour with the new Pontiff, Whose enchanting 
temperament delighted in the brilliance and aptitude of the 
Borgia, and made his future the object of especial interest. 
# # # 

Materials for the history of Cardinal Rodrigo during 
this reign are but scanty, in the absence of opportunities for 
original research. In 1459, he went a-holiday-making with 
the Lord Pius P.P. II, on a triumphal progress through 
Florence ; where the Holy Father chatted with a lovely boy 
of seven years, called Lionardo da Vinci, bastard of a 
Florentine notary and a contadina. They visited Siena ; 
and Corsignano, where the Pope's Holiness was born, which 
He was pleased to rename Pienza, in honour of His papal 
name, and to build there a cathedral, an episcopal palace, 
and the Piccolhuomini palace for His Own family on the 
three sides of the public square. By way of showing His con- 
fidence in the Vicechancellor-Cardinal-Archdeacon (Arch- 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

deacon vie e Cardinal Prospero Colonna), perhaps, also, to 
curb, with useful employment, the exuberance of manlihood 
which had been giving evidence of revolt against the 
convenances, the Lord Pius P.P. II left the superintendence 
of these buildings in the hands of Cardinal Rodrigo, who 
has not scrupled to adorn their fa9ades with the armorials 
of the House of Borgia, Or, a bull passant gules on a field 
flory vert, within a bordure gules semde of flaminels, or. 

Vicechancellor-Cardinal-Archdeacon Rodrigo had lived 
the life of a gallant handsome prince and man of the world 
of the fifteenth century, in no wise differing from his 
antitype of the twentieth. The Renascence had brought 
about an age when sensuousness degenerating into sen- 
sualism was found in prominent places. It is difficult to see 
what else was to be expected. " Ye can not serve God and 
Mammon." Learning and art essentially, radically, and 
necessarily are antagonistic to Christianity, hard though 
that saying may be found. Towards them the Church's 
policy always has been a policy of compromise. " You may 
learn the wisdom of the world, but you may not learn all," 
She says ; trying to serve God, paltering the while with 
Mammon. " Nudus, Nudum Christum sequens " went 
Beato Fra Francesco when he renounced the world ; and 
the Church compromises with St. Sebastian for Phoibos 
Apollon. Therefore, as long as Grace and Nature are 
served up on the same dish, it is stupidly unreasonable to 
hold up holy hands in horror when high ecclesiastical digni- 
taries happen to comport themselves like human beings. 

The twentieth century is no whit more chaste than the 
fifteenth, and can ill afford to cast a stone. Nor was the 
fifteenth century the stew of universal depravity which 
some would have us believe it to have been. It was un- 
moral as the twentieth is immoral. But there were pure 
and maid-white souls then, as there are now ; and the 
difference between the fifteenth century and the twentieth 
is a mere difference of fashion. Now, we pretend to be 
immaculate ; then, they bragged of being vile. Much of 
the literature of the fifteenth century is most suitably pre- 
sented in the original. Poets and historians, especially 
historians, allowed little scope for exercise of the imagina- 



t^^^U-c/<&tcc££^ JJT (j^^^-^i.^^.c?ty. 

The Kindling of the Fire 

tion. The convention of concealment, of suggestion, had 
not been invented. Messeri Stefano Infessura and Bene- 
detto Varchi rank among the most eminent chroniclers of 
their day ; certainly the Latin of the one, and the Tuscan 
of the other, would serve for models : but a complete un- 
bowdlerised translation of the former's Journal of Roman 
Affairs (Diarium Rerum Romamt7}t), or of the latter's 
Florentine History {Storia Fiorentina), incontinently would 
be suppressed by the police. Yet it would be absurd to 
conclude that these writers, or others of their kidney, have 
given a just account of the morals of their age. ** The 
divorce court and the police news do not reflect the state of 
morality in England. No more do Juvenal's Satires give 
us a complete or impartial picture of Roman society. We 
must read side by side with them the contemporary letters 
of Pliny, which give a very different picture, and also weigh 
the evidence offered by inscriptions." (E. G. Hardy. 
Satires of Juvenal, p. xliv.) That is the spirit in which the 
student of the fifteenth century should approach his task. 
He will read all, and hear all sides, and form his own con- 
clusion, which, at best, must be a faulty one, until the secrets 
of all hearts are known. 

The Vicechancellor-Cardinal-Archdeacon was a human 
being. If he were, as Caspar Veronensis describes him 
at a later date, "a comely man, of cheerful countenance and 
honeyed discourse, who gains the affections of all the 
women he admires, and attracts them as the loadstone 
attracts iron," what must he have been in the glow of his 
superb youth ? This is not by any means a suitable repu- 
tation for a churchman ; and only its non-singularity 
prevents it from being a disgraceful one. Viewed from a 
theological stand-point. Cardinal Rodrigo's carnal lusts 
are, of course, wholly indefensible : but this work is an 
attempt at the study of certain human beings prominent in 
history ; and not a theological treatise nor an act of the advo- 
catusdiaboli. The Lord Pius P.P. H has said, " If there are 
good reasons for enjoining celibacy of the clergy, there are 
better and stronger auguments for insisting on their mar- 
riage"; and that Supreme Pontiff was far and away the wisest 
and most observing man of His Own (or perhaps of any) time. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Therefore, it Is suggested that, knowing of the pro- 
divities of Cardinal Rodrigo, being in truth his firm friend, 
desirous that he should live up to the obligations of his 
rank, and, above all, actuated by a sense of duty as Christ's 
Vicar, the Pope's Holiness set him to supervise the buildings 
at Pienza — to keep him out of mischief 

In 1460 was born Don Pedro Luis de Borja, bastard of 
the said Cardinal-Archdeacon and a spinster (soluta). The 
child was openly acknowledged and honourably reared. 

About this time the Lord Pius P.P. II wrote a letter, 
to remonstrate with Cardinal Rodrigo and with the Lord 
Giacopo Ammanati, Cardinal- Presbyter of the Tide of San 
Crisogono, concerning their divergences from ecclesiastical 
discipline. It is a genial and paternal letter, in which frank 
hatred of Sin is displayed with affection for the sinners. 
Cardinal Rodrigo replied, correcting some mis-statements 
of fact : but, that the Pope's Holiness was not satisfied, 
appears from a second letter of a firmer and more admonitory 
nature. Much has been made of this correspondence by 
some writers, whose pose is to think ungenerously of 
ecclesiastics. It should be noted, however, that the Lord 
Pius P.P. II took exception to certain long visits which 
those cardinals paid to ladies of their acquaintance, and to 
nothing more. Apparently there was nothing more of 
which to complain ; and the fact that the Pope's Holiness 
should deem these visits to be indiscretions on the part of 
ecclesiastics, goes to prove rather the extreme and strict 
solicitude of the Holy Father for the spiritual welfare of his 
flock, than any dissolute conduct of the two cardinals. But 
the defamers of Cardinal Rodrigo misrepresent the said 
visits in the worst possible light, as nocturnal orgies and 
debaucheries ; and long night visits obviously would con- 
stitute a grave and serious scandal. The misrepresentation 
very likely is due to careless ignorance. The fact is, that 
the Italian method of computing time in the fifteenth 
century is deceptive to the superficial student. Something 
is known of the dials of Italy which count the hours up to 
24 o'clock ; and when it is said that Cardinal Rodrigo paid 
visits to ladies in their gardens " from the 17th to the 22nd 
hour," instantly cynical carelessness predicates nocturnal 


The Kindling of the Fire 

orgies. But when it is understood that, in the fifteenth 
century, the first hour began at half an hour after sunset, 
and that the visits took place in time of summer, it will be 
realised that Cardinal Rodrigo simply went to the mid-day 
dinner, and left his friends an hour and a half before sunset: 
which may have been indiscreet, but certainly was not 
essentially criminal, as some would have us believe. But 
when the careless or wilful calumniator sets out to ruin a re- 
putation, he finds it an easy thing to twist a fault into a crime. 

The Vicechancellor-Cardinal-Archdeacon is recorded to 
have astonished Rome with the splendour of the arras 
adorning the outside of his palace on the Festival of Corpus 
Domini, 1461. The buildings at Pienza occupied him 
through 1462. Of 1463 there is no history with which he 
is connected. 

In 1464 " an aged man, with head of snow and trembling 
limbs," took the rose-red cross in the Basilica of St. Peter 
at Rome. This was no other than the Sovereign Pontiff, 
the Lord Pius P.P. II, unique in all history. Who, as an 
example to the apathetic potentates of Christendom, went, 
dying as He was, a crusader against the Muslim Infidel. 
Cardinal Rodrigo was in attendance upon His Holiness in 
that terrible journey in parching summer heat across Italy 
to the Adriatic ; where, while waiting for the fleet, at 
Ancona, in August, the Lord Pius P.P. II died. Cardinal 
Rodrigo, stricken by fever there, unable to return to Rome 
for the Conclave, was obliged to forego his official privi- 
lege as Cardinal-Archdeacon, the crowning of the Lord 
Paul P.P. II on the sixteenth of September. 

This Pontiff (lately the Lord Pietro Barbo, Cardinal 01 
Venice) wished, on His election, to take the name Formosus, 
in allusion to His handsome person. It was a naive age, 
when men hid neither their vices nor their virtues ; and the 
story possibly may be true: but it is very likely to be one of 
the spiteful little distortions of motive, which ecclesiastics of 
all ages are wont to ascribe each to other. The Popes, after 
the first six centuries, have never shown much originality in 
choosing Their pontifical names, and generally fall back 
upon the name of one of Their immediate predecessors. At 
present the changes are rung upon Pius, Leo, and Gregory; 

65 E 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

the fifteenth century had a wider range : but many of the 
lovely old names, such as Anacletus, Fabian, Felix, Sil- 
vester, Hadrian, Victor, Evaristus, were buried in oblivion. 
It is far more kind to suppose that the Lord Cardinal 
of Venice had the idea of reviving the beautiful name of the 
Lord Formosus P.P., Who reigned from 891 to 896, and was 
the hundred and twelfth Pope from the Lord St. Peter P.P. 
Persuaded against this course by the cardinals. He spent 
two hundred thousand fiorini d'oro on a triregno set with 
sapphires ; built St. Mark's Palace (Palazzo Venezia) at the 
end of the Corso in Rome ; and instituted carnival races of 
riderless horses (called Bdrberi, as a pun upon his name), 
and of Jews heavily clothed in garments of thick wool and 
stuffed to the throat with cake. In 1467 was born Madonna 
Girolama de Borja, bastard of the Vicechancellor Cardinal- 
Archdeacon, by an unknown mother. The child was openly 
acknowledged and honourably reared. During this reign 
Cardinal Rodrigo remained in favour ; and, on account of 
his fine presence and habitude to curial manners, he was 
chosen to receive, at Viterbo, Caesar Friedrich IV, The 
Pacific, coming on a state-visit to the Pope in 1469. 

At the death of the Lord Paul P.P. II, Cardinal 
Rodrigo de Lan9ol y Borja, Cardinal Guillaume d' Estoute- 
ville, and Cardinal loannes Bessarione were the only 
foreigners in the Conclave of 1471. Once more the Vice- 
chancellor-Cardinal-Archdeacon was clever enough to put 
a Pope under an obligation, by leading an accession to 
Cardinal Francesco della Rovere, who thereby was elected, 
and chose to be called the Lord Xystus P.P. IV. All the 
chroniclers save one allege that this Pope owed His elec- 
tion to the accession of Cardinals de Borja, Orsini, and 
Gonzaga of Mantua, who reaped rich rewards in the shape 
of benefices and preferments. The Pope's Holiness gave 
to Cardinal Rodrigo the wealthy Abbey of Subjaco in 
comniendam ; who left a memorial of his abbatial tenure in 
the tower which he added to the castle of Subjaco, where 
the armorials of the House of Borgia still remain. The 
last official act of Cardinal Rodrigo, as Archdeacon of the 
Holy Roman Church, appears to have been the coronation of 
the Lord Xystus P.P. IV on the twenty-fifth of August 147 1. 


The Kindling of the Fire 

After that he was ordained priest, and consecrated bishop, 
and elevated to the rank of Cardinal- Bishop of Albano, one 
of the seven sub-urban sees. He continued to hold the 
Vicechancellorship ; and, in this capacity, he built for him- 
self in Rome a palace on Banchi Vecchi, which, even in that 
sumptuous epoch, excited extravagant admiration. A little 
less than a third of it is now the huge Palazzo Sforza- 
Cesarini on Piazza Sforza-Cesarini, nearly opposite to the 
Oratory, called Chiesa Nuova. Since the unification of Italy 
in 1870, a new wide street (Corso Vittoremanuele) has been 
driven through the city, necessitating the demolition of 
more than two-thirds of Cardinal Rodrigo's building, and the 
construction of an undistinguished modern facade on the 
modern street : but the remaining courts, whose frontage is 
still on Banchi Vecchi, are more or less in statu quo. The 
history of the passing of this palace into the hands of 
Sforza-Cesarini belongs to a later page. 

On the twenty-third of December 1471 Cardinal Rodrigo 
was sent as Legate a latere io Spain, to preach a new Crusade 
against the Muslim Infidel. It is a curious thing that 
while he was unpopular in Italy on account of his Spanish 
origin, he was unpopular also in Spain where they con- 
sidered him an Italian ; a most ridiculous confusion, for 
Don Rodrigo de Lan9ol y Borja was a pure Spaniard by 
birth, descent, aspect, character, tastes, and habit, and so 
continued until his life's end, in no way influenced or modi- 
fied by his long residence in Italy. During his absence, 
the Lord Xystus P.P. IV built the Xystine Chapel of the 
Vatican ; and called to Rome, from the gardens at Florence 
of Lorenzo de' Medici his patron, the vivacious and bizarre 
Messer Alessandro Filipepi (nicknamed Botticelli), wondrous 
pupil of Fra Lippo Lippi, of Masaccio, of Beato Giovan- 
gelico da Fiesole, to decorate its walls with frescoes in 
tempera, the colours of which are mixed with the yelks of 
country-laid eggs for the deeper tints, and of town-laid eggs 
for the paler tints, according to the rules of Messer Cennino 
Cennini who wrote in 1437. In 1471 the bronze antique, 
known as // Spinario, was found on the Capitol. 

About this time the Lord Rodrigo de Lan9ol y Borja, 
now Cardinal- Bishop of Porto, Vicechancellor of the Holy 


Chronicles of the House ot Borgia 

Roman Church, and of the age of three and forty years, 
maintained irregular relations with Madonna Giovanna de' 
Catanei, a Roman lady, born the thirteenth of July 1442, and 
of the age of thirty-two years, wife to one Don Giorgio della 
Croce, Whether her husband was used to trade in his 
wife's favours (like the criminal who, as late as 1780, was 
marched through Rome wearing a pasteboard mitre labelled 
cornuto voluntario contentd), is a matter for conjecture. But, 
in 1474, Madonna Giovanna gave birth to a son, Don 
Cesare, who is called Borgia ; and it is claimed that Cardinal 
Rodrieo was his father. As far as historical research has 
gone, no evidence has been found to prove that Cardinal 
Rodrigo ever directly denied paternity ; and, as he was 
undoubtedly deeply in love with Madonna Giovanna, and 
intimate with her during ten subsequent years, it is probable 
that his reticence was actuated by kindly feelings. But 
there is a very strong suspicion that another cardinal, in 
every way the notorious and life-long rival of Cardinal 
Rodrigo, was the father of this child ; and many mysterious 
historical inconsistences would be explained by the establish- 
ment of the truth of this suspicion. However, for the 
present, merely the birth in 1474 of Don Cesare (detto 
Borgia) is recorded, and the question of his paternity will 
be examined at a proper place. 

In 1475 Madonna Giovanna de' Catanei bore, to 
Cardinal Rodrigo, Don Juan Francisco de Borja, to whom 
(after the death in 1481 of Don Pedro Luis de Borja) his 
father ever gave the honours and the affection which are 
due to an eldest son and heir. This is the most important 
circumstantial evidence against Don Cesare 's right to the 
name of Borgia. 

In January of the same year. Cardinal Rodrigo was 
deputed, with a nephew of the Lord Xystus P.P. IV, one 
Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, who, as a lad, had peddled 
onions in a boat between Arbisola and Genoa, to welcome 
King Don Ferrando I of Naples at Tarracina, on the 
occasion of his state-visit to the Holy See. Three days 
later. Cardinal Rodrigo said mass for his Majesty at San 
Paolo extra muros when the king was leaving for Colonna's 
fief at Marino, where English envoys from King Edward IV 


The Kindling of the Fire 

Plantagenet, who had just conferred the Most Noble Order 
of the Garter upon Duke Francesco Sforza-Visconti of 
Milan, were waiting with a similar attention for the King 
of Naples. 

On the tenth of June 1476 the plague appeared in 
Rome, and the Lord Xystus P.P. IV, attended by Cardinal 
Rodrigo, removed His court to Viterbo, where cooler air 
lessened the danger of contagion. 

In 1478 was the hideous Conspiracy of the Pazzi at 
Florence, which created no small stir in all Italy. Also in 
this year Madonna Giovanna de' Catanei bore, to Cardinal 
Rodrig-o, Madonna Lucrezia Borg^ia. 

On the first of October 1480, " Xystus, Bishop, Servant 
of the servants of God, to His beloved son Cesare (de Borja), 
a scholar of the age of six years," sent "greeting and the 
Apostolic Benediction," and dispensed him from the 
necessity of proving the legitimacy of his birth ; a rule 
which must be observed (in the absence of a dispensation) 
by whoever shall wish to become eligible for ecclesiastical 

In 1481 died Don Pedro Luis de Borja, the eldest 
bastard of the Vicechancellor-Cardinal Rodrig-o. He was 
of the age of twenty-one years, and betrothed to a mere 
child, the Princess Dona Maria de Aragona. Also, in 
1 48 1, Madonna Giovanna de' Catanei bore, to Cardinal 
Rodrigo, Don Gioffredo Borgia. 

On the twenty-fourth of January 1482, Madonna Giro- 
lama Borgia, bastard of the Vicechancellor-Cardinal by an 
unknown mother, was married, at the age of fifteen years, to 
Don Giovandrea Cesarini, scion of a Roman baronial house 
of Imperial origin. The same year, on the sixteenth of 
August, the Lord Xystus P.P. IV named Cardinal Rodrigo 
administrator of all benefices that should be conferred upon 
Don Cesare (detto Borgia) until the latter reached the age 
of fourteen years. There is a second brief of this date, 
from "Xystus, Bishop, Servant of the servants of God, to 
His beloved son Master Cesare (de Borgia)," naming the 
child Canon of Valencia and " Our Notary " ; little bits of 
preferment producing sufificient revenues for his education. 
These three briefs relating to Don Cesare, are found in the 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Secret Archives of the Dukes of Osuna and Infantado, 
whose line was extinguished in 1882 at the death of Don 
Mariano (v. suggested genealogical tree). 

In 1484 died the Lord Xystus P.P. IV, and the 
Genoese Cardinal Cibo ascended the papal throne under 
the tide of the Lord Innocent P.P. VIII. 

>;^ ^ ^ 

During the six and twenty years that had elapsed 
between the death of the Lord Calixtus P.P. Ill and the 
accession of the Lord Innocent P.P. VIII, the position of 
the Vicechancellor-Cardinal Rodrigo considerably was 
changed. Then, he was a young man with only two 
friends ; a junior Cardinal- Deacon surrounded by a host of 
enemies. Now he was in his ripe maturity, senior member 
of the Sacred College, Dean of the Cardinal- Bishops, Vice- 
chanceilor of the Church, powerful enough to be able to 
command as many friends as he might choose to have — and 
rich enough to buy ; rich beyond the richest of that rich 
age, from the revenues of his numerous benefices ; and in 
rank second only to the Pope Himself To such a man, 
with the paramount ambition and magnificence of Cardinal 
Rodrigo, only one thing in all the world remained for him 
to do. He deliberately set himself to capture the triregno. 

There is no chronicle of his history during the eight 
years' reign of the Lord Innocent P.P. VIII. Evidently 
he withdrew himself from the public life of the curia, from 
the splendour of legations, to nurse his revenues, to ingra- 
tiate himself with those who, in the next Conclave, would 
hav^e the crowning or the crushing of his hopes. With the 
wisdom of the serpent and the harmlessness of the dove he 
was to build his house : but, first, like the prudent man, he 
counted the cost. Cardinal Rodrigo was far too polished a 
diplomatist, far too keen a man of business, to neglect long 
and meticulous preparation. He perfectly knew his century — 
indeed, as an organiser, he would have been illustrious in 
any century — ; and, with wisest generalship, he made ready 
his forces against the striking of the hour for action. The 
smoothness with which the machinery ran in the Con- 
clave of 1492, makes it plain, to the least experienced 
student of human affairs, that a master-mind had designed 


The Kindling ot the Fire 

the gear, to ensure a minimum of friction and an exact 

In September 1484 the Lord Innocent P.P. VIII 
named Don Cesare (detto Borgia), who was now of the age 
of ten years. Treasurer of the Cathedral of Cartagena 
(Carthago Nova). 

In 1485, the year of the supposed murder in England of 
Kingr Edward V Plantagrenet and of his brother Duke 
Richard of York, there died in Rome Don Giorgio della 
Croce, husband of Madonna Giovanna de' Catanei. On 
the seventh of June i486 she married Don Carlo de Canale, 
a noble of Mantua, and from this time her irregular rela- 
tions with Cardinal Rodrioro ceased. In an ag-ewhen trade 
was not considered disgraceful, except for patricians, when 
even the greatest artists kept shops (not studios by way of 
compromise, but regular shops, botteghe, like the black- 
smiths or the cobblers), it is not shocking to know that 
Madonna Giovanna owned an inn in the Region of Ponte. 
This does not mean that she performed the duties of a female 
boniface. She was a very great lady, bien-vue in Roman 
society, with a lovely villa near San Pietro ad Vincula ; 
but she certainly drew a comfortable income from the Lion 
Inn (Albergodi Leone), opposite the Tordinona, in the Via 
del Orso, which was then a street of inns for foreigners. 
The Tordinona, from whose upper window dangled a per- 
manent and generally tenanted noose for evil-doers, has now 
disappeared : but the cavernous cellars of the Lion Inn, 
formerly filled with wine on which, by pontifical favour, no 
tax was levied, remain exactly as they were when the Spanish 
cardinal's mistress was their owner. 

Deprived of the society of Madonna Giovanna de' 
Catanei, Cardinal Rodrigo, in the fifty-fifth year of his age, 
amused himself with the high-born maiden, Madonna 
Giulia Farnese, nicknamed in Rome La Bella, who was 
betrothed and afterwards married to Don Orso Orsini, him- 
self of Borgian descent (v. suggestion for a genealogical 
tree). A faded representment of her marvellously brilliant 
beauty may be seen in the mannered fresco by Messer 
Bernardo Betti (detto Pinturicchio) in the Borgia Tower of 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

the Vatican, where she was painted as Madonna ; or on the 
tomb of her brother Alessandro (afterwards the Lord Paul 
P.P. Ill) in the BasiHca of St. Peter, where she was 
sculptured in marble by Messer Guglielmo della Porta as a 
naked Truth (clumsily draped, after an erotomaniac Spanish 
student of theology had taken the statue for Lucian's goddess 
Kuthereia). The fruit of her early intrigue with Cardinal 
Rodrigo was Madonna Laura, detto Orsini,born in 1489, and 
adopted by Don Orso Orsini, the husband of Madonna Giulia. 

The reign of the Lord Innocent P.P. VIII is notable 
for the extreme of lawlessness into which lax government 
had let Rome fall. The Sovereign Pontiff was a family 
man. Who openly acknowledged the paternity of seven 
bastards, and Whose chief concern appears to have been 
their settlement in life. A son, Don Franciotto Cibo, a 
silly avaricious weakling. He married to Madonna 
Maddalena, daughter of Lorenzo de' Medici ; His daughter 
He married to Messer Gheraldo Usodimare, a rich merchant 
of Genoa ; the wedding-feast took place at the Vatican, the 
Pope's Holiness presiding ; and so the world was made to 
lose sight of the high ideals of the Papacy, as exemplified 
by the Lord Pius P.P. II, and to regard the Supreme 
Pontiff in the light of a mere monarch, a mere man. Car- 
dinal Piero Riario, in 1473, had bargained with Duke 
Galeazzo Maria Sforza-Visconti of Milan to create him 
King of Lombardy, in return for money and troops, by the 
aid of which he himself might ascend the papal throne, his 
uncle, the Lord Xystus PP. IV being willing to abdicate in 
his favour : and, but for the sudden death of Cardinal Piero, 
this abominable scheme would not have lacked completion. 

Nicholas had been a scholar and a gentleman ; Calixtus, 
a zealous strenuous champion of an impractical cause ; 
Pius, a gentle saintly genius and skilful statesman ; Paul, a 
noble figure-head ; Xystus, a plebeian nepotist ; and Innocent 
was a lethargic paterfamilias. Naturally the condition of 
a kingdom, under such a series of sovereigns (considering 
the Popes in their temporal, and not in their spiritual 
capacity), would go from bad to worse. 

Yet Letters and the Arts were flourishing, as in the 
golden reign of the Lord Nicholas P.P. V. Canon Angelo 


The Kindling of the Fire 

Ambrogini (detto Poliziano) was showing, in his fine hymn 
In Divarn Virgineni, that it is possible to write Christian 
verse in Latin good as Golden ; and in his 'EpwrtKoj/ Awpia-Ti 
and 'EpwTiKov n-epi Tov xpvcroKofiov that a clergyman of the 
fifteenth century, whose Greek was not learned at school or 
college, could indite as dainty verses as Theokritos. Can 
the twentieth century visualise the fifteenth ? Can the 
twentieth century realise how poor the fifteenth was in 
material which every board-school boy may have to-day for 
the asking? The title of the book " De Omnibus Rebus 
et Quibusdam Aliis," provokes a guffaw now. Then it was 
used in sober earnest ; for, then, it was possible for one man 
to know all that was known — so little was there known in the 
fifteenth century. Dante Alighieri knew all, at the begin- 
ning of the fourteenth. Lionardo da Vinci knew all at the 
beginning of the sixteenth — literally all. Go and look at 
his manuscript note-books, and see what divers things he 
knew, to what depth of knowledge he had delved, how 
ingenious an application he made of the wisdom that he had 
gained; his inventions of conical bullets, of boats with 
paddle-wheels, of flying machines, of a cork-apparatus for 
walking on water. Consider that he was machinist, engineer, 
architect, and mathematician, constructor of artillery, fortifi- 
cations, canals, and drains ; and that, incidentally, he painted 
pictures, the lost " Cenacolo " at Milan, which the whole 
world knows — lost, because Messer Lionardo made the 
experiment of painting fresco in oil. Mark, too, in the 
note-books, how artfully and easily he wrote from right to 
left, to keep his knowledge from vulgar superficial eyes that 
pried. Mark his fluent gesture, his decisive master-strokes, 
and the little illuminating diagrams with which he illustrated 
every page. Can the twentieth century understand that 
the Italian mind of the fifteenth, in the absence of material, 
was concentrated on workmanship } Hence the marvels of 
handicraft which we use for models now, carving, metal- 
work, and textile design. The workmanship was everything 
then, in Art and in Letters also. "So long as the form 
was elegant, according to their standard of taste, the latinity 
copious and sound, the subject-matter of a book raised no 
scruples. Students of eminent sobriety, like Guarino da 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Verona, thought it no harm to welcome Boccadelli's Herma- 
phroditus with admiration ; while the excellent Nicholas V. 
spent nine days perusing the filthy satires of Filelfo." 
(Symonds Renascence II. 574.) The workmanship was 
everything. The civilisation of the fifteenth century was 
as high as that of the twentieth, in conception and produc- 
tion of the beautiful. But clearly let it be realised that 
"civilisation has nothing to do with morality or immorality"; 
that "great reformers generally destroy the beautiful"; 
that "high civilisation is generally immoral." The age of 
the Renascence, which found nothing shameful in the pro- 
fession of the yalpa (if we may judge from the epitaph of 
one, Imperia, Cortisana Romana, quae digna tanto nomine, 
rarae inter homines for^nae specimen dedit. Vixit a. XXV J. 
d. XII . Objit MDXL. die XV. Aug.), though free from the 
hypocrisy engendered by the German Reformation of a later 
date (which the maxim "Si non caste tamen caute " so 
admirably describes), was frankly and unblushingly un- 
moral, as far as a proportion of its leaders was concerned. 
Yet its unmorality was kept within certain bounds, and 
circumscribed by a force which, now, is no restraint. 
Printing was in its infancy. Written books were few, and 
very costly. In Milan, a city of two hundred thousand 
inhabitants, there were only fifty copyists. Not till 1465, 
in the reign of the Lord Paul P.P. II, was there a printing- 
press in Italy, at Subjaco in the Sabine Hills ; while 
Florence had no press till 147 1. And, at first, printed 
books were regarded with disfavour by reason of their 
cheapness. One rich man said that he would be ashamed 
to have them in his library, as now a rich man would be 
ashamed to have Brummagem electro instead of hall-marked 
silver. Yet, by means of ambulant printers, who printed 
only one page at a time on a hand-press in a mule-cart 
(and who were the pioneers of that curse to real civilization, 
the printed book), before 1500 no fewer than 4987 works 
had been printed in Italy alone. Here again the fifteenth- 
century passion for perfect workmanship came into play. 
Look at an Aldine Classic, and mark its exquisite form. 
Messer Aldo Manuzio of Venice set a great artist, 
Messer Francesco Raibolini (detto II Francia), who painted 


The Kindling of the Fire 

the dulcet Pietd in the National Gallery, to cut a fount ot 
type after the lovely handwriting of the poet Petrarch. 
That is the Aldine, or original Italic type ; the script of a 
fourteenth-century singer. Can the twentieth century, with 
its manifold appliances, its labour-saving machinery, better 
that handiwork, or approach that design ; or would a Royal 
Academician condescend to cut types for a printer ! Look 
at the portrait-medals and pictures of the day to see of what 
fashion were these elaborately simple men of the fifteenth 
century: — The English type, sturdy, recondite, and simple ; 
the French type, simple and light and vain ; the Italian, subtle 
and simple and strong — an English Hospitaller, a French 
cardinal, an Italian scholar called, The Phoenix of Genius ; 
John Kendal, Grand Prior of the Knights of St. John of 
Jerusalem in England ; Cardinal- Archbishop Georges 
d'Amboise,; and Messer Giovanni Pico della Mirandola ; 
on their medals in the British, and Victoria and Albert, 
Museums. The painters of this era, after Giotto, had emanci- 
pated themselves from the domination of the Church. They 
refused any longer to be bound by that decree of the Council 
of Nicaea (a.d. 787), which calmly, inexorably, and altogether 
justifiably ordained : — It is not the invention of the painter 
which creates the picture ; but an inviolable law, a tradition 
of the Church. It is not the painter, but the holy fathers, 
who have to invent and dictate. To them, manifestly, belongs 
the composition; to the painter, only the execution. The 
fifteenth century was the century of broken bonds — bonds 
of discipline, bonds of morality. Men tasted liberty, had 
discovered Man ; and, like schoolboys breaking bounds, 
playing truant, dazed in some rich orchard, they revelled 
and rollicked among fruits hitherto forbidden, potentialities 
long-dormant now alive. Unaccustomed sight had yet 
but imperfect impressions. Men saw " men as trees 
walking " ; but as far as they went the impressions were 
vivid, life-like, true. Study the mercilessly precise drawings 
of Cavaliere Andrea Mantegna, the Lombard, pupil of 
Squarcione, who painted for the Lord Innocent P.P. VIII 
that chapel on the Belvedere which was destroyed by the 
Lord Pius P.P. VI, and who won his knighthood by 
painting for the Marquess Don Francesco de Gonzaga of 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Mantua. Study the works of Messer Luca Signorelli, 
"the first and last painter except Michelangelo to use the 
body without sentiment, without voluptuousness, without 
any secondary intention whatsoever, as the supreme decora- 
tive principle " {Sy7no7ids Renascence) ; who, having had 
killed at Cortona his young and splendid son, stripped the 
body naked, and, with iron nerve, painted from it during a 
day and a night, " that he might be able, through the work 
of his own hand, to contemplate that which nature had given 
him, but which an adverse fortune had taken away." 
i^Vasari.) Above all, study Messer Alessandro Filipepi 
(detto Botticelli), who, having finished the chapel of the 
Lord Xystus P.P. IV, was back again in Florence, painting 
for Lorenzo de' Medici. How many of the Medici he put into 
his pictures we never shall know ; but if ever a painter painted 
from the life Alessandro Filipepi was that painter ; and, with a 
little sympathetic ingenuity, one can trace at least a single 
precious portrait through his pictures, and into the pictures 
of another and more conventional painter ; and, in this way, 
learn what like was one very prominent personality of the 

Borgian Era, as Tra/^, iitipavnov, a-idtvprig, e(p7jftoQ, av^pog. Study 

the angel-boys and San Giambattista in the round Madonna 
of the National Gallery and the round Coronation of 
Madonna at the Uffizi. Study the Hermes Ptenopedilos 
in the Primavera that Botticelli painted on the verses of 
Lucretius Carus (737-740) as a setting for a portrait of 
an unknown lady of the House of Medici. And study the 
limber San Sebastiano at Berlin. Then study murdered 
Giuliano's bastard, the Lord Giulio de' Medici, Archbishop 
of Florence, Knight of St. John of Jerusalem, and Cardinal- 
Deacon of Santa Maria in Dommca, in the portrait of the 
myopic Lord Leo P.P. X by Messer Rafaele Sanzio da 
Urbino. So shall a lean, muscular, vivid, thoughtful, pious, 
unmoral, voluptuous yet hardy, typical, young Italian of the 
Borgian Era be clearly, intimately, seen and known. And 
the medals : — Note how that the medallists have not learned 
to flatter or idealise ; that, what they saw in their model, 
that they chiselled in perennial bronze. Note the character, 
the distinguished individuality, here preserved ; the Sforza 
medals, for example, with their clean, compelling, vigorous, 


The Kindling of the Fire 

venomous, Greek profiles, which that illustrious House got 
(and preserves to this day in Prince Guido Sforza and his 
sister Princess Carolina Corsini) from Countess Polissena 
Russaof Montalto, who married Duke Francesco. Observe, 
from their manner of clothing" him, how these people 
worshipped Man. Not for them was the concealment of 
his grace in dented fractured cylinders. Every natural line 
must be preserved, every contour displayed, in that age of 
unconventional realism. The frescoes of Messer Bernardo 
Betti (detto Pinturicchio), in the cathedral library of Siena, 
are said to be the fashion-plates of the day and month 
(1503- 1 507), done by an eminent artist. And the fabrics of 
which they made their clothes were fine and simple ; for the 
uses of shoddy were not known. Sumptuous brocades, 
fairest linen of flax, furs from the East, and delicate enduring 
leather, adorned those men and women who had not learned 
to change their garments as often as they changed their 
minds ; and who went to bed at night simply as nature 
made them. That they were meticulously clean, is witnessed 
by the embossed basins and ewers for frequent washings, 
the hanging lavabo on the wall of every room (when 
washing was a ceremonial habit), the elaborate supplies of 
water, the baths of macerated sweet herbs, glasswort, white 
lily, marsh-mallow, and lupin-meal, alkaline, mucilaginous, 
emollient, demulcent, which were the substitute for soap. 
Care for the personal appearance was extreme. Little signs 
show this. For example, the twentieth-century man, con- 
fection of his hosier and his tailor, plays with watch-chain, 
stick, or card-case ; the writer, hesitating over the turning 
of a phrase or waiting for the just word, rolls a cigarette ; 
the painter, considering an effect, dabbles in a tobacco-jar 
and lights a pipe. Man has a natural craving to employ his 
hands. In similar situations, Messer Lionardo da Vinci's 
model and studio-boy, the curly-headed Salaino, would bring 
rosewater and towel to refresh his master's fingers ; Canon 
Angelo Ambrogini (detto Poliziano) would take out an ivory 
comb and comb his long straight hair ; and a dandy 
anxiously would study his image in polished metal mirrors 
set like bosses on his dagger sheath, or chew comfits of 
coriander-seeds, steeped in marjoram vinegar and crusted 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

with sugar, to bring a special commodity to the memory. 
In an age when personal and private functions were pur- 
sued after the methods of cats or dogs according to the 
temperament of the pursuer, when that which is now called 
sanitation was unknown, great and incessant efforts in the 
way of cleanliness were imperative ; and he who insistently 
displayed, who publicly exhibited, his cleanly habits, natu- 
rally enjoyed the consideration and approval of his equally 
modish contemporaries. And they were practically pious 
too, these hardy ardent exquisites, who shed an enemy's 
blood as remorselessly as though murder were a natural 
function. They would weep real tears of devotion over the 
drama of the Passion of our Divine Redeemer enacted in 
the ruined Colosseo of Rome ; and, afterwards, zealously 
adjourn with knives to the houses of known Jews, or per- 
fervidly hunt the dark lanes of the city for any of the 
accursed race who was so misguided as to show his yellow- 
patched jerkin on the street. The Venetians had a penchant 
for holy relics, and deemed no sacrifice too great for 
increasing their collection. In 1455, the republic made a 
bid of ten thousand ducats for the Seamless Coat, now at 
Treves, and ordained days of humiliation when the offer 
was refused. The Doge of Venice was obliged officially to 
assist at twelve public processions in each year. To please 
the piety and vanity of Florence, Lorenzo de' Medici person- 
ally applied to the city of Spoleto for the corpse of the 
painter Fra Lippo Lippi ; but Spoleto answered that it had 
none too many ornaments as a city, especially in the shape 
of the cadavers of distinguished people, and begged to be 
excused. " The men of the Renascence were so constituted 
that, to turn, from vice and cruelty and crime, from the 
deliberate corruption and enslavement of a people by 
licentious pleasures, from the persecution of an enemy in 
secret, with a fervid and impassioned movement of the soul 
to God, was nowise impossible. Their temper admitted of 
this anomaly, as we may plainly see from Cellini's auto- 
biography." {Symonds Renascence.) 

# # j^ 

The Lord Innocent P.P. VIII made no impression on 
His age ; as a despot. He was an accented failure. "The 


The Kindling of the Fire 

Patrimony of St. Peter would be the most delightful country 
in the world if it were not for Colonna and Orsini," said the 
Sieur Philippe de Comines, Orator of the Christian King 
Louis XI of France. The States of the Church became a 
seething cauldron of lawlessness and licence. Rome herself, 
" where everything that is shameful or horrible collects and 
is practised " ( Tacitus), swarmed with assassins, professional 
and amateur. Every man who valued his personal safety 
put on a mail-shirt when he left his naked bed, and set no 
foot in the streets till he had buckled a sword, or at least a 
dagger, by his side. The very perfection of these fifteenth- 
century mail-shirts, which could be hidden in two hands, 
and yet were proof against a thrust or cut at closest quarters, 
tells its own tale. The trade of an armourer became an 
honourable art and mystery, when men staked their lives 
at every turn, as men callously stake money now on their 
convictions or opinions. A whole embassage from Maxi- 
milian, King of the Romans, as the heir of Caesar Friedrich 
IV was styled, was assailed by brigands and stripped to the 
shirts in sight of Rome. 

In July 1492 the Lord Innocent P.P. VIII showed signs 
of decay, the feebleness of age increased, and He was only 
kept alive by women's milk. Modern chroniclers of His last 
hours have fallen into serious error, in relating that the 
operation for transfusion of blood was performed by a 
Hebrew chirurgeon upon the Holiness of the Pope without 
accomplishing its end. The error arises from forgetfulness 
of the facts : (a) that the idea of the operation for transfusion 
could not occur to any one to whom the circulation of the 
blood was unknown ; (/3) that the phenomenon of the circula- 
tion of the blood was not discovered by Harvey until the 
seventeenth century. Before the circulation of the blood 
was known, the visible veins were taken for sinews. Ver- 
rochio thought them to be sinews when he carved them 
on the lean young arms of his alert David. The 
blood was conceived of as stagnant in the flesh ; the heart- 
beats as a pulsing of the bowels. If the idea of trans- 
ferring blood from a healthy to a feeble body had occurred 
to any one of them, the ordinary fifteenth-century 
chirurgeons would not have been contented with a single 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

incision, but would have filled up the weak body through 
numerous apertures, to be closed with the red hot cautery 
as usual ; and the patient most certainly would have died 
under the operation, of syncope, caused, not by loss, but 
by acquisition of blood. Modern historians have misunder- 
stood the words with which Infessura and Raynaldus 
describe the death of this Pope : and their misunderstanding 
further is caused by a casual and superficial knowledge of 
the pharmacy of the fifteenth century. Infessura and 
Raynaldus say that a certain Jewish physician promised 
to the Pope's Holiness the restoration of His health ; that 
he took three boys of the age of ten years, giving to them 
a ducat a-piece, saying that he wished to restore the Pope's 
health, and that he required for that purpose a certain 
quantity of human blood, which must be young ; that he drew 
all the blood out of those three boys ; that the said boys 
incontinently died ; that, when the Lord Innocent P.P. VIII 
knew, He execrated the crime of the Jew and gave order 
for his arrest ; that the Jew had taken himself by flight out 
of the reach of the torturers ; and that the Pope received no 
cure. This, Dr. Mandell Creighton and Mr. John Adding- 
ton Symonds call transfusion of blood. They appear to be 
unaware of the fifteenth-century passion for sublimation and 
distillation : and they appear to have missed this sentence of 
Raynaldus, ut ex eo (the young blood) pharmacum stilli- 
cidiiwt chimica arte paratum propinaiiduvi Pontifici con- 
ficeret ; which plainly shows that it was a draught, a drink, ^ 
the quintessence of the boys' blood, prepared by his 
alchymical art, with which the Hebrew physician was going 
to fail to save the life of the Pope. 

•¥• -^ ^f- 

w -vr "TV* 

These were the times, and the men, which the Vice- 
chancellor-Cardinal Rodrigo de Lan9ol y Borja had to deal. 

* * * 

^ The saving virtue of a drink of human blood was no new idea. Compare 
TertuUian Apol. IX. '■'■Item illi qui munere in arena noxiorum iugulatorum 
sanguinem recentem (de iugulo decurrentem exceptum) avida siti comitiali morbch 
medentes hauserunt, ubi sunt? " 


The Roaring Blaze 

" A five that is kindled begins with smoke and hissing, while it lays 
'^ hold upon the faggots ; bursts into a roaring blaze with raging 
" tongues of flame, devouring all in reach ; 

The subject of this book has furnished occasion for liars 
of all ages — reckless liars, venal liars, raving liars, careless 
liars, clever liars, and futile liars, to perform their functions. 

The Lord Innocent P.P. VIII died on the twenty-fifth 
of July 1492. The Lord Rafaele Galeotti Sansoni-Riarjo, 
Cardinal- Deacon of San Giorgfio in Velum Aureum^ 
Cardinal-Chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church, sent 
guards to seize and hold the gates of Rome. Caporioni, 
priors of the fourteen Regions, patrolled the city to deal 
with seditions and disorders. Patarina, the great bell on 
Capitol, that only tolls when the Pope is dead, knelled 

At this time the Sacred Colleg-e consisted of seven and 
twenty cardinals. Four of these were absent in distant 
sees, and were unable to reach the Eternal City in the 
nine days at their disposal. They were : — 

(a) The Lord Luis Juan de Mila y Borja, Cardinal- 
Prior- Presbyter of the Title of Santi Quattro 
Coronati ; 

(/3) The Lord Pedro Gonsalvo de Mendoza, Cardinal- 
Presbyter of the Title of Santa Croce in Geru- 
saleinme ; 

(7) The Lord Andre Spinay, Cardinal- Presbyter of the 
Title of San Martino in Monte t.t. Equitii ; 
81 F 

chronicles of the House of Borgia 

(S) Frere Pierre d'Aubusson, Grand Master of the 
Kniorhts of Rhodes, Cardinal- Deacon of Sant' 

Twenty-one cardinals entered the Conclave. They 


(a) The Lord Rodrigo de Lan^ol y Borja, Cardinal- 
Bishop of Porto and Santa Rufina, Dean of the 
Sacred College, Vicechancellor of the Holy Roman. 
Church, etc. ; 

(j3) The Lord Giovanni Michele, Cardinal- Bishop of 
Praeneste, Bishop of Verona ; 

(7) The Lord Oliviero Carafa, Cardinal- Bishop of 
Sabina, Archbishop of Naples ; 

(g) The Lord Giorgio Costa, Cardinal- Bishop of Albano. 

{e) The Lord Antoniotto Pallavicini, Cardinal- Presbyter 
of the Title of Sant' Anastasia ; 

(^)The Lord Girolamo Basso della Rovere, Cardinal- 
Presbyter of the Title of San Crisogono, Bishop of 
Recanata ; 

(tj) The Lord Domenico della Rovere, Cardinal- Pres- 
byter of the Title of San Clemente, Archbishop of 
Taranto ; 

(B) The Lord Giuliano della Rovere, Cardinal- Presbyter 
of the Title of San Pietro ad Vincula ; 

(t) The Lord Paolo Fregosio, Cardinal- Presbyter of the 
Title of San Sisto, Archbishop of Genoa ; 

(k) The Lord Giovanni de' Conti, Cardinal- Presbyter 
of the Title of San Vitale, Archbishop of Consano ; 

(X) The Lord Giangiacomo Sclafenati, Cardinal- Pres- 
byter of the Title of San Stefano in Monte Celio, 
Bishop of Parma ; 

(^) The Lord Ardicino della Porta, Cardinal- Presbyter 
of the Title of San Giovanni e San Paolo, Bishop 
of Alba ; 

(v) The Lord Lorenzo Cibo, Cardinal- Presbyter of the 
Title of Santa Cecilia, Archbishop of Benevento ; 

(^) The Lord Francesco de' Piccolhuomini, Cardinal- 
Archdeacon of Sant' Eustachio, Archbishop of 

Siena ; 


The Roaring Blaze 

(o) The Lord Rafaele Galeotti Sansoni-Riarjo, Cardinal- 
Deacon of San Giorgio in Velum Aureum, 
Cardinal-Chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church; 

(tt) The Lord Giovanni Colonna, Cardinal- Deacon of 
Santa Maria in Aquiro ; 

(p) The Lord Giambattista Orsini, Cardinal- Deacon of 
Santa Maria Nuova ; 

(o-) The Lord Giovanni de' Medici, Cardinal-Deacon of 
Santa Maria in Doinnica ; 

(t) The Lord Giovanni Savelli, Cardinal- Deacon of 
San Niccolo iii Car cere Tulliano ; 

(y) The Lord Giambattista Zeno, Cardinal- Deacon of 
Santa Maria in Portico ; 

{(j)) The Lord Ascanio Maria Sforza-Visconti, Cardinal- 
Deacon of San Vito e San Modesto in Macello, 

At the last moment, before the Conclave finally was 
immured, there came : — 

(x) Fra Mafeo Gheraldo, Cardinal- Presbyter of the 
Title of San Nereo e Sant' Achilleo, Patriarch of 
Venice ; 

(^) The Lord Friderico Sanseverini, Cardinal- Deacon 
of San Teodoro. 

On the sixth of August 1492, this Conclave of twenty- 
three cardinals listened to the preliminary exhortations of 
Fra Bernardino Lopez de Caravajal, and the business of 
election was beorun. 


Man mercifully has been left unable to foresee the effect 
which his actions will have upon the future. Many of these 
cardinals had assisted before at the election of a Pope ; it 
was a routine with which they were acquainted. But by 
no means could they know what a mark upon the world's 
history they would make with this election. Subsequent 
events, however, have shewn that the seed of tremendous 
issues here was sown, issues as great as the consolidation of 
a European kingdom under a sovereign dynasty that 
endured until 1870. As such, the Conclave of 1492 must 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

be regarded as one of the most pregnant that ever have 
occurred ; and its details, as worthy of intent consideration. 

There was a faction and a shadow of a faction among 
the cardinals. The candidate of the first was the Dean and 
Vicechancellor-Cardinal Rodrigo de Lan^ol y Borja, nephew 
of the Lord Calixtus P.P. III. He actively was supported 
by the very influential cardinals Sforza-Visconti, Colonna, 
and Riarjo, whose friendship he is said to have cultivated 
during the reign of the late Pope, by promises of prefer- 
ment and by gifts. He also is said to have won the alliance 
of fourteen other cardinals by similar inducements, and so 
to have placed himself at the head of a faction of eighteen. 
His supporters were led to believe that his Spanish nation- 
ality would make him neutral to the political parties of 
Italy ; and much stress was laid upon the fact that Spain 
was now the rising power in Europe, with whom the 
Church would do well to be allied. The standard of morality 
of the day prevented objections to the character of Cardinal 
Rodrigo ; and it was made clear to all that he was by far the 
richest cardinal, holding all the most lucrative appointments, 
which last would have to be vacated, and would be his to 
give away, in the event of his election. 

The candidate of the second faction was Cardinal 
Giuliano della Rovere, a nephew of the Lord Xystus P.P. 
IV. He was the life-long disappointed rival, in more senses 
than one, of Cardinal Rodrigo. His candidature was an 
attempt on the part of the Christian King Charles VIII of 
France to set up a Pontiff devoted to French, and not to 
Spanish, interests ; to which end the King's Majesty deposited 
two hundred thousand ducats with a Roman bank for the 
purchase of cardinalitial votes. 

There was an independent candidate, Cardinal Lorenzo 
Cibo, a nephew of the Lord Innocent P.P. VIII, to whom 
Cardinal Pallavicini was bound by ties of gratitude : but he 
had no other supporter, and became submerged in the 

Of the two contestants, Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere 
had the poorer chance. His own cousins. Cardinals Giro- 
lamo and Domenico della Rovere, would not support him. 
His personality was universally antipathetic ; his opponent's 


The Roaring Blaze 

was universally sympathetic. The French money which he 
had taken, was but as a drop in the ocean compared with 
the enormous wealth and desperate determination of the 
Spaniard. Also, there were no votes for sale. Four car- 
dinals — the Lords Oliviero Carafa, Giorgio Costa, Francesco 
de' Piccolhuomini, and Giambattista Zeno — ^announced that 
they would vote independently and under no influence ; 
while the remnant of the Sacred College, consisting of 
seventeen cardinals, having been fiercely canvassed by Car- 
dinal Ascanio Maria Sforza-Visconti, representative of the 
reigning House of Milan and hereditary foe of France, were 
already in the pocket of the Vicechancellor-Cardinal- 

The third night of the Conclave concluded the pre- 
liminary discussions ; and at dawn, on the eleventh of August 
1492, Cardinal Rodrigo was elected Pope, by the large 
majority of twenty-two out of twenty-three, consisting of his 
own vote with those of the Cardinal- Bishops Giovanni 
Michele, Oliviero Carafa, Giorgio Costa, the Cardinal- 
Presbyters Antoniotto Pallavicini, Lorenzo Cibo, Mafeo 
Gheraldo, Girolamo Basso della Rovere, Domenico della 
Rovere, Paolo Fregosio, Giovanni de' Conti, Giangiacomo 
Sclafenati, Ardicino della Porta, the Cardinal-Archdeacon 
Francesco de' Piccolhuomini, the Cardinal- Deacons Rafaele 
Galeotti Sansoni-Riarjo, Giovanni Colonna, Giambattista 
Orsini, Giovanni de' Medici, Giovanni Savelli, Friderico 
Sanseverini, Giambattista Zeno, and Ascanio Maria Sforza- 

Rome was exciting herself about this election. Four 
mule loads of silver had been taken from the palace of 
Cardinal Rodrigo to the house of Cardinal Sforza-Visconti 
before the immuring of the Conclave, most conceivably to 
be guarded there more safely. Rome guessed that the 
Spaniard was so certain of his own election as to be 
preparing for the pleasant custom, which the citizens used, 
of pillaging the palace of the cardinal who was elected 
Pope. Some of the silver perhaps may have passed into 
Sforza's possession ; but there is no direct evidence to prove 
the absurd statement of Monsi"fnor Burchard that it was 
the price of his vote. In the first instance, the security of 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

tlie silver, was most probably the motive for its transference. 
After the election the Pope would naturally wish to reward 
his most useful supporter ; and no doubt left the silver^ 
with Cardinal Sforza-Visconti while bestowing on him 
other and more proportionate acknowledgments. 

In the Conclave, if one can believe reports, there was 
no less excitement. All the sombre dignity of Spain left 
Cardinal Rodrigo at the supreme moment of his life. He 
showed himself as just a human man, successful in the 
most daring, most immense, of all ambitions, when his 
quondam colleagues lowered their green or purple canopies 
to his, as he joyfully cried: "We are Pope and Vicar of 
Christ ! " 

The cardinals knelt at His feet, and Cardinal Sforza- 
Visconti said that undoubtedly the election was the work of 
God. Then the new Pope recovered at least decorum of 
speech, replying that He was conscious of His Own weakness, 
and relied entirely upon Divine Guidance ; but His order to 
Monsignor Burchard, the Caerimonarius, to write His name 
on little slips of paper, and fling them from a window for 
the satisfaction of the citizens who swarmed impatiently 
outside the Vatican ; and His haste to retire behind the 
altar for the purpose of changing His cardinalitial scarlet for 
the papal habit of white taffetas with cincture, rochet of fair 
linen, embroidered crimson stola, house-cap, almuce, and 
shoes of ermine and crimson velvet (of which vestments 
three sizes are prepared, to suit the stature of any Pope) ; 
this order and this haste shew that the Pope's Holiness was 
most deeply moved, as any human being well might be. 

Outside, Rome rejoiced. Inside, the cardinals asked 
what name the Pope would choose, suggesting Calixtus as a 
compliment to His dead Uncle andCreator, Whohad brought 

1 Only one piece of antique silver, a salt-cellar, was possessed by the 
House of Sforza in the latter years of the last century. All the rest was not 
recovered from that Don Marino Torlonia, who usurped the Sforza- Cesarini 
titles and estates from 1832 to 1836, when he was deprived of them by the 
Ruota, the Supreme Tribunal of the Holy See, in favour of Don Lorenzo 
Sforza-Cesarini, grandfather of the present duke. The line of the great 
Francesco Sforza-Visconti, Duke of Milan, to which Cardinal Ascanio Maria 
belonged, is now extinct. The present House of Sforza-Cesarini descends 
from Don Bosio Sforza, Count of Santafiora, 1441-1476, brother of the great 
Francesco, and second son of Don Giovanni Muzio Attendolo, detto Sforza. 


The Roaring Blaze 

Him first to Rome. But, now, the Pontiff had regained His 
magnificent composure, and He answered mightily : " We 
desire the name of the Invincible Alexander." Cardinal 
Giovanni de' Medici, a clever, serious boy of the age of 
seventeen years, whispered to Cardinal Cibo : " Now we 
are in the jaws of a ravening wolf, and if we do not flee he 
will devour us." But the gigantic Cardinal Sanseverini 
lifted the Lord Alexander P.P. VI in his strong arms and 
throned Him on the altar ; and the Sacred College paid Him 
the first adoration, kissing the cross embroidered on His 
shoe and on the ends of the stola at His knee, and the Ring 
of the Fisherman on His right forefinger, while Cardinal- 
Archdeacon Franceso de' Piccolhuomini and the second 
Cardinal- Deacon made proclamation to the crowd at the 
re-opened door of the Conclave : 

" I announce to you great joy. We have for a Pope 
the Vicechancellor-Cardinal-Dean Rodrigo de Lan9ol y 
Borja, Who wills to be called Alexander the Sixth." 

^ And, incontinent, says Monsignor Hans Burchard 
the vulgar tittle-tattling Caerimonarius, (wilfully misquoting 
the Vulgate Psalm cxi. 9,) having assumed the papal power, 
dispersit et dedit pa^iperibus bona sua, He hath dispersed. He 
hath given to the poor, his goods. {Authorised Version, 
Psalm cxii. 9.) To Cardinal Orsini He gave the Vice- 
chancellor's palace of San Lorenzo in Damaso, the fortalices 
of Soria and Monticelli, the revenues of the cathedral of 
Cartagena in Spain, worth five thousand ducats (which He 
had been administering for Don Cesare (detto Borgia) in 
accordance with the Breves of the Lords Xystus P.P. IV 
and Innocent P.P. VIII), and the legation of the Mark of 
Ancona. To Cardinal Ascanio Maria Sforza-Visconti He 
gave His new palace on Banchi Vecchi {v. p. 6y), the town 
of Nepi, the revenues of the cathedral of Agria in Hungary, 
worth ten thousand ducats, and named him, at the age of 
thirty-seven years, Vicechancellor of the Holy Roman 
Church. To Cardinal Colonna He gave the Abbacy of 
Subjaco with all its fortresses and rights of patronage, 

' This paragraph rests entirely upon the gossip and conjectures of 
Manfredi, Orator of Ferrara at Florence ; Stefano Infessura (Ed. Tonnnasini) 
Hans Burchard (Ed Thuasne) ; Bernardino Corio (Storia di Milano). 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

confirmino- the same to his house for ever. To Cardinal 
Riarjo He gave the huge palace in Trastevere (now Corsini) 
vacated by Cardinal Sforza-Visconti, benefices in Spain 
producing four thousand ducats yearly revenue, and con- 
firmed him in his office of Cardinal-Chamberlain. To 
Cardinal Savelli He gave the legations of Perugia and Civita 
Castellana, including twenty towns and a revenue of three 
thousand ducats ; and to other cardinals the remainder of 
the preferments which He now vacated. 

If these gifts were given and taken as the price of votes, 
then an enormous act of Simony technically was committed, 
the buying and selling of ecclesiastical power. Afterwards, 
His enemies continually were charging Him with Simony; 
but, at the time, no serious accusation was made. Even 
the four cardinals, who had announced that they did not 
intend to be bribed, voted for the Lord Alexander P.P. VI. 
And here it may be noticed, that though Simony, by the 
Bull of the Lord Julius P.P. II De Simoniaca Electione, is 
held to invalidate an ecclesiastical election ; yet the said 
Bull was not issued until after the death of the Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI, and was not retrospective in effect, 
although the vehement personal hatred of Julius for Alex- 
ander, hatred worthy rather of Carthaginian Hannibal than 
of the Vicar of the Prince of Peace, leaves no doubt what- 
ever of the intention to defile the memory of the preceding 
Pontiff with an insinuation which never has been made 
valid. Under these circumstances, it perhaps may be 
permitted to those irrational persons who habitually usurp 
the functions of the Eternal Judge, and who already have 
condemned the Borgia Pontiff, to remember that, if this 
election was invalidated and annulled by Simony, He never 
was a Pope at all, and therefore cannot be blamed, attacked, 
condemned, in a papal capacity. Much satisfaction of a 
kind may be derived from that reflection. At the same 
time, though the theory might be allowed for private con- 
sumption, as a "pious opinion" distinguished from a 
"dogma," it would be highly injudicious to court collision 
with another Bull — the Bull Exen^-abilis of the Lord 
Pius P.P. II — which provides all proclaimed aspersions of 
the Popes with pains and penalties. But when all has been 


The Roaring Blaze 

considered, no evidence is forthcoming to prove that a single 
cardinal sold — sold — his vote to Cardinal Rodrigo buying. 
None but a purchased or unpurchased cardinal can testify 
that he sold, or did not sell ; and none of these have testi- 
fied. That the new Pope gave great gifts is not denied. 
Popes always do. They cannot help Themselves. The 
Lord Alexander P.P. VI vacated so much preferment, that 
He had much to give. To give that preferment was one of 
the duties of His office ; and, naturally. He gave it to His 
friends, and not to His single enemy and envious rival. 
Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, who, in revenge, alleged 

•^ •V- .u> 

"TV* -rr T^ 

The Lord Innocent P.P. VIII died on the twenty-fifth of 
July 1492. The Lord Alexander P.P. VI began to reign 
on the eleventh of August. Durmg the seventeen days that 
intervened, while the city was under the rigid rule of the 
white-faced Cardinal-Chamberlain Riarjo, a matter of some 
two hundred and twenty assassinations took place : in such 
order had the deceased Pope left His capital that more 
than nine murders were committed every day among a 
population of a mere five and eighty thousand. The Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI acted with decision to end this abomin- 
able state of lawlessness. An assassin was caught red- 
handed — there was no difficulty about that — he and his 
brother were forced to look on while their house was rased 
to the ground (the worst disgrace possible to a Roman) ; and 
then they were ceremoniously hanged among the ruins. A 
commission was established to decide all quarrels, which, 
formerly, had been settled by cold steel. Official inspectors 
of prisons were appointed ; arrears of official salaries paid 
up to date ; and a bench of four judges established for 
dealing with capital crimes. So the first act of this pontifi- 
cate was the restoration, at least provisionally, of public 
order. The admiring Romans said that this vigorous 
administration of justice was due to the direct disposing of 
the Almighty. 

The coronation, on the steps before the Basilica of 
St. Peter in the Vatican, of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI by 
the Cardinal- Archdeacon on the twenty-sixth of August was 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

a scene of unlimited magnificence, attended by the Orators of 
the Powers who hailed the Pope with the most laudatory- 
congratulations. Canon Angelo Ambrogini (detto Poliziano), 
who spoke for Siena, said : — 

"Praestans animi magnitude quae mortales crederes omnes antecellere — 
" Magna quaedam de te, rara, ardua, singularia, incredibilia, inaudita, 
" pollicentur.i 

The Orator of Lucca said : — 

" Quid iste tuus divinus, et maiestate plenus, aspectus ? 

The Orator of Genoa said : — 

" Adeo virtutum gloria et disciplinarum laude, et vitae sanctimonia 
" decoraris, et adeo singularum ac omnium rerum ornamento dotaris, quae 
" talem summam ac venerandam dignitatem praebeant ut valde ab omnibus 
" ambigendum sit, tu ne magis pontificatui, an ilia tibi sacratissima et 
" gloriosissima Papatus dignitas offerenda fuerit. 

The Venetian Senate rejoiced : — 

" propter divinas virtutes ac dotes quibus Ipsum insignitum et ornatum 
" conspiciebamus, videbatur a Divina Providentia talem Pastorem gregi, 
" dominio et sacrosancto Romanae Ecclesiae Vicarium Suum fuisse delec- 
" turn et praeordinatum. 

Manfredi, the Ferrarese Orator at Florence, wrote to his 
Duchess : — 

" Dicesi che sara glorioso pontifice ! 

Those words were re-echoed from Milan, from Naples, 
even from far Germany, "They say that this will be a glorious 
Pontiff! " All who were permitted to approach Him were en- 
chanted by His magnificent presence and His honeyed tongue ; 
every one praised His talents, His notable mastery of affairs, 
His active benevolence and beneficence. He was admired 
because His habits were of the simplest kind, and His magni- 
ficence free from prodigal ostentation : though it must be 
added that the Ferrarese Orator said that people disliked 

' For an English parallel of riotous superlatives, compare the inscription 
on a picture of Elizabeth in the Hall of the Post- Reformation Jesus College, 

" Diva Elizabetha Virgo Invictissima Semper Augusta Plus Quam 
Caesarea Angliae Franciae et Hiberniae Potentissima Imperatrix Fidei Chris- 
tianae Fortissima Propugnatrix Literarum Omnium Scientissima Fautrix Im- 
menso Oceani Felicissima Triumphatrix CoUegii Jesu Oxon Fundatrix." 


■S^ie>XX€'?t€l^'l t-X c-/ FT. 

The Roaring Blaze 

dining with the Lord Alexander P.P. VI because His meals 
consisted of a single dish. But Rome and Italy generally 
were very proud of Him, because, at sixty-one years of age, 
He combined the vigour of manhood's prime with the wisdom 
of experience of life. If peace could be maintained, while 
a strong hand guided politics, the auspices were all 

On the thirty-first of August, at the First Consistory, the 
Lord Alexander P.P. VI named his nephew, Don Juan de 
Borja y Lan^ol (Giovanni Borgia, detto Seniore) Cardinal- 
Presbyter of the Title of Santa Susanna. This Most Worship- 
ful Purpled One was the son of the Pope's sister, Dofia Juana. 
He had been Apostolic Prothonotary, Corrector of Pontifical 
Breves, and Archbishop of Monreale, under the Lord Xystus 
P.P. IV; and powerless Governor of Rome under the Lord 
Innocent P.P. VIII. He was a great man of business, 
dexterous and capable with plenary powers, and competent 
to deal with grave matters. The Lord Alexander P.P. VI, 
like His Aug^ust Uncle, lost no time in securing" the services of 
blood relation near to His Own person. 

The chorus of flattery was not altogether free from dis- 
cords. The sinister Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, every 
day becoming more and more aggrieved by the success of 
his abhorred rival, called for a General Council (according 
to the ridiculous custom of his age) to adjudge the Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI guilty of Simony. In Florence the 
eccentric Fra Girolamo Savonarola, a friar of the Religion 
of St. Dominic, was prophesying evil days. Lorenzo de' 
Medici, " that monster of genius," was dead ; and he, literally, 
had been the Keeper of the Peace. His sons, Don Piero 
and Don Lorenzo Secondo, brothers to Cardinal Giovanni, 
were no fit successors to their renowned father. Fra Giro- 
lamo really ruled in Florence ; and his rule was baneful, 
because he let his personality over-ride his principles. 
Starting, a few years before, to convert the sinners of 
Florence, he had preached naked Christianity. When he 
had smitten many souls to penitence, his converts (in the 
manner of converts) leaned upon him. He allowed himself 
to become a director. From director it naturally was but 
a step to dictator : and there is the human error of F" ra 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Girolamo Savonarola. That is the point from which he 
went astray. As dictator, he brought not peace but a 
sword — privilege of not a human man. He ordained what 
the world calls eccentricities ; he became impatient of 
opinion, of resistance, of control ; his penitents were the 
Salvation Army of the fifteenth century, making singular 
exhibitions of frenetic benevolence. He had made himself, 
by perfectly legal means, independent of his local Dominican 
superiors ; the Archbishop of the province had no jurisdic- 
tion over him ; he was subject only to the General of 
Dominicans and to the Pope in Rome. He was absolutely 
sincere ; he was a fervent Catholic ; of his bonafides there 
can be no doubt whatever. He had no attraction of 
manner ; his personal aspect was vulgar, terrible, appalling. 
Yet there must have been some charm in his teaching, for 
great and holy men left all to follow him ; Messer Alessandro 
Filipepi (detto Botticelli) joined him. And now he claimed 
to be the prophet of the Most High, prophesying of evils at 
the door. 

■^ ^ ^ 

•TV- TV' "TV- 

Milan menaced the peace of Italy. By the assassination 
of Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza-Visconti in 1476, the duchy 
passed to his infant son Duke Giangaleazzo ; whose widowed 
mother, the Duchess Bona of Savoja, ruled as Regent. 
Four brothers of her dead husband conspired against her; 
and in 1479, the eldest, Don Ludovico Maria Sforza Vis- 
conti (detto II Moro), took possession of her child and 
deprived her of the regency. Cardinal Ascanio Maria, 
brother of II Moro, exerted himself in Rome to obtain con- 
firmation of this heartless deed. Duchess Bona, distracted 
when she found her young son torn from her arms, knowing 
his infant life to be the only bar between his uncle Don 
Ludovico Maria and the throne of Milan, made frantic 
appeals for the intervention of France. But the Christian 
King Louis XI died before he could reply to that poor 
mother : and Don Ludovico Maria, as Regent, thrived, 
keeping the boy-duke at Pavia in a palace that was, in fact, 
a prison, in conditions not cruel nor fatal but assuredly not 
ducal, nor suited to the enjoyment and maintenance of life. 
In 1489 Duke Giangaleazzo reached the age of twenty 


The Roaring Blaze 

years ; and then it was remembered that his mother ; the 
Duchess Bona, had affianced him in his infancy to Madonna 
Isabella, daughter of the heir of Naples, Duke Don Alonso 
de Aragona of Calabria. There appeared to be no reason 
why Don Ludovico Maria should exacerbate the royal 
House of Naples by interference with the keeping of this 
contract ; the boy was eager, the girl was marriageable ; and 
the wedding was celebrated with appropriate pomp. The 
usurping Regent insisted, however, that, as the young Duke 
was a minor, he should still remain in the condition of a 
ward ; and the newly- wedded children retired to try conjugal 
life at Pavia. A year later, 1492, a son was born ; and 
then Duke Giangaleazzo, by paternity emboldened into 
manlihood, became restive against his uncle's yoke, pro- 
testing that he no longer would submit to the treatment of 
a boy. But Don Ludovico was well aware that long con- 
finement shortens life ; and he had kept his nephew a prisoner 
for ten years. He was not precisely of the stuff of which 
murderers are made ; or a knife-blade delicately pushed 
between the youngster's neck and spine long ago would have 
made the sceptre of Milan his. As Regent he had absolute 
power ; and he was well content to wait. So he took no notice 
of Duke Giangaleazzo's remonstrances ; and, to pass the 
time, he practised marriage in his proper person, wedding 
the lovely Madonna Beatrice d'Este of Ferrara in 1491. 
(Don Francesco Sforza, son of Don Bosio Sforza and 
Madonna Cecilia Aldobrandeschi, heiress of Santafiora, the 
kinsman of Don Ludovico Maria, who arranged this marriage, 
was the Orator of Milan at the coronation of the Lord Alex- 
ander P.P. VI in 1492.) After the nuptials of the usurping 
Regent, the young Duke Giangaleazzo resigned himself to 
bear his lot. But his wife was furious, and thought of the 
interests of her baby son. " In real truth," cried Madonna 
Isabella to her feeble spouse, " thou art Duke of Milan, and 
I thy Duchess. But thou art content to abide in Pavia 
while that Black, Don Ludovico, ruleth in thy duchy, and 
seateth Madonna Beatrice near him in my place on thy 
throne. I will have that girl to know that she is no duchess, 
and that I, I Isabella, am Duchess of Milan." And the 
lady wrote to her father, Don Alonso de Aragona Duke of 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Calabria, who was heir to the crown of the Regno, inciting 
him to resent the insult put upon her, his daughter, to end 
the usurpation of Don Ludovico Maria, and to restore Duke 
Giangaleazzo to his duchy. 

Duke Don Alonso was not unwilling. War was 
imminent between Naples and Milan. Then the Pope 
died ; the Lord Alexander P.P. VI succeeded Him ; and, 
it being an age when the Pope frankly was admitted to be 
Ruler of the World, Father of princes and of kings, etc., all 
Italy and Christendom waited to know the new Pope's 

This was the first of a series of extremely delicate 
positions in which the Lord Alexander P.P. VI found 
Himself involved. On the one hand, the Papacy was at 
peace with Naples. On the other, the Pope's Holiness 
found His brilliant young Vicechancellor-Cardinal Ascanio 
Maria Sforza-Visconti to be exceedingly valuable ; and he 
was own brother to that Don Ludovico Maria (detto II 
Moro) against whom Naples was invoked. Momentous 
consequences waited on His action. 

-V- ■^ ^ 

^ •Ti- ■yv- 

On the eleventh of December 1492, there arrived in Rome 
Don Federigo de Aragona, Prince of Altamura, second son 
of King Don Ferrando I, ostensibly to offer to the Pope's 
Holiness the obedience of Naples, with congratulations on 
His coronation. The royal envoy sumptuously was enter- 
tained by Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, whose chief 
occupations at this period appear to have been the feeling 
of the pulses of the Powers, and the search for a potentate 
willing to be used against the Borgia. 

Manifestations of goodwill between Papacy and Regno 
pleased the Romans. The frontier of Naples was but a 
day's ride from Rome ; and the Romans liked to feel that 
beyond that frontier flourished a friend, not lurked a foe. 
In private audience, however, Don Federigo said that the 
assistance of the Pope's Holiness was required in a family 
affair ; and he made it clear that the attitude of Regno to 
Papacy would be determined by the extent to which the 
Lord Alexander P.P. VI would go on behalf of Naples. 

This was the case in question. King Matthias Corvinus 


The Roaring Blaze 

of Hungary had married Madonna Beatrice, a bastard of 
King Don Ferrando I. On the death of King Matthias 
Corvinus, his childless widow Queen Beatrice had intrip-ued 
to get the Hungarian crown settled upon King Wladislaw 
of Bohemia, who, in return for her Majesty's services, had 
promised to marry her. Such a promise of marriage was 
equivalent to a betrothal, and a betrothal was only less 
binding than an actual marriage in that it was capable of 
being dissolved ; whereas a marriage was, and is, indis- 
soluble. King Wladislaw of Bohemia had been crowned 
King of Hungary through the exertions of Queen Beatrice. 
She, preferring the situation of Queen Regnant to that of 
Queen Dowager, had performed her part of the contract ; 
and now King Wladislaw had changed his mind, and was 
about to ask the Pope for a dispensation from the obligation 
of fulfilling his promise of marriage. This was a grievous 
insult to the bastard of the King of Naples, whose counter- 
petition to the Lord Alexander P.P. VI was that no such 
dispensation should be granted to King Wladislaw, and 
that he should be compelled to perform his part of the 
bargain. Nothing was said at this time regarding the 
affair of the Duchess Isabella of Milan, in which the Regno 
also was interested. The cases of queens take precedence 
of those of duchesses. 

The Lord Alexander P.P. VI, with the experience of 
seven and thirty years of curial diplomacy behind Him, 
required time in which to reflect upon His answer ; and 
would enter into no immediate engagement with the 
Neapolitan prince. Don Federigo, who imagined that the 
Regno had but to ask and have, was much aggrieved ; and 
his host. Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, inflamed him with 
sardonic sympathy, and eyed the Regno, for a purpose, 
from that day forward. An uncouth pugnacious schemer 
was this Most Illustrious Lord Cardinal. As a captain of 
condottieri he might have captured a kingdom : but as an 
ecclesiastic he was at all times utterly disedifying. The 
Lord Alexander P.P. VI seems to have treated him with 
admirable forbearance, with contemptuous indifference, than 
which no attitude is more calculated to sting and irritate an 
angry mediocrity. He had been allowed to proceed in his 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

turn to the cardinal-bishopric of Ostia without let or 
hindrance : he had rank, riches, and power. But he was 
discontented, jealous, filled with envy, hatred, malice, and 
all uncharitableness. 

* # # 

It is imperatively important to be able to distinguish 
between the Office and the Man ; and to avoid the exces- 
sively vulgar error of confounding the general with the parti- 
cular. The pontifical acts of Rodrigo, Who is called Alex- 
ander P.P. VI, will compare favourably with those of any 
Supreme Pontiff, from Simon, Who is called Peter P.P., to 
Gioacchino Vincenzo Rafaele Luigi, Who is called 
Leo P.P. XIII. His comportment as man, and Italian 
despot, is another matter. The just necessity of the 
distinction insistently is laid upon the student of His history. 

Man does not yearn to please a person who is playing 
ugly tricks upon him. The Lord Alexander P.P. VI 
particularly did not yearn to please the King of Naples. 
While the envoy of the Regno was displaying his royal 
father's petition at the feet of the Father of princes and of 
kings, the Pope's Holiness was digesting news of a trick 
which had been played upon Him by the intrigues of King 
Don Ferrando I. 

Don Franciotto Cibo, bastard of the Lord Inno- 
cent P.P. VIII, had been enriched by his Father with the 
lordships of Cervetri and Anguillara. These were pontifical 
fiefs, held by feudal tenure from the Pope. Being a silly 
avaricious weakling, rather frightened of the responsibility 
of baronage, Don Franciotto Cibo sold the said lordships 
to Don Virginio Orsini for forty thousand ducats ; and went 
to live at Florence under the protection of his brother-in-law 
Don Piero de' Medici. Now Don Virginio Orsini had 
borrowed those forty thousand ducats from the King of 
Naples, who was his firm friend, and perfectly qualified to 
understand the loan to be a super-excellent investment. 
The lordships of Cervetri and Anguillara lay between the 
Regno and the territories of the Republic of Florence ; and 
their transference into the hands of Orsini, Naples' friend, 
signified the opening of a road from Naples into Tuscany, 
along which a Neapolitan army easily might travel, should 


The Roaring Blaze 

King Don Ferrando be pleased to campaign in a northerly 

It was Don Ludovico Maria Sforza-Visconti (detto II 
Moro), the usurping Regent of Milan, who first saw the 
serious portent of this move : but, though he communicated 
his discovery to the Holiness of the Pope, he laboured 
under a slight misapprehension ; for usurpers are the most 
touchy of mankind, and see an enemy in everything which 
they do not understand. The northern frontier of Tuscany 
impinged upon the southern frontier of Milan. Now that 
the southern frontier of Tuscany was connected, by Cervetri 
and Anguillara, with the Regno, Don Ludovico Maria 
suspected an alliance between Don Piero de' Medici and 
King Don Ferrando I, between Tuscany and Naples, an 
alliance which most possibly implied designs detrimental to 
the duchy of Milan — after all the real Duchess Isabella 
was Naples' bastard, thought Don Ludovico Maria, the 
usurper — ; and he envoyed swift couriers to his brother 
the Vicechancellor-Cardinal in Rome, with instructions to 
advise the Pope's Holiness of the imbroglio. 

That was the news of which the Lord Alexander P.P. VI 
chewed the cud at the time when He gave audience to the 
Prince of Altamura. With His magnificent talent for 
resolving diplomatic problems into their elements, from 
which He could discard those that He deemed useless while 
reserving those possessing salient features, the Pope's 
Holiness concluded that the politics of Milan, of Tuscany, 
of the Regno, and the affairs of their respective rulers, were 
of secondary importance and altogether negligeable ; but 
that the secret unauthorised transfer of papal fiefs into the 
hands of dangerous malcontents of the very powerful House 
of Orsini, required prompt decisive assertion of the rights 
of the Pontifical Suzerain. 

At the beginning of 149.;, Cardinal Ascanio Maria 
Sforza-Visconti was found to be urging the Supreme 
Pontiff to act against the illegal transfer of Cervetri and 
Anguillara. Loyalty to his brother, the usurping Regent of 
Milan, and his duty as Vicechancellor bound to maintain 
the paramountcy of the Holy Roman Church — these make 
clear his point of view. 

97 G 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

A clashing of interests between Papacy and Regno was 
an opportunity which Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere 
greatly relished. He did not hesitate to take the part of 
Naples. If he had one enemy whom he hated as perfervidly 
as he hated the Pope, that enemy was Cardinal Ascanio 
Maria Sforza-Visconti whose exertions on behalf of his 
rival had deprived him of the tiara or triregno ; and, having 
sworn that either he or Sforza-Visconti should quit the 
Sacred College, he avidly seized the present chance of 
belabouring the cardinal as well as the Pope. He had 
the support of Orsini, naturally. Colonna, always more 
Ghibelline than Guelf, was not unwilling to espouse the 
cause of a man who went about saying that the Pope's 
Holiness was plotting to ruin his reputation— his reputa- 
tion !— and to deprive him of his dignities : and hence arose 
a very singular and unusual combination. 

The Papacy generally has been allied with Colonna or 
with Orsini. Such was the importance of these houses, 
that during many hundred years all European treaties and 
concordats contained their names on one side or the other. 
But here, for once in their mysterious and interminable 
feud, these mighty barons of Rome, with all their collateral 
branches and their myriads of armed retainers, were found 
united in a common cause. The phenomenon may be 
explained by the rise of other baronial houses, who were 
becoming quite as numerous and quite as potent as Colonna 
or Orsini ; and who were equally desirable as allies. The 
most prominent of these, in 1493, were the Sforza and the 
Cesarini. The Sforza descended from Don Giovanni 
Muzio Attendolo (detto Sforza) ; and included the Sovereign- 
Duchy of Milan, by the marriage of the great Francesco 
with the heiress of Duke Giangaleazzo Visconti ; the 
Sovereign-County of Santafiora, by the marriage of 
Francesco's brother Bosio with the heiress of Aldo- 
brandeschi ; and the Tyrannies of Pesaro, Chotignuola, 
Imola and Forli. The Sforza blazon the lion rampant with 
the holy flower of the quince for Santafiora, and the salvage 
boy couped at the thighs issuant from a serpent statant for 
Milan. The Cesarini were a Roman house of enormous 
wealth and distinction, claiming a Cesarian origin. It was 

The Roaring Blaze 

already allied with the Lord Alexander P.P. VI by the 
marriage in 1482 of His bastard Madonna Girolama Borgia 
with Don Giovandrea Cesarini. Its representative, Don 
Gabriele Cesarini, was the Gonfaloniere of Rome, who 
fought the Prior of the Caporioni for precedence at the 
coronation of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, Who, in person, 
accorded the first place to Cesarini. Don Giangiorgio 
Cesarini, the heir, was allied with Sforza by marriage with 
Madonna Maria Sforza di Guido di Santafiora ; and Don 
Giuliano Cesarini held office in the Apostolic Chamber. It 
was a house which, during centuries, had been content with 
secondary rank, while accumulating immense reserves of 
power, now to be brought into action. These were the two 
patrician Houses which the Pope's Holiness found ready to 
His hand when Colonna leagued with Orsini against His 
peace. In fact, Sforza and Cesarini were the right and left 
hands of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, as Colonna or 
Orsini were of His predecessors and successors. 

Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, after relieving himself 
of some treasonable speeches, considered Rome to be 
unsafe; and fled down Tiber to his bishopric of Ostia, 
where he fortified himself and advertised for mercenaries. 

The word war, to the bloody men of valour of the end 
of the fifteenth century, signified a game like that of chess. 
The sole object of war was profit. It was undertaken 
simply to deprive an enemy of his goods. Prisoners were 
captured, and held to ransom. Cities and fortresses were 
reduced by starvation, or by a display of overwhelming 
force. But bloodshed — and this is noteworthy — was avoided 
as far as possible ; and the game chiefly was played by 
strategic marches, counter-marches, and manoeuvres. It 
was a business, a profession, " not more hazardous than 
that of a professional football-player." The superfluous 
men of Europe, and the temperamental fighters, served as 
hired mercenaries under the captains and the princes who 
could pay their price and afford them a roystering life. 
Patriotism, the honour of the fatherland, were unknown. 
Except in the case of England, there was no national army. 
When a position had been won, a city captured, the 
conquerors satisfied themselves with the ransoms and the 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

richest spoils. If the citizens wished to avoid the incon- 
venience of a sack, they collected a sum sufficient to pay off 
the rank and file. Otherwise the mercenaries took the 
women, and had licence to recoup themselves by pillage. 
Resistance meant torture and death : but bloodshed was an 
accident, not an essential of war. 

The action of Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere was an 
invitation to the Lord Alexander P.P. VI to engage in war. 
He had thrown down the gauntlet. He had made the first 
move in the game ; and his gambit was a very fine one, 
for the fortress of Ostia dominated Tiber mouth, and enabled 
him to paralyse Rome by stopping sea-borne supplies. 

Like all important characters, the Pope's Holiness was 
nevrotic ; not by any means a coward, but quick to scent 
danger, susceptible of momentary fright. Early in the 
spring of 1493 He was going to a picnic, at the villa which 
the Lord Innocent P.P. VIII had built for pontifical refresh- 
ment at La Magliana, outside the walls ; and when a cannon 
saluted His approach He was stricken with a sudden panic, 
and galloped back to the Vatican amid the frank exe- 
crations of His escort disappointed of their dinner. 

Here was the situation. The Pope was comfortably 
embroiled with Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere and his allies 
of Naples, of Colonna, of Orsini. To some extent His 
interests tied Him to Sforza and Milan. Tuscany was un- 
decided between the Pope and Naples. The other Powers 
looked on. 

While Don Ludovico Maria Sforza- Visconti was sug- 
gesting an alliance between the Pope, the duchy of Milan, 
and the Republic of Venice, to overawe the Neapolitan 
Bond, King Don Ferrando was intriguing with a view to 
discover whether he could make a better bargain with 
the Sovereign- Pontiff than with Colonna -1- Orsini 4- della 
Rovere. This was not treachery. It was merely the Nea- 
politan method, of which all Italy was fully cognizant. The 
King's Majesty sent envoys to Rome, to Milan, and to 
Tuscany, to try to settle the Cervetri-Anguillara affair by 
pacific means. 

The Lord Alexander P.P. VI was well aware that no 
confidence could be placed in King Don Ferrando I : but 

The Roaring Blaze 

by way of giving him a chance He proposed a marriage 
between His bastard, Don Gioffredo Borgia, now of the age 
of twelve years, and Madonna Lucrezia, a grand-daughter of 
the Majesty of Naples. At the same time He gathered 
troops and fortified the Vatican and the Mola of Hadrian, 
with the gallery-passage, called Lo Andare, which connects 
them, enabling Pope and cardinals to run, in time of danger, 
from the Apostolic Palace to the impregnable fortress tomb 
by Tiber. 

The Republic of Venice flung itself into the arms of 
Don Ludovico Maria Sforza-Visconti ; for the Doge and 
Senate were dreadfully afraid lest the impassioned appeals 
of the Duchess Isabella on behalf of her husband, the 
pathetic Duke Giangaleazzo, should receive the attention of 
Naples. If the said Duke Giangaleazzo should come to 
owe his throne to King Don Ferrando I, then Milan would 
be, to all intents and purposes, a fief of the Regno ; and to 
have Naples lording it in Northern Italy would by no means 
satisfy Venice, which, on this account, preferred alliance 
with the usurping Regent, even at the cost of winking at 
his usurpation of the Regency of Milan. Now Milan and 
Venice in alliance were a menace to their own neighbours ; 
and, acting on the principle that made those two Powers 
one, the duchies of Mantua and Ferrara, and the Republic 
of Siena, hastened to fall into line with them. This con- 
catenation, being superior to anything that Naples could 
exhibit, also caused the Lord Alexander P.P. VI to arrive 
at a decision : and, on the twenty-fifth of April 1493, accom- 
panied by an armed cavalcade of Sforza and Cesarini for 
the ocular instruction of Colonna and Orsini, the Holiness 
of the Pope proceeded through Rome to the Venetian church 
of San Marco, on Piazza Venezia, where He ceremonially 
published the Bull of League between the Papacy, the 
duchies of Milan, Mantua, and Ferrara, and the Republics 
of Venice and Siena ; after which, the river-port of Rome 
at Ostia being in His enemies' hands. He began to fortify the 
land-port of Rome at Civita Vecchia, by way of giving effect 
to His warlike proclamation. 

At this call of check, Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere 
howled aloud for a General Council to depose the Lord 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Alexander P.P. VI ; and Don Alonso de Aragona, Duke 
of Calabria, wanted immediately to unite with Don Piero 
de' Medici and the Signoria of Florence, and, aided by the 
Colonna of Paliano and Marino and the Orsini of Gravina 
and Bracciano, to assault Rome from the outer side, while 
Colonna + Orsini, who were in the city, engaged in similar 
diversions. But King Don Ferrando was too sly. He 
had yet another piece to play. He knew, and none knew 
better, that the territories of the Holy See during a long 
course of centuries had been distributed among pontifical 
relatives and favourites ; that, at present, the States of the 
Church were smaller than an ordinary duchy ; and he had 
heard of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI as a singularly affec- 
tionate father, devoted to His children's interests. Where- 
fore the Majesty of Naples conceived, and with absolute 
correctness, that the Pope's Holiness intended, by hook or 
by crook, by diplomacy, by marriages, or by war, to recover 
the possessions of the Papacy, and to use them to promote 
the fortunes of His family. Secondly, King Don Ferrando I 
knew France to be Milan's northern neighbour ; and he saw 
the exceeding possibility of an alliance between the usurping 
Regent, Don Ludovico Maria Sforza-Visconti, and the 
Christian King Charles VIII of France; a combination 
which, with the Papacy, the duchies, and republics, already 
joined in league, would be absolutely and permanently over- 
whelming and disintegrating to the very Regno itself. To 
turn the flank, as it were, to give France occupation in another 
direction, he resolved on courting an alliance with Spain. 

To this end he indited an invective against the Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI, adopting all the gratuitous insults and 
lying babble foamed out by the malignant Cardinal- Bishop 
Giuliano della Rovere. "He leads a life that is abhorred 
by all, without respect to the seat He holds." [Compare the 
speeches of the Orators and contemporary dispatches.] 
"He cares for nothing save to aggrandise His children by 
fair means or by foul." [So far He had done nothing at 
all, by foul means or by fair, for His children ; except to 
deprive His reputed bastard Don Cesare (detto Borgia) of 
the revenues of the cathedral of Cartagena, in favour of that 
very Cardinal Giambattista Orsini who now deserted Him.] 

The Roaring Blaze 

"From the beginning of His pontificate He has done nothing 
but disturb the peace." [This is partly true. The Pope's 
Holiness wonderfully had done more than any preceding 
Pontiff to restore good government and order and security 
to Rome. But He had behaved, in a certain instance, in a 
way that was extremely offensive to the Spanish ideal of 
peace. According to the notions of King Don Ferrando I 
de Aragona, himself a Spaniard — according to Spanish 
notions, and the Majesty of Naples was a Spaniard writing 
to Spaniards — the Lord Alexander P.P. VI was indeed a 
disturber of the peace. But the facts are these. In 1492, 
the horrible Spanish Inquisition — that frightful and diaboli- 
cal atrocity constantly condemned by Rome — under the 
guidance of the Grand Inquisitor Torquemada, had procured 
the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. The Spaniards 
have much of the Moor, a touch of the oriental, the element 
of the human devil, in their blood. Throughout Christen- 
dom the Jews were looked upon with horror, by no means 
undeserved. Many long years before, England had cast 
them out ; and now they were forced from Spain. The 
sufferings, with which the fiendish Spaniard visited them, 
were so fearful as to excite pity even in Papal Italy, whose 
loathing of Jews was a habit of mind, an article of faith, 
not an inhuman vice. Messer Giovanni Pico della 
Mirandola (detto Fenice degli Ingegni) said : — 

"The sufferings of the Jews, in which the glory of Divine Justice 
" delights, were so extreme as to fill us Christians with commiseration. 

Senarega said : — 

"The matter {i.e., the expulsion of the Jews) at first sight seemed praise- 
" worthy as regarding the honour done to our religion ; yet it involved 
" some amount of cruelty, if we look upon them (the Jews) not as beasts 
" but as men, the handiwork of God. 

Many of this miserable race came to Rome, where, 
under the expressed order of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, 
they were protected, and allowed to share in that security 
of life and limb which He, at the beginning of His pontificate, 
had ordained. The Romans did not like these Maranas, 
as the Moorish Jews were called, any more than they liked, 
or like, Catalans, or Franks, or Goths, or any other 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

foreigners save the English-speaking race ; and, following 
hereditary instinct, there were occasional attempts at 
persecution, the rigorous stamping out of which, by the 
justice of the Pope, caused intermittent rioting and dis- 
affection of the citizens who only could look upon the Jews 
as fair game. That was the only disturbance of the peace 
with which King Don Ferrando could charge the Holy 
Father ; and it was an act of justice and humanity. But 
the fifteenth century, in common with the nineteenth (the 
twentieth is too young yet to be judged), was very wont to 
give a bad name to the dog that it had failed to hang.] 

■^ :Afc ^ 

^ W TV* 

Any success that might have attended the rabid 
calumnies of the Majesty of Naples was prevented by an 
occurrence of the most startling species. 

A mariner of Genoa, called Messer Cristoforo Colombi, 
announced to the Spanish Court, in March 1493, the 
astounding news of his discovery of a continent. An 
explorer's ardour, combined with religious zeal, had made 
him seek to extend the boundaries of Christendom. He 
had set out in the hope of finding a few islands. He 
returned to Europe solemnly asserting that he had found a 
world. Universal curiosity was awakened, and a fresh 
expedition planned, with which the intrepid mariner set 
forth on a second voyage to prove, and to secure, his prize. 
Meanwhile, Don Hernando and Dofia Isabella, the 
Catholic King and Queen of Spain, thought it would be 
prudent to bind this new world to their domain by a bond 
that easily could net be broken. The Pope, as Ruler of the 
World and Earthly Vicar of Jesus Christ, was held to have 
authority over all heathen lands, and to His Holiness an 
envoy went from Spain commissioned to announce the dis- 
covery, and to pray Him graciously to confirm it to the 
Catholic King and Queen. 

Precipitevolissi7nevolniente (no other word describes the 
act) was issued a Bull, dated " At Rome by St. Peter's, the 
year of our Lord's Incarnation, 1493, the fourth day of the 
nones of May, and the first year of Our pontificate," giving 
to Don Hernando and to Dofia Isabella, and to their heirs 
and successors, all islands and continents, discovered or yet 


The Roaring Blaze 

to be discovered, in the western ocean, west and south of a 
line to be drawn from the North Pole to the South Pole, 
one hundred leagues west of the A9ores and Cape Verde 
Islands. The language of this Bull is exquisitely touching; 
strong, pregnant, earnest, and majestic, as the Authorised 
Version of the Epistles of St. Paul. The motive un- 
doubtedly is the motive of an Apostle to convert a world 
to Christ. The grant is made to the Majesty of Spain, 
with commands to send honest God-fearing learned and 
expert men to teach the Christian Faith ; and the penalty 
of excommunication latae sententiae is imposed upon any- 
one, even royal or imperial, who shall interfere. This 
supremely beautiful Pontifical Act, the Bull Inter caetera 
of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, is given verbatim in 
Raynaldus, sub anno 1493. So in return for the Borgia, 
which Spain gave to Italy, Italy and the Borgia gave 
Messer Cristoforo Colombi and the New World to Spain. 

Don Hernando and Dofia Isabella, the Catholic King 
and Queen, were Spaniards. And when that is said all is 
said ; and all the hideous history of the New World under 
Spanish domination is explained. Those sovereigns bore 
no good- will for the Lord Alexander P.P. VI although He 
was a Spaniard. They, like every other sovereign of 
Europe, were quite prepared to harass and to flout an 
unobliging Pope up to the verge of excommunications and 
interdicts ; when they, of course, would cringe and cower like 
the villainous usurper John Plantagenet : but the quick 
granting of their petition in this matter of the New World, 
the immense distinction which the Bull Inter caetera con- 
ferred on them and on Spain, turned them, from suitors 
prepared with impertinence, into the abjectly devoted 
adherents of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, at least for the 
time ; and absolutely prevented King Don Ferrando's 
application for an anti-pontifical alliance from meeting with 
success. This, no doubt, is that on which the Pope's 
Holiness counted. Very seldom in life does a man so 
clearly see his duty with the certainty of reward for its 
prompt performance. And very rarely, in the pontificate 
of the Lord Alexander P. P. VI, did He deign, so immediately 
and so unreservedly, to grant a favour. He must have 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

perceived, with that marvellous instinct of His, which led 
Him inevitably to the very roots of matters, that for once 
the paths of duty and of pleasure coincided. Certainly 
He unhesitatingly walked therein. 

On the twelfth of June the Lord Alexander P.P. VI 
married His bastard, Madonna Lucrezia Borgia, of the age 
of fifteen years, to the Tyrant of Pesaro, Don Giovanni 
Sforza, of the age of twenty-six years, with all the magnifi- 
cence due to His secular rank as an Italian despot ; and 
thereby set wagging the tongues of those who lamented the 
decay of ecclesiastical discipline, and who could not dis- 
tinguish between the dual and contradictory offices which 
the Pope was expected to reconcile ; as well as the pens of 
professional manufacturers of squibs and lampoons. The 
wedding-banquet took place at the Vatican, in the presence 
of the Pope, ten cardinals, and fifteen Roman patricians 
with their wives. The Holy Father presented to the ladies 
silver cups filled with sweetmeats, throwing them into their 
bosoms ad konorein et laudeni 07niiipotentis Dei et Ecclesiae 
Ro77tanae,s2iys the golden-mouthed, venomous, untrustworthy 
historian, Messer Stefano Infessura. In the evening there 
was dancing, with comedies of the conventional coarse but 
common type. This event is one of the bases from which 
disgusting charges have been levelled against the Lord 
Alexander P. P. VI. It summarily may be stated that those 
charges consist entirely of the unprintable gossip of enemies 
or inferiors, and that not one of them satisfactorily can be 
proved. That the Vicar of Christ should have condescended 
so far is impossible ; that a temporal sovereign should 
have condescended so far is probable, and, perhaps, regret- 
table ; but the status of the guests, the ten cardinals, and 
the fifteen Roman patricians with their wives, guarantees 
the utter respectability of the Despot's little private party 
from a contemporary point of view. 

* * * 

In June, also, arrived in Rome Don Diego Lopez de 
Haro to offer to the Holiness of the Pope the homage and 
obedience of Spain. These having been accepted, the 
Orator proceeded to remonstrate with the Pope, in the name 

1 06 

The Roaring Blaze 

of the Catholic King and Queen, regarding the asylum 
extended to the Marafias who were fled from the Spanish 
Inquisition to Rome. Thousands of these unfortunates 
were encamped among the tombs on the Appian Way, and 
had brought the plague with them. Spain execrated the 
Papal tolerance, and wondered that the Holy Father, as 
the Head of Christianity, should protect those whom Spain 
had driven away as being enemies of the Christian Faith. 
Further, the Spanish Orator said that the Christian King 
Charles VIII of France was threatening to invade Italy 
and to take advantage of the quarrels of the Italian Powers ; 
wherefore he urged the necessity of peace, and an agree- 
ment among the sovereigns of whom the Pope was chief. 
By way of showing that concessions would ensure the 
unanimity of Italy, he set forth a list of ecclesiastical 
grievances that needed remedies ; grievances *' which, since 
the days of the Council of Constance, had been standing 
complaints against the Papacy, to be urged in all negotia- 
tions for other purposes." {Creighton iv. 199.) 

^ ji, Ji, 

•TV" W •TV' 

Publicly Don Ludovico Maria Sforza-Visconti harped 
upon the league between Venice, Milan, and the Papacy. 
Privately he entered into a secret treaty with the Christian 
King Charles VIII through Belgioso, Orator of Milan. 
Being an usurper he trusted not even his allies : preferring 
to have two strings to his bow, he believed that he could 
consolidate his position only by disturbing the peace of 

Publicly, from his fortress of Ostia, that psychic epileptic, 
Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, continued to shout for 
a General Council to depose his Rival. The abominable 
character of this cardinal well may be exposed by stating 
that he was endeavourinor to rend the Church and Christen- 
dom with a Fortieth Schism, in order to satiate his personal 

And, like Gallio, the Pope's Holiness cared for none of 
these things — for Spain, for Milan, for the contemptible 
cardinal. He believed in Himself, and in His Own power to 
rule. At least. He officially had been saluted as Ruler of 
the World. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

The intrigues and invectives of the King" of Naples 
deservedly having failed, his Majesty made the experiment 
of a hostile demonstration. His second son, Prince Don 
Federigo of Altamura appeared with eleven galleys at 
Ostia on Tiber mouth ; and rapturously was hailed by that 
traitor-cardinal-bishop, with the Colonna and Don Virginio 

The Lord Alexander P.P. VI was willing to negotiate. 
Borgian negotiations invariably meant that Borgia would 
give its opponents something, but not the something that 
they wanted, and always in such a way that it could not be 
refused. The Naples -|- Colonna + Orsini -f- Cardinal Giuliano 
della Rovere conspiracy had demanded Cervetri and 
Anguillara for Orsini (and Naples) and the disgrace of the 
Vicechancellor-Cardinal Ascanio Maria Sforza-Visconti to 
satisfy the spleen of him of Ostia. On the twenty-fourth 
of July the cardinal, the Neapolitan prince, and Don Virginio 
Orsini came to Rome to hear the pontifical terms, which 
were : — 

(a) That the Pope's Holiness would confirm Cervetri 
and Anguillara to Don Virginio for life ; at his 
death they would revert to the Holy See : but he 
must pay into the pontifical treasury their price of 
forty thousand ducats, which he previously had 
paid to Don Franciotto Cibo : 
(j3) That the Pope's Holiness was willing to forgive and 
to show favour to Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere : 
but He refused to disgrace the Vicechancellor- 
Cardinal Ascanio Maria Sforza-Visconti : 
(y) That the Pope's Holiness would consent to ally 
Himself with the Royal House of Naples by the 
marriage of His bastard, Don Gioffredo Borgia, to 
Madonna Sancia, bastard of Don Alonso de 
Aragona, Duke of Calabria and heir of King Don 
Ferrando I. This agreement was ratified by 
betrothal ; and Don Gioffredo set out for Naples 
to see the girl, and to receive her dowry with 
the title Prince of Squillace. The marriage was 
postponed for the present, because neither bride nor 
bridegroom had completed their thirteenth year. 

The Roaring Blaze 

No sooner was the treaty of peace signed, than the 
Sieur Perron de Basche, Orator of the Christian King 
Charles VIII of France, arrived in Rome, armed with 
instructions to prevent an alliance between Papacy and 
Regno, and to obtain pontifical confirmation of the election, 
by the Rouen chapter, of Messire Georges d'Amboise as 
Archbishop. The Supreme Pontiff, by way of emphasising 
His independent attitude to France, refused to receive the 
Orator in audience, annulled the election of Messire 
Georges d'Amboise, and named one of His Own court to 
the Archbishopric of Rouen. This was what the twentieth 
century timidly calls an " unfriendly act " ; and the Christian 
King forthwith began to sympathise with Cardinal Giuliano 
della Rovere's recent clamour for a General Council to 
depose the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, and to meditate 
thereon day and night. ^ 

•Tf' * ^ 

To strengthen His influence in the Sacred College by 
adding creatures of His Own, at the Second Consistory of 
the twentieth of September 1493, the Lord Alexander 
P.P. VI named twelve new cardinals. 

These were : — 

(a) The Lord John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury, 
Lord High Chancellor of England, whose virtues 
have been praised by another English Chancellor, 
the Blessed Sir Thomas More ; — Cardinal- 
Presbyter of the Title of Santa Anastasia ; 

(j3) The Lord Giovantonio di Sangiorgio ; — Cardinal- 
Presbyter of the Title of San Nereo e Sant' 
Achilleo ; 

(7) Frere Jean Villiers de la Grolaye, Lord Abbot of 
Saint Denys by Paris ; — Cardinal- Presbyter of the 
Title of Santa Sabina ; 

(S) The Lord Bernardino Lopez de Caravajal, Apostolic 
Legate to Caesar Friedrich IV, the eloquent 

1 Sdegnati di questa coUazione contro del Papa, il Re tenne il di medesimo 
gran consiglio, dove furono proposte e trattate piu cose contro del Papa in 
riformatione della chiesa. (Dispatch of 31 Aug. 1493, Canestrini, N^gociations 
avec la Toscane. I. 249.) 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

preacher at the Conclave of 1492 ; — Cardinal- Pres- 
byter of the Title of San Marcellino e San Pietro : 

(f) The Lord Raymond Perauld,^ a Frenchman, 
Apostolic Nuncio in Germany ; — Cardinal- Pres- 
byter of the Title of San Giovanni e San Paolo : 

(^) The Lord Cesare (detto Borgia), reputed bastard of 
the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, and of the age of 
eighteen years ; — Cardinal- Deacon of Santa Maria 
Nuova : 

(ri) The Lord Ippolito d'Este, of the age of fifteen 
years, a great athlete and fighter from boyhood to 
youth, and a prince of the Royal House of Ferrara; 
"tall he was of frame, brawny of sinew, mighty of 
limb, strengthening his robustitude with exercises, 
archery, and hurling javelins ; grace and charm 
bloomed on the face of him ; his bright eyes 
beamed with grave tranquillity, worthy of all praise ; 
most royal was his whole aspect ; he was an expert 
swimmer ; and with whatsoever weapons he adroitly 
strove he innured himself to heat and cold and 
night-long vigils " ; — Cardinal- Deacon of Santa 
Lucia in Silice, alias in Orfea : 

(0) The Lord Fryderyk Kasimierz Jagelone di Polonia, 
son of King Kasimierz of Poland, Bishop of 
Cracow ; — Cardinal- Deacon of Santa Lucia in 
Septisolio, alias in Septizonio : 

(<) The Lord Giuliano Cesarini (detto Giuniore), 
Apostolic Prothonotary, Canon of the Vatican 
Basilica ; — Cardinal- Deacon of San Sergio e San 
Bacco : 

(k-) The Lord Domenico Grimani, Apostolic Protho- 
notary ; — Cardinal- Deacon of San Niccolo inter 
Imagines : 

1 There is a tale about this personage, that, having allowed himself to be 
frightened by one of the calumnies of Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, to the 
effect that the Pope expected to be paid for the red hat (in addition to the 
six hundred ducats which every cardinal offers in return for the cardinalitial 
sapphire ring), he became so nervous on Ash Wednesday, when it was 
his office to scatter ashes on the head of the Sovereign Pontiff, as to substitute 
for the formula of administration, " Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in 
pulverem reverteris," the words " Memento, homo, quia Papa es, et ego 
pecunias non habeo." 


The Roaring Blaze 

(X) The Lord Alessandro Farnese, Apostolic Prothono- 
tary (nicknamed " Cardinal Petticoat," on account 
of the Pope's partiality for his sister, Madonna 
Giulia Orsini nata Farnese) ; — Cardinal- Deacon of 
San Cosma e San Damiano : 
{fi) The Lord Bernardino de' Lunati, Apostolic Pro- 
thonotary, friend of the Cardinal-Vicechancellor ; — 
Cardinal- Deacon of San Ciriaco a//e Terme 
The vigour of this deed struck Cardinal Giuliano della 
Rovere and his friend King Don Ferrando into frantic 
silence. By a mere act of His Sovereign Will the Holiness 
of the Pope immensely had increased His Own potentiality. 
Two of the new creatures were scions of reigning dynasties, 
whose loyalty thereby was secured. The virtue and 
eloquence of the English cardinal were as twin towers of 
strength. The two French creatures were as a sop to 
France. The minor diaconate conferred on Don Cesare 
(detto Borgia) gave him a standing, from which the splen- 
dour of his youth might do great things. And the other 
cardinals were proved adherents, who, by being made to 
owe their promotion to the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, 
became bound (in so far as human foresight went) to His 
interests by the bond of gratitude. It was a most para- 
lysing and disheartening stroke for the enemies of the 
Sovereign Pontiff; and the year 1493 ended amid renewed 
demands for a General Council from Cardinal Giuliano 
della Rovere, and renewed invectives from the Majesty of 

On the twenty-fifth of January 1494, King Don Fer- 
rando I died, in the seventieth year of his age and the thirty- 
fifth of his reign. He was a cautious and experienced poli- 
tician ; and, since the Lord Pius P.P. II, Lorenzo de' Medici, 
and the great Duke Francesco Sforza-Visconti, the greatest 

1 Infessura, in Eccard II. 2015. Alberi, Rel. Ven. Sen. III. 314. Rivista 
Cristiana II. 261. Ugolini, Storia . . . d'Urbino II. Doc. 13. Ciacconi, Vitae 
Pontificum, sub anno. Gregorovius, Geschichts de Stadt VII. 340. Matarazzo, 
Cron. di Perugia in Archivio Storico xvi. See I. pt. ij. 3. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

secular statesman of his century. His policy was directed 
to the preservation of Italy from French invasion, and to 
the destruction of the Papal States. He was not harsh in 
his dealings with his subjects : but to his barons and to his 
opponents he behaved with cruelty and treachery. He 
liked to have his enemies always near him, either alive in 
the dungeons of his palace, or dead, and embalmed, and 
clothed in their habits as they lived. Yet he died regretted ; 
for his heir, the thick-haired, thin-lipped, narrow-eyed, fat- 
jowled, asymmetrically-featured Don Alonso de Aragona, 
Duke of Calabria, enjoyed a reputation for violence 
and brutality the bare idea of which created universal 

The game of politics entered on a new phase. The 
Christian King Charles VHI of France was burning for an 
opportunity of asserting himself ; and had collected an army, 
ostensibly for a Crusade against the Great Turk, the Sultan 
Bajazet, really for purposes of French aggrandisement — 
purposes yet undefined. He was a self-conceited little 
abortion, this Christian King, of the loosest morals even for 
a king, of gross Semitic type, with a fiery birth-flare round 
his left eye, and twelve toes on his feet hidden in splayed 
shoes, which set the fashion in foot-gear for the end of the 
fifteenth century in Italy ; and, like all vain litde men, he 
was anxious to cut a romantic and considerable figure. He 
announced a claim to the crown of Naples. 

This made it necessary for the Lord Alexander P.P. VI 
to compare the advantages of France as an ally with the 
Regno ; and, in the meantime, that He might lead the 
Christian King to declare himself with more particularity, 
the Pope's Holiness addressed a Brief to him in which the 
subject of Naples was not named : but which assured him of 
pontifical favour, and gave him leave to pass through Rome 
with his army on the way to his contemplated Crusade. 
There was dissatisfaction in the Sacred College about the 
matter of the Archbishopric of Rouen ; and some of the 
cardinals were beginning to think that the time was come 
for turning coats, especially as it was known that the Orator 
of France had made overtures of friendship on the part of 
his sovereign to Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere. 


The Roaring Blaze 

The Supreme Pontiff finally concluded that He would 
rather have an ally on His frontier, than an ally whose 
territories were separated from His by the domains of other 
princes. He decided to leave France out of the question ; 
and to recognize the heir of the late King Don Ferrando I. 
Accordingly He conveyed this news to Don Alonso de 
Aragona Duke of Calabria, adding that He would envoy 
a Legate to Naples to concede investiture and to perform the 
ceremony of coronation. At the same time, the Pope's 
Holiness sent the Golden Rose to the Christian King ; and 
it is hard to know whether this gift symbolized consolation 
or contempt. If the former, then the gift should have been 
a sword ; for the Sword is the pontifical gift to kings. If 
the latter, then it was bitterly appropriate, for the Golden 
Rose is the pontifical gift to queens. Yet only with diffi- 
culty one can conceive of the Pope as deliberately setting 
himself to provoke a reigning sovereign who heads a 
mobilized army ; and the act may have been merely one of 
those slipshod performances which the greatest geniuses^, 
from time to time, provide to remind mankind of the maxim 
non semper arciun tendit Apollo. But all the same the 
Lord Alexander P.P. VI was a very strong man, guilty of 
hiding none of His human weaknesses. 

When the Pope issued His Bull on this matter of the 
Investiture in Public Consistory, storms ensued. Cardinal 
Giuliano della Rovere, again diplomatically deprived of his 
Neapolitan friends, flitted from Rome to Ostia with the 
pontifical condottieri at his heels. From Ostia, he shipped 
to Genoa, and made haste to present himself to the pink- 
eyed Majesty of France. The French Orators in Rome 
shrieked "We are betrayed" in the consecrated formula ; 
and hurried to safe places. And the fortress of Ostia capi- 
tulated to the Pope. 

In May, the Lord Giovanni Borgia, Archbishop of 
Monreale and Cardinal-Priest of the Title of Santa Susanna, 
received his Brief as Apostolic Ablegate, and went to Naples 
to crown the new king. The fourteen-year-old Don 
Gioffredo Borgia accompanied his Most Worshipful cousin ; 
and was married on the coronation-day, the seventh of May, 

Madonna Sancia, bastard of King Don Alonso II, who 

113 H 

chronicles of the House of Borgia 

confirmed to him the title of Prince of Squillace with a 
revenue of forty thousand ducats. Also, as an earnest of his 
gratitude to the Pope, the King of Naples conferred the 
Principalities of Teano and Tricarico on Don Juan Fran- 
cisco de Lancol y Borja, eldest surviving bastard of the 
Lord Alexander P.P. VI (who already had procured for 
him the Spanish duchy of Gandia ; ) and enriched Cardinal 
Cesare (detto Borgia) with Neapolitan benefices. The 
Papacy and the Regno now were a Dual Alliance. 

In Italy of the fifteenth century, men's minds chiefly 
were occupied with the accumulation and disposition of 
matters connected with the intellect and the tastes. The 
Elect- Emperor Maximilian, who in 1493 succeeded the 
Pacific Caesar Friedrich IV on the throne of Central Europe 
(called the Holy Roman Empire) was adding outlying 
territories to the possessions of his dynasty, the Habsburg 
House of Austria. Spain was freeing herself, by means of 
steel and faggot, from her brain, i.e., the Moors and Jews ; 
and in exploiting her New World. England was enjoying 
peace and a new dynasty, since the close of the War of the 
Roses in 1485. France had made peace, at a price, with 
King Henry VII Tudor in 1492 ; and with Spain, at the 
cost of her frontier provinces of Cerdogne and Rouissillion, 
in 1493. Lastly, the Christian King Charles VIII of 
France had pacified the rage of the Elect-Emperor Maxi- 
milian, whom he had robbed of his betrothed the Duchess 
Anne of Bretagne, by ceding to him the greater part of 
Burgundy. For the rest, nearly all the kingdoms, duchies, 
and fiefs of France had fallen into the hands of the vaunting 
Charles, by conquest, inheritance, lapse or marriage. 
Finding himself at the head of a great army experienced in 
the art of war, and with a domain smiling with prosperity, 
he looked for fresh fields to conquer. The chivalric glamour 
of the Crusade had by no means faded : it dazzled the pink 
eye of France : and, at one time, undoubtedly the Christian 
King intended to march on the Muslim Infidel, now settled 
in Europe and unmolested. But, with the death of King 
Don Ferrando I, the fickle Frenchman revived an old 
claim of the House of Anjou to the crown of Naples, in- 


The Roaring Blaze 

trigued with Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, and brought 
his veteran army south to Lyons ; where he spent his time 
in lubricity, until he should have felt the pulses of the Italian 
Powers with reference to his undertaking. French envoys 
reported to him that the Papacy was allied with Naples, 
and Naples with Don Piero de' Medici of Tuscany ; that 
Don Filiberto the Fair, (the boy-duke of Savoja, married to 
the Elect Emperor's daughter Anne,) with Duke Ercole 
d'Este of Ferrara, the Marquesses of Monserrat and Saluzzo, 
and the Republic of Venice, were neutral. The auguries 
w^ere not propitious for France ; but the Christian King, 
emboldened by the presence, and attentive to the rhodo- 
montades of. Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, and stupidly 
believing it possible to reduce a Pope by fear, joined in the 
duet and cried for a General Council. Indeed, he placed 
more confidence in the virtue of this threat than in his army ; 
for he definitely threatened the Lord Alexander P.P. VI 
with deposition and deprivation of the Apostolic dignity, not 
by force of arms, but by canonical proof of His simoniacal 
election — unless He would concede to France the crown of 
Naples. (Corio, Storie di Milano. Ill 525) 

It is very difficult to understand these shouters for a 
General Council. They were so clever, so logical, in other 
matters, that it is perfectly impossible for them to have been 
unaware of the extreme futility of their cry. They could not 
have been ignorant : then they must have been malignant. 
Suppose that an assemblage calling itself a General Council 
had been convened by the Cardinal- Bishop of Ostia and the 
Majesty of France, and had proved to its own satisfaction 
that Cardinal Rodrigo de Lan9ol y Borja had bought, by 
bribery, the votes of his brother-cardinals, raising himself 
by these means to the throne of God's Vicegerent ; what 
end would have been served ? There was a moral but no 
legal prohibition then, as already has been shewn, to prevent 
a cardinal from buying votes, if he could find cardinals 
criminal enough to sell. The money-changers were, as now, 
in possession of the Temple ; and the whip of small cords 
still on the Knees of God. 

Suppose that a self-called General Council had decreed 
the deposition of the Pope on the ground of simony ; the 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

decrees of a General Council are ineffective until they have 
been promulgated with the expressed sanction of the Roman 
Pontiff Is it probable that the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, 
that the sanctimonious Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, that 
any human man, would sanction the promulgation of the 
decree that ordained his own deposition ? If he did so 
declare himself to be no Pope, what would be the value of 
such a declaration ? If he were Pope, he would not ; if he 
were not Pope he could not, depose himself. Then what 
would have been the good, (if the Sokratic method be so 
far permitted,) of a self-called General Council which only 
could compile ineffectual decrees ? 

We are dealing with this matter in its human aspect 
only. Humanity was master of the mighty then, as now ; 
Morality of the humble and meek. Suppose that a self- 
called General Council had decreed the deposition of the 
Pope : what would have happened ? This — the Sacred 
College would have split into two or more factions ; let us 
say two, to keep the argument in reasonable bounds. The 
Lord Alexander P.P. VI would have headed one faction ; 
the envious Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere the other. 
Both would have gone into Conclave ; the one in Rome, 
the other in France. The Roman Conclave would have 
affirmed the Lord Alexander P.P. VI to be the Pontiff- 
Remnant. The French conclave w^ould have elected 
Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, who incontinently would 
have blossomed forth as Pseudopontiff Julius II. Each 
would have created cardinals. Each would have ad- 
ministered as much of the Church and Christendom as he 
could have persuaded to submit to his administration. 
There would have been a Pontiff in Rome, a pseudopontiff 
in France. The sheep of Christ's Flock would have been 
neglected, while the shepherds exchanged anathemas. It 
all had happened before — many times before. It would 
have been the Fortieth Schism. In course of time, death 
would claim the Pontiff or the pseudopontiff. His party 
would replace him. In course of time subdivision would 
take place, a schism in a schism. A section of cardinals 
would secede from Pontiff, or from pseudopontiff ; call them- 
selves tho Sacred College in Conclave, and elect a second 


The Roaring Blaze 

pseudopontiff. Christendom would have been torn asunder. 
The crime would have been capable of infinite development. 
All had been seen before, many times before — last, in this 
identical Fifteenth Century — the century of the Thirty-ninth 
Schism of the Holy Roman Church, the Thirty-ninth Rend- 
ing of the Seamless Robe of Christ. 

And that was the atrocious turpitude to which Revenge 
was leading Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, and Vanity was 
leading the Christian King Charles VIII, all light-heartedly. 
# # # 

Being now in amity with Colonna and Orsini through 
the Neapolitan alliance, as well as with Sforza and Cesarini, 
the Holiness of the Pope proceeded to the Regno for the 
purpose of concerting a plan of campaign with King Don 
Alonso II, whom He met at Vicovaro on the fourteenth of 
July. There it was arranged that the King should hold the 
Abruzzi provinces with part of the Neapolitan army, while 
his son, Don Ferrandino de Aragona, with another part 
should make a swift advance on Milan by way of the 
Romagna, sending out flying columns to sweep the country 
free from rebels ; and, after expelling the usurping Regent, 
Don Ludovico Maria Sforza-Visconti, and restoring Duke 
Giangaleazzo to the throne of Milan, he should force the 
French to engage in Lombardy. Meanwhile, Don Virginio 
Orsini with the pontifical condottieri was to protect the 
Papal States ; and Don Federigo de Aragona, brother to 
King Don Alonso II, was to take the Neapolitan fleet, 
capture Genoa, and command the northern coast. 

No better plan could have been invented for a war of 
the chess-game species : but in two places it was weak. It 
would occupy too long in performance ; for the French army 
was on Milan's frontier which half the length of Italy 
separated from Naples. It caused the defection of some 
Sforza : it alienated the Supreme Pontiff from His vice- 
chancellor, His closest friend, for the Neapolitan scheme 
involved the expulsion from Milan of the brother of Cardinal 
Ascanio Maria Sforza-Visconti, who thereupon became 
neutral, Sforza holding by Sforza. 

Before the Regno was ready, the French fleet reached 
Genoa, and the P"rench army crossed the Alps to Milan. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Admiral Don Federigo de Aragona, finding Genoa in his 
enemy's hand, led the Neapolitan galleys to Porto Venere 
on the Gulf of Spezzia, only to sustain a repulse which 
caused him to retire to Livorno to repair his fleet. Seeing 
from which direction he might expect attack, the Christian 
King garrisoned Genoa with Swiss mercenaries under Duke 
Louis d'Orleans. On the eighth of September, the Admiral of 
Naples took Rapallo, a little city six leagues from Genoa, and 
landed troops. The French commander made an accipitrine 
swoop from Genoa, cut up the squadrons of Naples, and 
put Rapallo to sack and pillage for entertaining them. All 
Italy was amazed, paralyzed with horror, at war conducted 
on these bloodthirsty lines. The idea of being killed, except 
perhaps accidentally by being trampled underfoot in a rout, 
or in a simple personal quarrel, was terrible to people accus- 
tomed to battles which were processions, and sieges which 
were decorative occupations for gentlemen of leisure. 
Admiral Don Federigo led the remnant of his fleet to 
Naples without an hour's delay. 

Vicechancellor-Cardinal Ascanio Maria Sforza-Visconti 
now became aggressive, and successfully detached from the 
Pope the Houses of Colonna and SavelH ; (the last, until 
their dynasty became extinct, held the office of Hereditary 
Marshal of the Holy Roman Church.) Colonna and 
Savelli then collected their retainers and menaced the 
Eternal City. On the eighteenth of September Don Fabrizio 
Colonna recaptured Ostia, and held it in the name of its 
renegade Cardinal- Bishop, French galleys transporting 
troops anchored in the mouth of Tiber. Crippled Naples 
dared not to advance on Milan leaving Rome unprotected. 
Then Madonna Caterina Sforza-Riario, countess and witch, 
(daughter of the great Francesco, and widow of the infamous 
Count Girolamo Riario of the Pazzi Conspiracy,) declared 
for France in her citadel of Imola, and made things worse 
for Naples and the Papacy by showing them that an enemy 
was in their midst. In this strait, and having no sovereign 
friend in Europe save the Majesty of Naples, the Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI applied to the Great Turk, the Sultdn 
Bajazet. That wily oriental agreed to help, on condition 
that his brother and rival, the Sultdn Djim, long years held 


The Roaring Blaze 

hostage by the Papacy, should be delivered to his tender 
mercies. This the Pope's Holiness refused, not caring to 
connive at fratricide ; and so completed the isolation of Him- 
self and King Don Alonso H. 

On the sixth of October, the Supreme Pontiff thundered 
from the Vatican a demand for the restitution of Ostia, 
(held by Don Pierfrancesco Colonna (?) ) on pain of the 
Greater Excommunication. He " fills a great place in 
history because he so blended his spiritual and temporal 
authority as to apply the resources of the one to the purposes 
of the other." [North British Revieiv.) At the same time, 
having intelligence of a Colonna plot to capture the Sultdn 
Djim on behalf of France, He moved His mysterious ward 
from the Vatican by way of Lo Andare to theMola of Hadrian 
on Tiber ; and sent the Lord Francesco de' Piccolhuomini, 
Cardinal of Siena, as Apostolic Envoy to the Majesty of 
France. But the Christian King would not receive him, 
saying that he was coming to Rome to see the Pope Himself.^ 

.J/, Jii. JA. 

w W T? 

The Sultdn Djim was a Mystery — the Fifteenth-Century 
equivalent for the Man in the Iron Mask. The brother 
and rival of the Great Turk, the Sultdn Bajazet, who 
reigned at Constantinople, he was given as a hostage to the 
Knights of Rhodes at a time when Bajazet wished to win 
the good graces of the Christian Powers, and to rid himself 
of a dangerous menace to his throne's security. The Great 
Turk offered to pay forty thousand ducats every year, so 
long as the Sultan Djim was kept away from Byzantium ; 
and he sent also the celebrated emerald, on which is carved 
an Image of our Divine Redeemer, to the Lord Innocent 
P. P. VIII. After a long detention, Frere Pierre d'Aubusson, 
Grand-Master of the Knights of Rhodes and Cardinal- 
Deacon of Sant' Adriano, transferred this valuable hostage 
to the Pope for greater security. The Sultan Djim was 
accorded apartments in the Vatican Palace, and kept a court 
of his own there in oriental luxury. The crumpled roseleaf 
of his existence was his constant fear lest his brother should 

1 " Aiunt etiam multo vulgo inter illos iactaii, regem Roman venturum et 
statum Romanae Ecclesiae reformaturum. (Letter from Cardinal of Siena to 
Pope, from Lucca, IIIL Nos. 1494.) 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

envenom him ; and envoys from the Great Turk were only 
allowed to enter his presence when rigorous and ceremonial 
precautions had been taken ; — for example, an envoy bring- 
ing a letter from Bajazet was compelled to lick it all over, 
outside and inside, under Djim's own eyes, before the last 
would touch it. The Lord Innocent P.P. VIII, and His 
successor the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, regarded the 
Sultdn Djim as a precious guarantee for the good conduct 
of the Great Turk. " As long as Djim is in Our hands, 
Bajazet continually will be uneasy, and neither raise armies, 
nor molest the Christians ; " wrote the Lord Innocent P.P. 
VIII. Later, the Great Turk conceived an alarm lest his 
discontented mamelukes should depose him in favour of his 
brother ; and he proposed to pay a hundred and twenty 
thousand ducats to the Pope for the restoration of the 
Sultan Djim : undoubtedly intending to put him out of the 
way according to the methods observed by oriental poten- 
tates in reference to their rivals. But the Lord Innocent 
P.P. VIII refused to have art or part in crime, though He 
would have been very glad of the money for His family ; 
and the Sultan Djim continued to remain in Rome. The 
•lame policy was pursued by the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, 
notwithstanding that the Great Turk had ceased to send the 
yearly forty thousand ducats, thus making his brother the 
pensioner, as well as the ward, of the Papacy. Then in 
October 1494, when the Eternal City was about to be the 
scene of war and tumult, the Pope's Holiness placed His 
ward for safety in the Mola of Hadrian, the fortress-tomb 
which also was His own refuse. 

# # * 

On the same day when Admiral Don Federigo de 
Aragona fled with the Neapolitan fleet from Rapallo to 
Naples, the Christian King followed his army across the 
Alps. Being but a shallow-pated Frenchman, enervated 
with the most horrible of all diseases, he already was in a 
quandary : he had no money wherewith to pay his troops ; 
his march for some weeks would lie through friendly 
territory, and, until he reached the pontifical states, he could 
find no cities to sack for the appeasing and encouragement 
of his mercenaries. To meet him, hurried Don Ludovico 

^■na/U&i Vnr cJ^'J^^ta^n^:^. 

The Roaring Blaze 

Maria Sforza-Visconti, also in a quandary : he was an 
usurping regent, with his legitimate sovereign under lock 
and key ; and he was going to meet a legitimate sovereign- 
regnant. Whether Don Ludovico Maria would complete 
a little loan, was the question agitating the mind of the 
Christian King. Whether the Majesty of France would 
want to champion his Order, to release his brother sovereign 
and place him on his throne, and to behave severely and 
unpleasantly to an usurping regent, was the difficulty of 
Don Ludovico Maria. The two met at Asti. The 
Christian King at once broached his trouble ; and Don 
Ludovico Maria, with his capacious Sforza brain-pan and 
his determined Sforza jaw, instantly perceived that he could 
recommend himself by being useful. He advised France 
rapidly to advance southward through the Romagna where 
rich spoils awaited him. And he found the means. Of 
the man who will lend money at the very moment when it 
is urgently required, none but the very best opinion can be 
formed. The Christian King was quite prepared to accept 
Don Ludovico Maria's own estimation of himself, now. 
It was even safe to let him see the pathetic sovereign of 
Milan in his prison. 

After being detained a few weeks by that which Italians 
call the French disease, because it was introduced into Italy 
by this Christian King, Charles VIII dawdled onto Pavia; 
and visited Duke Giangfaleazzo Sforza-Visconti. The 
condition of that luckless prince was scandalous in the 
extreme. He was of the age of five and twenty years. 
He had been a prisoner during fifteen years. He was 
decrepid of body, helpless and dull of mind. His only joy 
in life was in his Duchess Isabella and in his four-year-old 
son, for whose protection he piteously entreated the 
Christian King. France put on a sympathetic aspect — it 
was perhaps the most gracious moment in the little creature's 
life — ; the nostrils of his ham-shaped nose wore an air of 
disgust at Duke Giangaleazzo's suffering ; the glare of his 
boiled eyes in their congenital flush, and the severe fat line 
of his mouth, horrified the usurping Regent. Had the 
money of Don Ludovico Maria been in the coffers of any 
one just then except the Christian King's, undoubtedly 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

right would have been done by the might of France. But, 
with promises to return, with excellent intentions to attend 
to the affairs of Milan w^hen Naples should have been 
reduced with Milan's money, the Christian King was 
persuaded to hasten on to Piacenza. 

There, on the twenty-first of October, news came to him 
that the prince whom he had left in his prison, Duke Gian- 
galeazzo Sforza-Visconti, was dead; and that Don Ludovico 
Maria had proclaimed himself, and had been accepted as, 
Duke of Milan. It was also said that the uncle had 
envenomed the nephew, having observed him to have 
gained the sympathy of France, and fearing lest that 
sympathy should restore him to his throne. It may have 
been so : but there is no evidence whatever on the subject 
beyond the mere assertion. But it equally might have been 
the effect of concentrated despair, at seeing deliverance 
come and pass away, acting on a body, naturally weak, 
worn by passion and imprisonment, which killed Duke 
Giangaleazzo Sforza-Visconti of Milan. The Fifteenth 
Century (and also the first decades of the Sixteenth) was so 
radically ignorant of the art and science, as well of venoms, 
as of their practical exhibition, that, unless direct in addition 
to circumstantial evidence be forthcoming, mere unproved 
charges based on "on dit," "aiunt," " fertur," or " dicant," 
may be disregarded and a natural cause of death assigned. 

^ ^ .Ai. 

-3t- "iv* -TV" 

Florence, capital city of Tuscany and ancient friend of 
France, was in a critical condition. Lorenzo de' Medici 
was just dead. His son, Don Piero had succeeded him. 
Don Piero 's brother Messer Giovanni, raised to the purple 
at the age of thirteen years, red-hatted at seventeen, was a 
Cardinal of Rome. The genius of the great Lorenzo had 
made him disguise his power. He had married at his own 
mother's bidding Madonna Clarice Orsini, a patrician of 
Rome. His sons, educated by Canon Angelo Ambrogini 
(detto Poliziano), had grown up intellectual, grand, and gay, 
with an overweening sense of their own consequence ; and, 
when the sceptre fell into his young inexperienced hands, 
Don Piero forgot his father's advice, " Remember that thou 
art but a citizen of Florence, even as am I ; " and he behaved 

The Roaring Blaze 

autocratically, despotically, independently, to the immense 
antipathy of the Lily-City. 

When the Majesty of France began his interference with 
Italian politics, Don Piero de' Medici and Florence, being 
contracted to the Regno, declined the offer of a French 
alliance. The Christian King retorted by banishing Flor- 
entine merchants from France. This gave occasion for the 
enemies, (which, in common with all great Houses, Medici 
had) to blaspheme, muttering of the evils of a tyranny, of the 
advantages of a republic : and Don Piero's cousins, Don 
Giovanni and Don Lorenzino, fled to the Christian King at 
Piacenza ; saying that not Florence, but Don Piero only, 
was the foe of France. 

Fra Girolamo Savonarola, friar of the Religion of St. 
Dominic, became a prominent and responsible figure in this 
imbroglio. Ecclesiastically he was a subject of the Do- 
minican Congregation of Lombardy, who was led to desire 
independence and a pied a terre in Florence. Don Piero 
de' Medici, seeing naught amiss, supported his application 
to Rome for the separation of the Tuscan Dominicans from 
allegiance to the Lombard Congregation ; for, it was urged, 
the erection of a separate Congregation for Lombardy 
would add to the dignity of Florence, and would be a slight 
to Milan. The Lord Alexander P.P. VI, when the case 
was laid before Him in 1493, was inclined to favour Milan 
on account of the Vicechancellor-Cardinal who was brother 
to the usurping Regent : but, on the advice of Cardinal 
Oliviero Carafa, who officially had examined the matter on 
its merits, and who reported in favour of Don Piero de' 
Medici and the weird friar, the Pope's Holiness issued the 
Bull of Separation on the twenty-second of May that same 
year. F"ra Girolamo Savonarola then transferred himself 
to the new Tuscan Conofregation, was elected Prior of San 
Marco and Vicar-General ; and so became the absolute 
ruler of the Dominicans in Florence, and subject only to the 
General of the Religion of St. Dominic, and to the Pope, 
in Rome. 

He was a truly pious man, of the hard ascetic type, and 
very masterful. He used his independence rigorously to 
reform his Convent of San Marco, with, for a wonder, the 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

complete concurrence of his friars ; and so he formed a 
centre of the exclusively religious life. He would make no 
compromise whatever. He would have God entirely served ; 
and countenanced no paltering- with Mammon. He utterly 
spat upon and defied the World. He burned every pretty 
worldly thing. Lewd lovely Florence executed a quick 
change, and followed him in sackcloth and ashes. The 
alluring melody of Lorenzo de' Medici's Canti Carnaleschi 
was drowned in the chaunting of the Miserere tnei Deus and 
the Seven Penitential Psalms with Litanies ; while dis- 
ciplines and scourges in the public streets fell like flails 
on youth's white tlesh. Fra Girolamo preached penance 
in the Advent of 1493. In the Lent of- 1494, he preached 
from the book of Genesis. When he arrived at Noe's 
Ark, he dwelled upon it ; his subject fascinated him ; each 
plank, each nail, became a symbol : but the moral of his 
allegory was, " Enter the Ark of Salvation that ye may 
escape the wrath to come." 

Florence was disturbed by expectation of the French 
invasion ; which, said Fra Girolamo, (mixing his metaphors 
in the only way that the vulgar really understand) was the 
Scourge of God for the Purification of the Church. In 
September, he preached again. Visions came to him ; 
and he preached of them in parables. His success, his 
ever-growing power, produced in him an effect like 
inebriation. Not yet having lost his self-control, he was 
able to see his danger. He made an effort, and ceased to 
preach. His brain was in a ferment ; sleeplessness gnawed 
the remnant of his physical strength. Again he mounted 
the pulpit of San Marco, and thundered like a prophet, 
like a seer, not his own words now, but " Thus saith The 
Lord." He claimed eio-Trt'o?/ — Divine Afflatus — Inspiration. 
Humanly speaking, he had gone out of his mind — was mad. 

The excitement of Florence became a frenzy. " Behold," 
Fra Girolamo Savonarola tremendously declaimed, " Be- 
hold I bring a flood of waters on the earth ! " And the 
French army entered Italy. 

Florence was half-dead with terror, terror of the French, 
terror of the Wrath to Come. She had exasperated the 
Christian King, was disunited in herself, and she had no 


The Roaring Blaze 

troops. Yet — she might resist. On her frontier were the 
strong fortresses of Sarzanella and Pietrasanta. A few- 
resolute patriots might hold the mountain-passes on the 
road through Lunigiana ; and an initial check which ruined 
French prestige would restore self-confidence to Florence. 
This was the time of the trial of the stuff of Don Piero 
de' Medici ; who, being in three minds, failed to stand. 
First, he sent his brother-in-law, Don Paolo Orsini, to 
garrison Sarzanella. Secondly, he quavered, because the 
Florentines appeared sulkily to him. Thirdly, he dallied 
with the notion of submission to the Christian King. From 
the fortress of Pietrasanta he whined for a safe-conduct. 
Arrived in the French camp he collapsed : lying prostrate 
at the twelve-toed feet of the Majesty of France, he im- 
plored pardon for his impertinence in thinking to defend 
his fatherland ; and he offered reparation. He assented to 
the French demand for the withdrawal of the Tuscan army 
from the Romagna ; for the castles of Sarzana, Sarzanella, 
Pietrasanta, Pisa, and Livorno, to be held as pledges until 
Naples should capitulate ; for a forced-loan of two hundred 
thousand ducats ; the pledges immediately to be delivered 
and a treaty signed at Florence. The French had never 
dreamed that the road should open to them as though by 
miracle ; and by simplest Induction they said that God was 
on their side. 

Florence was dismayed. Don Piero de' Medici stayed 
with the French : his brothers were in the vast Medici 
Palace (now Palazzo Riccardi) at the corner of Via Larga, 
which Michellozzo built for mighty Cosmo. " It is time to 
make an end of this government by children and to recover 
our liberty," said the grave and sterling Don Piero Capponi ; 
and the Signoria sent out an embassage to undo the 
mischief There were five ambassadors, including Fra 
Girolamo Savonarola whom Florence loved, and Don 
Piero Capponi whom she admired. They left the city on 
the sixth of November with plenary powers to modify the 
disgraceful conditions of surrender. On the seventh, they 
found the Christian King at Lucca ; and followed him to 
Pisa. He received them very coldly, saying that he 
would arrange no terms except in Florence. To diseased 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

France the degenerate Fra Girolamo forthwith prophesied, 
" Know thyself for an instrument in the hands of the Lord, 
" Who hath sent thee to heal the woes of Italy and to 
" reform the prostrate Church. But if thou dost not shew 
" thyself just and pitiful, if thou respectest not Florence 
" and her people, if thou forgettest the work for which 
" the Lord hath sent thee, then He will choose another 
'' in Thy place, and in His Wrath engulph thee. I speak 
" in the name of the Lord." {Savonarola s Compendium 
Revelatiommi. ) 

On the eighth of November, Don Piero de' Medici 
reappeared in Florence. The City of Lilies knew that 
Don Paolo Orsini held the Porta di San Gallo for him, 
with troops disposed about the district ; and suspected that 
he would summon her citizens and force himself upon them 
as Dictator. On the ninth, suspicion redoubled, because 
he went with an imposing retinue to the Palace of the 
Siofnoria where the maoristrates were in conclave. The 
door was shut : a voice bade him enter by the postern, but 
alone. Don Piero de' Medici turned away. A partisan of 
Medici in the Signoria followed him, and brought him 
back. In attempting the little gate, there was some scuffle, 
some dispute ; and the gate was slammed upon him in a 
gathering crowd which cried " Away — away — and leave 
the Signoria in peace." In a storm of hissing where stones 
were flying Don Piero de' Medici flashed out his sword, — 
and — irresolutely — let it fall. His escort closed him in, 
and hurried him to old Cosmo's palace, where all of the 
few Medici were arming. Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici, 
not nineteen years of age, risked his sacred person — risked, 
because a Florentine mob had flung an archbishop in 
pontificals (Archbishop Salviati of Pisa) at a rope's end 
from a window ; and bleached with mortal terror the visage 
of a boy-cardinal (the Lord Rafaele Galeotto Sanzoni- 
Riario Cardinal-Deacon of San Giorgio in Velii77i Aureum, 
aet 1 6,) not sixteen years before, — his sacred person, because 
he who suadente diabolo lifts hand against the person 
of one tonsured ipso facto incurs the Greater Excommu- 
nication, he risked his sacred person among a Floren- 
tine mob, endeavouring to rouse them as of old to follow 


The Roaring Blaze 

Medici with the war-cry " Palle— Palle— Palle.''^ All was 
in vain. 

The well-worn cry had lost magnetic virtue ; and none 
in Florence now dared to own himself a friend of Medici. 
Don Piero rushed to the Porta di San Gallo, where Medici 
had never cried in vain. None answered him. His courage 
left him there. He infected with fear Don Paolo Orsini 
and his bands ; and all fled to Bologna. At night Cardinal 
Giovanni and his sixteen-year-old cousin, Messer Giuliano 
Knight of St John of Jerusalem of Malta, escaped in the 
frocks of Friars Minor ; and from Bologna these three 
Medici journeyed on to Venice where Italian exiles always 
found a home : while Florence sacked the Medici Palace, 
plundered the priceless Medici Library of Manuscripts, and 
set a price upon the head of Lorenzo's son Don Piero. 

This revolt was the work of Fra Girolamo Savonarola. 
For sixty years Florence had enjoyed prosperity under 
Medici. She was the centre of learninor the mediatine 
power of Italy with influence in every state; in fact, as the 
Lord Boniface P.P. VIII said on receiving the Orators of 
the Powers in Rome at the Jubilee of 1300, '' i fiorentini 
sono il quinto elemento'' But the Dominican Friar had 
roused in Her those moral aspirations which Medici had 
lulled to atrophy ; and the contemptible blunders of Don 
Piero had proved a final exasperation. The newly- formed 
republic set up Donatello's statue of Judith with the Head 
of Holofernes on a pedestal before Palazzo Vecchio, with 
this inscription for the benefit of budding despots, Exem- 
PLUM Salutis Publicae Gives Posuere MCCCCXCV. 
And on the day of the expulsion of the Medici, little Pisa 
revolted also, and threw off the yoke of Florence. 

-Jr -tP ^ 

The fortune of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI appeared 
to be in serious danger. The French unhindered were 
advancing, and sedition was sown in Rome. One more 
overture the Supreme Pontiff made, sending Cardinal 
Raymond Perrauld, a creature of His Own, to treat with 
the Christian King, who with no difficulty persuaded the 

' Allusion to the five red balls and the lilied bezant in the Medici 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

French Cardinal to turn traitor to the Pope. A Brief, 
appealing to the Elect-Emperor Maximilian for help proved 
ineffectual. The forces of Colonna beleaguered the Eternal 
city. Within the walls, three disaffected cardinals, the 
Lords Ascanio Maria Sforza-Visconti, Friderico Sanseverini, 
and Bernardino de' Lunati, were interned with the Pope in 
the Mola for the sake of safety. When the pontifical citadel 
of Civita Vecchia fell, the loyalists became yet more dis- 
heartened. Orsini turned its coats and joined the French. 
Cesarini alone of all the patricians of Rome continued to be 
staunch and true. Resistance was useless, things being 
as they were ; and the Lord Alexander P.P. VI gave leave 
to the Christian King to enter Rome. He came. He 
humanly was master of the City and of the situation, face 
to face with the Holiness of the Pope, practically having 
His person in his power. The Majesty of France demanded 
the calling of a General Council ; and God's Vicegerent 
opposed him with a blunt and unconditional Non Possitnius. 
Whenever the World has driven the Church against the 
wall, She has become inexorably invincible. 

The year 1495 opened with Rome in panic and disorder, 
in the clutch of a foreign army bringing desolation and a 
new disease. The Christian King, who had come to accom- 
plish the conquest of the Regno by means of the deposition 
of the Pope, found the way completely blocked. He had 
strutted on his twelve-toed feet to Rome, prepared to crow 
so very gallically. The decree of deposition actually was 
prepared, and only required confirmation by a competent 
authority. Inflated with gigantic megalomaniacal illusions, 
he had believed that an evil conscience would have made 
the Lord Alexander P.P. VI obedient to him. He thought 
by the threat of a General Council (which he intended to 
convoke at Ferrara,) to blackmail the Pope into conceding 
the investiture of Naples. He ineffectually had battered 
the defences of the Pope with cannon. And now his 
Frenchmen would fight no longer, as some say ; but others, 
like Bri^onnet and de Commines, assert that it was the king 
who blenched. At last, with his shallow mind congested 
with half-thought thoughts and uncompleted facts like these, 
he became aware that a General Council was not a General 


The Roaring Blaze 

council unless it had the Pope's authority, wliich last he 
was not likely to obtain ; and that, without some means of 
bending the pontifical will, he could not hope to win the 
crown of Naples. Evidently, he could not depose the 
Pope. He might, however, conquer Naples by force of 
arms ; and, perhaps, the question of investiture by the Ruler 
of the World, the Father of princes and of kings, the 
Earthly Vicar of Jesus Christ our Saviour, which he realized 
to be imperative, would wear a different aspect when he 
should ask for it as a conqueror with the Regno in his 

While the Christian King was stumbling to these con- 
clusions, the invincible Lord Alexander P.P. VI remained 
with His little court in the Mola of Hadrian where He 
had His hostages secure, viz., the Sultdn Djim, earnestly 
desired by France as a weapon against the Great Turk, 
and the renegade cardinals, friends of Colonna and the 
French. Here, He was practically impregnable. The 
Papal States might go to wrack and ruin : Rome Herself 
might be crushed by an alien heel, but from the Mola of 
Hadrian a Pope, surrounded by His faithful few, could, 
and often did, defy blockade as long as provisions held 
out ; could, and often did, launch the lightnings of the 
Church, censures, excommunications, interdicts ; and force 
acknowledgment, and reluctant obedience, from rebellious 
sovereigns who, after all, believed and admitted Him to be 
Ruler of the World, Father of princes and of kings, 
Earthly Vicar of Jesus Christ our Saviour, titles, in defence 
of which (so very glorious are they) Pontiffs of these clear 
ages did not hesitate to court the death, admitting of no 
compromise of no rebate. Our potency, said they, if worth 
having, is worth fighting for, is worth dying for. And, as 
invariably is the case, when a man shews that he wishes 
nothing better than to lose his life for a cause, he saves 
both cause, and life. 

From the Mola of Hadrian then, the Lord Alexander 
P.P. VI deigned to make these terms with the Christian 
King : — The French army was to be withdrawn from 
Rome. The Pope's Holiness would not interfere ; and 
would lend to France as hostages for six months, the 

129 I 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Sultdn Djim with whom to menace the Great Turk 
Bajazet, and Cardinal Cesare (detto Borgia). The question 
of the investiture of Naples was not even named. Having 
secured Himself by this agreement, in which He had con- 
ceded neither of the two French claims, the Supreme 
Pontiff received in formal audience the Christian King, 
who shortly after marched his troops southward along the 
Appian Way by Albano, Ariccia, and Genzano, toward the 
Neapolitan frontier. 

tP * tP 

At the Third Consistory of the sixteenth of January 
1495, the Lord Alexander P.P. VI named one cardinal, who 

the Lord Guillaume Bri9onnet, Overseer of the Treasury 

to the Christian King Charles 
VIH, editor of a book of 
prayers dedicated to the said 
king (Encheiridion precum) ; 
Cardinal - Presbyter of the 
Title of Santa Pudentiana. 

At Velletri there lived a certain Don Pietro Gregorio 
Borgia, son of that Don Niccolo Borgia of the Junior 
Branch, Regent of Velletri and Familiar of King Don 
Alonso V, by his marriage with the Noble Giovanna Lam- 
berti. In 1495 this Don Pietrogorio was about the age of 
twenty-one years (the age in fact of Cardinal Cesare;) and, 
when the French king halted for the night at Velletri, he 
found means to exchange habits- with the said Cardinal 
Cesare (detto Borgia) and to help him to disappear, 
remaining as hostage in his place. It was a daring act, and 
soon discovered : but the cardinal was safe in Rome 
concerting new schemes with the Pope. The Majesty of 
France grave instant orders for the hanmnor of Don Pie- 
trogorio and for the firing of the city ; and hurried on to 
Naples. But the king's first secretary, who had been 
commissioned to execute his master's vengeance, out of 
sheer admiration for the courage of Velletri's Regent's son, 
gave him a swift horse and leave to reclaim his own clothes 


The Roaring Blaze 

from Cardinal Cesare (detto Borgia) in Rome ; nor did he 
give Velletri to the flames. 

Immediately on hearing of the French approach, King 
Don Alonso 1 1 abdicated in favour of his son Don 
Ferrandino de Aragona. Envoys from the Catholick King 
Don Hernando of Spain embarrassed the Christian King 
Charles VIII of France with remonstrances on his invasion 
of the territories of the House of Aragon : but the latter 
was not to be rebuffed. The fortress of Monte San 
Giovanni capitulated to him. His march through the 
Regno was a series of victories ; and, in the capital, he 
announced his intention altogether to relinquish the Crusade, 
and to add Naples as a fief to France. 

But three causes prevented this from becoming more 
than a French boast : — the action of the Pope, the action of 
the Powers, the action of Providence. Directly after the 
French had quitted Rome, the Lord Alexander P.P. VI 
retired to the pontifical castle of Viterbo, a mighty fortress 
in a cool air, and pleasant as a summer residence ; where 
He was joined by Cardinal Cesare (detto Borgia) with Don 
Pietro Gregorio Borgia (now the last Most Worshipful 
Lord's lieutenant and standard-bearer) ; and whence He 
commenced vigorous diplomatic negotiations directed 
against the French. 

The Powers of Italy had taken alarm. It had never 
been contemplated that France would meet submission all 
along the line, and actually become arbiter of the whole 
country. Milan, Florence the Papal States, and now the 
Regno, had fallen : with the French in France in the north, 
and the French in Naples in the south, these intermediate 
duchies, states and republics found themselves in the 
position of an uncracked nut in a monkey's jaw : wherefore 
Italy gave way to fear. Also, Spain was the enemy of 
France, so was the Holy Roman Empire ; and the Elect- 
Emperor Maximilian and the Catholic King realized the 
arrival of a unique opportunity for invading France by 
south and east, seeing that the French army was in Naples, 
cut off from its base by the Italian states. All these cir- 
cumstances and considerations, skilfully perceived and 
engineered by the Pope's Holiness from His eyrie at 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Viterbo, quite naturally resulted in the conclusion of a Holy 
League, consisting of the Papacy, the Empire, Spain, and 
the Italian Powers, aorainst France. 

His position having become untenable, the Christian 
King resolved upon retreat. Half his army he left in 
Naples ; and marched northward with the rest. His coming 
had been a triumphal procession. His going was a flight 
through hostile territory. A second time he entered Rome 
with the hope of retrieving his lost prestige : but the Pope 
again retired, this time to Orvieto, and refused to meet him. 
Enraged by the slight, the polite chivalry of France to pain 
the Pope avenged itself on women, pillaging the house of 
Madonna Giovanna de' Catanei, and making Madonna 
Giulia Orsini (nata Farnese) a prisoner. Onward, north- 
ward, went the Christian King, conferring with the mattoid 
P ra Girolamo Savonarola at Poo-o-ibonzi ; fio-htino- a 
desperate battle at Fornuovo, where he lost his army stores ; 
reaching France with his forces disgraced and in disorder ; 
and he himself disabled by the sentence of the Greater 
Excommunication which the thoroughly angry and 
triumphant Pontiff fulminated after him. 

J£. J/, .At. 

•TT -Tr- 'A' 

In Florence, Era Girolamo ceased not to labour on 
behalf of the Christian King, sowing seeds of political dis- 
cord, and preparing the germs of certain calumnies which, 
in later years were used by Florentine friends of France. 
His sermons were French manifestoes, and denunciations 
of Medici. He had stepped from the pulpit of the j astor 
to the platform of the politician. His power was admirable 
and admired, his sincerity unquestionable ; and earnest 
efforts were made to reclaim him from the doubtful practices 
in which he was embarked. The Lord Alexander P.P. VI 
summoned him by a kindly and paternal Brief to Rome ; 
saying that He wished to hear him personally, and to confer 
I with him as to the methods which he advocated. How 
revoltingly inconsistent are the writers who rail against the 
Pope for His treatment of this degenerate friar! Leaving 
out of the question matters of dogma, articles of Faith, 
in reference to which the Founder of Christianity definitely 
promised to permit no error, it must be admitted that^ 


The Roaring Blaze 

regarding ordinary affairs of government and discipline, a 
Pope well advised is superior to a Pope ill advised. Well, 
here is the Pope having heard many hard things of 
Savonarola, definitely and gently offering to hear that 
madman's own defence, definitely trying every means, 
every most intimate and stringent means, to render Himself 
well-advised before proceeding to judgment. If the sub- 
sequent actions of the Lord Alexander P.P. VPdeserve to 
be called ill advised, it is not He Who should be blamed, 
but Fra Girolamo Savonarola, who with inconsequent 
evasion, excused himself and continued his traitorous 
machinations against the peace of his country, in de- 
fiance of the law, and in contempt of the powers that be. 
Order issued from Rome, inhibiting him from public 
preaching, and placing his Convent of San Marco again 
under the rule of the Lombard Congregation. Then, Fra 
Girolamo professed ready obedience to the Pope ; but 
begged for the independence of his convent, a prayer which 
he supported with such arguments as to obtain a favouring 
response, though the inhibition was repeated. Before the 
formal Brief arrived Don Piero de Medici attempted to 
return to Florence from Venetian exile ; being foiled solely 
by a violent diatribe in which Fra Girolamo denounced him. 
As time passed, the friar intrigued with Ferrara, gained 
over and cultivated many influential Florentines ; and then 
the Signoria took up his cause and formally appealed to 
Rome for the removal of his inhibition. 

•if- ^ ^ 

•Tf •Tf Tt» 

The passage of the French through the Papal States, 
like a blight of caterpillars, brought famine into the country 
districts. In the Fifteenth Century, armies were not 
encumbered by a commissariat. They robbed right and 
left, living on the produce of the land in which they were, 
paying for nothing, and invariably leaving utter desolation 
and destitution in their rear. Distress and discontent 
ravaged Rome. Winter storms brought Tiber down in 
flood and the City was under water. So the year 1495 

At the beginning of the new year, Don Virginio Orsini 
joined the French in Naples, against the King Don 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Ferrandino II, the Pope and Venice. At Atellathe French 
were defeated, and the Holy League grew powerful. 
England joined it. The Lord Alexander P.P. VI, who, 
with His magnificent ability for doing many things, had 
been superintending the decoration of the quire of Santa 
Maria del Populo by the Flaminian Gate which opens on 
the great north road, (the nearest gate to England), went, 
with a solemn cavalcade, to hold a papal chapel for publish- 
ing the Bull of Alliance with King Henry VII Tudor. 
France had no friend save Florence, where the Signoria 
had taken upon itself to remove the inhibition from Era 
Girolamo Savonarola. That incontinent friar preached a 
course of Lenten sermons defending himself, violently 
denouncing Rome, particularizing certain vices which every- 
where were general. His incorrigible attitude appears like 
"the rage of a man who knows that he has chosen the 
lower when he might have chosen the higher." He was in 
open revolt, not against the Catholic Faith, but against the 
laws of the land, and the Rule of the Religion of St Dominic 
to which, voluntarily, under no compulsion whatever, he 
had chosen to swear allegiance on the Sacrament of the 
Lord's Body. To make things easy for him, the Pope's 
Holiness proposed to erect a new Dominican Congregation 
which he might be willing to obey, under Cardinal Carafa 
who already had given evidence of his sympathy with the 
friar. But Era Girolamo intractably refused to hear : and 
it must be said that the minacity and violence, with which 
he attacked his superiors, form a bitter contrast to the 
patience and moderation which the Lord Alexander P.P. VI 
extended to him, in this — and let this be noted — the third 
year of his disgraceful extravagance and disloyalty. 

* ^ ^ 

At the Fourth Consistory of the twenty-first of January 
1496, the Lord Alexander P.P. VI named one cardinal, 
who was 

The Lord Philippe de Luxembourg ; Cardinal-Pres- 
byter of the Title of San Marcellino e San Pietro. 

* * * 

The condition of the country improved as the year 1496 
expanded. An ill-advised attempt of the Elect-Emperor 


The Roaring Blaze 

Maximilian to revive the waning Imperial power by a pro- 
gress through the Italian realms, was averted by the oppo- 
sition of Venice and the remonstrances of the Sovereign 
Pontiff. The Elect- Emperor having withdrawn into the 
Tyrol, the Lord Alexander P.P. VI was free to deal with the 
Pontifical States. The Regno flourished under the young 
King Don Ferrandino II, and the French occupation was 
becoming a thing of the past. Only the rebellious vassals 
of the Holy See remained ; and, of these, Colonna and 
Savelli appear to have made their submission ; but the 
Orsini were still in arms, and Malatesta, Riario, Manfredi, 
and Sforza, were fortified at Cesena, Imola and Forli, 
Faenza and Pesaro. 

* # * 

At the Fifth Consistory of the nineteenth of February 
1496, the Lord Alexander P.P. VI named four Spanish 
cardinals, who were 

(o) The Lord Don Bartolomeo Martino, Bishop of 
Segovia ; Cardinal- Presbyter of the Title of Sant' 
Agfata m Suhtrra : 
(j3) The Lord Don Juan de Castro, Prefect of Sant- 
angelo, Bishop of Girgenti, [' AKpayapTtvog) in Sicily ; 
Cardinal- Presbyter of the Title of Santa Prisca : 
(7) The Lord Don Juan Lopez, Canon of the Vatican 
Basilica, Apostolic Datary ; Cardinal-Presbyter of 
the Title of Santa Maria m Trastevere, tit. Callisto: 
(^) The Lord Giovanni Borgia (detto Giuniore), a 
Pontifical Nephew, Bishop of Melfi ; Cardinal- 
Presbyter of the Title of Santa Maria in Via Lata. 

^ gp ^ 

Appointing His bastard, Don Juan Francisco de Lancol 
y Borja, as Captain-General of the pontifical army, and 
assisted by the Majesty of Naples, the Lord Alexander 
P.P. VI proceeded to reduce Orsini. At the opening of 
the campaign, Don Virgin io Orsini was captured by the 
Neapolitans ; but when Orsini's stronghold of Bracciano 
was relieved by Don Vitellozzo Vitelli of Citta di Castello, 
the papal condottieri were forced to raise the siege. And 
before the end of the year the Pope lost His ally King Don 
Ferrandino II, who died at the age of twenty-eight "worn 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

out with fatigue and with the pleasures of his marriage to 
his aunt Joannawhom he loved too passionately." (Symonds, 
Renascence, I. 513.) The year 1497 began with the 
defeat of the papal troops by Orsini at the battle of Soviano, 
a reverse which was counterbalanced by the success of 
Don Gonsalvo de Cordova. This captain was at the head 
of a band of mercenaries sent by Spain in aid of the 
Papacy ; he took the fortress of Ostia from Cardinal 
Giuliano della Rovere, whose five years of treachery and 
recalcitrancy were now punished by the Holiness of the 
Pope, with deprivation of his benefices (which took from 
him the " sinews of war ") and the deposition of his brother, 
Don Giovanni della Rovere, from the Prefecture of Rome. 
As for the French Orators who made protest at this 
unaccountably long-delayed act of precautionary justice, — 
unaccountably-long-delayed, except on the hypothesis of 
this Pope's singular patience, long-suffering, and dislike 
of proceeding to extremities, — the Supreme Pontiff con- 
temptuously remarked that they were come from an Excom- 
municated King ; and that it was well for them that Cardinal 
Cesare (detto Borgia) did not hear them. This, by the bye, 
is the first instance of the amazing influence which that 
young Porporato was beginning to attain, an influence 
which within the next few years increased by leaps and 
bounds until the name of Cesare (detto Borgia) stood 
among the most important names in Europe. 

Further to emphasize the slight to France by shewing 
His appreciation of Spain's support, the Lord Alexander 
P.P. VI decorated His bastard, Don Juan Francisco de 
Langol y Borja Duke of Gandia and Prince of Teano and 
Tricarico, as representing the Spanish branch of His House, 
with the titles of Count of Chiaramonte, Lauria, and 
Cerignuola, Tyrant of Benevento and Tarracina, and 
Grand Constable of Naples. 

# * ^ ■ 

In honour of her son's good fortune. Madonna Giovanna 
de' Catanei gave a supper at her villa by San Pietro ad 
Vincula, where were present the young Duke of Gandia 
of the age of twenty-two years, and Cardinal Cesare (detto 
Borgia) his senior by a year. Their sister Madonna 


The Roaring Blaze 

Lucrezia, who had had much unpleasantness with her hus- 
band, Don Giovanni Sforza the Tyrant of Pesaro, had left 
him ; and was living in the Convent of San Sisto in Rome, 
as noble ladies do who wish to guard their reputations in 
delicate circumstances. 

When supper was over, and the night advancing, the 
Cardinal advised Don Juan that it was time to return to 
the Vatican where they lodged. In view of the popular 
delusions concerning this occurrence, it may be advisable to 
refer to the fact that sunset was taken to end a twenty-four 
hours day ; that " one hour of the night," i.e., one hour after 
sunset, was the fashionable supper-time, which at this time 
of the year (the fourteenth of June) would be about 9 p.m. 
Before midnight then, at a generous computation, the 
Cardinal and the Duke of Gandia mounted their horses and 
rode through Rome together as far as the palace of the 
Vicechancellor attended by a small escort. It is worth 
noting that the palace of the Vicechancellor was not the 
Cancelleria, the palace of the Chancery at San Lorenzo tn 
Da77zaso, perhaps the most beautiful palace in the world, 
which Messer Bramante Lazzari built for the white-faced 
Cardinal Rafaele Galeotto Sanzoni-Riario : but the new 
palace built by Cardinal Rodrigo de Lan9ol y Borja, and 
given by him after His election to the Supreme Pontificate, 
to the Vicechancellor-Cardinal Ascanio Maria Sforza- 
Visconti ; (now Palazzo Sforza-Cesarini on Banchi Vecchi). 

There, the ardent Duke (he already was married t) a 
princess of Spain, and the father of two children,) said to 
the Cardinal that, before going home, he wanted to amuse 
himself somewhere ; and, taking leave of the said Most 
Worshipful Lord, and dismissing his suite with the excep- 
tion of a certain bully whom he kept, he took on his crupper 
an unknown man in a mask who waited there, and who 
daily during a month had come to see him at the Vatican, 
as well as on this very night during the supper in the garden 
of his mother. Then he turned his horse in the direction 
of the Jews' Quarter, (there was no Ghetto till 1556), and 
disappeared in the twilight of a midsummer night. He 
never again was seen alive. 

When the City awoke in the morning, (Romans alwajs 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

were early risers,) the Duke of Gandia's bully was found 
on Piazza Giudei, wounded by the steel of an assassin ; and 
all efforts to obtain information from him proved futile. He 
died without having spoken. 

The news trickled into the Vatican, and was mentioned 
to the Pope ; who thought that perhaps Don Juan was 
staying with some courtesan, wishing out of consideration 
for iiis Father to avoid the scandal of being seen to issue 
from such a house in open day. But when night came 
again, and the Duke did not appear, the Pope's Holiness 
took alarm ; and ordered an inquisition and the usual 
dragging of Tiber. The wags of Rome instantly said that, 
notwithstanding all that Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere had 
alleged concerning the election of the Lord Alexander 
P.P. VI as being simoniacal, it was now certain that He 
was a true Successor of St. Peter as a Fisher of men. 

Among other bearers of news, there came to the in- 
quisitors a certain Giorgio, of the Schiavoni, a waterman, 
asserting that, while guarding his boat on Tiber during the 
night, he had seen two men, who came to the shore to look 
whether any one was there ; behind them came two others 
making the same inspection. He, the speaker, being in the 
shadow of his beached boat escaped all notice. When 
these four had assured themselves that the place was empty, 
there came one on a white horse, conveying behind him a 
dead man, whose feet and arms hung down, held by two 
foot-men. Having come to the water's edge, they turned 
the crupper of the horse to the river ; and, lifting the corpse, 
swung it into the stream. The rider looked on : but seeing 
a dark object which floated, — it was the dead man's 
cloak, — he ordered the others to throw stones at it until it 

After hearing this tale, the Pope groaned, and re- 
proached the waterman in that he did not give immediate 
notice to the bargelli (police) of the crime which he had 
witnessed. The man impudently answered that he had 
seen such siofhts a thousand times : but never had he known 
of any one who cared to hear about them. 

The Vicechancellor-Cardinal Ascanio Maria Sforza- 
Visconti wrote to his brother the Duke of Milan, relating 


The Roaring Blaze 

the deposiLion of Giorgio the waterman, and the disquietude 
of the Pope. 

Later, the corpse was found in Tiber, completely 
clothed in the sumptuous garments of the Duke of Gandia, 
tiie dagger in its sheath, the pouch intact adorned with 
jewels of great value. Eleven — some say fourteen — 
wounds, of which an enormous one was in the throat, were 
the cause of death. The unfortunate young Duke was 
buried at Santa Maria del Popolo. [Maricont.) That, 
actually, is all that is known of the murder of the Duke of 

The only person, except the murderer or murderers, 
who could give any salient information, was the bully ; and 
he expired without uttering a word The mystery of the 
unknown man in a mask has never been solved (nor the 
archives of a Roman patrician House published) ; and, for 
a time, the matter rested there. 

% ^ -tF 

The effect upon the Lord Alexander P.P. VI was 
terrible. He had loved Don Juan Francisco with a very 
great love. Notwithstanding the fact that Cardinal Cesare 
(detto Borgia) was a year older than the Duke of Gandia, 
the Pope had always treated the latter as His heir^ ; and 
had foreseen in his vigorous manlihood the foundation of a 
dynasty of Grandees of Spain who would render more 
illustrious the House of Borja. The founding of a family 
has always been an object very near to the hearts of great 

And now the irruption of hideous and ruthless Death 
turned the Pope's Holiness, f(^r a moment, from a spiritual 
and temporal sovereign and despot into a very human man. 
At such a moment, when man most poignantly is reminded 
of the Inevitable Universal waiting in the background, he 
feels his utter helplessness, his entire unworthiness, and 
would appease, make satisfaction. Broken-hearted, the 
Lord Alexander P.P. VI spoke of abdication, and a change 
of life ; as other famous men have done, whom trouble, or 
fear, have driven to La Trappe. He made good resolu- 

' A most important inference may be drawn from this, as to the paternity 
of Cardinal Cesare. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

tions. He gave munificent gifts to churches ; for His 
revived piety manifested itself in practical form. He 
appointed a Commission < f six cardinals, including 
Cardinals Carafa and Costa, to reform ecclesiastical abuses. 
He named Cardinal Cesare (detto Borgia) as Apostolic 
Legate for the pacification of Umbria. By way of restoring 
unity to Italy, He endeavoured to persuade Florence to 
annul her ;illiance with excommunicate France : in which 
admirable intent He was thwarted solely by the indescrib- 
able efforts of Fra Girolamo Savonarola, who, during the 
Lent of this year, had preached in favour of unswerving 
subservience to the Christian King. The Powers of 
Europe, especially England, the Holy Roman Empire, 
Venice, Naples, and Spain, who formed the Holy League 
with the Papacy, on receiving official intimation of the 
Pope's bereavement and His bitter sorrow, sent Orators 
with suitable expressions of condolence. 

During summer and autumn, which should have been 
occupied in drafting the Bull of Reform (a task subsequently 
performed by the Council of Trent,) the Reform Commis- 
sion had to study, and deal with, and advise the Pontiff in, 
the more urgent case of the friar of Florence Riots and 
affrays between the partisans and opponents of Fra Girolamo 
Savonarola disgraced the Lily- City of Tuscany : and, at 
last, after more than four years forbearance, all gentler 
measures having failed, he was placed under sentence of 

Meanwhile, Cardinal Cesare (detto Borgia) proceeded 
to Naples as Apostolic Ablegate for the coronation of King 
Don Federigo de Aragona. (The Sword of State which 
was borne before His Worship on this occasion is in posses- 
sion of Caietani Duke of Sermoneta : but the scabbard of 
embossed leather is in the Victoria and Albert Museum.) 

:^ * * 

In September 1497 the Lord Alexander P.P. VI 
published the creation of one cardinal, whose name, for 
political reasons, He had reserved in petlo smat the Second 
Consistory of September 1493, who was 

The Lord Don Luis de Aragona, son of King Don 
F'errando I ; Cardinal-Presbyter of the Title of 

The Roaring Blaze 

Santa Maria in Cosmediv. (He was commonly 
called " The Cardinal of Aragon.") 

.JA, .Ji. Jt. 

^ -TV- ■TV' 

At the incoming of winter arrived an opportunity for the 
enemies of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI to blaspheme. 

Madonna Lucrezia Borgia was living in the Convent of 
San Sisto, separated from her husband, Don Giovanni 
Sforza the Tyrant of Pesaro ; and seeking a decree of 
nullity of marriage, alleging a canonical impediment. This 
young man was cousin to the Duke of Milan, very hand- 
some in person, and intelligent. He already had been 
married to Madonna Maddalena Gonzaga, who in 1490 had 
died di cattivo parto (Gregorovius). In 1493, being then 
in his twenty-sixth year, he had married Madonna Lucrezia, 
from whose Father he held his Tyranny of Pesaro by way 
of fief, consolidating the alliance of Sforza and Borgia. He 

had most of the advantages of life, illustrious birth, rank, 

. . . . . • 

youth, health, a splendid position, intimate relationship with 

his feudal lord, and a wife acknowledged by all contem- 
poraries as the most beautiful woman of her time : and now, 
after little more than three years, he was to be held up to 
the derision of all by the annulment of his marriage on the 

score of d^rimfXLa. 

Nothing, at any time is more certain to enrage a man 
than this ; and, in the Fifteenth Century, the Century of the 
Discovery of Man, when avEpua was prized and wor- 
shipped, a charge which made him look ridiculous in the 
estimation of his species, which struck at the very root of 
his manlihood, was sure to be furiously resented. When 
his wife left him to enter her petition, Don Giovanni Sforza 
sped to Milan invoking the support of his kin, the Vice- 
chancellor-Cardinal Ascanio Maria Sforza-Visconti and the 
Duke Ludovico Maria (detto II Moro). On news reaching 
them to the effect that evidence had been given before the 
legal tribunal in Rome, which proved the marriage to lack 
consummation and Madonna Lucrezia to be irapQ^vog aS^j/rrj, 
he violently protested, and with unrestrained rancour. Don 
Beltrando Costabili, the Orator of Ferrara, writing from 
Milan to his government, asserted that Don Giovanni said 
to Duke Ludovico Maria, " Anzi haverla conosciuta infinite 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

volte, ma chel Papa non gliela tolta per altro se non per 
usare con lei." It is most improbable that a reigning 
sovereign would admit a foreign ambassador to a discussion 
of his family affairs ; and unless Costabili actually heard 
those words, they can only be accepted as a piece of gossip 
reported, not as legal evidence. Duke Ludovico Maria 
ingenuously proposed to Don Giovanni an ordeal which, in 
that naive age, was usual in similar cases, of submitting 
formally and publicly to the judgment of a jury of men of 
bonafides and the papal legate : and, on his refusal, his own 
relations, the Duke and the thin-faced clear-witted Vice- 
chancellor-Cardinal, obtained from him a written confession 
that Madonna Lucrezia was justified in her petition, and 
advised him to let the law take its course. The case of a 
man temporarily aEvmrog at the age of Don Giovanni 
physiologically is no uncommon one. Much has been 
made of the circumstances under which his first wife died, 
and of the fact that his third, Madonna Ginevra de' Tiepoli, 
bore him a son, Don Costanzo Sforza, eight years later 
(1505). As for the infernal calumny against the Pope's 
Holiness, Don Giovanni Sforza was its inventor, says the 
Orator of Ferrara, and the mortifying humiliation of a 
libidinous laughing-stock its proximate occasion. On the 
twentieth of December 1497, the decree of nullity of the 
marriage was published in Rome, the Tyrant of Pesaro 
refunded the lady's dowry of thirty thousand ducats ; and 
Madonna Lucrezia Borgia was free. 

* * * 

The cause of the visit to Milan of the Vicechancellor- 
Cardinal Ascanio Maria Sforza-Visconti, at this time, was 
that he had come under most undeserved suspicion of having 
been connected with the murder of the Duke of Gandia. 
Bitter as it must have been to the Pope's Holiness to 
suspect his oldest friend, at least the latter's recent treachery 
with Colonna made estrangement unavoidable. The Vice- 
chancellor retired to Gennazano by Praeneste, (Palestrina), 
a fief of Colonna, ostensibly to worship Madonna of Good 
Counsel. An investigation of his Roman palace during his 
absence was without fruit ; and, angered at the suspicion, 
he had retired to Milan, where his unprejudiced and straight- 


The Roaring Blaze 

forward action in the matter of the nulhty, at a time when 
he naturally went in disgust of Borgia, should go a lono- 
way in favour, not only of his own bonafides, but also of 
that of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI. 

# * # 

M Savonarola's attitude toward the sentence of excom- 
munication that had been launched against him, was 

3 incorrigible. His influence caused the Signoria of Florence 
unsuccessfully to appeal to the Pope's Holiness for the 
withdrawal of the Brief; and the friar accompanied this 
appeal with an open defiance. On Christmas Day he sang 

' the three high masses at San Marco, and announced the 

; resumption of his frenzied discourses. The physiognomy 
of this mattoid is the key to the secret of his misbehaviour. 
He was cast in the mould of the animal-man. He had the 
long head with immense hinder development, the great 
thick nose, the enormous lower lip, coarse mouth, and heavy 
jowl, of a ram. Above all, in him the little lateral muscles 
of the nose-root were of opulent growth, a sign which is 
unmistakable. But, contrariwise, the narrow temples with 
their overhanging brows pointed in the middle, struck the 
note of ideality, and conquered the animalism of the man. 
It was this cataclysmal violence of difference, this trenchant 

J, contrast, that made him what he was. In him there were two 
i inimical characters, the character of the saint, the character 

',of the ram. That of the saint vanquished that of the ram : 
but the poignant struggle overthrew the mental balance of the 

I saint. His proper place was not the Convent of San Marco 
in Florence : but the Hospital of Santo Spirito in Rome.^ 
So in sorrow, in anger, in horrid uncertainty, the year 
1497 ended. 

■T^ ^ ^ 

After the coronation of Don Federigo de Aragona as 
King of Naples, Cardinal Cesare (detto Borgia) announced 
a determination which he had nourished since the murder 
of the Duke of Gandia. Whether he was the Pope's 
bastard or another's, it was his pose to aggrandise the 
House of Borgia ; moreover he was young, only twenty- 
four years of age, and of an ardent and forceful habit of 

1 The Roman phrase " to go to Santo Spirito " means " to go mad." 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

mind and body. Don Gioffredo Borgia was occupied with 
his wife Madonna Sancia de Aragona and his principaHty of 
Squillace ; and his age of seventeen years did not render 
him a capable representative of his illustrious House. 
Cardinal Cesare felt that his scarlet hat debarred him from 
the pursuits for which Nature had devised him. The foes 
of Borgia were active on all sides : the territories of the 
Holy See were a hot-bed of revolt. Sforza sulked in 
Milan ; Orsini, never forgetful of injury, entrenched them- 
selves in their strongholds ; their fierce brigands ravaged 
the country far and wide : and there was no Borgia to hold 
them in check. Wherefore Cardinal Cesare requested 
leave to renounce his cardinalate, to receive secular rank, to 
marry a royal princess, that he might be free to adopt a 
military career, and to perpetuate the Borgia dynasty. 
It was an extraordinary plan : but, though it presented 
advantages of high political value, it was opposed and 
shelved by the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, whose behaviour 
to Cardinal Cesare was never that of a father, but of a 
patron and benefactor who patronized, and benefited, him 
for the sake of another than himself. Yet, though the 
attitude of the Pope to the Cardinal was one of lifelong 
distinct antipathy, He set immense value on his advance- 
ment, and incurred peril and made sacrifices to promote it. 
What was the motive of conduct which presents such con- 
tradictory features? Is it possible that Cardinal Cesare 
was the son of Madonna Giovanna de' Catanei, not by 
Cardinal Rodrigo de Lan^ol y Borja, but by the eternal 
rival of the last, Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere ? It is 
extremely possible and extremely probable. Cardinal 
Rodrigo undoubtedly had loved Madonna Giovanna very 
o-reatly since 1474. She undoubtedly was the mother of 
Cardinal Cesare, who was born in 1474. She had had 
relations with Cardinal Giuliano before that. And Cardinal 
Rodrigo never acknowledged the paternity of Cardinal 
Cesare, although he never denied it. The theory, which 
lacks not some proof (to be given in a proper place), would 
explain the unconquerable malice of Cardinal Giuliano della 
Rovere towards the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, Who had 
deprived him of his mistress as well as of the triregno, the 


The Roaring Blaze 

object of his ultimate ambition ; and the loathing of the 
Pope's Holiness for His enemy's bastard, whom He, at the 
same time held as a hostage to be used against Cardinal 
Giuliano in an extremity, feared for his incorrigible and 
antipathetic disposition, and advanced and enriched for the 
love which He had borne to his mother. That is the only 
rational explanation of certain mysteries which, otherwise, 
remain inexplicable. 

The proposal of Cardinal Cesare (detto Borgia) had 
many recommendations. The lax and feeble government 
of the late Pope, the Lord Innocent P.P. VIH, had played 
havoc with order in the vast domain of Umbria, of the 
Mark of Ancona, of the Romagna, that splendid realm in 
north-eastern Italy verging on the Adriatic Sea. A few 
strong men, tyrants of petty fiefs, threw off allegiance to the 
Pope as their Over-Lord. Don Oliverotto da Fermo, a 
brigand of the worst kind, made himself Tyrant of Fermo 
by the simple process of assassinating his uncle, Don 
Giovanni Fogliani, and all the chief citizens, at a banquet. 
Don Vitellozzo Vitelli garrisoned Citta di Castello, Don 
Paolo Orsini was fortified at Sinigaglia, Madonna Caterina 
Sforza-Riario at Imola and Forli, the Oddi and Baglioni 
at Perugia, the Manfredi at Faenza, the Varani at Camerino, 
the Bentivogli at Bologna. Safe in their strongholds these 
Tyrants paid no dues, no feudal tribute to their Lord Para- 
mount. From time to time they sallied forth with armed 
condottieri to replenish their stores from the pillage of 
towns and villages. The province was ravaged from end 
to end by their excesses. In the Library of San Marco at 
Venice may be read letters (Lat, CI. x. 176) which report on 
the condition of Umbria when the Lord Alexander P.P. VI 
began His reign ; a condition of horror unspeakable, which 
He was determined to abolish. 

To this end. He had sent Cardinal Cesare (detto Borgia) 
as Apostolic Legate into Umbria, in the summer of 1497, 
just a month after the murder of the Duke of Gandia. The 
Legate went unarmed save by his sacred office, and with 
too small an escort for offence. The idea was to test the 
moral authority of the Suzerain of Umbria, the Roman 
Pontiff, in a place where the civil power practically was 

145 ^^ 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

helpless, and where a man's life depended only on the fear 
which he inspired. 

On the day of his arrival at Narni, the sixteenth of July 
1497, Cardinal Cesare already had formed an opinion which 
he communicated to the Pope's Holiness in these words : 
"It is very necessary to provide me with an army against 
" these kakodaimones ; for they go not out by holy-water."^ 

The brigand Don Bartolomeo d'Alviano seized a town 
belonging to the Pope in despite of the Legate, and sacked 
it before his face. Cardinal Cesare summoned him to keep 
the peace : he refused ; and matters went from bad to 

" They offend as they did at first, and will not hearken 
" unto my commandments " ; ^ 
he wrote to the Pope eleven days later. 

The inhabitants of Todi fled from their town to save 
their lives. Brigandage was in its hey-day. " Your 
" Holiness can well understand that the only remedy for 
" these evils lies in the coming of men of arms, whose 
" delay has caused Todi to be desolated and the city, from 
" my departure till now, totally derelict and left empty." ^ 
At Perugia, the Legate took the bull by the horns in a 
singularly daring manner and with singular success; putting 
the more uproarious of the ringleaders under the ban of 
expulsion, "which thing was done with such obedience and 
"calm that nothino^ better could be desired."* 

But he did better than that. He cauofht a murderer in 

flagrante delicto. "I captured two robbers and murderers; 

"and with no tumult, but to the delight of the people, they 

'were put in gaol^a thing long unknown in this city— 

"and this morninof I handed one."^ 


^ " E molto necessaria la provisione de le genti d' arme contro quest! 
demonii che non fugono per acqua santa." xvi. ful. 1497. 

2 " Commensano nel primo modo offenderse et non dare loco ad mei 
commandamenti." xxvii. ful. 1497. 

^ " La S'' V'' po ben comprendere che tucto lo remedio di quest! male !n la 
venuta de la gente d' arme, le qual! tardando piu fornlscere el paese de Tod! 
da desolare, essendo da la partita miu la cita totalmente derellcta et lassata 
vacua." XXX. ful. 1497. 

* " Procedono le cose qu! con tanta obedlentia et quleta che meglio non s! 
potriano desiderare." xxx. ful. 1497. 

^ " Du becharin! homicid! ho fact! plglia, et son stat! senza tumulto et 


The Roaring Blaze 

'Twas immense. There was no tumult, and the people 
were pleased. That a murderer should pay a penalty for 
his crime was a charming and fantastic novelty to Perugia. 
The strong arm of the law struck the city with consterna- 
tion, and deeds of violence ceased as though by magic. In 
this manner Cardinal Cesare (detto Borgia) gave a taste of 
his quality ; and came before the world, for the first time, 
in the role which Nature intended him to fill, with his 
splendid personality, and swift unerring pitiless masterful- 
ness of action. 

The prosecution of this work was prevented by the con- 
dition of affairs in Rome. It was impossible for the Holi- 
ness of the Pope to gather an army while the marriage of 
Madonna Lucrezia was before the courts, and the frenzy of 
Fra Girolamo Savonarola before the Reform Commission. 
Cardinal Cesare, also, was required for other service. 

But now, at the beginning of 1498, after the coronation 
of King Don Federigo, at the close of his legation to 
Naples, Cardinal Cesare reverted to the work begun the 
year before ; and preferred his petition for leave to doff 
the scarlet of an ecclesiastic, and to embark on a secular 
career. The news was bruited about Rome on the eighth 
of February. Four days later, on the twelfth, the Ferrarese 
Orator at Venice heard it said that Cardinal Cesare was 
the murderer of the Duke of Gandia, and that His Worship 
and Madonna Lucrezia Borgia were seeking matrimonial 
alliances with the Royal House of Naples. Four days 
would be exceedingly quick travelling for a piece of gossip 
from Rome to Venice, when news was carried by mounted 
couriers, or a-foot, and would have to pass through the 
Romagna hell : and it is also most important to note that 
this suspicion was not published till eight months after the 
murder; and, then, in Venice. No evidence was offered 
to support it. It emanated from the numerous Orsini whom 
Venice sheltered, and who said that Cardinal Cesare had 
killed the Duke in order that he might take his place as 
the Pope's soldier-son. Once started, the accusation was 
repeated by Cappello the twenty-eighth of September 1 500 ; 

piacer del populo menati in presione — cosa da bon tempo in qua insolita in 
questa cita, et questi matina ne ^ stato appichiato uno." II Aug. 1497. 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

and by Don Silvio Savelli in November 1501 ; three and 
four years after the event : nor does it lack repetition by 
cheap and showy panderers to a guileless public fond of 
having its flesh made to creep at the present day. All that 
is known of the murder already has been set down here. 
But one vital consideration remains to be stated, one new 
point of view to be described ; and it is due to the rumour 
of Orsini invention mentioned above. 

According: to Monsionor Hans Burchard the Caerimo- 
narius, Cardinal Cesare and the Duke of Gandia parted, on 
the night of the fourteenth of June 1497, by the Vice- 
chancellor's palace (Palazzo Sforza-Cesarini) on Banchi 
Vecchi ; whence the latter, saying that he was going to 
amuse himself, etc., went in the direction of the Jews' 
Quarter with his two attendants, the bully, and the un- 
known mask who undeniably had come by appointment. 

Rome of 1497 was divided for purposes of government 
into fourteen Regions (Rioni) ruled by captains (caporioni) 
under a prior. The Vicechancellor's palace on Banchi 
Vecchi is in the Region called Ponte, which extends from 
the church of San Giovanni de' Fiorentini to the Region 
called Santangelo after the church of that dedication in the 
Fishmarket (Pescheria). Now this Region of Ponte was 
inhabited chiefly by the Orsini faction ; as the region of 
Trevi and the Region of Ripa were inhabited by the 
Colonna and Savelli factions respectively. In this Region 
of Ponte lived also Jews : it was the quarter of the bankers 
and the money-changers, as well as of the prisons, public 
and private torture-chambers, (no evidence was taken from 
commoners except under torture,) all under the official pro- 
tection of the House of Orsini. Here is Cord Lane 
(Vicolo della Corda), where the ordinary Question or 
Torture of the Cord^ was applied. Here is Old Pillory 

^ This was quite a common torture. Every patrician had the right to 
inflict it on his plebeians ; and every inventory of palaces begins with " Ropes 
for the Cord." In many palaces and castles, iron rings through which the 
Cord was passed remain to be seen. The witness had his hands tied, hanging 
loosely behind him. One end of the long Cord was attached to his wrists ; 
the other end was flung over a beam or through a ring and held by the 
official torturer. Then the witness delicately was drawn up as high as 
possible. He hung there by his wrists which were strained backward and 
upward, with his shoulders generally dislocated. Then, with a frightful jerk 

The Roaring Blaze 

Square, (Piazza della Berlena Vecchla.) Here is Execu- 
tioner Lane, (Vicolo dello Mastro.) And here were four 
Orsini fortresses, Monte Giordano, Tor Millina, Tor 
Sanguigna, and Torre di Nona. The Region of Santan- 
gelo, also, almost exclusively was inhabited by Jews under 
the protection of Orsini who held yet another palace-fortress 
here in the Theatre of Marcellus, (formerly the stronghold of 
the great mediaeval Jewish House of Pierleoni,) near by 
the site on which the Ghetto was built in 1556 under the 
Lord Paul P.P. IV, and abolished in 1890 under the Lord 
Leo P.P. XIH. 

These topographical facts appear to point in one 
direction. A conclusion may be reached by the following 

(o) The Duke of Gandia took eleven (or fourteen) 

f/3) His pouch with its precious jewels was intact. 
(7) He had parted from Cardinal Cesare before 

witnesses in Banchi Vecchi. 
(S) He said that he was going to amuse himself 
(e) He went towards the Jews' Quarter. 
(t) Cardinal Cesare returned to the Vatican, 
(rj) Banchi Vecchi is in Ponte, the Region of Jews and 

of Orsini. 
(B) The Jews' Quarter stricte dide was in Santangelo, a 

Region also dominated by Orsini. 
(t) The Orsini were in mortal strife with the Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI, Who had visited them with 
appalling disaster. Who was likely to cause them 
infinite loss of life and spoil in the near future, 

he was dropped to within a braccia (2 feet 7 inches) of the floor, completing 
the dislocation with a shock. At this moment, the Question was put ; his 
answer distinguished from his shrieks, and written down. Any stubbornness, 
or insolence, or reticence, was met by attaching weights to his feet, and 
subjecting him to fresh elevations and fresh drops, till his arms were torn 
from the sockets and his sinews strained to the uttermost. Or, as a variant, 
he was left to hang until his questioner had obtained the information 
required. Evidence of commoners, without the Question, appears to have 
been considered by the Fifteenth Century as valueless as evidence unsupported 
by oath or affidavit and untested by cross-examination at the present day. 
The nearest modern equivalent to the Torture of the Cord would be the 
smelling of a greasy testament plus the stratagems of a cross-examining 
counsel. It was merely a legal form. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Whose favourite son, heir, and militaiy right hand, 
was the Duke of Gandia. 

(k) It was Orsini who started the rumour, eight months 
later, that Cardinal Cesare (of whom Orsini went 
in horrid fear by reason of his exploits in the 
Romagna) had murdered the Duke of Gandia. 

The human and natural conclusion would seem to be 
that Don Juan Francisco de Lan9ol y Borja, Duke of 
Gandia, Prince of Teano and of Tricarico, Count of 
Chiaramonte of Lauria of Cerignuola, Tyrant of Benevento 
of Tarracina, Grand Constable of Naples, and Captain- 
General of the pontifical army against Orsini, living apart 
from his wife Doiia Maria de Aragona who was with his 
two children at his duchy in Spain, being a handsome 
pleasure-loving youth of twenty two years, went to keep an 
assignation on that night of the fourteenth of June 1497 ; 
and fell by the furious dagger of one of Orsini's Jews, a 
rival ? a father ? an outraged husband ? — or by the vengeful 
poignards of his own and his Father's deadly foes, the 

The great number of his wounds, the safety of his 
valuables, may be thus accounted for. The unknown 
mask would be the decoy, disguised as pandar. The 
murder of the bully speaks of more assassins than one. 

Then, did not Orsini strike at the heart of the Pope in 
the slaughter of His eldest son ? 

At all events, no formal accusation of the guilt of this 
most foul and treacherous crime has ever been laid against 
Cardinal Cesare (detto Borgia.) There is absolutely no 
evidence against him — only suspicion rumour and conjec- 
ture. And the three spring from a tainted source — the lair 
of the Bear — Orsini. 

-??* -yp ^ 

Plans for the settlement of the Romagna had to be set 
aside. The affair of Fra Girolamo Savonarola monopolized 
the attention of the moment. 

That friar began the year 1498 by preaching a fierce 
defence of his disobedience to the inhibition and to the 
sentence of excommunication ; and by a frenetic onslaught 
on the Roman as distinguished from the Tuscan clergy. 


The Roaring Blaze 

The Lord Alexander P. P. VI, the acknowledged Head of the 
Christian Church, (indeed He was the only representative 
of Christianity in Authority at that time) found Himself in 
the position of a commander-in-chief dealing with a 
mutinous mad sergeant whom captains, colonels, and 
generals have failed to reduce to order. The Pope's 
moderation and long-suffering, prior to his allowing the 
law to take its course, are perfectly marvellous. Fra 
Girolamo had been in a state of mutiny for more than four 
years. Preaching the duty of obedience, he would not 
practise it. He was totally insensible to the many graces 
with which he had been indulged ; and he met all overtures 
for peace with evasion or with insolence. After all, he was 
"a man under authority," under authority to which volun- 
tarily he had vowed, and refused, submission while 
admitting the right of that authority to claim it : — an 
anomalous position, illogical, scandalous, — the position of a 
mad man. To the Signoria of Florence, then, the Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI issued a Brief commanding the with- 
drawal of support from the excommunicated friar ; threat- 
ening Florence with an Interdict (a hideous lash that 
invariably brought curs to heel) if His commandment were 
disobeyed : but, at the same time, offering to absolve the 
rebellious son of St. Dominic, upon submission. The 
Signoria replied, defending Savonarola ; and the Pope's 
Holiness replied that, either he must be imprisoned, or be 
sent to Rome : a decision which was explained at greater 
length to the Signoria by the Florentine Orator in Rome, 
who also described the Pope's natural feelings of embitter- 
ment at finding His reasonable demands so spurned and 
set aside. Half measures only were taken. The Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI justly was dissatisfied when the Signoria 
simply forbade the friar to preach. His Holiness com- 
manded, then, the entire vindication of His supreme authority. 
Here, Fra Girolamo Savonarola committed his final sin. 
He joined in the stale howl appealing to the Powers of 
Europe for the convocation of a General Council ; and he 
redoubled his treacherous intrioues with the Christian Kinof 
Charles VIII : completing the exasperation of the Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Events moved swiftly then. Defying the commands of 
his acknowledged superior, the Pope, as well as the injunc- 
tions of the Signoria, he fell on disrepute. His influence 
in Florence waned and withered ; his prophecies fell thick 
and fast on no believers : and then the Signoria insisted on 
his submission to the Pope. 

He replied by demanding the Ordeal Of Fire ; offering 
to walk through a blazing furnace with one of the many 
who opposed him, the person who should take no hurt from 
that Ordeal to be adjudged innocent and under the special 
protection of God. 

Fra Francesco of Apulia a Friar Minor (a Religion 
always bitterly antipathetic to the Religion of St. Dominic) 
accepted ttie challenge thus thrown down. He said that 
he knew that both parties to the Ordeal would be burned 
to death : but it would be better so, than that one heresiarch 
should be left free to carry on his treasons to Christ's Church 
and State. 

Again Fra Girolamo Savonarola put forth an evasion. 
He refused, after challenging — he refused the Ordeal in his 
proper person : but he offered one of his friars of San 
Marco, one Fra Domenico, as his representative. 

From Rome the practical common sense of the Pope's 
Holiness fulminated disapproval : but the Ordeal went on. 
Faggots were piled in the great square of Florence, and set 
in flame. The skin of the faces of the crowd grew hot and 
scarlet and crackled in the glare. The Friar Minor came 
forward in readiness to die for the good of the people. Fra 
Girolamo made delays — delays — he said that Fra Domenico 
must bear our Lord-in-the-Sacrament, the Sacred Host, 
Gesu Sagramentato, in an ostensorium through the raging 
flames. The pious simple souls of the Signoria knew this 
for irreverence, for sacrilege ; retired to discuss the point ; 
returned ; refused permission. Fra Girolamo persisted 
while the fire burned lower. The long slow day was 
passing. Already his dictatorship, the day when he ruled 
Florence with a word, had passed. The fire was dying : 
and then, finally, except upon his own mad terms, Fra 
Girolamo refused the Ordeal which he had challenged, 
evaded, delayed, denied. 


-^^'t^z- c:Uyt£>^a/?7^ t^^^^g/ZAt?-^^ 

The Roaring Blaze 

All faith in him was gone. Objurgated by a thousand i 
raucous throats, torn at by a thousand furious hands, the 
people's broken idol sought refuge in his Convent of San 
Marco. Florence rose in riot, blood was shed, the blood 
of Francesco Valori in cold murder. The Convent of San 
Marco suffered storm ; and the friars with their mattoid 
Prior were cast in prison. 

In the interests of justice and of mercy, the Pope's 
Holiness strove to have their trial held in Rome : but events 
had roused the Signoria to vindicate the honour of Florence 
"to satisfy the people who so long had been duped and 
trained in sacrilege and rebellion." Wherefore, from Rome 
came Commissioners for the trial of Fra Girolamo Savona- > 
rola and his accomplices. Put to the legal torture, he 
confessed himself charlatan and criminal. He and his 
lieutenants, Frati Domenico and Silvestro, were found 
guilty as heretics, schismatics, and rebels against the Holy 
See, of political fanaticism amounting to high treason and 
mutiny against his lawful rulers. Handed to the secular 
judges for sentence, he was condemned, with the two friars, 
to death by hanging and the burning of their bodies after 
death. Handed back to the ecclesiastical power the three 
were degraded from their priesthood, to enable them to 
undergo the death penalty, avoiding the sacrilege of 
violence to the persons of those tonsured and anointed. At 
the very last, by the express commandment of the Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI there was offered to the condemned a 
Plenary Indulgence-in-the-article-of-death, with release from 
all Canonical Censures and Excommunications. Gratefully, 
thankfully, it was accepted ; and the prisoners paid the 
legal retribution of their crimes. 

Had he been an Englishman of the Twentieth Century, 
instead of a Florentine of the Fifteenth, Fra Girolamo 
Savonarola would not have been hanored or burned : but 
censured ; suspended, from the exercise of sacerdotal func- 
tions, by ecclesiastical authority ; and, at last, by medical 
authority, interned at Broadmoor during the Pleasure of 
the King's Majesty, as a criminal lunatic. 

* :^ * 

This year 1498, was born Don Giovanni Borgia, called 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

" Infans Romanus " ; who was said to be a bastard of 
Cardinal Cesare (detto Borgia) by "a Roman spinster." 

This year also, died the twelve-toed chin-tufted excom- 
municated little Christian King Charles VIII of France ; 
and was succeeded by his cousin Louis XII, a thin man 
with a fat neck and lip, and an Ethiopic nose, and exquisite 
attire, who immediately made two startling claims — for the 
nullification of his marriage with Madame Jeanne de Valois, 
and for the confirmation of his claim to the Duchy of Milan. 
The Lord Alexander P.P. VI always preferred friends to 
enemies ; and, now that Charles VIII was gone to his own 
place, He gladly welcomed an opportunity of winning the 
allegiance of France. A commission of jurists went from 
Rome, who, on the legal facts, declared the marriage 
between the King and Madame Jeanne to be null and void. 
A papal dispensation legalized the marriage of the Christian 
King Louis XII and Queen Anne, his predecessor's widow, 
whereby her duchy of Bretagne was retained to the crown 
of France. The claim to the Duchy of Milan was a matter 
which required consideration. 

* # * 

At the Sixth Consistory of the twelfth of September 
1498, the Lord Alexander P.P. VI named one cardinal, 
who was 

the Lord Georges d'Amboise, Gentleman of the Bed- 
chamber to the Christian Kino-s Charles VIII and 
Louis XII ; Cardinal-Presbyter of the Title of San 

* # * 

At last, the Pope's Holiness consented to allow Cardinal 
Cesare (detto Borgia) to renounce the scarlet cardinalitial 
hat and the sapphire cardinalitial ring, for a secular duchy, 
a royal wife, and a military career ; saying that his presence 
among the clergy was sufficient to prevent reformation.^ 
A marriage was proposed for him with Dofia Carlotta de 
Aragona Princess of Naples ; but rejected by King Don 

1 " Una de las mas principales causas que dava, para que el Cardenal de 
Valencia dexasse el capelo era, porque siendo a quel Cardenal, mientras en la 
Iglesia estuviesse, era bastante para impedir que no se hiziesse in reformacion." 
— Zurita, 126. 

The Roaring Blaze 

FederioTQ, who at the same time favoured the marriage 
which took place between Madonna Lucrezia Borgia and 
Don Alonso de Aragona Prince of BiscegHa. The plan of 
Cardinal Cesare was aided by fresh outbreaks at the 
pontifical baronage, especially by a new league of Colonna 
and Orsini on behalf of Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere. 
Now, no more time was lost. Don Cesare (detto Borgia) 
renounced his cardinalate in full consistory ; and journeyed 
into France to cultivate the friendship of the Christian 
King on behalf of the Papacy. New alliances were in the 
air. King Louis XII saw no reason why he should remain in 
the ridiculous and paralysing isolation which the bragga- 
daccio of his predecessor had won. The Pope's Holiness 
was by no means secure with Naples whose King Don 
Federigo, though owing all to Him, was inclined to be 
obstreperous and to show contempt, and to whose dominions 
the Catholic King and Queen were reaching. An alliance 
with the Papacy would suit the plans of France. An 
alliance with France would be of eminent service to the 
Papacy, at this moment when Colonna and Orsini were on 
the war-path, and the Muslim Infidel stirring the East. 
So, the mission of Don Cesare (detto Borgia) met with 
great success ; a working understanding was arranged by 
his diplomacy ; and the Christian King conferred on him 
the French Duchy of Valentinois. 

It became evident that Milan must cede to France, the 
new ally of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI ; and this signified 
the final rupture of the alliance of Borgia and Sfurza. First, 
firm friends ; next, strong supporters of the House of 
Borgia ; then, indifferent neutrals ; later, declared traitors ; 
last, negligeable quantities ; the conduct of the House of 
Sforza was influenced by one idea — loyalty to their name. 
It was the head of the House who was responsible, Duke 
Ludovico Maria Sforza-Visconti, a coward, a scoundrel, a 
traitor, a murderer in intention, the wretch who brought 
invading Frenchmen into Italy to aid his usurpation of the 
throne of Milan — to him be all the blame. The Vice- 
chancellor-Cardinal Ascanio Maria Sforza-Visconti and all 
the Sforza of Pesaro, Santafiora, Chotignuc^la, Imola and 
Forli, followed the head of their House ; and, as he led 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

them astray, so he must be decried. Sforza has produced 
cardinals a many ; but never a Pope. Sforza was never 
nearer to the pontificate than in this reign. Ascanio was 
more than likely to succeed the Lord Alexander — far more 
likely than the diabolical plebeian who did succeed. But 
Sforza followed the head of its House ; committing political 
suicide. Loyalty in any age is rare : under all circumstances 
it is heroic, admirable. 

From the Catholic King and Queen of Spain, Don Her- 
nando and Dofia Isabella, came the sometime pontifical 
captain Don Gonsalvo de Cordoba, charged to scold the 
Holiness of the Pope because of His new alliance with 
France. A very old weapon again was refurbished, and 
Catholic Spain, in fear or envy, menaced a Spanish Pontiff, 
Who had given her the New World, with Cardinal Giuliano 
della Rovere's stupid General Council. So, in the shuffling 
of the cards, misery made strange bed- fellows acquainted. 

Then the Orient blazed with sudden war, and the Muslim 
Infidel began hostilities with Venice. Christendom had lost 
Lepanto ^ ; the Turks were intoxicated with success ; and 
in Rome the Lord Alexander was deep in the scheme of a 
new Crusade when the year 1498 died. 

* * * 

Naples looked with sallow eyes on the amicable relations 
of the Papacy and France. The Christian King Louis XII 
married Duke Cesare de Valentinois to Madame Charlotte, 
daughter of Sieur Alain d'Albret and sister of King Jean 
of Navarre ; and then entered into a treaty with the Venetian 
Senate for the partition of the duchy of Milan. These acts 
were discomfiting to the Regno, which could only regard 
the triumph of its enemy and the ruin of its friend as 
auguries of evil fortune. For Duke Cesare de Valentinois 
undoubtedly was the enemy of Naples now after the rejec- 
tion of his suit to Doiia Carlotta de Aragona, and in despite 
of the fact that his mother's daughter, Madonna Lucrezia 
Borgia, was allied by marriage to the Neapolitan Prince 
Don Alonso of Bisceglia. The fruit of this last union was 
a son, born in November 1499, baptized in the Xystine 

^ But She won a signal and decisive victory there, with the aid of Our 
Lady of Victory (Nt^'/, PoUziano would have said), in 1572. 


The Roaring Blaze 

Chapel by the name Roderico after the August Father of 
Madonna Lucrezia. 

Troubles were brewing for the Sforza. The Vice- 
chancellor-Cardinal left Rome, and the French invaded 
his brother's duchy of Milan, driving Duke Ludovico 
Maria Sforza- Visconti (detto II Moro) to ignominious flight. 
Ever ready to take advantage of the weakness of another 
Power, also ever ready to be jealous of another Power's 
success, Europe eyed the triumph of France with appre- 
hension and disgust. And when the Lord Alexander 
PP. VI shewed pleasure at the fall of Milan, Spain and 
Portugal in their chagrin sent Orators to annoy His 
Holiness with invectives against His morals,^ (as Satan 
sometimes denounces Sin,) and the validity of His elec- 
tion,^ demanding impossible reforms, and a General 
Council at the Lateran. These petty incidents met the 
fate which they deserved. The Lord Alexander P.P. VI 
magnificently and magnanimously received the envoys in a 
public consistory, and made no efforts to prevent them from 
reciting their lessons. His Holiness invariably treated per- 
sonalities with good-humoured scorn ; and bore the vented 
spleen of kings as a mere essential inconvenience of His 
rank, to be brushed away and forgotten with the little 
muscarial nuisances of a Roman summer. 

:ifc ^ ^ 

"A" 'TV* -7^ 

The year 1499, being the penultimate year of the 
Fifteenth Century, was occupied as far as the City was 
concerned with preparations for the Jubilee ; that curious 
ceremony wherewith the Church affords an opportunity 
to the faithful to cleanse their souls from stain of sin by 
penitence and pious works. Penitence is an affair entirely 
personal, to be entreated of between a sinner and his 
Judge : but the Church, who (according to the Thirty Nine 

^ " Mores esse profligates pietatis studium restinctum, flagitiorum licentiam 
solutam, sanctissimas pretio indignissimis addici — remque esse in extremiiin 
poene discrimen adductam." — (Osorins De rebus gestis Emanuelis, Op. I. 

2 " Italia tutta aviebbe dimostrato lui non esser vero pontifice." — (Marino 
Sanuto in Ue Leva, 6i.) " Que eran notorias las formas que se tuvieron en se 
eleccion, y quan graves cosas se intentaron, y quan escandalosas." — Zurita» 
1 59-) 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Articles) "hath power to ordain its rites and ceremonies," 
prescribes the ceremonial works to be performed. In brief, 
these works consist in certain visits to certain basilicas of 
Rome, which must be entered by certain doors, and where 
certain prayers must be prayed. The Church, being a 
system, is systematic. In return for these works always 
supposing them to be accompanied by the appropriate 
penitence. She promises, from the infinite treasury of the 
Merits of our Divine Redeemer remission of the canonical 
punishment incurred, during his past life, by the sinner now 
penitent and purposing amendment. This Complaisance on 
the part of the Church technically is called an Indulgence ; 
and the Jubilee Indulgence is in high esteem and eager 
acceptation. It is not in any sense a licence to sin ; as, by 
a singularly silly misconception of its name,-^ it has been 
supposed to be : but, absolutely, a formal wiping of the 
slate, a ceremonial enablinof of the soul to start anew. 
The Jubilee begins on Christmas Day with the opening, 
by the Supreme Pontiff, of a certain door in the Vatican 
Basilica, which remains an ingress until the Christmas Day 
of the century-end ; and vast pilgrimages are used to flock 
into the City at such times. The year 1499 saw erected 
accommodation for visitors in the Borgo Nuovo, and 
numerous improvements on the Vatican side of Tiber. 
Churches were restored and furbished, the Mola of 
Hadrian strengthened ; and the new wing of the Apostolic 
Palace of the Vatican called the Borgia Tower, which 
the Lord Alexander P.P. VI had built, was decorated in 
fresco by the brush of Messer Bernardino Betti (detto II 

In his book on the lives of artists which Giovanni Vasari 
wrote half a century later it is said that II Pinturicchio 
painted on a wall of the Borgia Tower a picture of the 
Blessed Virgin Mary before whom the Borgia Pontiff kneels 
in adoration. Vasari also says that the painter used, as his 
model for Deipara, Madonna Giulia Orsini (nate Farnese) 
who was the Pope's mistress : and this statement is repeated 

1 Indulgentia = Induli^ence, gentleness, complaisance, tenderness, fond- 
ness, a remission of punishment or taxation.— (Andrews, Latin-English 
Lexicon, 1853, p. 789.) 


The Roaring Blaze 

by many, to this day, including the German historian Herr 
Gregorovius (who pretends to have been guided by docu- 
ments and by documents alone), as an example of the flagi- 
tious profligacy and profanity of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI. 
Painters of the Fifteenth Century, in the manner of 
painters of the Twentieth, took their models as they found 
them. If the perpetuation of the world's loveliness be no 
sin, — and on that point there are diversities of human 
opinion, and one Law, — then the person who is graced 
with natural beauty incurs, not disgrace, but honour in 
allowing it to be preserved by painting or by sculpture. 
Perfect beauty does not seek concealment, but simply 
admits the world to share its joy, without emotion of 
vanity or shame, without regard to rank or dignity. 
Pauline Buonaparte Princess Borghese was the model for 
Canova's Venus. Bernini modelled his David (in Villa 
Borghese) from his own yu/zwrijc, while Cardinal Barberini 
(afterwards the Lord Urban PP. VIII) held the mirror. 
That amiable rake Messer Rafael Sanzio da Urbino painted 
his baker's daughter as Madonna. Messer Jacopo Sansovino 
sculptured his Dionusos from a lad called Lippo Fabri, who, 
from long posing bare, took cold and died of fever ; and, in 
his last delirium, continually leaped from his bed to pose as 
the god to whom his life was sacrificed. Messer Michel- 
angelo Buonarroti, lost in admiration of his model the son 
of Messer Francesco Raibolini of Bologna (detto II Francia), 
with h s naif and customary depreciation of his brother- 
painters, told the boy that his father made better men by 
night than by day. Messer Andrea Verrocchio did his 
slim lean David from one of his alert apprentices. Messer 
Luca Signorelli painted his own dead son. Messer Rafaele 
Sanzio himself, times without number, sat for his master II 
Pinturicchio. The beautiful Simoneta of Florence was the 
Venus of Messer Alessandro Filipepi (detto Botticelli) ; and 
the sons of Lorenzo and Giuliano de' Medici (two of whom 
in after years wore the Triregno) did not disdain to sit as 
models for this master. All the works of art of the Bor^ian 
Era, representing saints and sinners, gods and demigods, 
eudaimones and kakadaimones, all obviously were portraits ; 
the very imperfections, which the century of the Discovery 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

of Man was too eager and too unsophisticated to plane 
away to fit arbitrary conventions, shew this : and volumes 
might be written of the models of great masters, who let 
their youth or beauty be set down for all time, and then 
achieved fame as Rafaele did, or Messer Simone Fiorentini's 
(detto Donatello) nitid David or superb Saint George, or 
Messer Andrea del Sarto's wistful Young Saint John. 

Wherefore, not only may it be admitted, but defended, 
that Madonna Giulia Orsini (nata Farnese), who had come 
to share with Madonna Lucrezia Borgia the distinction of 
being the fairest young mother in Rome, sat as model to II 
Pinturicchio for the QtoroKog of the Borgia Tower. 

But, in proof of the ghastly ignorance or devilish malice 
which has sought to introduce an element of lubricity into 
this affair, it is necessary that three important facts should 
not go unconsidered. They are 

(a) that the Borgia Tower contained three or four large 

(/3) that the portrait of Madonna Giulia Orsini (nata 
Farnese), detta La Bella, in the character of the 
Blessed Virgin Mary wiih her Child, is a round 
picture over the door of the third hall ; She is en- 
circled by angels, and there are no other figures in 
the composition : 
(7) that the portrait of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI is a 
square picture in the second hall; and the Holiness 
of the Pope is presented in His pontifical habits 
but bare-headed and without the triregno, devoutly 
kneeling before the Apparition of our Divine 
Redeemer Who rises from the tomb. 
That is the little matter of the calumny, in support of 
which the German historian with others of like mind have 
solved the problem, of the squaring of the circle ! ^ 
* * * 

Now that the French alliance was secure, with the help 
of the Christian King Louis XII, the Lord Alexander 
P.P. VI proceeded with the conquest of the Romagna and 
the reduction of the rebellious vassals of the Holy See. 
Duke Cesare de Valentinois was named Generalissimo of 

' De Maricourt. 

The Roaring Blaze 

the pontifical army ; and a Papal Bull declared the fiefs of 
Rimini, Pesaro, Imola, Forli, Camerino, Faenza, etc., to 
have forfeited their rights until they should have made 
satisfaction, paying the arrears of annual tribute into the 
chancery of their paramount lord. The fact was fully 
realised that it was useless to attempt to pacify " these 
kakodaimones " with " holy water " ; as, as a last resort, 
after seven years forbearance, force was to be used against 
Sforza of Pesaro, Sforza-Riario of Imola and Forli, Man- 
fredi of Faenza and the rest. The glowing splendour of 
the personality of Duke Cesare de Valentinois, without 
emotion and without remorse, fitted him for his task. He 
was a perfect egoist, splendidly indifferent to all the world. 
During his life, his enormous talents, his swift success, his 
summary acts gained him the reputation of being super- 
human, inevitable as Fate. On the eleventh of November 
1499, he left Rome with four thousand conHottieri and three 
hundred lancers. His lieutenant and standard-bearer was 
the same noble and vigorous knight, Don Pietro Gregorio 
Borgia, of the Veliternian Branch, who had changed clothes 
with him in 1495, enabling him to cheat the Christian King. 
On the seventeenth of December, he stormed and captured 
Imola, whence Madonna Caterina Sforza, widow of Count 
Girolamo Riario, had fled, refusing obedience or tribute to 
her suzerain, and anew entrenching herself at Forli, her 
other fief. She left at Imola such an odious memory of 
her rule, that in after years the citizens would blush for 
shame of it, while blessing Duke Cesare de Valentinois, 
who, as the minister of Divine Justice, made an end. 

The encounter between Madonna Caterina and Duke 
Cesare caused extraordinary exhibitions of vigour and 
agility on both sides. When a desperate unscrupulous 
woman struggles with a strong and ruthless man, she will 
do much damage : but, in the end, she must succumb. 
Directly after the fall of Imola, Duke Cesare received 
letters from Rome announcing that the Pope's Holiness 
narrowly had escaped violent death : for Madonna Caterina, 
to save herself and her fiefs, believing that Duke Cesare 
would be compelled to relinquish his expedition if the 
Pope were dead, had tried to slay the Holy Feather by 

161 L 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

means of venom. To this end, she had sent two Orators 
charged with proposed conditions of peace ; and also she 
sent a letter (enclosed in a hollow stick, say some) which 
would cause the Supreme Pontiff to fall dead as soon as 
He should open it. When the plot was discovered, 
Tommaso da Forli, a papal chamberlain who had brought 
the missive, admitted his guilt ; (under the Question guilt 
was commonly admitted) ; and said that he hoped, by the 
death of the Pope, to raise the siege of Imola and Forli. 
This extraordinary story is recorded by several chroniclers, 
including Monsignor Hans Burchard the Caerimonarius, 
the dull and stupid defamer of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI. 
The name of the chamberlain gives rise to curious specu- 
lations. Tommaso da Forli presumably might be a bastard 
of the city of Forli of insufficient birth to warrant the 
adoption of the appellation of his unknown father or 
mother ; and who might very well have taken the name of 
his native city with the preposition " da" (not "de'," be it 
noted) as a surname. Papal chamberlains are nothing 
more than pontifical flunkeys, and " Thomas from Forli," 
being a lackey with access to the Pontifical Person, might 
have been employed by Madonna Caterina to stab the 
Pope. That is not unlikely : but the story of the en- 
venomed letter obviously is false ; and interesting only as 
shewing the trend of men's minds in 1499 ; and as a proof, 
perhaps, that if, as has been alleged in the purest ignorance, 
the envenominor of its foes was a custom of the House of 
Borgia, at least one other Italian court indulged in the 
same horrible habit upon occasion. 

Madonna Caterina's second recorded act of treachery 
took place after she had surrendered the city of Forli to Duke 
Cesare. She retained possession of the castle, and refused 
to give it up. As soon as the pontifical artillery began to 
bombard her fortress on Christmas Day, she flew, from one 
of the fortalices, a banner bearing the Lion of St. Mark, to 
make believe that she was leagued with Venice, a republic 
then at peace with the Holy See. It was a Venetian 
attached to the staff of Duke Cesare who exposed the ruse, 
with the affirmation that his Senate had no alliance with 
Madonna Caterina. The day following, she gave signs of 


The Roaring Blaze 

weakening ; and requested a parley with her beleaguerer. 
When Duke Cesare approached, and just was about to put 
his foot on the draw-bridge over the moat by which the 
castle was surrounded, suddenly and without warning the 
machine swung up and in. Madonna Caterina indignantly 
disclaimed any perfidious intent, and threw all blame on 
the castellan, Don Giovanni Casale : but all beholders were 
aware of a deliberate attempt to capture and hideously to 
kill the Generalissimo, which only had failed through too 
eager precipitancy. No parley took place ; the siege con- 
tinued ; and, in time, this audacious war-wife was compelled 
to capitulate. Duke Cesare sent her to Rome as a prisoner- 
of-state, with every chivalrous consideration for her sex as 
well as for her illustrious birth as daughter of the great 
Duke Francesco Sforza-Visconti of Milan : and on her 
arrival in the City she was lodged in the Belvedere 
Apartment of the Vatican, whence, after a futile attempt at 
escape, she was transferred to honourable captivity in the 
Mela of Hadrian. 

During the siege of Forli an event occurred, of secondary 
importance, except as evidence of the mystery surrounding 
tne paternity of Duke Cesare. The Most Worshipful Lord 
Giovanni Borgia (detto Giuniore) Cardinal-Presbyter of 
the Title of Santa Maria m Via Lata died at Urbino. He 
was one of the bastards of that beautiful splendid sneak and 
coward Don Pedro Luis de Lan^ol y Borgia, (Duke of 
Spoleto, younger brother of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, 
who had been named Prefect of Rome and Castellan of 
Santangelo by his Uncle, the Lord Calixtus P.P. HI, and 
who died in his flight from Rome in 1458). The said Most 
Worshipful Lord Cardinal Giovanni Giuniore had been 
Bishop of Melfi since 1492. In 1496, he was elevated to 
the Sacred College, and given command of the condottieri 
which the Lord Alexander P.P. VI was preparing against 
France ; and, when Duke Cesare renounced his scarlet early 
in 1499, he had ceded to this cardinal his Metropolitan Arch- 
bishopric of Valencia. The Lord Giovanni Giuniore had 
held Legations to Umbria, Bologna, Ravenna and France, 
and was acting as Legate to Umbria when he died at 
Urbino. Duke Cesare himself announced this death to 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

the Pope in a letter written from Forli, and dated the six- 
teenth of January 1500, in these words: "I have news of 
"the death of Cardinal Borgia, my brother, who died at 
" Urbino." Duke Cesare wrote a kind of Latin neither 
Golden nor Silvern but particular to himself, as also was his 
Italian and there is no known instance of his using '"frater" 
or " fratello" in the tertiary sense of " cousin." If the dead 
Cardinal and the Duke were uterine brothers, then Don 
Pedro Luis was their father ; and Duke Cesare was not the 
son, but the nephew, of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI. The 
death of the Cardinal, however, has been alleged by some 
chroniclers to have been caused by venom administered by 
Duke Cesare. The charge is essentially absurd. There 
was no motive ; for Cardinal and Duke were comrades, 
brother s-in-arnis, equally engaged in the reduction of the 
rebellious Romagna ; there could have been no jealousy, 
for they occupied separate and independent ranks, (of which 
Duke Cesare had chosen his,) the Cardinal Giovanni 
Giuniore as Legate, being the older man (41), and Duke 
Cesare the younger (26) as Generalissimo : nor was the 
Cardinal rich enough to make his death desirable. But, at 
all events, it was impossible that Duke Cesare should 
envenom him for the simple reasons that the two were many 
miles apart during seventeen days before the death, and 
that no venom of slow action was known to the Fifteenth 
Century any more than it is to the Twentieth. 

* * * 

At the Seventh Consistory of the sixteenth (or twentieth) 
of March 1500, the Lord Alexander P.P. VI named three 
cardinals, who were 

(a) the Lord Don Didaco Hurtado de Mendoza, a 

Spaniard ; Cardinal-Presbyter of the Title of Santa 

Sabina : (he was afterwards called "The Cardinal 

of Spain :") 
(j3) the Lord Amaneus (Amanateus) d'Albret, of 

Navarre ; Cardinal- Deacon of San Niccolo in 

Carcere Tulliano : 
(y) the Lord Don Pedro Luis de Borja, a Pontifical 

Nephew, brother of the Cardinal of Monreale 

(Giovanni Seniore) ; succeeded his deceased cousin 

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Cardinal Giovanni Giuniore as Cardinal- Deacon of 

Santa Maria in Via Lata. 

* * * 

The Christian King Louis XII, now calling himself the 
"Second Caesar," was not idle during this year 1500. 
Duke Ludovico Maria Sforza-Visconti certainly recovered 
his duchy of Milan ; but, after the Triumph given to Duke 
Cesare de Valentinois in Rome on his return from the 
Romaofna with Madonna Caterina Sforza-Riario as his 
prisoner-of-war, the prestige of the Papacy was so increased 
that the French took heart and gained a notable victory at 
Novara, capturing Duke Ludovico Maria and his brother 
the Vicechancellor, who then were incarcerated safely in 

-¥' -^ ^ 

^ T?" TT- 

In July, Don Alonso de Aragona, Prince of Bisceglia, 
Quadrata, and Salerno, and husband of Madonna Lucrezia 
Borgia was murdered ; and the opinion carefully and care- 
lessly has been cultivated that this was one of the crimes 
of Duke Cesare de Valentinois and the Lord Alexander 
P.P. VI. 

According to the account of Don Paolo Cappello the 
Orator of Venice, as given by Herr Gregorovius, Prince 
Don Alonso, going to the Vatican at eleven o'clock at 
night on the fifteenth of July, was assaulted on the steps of 
St. Peter's by masked men armed with poignards, and 
wounded in the head and arms and thighs. Weak from 
loss of blood, he dragged himself into the Apostolic Palace, 
where his wife Madonna Lucrezia swooned at the sight of 
him. He was carried into one of the rooms ; and a 
cardinal, believing him to be in the article of death, 
imparted the usual absolution. But his youthful vigour 
enabled him to progress on the road to recovery, under the 
nursing of his wife and of his sister-in-law Madonna Sancia, 
who, with their own hands, prepared his food (they were 
royal princesses), while the Pope's Holiness provided a 
body-guard of men-at-arms. No one knew who had 
wounded the prince : but gossip said that it was the same 
hand that had slain the Duke of Gaudia. Duke Cesare 
de Valentinois had issued an edict forbidding any one 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

bearing arms to pass between the Mola of Hadrian and the 
Vatican. Don Paolo Cappello further records that Duke 
Cesare had said, " I did not wound the prince : but, if I had 
"done so, he had well deserved it." Duke Cesare was not 
ashamed to visit the invalid ; and, in coming away, he had 
said, " That, which is not done at noon, can be done at 
sunset." More than a month later, at nine o'clock on the 
night of the eighteenth of August, Duke Cesare again 
visited Prince Don Alonso ; and, having driven Madonna 
Sancia and Madonna Lucrezia from the room, he intro- 
duced his captain Don Michelotto who strangled the 
wounded man. After this, Duke Cesare publicly declared 
that he had killed the Prince of Bisceglia, because the latter 
had tried to murder him by setting an archer to shoot him 
silently in the Vatican gardens : — so far Don Paolo Cappello. 
Monsignor Hans Burchard the Caerirnonarius says, 
that, at eleven o'clock on the night of the fifteenth of July, 
Prince Don Alonso the husband of Madonna Lucrezia 
Borgia was found on the steps of St. Peter's, wounded by 
assassins in the head, the knee, and the right arm. After 
the assault, the assassins were escorted by forty knights 
beyond the City-gate called Porta Pertusa. Prince Don 
Alonso lived near the Vatican in the palace of the Cardinal 
of Santa Maria in Portico ; but, owing to the serious nature 
of his wounds, he was carried into the pontifical palace, and 
lodged in a room of the Borgia Tower. When King Don 
Federigo heard of the attempt upon his nephew, he sent 
Messer Galieno his own leech to cure him. Later the 
prince was strangled ; and the leeches with a certain 
hunchback servant were put to the Question in the Mola of 
Hadrian, and afterwards released as innocent. 

A chronicle of Pavia of much later date says that Duke 
Cesare killed Prince Don Alonso at a time when he was in 
bed with his own wife Madonna Lucrezia. 

Before examining the divergences of this evidence, it 
may as well be said that the original desjDatches of Don 
Paolo Cappello the Orator of Venice are not attainable. 
Many years later, a learned patrician of Venice, Don 
Marino Sanuto, wrote the History of the Venetian Republic 
from 1496 to 1533 in fifty-six folio volumes. He cited the 


The Roaring Blaze 

state-archives, despatches of orators, etc., and his work is 
marvellously well done : but. when all is said, the fact 
remains that the despatches of Don Paolo Cappello, with 
those of many others, have been edited by a stranger to 
the writers, and to the circumstances under which they 
wrote. Monsignor Burchard held an important office at 
the Vatican. He was German, and inimical to Borgia. 
On matters connected with his office of Caerimonarius, i.e., 
the superintendence of public functions, he might speak 
with some authority : but beyond that he is an inveterate 
gossip and scandalmonger. In his case, also, it is impossible 
to know what he really wrote, because the original holo- 
graph of his Diarium (with the Diarium of Infessura and 
other similar works) even now awaits discovery by students 
of ancient archives. 

What charges lie against Duke Cesare de Valentinois ? 
It is Cappello who states that he drove away the women, 
and caused Prince Don Alonso to be strangled by Don 
Michelotto. Burchard appears ignorant of these details. 
It is Cappello who states that Duke Cesare admitted and 
defended the murder. Of this Burchard says nothing : he 
relates that the prince was strangled ; and, from his mention 
of the interrogation of the leeches and of the hunchback, 
it wcmld appear that others beside Duke Cesare were 
suspected. Cappello says that the prince was poignarded 
in head, arms, and thighs; Burchard, in head, right arm, 
and knee. Cappello speaks of a guard appointed by the 
Pope to watch the wounded man. Burchard does not 
record this. There are discrepancies between the two 
accounts ; some, of reasonable importance: e.g., Burchard's 
account of the forty knights who escorted the assassins 
from the City ; and of the sending of the royal leech with- 
out mentioning any suspicions on the part of King Don 
Federigo. But nowhere can be found a proved accusation 
against Duke Cesare de Valentinois, or against the Holiness 
of the Pope. 

From a study of the various statements, (derisable 
though to some extent they be,) and of known facts, a 
reasonable enough history of the affair may be compiled, 
and one which happens to be exculpatory of Borgia. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Don Alonso de Aragona Prince of Bisceglia, Salerno, 
etc., was a nephew of King Don Federigo of Naples. At 
the age of nineteen, he married Madonna Lucrezia Borgia, 
on political grounds to consolidate friendly relations then 
existing between Papacy and Regno. All accounts agree 
that this was a genuine love-match as well ; and the 
chronicler Talini says of the prince, "he was the most 
" beautiful youth that I have ever seen in Rome." 

A year after the marriage Madonna Lucrezia bore him 
an heir, Don Roderico ; who immediately was provided-for 
with the duchy of Sermoneta. The young Prince and 
Princess of Bisceglia lived in the palace of the Cardinal 
of Sante Maria in Portico by the Vatican, in order to be 
near to the Pope. 

In the year 1 500, the relations of Papacy and Regno had 
undergone a change. The Lord Alexander P.P. VI was 
now allied with France, the old and still-distrusted enemy 
of Naples ; and King Don Federigo had joined the unmiti- 
gable handful of men who were blackmailing the Pope's 
Holiness with threats of a General Council. The Prince of 
Bisceglia as a Neapolitan, therefore, would not be persona 
gratissima to the supporters of Borgia. 

When it was desired to reward and exalt a subject, the 
sovereigns of the Borgian Era had the naive habit of dis- 
possessing one of their enemies, and conferring the vacated 
fief on their new protege. In order to enrich Prince Don 
Alonso with the principality of Salerno, the Majesty of 
Naples had deprived the noble Neapolitan House of San- 
severini. In order to enrich His grandson the baby Don 
Roderico with the duchy of Sermoneta, the Holiness of the 
Pope had despoiled the noble Roman House of Caietani. 
And it readily will be understood that Caietani and San- 
severini were extremely likely to view these losses with 
anything but resignation. 

Reg-ardino- the edict of Duke Cesare de Valentinois, 
that none should go armed between the Mola and the 
Vatican, it must be admitted that this was only a very 
ordinary precautionary measure. The district named is 
the immediate precincts of the pontifical palaces of peace 
and war, which were connected by the fortified gallery- 


The Roaring Blaze 

passage, through the Region of Borgo, called Lo Andare ; 
and the baring of arms within the presence of royalty was, 
at all times, and in all courts, a capital crime. Duke Cesare 
as Generalissimo was responsible for the maintenance of 
order ; and he was no laggard in any official capacity. If 
then, the truth of the stabbing on the steps of St. Peter's 
and the strangulation in the Borgia Tower be granted, 
they might be defended as an execution of the death- 
penalty prescribed lor a breach of the law, such as the 
fiery Neapolitan prince is extremely likely to have com- 
mitted. Royal or patrician criminals were frequently done 
to death in private, by quasi-assassination, to avoid the 
degradation of the touch of the public carnefex. 

Again, granting the said stabbing and strangling, and 
regarding them as an act of private vengeance on the part 
of Duke Cesare against the prince ; it should be remembered 
that people had the custom of defending their lives by 
slaughtering an enemy who set archers to shoot at them in 
the garden. 

But, during the pontificate of the Lord Julius P. P. II 
(Giuliano della Rovere) the eternal enemy of the House of 
Borgia, (whose not mean portrait by Messer Rafaele Sanzio 
da Urbino may be seen at the National Gallery,) the 
captain Don Michelotto, who is supposed to have strangled 
the Prince of Bisceglia by order of Duke Cesare, was seized 
and put to the Question in the usual manner. It was 
attempted to find out, by means of this rigour, the truth 
about the various crimes which he was said to have com- 
mitted for his master ; and particularly the murder of Prince 
Don Alonso. But althouo-h he was in the hands of a ruth- 
less despot, who, legally could have broiled him alive like a 
forger or could have broken with iron bars every bone of 
every limb of his body on the Wheel, with none to hinder, 
Don Michelotto soon was set at liberty as having given no 
evidence of guilt, either on his own part or of that of Duke 
Cesare. It will appear from this fairly convincing test that 
there is a strong reason for regarding the story of strangu- 
lation as a piece of fiction. As a last contribution to the 
theory, it is suggested that contortions caused by tetanus, 
which might have set in by reason of the poignard wounds, 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

may have simulated, to the ignorant and casual observer, 
the appearance of strangulation. The bacillus of tetanus is 
of earth origin, and every one knows the vulgar method of 
wiping a dagger. Otherwise the strangulation theory may 
be dismissed. 

Of the stabbing on the steps of St. Peter's there is no 
such room for doubt. The discrepancy between Cappello 
(edited by Sanuto, understood,) and Burchard, (a copy of 
him by an unknown hand, also understood,) as to the 
position of the wounds has no material significance. Head, 
arms, and thighs, says Cappello ; head, right arm, and knee, 
says Burchard. It is quite clear that the unfortunate youth 
(he was just of the age of twenty-one years) wore beneath 
his doublet one of the fashionable mail-shirts of the day, 
strong enough to turn a tempered blade at closest quaners 
and yet so fine that it could be hidden in two hands ; and 
which caused him to be wounded anywhere except in his 
handsome trunk. 

The number of wounds and their wide distribution speak 
of more than one occasion. The friofhtful loss of blood 
(the wound in the thigh), the delusions of Fifteenth-Century 
chirurgeons, the elementary condition of the pharmacopoeia, 
the time of year — Sol in Leone — when Rome fizzles in 
fevers and insanitary stenches, preclude possibility of 
recovery : and it is only reasonable to conceive that Prince 
Don Alonso died, after a month's lingering weakness and 
fever, of the poignard wounds and the attentions of the 
leeches, unassisted by a problematic noose, or the compres- 
sion of his windpipe by strong thumbs. 

Then who were the masked men with poignards, and 
who is responsible for them ? 

In this connection, Duke Cesare de Valentinois has not 
been named. The Pope's Holiness did not alter His 
behaviour to him. He found him antipathetic as always : 
some said He was afraid of him.^ But He did not cease 
to use him, to allow him access to His person, to decorate 
him with titles ; and the Lord Alexander P.P. VI was far too 

1 " II Papa ama ed a gran paura del figliuolo duca." — Alberi, Relationi III. 
iii. lo. 


The Roaring Blaze 

magnificently invincible and too conscious of His power, 
not to have resented the murder of the beloved husband of 
His charminof and favourite daughter. A Pontiff Who 
could, and did, crush reig-nino- sovereigns at His will, was 
not likely to fear a mere duke. The clergy treated Dukc^ 
Cesare, as always, with profound respect. And — Madonna 
Lucrezia Borgia, until the very end of his life, maintained 
friendly relations with him ; and it was to her that the death 
of the Prince of Bisceglia brought most grievous trouble. 
Evidently the people most intimately concerned with Duke 
Cesare did not look upon him as an assassin : at any rate, 
the legend of his guilt subsequently emanated, not from 
them but, from his foes. 

There was a total absence of motive on the part of Duke 
Cesare, unless the theory of leo;al but private execution, or 
the theory of jusiifiable homicide, be maintained. And for 
want of proof of strangulation, these can be dismissed with 
deserved contempt. 

But — there was a very strong motive for the stabbing 
present in the Neapolitan House of Sanseverini, and in the 
Roman House of Caietani, who had suffered loss of the 
principality of Salerno, and of the duchy of Sermoneta, in 
order to the enrichment of Prince Don Alonso of Bisceglia 
and Salerno and his infant son Duke Roderico of Sermoneta. 
Is it probable that great barons of the Fifteenth Century, 
or of any other century, calmly would submit to deprivation 
of their choicest fiefs, without at least an attempt to gain 
satisfaction of one or another kind.'* It may be concluded, 
then, that in all human probability Prince Don Alonso was 
the victixn of a vendetta. His assassination was a private 
affair. The assassins were professionals in the pay of 
Sanseverini, or Caietani, or both together ; who, when the 
deed apparently was done, (here Burchard recording proba- 
bility is valuable,) were surrounded by forty knights 
(Sanseverini or Caitani of course) and escorted out of the 
City by the nearest gate. Porta Pertusa behind St. Peter's, 
(the nearest gate to avoid attracting the attention of the 
bargelli in Borgo or Trastevere), whence, by a short circuit 
to the south, they would attain the Via Portuense, sixteen 
miles of which would bring them to Porto on the right bank 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

of Tiber, opposite to the fortress at Ostia on the left bank 
belonging to Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere. 

# ^ * 

At the Eighth Consistory of the twenty-eighth of Sep- 
tember 1500, the Lord Alexander P.P. VI named ten 
cardinals, who were, 

(a) the Lord Don Jaime Serra, a Catalan, Vicegerent 
of Rome ; Cardinal- Presbyter of the Title of San 
Vitale : 

(/3) the Lord . . . Bacocz, an Hungarian, Chancellor 
of Hungary ; Cardinal-Presbyter of the Title of San 
Martino ai Monti : 

(7) the Lord Don Pedro Isualles, a Sicilian ; Cardinal- 
Presbyter of the Title of San Ciriaco alle Te^'me 
Diocleziane : 

(S) the Lord Don Francisco de Borja, bastard of the 
Lord Calixtus P.P. HI ; who had lived obscurely 
from his birth in 1441 until now ; Cardinal-Pres- 
byter of the Title of Santa Lucia in Silice alias in 
Orfea : 

(e) the Lord Don Juan Vera, a Spaniard, Archbishop 
of Saliterno ; Cardinal-Presbyter of the Title of 
Santa Balbina : 

iPl the Lord Alois Podachatarios, a noble of Cyprus, 
the Pontifical Greek Secretary ; Cardinal-Presbyter 
of the Title of Sant'Agata in Snbnrra : 

(17) the Lord Giovantonio Trivulzio, a noble of Milan, 
elevated to oblige the Christian King Louis XII 
Cardinal-Presbyter of the Title of Santa Anastasia 

(0) the Lord Giambattista Ferrari, Bishop of Modena 
Cardinal-Presbyter of the Title of San Crisogono : 

((c) the Lord Gianstefano Ferreri, Abbot of San 
Stefano di Vercello ; Cardinal-Presbyter of the 
Title of San Sergio e San Bacco : 

(<) the Lord Marco Cornaro, brother of Madonna 
Caterina Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus ; Cardinal- 
Deacon of Santa Maria in Portico. 

# -k- # 

In view of the danger loominsf in the near East, the 


The Roaring Blaze 

Lord Alexander P.P. VI issued a Bull proclaiming a new 
Crusade ; and addressed a Brief in the same sense to the 
Christian King Louis XII. Venice being in serious and 
immediate peril received His help in the shape of money 
and troops. Nevertheless though Modon fell to the 
Muslim Infidel, even this disaster, giving point to the 
Pope's exordium, failed to arouse the Christian Princes 
of Europe from their disgraceful apathy. The Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI now imposed a graduated crusade tax 
on the revenues of the Sacred ColleQ;"e, each cardinal being- 
mulcted on the value of his benefices. This, though a 
righteous and elevating ensample, was looked upon with 
extreme disgust ; for, like other men, cardinals are very 
sensitive in the pouch. Cardinal Raymond Perauld, for- 
given for his treachery with Charles VIII, was named 
Apostolic Ablegate to Germany charged with authority to 
reform the abuses, which avarice and ambition on the part 
of German prelates were causing, to the shame of all right- 
minded men. But the Elect-Emperor Maximilian — (who, 
in a picture by Albrecht Durer in the British Museum, 
modestly is styled Inipej^ator CcEsar Divus Maxiinilia^iiis 
Pius Felix Augtishis ;^ and, in another, on vellum in the 
same collection, bears, after the imperial titles, the styles of 
all sovereigns of Europe, including Rex Anglice, in despite 
of King Henry VII Tudor then happily reigning,) — the 
Elect-Emperor Maximilian remembered that in 1496 his 
ill-advised advance into Venetia had been opposed and not 
received with obsequious adulation ; and he now refused to 

1 This title is hopelessly irregular. The Princeps of the Holy Roman 
Empire only becomes Caesar Romanoriim Imperator Semper Augustus mundi 
totius Dominus universis dominis univcrsis principibus et populis Semper Venerandus 
by the herald's proclamation after he has been stripped, anointed, clothed in 
the consecrated dalmatica, ordained deacon, and crowned with the Iron Crown 
of Monza and the Gold Diadem of the Empire by the hands of the Supreme 
Pontiff Himself. The title at present is dormant. If the sovereign is of the 
Swabian House, precedent demands that he must go to Monza or to Sant' 
Ambrogio at Milan for the Iron Crown, and to San Giovanni Laterano at 
Rome for the Gold Diadem. But Imperial coronations, (the sovereign not 
being of the Swabian House,) at the Pope's pleasure have taken place else- 
where. Caesar Friedrich IV was the last Emperor crowned in Rome. Caesar 
Francis II was the last to wear the imperial crown. He resigned it in 1806, 
having taken the title of Emperor of Austria in 1804. Before coronation by 
the Pope the title of "The Elect-Emperor" is used ; and that is all which 
Maximilian can claim. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

allow the Papal Ablegate to enter his Empire. In such 
pettiness did the Holy Roman Emperor of the Habsburg 
House of Austria have continual joy. 

This year in Rome was the Holy Year, the last of the 
Fifteenth Century, the year of Jubilee. The Holy Father 
extended the privilege to Christendom ; and huge pilgrim- 
ages of persons of rank and distinction from all Christian 
countries save Germany and Switzerland flocked to the 
Eternal City throughout the year. The pilgrims' alms 
considerably added to the papal treasury ; and, by order of 
the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, these exclusively were set 
aside for the pacification of the States of the Church in the 
Romagna ; a magnificent example of the political foresight 
which secured the temporal possessions of the Holy See 
during three hundred and seventy years, till 1870. Before 
the end of the year 1500 the splendour of Duke Cesare de 
Valentinois was increased by the title of Gonfaloniere of 
the Holy Roman Church : and, with the ample funds of the 
Jubilee, he had enlarged his army by the acquisition of 
several squadrons of French mercenaries, for a new expedi- 
tion into the rebellious provinces. 

During the first year of the Sixteenth Century, a.d. 1501, 
the Apostolic Ablegate Cardinal Raymond Perauld came 
to an agreement with the Diet at Nurnberg : and the project 
of a Crusade was improved by the formation of a new 
league of the Papacy with Venice and Hungary, (the two 
countries which lay at the mercy of the Muslim Infidel ;) 
and by some naval successes with the conquest of Santa 
Maura by Bishop Giacopo da Pesaro. 

^ ^ *??" 

In the spring, Duke Cesare marched his reinforced 
army to beleaguer Faenza. There, the citizens had con- 
structed a bastion during the winter at the convent of the 
Friars Minor-of-the-Observance outside the walls On 
the twelfth of April, this defence was taken by Duke 
Cesare, who installed a park of artillery to breach the 
citadel. The brave Faenzesi made sorties from their city 
for grain and cattle : but the effect of famine soon began to 
tell. (This account of the siege is Canon Sebastiano 
di Zaccaria's.) The rich shared their bread and wine with 


The Roaring Blaze 

the poor. When money for paying the soldiers failed, the 
priests and monks gave the sacred vessels. Women took 
part in the defence, throwing stones from the walls, or 
strengthening the gabions with earthworks ; while the 
most daring fought, with casque and pike and harquebus, 
when their men slept. Matrons prayed in the churches. 
Barefooted boys and girls ran about the streets praying for 
Divine Assistance for their fathers on the ramparts. On 
the eighteenth of April, the sixth day of siege, the assault 
was made. Duke Cesare had advised the neig^hbourinsf 
princes; and Don Alfonso d'Este, heir of Ferrara, with his 
heraklean brother the athletic young Cardinal Ippolito 
were come post-haste to see the sight. (It is worth noting 
that advantage was taken of this visit to plan a marriage 
between the young widow Madonna Lucrezia Borgia and 
Don Alfonso d'Este.) The assault lasted from one o'clock 
in the afternoon till four. The assailants severely suffered 
from harquebuses, and flaming darts, and showers of stones, 
with which the beleaguered greeted them, intrepidly fighting 
on the smoking debris of their walls. Nothing was seen to 
equal Faenza's valour : but Duke Cesare's condottieri also 
gave signal proof of bravery. Don Taddeo della Volpe of 
Imola, on being struck in the eye by an arrow, tore it out 
and went on fighting, saying that he was fortunate enough 
to see but half the danger now. Duke Cesare conceived 
so great an admiration for the courage of his enemies, as to 
say that, with an army of Faenzesi, he cheerfully would 
undertake the conquest of all Italy. During seven hours 
on the twenty-first of April, artillery bombarded the citadel, 
which now was little more than a heap of ruins. Every 
night, some of the beleaguered slid over the walls, and 
escaped into the camp of Duke Cesare, worn by famine 
and the fatigue of the siege. On the night of the twenty- 
second, one Bartolomeo Grammante, a dyer, fled from a 
fortalice where he was on guard and came to the Duke, 
saying that there was mutiny in Faenza, that ammunition 
was exhausted, and offering to point out a moment favour- 
able for assault. Incontinently Duke Cesare hanged this 
traitorous felon near the city- wall, out of respect for the 
brave Faenzesi and their admirable resistance. Three 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

days later, the end came. The conqueror offered most 
honourable terms : complete liberty for the Tyrant Don 
Astorgio Manfredi, and his relations, to go and come at 
will ; the integrity of his property and payment of his 
debts ; confirmation of all rights and privileges for the 

On the twenty-sixth of April, the municipal officers 
came to the convent of the Observantines where Duke 
Cesare lodged ; and swore between his hands the feudal 
oath of fidelity to the over-lord, the Holiness of the Pope. 
At three o'clock in the afternoon, came also Don Astorgio 
Manfredi with his kin. This unfortunate youth was only 
of the age of sixteen years, the servant of his own subjects, 
and an orphan whose father, Don Galeotto Manfredi, had 
been murdered by his mother, Madonna Francesca 
Bentivogli. A Venetian chronicler says of him that he 
was "a sickly lad i^pnto 77ial san) but beautiful fair and 
rosy," obviously rotten with struma ; and as such he 
appears in his portrait in the Palazzo Zauli-Naldi of 
Faenza, wearing an expression of profound melancholy. 
The young Tyrant and his bastard brother, Don 
Gianevangelista Manfredi, (who was of the age of fourteen 
years, and had had a command during the siege,) received 
so courteous a reception from Duke Cesare that they 
decided to remain with him. So far, the behaviour of the 
Generalissimo appears to have been inspired by noble 

And here, there is a lacuna. The history of Don 
Astorgio becomes blank. Research so far has failed to 
discover any trace of him for months. 

Some time after his capitulation, Don Astorgio and his 
brother were found incarcerated in the Mola of Hadrian, in 
the royal apartment which Madonna Caterina Sforza- 
Riario had vacated on going into exile in France : 
and of this, also, there has been no explanation yet dis- 

It is permissible to suppose that after Duke Cesare 
generously had granted their unconditional liberty, some 
imperious political necessity intervened ; such as that Don 
Astorgio and Don Gianevangelista, held as hostages, 


The Roaring Blaze 

would guarantee the tranquillity of Faenza, preventing 
further rebellion. Duke Cesare's apparent breach of faith 
is not without its parallels in ancient, modern, and contem- 
porary history ; a political crime, perhaps necessary, but 
for which there is neither extenuation nor excuse. 

But later still, the story ends in tragedy. The two 
boys are said to have been killed, and their bodies cast in 
Tiber. The only two chronicles which have the slightest 
value are those of Don Antonio Giustiniani the Orator of 
Venice, who was in Rome ; and of Monsignor Hans 
Burchard the Papal Caerimonarius, who might have been 
there : though the originals of these chronicles, be it remem- 
bered, are yet to seek. 

The former wrote to his government, 

" They say that this night those two young lords of 
" Faenza with their steward have been slain and 
"thrown in Tiber. 
The latter records in his journal, 

"There were found in Tiber, suffocated and dead, 
"the lord of Faenza, a youth of about the age of 
"eighteen years, beautiful and well-shaped, with a 
" stone at his neck ; and two youths bound together 
"by the arms, the one of fifteen and the other of 
" twenty-five years ; and near them a certain woman, 
"and several others. 
It is said also that the victims were floating in Tiber in 
the sight of all. 

The affair is the occasion of another of the calumnies 
which have been cast upon the House of Borgia. Not one 
word is said by contemporaries implicating Borgia in this 
crime : yet the modern fiction-monger or quoad-historian 
who without hesitation did not place it to Borgia's debit 
would consider himself guilty of dereliction of duty. 

The statements of the Venetian and the German, quoted 
above, will not bear examination in the light of common 
sense. A rational and unprejudiced observer will have 
noticed that Giustiniani does not speak of having seen with 
his own eyes. He is not imparting official information : he 
reports a mere on dit. But Burchard's account is a miracle 
of Teutonic completeness at all costs, and lack of sense of 

177 M 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

the ridiculous. He does not say that he has seen the show. 
He gives no authority for his statements. But he adds, to 
Don Astorgio and Don GianevangeHsta, a youth of twenty- 
five, a certain woman, and several others ! Is any reliance 
to be placed on Burchard, uncorroborated and unashamed ? 
He says that the corpse of Don Astorgio had a stone at 
his neck, yet he was floating on Tiber in the sight of all ! 
How can a cadaver float when weighted with a stone ? 
The density of Tiber is not like that of the Dead Sea or 
Droitwich Brine Baths. Also, Tiber notoriously is a swift 
current, far too turbid to permit a crowd of corpses placidly 
to float in the sight of all. Also, Tiber exclusively was 
used for drinking and household purposes, and constantly 
by all Romans, high and low, for swimming : the heraklean 
Lord Cardinal Prince Ippolito d'Este swam there. Also, 
the Borgia were pre-eminently clever — cunning, their 
calumniators say. Then, is it probable that men of any 
common sense would offer a hecatomb of assassinations to 
Tiber, and to the sight of all, weighted only by Burchard's 
single stone ? Finally, how is it that in the history of 
Faenza, and of the relations of these young lords, there is 
not a single allusion to the manner of their death ? The 
learned Padre Leonetti justly contends that the story of the 
murder is a mere fabrication ; that the scribes, with Burchard 
and Giustiniani, have seen no floating bodies ; but that they 
have contented themselves, according to their custom, with 
fresh vilifications of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI and of 
Duke Cesare de Valentinois. 

Let it be remembered that Don Astorgio Manfredi was 
" un puto mal san," a sickly or strumous lad. Let it be 
remembered how extremely easy it is to kill strong boys off, 
between their fourteenth and their eighteenth year, simply 
by depriving them of hope and joy. Let the most pathetic 
history of Don Astorgio Manfredi, of which the barest 
briefest extract has been given, let his situation, and that 
of his young brother Don GianevangeHsta, be realized 
with care ; and the humanly natural supposition will arise, 
that these two died natural deaths due to constitutional 
defects aggravated by hopeless imprisonment in the Mola 
of Hadrian, 


The Roaring Blaze 

It would be hard, however, if the enemies of Borgia 
could find nothing worse to say ; and the abominable 
Messer Francesco Guicciardini of Florence, pandar of 
France, minion of Ghibelline Colonna, does not fail to 
make use of that curiously common and invariably incon- 
sequent calumny which mediocrity, in all ages, hurls at 
genius. He writes, " Astorgio was not deprived of life 
before having first been used, they say, to satiate the pas- 
sions of a certain person." Under the pen of historians 
who followed Guicciardini, this "certain person" quite 
naturally has become the Lord Alexander P.P. VI. It is 
on the authority of this Guicciardini that writers, far from 
the scene, and long after the deed, have allowed them to 
assail an old man, a priest, the Head of the Church, with a 
shameful and execrable accusation. Did Guicciardini make 
the very difficult examinations of this problematic corpse 
which medical-law ordains ? He was inspired, and very 
badly, by his hatred. He has not proved the crimes of the 
Pope. He has only exhibited the fertility of a monstrously 
unclean and salacious imagination, the devergondage of a 
mind stuffed with reminiscences of Tiberius, of Nero, of 
Elagabalus ! {Rdn^, Comte de Maricottrt.) 

# * # 

The Lord Alexander P.P. VI had now reached the 
summit of His magnificent pontificate. With the States of 
the Church slowly but surely being brought under domina- 
tion by the splendid gains of Duke Cesare de Valentinois, 
with the interested support of the Christian King of France 
and the Catholic King of Spain, (for the latter had the 
sense to cease from annoying a powerful pontiff), and with 
His neighbour the Regno under its weak King Don 
Federigo of no importance, there was nothing that He 
might not do for the enrichment of the Papacy or the 
aggrandisement of the House of Borgia. His policy was 
beginning to take shape. The enormous and magnificent 
project, which appears to have dictated all His actions, was 
assuming a concrete form. Difficulties of every kind had 
beset Him from the beginning; and difficulties, He doubt- 
less knew, would be His constant portion : but by patience, 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

agility of mind, diplomatic skill, singleness of purpose, and 
His invincible indomitable will, He had beaten down His 
opponents one by one, or had turned their opposition into 
support which now enabled Him to act independently and 
upon His own initiative. 

He made short work with the rebellious barons of Rome. 
He blasted Don Pierfrancesco Colonna with excommunica- 
tion. He confiscated the fiefs of the Houses of Colonna 
and Savelli, both of the Ghibelline faction, who had defied 
Him by secession to Charles VIII and the unmitigable 
Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere in 1494. He distributed 
the titles and estates so acquired among members of the 
House of Borgia. 

On the first of September 1501, He issued a Brief 
leeitimatine that bastard of Duke Cesare de Valentinois 
and a Roman spinster, who had been born in 1498, and 
was known as Infans Romanus ; to whom He gave the 
name Giovanni, after His favourite son the murdered 
Duke of Gandia, as well as the duchy of Nepi. But, by 
a second Brief of the same date (in the Archives of 
Modena) He declares this Don Giovanni Borgia to be the 
son 7iot of the aforesaid Duke (Cesare) btit of us and the 
said spinster} 

There exists no explanation of the contradiction in these 
two Briefs. It is, however, certain that no human tempta- 
tion could induce a Pope to publish such a statement as 
that of the second, unless the thing were true ; and, in the 
case of a Pope as powerful as the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, 
there was no superior power which could force Him against 
His will. As to one of the Briefs being truth and the other 
falsehood, it may be remembered that there is a general 
law, a Necessary Proposition, "The lesser is contained in 
the greater." The thing was true. The Lord Alexander 
P.P. VI, at the age of sixty-seven years, was the father of 
Don Giovanni Borgia, whom He created Duke of Nepi in 


The Lord Alexander P.P. VI was a very great man; 

guilty of hiding none of his human weakness : and on this 

account a Terror to hypocrites of all ensuing ages. Nothing 

1 " Non de prefato duca sed de Nobis et dicta muliere soluta." 


The Roaring Blaze 

in the world is so unpleasant, so disconcerting, so utterly 
abhorred, as the plain and naked truth. 

* * # 

After the spoliation of the Houses of Colonna and 
Savelli — an act which reduced them from that of premier 
barons of the Holy See to a position of such insignificance 
that they no more appear in the history of this pontificate, — 
the Pope's Holiness married Madonna Lucrezia Borgia to 
Don Alfonso d'Este, the heir of Duke Ercole of Ferrara. 
This was after her year of widowhood. She was now the 
wife of royalty, with a near prospect of a throne, worshipped 
by the poor for her boundless and sympathetic charity, by the 
learned for her intelligence, by her kin for her loving loyalty, 
by her husband for her perfect wifehood and motherhood, 
by all for her transcendent beauty and her spotless name. 
Why it has pleased modern writers and painters to depict 
this pearl among women as a " poison-bearing maenad" 
a " veneficous bacchante" stained with revolting and 
unnatural turpitude, is one of those riddles to which there 
is no key. If physiognomy be an index to character, the 
most superficial inspection of the effigy of Madonna 
Lucrezia Borgia must put her calumniators to endless 
shame. In that simple profile, of features clean-cut, 
delicate, refined ; in those chaste contours so gently 
rounded, so sweetly fresh and feminine ; in the carriage 
of that flavian head well-poised and nobly frank, there can 
lurk no taint of decadent degeneracy. In the Ambrosian 
Library at Milan, is a long tress of her beautiful yellow 
hair, shining and pale ; with her scholarly letters to a 
learned poet and cardinal the Lord Pietro Bembo, who 
had dedicated to her a genial Dialogue on platonics in 
Italian ; an Elegy in Latin, in praise of her singing and 

'' quicquid agis, quicquid loqueris, delectat : et omnes 
'^ praecedunt Charlies, subsequiturque decor ; 

with an Epigram on a gold serpent bracelet that she wore, 

Armilla Aurea Lucretiae Borgiae Ferrariae Ducis In 
Serpentis Effigiem Formata 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

" Dypsas cr^avi : sum facta, Tago dum perluor, aurum 

''tortile nymphavMm manibus decus ; at mentor dim 

'' Eridani, atiditaque ttia Lzicretia forma, 

" Eliadum, ne te caperent clectra tuaru7fi, 

'' gestandum carae fluvius transmisit alumnae. 

( Another poet of even greater fame, the limpid Ariosto, 
praised Madonna Lucrezia as " a second Lucrece, brighter 
for her virtues than the star of regal Rome." And even 
a modern writer of the eminence of John Addington 
Symonds, (who, in his " Renascence" habitually credits 
calumnies against Borgia in his text, half-heartedly refuting 
the same in footnotes,) — even he says, "Were they (the 
calumnies) true, or were they a malevolent lie ? Physio- 
logical speculation will help but little. Lucrezia shewed all 
signs of a clear conscience.'' Precisely. Then it is right 
and reasonable to presume that this much-maligned lady 
had a clear conscience ; and to surcease from shouting 
any longer in the ordure which has been cast upon, and 
falls from, her fair memory. Let the fact that Herr 
Gregorovius, brilliant writer, painstaking scholar, German 
Protestant, fierce and unscrupulous foe of the papacy and of 
the House of Borgia, has destroyed all accusations against 
Madonna Lucrezia, silence all suspicion. In his huge work,^ 
devoted entirely to her history he has shewn her to be the 
victim of inventions due to the paid pens of her Father's 


# * # 

It would be contrary to human nature, had Colonna and 
Savelli meekly submitted to the confiscation of their fiefs. 
Armed resistance was out of the question. The heads of 
those Houses only saved their lives by flight into exile in 
discontented Germany : but they were not left without one 
weapon, the last refuge of the unscrupulous. The anony- 
mous libellous pamphlet or epigram lay to their hands. 

In the Region of Monti, (the largest district of Rome, 
including three of the seven hills, Ouirinal, Esquiline, 
Caelian,) which was inhabited by the faction of Colonna, 
there stood an antique statue of some river-god whom the 

1 Gregorovius F., Lucrezia Borgia. 






* V 


^z:^Zu^ci^'i/^ ^Ooi^^-cau ..::^U'C^^ik) c^ ,^Aei^tct'i^4!^. 

The Roaring Blaze 

Romans called Marforio. In the Region of Parione by 
Piazza Navona, which was the heart of the mediaeval City, 
near Palazzo Braschi, there stood another antique statue 
whom the Romans called Pasquino and said that under him 
the Book of VVisdom for all time was buried. And it was 
the fashion to pretend that these two statues conversed on 
current topics, emitting epigrams in the darkness of the 
night, which were found in writing on their pedestals in the 
morning. All persons who had an axe to grind at an 
enemy's expense made use of this convention : and a folio 
volume would not contain the witty caustic cynical pas- 
quinades (ecce nomen,) which from the Fifteenth to the 
Twentieth Century have been found at Pasquino and 
Marforio. This method of spleen-splitting was not neglected 
by Colonna and Savelli. Pasquino became loquacious, 
bitter, oh and smart — but, smart ! One epigram may be 
quoted as a specimen of the railing accusations brought 
against the Holiness of the Pope by way of reflection on His 
alleged simoniacal election, at times when He levied taxes 
or forced loans for the Crusade, or gave no remission of the 
chancery fees on promotion to fiefs and benefices. 

"Alexander sells the Keys, the Altars, Christ. 
" He bought them ; and He has the Right to Sell. 

But the most virulent of all anonymous attacks, was a 
pamphlet called A Letter to Silvio Savelli which pretended 
to have come from the Spanish camp at Taranto. It pro- 
claimed to the Elect- Emperor Maximilian and the sovereigns 
of Europe the crimes which were said to have been com- 
mitted by the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, Duke Cesare de 
Valentinois and Madonna Lucrezia Borgia d'Este : perfidy, 
carnage, rapine, adultery, incest, the heresy of Bulgaria, 
simony, assassination. Men who have noticed the rabid 
inconsequence, the grotesque impossibility and filthiness, 
which characterises certain foreis!;n abuse of Engrland at the 
present time, will understand the extent to which envious 
rage will go. Men of the Twenty-fifth Century, who read 
that degenerate literature, may attach to it an importance 
as undeserved as that which the Twentieth Century attaches 
to the Letter to Silvio Savelli of the Fifteenth. Humanity, 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

with slight external differences, is identical in all ages. 
The Borgia were only men and women, boys and girls, 
when all is said ; and the charges made against them are 
infinitely too monstrously inhuman to be true. Nature 
terribly would have avenged Herself on such infringements 
of Her law. 

The Lord Alexander P.P. VI read the Letter to Silvio 
Savelli. It is recorded that His Holiness deigned heartily 
to laugh with His courtiers over the exaggerated absurdity 
of the satire. As for its coarseness — the Romans always 
value siinplicitas and urbanitas oi speech, i.e., hideous gross- 
ness and brutal jest. As for taking offence — well, Consul 
Caius Julius Caesar laughed at the crabbed little couplet of 
Caius Valerius Catullus, and invited him to supper ; and the 
Lord Alexander P.P. VI had lived too many years in Italy not 
to have taken the correct measure of Milanese, Florentines, 
Venetians, Neapolitans ; and He was well able to appor- 
tion its just value to extravagance of praise or to extrava- 
gance of blame. With His magnificent dignity of temper, 
He said that in Rome there was liberty of speech : and that 
He cared nothing for libels against Himself. (Costabili to 
Duke of Ferrara, i Feb. 1502). They amused Him, if 
they were witty ; they pleased Him, if their language 
shewed distinction : and that was all. 

Duke Cesare de Valentinois was not of so gracious a 
humour. Towards the end of November after the publica- 
tion of the Letter to Silvio Savelli, a certain Messer Girolamo 
Manciani, a Neapolitan, was taken in the Region of Borgo 
on a charge of publishing calumnious epigrams against the 
Duke which proved him to be the author of the famous 
Letter. His right hand and tongue were promptly cut off 
and out. Two other defamers employed by the Aragonese 
Dynasty (as Pontano had been, and Sannazar " the Christian 
Vergil" was) to flout the Borgia underwent a similar muti- 
lation ; and when the Orator of Ferrara spoke of them to 
the Pope, it is said that He answered, " What can We do ? 
The Duke means well ; but he does not know how to bear 
insults. We often have advised him to follow Our ensample, 
and to let the mob say what it will : but he answered Us 
with choler that he intended to give those scribblers a lesson 

The Roaring Blaze 

in good manners." The good heart of the Pope spoke 
there. The Duke was only carrying out the law by this 
severity ; laws, which it would ill-become the Lawgiver to 
set aside. Still, the offence being against the person of 
that Lawgiver, it was open to Him privately to recommend 
leniency : and that He did. No man could do more. 
* * * 

Florence, having cast off the despotic rule of the House 
of Medici, and setded herself as a true republic, was at peace 
with the Holy See. After the capitulation of Faenza Duke 
Cesare de Valentinois was created Duke of the Romagna. 
King Don Federigo of Naples, apprehensive of danger 
from the alliance of the Papacy and France set abroad the 
rumour that the Duke intended to conquer Florence and 
add it to the pontifical state ; and, to curry favour with the 
Holiness of the Pope, he suggested that Tuscany should 
be erected into a kingdom, with Duke Cesare de Valentinois 
della Romagna as its crowned king. This attempt to 
deflect the wave of conquest into North Italy, and away 
from his own dominions, met with no success. If Duke 
Cesare ever had entertained the notion of proceeding 
against Tuscany, he made no efforts whatever in that 
direction. On the contrary, it was the Regno that was the 
object of attention. Chance after chance had been given, 
alliances diplomatic and matrimonial had been made with it : 
but it continued to be as a thorn in the eye of the papacy, 
its sovereigns vicious, treacherous, its people dangerous, 
degenerate. It was cankered to the core; and its time was 
come. The Lord Alexander P.P. VI signed a treaty with 
the Christian and Catholic Kings of France and Spain for 
the division of Naples. The three signatories each had a 
claim of sorts : the Pope's Holiness as suzerain of certain 
fiefs and tyrannies, such as Benevento and Tarracina ; the 
Christian King Louis XII as representative of the Angevin 
dynasty ; the Catholic King Don Hernando as legitimate 
head of the House of Aragon. And incontinently King 
Don Federigo de Aragona fled into exile, while his kingdom 
was divided and given to France and Spain. 

In 1502 the plans of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI for 
the defence of Christendom met with success and rebuff. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

The Elect- Emperor Maximilian sulkily withdrew his pro- 
hibition ; and Cardinal Raymond Perauld, as Papal Legate, 
passed through the Empire preaching the Crusade. But 
Hungary played traitor to the League which she had formed 
with Venice and the Papacy a year before ; and the Majesty 
of England, King Henry VII Tudor, refused to help. The 
last perhaps may be explained by the uneasy condition 
which the realm owed to rebellions fomented by Burgundy 
for the affliction of the House of Tudor — those of Lambert 
Simnel in 1487 and Duke Richard Plantagenet of York 
(vulgarly called Perkyn Werbecke) in 1494-1499. 

The movement in the direction of ecclesiastical reform 
slowly progressed. Germany was still reiterating the cry 
which, as long ago as the reign of the Lord Calixtus P.P. HI, 
she had raised anent the extortions of the Papal Chancery ; 
and not by any means without some reason. But then, as 
now, the cry for reform arose from tainted sources. It was 
not genuine, or sincere ; but only a species of blackmail. 
However the Lord Alexander P.P. VI was willing enough 
and he gave the idea due consideration, by the advice of 
Cardinal Francesco de' Piccolhuomini. But, remembering 
that this Most Illustrious Lord was a nephew of the Lord 
Pius P.P. II (who, in His earlier years, had assisted at the 
Council of Basilea) ; and had the reputation of being a 
" concilionista," i.e., one whose remedy for ecclesiastical ills 
is not a Pope, but a Council ; the Supreme Pontiff resolved 
to delay, until that He should see His way more clearly. 
In a sense the Pope's Holiness deceived Himself; for 
Cardinal Francesco de' Piccolhuomini (who succeeded Him 
as the Lord Pius P.P. Ill) was, as Caesar's wife was not, 
"above suspicion." In ordinary matters, when suitable 
advice is not forthcoming, a Pope is liable to hesitate. Of 
course, in matters of teaching, His position is secure ; but, 
as has been said, in worldly affairs the Pope-well-advised 
is superior to the Pope-ill-advised. Seeing no present 
method of securing permanent reform, the Lord Alexander 
P.P. VI waited. The fruit was not ripe. The psychological 
moment had not come. It was well to wait ; and to let the 
movement shape itself : for, later, when the hour of reform 
sounded there arose the majestic Council of Trent. To 


The Roaring Blaze 

the Borgia the world greatly owes the Tridentine Decrees — 
decrees that govern the Church at this day. 

# * # 

In this year 1502, Duke Cesare de Valentinois della 
Romagna escorted the Lord Alexander P.P. VI to Piombino 
when he made a state-progress through the conquered states ; 
shewing Him that from that city He could threaten the 
Republics of Venice, Siena, and Florence, with the tyrannies 
of Bologna and Ravenna, the last with its interminable feud 
of the Sforza and the Pasolini dell' Onda,^ The chief 
independent states paid tribute to him. By hideous 
treachery, he captured the duchies of Urbino and Camerino, 
drove the Duke into exile, proclaimed an amnesty, and 
observed it against his worst enemies : but he hanged all 
those who betrayed to him, loving the treachery, hating the 
traitors."^ The duchy of Camerino w^as conferred upon 
the four-year-old Duke Giovanni Borgia of Nepi and 

The Christian King Louis XII had a spasm of envy 
this year, in consequence of Duke Cesare's phenomenal 
triumphs ; and shewed some signs of interrupting the policy 
of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI with cries for a General 
Council. A model of his, bearing his effigy with the lilies of 
France and the legend Pei'dam Babylonis Nomen, made a 
great sensation in Rome.^ But French motives never are 
disinterested. The moment another Power wins a success 
by expenditure of blood and treasure, that is the time for 
pretentious incompetent France, cane die abbaia non 7norde, 
to clamour for a share of what she never won, never could 
hope to win, — for what, with inconsequent impertinence, 
she calls " compensation " ! The Holy Roman Church was 
not worse off, under the rule of the Lord Alexander P. P. VI, 
but better off than it had been before : but the election of 
His Holiness was always useful as a means of blackmail. 

^ The present writer once witnessed the reception, in all amity, by the 
present Sforza, of the present Pasolini dell' Onda, who came peaceably to 
gain information for his book in praise of Madonna Caterina Sforza- Riario. A 
singular example of the old order changed and giving place to new. 

2 " Per dar ad intender a tutti che '1 Signor over Signori hanno appiacer 
" del tradimento, ma non del traditore." Priuli. xxvi. July 1502. 

3 Costabili to Duke of Ferrara. Rome, xi. Aug. 1502. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

However, Duke Cesare was Generalissimo of an enormous 
army. In addition to the four thousand condottieri and 
three hundred lancers with which he had begun the 
campaign, he had enlisted the many thousand mercenaries 
of the Tyrants whom he had dispossessed, and also recruited 
far and wide throughout Italy, where all the temperamental 
fighters gladly took service under the most successful 
general. And to these he added a foreign battalion of 
three thousand five hundred fantassini (infantry), pikemen 
and arbalisters, all Frenchmen, of whose quality the Christian 
King was well aware ; and, therefore, sensible enough to 
refrain himself before a worse thing happened to him. 
Indeed, such was his anxiety to give evidence of his desire 
for peace that he actually offered, — he, the Christian King of 
France, the representative of the Angevin dynasty, offered 
to resign his claim to the kingdom of Naples in favour of 
Duke Cesare de Valentinois della Romagna. He was pain- 
fully anxious not to purchase a General Council at the cost 
of the conquest of France ; and preferred that a Borgia 
sovereign, (if such a personage were to be,) should reign in 
Naples rather than in Paris. 

The Romagna immensely was benefited by a strong 
and decent government where law — martial law, certainly ; 
but law — at last was observed. Duke Cesare's army was 
the only great Italian army. He, representing the Pope, 
was absolute in Central Italy, where no Pope had had direct 
authority for centuries. He was hated ; hated by the 
great baronial Houses which he had ruined, whose heirs 
he had slain : but he was not even disliked by the people 
whom he ruled. ^ It was not extraordinary; for the mob 
always adores the strong bowelless man, the rigid fearless 
despot, the conquering autocrat who brings peace with 
security. He took no different measures against rebellious 
vassals than those taken by his contemporaries, Louis XII 
of France, Hernando of Spain, Henry VII Tudor of 
England. He was more precise, more systematic : that is 
all. All the sovereigns who were his contemporaries con- 

1 " Aveva il duca gittate assai buoni fondamenti alia potenza sua, avendo 
"tutta la Romagna con il ducato d' Urbino, e guadagnatosi tutti quei populi, 
"per avere incomminciato a gustare il ben essere loro." (Machiavelli. II 
Principe. Op. i. 35.) 


The Roaring Blaze 

gratulated him. The Duke was cruel ; almost as cruel as 
his splendid parallel of the Nineteenth Century ; and as 
fervently disliked and decried : but he was just, with a 
justice as far above the mawkish humanitarian system of 
compromise, (which, nowadays it is the mode to applaud,) 
as the sun is above the stars. Through the length and 
breadth of his dominions he continually went, to oversee 
the restoration of order, to consolidate his victories. The 
slightest spark of opposition he relentlessly crushed out. It 
was a hundred-headed hydra with which he had to deal. 
As he passed from city to city of his provinces, he left 
governours in charge of each, bloody men, ruthless giants, 
equal to the work in hand ; for the work was dangerous ; 
and men, whose hearts were triply-cased in hardened 
bronze, were needed, where each man's life was in his own 
hands until it was in his enemy's. Messer Lionardo da 
Vinci, that "scientific sceptic," was his engineer in chief 
and designer of fortifications : and Messer Niccolo Machia- 
velli said that, of all Princes, he could discover no ensample 
more blooming" and more vigrorous than Duke Cesare. The 
headquarters of the Duke were at Cesena ; and that same 
Messer Niccolo Machiavelli — the only man who ever knew 
the real Cesare (detto Borgia) naked face to naked face, 
naked soul to naked soul, — advised the Signoria of Florence 
that an Orator kept at Cesena would profit the republic 
more than an Orator at Rome.^ In his absences from head- 
quarters, Duke Cesare left Messer Ramiro d'Orco there as 
governor. Cesena was a nest of would-be brigands. Messer 
Ramiro d'Orco was a governor who made these quail with 
the steel of his g-arrison and his own iron will. 

It was the winter of 1502. Snow lay deeply round 
Cesena. In the Citadel the governor was at supper by the 
hearth, where huge logs blazed and crackled. Halberdiers 
were standing in attendance ; and, on the walls wax torches 
flamed in their sockets, for the sun was set and the first 
hour of the night was come. Messer Ramiro d'Orco called 

1 " Se ne ha contentare cestui, e non il Papa, e per questo le cose che si 
"concludessino del Papa possono bene essere ritrattate da costui, ma quelle 
" che si concludessino da costui non saranno gia ritrattate dal Papa." (Dis- 
patch from Cesena xiv. Dec. 1502.) 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

for wine ; and a page brought a fresh flagon from the buffet. 
He stumbled among the rushes on the floor in coming, 
tripped over the feet of a guard ; and the falling flagon 
spilled the wine on the ankle of Messer Ramiro d'Orco. 
That monster made no more ado. He took the lad by the 
belt, and slung him into the fire, seizing the nearest halberd 
and pinning the twitching body to the flaming logs. The 
hair, in a flash, was gone. The slim legs violently writhed 
outward, and fell still. Hose and leathern jerkin peeled, 
and the white flesh hissed and blackened. Then, naught 
but small ash showed where a boy had died ; and the smell 
of roasted human flesh mingled with the smell of the meats. 
Again, Messer Ramiro d'Orco called for wine, unmoved, 
only inconvenienced. He was the governor of Cesena : 
he had but punished a clumsy serving-boy. 

That is the kind of man who could rule in the Romagna : 
and it easily will be understood that acting in this way, 
armed with plenipotentiary authority, Messer Ramiro 
d'Orco froze his district into a state of comparative tran- 
quillity — a state which gave him the opportunity of looking 
further afield, and, so it happened, fatally for himself A 
very little cruelty of this callosity goes far. Even truculent 
Cesena grew faint with horror of this fiend. 

Duke Cesare acted upon the principle that it is better to 
be feared than loved — if one 7nttst choose : but he knew that 
there is a point beyond which no wise ruler goes : he knew 
the supreme art of making an end. Murmured rumours of 
atrocities reached his ears. Sooner or later he would have 
to bear the odium of the ill-deeds of his deputy. He never 
shirked responsibility. To shine in the reflected glare of 
Messer Ramiro d'Orco's evil fame would not suit his 
purpose. And there were other things. 

On the twenty-second of December, when the setting 
sun cast long blood-red lights across the snow, without 
warnino- Duke Cesare gallopped into Cesena with an armed 
escort of lancers. The cowed Cesenesi, turning out of 
doors to do him reverence, caught bare glimpses of flashing 
mail and the bull-bannerols of Borgia passing over the 
drawbridge of the citadel. Presently, from that citadel 
came Messer Cipriano di Numai, the Duke's secretary, to 


The Roaring Blaze 

the house of Messer Domenico d'UgolinI, the treasurer; 
seeking the governor in the city. Messer Ramiro d'Orco 
was arrested, and conducted to the presence of his chief 

Surmise that night was rife as to the import of these 
acts. New venofeance ? New taxes ? New horror? None 
could say. 

The next morning, letters-patent went to all cities of the 
Romagna proclaiming that Duke Cesare had arrested his 
governor Messer Ramiro d'Orco, on the charge of number- 
less frauds, illegal cruelties, and other crimes. The plaints 
of the oppressed had grieved the Duke, natural enemy of 
exaction, avarice, and cruelty, who, having freed the citizens 
from the ancient terror, wished to impose no new charges on 
them. The letters-patent concluded, 

" for the doing of justice to Ourself and to all persons who 
"have been injured, and for a salutary example to all Our 
" servants present and future, Messer Ramiro d'Orco will 
"stand his trial on depositions against him collected. 

The trial was not a long one. Legally put to the Torture 
of the Question, that frightful ruffian admitted the truth of 
the said depositions ; and, chiefly he accused himself of 
having sold the store of corn belonging to the province, 
applying the price to his own purposes, to such an extent 
that Duke Cesare only averted a famine by importing a 
fresh supply from foreign countries. Lastly, Messer Ramiro 
d'Orco confessed that he was conspiring with the Orsini to 
betray to them the city of Cesena ; and with Don Vitellozzo 
Vitelli, Tyrant of Citta di Castello, and Don Oliverotto da 
Fermo, to pose an arbalister ^ to assassinate Duke Cesare 
with a bolt from his arbalist.^ Citizens of Cesena who 
passed the liitle square before the citadel, going to the 
dawn-mass of Christmas-Day, saw a joyful sight — the 
Justice of the Duke. They saw a glittering axe, fixed in a 
block upon the snow. They saw on the one side a headless 
body in rich garments, exposed on a blood-stained mat 
upon the snow. They saw on the other side the bodiless 
head of Messer Ramiro d'Orco on a pike. 

All chroniclers of the period congratulate Duke Cesare 

^ Arcuballistarius = cross-bow-man. 
^ Arcuballista=: cross-bow, 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

on having delivered his subjects from a tyrannous subaltern 
as cruel as he was rapacious; and Machiavelli records that 
His Excellency was pleased to shew that he had the power 
to make men — and to mar them. Duke Cesare in teaching 
made use of the sense of sight. He made the peoples of 
the Romagna see his power, see his justice, see his ever- 
present indefatigable energy. What wonder then that he 
was looked upon as superhuman. In the citadel of Cesena 
a milder (governor reigned. 

Leaving Cesena on the Festival of St. Stephen, Duke 
Cesare reached Pesaro on the twenty-eighth of December, 
where he learned that the conspirators whom Messer 
Ramiro d'Orco had betrayed, (except the Baglioni of Perugia, 
and Don Giulio and Don Giovanni Orsini who were in 
Rome with Cardinal Giambattista Orsini and other prelates 
of their faction) were at Sinigaglia, which place they were 
supposed to be besieging on the Duke's behalf; and they 
sent to him to announce that they had captured the city, 
but that the governor refused to surrender the citadel save 
to the Generalissimo in person. Duke Cesare sent avant 
couriers heralding his arrival with artillery. 

At dawn on the Festival of St. Sylvester, the thirty- 
first of December, he appeared before Sinigaglia. His 
trusty confidant and captain Don Michelotto led the van 
with two hundred lancers. Behind these Duke Cesare 
rode, accompanied by three and a half thousand Italian 
condottieri and as many foreigners. At the city-gate, Don 
Michelotto halted his cavalry on the bridge, and the infantry 
defiled between their ranks, entering the city where the 
forces of Don Oliverotto da Fermo were paraded. Don 
Paolo and Don Francesco Orsini, Duke of Gravina, also 
were present, with Don Vitellozzo Vitelli who wore an 
ermine mantle and rode a mule like any cardinal. Duke 
Cesare appeared to be pleased at seeing them and allowed 
them to kiss his hand in the French style. The atrocious 
character of these brigands already has been described. 

Duke Cesare engaged them in conversation, siding with 
Don Francesco Orsini and Don Vitellozzo Vitelli. When 
they reached the palace which he was to occupy, the four 
prepared to take their leave ; but he begged them to stay 


The Roaring Blaze 

and dine, and to assist him in certain deliberations. As 
soon as they had crossed the threshold, the Duke's gentle- 
men made them prisoners. 

Messer Niccolo Machiavelli, the official representative 
of the Signoria of Florence on the staff of Duke Cesare, 
(a capacity equivalent to that of foreign attache with an 
army in the field,) reached Sinigaglia later in the day ; and 
found the city filled with the Ducal mercenaries, who were 
engaged in stripping the troops of the conspirators and in 
doing a little pillage of some Venetian merchants. He 
was going to the palace to get the news, when Duke 
Cesare. rode out, armed cap-a-pie, and said to him, " I 
have had a chance, and I have taken it ; and I have 
done a service that should cause your Signoria to 
rejoice." Then he rode away and reduced his turbulent 
troops to order. 

During the night the fate of the conspirators was decided. 
In deference to their rank, the two Orsini were to be sent 
to Rome and judged there according to law : meanwhile 
they were detained at the palace of Sinigaglia under guard. 
The trial of the others began at once. Put to the Torture 
of the Question in the usual manner, they soon shewed of 
what poor stuff they were made. The lily-livered assassin 
Don Oliverotto da Fermo wept and groaned and reproached 
Don Vitellozzo Vitelli with having led him — innocent lamb 
as he was — into mischief by inducing him to intrigue against 
Duke Cesare. On the first day of the new year 1503, at 
four o'clock in the morning, they were ceremonially strangled 
in the courtyard of the palace. While Don Vitellozzo was 
struggling with the carnefex, dying by slow degrees, with 
blackening face and bulging eyes, he screamed continually 
to Duke Cesare begging hard that he would implore the 
Lord Alexander P.P. VI to grant him absolution after 
death and a plenary indulgence, until the red cord (which 
was his baronial privilege) cut into his gullet, and stilled 
his swollen tongue. 

An ensample of this kind can leave no doubt in the mind 
but that, in spite of all to the contrary, the Pontifex Maximus 
of Rome, simoniacally elected or not, implicitly and explicitly 
was regarded then as God's Vicegerent, as Earthly Vicar 

193 N 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

of Christ, by the most flagitious of men. Then what can 
be thought of the good and clean-living majority ? 

The bodies were buried in the chapel of the hospice of 
the Misericordia, the Brotherhood of Pity, one of whose 
obligations is the care of criminals condemned on the capital 

This account of the colpo-di-stato of Sinigaglia differs 
from that to which the world is accustomed. It is said that, 
when Messer Niccolo MachiavelH returned to Florence, he 
was induced to make a different statement to the one which 
he previously had made from personal observation in his 
first dispatches. According to this second version, there 
was no conspiracy ; and the brigands Vitelli and da Fermo 
were simply massacred by order of Duke Cesare. It is the 
execrable Messer Francesco Guicciardini who has prosti- 
tuted his golden pen to record this so-called version of 
Machiavelli, which has come to be regarded as veracious 

" Duke Cesare de Valentinois, acknowledged sovereign of the 
Romagna, judged his subjects who were guilty of high treason : as chief 
of the State, he condemned the assassins who sought his life : as 
generalissimo, he punished treacherous and rebellious subalterns. It is 
known from other sources, that these two barons were only brigands 
stained with murders, and that their death was a deliverance for Italy. 
Without insisting on this point, and if it be said that the procedure of 
Duke Cesare was odious, — the capture by a ruse and the summary 
execution, — it may be pointed out that everywhere and in all ages 
criminals are taken by whatever method may be possible, and that 
military tribunals have never wasted time in long formalities. There was 
accusation, trial, and execution, all in regular though rapid form. We 
well may call the action of Duke Cesare a coup-d'-Etat. He is not more 
blameworthy than the Emperor Napoleon III who in 1852 was loudly 
applauded. Neither is it necessary for his justification to urge the 
barbarous customs of his age ; for we should be forced to remember that, 
in the Nineteenth Century, our (French) national hero, in a time of peace, 
caused to be seized on foreign territory, to be carried to Vincennes, and, 
after the mockery of a trial, to be shot like a dog in the castle-ditch, an 
innocent man who was a prince of the blood-royal of France. [Due 
d'Enghien?] Yet no man has ever dared to liken the Emperor Napoleon I 
to a Borgia ! {Rene, Comte de Maricoioi.) 

The news reached Rome on the night of the second of 
January. The blow had been struck with such rapidity as to 


The Roaring Blaze 

put complicity of the Lord Alexander beyond the dimen- 
sions of time and space. 

In the Eternal City, the year had opened with the 
ceremony called L'Ubbedienza, in which the cardinals 
renew their vow of fidelity to the Pope, as, formerly, 
Roman Senators vowed fidelity to the Princeps on each 
New Year's Day. A cardinal, who would omit this duty 
except for a valid reason, would cause precisely such a 
scandal as P. Thrasea Paetus caused to Tacitus by 
neglecting to swear to Nero. Notwithstanding this 
renewal of allegiance on the first of January, only three 
days later the Pope's Holiness found reason to arrest 
Cardinal Giambattista Orsini, with Archbishop Alviano 
of Florence, and Don Giacomo Poplicola di Santacroce, 
Orsini's partisans, being determined once for all to crush 
that House of incorrigible rebels. This Don Giacomo 
Poplicola di Santacroce had only himself to blame. His 
House, the most illustrious of all the sixty conscript families 
of Rome, had been outlawed in 1482 by the Lord Xystus 
P.P. IV by reason of the furious feud between Santacroce 
and Dellavalle which had turned the Eternal City for 
months together into shambles. He should have known 
better than to put his head in the lion's mouth. Giustiniani, 
the Orator of Venice, received an account of what had 
happened from the Pope's Own mobile lips ; and embodied 
the same in a dispatch to his government dated the fourth 
of January 1503. It appears to be perfectly loj^ical on the 
part of the Pope's Holiness, that, in view of the coming 
trial of the two Orsini whom Duke Cesare was bringing to 
Rome, evidence should be sought among the members of 
their faction. 

The behaviour of Orsini was impolitic and suspicious to 
the last degree. They were under the shadow. Two of 
their alleged accomplices had been executed at Sinigaglia. 
The cardinal was detained in the Mola of Hadrian. Don 
Paolo Orsini and Duke Francesco Orsini of Gravina were 
prisoners of Duke Cesare. Their circumstances required 
a patient policy of inaction pending coming trial, the result 
of which they needed not to fear supposing them to be 
innocent of conspiracy. On the contrary, they gave clear 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

evidence of guilt, desperately maintaining an armed re- 
bellion in pontifical territory, ravaging the Viterbo country, 
and continuing- to make leagues with other rebels whether 
these were Roman barons or chiefs of independent 

The Orator of Venice wrote to his government on the 
seventeenth of January : "The Pontiff is much disturbed, 
and more than ever on his guard. They say that 
Colonna and Savelli and all the discontented barons 
have joined Orsini. This night there was a panic at the 
Vatican : no one knows the cause. The captain of the 
guard called out his troops and watched all night under 

Prince Gioffredo Borgia of Squillace, now in his twenty- 
second year and father of four children, raised a squadron 
of condottieri and attacked his August Father's enemies : 
but on the night of the twentieth of January, the Orsini 
cavalry captured the Bridge of Nomentano where a fortress 
was ; and all the Bororo rose in tumult. Messer Francesco 
Remolino Bishop of Sorrento, and the Orator of Siena, 
left the City for the camp of Duke Cesare carrying orders 
that he should leave everything and advance on Rome, 
which was in imminent peril. But before the envoys 
reached him, on the night of the seventeenth of January, 
at Citta di Pieve he suddenly had beheaded Don Paolo 
Orsini and Duke Francesco Orsini of Gravina, the two 
prisoners to whom he had promised a legal trial in Rome. 
The attitude of Orsini perfectly justified Duke Cesare in 
exercising his rights as sovereign justiciary and breaking 
his promise. His camp was surrounded by Orsini castles, 
the two barons undoubtedly were caught in the article of 
conspiracy ; and their summary decapitation became a 
sudden necessity to intimidate the Orsini conspirators in 
and about Rome. It was not the custom of the Sixteenth 
Century to mince matters, from any silly humanitarian 
motives, by sacrificing thousands of proletariat lives when 
the fierce slaughter of a brace of notabilities would serve 
the purpose. The modern accusation, that the Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI was privy to the execution of these 
two Orsini, falls to the ground when the dates of His 


The Roaring Blaze 

dispatches to Duke Cesare, and of their deaths, are com- 

Cardinal Giambattista Orsini remained a state-prisoner 
in the Mola of Hadrian, within whose walls he had full 
liberty. By his own request, his food was sent in daily 
from his own House ; and also he received visits from his 
relations. There he lived, attended by his own physi- 
cians, until the twenty-second of February when he died, 
and was buried in the church of San Salvatore in Lauro. 
Soon it was said that the Pope's Holiness had envenomed 
him ; and this is a charge which it is utterly difficult to 

Giustiniani, the Orator of Venice, who was a friend of 
the House of Orsini, and always inimical to the Borgia, 
said without explanation or remark in a dispatch to his 
government dated the fifteenth of February : " The Lord 
Cardinal Orsini in prison shews signs of frenzy." 

In the dispatch dated the twenty-second of February, 
he said : " The Lord Cardinal Orsini is reduced to the 
last extremity, and his physicians say that there is no hope 
of saving his life." 

In the dispatch dated the twenty-third of February, he 
said : " I give notice that, yesterday, after the departure of 
my courier, the Lord Cardinal Orsini died ; and this 
evening, with an honourable escort, he was taken to the 
church of San Salvatore, and there interred." 

Brancatalini, in his Diarium, wrote: "This day XXII 
February 1503, Cardinal Orsini left the Castle of San- 
tangelo dead, at a half-hour of the night ; (5.30-6 p.m.) 
and Mariano di Stefano with many other Romans accom- 
panied him ; and he was borne to San Salvatore m 

Soderini, Orator of the Signoria of Florence, in a 
dispatch dated the twenty-third of February 1 503 wrote to 
his government : 

" Cardinal Orsini died yesterday : and was buried at the twenty-fourth 
hour (5-5.30 P.M.) at San Salvatore the church of the House of Orsini ; 
and, by order of the Pope, the body was escorted by his relations, and by 
the cardinals of the Curia, uncovered and resting on a bier draped with 
cloth-of-gold, vested in a red chasuble brocaded with golden flowers, on 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

the head was a white mitrej and at the feet were two hats in token of his 
cardinalitial rank. The monks performed the funeral service; and there 
were about sixty or seventy hghted torches. May he rest in peace." 

Obviously, the Orators of the Powers had no suspicion 
of venom. Giustiniani gladly would have reported such a 
rumour had he found himself in a position to do so which 
would have been consistent with his dignity and duty to the 
Venetian Senate. When He heard what His enemies were 
saying, the Lord Alexander P.P. VI took prompt action. 
On the day after the obsequies He convoked the physicians 
who had attended the dead Cardinal during his illness and 
agony ; and required them to certify that death was owed 
to natural causes without any violence due to venom or 
other means ; He made them swear on the Sacrament to 
the truth of their depositions, which were recorded with the 
facts of the case in the usual form. 

It was customary to consider certain signs as indicating 
venom ; e.g., the spots, the colour, the odour of the corpse. 
There is no mention made of these. The Pope's Holiness 
ordered a public funeral, the body was uncovered ; and 
carried openly through Rome. Every one might see 
it ; and, had the Orsini faction discovered any signs 
which pointed to an unnatural death, they surely would 
have proclaimed their suspicions. The interment on the 
day after death was, and is, the wholesome Roman 
custom. The hour, after sunset, was, and is, the hour of 

It has been said by modern idealists that the Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI envenomed Cardinal Orsini in order to 
inherit his riches. The idea is absurd and ridiculous ; for 
the Orsini would have been the heirs of their dead kinsman. 
In fact they were. The imputation discredits itself by 
reason of the gross ignorance on which it is based. It is 
alleged that the Pope is the heir-at-law of cardinals. He 
is. But He was not, in the reign of the Lord Alexander 
P.P. VI. It was the Lord Julius P.P. II (1503-15 13) who 
cupidinously issued the Bull which names the Roman Pontiff 
heir-at-law of all cardinals, and of all clergy dying in Rome ; 
and this Pope (as Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere) was 
no friend to Borgia. And this fact ought to dispose of 

The Roaring Blaze 

all allegations of cupidinal motive in this, as in other 

The Lord Alexander P.P. VI had the Orsini at His 
mercy. Duke Cesare had executed two chiefs of that 
House. The Cardinal was secure in the impregnable Mola 
of Hadrian. If the Pope's Holiness had wished to rid 
Himself of this one He was quite strong enough to do so, 
without resort to venom, by a regular execution in public, 
or in private if preferred, and so defy the odium which 
inevitably attends the exhibition of venom. But that He 
had no intention of visiting His prisoners with death, or 
with anything more than incarceration to keep them out of 
mischief, may be seen from the fact that a few months later 
(August 1 503) Archbishop Alviano of Florence was released 
alive and well from the Mola of Hadrian. 

As there appears to have been no motive and no 
necessity for the alleged crime, so also there appears to 
have been no possibility of its commission. Cardinal 
Giambattista Orsini was visited daily by his people, and 
his food was brought to him by them. His physicians also 
made deposition on oath that his death was not caused by 

It is only reasonable to conjecture, then, that being a 
very old man, conscius cri?ninis sui (conspiracy), alarmed by 
the execution of his accomplices, terrified at his own peril, he 
succumbed to an entirely natural collapse. The dysentery, 
which carried him off, goes to support this theory, 

u^ ^ 4t, 

•Tt" -TV* TP 

The French in the Regno were not prospering ; and 
the favour of the papacy appeared to be leaning towards 
Spain. The Crusade languished, not for lack of funds (for 
the Pope's Holiness envoyed a grant of money to Hungary) ; 
but because of the want of martial spirit on the part of, and 
the customary disgraceful dissensions among the Christian 
Powers. Venice and Hungary threw up the sponge, and 
came to terms with the Muslim Infidel. The conquest of 
Eastern Europe and the settlement of the Turks therein 
was an accomplished fact. 

# * * 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Duke Cesare de Valentinois della Romagna occupied 
Pesaro, This was the fief of that young Tyrant, Don 
Giovanni Sforza, whose marriage with Madonna Lucrezia 
Borgia had been annulled by a canonical impediment. The 
spoliation of his appanage was a ground of fresh offence. 
The rupture between the Houses of Borgia and Sforza 
was irremediable. People spoke of Duke Cesare, now, as 
the Caesar Augustus of a new Roman Empire, independent, 
and ruled by the sceptre of a Princeps of the House of 
Borgia. After the execution of the conspirators at Sini- 
gaglia, the Venetian chronicler Priuli, who loathed the very 
name of Borgia, wrote on the eleventh of January 1503 : 
" Some wish to make and crown him King of Italy ; 
others wish to make him Emperor : for he prospers so 
that no one dare forbid him anything."^ 

The establishment of a Borgia Dynasty would have 
been no treason against the rights of the Papacy. The 
rebellious tyrants whom Duke Cesare had overthrown were 
unprofitable and even menacing. In their place was the 
Duke who brought law, order, and prosperity. Of course 
Duke Cesare derived benefit from his victories. The 
labourer is worthy of his hire, and even successful English 
generals are not begrudged their peerages. Duke Cesare's 
duchy of Romagna, his commanding position, his power 
to enrich himself by the taxation of his subjects, were a fair 
reward for the immense services which he had rendered. 
The Papacy had now, instead of a lost territory infested by 
the scum of European ruffianry refusing to acknowledge 
authority or natural law, a vast province inhabited by law- 
abiding prosperous contented vassals ready and glad to pay 
the traditional tribute to their over-lord, in return for the 
unwonted safety of their lives and property. Duke Cesare 
was in the position of a viceroy. He held office at the 
pleasure of the Roman Pontiff. He was persona ingrata 
to the rulers of the other Italian states, who were envious 
of his splendid beauty, of his imperious character, of his 
extraordinary success, and of his tremendous potentiality. 

1 " Alcuni lo volevano far Re d' Italia, e coronarlo, altri lo volevano fa 
Imperatore, perche '1 prosperava talmente, che non era alcuno li bastasse 
rauimo d'impedirlo in cosa alcuna." (xi Jan. 1503.) 


The Roaring Blaze 

And they feared this tawny prince who had the tiger- 
strength to crush them one and all. Backed by the spiritual 
and temporal influence and wealth of the Pontiff, he could 
keep his irresistible army of veterans always on a war- 
footing, and himself its generalissimo ; and so the Papacy 
itself acquired, through him, and in him, and for the first 
time, a material basis of independence : while, in opposition 
to the Pope, he could not exist. 

There was the policy of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI. 

He planned it with deliberation. He spared no pains 
to put it into effect. He did not want to ruin the Church, 
because She was the foundation upon which He would 
build His dynasty. Something of the kind was of absolute 
and imperious necessity. The Forged Decretals and 
Donation of Constantine, (which foist had been put forth 
in a Brief of the Lord Hadrian P.P. I to the Emperor 
Charlemagne,) "the magic pillars of the spiritual and 
temporal monarchy of the Popes," severely had been 
criticized as early as the Twelfth Century. It was left, 
however, to Messer Lorenzo della Valla mercilessly to 
denounce them as forgeries in 1440, as already has been 
shewn here. When the Lord Alexander P.P. VI ascended 
the pontifical throne fifty-two years later, both Decretals 
and Donation had been thrown overboard from the Barque 
of Peter, to lighten the ship : and the Pope had no title- 
deeds to shew, forged or otherwise, for Peter's Patrimony. 
Any diplomatist would see that a right, of some kind more 
inexpugnable than Prescription, was desirable. The Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI chose Conquest, and the Founding 
of a Borgia Dynasty. The office of the Church He 
magnified, that She the better might help the state. He 
intended that His descendants, members of the House 
of Borgia, though nominally the vassals should be the 
suzerains of His Successors : that Borgia should wear the 
double-crown of Princeps, as well as, and by means of 
the triple-crown of Pontifex Maximus, — that a dynasty 
of Borgia should occupy both pontifical and imperial 

There was ruin in the scheme : but not that ruin which 
vulgarly might be supposed. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

It was an intelligent enough policy — of a worldly sort. 
Only — it was not inspired by religion, nor restrained by 
morality. When it fell to pieces, the Lord Julius P.P. II 
was able of its fragments alone to build the Papal States 
which lasted more than three centuries and a half until 

The power of the House of Borgia was so well founded 
that the mere death of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI would 
not have affected it. There was a strong party of Spanish 
cardinals in the Sacred College, and three of these were of 
the House of Borgia. The Vices:erent of Rome, the Lord 
Jaime Serra, Cardinal-Priest of the Title of San Vitale, was 
a Spaniard also. The Roman barons, Colonna, Orsini, 
Savelli, Dellavalle were broken ; Poplicola di Santacroce 
outlawed ; Sforza-Visconti of Milan, Sforza of Santafiora, 
Sforza of Chotionuola, Sforza of Pesaro, Sforza-Riario of 
Imola and Forli, all were exiled. The Roman Cesarini 
were loyal to Borgia, and had their Cardinal (Giuliano) in 
the Curia. Spain was friendly, and occupied in the New 
World. France was friendly, and feeble. Germany was 
feeble and internally distracted. England was only a fifth- 
rate power. And the invincible army of Duke Cesare de 
Valentinois della Romagna was ready to carry into effect 
its leader's will. But chance, molecules, Providence,— the 
reader will choose, — disabled Duke Cesare, made him unable 
to act, or unwilling to act,^ — the reader again will choose, — 
at the very moment when his action was imperatively 
necessary. If, on the death of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI 
he had had his health, he easily might have done anything, 
said Machiavelli.^ 

" The Worldly Hope Men set their Hearts upon 
Turns Ashes — or it prospers ; and, anon, 

Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face, 
Lighting a little Hour or two — is gone.^ 

^ 'VV' "TV* 

At the Ninth Consistory of the thirtieth (or thirty-first) 
of May (or June) 1503, the Lord Alexander P.P. VI named 

^ " Se nella morte di Alessandro fusse state sano, ogni cosa gli era facile." 
(Machievelli, Principe, Op. I. 39.) 

2 Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khaiyam, xvi. 


The Roaring Blaze 

nine cardinals ; five of whom were Spaniards, three Italians, 
and one German. They were : 

(a) the Lord Don Juan de Castellar, Bishop of Oleron ; 

Cardinal- Presbyter of the Title of Santa Maria in 

Trastevere tit. Calixtiis : 
(j3) the Lord Don Francisco Remolino, Bishop of 

Sorrento, a friend of Duke Cesare ; Cardinal- 
Presbyter of the Title of San Giovanni e San 

Paolo : 
(y) the Lord Don Francisco de Sprata, Bishop of Leon ; 

Cardinal-Presbyter of the Title of San Sergio e San 

Bacco : 
(g) the Lord Francesco Soderini da Volterra, Canon of 

the Vatican Basilica ; Cardinal-Presbyter of the 

Title of Santa Susanna inter Duas Domos : 
(e) the Lord Niccolo da Flisco, Bishop of Forli, 

Orator of the Republic of Genoa to the Christian 

King ; Cardinal-Presbyter of the Title of Santa 

Prisca : 
{P) the Lord Adriano Castellense di Corneto, Orator of 

the Lord Innocent P.P. VIII to Britannia Barbara 

(Scotland) ; Cardinal-Presbyter of the Title of San 

Crisogono : 
(r?) the Lord Melchior Copis, Bishop of Brixen ; 

Cardinal-Presbyter of the Title of San Niccolo 

inter Imagines : 
(0) the Lord Don Jaime Casanova, Apostolic Protho- 

notary ; Cardinal-Presbyter of the Title of San 

Stefano in Monte Celio : 
{i) the Lord Don Francisco Iloris, Apostolic Treasurer, 

Cardinal- Deacon of Santa Maria Nuova. 

Why a learned Catholic historian ^ should go out of his 
way to call this a simoniacal creation, and his English 
editor to repeat the calumny, is hard to say. It is bad 
policy to cry stinking fish, at all times ; it is especially silly 
to do so when the fish are fresh. The Bull De Siiuoniaca 
£/ectione directed against Simony was not issued until 1505, 

1 Pastor L. History of the Popes, edited by Fr. Frederick Antrobus of the 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

in the reign of the Lord Julius P.P. II ; and it was not 
retrospective. In 1503, the Lord Alexander P.P. VI was 
actually a temporal sovereign, "an Italian Despot with 
certain sacerdotal additions." The cardinals were the 
highest degree of His peerage. No doubt they paid for 
their promotion in the usual way ; fees to officials, the 
crusade-tax on the revenues of their Titles, perhaps even a 
handsome contribution to the Treasury : but why call this 
Simony, when it was not Simony stride dicte till two years 
later? A Red Hat no more can be bought than Strawberry 
Leaves. A man may use his gold to recommend himself 
for these head-gears. A man may present ^25,000 to the 
best of all princesses' Hospital Fund, or land worth a 
quarter of a million to the proletariat; he may "bang a 
saxpence " in fees to officials for his knighthood, he even 
may pay pounds sterling in fees to officials for his barony : 
but he righteously would be enraged if people said that he 
had bought his knighthood or his barony. The word 
Simony must be taken as belonging to the Genus Blessed, 
{e.g., Mesopotamia ;) or as the bark of a dog who dare not 
bite. Either it is a mere incantation ; or a war-whoop 
"full of sound and fury signifying nothing." In sober 
logical earnest, it is inapplicable here. 

yff ^j^ "Sf^ 

As the heat of summer increased, the Lord Alexander 
P.P. VI, now of the age of seventy-two years, used to sit 
and take the air in the shady gardens of the Vatican, and 
amuse Himself by watching two little boys at play. They 
were His bastard and his grandson ; Duke Giovanni Borgia 
of Nepi and Camerino, of the age of five years ; and Duke 
Roderico of Sermoneta, Madonna Lucrezia's son, of the age 
of four years. 

'Jr TV* 

When the sun entered the constellation of Leo — Sol in 
Leone, the dog-days — the heat became abnormal ; and 
plague and fevers appeared in Rome.^ The Orators of the 

1 A comical side-light on this naive age is given in the Annales Bononiensis, 
(Muratori xxiii. 8go) on the occasion of an outbreak of plague. Penitence, 
fasting, and flagellation were resorted to. Butchers closed their shops for 


The Roaring Blaze 

Powers promptly made arrangements to quit the City, for 
a cool and wholesome villegiatura. 

Don Antonio Giustiniani, the Orator of Venice, sent to 
his Senate a dispatch dated the eleventh of July 1503, in 
which he wrote : "I went to the palace ; and, on entering 
His apartment, I found our Lord the Pope in His habits 
reclinino^ on a couch. He received me with good 
humour, saying that for three days He had been incon- 
venienced by a slight dysentery, but that He hoped it 
would be unimportant." 

On the next day Giustiniani wrote : " The Pope's 
Holiness reviewed His troops from a balcony." 

On the fourteenth of July, he wrote again : " I went to 
the palace; and, on entering, I found His Holiness on 
His throne in the Hall of Pontiffs. He was a little de- 
pressed : but looked well." 

Messer Francesco Fortucci, the Orator of Florence, 
sent to his Signoria a dispatch dated the twentieth of July, 
in which he wrote : " There are many people sick of fevers, 
and many have died." 

On the twenty-second of July, he wrote : " I thank the 
Signoria for leave of absence, because I myself am 
uneasy, and almost out of my mind with fright ; for so 
many people are dying of fever, and there is also some- 
thing like the Pest." 

On the evening of the fifth of August, the Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI rode with Duke Cesare and several 
prelates to a supper al fresco at the villa of the Cardinal 
of San Crisogono outside the walls. Rome and the sur- 
rounding country are particularly unwholesome, though 
cool, during the hour after sunset. It is said that the Holi- 
ness of the Pope was much heated by the exertion of riding 
there; and that, while He was in this condition. He drank 
a cup of wine for the sake of coolness. No more hazardous 
action can be imagined ; except on the part of one desiring 
to court a malarial fever. 

eight days. And, that sorrow for sin was not confined to respectable people 
may be gathered from the fact that " meretrices ad concubita nullum admit- 
tebant. Ex eis quadam quae cupiditate lucri adolescentem admiserat, depre- 
heusd, aliae meretrices ita illius nates nudas corrigiis percusscrunt ut sanguineni 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Two days later, on the seventh of August, the Orator 
Giustiniani wrote to his government : " I found the Pope 
less cheerful and more dull than usual. He said to me 
Sir Orator, all these sick people in Rome, all these daily 
deaths, make Us fearful, and persuade Us to take more care 
of Oiir person'' 

Monsignor Hans Burchard, the Caerimonarius, wrote 
in his Diarium : " On the twelfth of August, after vespers, 
between the twenty-first and twenty-second hour, (5-6 p.m.) 
He (the Pope's Holiness) shewed signs of a fever which 
does not abate." 

It should be noted that this is seven days after the 

On the thirteenth of August, Giustiniani wrote to his 
sovereign the Doge of Venice, that the Pope had vomited 
after eating, and had been feverish all night ; that Duke 
Cesare also was sick : and that no one was admitted to the 
Vatican. He tells about the supper in the garden of the 
Cardinal of San Crisogono ; and adds : " To-morrow 
morning I will try to have precise information to send 
to Your Sublimity." 

These dispatches give an excellent idea of some of the 
duties of a Sixteenth-Century ambassador, to hang about 
doors of palaces, to chronicle performances of natural func- 
tions, to bribe royal flunkeys and report their gossip in 

On the fourteenth of August, the same Orator wrote 
that the Pope had been phlebotomized, — "some speak of 
fourteen, some of sixteen ounces : perhaps it will be true 
to say ten ; and that is an enormous quantity for a man 
of seventy-three years, which is the age of His Blessed- 

(The Lord Alexander P.P. VI was born in 1431 ; and 
was of the age of seventy-two years in 1503.) 

" Still the fever does not abate. The Pope has it yet ; 
though less violently than yesterday. To-day the Duke 
is worse." 

The same day, the fourteenth of August, Don Beltrando 
Costabili, the Orator of Duke Ercole of Ferrara wrote at 
some length, no doubt because Madonna Lucrezia Borgia, 


The Roaring Blaze 

the consort of Ferrara's heir, would expect detailed in- 
formation when the health of her august and affectionate 
Father was concerned. He said : 

"Yesterday morning, I was informed on good authority that His 
Holiness has commanded the attendance of the Bishop of Venosa who was 
sick at home, and of another physician of the City ; and that these are 
not allowed to leave him. I was informed that the Pope had vomitings 
and fever yesterday : and that they have relieved him of nine ounces of 
blood. During the day, His Holiness caused some cardinals to play at 
cards before Him while He rested. I was informed also that last night He 
slept fairly well. But to-day between the eighteenth and nineteenth hour, 
(2-3 P.M.) there was a crisis like that of Saturday, of a kind which makes 
His courtiers uneasy ; and every one is unwilling to speak of His condition. 
I have sought by all means to obtain information : but the more I seek, 
the less I learn ; for the physicians, the chirurgeons, and the apothecaries 
are not allowed to quit the Presence : from which I conclude that the 
malady is grave. The Duke of the Romagna also, is very sick with fever, 
vomitings, and disorder of the stomach. It is not astonishing that His 
Holiness, and His Excellency should be ill; for all the courtiers, especially 
those who are in the palace, are in the same state, by reason of the unwholesome 
conditions of the air, which, there, they breathe.^' 

The last sentence, in italics, is of exceedingly great 
importance. The operation of venesection did not effect a 
lysis, as appears from the dispatches of Giustiniani which 
continue the tale. On the fifteenth of August, he wrote to 
the Venetian Senate that it was difficult to get positive 
information : but that the affair was serious ; and, that 
there was likely to be disorder in the City if the Pope 

On the sixteenth of August, he wrote that the Pope 
and the Duke continued to be tormented with fevers, and 
that the Duke's was the more violent. He added that the 
condition of the Pope must be aggravated by His anxieties 
and cares, and by the sickness of the Duke. 

On the seventeenth of Auo^ust, Giustiniani wrote aeain : 

" Yesterday I wrote to Your Sublimity by Girolamo Passamonte the 
courier, who arrived here. To-day I inform you that our Lord the Pope 
has taken medicine. The fever continually torments Him, not without 
danger. I am informed by a sure authority that the Bishop of Venosa, 
chief-physician of His Blessedness and a familiar of the Cardinal Giovan- 
tonio di Sangiorgio, (or, perhaps, the Cardinal of San Giorgio in Velum 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Aureum, Rafaele Galeotto Sansoni-Riario,) has told his steward that the 
sickness of the Pope is very dangerous, and that he ought to make the 
said cardinal hasten hither ; which thing has been done." 

He adds that the partisans of Duke Cesare, expecting a 
riot on the death of the Pope, have made secure their 
property and have taken precautions to prevent ill news 
from being bruited abroad. This was ordinary political 

On the eio"hteenth of August, the same Orator wrote, 

" Early this morning, our Lord the Pope, knowing of the danger of 
His sickness, has received His rites ; and some cardinals have been 
admitted into the presence of His Blessedness. The Viaticum was given 
in secret ; for His familiars try to conceal His condition as much as 
possible. They say, that the Bishop of Venosa, early this morning before 
the Communion, came from the Pope's Chamber, weeping, and saying to 
one of his people that the danger was very grave, and complaining with 
chagrin of the inefficacy of some potions which, yesterday, he had 
administered. . . . The Duke also is very sick. It has been said to my 
secretary, Sir Secretary, this is no time for ceremonies or fine words. Tell 
the Orator to hasten to inform the Senate of Venice that the Pope graviter 
LABORAT. Also, the same informant said that the Pope cannot live much 
longer without a miracle." 

On the eighteenth of August, Giustiniani also wrote a 
second dispatch to the Doge of Venice, in which he said : 

" To-day I sent the latest news to Your Sublimity by Lorenzo da 
Camerino. After he was gone, Messer Scipione, a physician from the 
palace, came to tell me that yesterday at the sixteenth hour (noon), the 
Pope, wishing to rise for a certain need, was taken with a fit of choking, 
and is in evil plight, going from bad to worse ; and that in his opinion 
His Holiness will die to-night : — and, from what he says, I judge the 
malady to be an apoplexy. Such also is the opinion of this physician so 
excellent is his art." 

The Orator adds that, now, Duke Cesare is neglected ; 
and is preparing secretly to take refuge in the Mola of 

Monsignor Burchard makes the following entry in his 
Diarium, a work of which the original is undiscovered, and 
copies only accessible to the student. He was perfectly 
qualified to speak on this subject from personal knowledge ; 
the demise of the Pope being a ceremonial function which 
he would have to arrange and superintend. He says : 


The Roaring Blaze 

" On Wednesday the eighteenth of August between the twelfth and 
thirteenth hour (8-9 a.m.) He (the Lord Alexander P.P. VI) confessed 
Himself to the Lord Bishop Pietro of Culen who said mass in His presence ; 
and, after his Communion, administered the Sacrament of the Eucharist to 
the Pope, who was seated on His bed ; and then finished the mass. Five 
cardinals were present, d'Oristano, di Cosenza, di Monreale,i Casanueva, 
and di Constantinople, to whom the Pope said that He felt ill. At the 
hour of vespers the said Bishop of Culen administered the Sacrament of 
Extreme Unction to Him ; and He died in the presence of the datary and 
the bishop." 

This event took place in the third room of the Borgia 
Tower occupied by the Library counting from the Library 

On the nineteenth of August, Giustiniani announced 
the news to the Senate, and added, "to-day He was carried 
de moro,'^ and shewn to the people; but His corpse was 
more hideous and monstrous than words can tell, and 
without human form. For decency, it was kept for some 
time covered ; and before sunset they buried it in the 
presence of two of the cardinal-deacons attached to the 

In reading this dispatch, it must be remembered that 
Giustiniani hated the Borgia ; and that the Lord Alexander 
P.P. VI was an old man of an obese habit of body. Who 
had died of a fever in the height of summer, in a most un- 
wholesome quarter of the City, and at a time when antiseptic 
treatment was unknown. 

The Notary of Orvieto, on his return from Rome four 
days later, publicly described to his municipality all that he 
had seen of the novendiali ; and added that he had kissed 
the feet of His Holiness in St. Peter's^: but said nothing 
of any hideous or monstrous appearance of the corpse. 

1 Here is a specimen of Mgr. Burchard's or his copyist's gross inaccuracy. 
He officially was responsible for the conduct of this function. He intimately 
should have known, and directed, every movement and every gesture of every 
assistant. And he names, among the cardinals-assistant, the Lord Giovanni 
Borgia (detto Seniore) Archbishop of Monreale, Cardinal- Presbyter of Santa 
Susanna, who had been dead just eighteen days. 

2 i.e. in the usual manner, with all the ceremonies required for the obse- 
quies of the pontifical cadaver : not surreptitiously or with maimed rites as 
some have said. 

^ A dead Pope Hes in state in the Chapel of the Trinity in St. Peter's, sur- 
rounded by unbleached wax tapers, and with the feet protruded through the 
screen for the osculations of the faithful. 

209 O 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Soon after death, a rumour was heard to the effect that 
the Lord Alexander P.P. VI and Duke Cesare de Valenti- 
nois della Romao-na had died envenomed. 

For three months it was only a rumour. A new Pope 
was elected— Cardinal Francesco de' Piccolhuomini of Siena, 
who took the name of the Lord Pius P.P. Ill out of respect 
to His Uncle, the Lord Pius P.P. 11,^ — and was dead after 
a two months' reign. 

Then Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, irreconcileable 
enemy of Borgia, attained the object of his ambition ; and 
was elected Pope by the name of the Lord Julius P.P. II. 
And then the rumour took a concrete form. 

On the tenth of November it definitely was said that, at 
the garden-supper of the fifth of August venom had been 
put into some wine by order of the Lord Alexander P. P. VI; 
that by a butler's blunder that envenomed wine had been 
served to the Pope's Holiness and to Duke Cesare : that 
the former being old had died therefrom ; that the latter 
being young had endured heroic treatment for a cure. 
Some said that he had been plunged into the ripped-up 
belly of a live mule or bull amid the steaming palpitating 
entrails profusely to sweat the venom out of him : others, 
that he had been dipped in iced-water, and so cured. 

Writing several years later, Messer Francesco Guicciar- 
dini and Messer Paolo Giovio added new details. Guicciar- 
dini definitely settled the falsehood in the form in which it 
generally appears. He gave a list of cardinals, also, and 
prelates who were to have been envenomed by the Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI that He might inherit their wealth. 
Giovio named and described the venom which, he said, the 
Borgia commonly used. He called it Cantarella- ; and 
said it was a sugared powder, or a powder under the guise 
of suQfar, which was of a wonderful whiteness, and of a 
rather pleasant taste. It did not overwhelm the vital forces 
in the manner of the active venoms by sudden and energetic 
action : but, by penetrating insensibly the veins, it slowly 
worked with mortal effect. (Paolo Giovio, Hist. II. 47. 

1 Enea Silvio Bartolomeo de' Piccolhuomini, 1458-1464. 

- Qy. A concoction of cantharides ? Or was it merely a name, like 

Kav6apiri]s olvos ? (Plin. 14. 7. g.) 


The Roaring Blaze 

VIII. 205.) Is there any toxicological chymist who from 
this description can give the formula of this extraordinary 
venom ? 

The testimony of these two men is tainted. Messer 
Francesco Guicciardini, who wrote long after the event and 
solely from hearsay, was a Florentine. Whatever is, and 
was, of Florence, is cultured, pedantic, artificial, in the 
highest degree : whatever is, and was, of Rome, is nakedly 
natural, original, free, and absolute, in the highest degree. 
It was, and is, a habit of mind in the Florentine to decry 
Rome and all things Roman. Politically, Messer Francesco 
Guicciardini was an adherent of the House of Medici ; and 
Medici were naturally the mortal foes of Borgia, seeing 
that Borgia had acquiesced in and profited by their expul- 
sion from Florence. And he was in the pay of the Roman 
Colonna, who were Ghibelline by inherited tradition, i.e.^ 
upholders of the imperial against the papal prerogative. 
He was born in 1482 ; and was of the age of twenty-one 
years at the death of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI. In 
1530, having exhorted the Lord Clement P.P. VII to 
punish Florence for insults which he (Guicciardini) had 
received in 1527, he turned traitor against the Medici, 
writing invectives against them till his death in 1540. He 
divinely wrote at all times a sonorous and courtly Tuscan, 
which makes his reader believe that one who could write so 
exquisitely must needs write truly. Yet he did not hesitate 
to boast that he had a pen of gold for his friends, and a pen 
of iron for his foes. Regretfully then it must be said that 
Messer Francesco Guicciardini does not deserve belief 
unless his statements can be corroborated. 

Touching the matter of the Borgia venom, and especially 
of the envenoming of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI and 
Duke Cesare, he is corroborated by Messer Paolo Giovio. 

Messer Paolo Giovio was born in 1483, and was of the 
age of twenty years at the death of the Lord Alexander 
P.P. VI. He issued no books till twenty-one years later. 
His first was a quoad-scientific treatise on Roman Fishes 
iyDe Piscibus Romanis), published in 1524. He was a 
dilettante of a kind. He practised amniomancy, or the art 
of divination by inspection of the membrane. Amnios, in 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

which the unborn child is wrapped — fantastic effort of a 
seeker after Truth. He was one of those double-faced 
historians, who wrote one set of memoirs for the highest 
bidder; (Popes whom they despised, Dukes whom they 
privately reviled, ) and a second set of memoirs for the enemies 
of the patrons of the first. His Life of the Lord Leo P.P. X 
(Giovanni de' Medici) is a specimen. Even during his life, 
he was considered to be a flagrant liar. He used to say, 
with a dog-like knowledge of his masters the "people" 
who "desire to be deceived," that the centuries would give 
his written lies the force of truth. He used an affected and 
flamboyant rather than a pure style ; and was the inferior 
of Guicciardini. The Lord Clement P.P. VH (Giulio de' 
Medici), to be rid of his incessant importunity, gave him 
the bishopric of Nocera ; and he died in 1552. 

Who, therefore, wishes to believe Messer Francesco 
Guicciardini uncorroborated, or corroborated by Messer 
Paolo Giovio, will do so on his own responsibility. 

Let it be noted that both Giovio and Guicciardini were 
Roman Catholics. Their calumnies against the Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI are their own ; and were not invented 
by dissenters from their creed. The said calumnies very 
naturally have been adopted by these last as articles of 
faith ; and repeated usque ad nauseam ; or resented, with 
the most unconvincing and inane half-heartedness, by a 
majority of modern and soi-disant enlightened Roman 
Catholics, who fear (positively they shew every sign of 
fear) to credit their own learned clergy of the present day, 
Leonetti, Velron, Cerri, and Ollivier, to say nothing of the 
laity, e.g., Comte Rene de Maricourt, who have laboured 
for justice to the maligned Borgia. Will these astonishingly 
inconsistent persons prefer to believe the opinion of an 
atheist, who was incidentally a man of common sense? It 
is Voltaire who, in speaking of Guicciardini's statement, 
(that the Lord Alexander P.P. VI was the victim of venom 
which He had set for his cardinals, that, having killed 
them. He might take their treasure,) says, 

" All the enemies of the Holy See have welcomed this horrible anec- 
dote. I myself do not believe it at all ; and my chief reason lies in its 
extreme improbability. It is evident that the envenoming of a dozen 


The Roaring Blaze 

cardinals at supper would have caused the Father and the son ^ to become 
so execrable, that nothing could have saved them from the fury of the 
Roman people, and of the whole of Italy. Such a crime never could have 
been concealed. Even supposing that it had not been avenged by all 
Italy leagued together, it was directly contrary to the interests of Cesare 
(detto) Borgia. The Pope was on the verge of the grave. The Borgia 
faction was powerful enough to elect one of its own creatures : was it likely 
that the votes of cardinals would be gained by envenoming a dozen of 
them ? I make bold to say to Guicciardini, ' Europe has been deceived 
by you, and you have been deceived by your feelings. You were the enemy 
of the Pope; you have followed the advice of your hatred. It is true that 
He had used vengeance cruel and perfidious, against foes perfidious and 
cruel as Himself. Hence you conclude that a Pope of the age of seventy- 
two years could not die a natural death. You maintain, on vague rumour, 
that an aged sovereign, whose coffers at that time contained more than a 
million of gold ducats," desired to envenom several cardinals that He 
might seize their treasures. But were these treasures so important ? The 
treasures of cardinals nearly always were removed by their gentlemen before 
the Popes could seize them. Why do you think that so prudent a Pope 
cared to risk the doing of so very infamous a deed for so very small a 
gain ; a deed that could not be done without accomplices ; and that 
sooner or later must have been discovered ? May I not trust the official 
accounts of the Pope's sickness, more than the mere rumours of the mob ? 
That official account declares the Pope to have died of a double-tertian 
fever. There is not the slightest vestige of proof in favour of the accusa- 
tion which you have brought against His memory. His son Borgia ^ 
happened to fall sick at the time when his Father died. That is the sole 
foundation for the story of the venom.' " 

It will appear that the death of the Lord Alexander 
P.P. VI, from venom, is improbable. It may also be said 
that it was impossible, for reasons here forthcoming. 

TV* w w . 

1 M. de Voltaire speaks of Duke Cesare (detto Borgia) as "the son." 
_ 2 Ducato d'oro = half a guinea with four times its purchasing power. A 
milUon of gold ducats would equal ;^2,ooo,ooo sterling. 

3 M. de Voltaire speaks of Duke Cesare (detto Borgia) as the Pope's son ; 
and of the Pope as Duke Cesare's Father. 


The Legend of the Borgia Venom 

One of the stock phrases used by biographers and historians 
of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries was "he (or she) 
— died in the odour of sanctity." Another was "he (or 
she) — died not without suspicion of venom." Both phrases 
are the merest expression of private opinion, the importance 
of which depends upon the integrity and knowledge of the 
user : but in no case do they amount to a dogmatic, final, 
infallible, or authoritative, decision. 

When a person is said to have departed this life in the 
odour of sanctity, (a purely technical phrase, insusceptible 
of literal translation,) sooner or later the process of eccle- 
siastical law is begun for obtaining for the deceased the 
successive titles, Venerable Servant of God, tJie Blessed — , 
and Saint — . These titles, only being conferred after 
stringent examination of quality lasting many years and 
sometimes many centuries,^ are taken to prove the pious 
opinion "died in the odour of sanctity" to have been 
founded on a verity. 

But when a person is said to have died " not without 
suspicion of venom," it is very rarely that steps are taken, 
juridically to examine that suspicion with a view to proving 
it to be founded on fact or falsehood. The world 
deliberately prefers to believe the worst of man, deliberately 
prefers suspicion. The expression in the Fifteenth and 
Sixteenth Centuries was as randomly and as inconsequently 

^ The Venerable Servant of God, King yElfred the Great of England, has 
not yet been styled " The Blessed." Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of 
England under Henry VIII Tudor, only was admitted to the rank of "The 
Blessed" in 1886, by the Lord Leo P.P. XIII. He now publicly may be 
invoked by name, and his portraits decorated by a halo., 


The Legend of the Borgia Venom 

used as the cry for a General Council, by every one who 
found occasion to go "against the government"; and it 
certainly does not command respect by reason of its 
absurdly frequent repetition. It was the fashion for their 
enemies to accuse the Borgia of compassing the death of 
some by venom. It was also the fashion for the Borgia to 
retort upon their enemies in the same formula. There can 
be no human doubt that the Borgia and their enemies 
would have envenomed each the other, had they known 
how to do so with security and certainty. It was a habit 
of the Latin Races to see no distinction between venom 
and steel when the idea was to get rid of a foe. Cold 
northern nations, the English in particular, always have 
had a horror of venom, preferring boots, fists, bullet, or 
blade ; indeed one of the most hideous penances ordained 
by English and Post- Reformation law was awarded to 
criminals who had envenomed the lieges. They were 
boiled alive. "This year, the XVII March, was boy led in 
Smithfield one Margaret Davis, a maiden which had 
poisoned three households that she dwelled in." (Wrio- 
thesley's Chronicle, 1542.) 

Perhaps to this habit, of regarding the use of venom as 
so horrible a crime, is due the fascination which those, 
who are supposed to have attained high eminence in 
its practice, have for Englishmen. Undoubtedly, Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI and Duke Cesare de Valentinois della 
Romagna are regarded as having been artists in venom, 
possessing knowledge far surpassing that of modern 
alchymists. They are believed to have envenomed their 
foes, named and unnamed, by the score ; and, at last, to 
have fallen into the pit that they have digged for others. 

Of the cases named, Cardinal Giovanni Borgia (detto 
Giuniore), the Sultan Djim, and Cardinal Orsini, are the 
most important. The improbability in the case of the 
first already has been shewn : Duke Cesare and he were 
friendly ; their interests were asymptotic ; and they were 
apart during the seventeen days before the cardinal died. 
The improbability in the case of the Sultan Djim lies in 
the fact that the Pope lost 40,000 ducats annually, and the 
only means of keeping the Turks from Christendom, by 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

his death which was due to natural causes, and took place 
when he was in the hands of the Christian King 
Charles VIII at Naples, some weeks after he had left 
Rome. The improbability in the case of Cardinal Orsini 
is proved by the tainted source from which the charge 
emanated ; by the publicity of all proceedings before and 
after his death ; and by the sworn testimony of his leeches. 
Cases of this kind must be considered together ; and 
rejected or accepted together ; for rumours do not gain 
credibility from vociferous repetition : nor does it avail to 
plead that because advantages accrue from the death of 
such a one, therefore, the person benefited by the death is 
likely to have envenomed the deceased. Death is always 
advantaofeous to some one livino^ : but in no case named did 
the Lord Alexander P.P. VI and Duke Cesare reap any 
gain whatever, but contrariwise loss. As for the statement, 
that the venom of the Borgia was a slow venom, slow in 
action, dirigible in absence, it safely may be said that no 
such venom existed then any more than it does now. 

This slow venom is an invention of purveyors of a 
certain class of fiction, doing vast credit to their imagina- 
tive powers, but possessing no tangible existence. These 
writers of fiction are merchants who must supply their 
customers with goods upon demand. The Legend of the 
Borgia Venom is a department of their trade. The public 
has read it and cried for more according to the sample. The 
public is pleased to amuse itself. At other times the public has 
the humour to inform itself ; and takes spiritual pastors, and 
masters, cunning in all learning, in all verities of past and 
present. From these, the truth is required for mental 
profit ; from the others invention and imagination for mental 
recreation. The public pays and has the right to choose 
what it will buy. A grocer, who would venture to supply 
pickles instead of pepper ordered, would encounter his 
patron's discontent. A teacher, who would venture to 
purvey fiction instead of fact required, would meet with 
similar disaster, one would think. But in sober earnest, 
the Legend of the Borgia Venom so very industriously has 
been propagated, that modern serious writers have adopted 
it as one of the items which safely may be included in their 


The Legend of the Borgia Venom 

serious writings : and the public finding it there, in places 
where truth is expected to be, looks upon the false as true 
because it comes with the imprimatur of authority. 

Herr Eugene Burckhardt's very learned modern work, 
The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, of which an 
English Translation is accessible, is a case in point. It 
purports to be gravely written, and is a mine of accurate 
information. Yet, among continuous ropes of pearls of 
wisdom, occasionally one is startled by the discovery of a 
bead so base, that one wonders how it has escaped detection 
and damnation. Here is an example, 

" Strictly speaking, as we are now discussing phases of Italian civiliza- 
tion, this pontificate (1492-1503) might be passed over, since the Borgia 
are no more Italian than the House of Naples. Alexander spoke Spanish 
in public with Caesar ; Lucrezia at her entry into Ferrara, where she wore 
a Spanish costume, was sung to by Spanish Buffoons : their confidential 
servants consisted of Spaniards, as did most of the ill-famed company of 
the troops of Caesar in the war of 1500; and even his Hangman Don 
Michelotto, and his Poisoner Sebastian Pinzon, seem to have been of the 
same nation." 

That is a specimen of the slipshod way in which serious 
writers are false to their trust, of the half-truths which they 
make to serve for the truth about the Borgia. It is exceed- 
ingly necessary to lay great stress upon the Spanish origin 
of the Borgia, lest odium undeserved should light on their 
adopted country Italy. They were very fine examples of 
their race : but never let it be forgotten that their vices, 
(for, being men, they had their vices) were Spanish and 
not Italian vices. Herr Burckhardt does well to emphasize 
this fact, and to enrich and illuminate it with a wealth of 
illustration : but when he comes to speak of Don Michelotto 
as Duke Cesare's Hangman, and of Sebastian Pinzon as his 
Poisoner, with the light and easy freedom which one uses 
in speaking of "the unquestioned things that are"; then 
one is compelled to conjure up the horrible and fantastic 
picture of the Generalissimo of the Pontifical Army stalking 
about the continent of Europe with an official Hangman 
and an official Poisoner in his entourage. Don Michelotto 
was a captain of Duke Cesare's condottieri, a valued con- 
fidential servant, perhaps, on sudden occasion, as at Sini- 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

gaglia, his executeur des hautes oeuvres : but never a pro- 
fessional Hano-man. And Sebastian Pinzon ? Is it to be 
believed that Duke Cesare — for this really is what Herr 
Burckhardt's amazing statement implies — did so much 
venenation in the way of business, that it was as necessary 
to have a Lord High Poisoner attached to his staff as a 
Groom of the Stola or a Clerk of the Hanaper?^ The 
thing is absurd ; worthy of comic opera, not of serious 
history. But the origin of Herr Burckhardt's error shall be 

Giustiniani the Orator of Venice, to whom the Borgia 
were intensely antipathetic, and who neglected no oppor- 
tunity of relating rumours detrimental to them, sent to his 
government a dispatch dated the twentieth of July 1502, 
stating, that the Most Illustrious Lord Giambattista Ferrari, 
Cardinal-Presbyter of the Title of San Crisogono, vulgarly 
called the Cardinal of Modena, had died ; that, in accord- 
ance with his testament, his gfoods and benefices had been 
distributed ; that his archbishopric of Capua had been given 
to the young and lusty Lord Cardinal- Prince Ippolito 
d'Este (now of the age of twenty-four years and a person 
of fashion ;) that his bishopric of Modena had been given 
to his brother ; that the greater part of his goods had been 
given to his secretary Messer Sebastiano Pinzoni ; that this 
last bequest was called "the price of blood" for the secre- 
tary had envenomed his master, to have his goods ; that 
the Pope had endowed the said secretary with a canonry in 
Padua, the prefecture of Sant' Agata in Cremona, a benefice 
in Rome, another in Mantua valued at five hundred ducats, 
and had received him inter familiares. 

Now there is no word in that dispatch which implicates 
Duke Cesare. We learn that Messer Sebastiano Pinzoni, 
secretary to the Cardinal of Modena, was said, by rumour, 
to have envenomed his master in order to profit thereby ; 
and also that the said secretary had been patronised by the 
Lord Alexander P.P. VI. That is all. It would be un- 
pleasant to think of the P^ope's Woliness as the patron of a 
murderer : yet that would be the obvious conclusion, if the 

^ The Clerk of the Hanaper is the domestic in charge of the great gallon 
goblet called the hanaper. 


The Legend of the Borgia Venom 

matter ended here. But it does not. There is further 
record of Messer Sebastian© Pinzoni, which makes it clear 
that his crime at first was unknown to the Pope ; and that 
on its discovery he was forced to take refuge in flight. It 
is Monsio^nor Burchard who records in his Diarum under 
date Wednesday the twentieth of November 1504, that the 
Ruota (the supreme secular tribunal of the Holy Roman 
Church) delivered sentence against Sebastiano Pinzoni, 
Apostolic Scribe, who was contumacious and absent, 
depriving him of all benefices and offices, for that he had 
slain with venom the Lord Cardinal of Modena his patron 
who had raised him from the dunghill.^ Ciacconi says that 
the Cardinal of Modena was envenomed by Sebastiano 
Pinzoni, his gentleman-of-the-bedchamber ; who, being 
imprisoned on another charge in the reign of the Lord 
Leo P.P. X, when put to the Question, confessed this crime, 
which he before had denied. 

Let it be admitted that Sebastiano Pinzoni envenomed 
his master, then. But Herr Burckhardt brings no evidence 
to prove that he was connected with Duke Cesare ; nor is 
it established that he was employed by His Excellency in 
any capacity, private, or official. But every crime of every 
criminal in the Borgian Era is attributed to Borgia as a 
matter of course ; and Herr Burckhardt, writing serious 
history, introduces fiction, and passes off Sebastiano Pinzoni 
as Duke Cesare's Poisoner ! 

To turn from the historian to the novelist will afford a 
little recreation in this quest of the Venom of the Borgia ; 
and, also, the diversion will not be unprofitable : for the 
novelist is an exceedingly important person by reason that 
he commands an infinitely wider audience than the historian, 
and influences, forms, or moulds, an infinitely larger section 
of opinion. M. Alexandre Dumas in his Crimes Celebres 
has much to say about the Borgia. Knowing, as a practised 

1 " Mercurii xx Nov. fuit data sententia in Rota, contra Sebastianum 
Pinzonum, scriptorum apostolicum, absentem ob contumaciam, privationis 
omnium beneficiorum et officiorum " (interesting to notice that, in the reign of 
the Lord Julius P.P. II, the eternal enemy of Borgia, a convict on the capital 
charge was merely ruined, and not sentenced to death;) ''pro quod eo dominum 
cardinalem Mutinensem patronum suum veneno interemisset, qui eum de 
stercore eximerat." 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

hand, that the best fiction is that which has a substratum of 
fact and an air of truth, M. Dumas quotes the precious 
Messer Paolo Giovio and his Cantarella which already has 
been mentioned here. Further, with a wealth of "corro- 
borative detail calculated to o-ive verisimilitude to an other- 
wise bald and unconvincing narrative," he describes the 
preparation c^f a liquid venom which, he says, the Borgia 
used. A bear was caucrht and made to swallow a strong" 
dose of arsenic. When this began to take effect, the bear 
was suspended by his hind-legs head-downward ; and in- 
continent he would fall into convulsions, while from his 
throat there poured a copious deadly stream of foam, which 
was collected on a silver plate, bottled in vials hermetically 
sealed ; and this was the liquid Venom of the Borgia. 

There were plenty of bears in the Apennines, perhaps, 
even in the Alban Hills within twenty miles of Rome; so 
the bear is probable enough. Having caught his bear, 
Duke Cesare would convey him to the Vatican — a large 
palace truly, but rather too full of people to be desirable as 
a private venom-factory. On a dark night in a lonely 
courtyard, the Pope's Holiness and the Duke's Excellency 
would administer the arsenic to the bear. The method of 
administration is not described, nor the slinging up of the 
beast prior to his convulsions, nor the picture of the aged 
Pontiff skipping round with the silver plate in His solicitude 
that no drop of the fluid should be lost, nor the solemn 
bottling of the vials, nor their hermetic sealing with what 
seal } The Ring of the Fisherman '^ And M. Dumas 
carefully omits to say that the nasty mess so secretly 
and arduously obtained would have been far less venomous 
than the original dose of arsenic ; which, administered 
neat, without the intervention of an ill-used bear, certainly 
would have slain : but which would be deprived of most, if 
not of all, of its venomous potency, by its submission to the 
digestive processes of M. Dumas' improbable and impos- 
sible bear. 

* # * 

Undoubtedly, there were the same venomous substances 
in and on this earth in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth 
Centuries, as there are now : some few were known ; but 


The Legend of the Borgia Venom 

many more, and these the most sure and deadly, were not 
even dreamed of, e.g., strychnine, prussic acid, or the hideous 
bacilH, accessible as dust to any Twentieth-Century medico 
who, on the sole condition that he is not instigated by 
criminal motives, with perfect security to himself can 
envenom and slay a street, a district, or a city. In the year 
1 1 64, Abd-el-Mumin-ben-Ali the Moorish King of Spain 
chased from his dominions all Jews and Christians who 
refused the faith of Islam. Among these, to Egypt went 
the celebrated Moses ben-Maimon. All that was known, 
he knew ; and he knew sixteen venoms ; litharge, verdigris, 
opium, arsenic, spurge or milk-wort, cashew-nut, hemlock, 
henbane, stramonium or thorn-apple, hemp, mandrake, 
venomous fungi, plantain, black-nightshade or felon-wort, 
belladonna, and cantharides. To these, were added in the 
Borgian Era four centuries later, the tri-sulphite of arsenic, 
orpiment, antimony, corrosive sublimate, aconite or wolfs- 
bane or monkshood, and perhaps white hellebore, and 
black or Christmas-Rose ; making two and twenty sub- 
stances known to be venomous. 

Undoubtedly, much damage might be done with this 
arsenal of venoms : but only in the event of the existence 
of the will to use them, and of the knowledge of the method 
of their exhibition. 

Undoubtedly, there was the will. The fact that 
Madonna Caterina Sforza Riario (author of a wonderful 
collection of recipes, domestic and medicinal, a good house- 
wife as well as witch and warrior,) was said to have 
attempted the envenoming of the Pope's Holiness, as 
described in Book II, speaks for the fact that venom was 
feared, and therefore likely to be used. Governments 
experimented with venoms : for what purpose, who can tell } 
M. Lamanshy published an interesting document dated 
1432 which he found in the Venetian Secret Archives.^ 
" Trial has been made, on three porcine animals, of 
certain venoms, found in the chancery, sent very long ago 
from Vicenza, which have been proved not to be good." 

I " Fuit facta proba, in tribus animalibus porcinis, de aliquibus venenis, 
repertis in cancelleria, missis perantea a Vincencia, qua reperta sunt non esse 
bona." (Secrets de 1' Etat de Venise, Petersburg, 1884, p. 6.) 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Undoubtedly, there was the will. Undoubtedly, also, 
there was not the ability. 

Jf, M, Jt, 

W T? TV* 

Strange and paradoxical though it may seem to be, 
alchymical knowledge, alchymical art, was in a lower con- 
dition during the years succeeding the Renascence of 
Learnino-, than it had been in the Middle Ao-es, the so-called 
Dark Ages, which had gone before. The Dark Ages were 
the ages of Simples. The Age of the Renascence was the 
age of Compounds. And, in those compounds, virtue was 
changed, or lost, by sublimation, by distillation, or annulled 
by heterogeneous admixture. The following will make this 

In the Dark Ages, medicaments were made from single 
herbs exhibited in the form of draughts, poultices, lotions, 
or unguents. The old herbaries of Dioskorides, or of 
Appulejus, were used as text-books ; and a few extracts 
from these will be curious, perhaps valuable, certainly a 
help to understanding. 

(a) The herb Betony or Bishopwort {Betonica 
officinalis) must be gathered in August without the 
help of iron, the mould shaken from the roots, and 
dried in the shade. When triturated, two drachms 
of it, mixed with hot beer or wine or honey, is 
an antidote to venom, a digestive, a cure for 
hydrophobia, constipation, toothache, and prevents 
monstrous nocturnal visitors, or frightful sights 
and dreams. A lotion, made from the herb seethed 
in fresh water till two-thirds are evaporated, cures 
broken-head, epistaxis, fatigue, and rupture ; or the 
leaves may be used as a poultice. (As a matter of 
fact, Betony is intoxicating, emetic, and purgative.) 
(/3) The herb Vervain or Ashthroat ( Verbena officinalis) 
must be pounded as a poultice for wounds and 
carbuncles. It is an antidote to all venoms, and 
dogs may not bark at him who bears it. 
(7) The herb Clovewort {Ranimctilus acris), wreathed 
with red thread on the neck during the waning of 
the April or October moon, cures lunacy. 
(S) The herb Mugwort {^Artemisia dracuftcztlus), pounded 


The Legend of the Borgia Venom 

to an unguent with well-boiled olive-oil, will make 
strained sinews supple. (This is excellent.) 

(f) The herb Ravensleek [Orchis, '2aTvpiov) will cure 
sore eyes when they are smeared with its juice. 

(^) The herb Watercress [Nasturtium officinale) will 
with its juice stop hair from falling. 

(tj) The herb Madder [Rtibia tinctorid) as a poultice 
cures sciatica. 

(0) The herb Clover ( Tri/olium pratense) prevents him 
who carries it from suffering sore jaws. 

(t) The herb Rosemary {Ros?narinus officinalis) is good 
for the teeth. 

(k) The herb Rue {Ruta grave a lens), eaten green is an 
antifat ; a twig stops nose-bleeding ; macerated in 
vinegar and soused on the brow induces forget- 
fulness. Recommended for priests who wish to 
observe their vow of continence. 

(X) The herb Dwarfdwostle or Pennyroyal [Mentha 
pulegizim), as unguent, cures sea-sickness ; as a 
salve, or burned as incense, cures fever and belly- 

(ju) The herb Sage [Salvia), as a lotion, cures itch. 

(v) The herb Marjoram [Origanum vulgare), steeped 
in vinegar, cures headache, or may be chewed for 
a cough. 

if) The herb Foxglove [Digitalis purpurea), as a 
poultice, cures sores and pimples, 'ipTTr\q. (Its 
venomous principle appears to be unknown.) 

(o) The herb Wildthyme or Shepherdspurse [Thymus 
campestris) will remove all inward foulness by the 
drinking of its ooze. 

(tt) The herb Violet ( Viola odorata), made into an 
unguent with lard or honey, cures wounds. 

(/o) The herb Wildgourd [Cuctunis colocynthus, KoXoKwOog 
aypia), its inward neshness pounded in lithe beer 
without the churnels, will stir the inward. 

Those are Simples, i.e., medicaments derived from 
single herbs, easily come-by, within the reach of all ; 
suited to a simple, but by no means silly, race of men 
content with simple things, gifted with faith and sense, 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

and unconcerned to dive below the surface and explore, or 
experiment with, nature's sacrosanct arcana. 

The Renascence of Learning, when the works of ancient 
writers were rediscovered, devoured, put in practice, filled 
men's minds with new ideas, and completely changed their 
point of view. 

TAe Most Salubrious Precepts of Medicine written by 
Ouintus Serenus Sermonicus in the Third Century ; the 
Thirty Seven Books of Natu7'al History by C. Plinius 
Secundus (Pliny Senior) which first saw light in a.d. "j"] ; 
the eighty-three Treatises of Claudius Galenus, (a.d. 130- 
200); the thirty-four chapters of \\\^ Animal Medicaments 
which Sextus Placitus wrote in the Fourth Century after 
the Incarnation ; the eight books of Alexandros of Tralles 
in Lydia, On Medicine, first given to the world in the 
Sixth Century ; — these were the keys that opened the door 
of speculation to the alert and eager men of the Fifteenth 
Century, already intoxicated by the glorious Discovery of 

Weird and wonderful effects were produced by this 
Hood of knowledge. Weird and wonderful were the new 
significances given to natural things, the combinations of 
natural objects projected, the doctrines evolved from 
observation of natural phenomena. The study of nature 
became a sacred thing, reserved for the reverent and wise. 
Its followers were called magi, or magicians ; their pursuit 
was magic. The magical art was either white or black, 
for the good or ill of men. Great and holy personages 
practised white magic : the black was damned by the 
Church, and the bare suspicion of its practice sufficed to 
burn. The Lord Alexander P.P. VI distinguished Himself 
by His severity to the black magi. White magic included 
the art of healing ; divination by cheiromancy, amniomancy, 
lithomancy, astrology, and also experimented to find out the 
hidden properties and virtues of all things strange, as 
well as common. It was a vast field for research ; and the 
men who walked therein were just like boys, eager, 
sensible, ardent, inexperienced, ready to assume and take 
for crranted. 


The Legend of the Borgia Venom 

A most eminent mage was Messer Eurico Cornelio 
Agrippa. During the pontificate of the Lord Alexan- 
der P.P. VI he wrote his learning in a book which he 
called The Book of Occult Philosophy. In the year 1510 
he shewed his work to a friend, the celebrated Abbot 
Trithemius, who was charmed with it, added to it, and 
advised Messer Eurico to impart it to the elect alone. 
The advice apparently was taken ; for the book was not 
published till 1531. The mage largely dealt with kabba- 
listic writing, giving various mysterious alphabets for use 
in magical recipes. He set forth the sigils planets and 
planet-signs of certain archangels, patrons of the days of 
the week, Michael, Gabriel, Samael, Raphael, Sachael, 
Anael, Cassiel, with their proper perfumes, red wheat, 
aloes, pepper, mastic, saffron, pepperwort, sulphur. He 
placed great importance on charms and periapts or 

" St. Thomas Aquinas," he wrote, " that holy Doctor, in his Book De 
Fato saith that even Garments, Buildings, and other artificial Works 
whatsoever, do receive a certain Qualification from the Stars : and 
Magicians affirm that, not only by the Mixture and Application of natural 
Things, but also in Images, Seals, Rings, Glasses, and some other Instru- 
ments, being opportunely framed under a certain Constellation, some 
celestial illustration may be taken, and some wonderful thing may be 

This being his idea, it is not surprising to find him 
prescribing for the reduction of an intermittent fever, the 
following charm of Ouintus Serenus Sermonicus to be 
written on parchment and worn round the neck : 




































































Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

or, as a protection against evil spirits and dangers of journey, 
water, enemy, or arms, the beginning and end of the first 
five verses of Genesis : 

nmn nnoi: 

written on virgin parchment, or on most pure gold, back 
and front, with an ink made of the smoke, of incense, or 
of consecrated wax-tapers, mixed with holy-water. This 
charm also must be worn round the neck, and its efficacy 
is conditional upon the belief of the wearer in God the 
Creator of All. 

Men of the Borgian Era knew that the tail of an ibex, 
dried with its flesh and skin and worn about the person, 
would ward off magic unless the wearer should consent 
thereto. This they learned from St. Hildegard's treatise 
De Aniinalibus. They knew that the herb Heliotrope or 
Turnsole {^Heliotropion Eziropaeuni), placed under the 
pillow of a man who has been robbed, will bring him a 
vision of the thief and his spoil ; and that, when it was set 
up in a church, unfaithful wives would be unable to go 
away until it was removed. Their faith in the virtue of 
gems was very precious ; and chiefly derived from the 
physician Alexandros of Tralles. A cockatrice engraved 
on green jasper preserved from the Evil Eye. A metal 
cross tied on the left arm cured epilepsy. A live spider 
tied in a rag on the same arm cured ague. A metal ring, 
engraved with the sacred tau X (the ""Mark on the Fore- 
head''), also freed from epilepsy. A ring, set with ass-hoof, 
cured d^wa/xla. A ring, carved with a council of ravens for 
Apollo, conferred conjugal joy and the gift of clear-seeing. 
A brownish-yellow jacinth gave sleep. An agate, carved 
with St. John the Divine, protected from venom. Oriental 
jasper or heliotrope (blood-stone), engraved with a youth 
wearing a necklace of herbs, when anointed with marigold 
juice, conferred invisibility. A copper ring, figured with 
a lion, a crescent, and a star, and worn on the fourth finger, 
cured calculus. Amethyst kept the wearer sober, and a 
papal bull ordained it for episcopal rings. Coral delivered 
from incubi and succubi. Herakles strangling the lion of 
Nemea, carved on a honey-coloured sard, cured colic. 


The Legend of the Borgia Venom 

Carnelian carved with a Hermes Psuchopompos gave 
cheerfulness and courage. A man might live as long as 
he liked if he looked at a presentment of St. Christopher 
(the Christian Herakles) every day.^ The toad-stone or 
bufonite (the fossil palatal tooth of the ray-fish Pycnodus) 
when set in a ring was a most potent periapt against black 
magic. In the University Galleries at Oxford, No. 691, there 
is a splendid specimen of a double-toad-stone ring ; i.e., 
the stones are set outward on opposite sides of the ring so 
that the one always touches the closed hand, while the 
other is free to dismay a magical enemy. 

Cheiromancy was expounded by Messer Andrea Corvo 
da Carpi, whose deeply religious little treatise adorned with 
diagrams was published at Venice in 1500. 

But the chief of the men of science of the Borgian Era 
was Messer Giambattista della Porta of Naples. Born in 
1445, dying in 15 15, he was an exact contemporary of 
Borgia. What he did not know of natural science, no other 
man of his epoch knew. His house in Naples was a resort 
of literary and scientific men of every nation. He estab- 
lished public and private academies of science in all 
directions, the chief of which were Gli Ozioni of Naples 
and one called II Secreti which met in his own house, and 
to which no mao^e was admitted unless he had made some 
new and notable discovery of natural phenomena. This 
was the academy whose name and air of mystery excited 
intense ecclesiastical suspicion at Rome, which by hinting 
at black magic procured the order to close the meetings of 
the mages. 

Messer Giambattista della Porta was a copious writer. 
He gave to the world a treatise On Physiognomy, in which 
he judges men's characters by comparing their faces to 
those of certain beasts ; and a diffuse and learned work on 
cyphers, De Occultis Literium Notis. His great work, how- 
ever, was The Book of Natural Magic. He says that he 
began it in 1460, when he barely was of the age of fifteen 
years ; — these were the precocious times when Messer 
Giovanni de Medici was a Lord Cardinal at thirteen and 

1 " Christophori sancti faciem qiiicunque iudur 
Ilia ncmpc die mala niortc non vioridur." 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Prince Gioffredo- Borgia of Squillace a married man and 
captain of condottieri at fourteen ; — and thirty-five years 
later in 1495, by the help of that lusty young Maecenas the 
Lord Cardinal Prince Ippolito d'Este, he published the 
matured work from which the following recipes are taken. 

Very few English people realize the doctrine of 
Sympathy and Antipathy ; or admit that Attraction and 
Repulsion are Primary Forces. "I do not love thee, 
Doctor Fell, the reason why I cannot tell," says the 
Enolishman, and worries to find that reason instead of 
recognising the Law. " She is simpatica and he is anti- 
paticissimo," says an Italian, stating and admitting a natural 
law. Messer Giambattista della Porta is very clear on the 
point of Antipathy, which he illustrates by saying that Vine 
and Colewort are natural enemies, because Colewort cures 
drunkenness ; that Rue and Hemlock are natural enemies, 
because Hemlock heals blisters raised by Rue : as well as 
on the point of Sympathy which he illustrates by saying 
that a wild bull, tethered to a fig-tree, will become tame 
and gentle ; and a dog, laid to a diseased part of a man's 
body, will absorb the disease. 

He says that beasts have knowledge all their own : that 
ravens use ivy, eagles use maidenhair, herons use carrots, 
on their nests as natural preservatives against enchant- 
ments : that cats eat grass, and pigeons pellitory, for their 
ailments : that lions with quartan agues eat apes, that dim- 
eyed hawks eat sow-thistle, that serpents rejuvenate on 
fennel, and that partridges eat leeks to clear their voices. 

To prove that he has not gone about the world with 
eyes closed, he remarks that mice are generated of putre- 
faction, frogs of rotten dust and ra^n, red toads of dirt and 
icaTajU)yi/m, and serpents of the hair of horses' manes or of a 
dead man's back-marrow. 

He advises the creation of new animals by cross- 
breeding ; a hunting dog, of a mastiff and a lioness or 
tigress ; a trick dog, of a bitch and an ape ; and birds with 
delicious flesh for gourmets, of a cock and a peahen, or of a 
cock pheasant and a plain hen. His method of making a 
bird sociable and friendly is quaint and unique. He says 
that, before the creature has got its feathers, you must 


The Legend of the Borgia Venom 

break off its lower beak even to the jaw. Then, having 
not the wherewithal to peck up food, it must come to its 
master to be fed. 

He advocates the creation of new fruits which sound 
most daintily, by grafting a mulberry on a chestnut tree, a 
peach on a nut, a quince on a pear, a citron on an apple, 
and a cherry on a bay. He advises the making of bread 
with dates and walnuts ; and of wine with quinces. 

He will make precious stones — a jacinth by putting lead 
into an earthen pot, and setting it in a glass-maker's furnace 
until the lead is vitrified : or an emerald by dissolving silver 
in aqua-fortis, casting in plates of copper to which the com- 
position will adhere, drying the plates in the sun, setting 
them in an earthen pot for some days in a glass-maker's 

He says that green and merry dreams may be procured 
by eating balm, or bugloss, or bows of poplar ; and black 
and melancholy dreams by eating beans, lentils, onions, 
garlic, leeks. 

He will cure toothache with roots of pellitory or of 
herbane, bruised. For the care of the teeth he recommends 
a wash made of leaves of mastic, rosemary, sage, and 
bramble, macerated in Greek wine, {i.e., a strong rich wine 
grown in dry volcanic soil :) or a tooth-powder made of 
barley bread-crumbs browned with salt. But his recipe for 
white and pearly teeth is a master-piece. 

" Take three handfuls each of flowers and leaves of sage, nettle, rose- 
mary, mallov/, olive, plantain, and rind of walnut roots ; two handfuls each 
of rock-rose {Kia-rog), horehound, bramble-tops ; a pound of flower and 
half a pound of seed of myrtle ; two handfuls of rose buds ; two drachms 
each of sandal-wood, coriander, and citron-pips ; three drachms of cinna- 
mon ; ten drachms of cypress nuts ; five green pine-cones ; two drachms 
each of mastic and Armenian bole or clay. Reduce all these to powder. 
Infuse them in sharp black wine. Macerate them for three days. Slightly 
press out the wine. Put them in an alembic and distil them on a gentle 
fire. Boil the distillation till two ounces of alum is dissolved in it. Keep 
in a close-stopped vial : and, for use, fill the mouth with the lotion, and 
rub the teeth with a finger wrapped in fine linen." 

An excellent specimen this, of a Compound as distin- 
guished from a Simple ; of the sophistication, and of the 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

meticulous personal cleanliness, of people of the Borgian 

To cure a man of Envy, says this mage, keep him in 
the fresh air, hang carbuncles and jacinths and sapphires 
on his neck, let him wear a ring made of ass-hoof and smell 
to hyssop and sweet lilies. 

Messer Giambattista Porta's ninth Book teaches how to 
make women beautiful. There was a fashion which con- 
tinued the forehead to the middle of the skull ; and a 
depilatory is recommended made of quicklime four ounces, 
and orpiment two ounces, boiled until a hen's feather dipped 
into it is bared. This frightful compound must not long 
remain on the skin ; and the burns should be dressed with 
the gum of aspen-bark {Populus Trejiiiila) and oil of roses 
or of violets. Or, hair may be removed by fomentation 
with hot water, plucking out with nippers one by one, 
and anointing the holes with a saturated solution of 
saltpetre, or with oil of brimstone or vitriol, the process 
being repeated once a year. Where hair is only thin and 
downy, the roots of wild hyacinth rubbed on will keep it 

To dye the hair yellow, (in imitation of Madonna 
Lucrezia Borgia, whose beautiful yellow hair was much 
admired,) add enough honey to soften the lees of white wine 
and keep the hair wet with this all night. Then bruise 
roots of celandine and greater-clivers-madder, mix them 
with oil of cummin seed, box-shavings, and saffron ; and 
keep this on the head for four and twenty hours, when it 
should be washed off with a lye of cabbage-stalks and ashes 
of rye-straw. 

To make the hair grow it should be washed in the 
liquid that first distils from honey by the fire : or it should 
be anointed with an unguent made of marsh-mallow bruised 
in hog's grease, boiled long in wine, added to bruised 
cummin-seed, mastic, yolk of ^%'g, boiled again, and strained 
through linen. 

To make hair thick and curly, boil maidenhair with 
smallage seed in wine and oil ; or roots of daffydillies, or 
dwarf-elder, boiled with wine and oil. 

Water, in which the bulbous tops of lilies have been 


The Legend of the Borgia Venom 

boiled, makes the skin fair : and corrosive sublimate and 
cerusa (white lead) makes the face white and shining. 

For sunburn, white of egg and sugar-candy on the face 
at night, washed off in barley-water in the morning, is pre- 
scribed : and a clear skin is to be had by rubbing with the 
rind or bruised seeds of melons. It will be obvious that there 
were *' plain " as well as " coloured " women in the Borgian 
Era ; i.e., those who went about their duty (of cultivating 
their charms) in a wholesome way, and those who used 
violent and nasty methods, 

Messer Giambattista della Porta appears to have used 
his science and magical art to invent " Some Sports against 
Women" ; which will show what the Borgian Era regarded 
as permissible practical jokes. He says that, if you wish 
to discover paint on a face, you must chew saffron before 
breathing on her, and incontinently she yellows : or you 
may burn brimstone near her, which will blacken mercury 
sublimate and cerusa (white-lead) : or you may chew cummin 
or garlic and breathe on her, and her cerusa or quicksilver 
will decay. But if that you yearn to dye a woman green, 
you must decoct a chameleon in her bath. 

His tenth book deals with interminable and elaborate 
processes of distillation and sublimation ; proving that what 
was said on a previous page concerning Letters and Art, 
(viz., that the habit of the time was to think all of the work- 
manship, and nothing of the material used,) was perfectly 
true of Fifteenth-Century pharmacy also. These mages 
sat and boiled their alembics and crucibles ; and distilled, 
and distilled, and sublimed, and sublimed, till the nature 
of their stuff was lost, or utterly changed, instead of 
being refined and concentrated as they vainly hoped. 
They were just like boys, eager, sensible, ardent, inex- 
perienced. They made the inevitable blunders of adven- 
turers. They committed the extravagances of human 
nature in unwonted circumstances ; and the wisdom of 
the Twentieth Century is the fruit of the fooling of the 

Messer Giambattista della Porta devotes his eleventh 
book to Perfumes ; his twelfth to the making of Greek 
Fire (from camphor, pitch, spirits and brimstone,) of gun- 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

powder, and of rockets shells and mines ; his thirteenth to 
the tempering of steel. 

His fourteenth book contains monstrous and charac- 
teristic recipes connected with meats and drinks. If you 
want to make your guests drunken, mix with their wine the 
filth of a dog's ear. If you prefer to make them mad- 
drunk, give them a camel's froth in water. If you want to 
avoid being" overcome of wine, eat leeks and saffron, wear 
garlands of roses, violets and ivy-berries, and carry an 
amethyst on your person. To keep your boy sober, before 
he has tasted wine give him the boiled eggs of an owl, to 
temper his natural heat. If you want delicately to drive 
unwelcome guests from your table, you may disgust them 
with the viands in five ways : first, a needle which has 
sewed dead men's shrouds when stuck under the table will 
cause all to loathe to eat : secondly, meat secretly peppered 
with powdered root of wake-robin [Arum maadaium) will 
fetch the skin off their mouths : thirdly, food sprinkled 
before serving with powdered leaves of cuckoo-pine {—gen. 
Aruni) will produce copious salivation : fourthly, knives and 
napkins rubbed with wildgourd juice iCucunis colocynthus, 
KoXoKwBic; dypia) will give to all they touch a horrible smack : 
lastly, harp-strings, cut small and strewed on hot meat, 
will writhe like worms ; and so you may rid your table of 
unwelcome gruests. 

If you would bone a pigeon, draw, and soak in vinegar 
for four-and-twenty hours ; then pull out the bones, wash 
well, fill with herbs and spices and roast or boil it. To 
make tender a tough capon, boil it before roasting. But, 
if you desire to give your friends much joy, entertain them 
to a goose cooked alive. In the courtyard, pluck your 
goose except her head and neck, and cover her with lard 
and suet. Build a ring of faggots round her ; not too 
narrow, lest she evade the roasting, nor too wide lest the 
smoke choke her, or the fire burn her. Inside the ring 
of faggots, on the ground occupied by your plucked and 
larded goose, place several pots of water mixed with salt 
and bearwort. Light the faggots slowly. When the 
goose begins to roast she will walk about ; but she cannot 
escape ; and you have her wings. When she grows 


The Legend of the Borgia Venom 

weary and very hot, she quenches her thirst with the 
medicated water, and cools her heart and her inward parts. 
You continually must moisten her head and her heart with 
a sponge at the end of a cane. At last, you will see her 
run incontinently up and down ; and presently stumble. 
Then she is empty, and there is no more moisture in her 
heart. Wherefore you may take her away, and set her on 
the table to your guests : she will cry when you pull off her 
pieces ; and you almost may eat her before she has died. 

The fifteenth and last book of Natural Maoric treats 
of various modes of conducting secret correspondence by 
invisible inks, writing on eggs or naked backs of drugged 
couriers, counterfeit seals and writing, messages by pigeon 
or by arrows. 

Those are the things of which a sober learned and most 
eminent physician of the Fifteenth Century seriously has 
written, and called Natural Magic. He shews the innocent 
ingenuous mind of a child rampant among new toys. 

TV" TV" 

Having shewn something of this mage's knowledge, it 
may be said, now, that, scattered about his Book of Natural 
Magic, carelessly and incidentally, there are allusions to 
certain venoms. He says : 

I . that i^dfxftXwarig may be procured by exhibiting the wine 
that Pliny calls Phthorium {^Ooptog) (Plin. 4, 16, 19, 
§ no), made from the grapes of a vine on which 
hellebore, wildgourd, and scamony have been 
grafted : 

n. that Mandrakes (KavSpayopag, Mandragora [Atropa 
Officinalis) growing by a vine, will make its grapes 
hypnotic : 

HI. that one drachm of belladonna ( — geiz. Atropa) or 
stramonium (thorn-apple, Datura stravionitmi) in 
water, (which they will infect without taste or 
smell,) " will make men mad without any hurt, so 
that it is a most pleasant spectacle to behold such 
mad whimsies and visions. It is very pleasant to 
behold. Pray make trial," he lightly says. But 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

he adds that one ounce of these drugs will make a 
man sleep four days. 

IV. that one drachm of Nightshade rind {Solanum 
nig7'2mi) in wine will give sleep ; a little more, 
madness ; a large dose, death : 

V. that Hemlock {Coiihtm maculatiini) in wine will 

cause death : 

VI. that the drachm dose of belladonna, bruised in 
wine, is good for driving away unwelcome guests. 

It will be noticed that three of these six prescriptions 
contemplate death. 

Messer Giambattista della Porta emphatically states 
that no single venom will kill all living creatures ; " for 
what is venomous to one may serve for the preservation of 
another, which comes not by reason of the quality but of 
the distinct nature." He gives a lengthy list of substances 
with the animals to which they are fatal, e.g., wolfebane 
kills wolves ; henbane, hens ; daffydillies, mice ; black 
hellebore, oxen ; white hellebore, pigeons ; ivy, bats ; 
comfrey, eagles ; pondweed, urchins ; mustard-seed, larks ; 
vine-juice, cranes ; willow, tom-tits ; pomegranate-churnels, 
falcons, vultures, sea-gulls, blackbirds ; and nux vomica, 
dogs. In regard to the last, it should be understood that 
the Fifteenth Century called fox-glove {^Digitalis purptirea) 
nux vomica ; and had not succeeded in extracting the 
vegetable alkaloid Strychnine, in its modern isolated form, 
from the Javanese Sr/auxwc mix vomica, of which it is the 
active principle. 

To complete the exposition of this typical Fifteenth- 
Century man of science, his chief Antidote to Venom is 
appended here. 

" Take three pounds of old oil and two handfuls of St. John's Wort, 
(Balm of the Warrior's Wound, hypericum.) Macerate for two months in 
the sun. Strain off the old flowers, and add two ounces of fresh. Boil 
in Balneo Mariae (a bain-marie) for six hours. Put in a close-stopped 
bottle and keep in the sun for fifteen days. During July, add three 
ounces of St. John's Wort seed which gently has been stamped and steeped 
in two glasses of white wine for three days. Add also two drachms each 
of gentian, tormentil, dittany, zedoary, and carline, (all of which must have 
been gathered in August,) sandal-wood and long-aristolochie. Gently boil 


The Legend of the Borgia Venom 

for six hours in Balneo Mariae. Strain in a press. Add to the expression 
one ounce each of saffron, myrrh, aloes, spikenard, and rhubarb, all 
bruised. Boil for a day in Balneo Mariae. Add two ounces each of 
treacle and mithridate. Boil for six hours in Balneo Mariae. And set it 
in the sun for forty days. 

" In plague, or suspicion of venom, anoint the stomach, wrists, and 
heart ; and drink three drops in wine. It will work wonders," says 
Messer Giambattista della Porta. 

^ TT W 

The pharmacy of the Renascence, to quote the confes- 
sion of the charlatan CagHostro, consisted in herbs and 
zvords, " in verbis et in herbis." 

The practice of medicine during the Borgian Era 
appears to have been entirely empirical. Physicians 
experimented on the vile body of their patient, trusting to 
luck, or chance, or faith, to work a cure. In contracts it 
was expressly stated that physicians must have the reputa- 
tion of being fortunate (felix). Chirugeons were totally 
unaware of the circulation of the blood. So much stress 
here is laid upon the art and craft and mystery of medicine 
and its exponents, because from these, and from these alone, 
the knowledge and use of venoms could be obtained ; and, 
if the blind can lead the blind without both falling into the 
same ditch, then there might be some foundation in fact for 
the legend of the Borgia Venom. But while physicians 
and chirugeons and apothecaries solemnly bought three 
little boys for a ducat each, drew off their blood and sublimed 
it into a potion to save the life of a senile pontiff; or did such 
monkey-tricks as Messer Juan de Vigo did to the Lord 
Julius P.P. II a few years later, all with quite convincing 
evidence of gravity and good faith, one must conclude that 
these mages acted according to the very best of their 
knowledge and belief; but that, in quantity as well as 
quality, their belief was vastly superior to their knowledge. 
Nardaeus says^ 

" The famous chirugeon Juan de Vigo, perceiving that an ulcer of the 
Lord Julius P.P. II became every day more stubborn, and that the Pope 
persisted in refusing all manner of remedies, hit upon a new method of 
cure : for he boiled together, in a brass kettle, for three hours, old rags 

1 in Pentade Quaest. latrophilologicarum, p. 122. Ed. Geneva 1647, quot- 
ing Juan de Vigo, Lib. H, Chirug. Tract. H, 5- 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

cut in pieces, crumbs of fine bread, plantain, and a fomentation of arsenic 
sublimed in rose-water ; after which, drying them, and applying them by 
way of powder to the wound (to which he had sworn that he would apply 
no more plaisters,) he cured the Pope in a very short time, to the admira- 
tion of all concerned." 

Infantile as was the condition of medical science in 
regard to life, it was not one jot more robust in its observa- 
tions of death. The cases of the suspicious demises of 
two cardinals, not durino- the reio^n of the Lord Alexander 
p.p. VI, but a few years later, will illustrate this. 

In 1508, during the reign of the eternal enemy of Borgia 
the Lord Julius P.P. II, a nephew of His Holiness died, 
the Lord Galeotto Franciotto della Rovere, Cardinal- 
Presbyter of the Title of San Pietro ad Vincula. And, 
says Mgr. Paris de Grassis (Burchard's inimical successor 
as Caerimonarius,^ " I saw on his face and on his body 
" such spots as seemed to be the effect of a dose of venom ; 
" and all the others formed the same opinion." 

After autopsy, the chirugeons found no venom, but 
"certain bloody spots : wherefore they judged him to have 
" died of a superfluity of blood ; and, if he had been phle- 
" botomized, he would have had no harm." 

The second case is that of the Lord Christopher Bain- 
bridge, Cardinal- Presbyter of the Title of Santa Prassede, 
and Orator of King Henry VII Tudor at the Court of the 
Lord Leo P.P. X. He died in Rome, in 1514 ; and, says 
Mgr. Paris de Grassis the Caerimonarius, "when his death 
"was ascribed to venom ( — this surely ought to prove that 
the suspicion was habit2tal, and no more appi^opriate to the 
Borgia than to any other f ability of this period, — ) " by 
" command of the Pope he was eviscerated, and it was 
"found that his heart was diseased on the right side." 

Now this Cardinal Bainbridge, whose death obviously 
was due to organic disease, has come down to posterity as 
a victim of venom ; while Cardinal Dellarovere, whose 
salma presented far more suspicious, in fact distinctly 
suspicious, symptoms, is reputed to have died a natural 
death ! 

Of all the wonderful and subtile recipes for venoms 

' Mgr. Paris de Grassis On Mgr. Hans Durchard is fine indeed ! 


The Legend of the Borgia Venom 

which are believed to have been possessed by European 
potentates about this time, only one now is accessible : but 
it is dated 1540, exactly thirty-seven years after the Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI died of his double-tertian fever. It is 
a Venetian recipe, and comes from the Secret Archives of 
the Council of Ten.^ Arsenic, antimony, orpiment, and 
aconite, are to be subjected to a long long process of pre- 
paration, similar to those wondrous stews in which Messer 
Giambattista della Porta, in company with every other 
respectable mage, had his continual joy ; and, when all is 
done, the ignorant inventor of this horrible venom says 
that he cannot guarantee its success. Why ? The dose of 
any single one of those four venomous ingredients alone 
would have been fatal. Why should their combination 
bring uncertainty ? For the simple reason that the boiling 
and the sun-baking, the sublimation and the distillation, 
which so prolongedly was practised, set up chemical change, 
reaction, decomposition, destroyed the virtue or the nature, 
and effectually altered or annulled the venomous properties 
originally possessed by the subject of so much empiricism. 
As simples, they certainly would have been veneficous. 
As compounds, they might have caused grave inconvenience. 
But, heterogeneously compounded with alien matter, boiled 
to disinteoration for weeks and months tog-ether, their effect 
surely could not be predicted. They might have been 
dangerous ; or they might not : there is no knowing. 
* # * 

There is no defined charge against the House of Borg'a 
of having compassed their enemies' deaths by means of 
venomous rings. The vulgar conception of a venomous 
ring is not unconnected with a needle-point, (or point,) 
projecting from the bezel, along which a minute drop of 
deadly venom can be made to flow ; and which pierces the 
hand that grasps it, inducing syncope and death. Or, 
another kind conceals a small box in the bezel, containing 
a tiny capsule of glass wherein venom innocuously lurks, 
until the glass is broken on the lips. 

At the Victoria and Albert Museum of South Kensing- 
ton, and at the University Galleries of Oxford, there are 

1 Lamansky. Secrets de I'Etat de Venise. Petersburg. 1884. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

very splendid collections of rings. Neither collection con- 
tains a ring having the legendary needle-point, (or point :) 
but each collection has a ring which may have been a proxi- 
mate occasion of the vulgar belief. 

N° 916 at South Kensington is a massive ring of brass, 
1 3^ inches in diameter; and has an octagonal bezel exter- 
nally armed with a quincunx of spikes. It belongs to the 
Eighteenth Century, and is of the kind worn by Bavarian 
peasant-lads on the right middle finger at the present day. 

N° 385 at Oxford is an Italian ring of the Fourteenth 
Century, of gold niello, very beautiful. The bezel projects, 
and ends in the revolving rowel of a Fiery spur. 

Both of these rings are weapons, intended hideously to 
scratch and tear an adversary's face. There is no hollow 
in them that might harbour venom ; and they are in no 
sense venomous rings according to the popular specification : 
but they are rings, — means of violence of another species — ; 
and, (men being what they are,) these rings may have 
formed the o-erm of the tradition. 

However, at Oxford and South Kensington, there were 
rings labelled Poison Rings, at the close of the Nineteenth 

N° 479 in the Fortnum Collection at Oxford, is an 
Italian ring of the Sixteenth Century, of gold, and having 
a tiny x^pov^ carved in cameo projecting from the high 
gold bezel. This bezel is hollow, pierced by two pinholes. 
Its capacity is under an eighth of a cubic inch. The hollow 
bezel may have been used to contain perfume, introduced 
through the pinholes : but it is more reasonable to conjec- 
ture that the hollow is due to a desire to economise the 
precious metal. 

N° 533 in the same collection, is a German ring of the 
Seventeenth Century, of gold, and having a large rough 
pearl set in, not on, its bezel. Minute examination with 
microscope and probe proves that there is absolutely no 
room in this ring for any venom whatever ; and that neither 
this, nor the foregoing, deserves the designation ''Poison 
Ring,'' which, however, discreetly is queried on the actual 
official labels. Apparently, the said labels purely are a 
concession to the unreasoning vulgar, who expect as a right 


The Legend of the Borgia Venom 

to find at least a specimen of venomous rings in every 
respectable museum. 

At South Kensington there is a massive ring of iron, 
plated and damascened with gold. It is Italian, of the 
Seventeenth Century, H of an inch in diameter. Its 
octagonal bezel is a tiny box having a hinged lid. This 
might have held a relic. There is no ground for supposing 
that it ever concealed venom. 

Of these three so-called Poison Rings, the South Ken- 
sington specimen, and N° 533 at Oxford, belong to a period 
at least a hundred years after the demise of the Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI and Duke Cesare (detto Borgia). Only 
N" 479 in the Fortnum Collection, by any exercise of 
imagination, can be planted in the Borgian Era. It is 
labelled " Sixteenth Century " ; and the Lord Alex- 
ander P.P. VI reigned in Rome, as God's Vicegerent, 
during the hrst two years, seven months, seventeen days, 
of that century. There is no earthly cause to connect His 
Holiness with that ring : but, for the purpose of the argu- 
ment, let it be granted that N° 479 with its cameo x^pov^ 
belonged to the Borgia Pontiff, that the hollow bezel was 
used as a receptacle for venom, and not for perfume. 
What then ? 

If the venom were a powder, the Pope's Holiness would 

have to poke it in with a pin, and close the two tiny holes 

with wax. Then, when the time came for envenoming the 

usual cardinal, He assiduously would pick out the wax, and, 

by violent jerks and shaking, induce the venom to present 

itself for application. If the venom were a liquid, 

(M. Dumas' bear-juice for example,) the same process of 

waxing up and pin-picking would be necessary. 

But there was no venom known to the Boro-ia, or to 

any other man or woman of that era, which would kill, with 

as small a dose as would go in that ring. The venoms of 

the Fifteenth Century were administered (when they were 

administered) by the drachm, or by the ounce — not by the 

grain. The recipes have been displayed here. To harbour 

a fatal dose of the known venoms, such as Messer Giam- 

battista della Porta describes, a monstrous and vast ring 

would be needed, more gigantic than those bronze-gilt antdi 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

used as credentials by the pontifical couriers of the Lord 
Pius P.P. II (1458-1464), N°^665 and 666 in the South 
Kensington Collection, two and three-eighths, and two 
inches, respectively, in diameter. The processes of brewing 
and stewing, so dear to the mages, without any doubt were 
a direct disposition of Providence for the security of human 
life ; for they effectually withdrew the sting from venomous 
substances, and made it perfectly impossible for would-be 
murderers (and they were more than many) to kill, except 
accidentally, or with enormous doses and the disadvantages 
coincident thereto. 

No doubt the Twentieth Century still has a little to 
learn. No doubt that wisdom would wait upon research 
among the mountains of documents stored in the archives 
of the Italian patriciate and baronage, Colonna, (not Orsini, 
whose papers were destroyed by fire in 1702) Savelli, 
Poplicola di Santacroce, Sforza-Cesarini, Carafa, Caietani, 
Piccolhuomini, Borgia of Milan and Velletri, etc. No 
doubt in the Vatican Secret Archives (the Lord Alex- 
ander P.P. VI left one hundred and thirteen volumes in 
large folio of His acts,) infinite fields of information are 
white for harvest. There is nothing to prevent the reaping, 
but the lack of reapers. No doors are shut. No secrets 
are reserved. "The Popes have need of nothing except 
the truth." 

Meanwhile, this only can be said. 

The empirical methods of the Borgian Era preclude the 
possibility of anything approaching artistic venenation. 

Not one of the definite accusations against the Borgia 
have been proved. On the contrary they are shewn to lack 
valid foundation. 

There is no authentic evidence regarding the Venom 
that the Borgia are said to have employed. 

In fact, there was no Venom of the Borgia. 



Pontifex Maximus Alexander VI et Princeps 

In reviewing the Pontificate of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI 
notice must be taken of the fashion which represents Him 
as having been in continual fear of deposition on account 
of the simony by which He is alleged to have bought the 
papal power. It already has been shewn that no law 
existed, which made simony an annulment of election 
to ecclesiastical benefices, until the reign of the Lord 
Julius P.P. II. It remains to be considered whether 
the distribution of ofiices, with which the Lord Alex- 
ander P.P. VI signalized his election, in any case would 
give colour to the charge of simony. 

The Conclave for the election of a Pope begins with 
the Mass of the Holy Spirit chaunted in the Chapel of 
St. Gregory. Afterwards, the cardinals go in procession, 
singing Veni Creator Spiritus, to take possession of the 
cells which they will have to occupy. These cells are 
erected in a hall of the Vatican, communicating with the 
Xystine Chapel. They are mere frameworks of wood hung 
with fringed curtains of baize, green in the cases of 
cardinals who are creatures of previous pontiffs ; violet in 
the cases of cardinals who are creatures of the pontiffs just 
deceased. On the front of each cell is a curtained doorway 
over which the armorials of the occupant are shewn, sur- 
mounted by a little swinging window. Each cardinal has 
a bed, a table, and a chair. His attendants support life in 
discomfort as best they may. Three hours after avemmaria, 
all doors and windows communicating with the outer world 
are walled up. Guards on the outside watch every avenue 
of access, under command of the Hereditary Marshal of 
the Church, now Prince Chigi, then Prince Savelli. To 

241 Q 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

every cardinal are allowed two conclavists for his attendants, 
a chaplain and an esquire. A cardinal-prince, or one aged 
and infirm, may add a third. In addition to the cardinals and 
the conclavists, there are enclosed a sacristan with his sub- 
sacristans, a secretary with his undersecretaries, five masters 
of ceremonies, a confessor, two physicians, a chirugeon, 
two barbers, an apothecary, with their respective boys, a 
mason, a carpenter, and servants for menial work. Great 
care is taken that none of these lay-persons should be 
agents of the orators of the secular powers ; and they are 
made to swear a stringent oath of secrecy. As a matter of 
fact, they are not allowed to know anything of the pro- 
ceedings in the Xystine Chapel. Meals are served at stated 
hours, through a revolving cupboard (ruota) in the outer 
wall, supervised by cardinals-inspectors. Flagons are of 
bare glass, lumps of bread or meat are cut open, that no 
messages from the outer world may pass in by these means. 
Nor may any single thing pass out. Urgent private letters 
written in the Conclave are subject to cardinals-censors. 
Cardinals, who have need, may speak to visitors, but in 
presence of witnesses ; and all communication must be 
open, and in a language that all can understand. These 
interviews take place at a window, the cardinal being on 
the inside, his visitor on the outside : but the conclavists 
and others are forbidden to approach the window on any 
pretext whatever. 

In the Xystine Chapel, at the moment of the election, 
the cardinals alone are ocular and auricular witnesses of 
what takes place. Certainly all proceedings are recorded 
in the Acts of the Conclave. But the original acts of the 
Conclave that elected the Lord Alexander P.P. VI are not 
forthcoming : they very likely were lost in the Sack of 
Rome in 1527, when the Catholic Catalans and Lutheran 
Goths of the Elect-Emperor Don Carlos V gambled in the 
ofutters for nuns and for the wives and daughters of Roman 

o o 

citizens. This then is the situation. All accounts of the 
Conclave of 1492, including the dispatches of Orators to 
their respective governments, are based on hearsay, or 
popular rumour. Historians have no other material ; for 
there is none. 

242 * 

Pontifex Maximus Alexander VI et Princeps 

The cry of simony always is raised at every election of 
a Pope. It is only an exemplification of the law that 
Attraction and Repulsion are Primary Forces. That the 
Lord Alexander P.P. VI on His election did strip Himself 
of His new palace, and of His multitudinous benefices, 
cannot be denied. Why need it be denied ? It always is 
done ; for a cardinal who is elected Pope has no more need 
of these things: he leaves them with his scarlet and ermine 
cappamagna when He is endued with the plain white frock 
of Christ's Vicar. The giving away of His cast-ofT goods 
and offices cannot be twisted into an act of simony, unless 
there is a distinct stipulation that they are given and taken 
as the price of a vote. And no such distinct stipulation is 
extant. It is difficult to see why cardinals should be con- 
sidered likely to be guilty of such degeneration. As a class 
of men they stand high : they generally are possessed of 
illustrious birth ; they generally are possessed of such 
enormous wealth as to place them beyond the range of 
pecuniary temptation ; and invariably they are men of 
merit, the fine fiower of their profession. As far as 
mundane honours go, they have tasted all the glory that the 
world can ofTer, except one glory. No layman may kneel 
on the same bench with a cardinal, unless he be a reio-ninof 
sovereign. No layman may make a fourth in a carriage 
containing three cardinals, not even a reigning sovereign. 
Their rank places them far above peers or princes. They 
are not eligible for the Athenaeum Club, but nothing that 
the world can offer will improve their position except the 
Papacy; yet they are suspected, as a class, of intrigues and 
cabals of the basest kind, mere financial operations ; and 
rarely, very rarely, is there any ground for the suspicion, 
the prize for which they are said to struggle generally 
being beneath their notice, the petty advantage which they 
are thought to desire being unworthy even of their con- 
tempt ; for cardinals are tired men, tired of splendour, tired 
of the earthly things ; and they are not invariably vile. 

When, therefore, the absurd people who wish to prove 
simoniacal the election of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, or 
the stupid craven Catholics who fatuously think to con- 
ciliate by joining rabidly in the hue and cry against a Pope, 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

can show a definite declaration from one or more of the 
cardinals-assistant of the Conclave of 1492, couched in 
some such terms as these, " / acknowledge and confess that, 
seduced by the dignities and the money that he offered me, (or, 
intimidated by the menaces of Cardinal Rodrigo de Lanqol 
y Bcrja,) T allowed 77tyself to be coi^rupted ; and, against 
7ny will and better knowledge, I sold my vote to this unworthy 
cardinal : or, / declare that I have resisted all his pro- 
m-ises, threats, and flatteries, and firmly have refused to 
sell my vote to Cardinal Rodrigo de Langol y Borja : then, 
and only then, can this silly or malicious calumny be said 
to have any foundation in fact.^ 

One thing is perfectly certain. The Lord Alexan- 
der P.P. VI, Who really was the last man in the world 
a vS" encanailler, never behaved as though He had gained 
the Triregno by illegitimate means. Not when all Europe 
yelped around His footstool did He blench or quail or 
shew a sign of fear. The heathen raged ; and the people 
imagined a vain thinof. The kino-s of the earth set them- 
selves ; and the rulers took counsel together. The Monarchs 
of Naples nagged ; the Catholic King and Queen de- 
nounced ; the Christian Kings minced, grimaced, and 
gibbered ; Caesar Semper Augustus protested ; Cardinal 
Giuliano della Rovere raved and nursed sedition ; the 
barons of Rome revolted ; the dukes and tyrants and 
republics of Italy took up arms; the dominions of the 
Pope's Holiness were invaded ; the Eternal City suffered 
violence ; the sacrosanctity of the pontifical person was in im- 
minent danger : but the invincible Lord Alexander P.P. VI 
magnificently retired into the Mola of Hadrian, the only 
spot in all Christendom where His rule remained ; and 
held His Own, inflexibly, implacably, with an enormous 
dignity impossible in one who was a mere usurper, a venal 
simoniac. So much is sure. The demeanour of the Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI in direst straits, was the demeanour of 
a man who had no doubt regarding his own integrity. 

-tP w -7p 

The so-called scandals of His private life are shewn to 
have been based upon the malice or the idle gossip of His 

^ Cf. Maricourt. 

Pontifex Maximus Alexander VI et Princeps 

enemies. He sat in " the fierce light that beats upon a 
throne." He was the father of a family. He was not the 
first or the last Pope Who has been the father of a family. 
His immediate predecessor, the Lord Innocent P.P. VIII, 
admitted the paternity of seven children. A successor, the 
Lord Paul P.P. Ill, also used Himself in a similar manner : 
nor are these all. If this be vicious, it was only vicious in 
the Lord Alexander P.P. VI because He was the Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI ; for in other men the same thing was, 
and is, tolerated, accepted, applauded. A patrician or a 
plebeian may steal a horse : but a Pope may not look over 
the wall. I lie crucem scelci'is pretiuin tulit, hie diade^jia} 
However, as a father. He exhibited an illustrious example 
of paternal virtue. He was kind, loving, affectionate to 
his children ; solicitous and self sacrificing for their welfare 
and advancement. That He employed His spiritual 
power, to build up the temporalities of His family, was a 
temptation, to avoid which He would need to have been 
more than human. It was the custom of the time. It was 
an imperious necessity of the situation. 

# # # 

The murders and venenations of which He has been 
accused, in company with Duke Cesare, fail of proof; and 
indeed His guiltlessness as instigator, principal, or accom- 
plice, appears in every case to be beyond question. 

The murder of Don Juan Francisco de Lan9ol y Borja, 
Duke of Gandia, remains a mystery : but what evidence 
there is distinctly points to a vendetta of Orsini directed 
against the Pope through His Captain- General. 

The murder of the Prince of Bisceglia is referable 
rather to a vendetta of Sanseverini and Caietani, than to 
the Pope or Duke Cesare (detto Borgia). 

The deaths of Don Astorgio and Don Gianevangelista 
Manfredi are susceptible of the Venetian Orator's explana- 
tion, puto mat san ; there positively is nothing to connect 
the Pope or the Duke with them. 

The death of the Sultan Djim was due to natural 
causes, while he was in the hands of the Christian King ; 

^ Decii Junii Juvenalis, Satura xiii. 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

and the Pope's Holiness was a pecuniary loser (to the 
extent of about ^80,000 a year) by his death. 

The death of Cardinal Orsini was due to natural causes, 
according to the sworn testimony of physicians provided by 
the House of Orsini. 

Fra Girolamo Savonarola O.P. was executed on a 
capital charge by due process of law ; and the Pope was an 
unwillinof accent for the administration of that law. 

(The crime of Fra Girolamo really was that of intriguing 

with a foreign power with which his country was at war. 

General Booth committing treachery with Mr. Kruger, or Mr. 

Ira D. Sankey with the Son of Heaven Kwang Su, would be 

. Twentieth-Centuryparallels of Savonarola andCharlesVH I.) 

Cardinal Giovanni Borgia (detto Giuniore) died a 
natural death. 

Messer Ramiro d' Oreo, Don Vitellozzo Vitelli, and 
Don Oliverotto da Fermo had a legal trial by court-martial, 
and paid the legal penalty of crime. 

Don Paolo and Duke Francesco Orsini of Gravina 
suffered merited death, due to the exigencies of civil war in 
which they and their House were the aggressors. 

There remain two other violent deaths to be accounted 
for, which were not of sufficient importance to treat of in 
the history of this pontificate, the case of Calderon Perotto, 
and that of Messer Francesco Trocces. 

It is said by Don Paolo Capello, the Orator of Venice, 
in his Diarium, (or rather in that edition of the said 
Diarium which was prepared forty years later by Don 
Marino Sanuto,) that Calderon Perotto was a Spanish lad 
of eighteen years, one of the Pontifical pages ; and that he 
was stabbed by Duke Cesare (detto Borgia) at the Pope's 
feet. The fact is related without comment or explanation. 
It would not be safe to attach much importance to the 
statement, because Don Paolo Capello's original document 
is not forthcomings and Don Marino Sanuto's version of 
what he wrote is the only version accessible. But the 
alleged murder of the page Perotto is not, like other 
calumnies, a posthumous invention ; for it is mentioned in 
the atrocious Letter to Silvio S^z^^/// described on an earlier 
page. The Pope is not, and was not blamed. The murder, 


Pontifex Maximus Alexander VI et Princeps 

if it were a murder at all, is attributed to Duke Cesare 
(detto Borgia) ; and it was not an unusual thing for a lord 
to slay a servant in the Borgian Era. That was common 
enough ; but to do it in the presence of the Holiness of the 
Pope certainly was sacrilege ; and this last circumstance 
makes it probable that the whole story is a pure invention ; 
for the guilt of sacrilege lightly was not incurred even by 
the most bloody and abandoned villains : and Duke Cesare 
was not of that species. 

The other death, that of Messer Francesco Trocces is 
more probable, and mentioned in several dispatches of 
Orators. He was a papal chamberlain (confidential flunkey 
of the cloak and sword, — minor situation dear to petits 
Tnaitres of the English and Keltic bourgeoisie now ;) and 
was employed as governmental courier. The Republic of 
Venice was playing fast and loose with the Lord Alexander 
P.P. VI, disliking to see Duke Cesare's amazing success in 
the Romagna; and its Orator, Don Antonio Giustiniani 
carried on relations of a doubtful kind with Messer Francesco 
Trocces, in the usual manner of ambassadors who find that 
they can buy state-secrets from a "crapule." Suddenly, 
Messer Francesco fled from Rome to Civita Vecchia. He 
had been complaining to the Venetians about Duke Cesare ; 
and all his treachery had come to light. The Duke's steel 
claws were far-reaching. The traitor was captured there 
and brought to Rome, strangled, and his body hanged on 
Tor Savelli as an example to others of his kind. Legally 
speaking he was executed for the crime of high treason ; 
and the formal exposure of his corpse gives the lie to the 
idea of clandestine assassination. The practice of secret 
trials and summary executions is odious to the Twentieth 
Century : but, in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth, not only all 
civilized governments, but even barons who had power of 
life and death over their retainers, used these means as a 
matter of course ; and that alone should be sufficient to 
exonerate the Borgia from blame. 

It has been said of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI that 
He habitually envenomed his cardinals, that He might 
have their goods. The following story is given, not in 
this connection, by Mr. F. Marion Crawford, and is here 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

inserted on account of its frequent significance. At the 
corner of the Via Lata in the Corso of Rome, is the Palazzo 
Doria Pamphili, a typical Roman palace of the Borgian 
Era, two-thirds the size of the Vatican Basilica, and able to 
accommodate a thousand inhabitants. It was built by- 
Cardinal Santorio (?), who bought the site from the Chapter 
of Santa Maria Maggiore, and expended thousands of gold 
ducats in the erection of a House Beautiful. All through 
the reigns of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI and of the Lord 
Pius P.P. Ill, he remained in unmolested possession : but 
during the pontificate of the Lord Julius P.P. II (Giuliano 
della Rovere) the Pope's Holiness said to him that his palace 
was "more suitable for a secular duke than for a prince of 
the Church" ; and forced him to make Him a free gift of it 
for His Own nephew Don Francesco della Rovere, whom 
He had created Duke of Urbino. The unfortunate Cardinal 
Santorio died soon after of a broken heart. It was not 
Borgia who caused his death, in order to have his palace : 
but Borgia's eternal enemy. 

* * # 

As a secular sovereign, no contemporary of His even 
deserves to be named in comparison with the Lord Alexander 
P.P. VI. His reign broke the back of the turbulent 
ambitious selfish baronage which had ravaged the papal 
states for centuries. He was an independent Pope ; willing 
to enter into alliances, it is true, so long as they served His 
purpose : but just as willing to throw over His allies and 
stand alone upon occasion. If His interests leaned more 
in one direction than another, it may be taken that He was a 
Sforza + Cesarini Pope, rather than a creature of Colonna 
or Orsini as the custom was. His political policy entirely 
was directed to the substitution of peace and order with 
security of life and property, instead of the anarchy and 
desolation which He saw on His accession. He fully lived 
up to His official title of Ruler of the World; and the 
sovereigns of Europe at all times found Him sternly 
rigorously just, amenable neither to fear nor flattery. He 
was an admirable Father of Princes and of Kings. 
Notwithstanding all that weakly has been said to the 
contrary, the Holy Roman Church and Christendom owe 


Pontifex Maximus Alexander VI et Princeps 

a vast debt of gfratitude to Him. He found feebleness and 
war and tumult at His coming : at His going He left behind 
Him differences removed, rebellions quelled, and a tradition 
of consolidated strength. He was the Fosterer of Justice 
and of Peace. He was a great and wise Princeps. 
# * * 

As Pontifex Maximus, Earthly Vicar of Jesus Christ 
OUR Saviour, He merits reverent admiration. His habits and 
tastes were of the simplest kind, in an age of singular luxury. 
He was temperate in His diet ; and the Orators of the Powers 
commented with disgust upon the fact that He never had 
more than one dish upon His table. He slept but little. 
His amusements occupied a mere fraction of His time : 
but, during recreation. He unbent His awful dignity, and 
enjoyed Himself with the frank abandon of a school-boy. 
He was a patron of painters : but men of letters incon- 
tinently drove their pens against Him ; for the Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI was confronted by the problem of 
dealing with a new enemy to Christ's flock and to civiliza- 
tion — He had to regulate the printing-press in the interest 
of morals; and, as a duty of His office, He ordained 
the censorship of printed books, He inaugurated the 
^' Imprimatur," He "muzzled the printer's devil." 

Yet He was a gentle and kindly-affectioned Shepherd. 
In 1492, the Jews were expelled from Spain. He enter- 
tained them in security in Rome. In 1494, He was horrified 
by news of the diabolical atrocities of the Grand Inquisitor 
of Spain ; and, though He Himself was a Spaniard, He 
appointed four assessors with equal power, to restrain the 
excesses of Torquemada. The Spanish Inquisition never 
had the countenance of Rome, but Her bitterest opposition. 
The wanton ingenious cruelty of that infamous Tribunal was 
due to the fiendish strain of African black blood which 
tinges and defiles the bluest blood of Spain ; and was com- 
mitted in explicit defiance of the commands of God's Vice- 
gerent. It is true that He gave America to Spain, and 
Africa to Portugal. ^ The Bulls of Donation shew that He 

1 Have these Bulls been rescinded ? If not, it is possible that they form 
the ground of the dull and bitter and radical animosity of Spain and Portugal 
to Anglo- Saxondom of the present day. In the light of these Bulls, England 
and America are usurpers and excommunicate ! 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

considered it to be the Pope's duty to teach the Gospel to all 
nations, and to compel the observance of natural laws. He 
believed that, before the heathen could hear the Gospel, or 
observe those laws, it was necessary to make them subjects 
of a Christian Power. He knew that conquest makes more 
converts in one day, than preaching in three hundred years. 
He took as abruptly practical and business-like a view of 
things as though He had been fortunate enough to have been 
born an Englishman. And He acted upon the extremely 
scriptural principle that civil rights and civil authorities law- 
fully cannot obstruct the propagation of the Faith. None 
knew better than He that the Treasure was in an earthen 
vesseP: but, as the chief bishop of the Church far above all 
principality and power and might and dominion,'^ He spoke, 
exhorted, and rebuked, with an authority. Let no man des- 
pise Him.^ There was no other representative of Chris- 
tianity ; there was no other, in all the world, who even 
claimed to be the representative of Christianity, at that 
time. The Lord Alexander P.P. VI, magnificent and 
invincible, was the only one. Let no man despise Him. 

As Pastor, He was merciful ; as Judge, severe and just. 
His laws against witchcraft and Black Magic were of the 
most stringent kind. He used the means which every 
other sovereign of Europe also used. "East of Suez, some 
hold, the direct control of Providence ceases ; Man being 
there handed over to the power of the Gods and Devils of 
Asia — " the most observant of modern English writers says. 
Men who have lived in the Far East, where Christian 
influence is very feeble, will recognize the singular correct- 
ness of Mr. Rudyard Kipling's theory. Men, also, who 
at first hand have studied modern recrudescences of deviL 
worship, modern flirtations with kakodaimoniacal agencies, 
the Luciferianism of modern France, will not mutter with 
patronizing superiority of superstitions and old wives' fables ; 
but perfectly well will know that hideous abnormity with 
which the Pope's Holiness had to deal. Only the wilfully 
ignorant deny the actuality of diabolic manifestations, called 
witchcraft and Black Magic in the vulgar tongue. The 

^ Ep. II to Cor. ii. 7. ^ Ep. to Eph. i. 21. 

^ Ep. to St. Titus ii. 15. 

Pontifex Maximus Alexander VI et Princeps 

ostrich who buries her head in sand is Hke to these. By 
the side of high civiHzation there always runs the impulse 
to savagery, the weird and radical decadence which wanders 
on dark paths. Hellas and Rome pried into the mysteries 
of Isis ; Christendom entertains Turlupins, Rosicrucians, 
Indian gumnosophists, and Mahatmas ; the Borgian Era 
played with the Roaring Lion ; the Victorian Era with 
Sathanas and his sorrows. "Perhaps", " after all ", "audi 
alteram partem ", — hesitation, compromise, want of defined 
principle, lack of courageous singleness of mind, — amounting 
to Emasculation — is the mental note of the Twentieth 
Century. The Fifteenth had not a tithe of the know- 
ledge now possessed : but it was awfully convinced, strong, 
and decisive, within its limitations. Then, there was no 
place for the palterer — except against the wall. 

Other malefactors felt the flail which, like Osiris, He 
wielded equally with the crook. Notaries of the Pontifical 
Briefs debauched by the undisciplined rule of previous Popes, 
had become corrupt. In the absence of restraint they 
habitually forged briefs nominating to benefices, not only in 
Italy, but in all Christian countries. The ambition of German 
clergy created the demand. The flagitious notaries managed 
the supply. They sold their forged briefs privately to whoso 
would pay the price, and they pocketed the proceeds of this 
nefarious traffic. In 1497, the Lord Alexander P.P. VI 
found them out. Some promptly were broiled on Campo 
di Fiori, the nineteenth of October ; one, the Lord Arch- 
bishop of Cosenza, and three secretaries, deprived of their 
benefices and degraded from their clerical estate, solemnly 
were immured alive in the Mola of Hadrian. These 
miserable criminals lived some years in their solitary cells, 
as the custom was, literally feeding on the bread of tears 
and the water of affliction until they died. [Biirchard, 
Diarhwt.) One has heard fables of nuns immured. Here is a 
fairly genuine case of an immured archbishop. Immuration 
is the same punishment which the Twentieth Century 
metes out in countries where capital punishment has been 
abolished : — solitary confinement ; — nothing more. The 
archbishopric of Cosenza was conferred on Cardinal Fran- 
cisco de Borja, bastard of the Lord Calixtus P. P. III. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

The assiduous attention to the duties of His office which 
the Lord Alexander P.P. VI exhibited is perfectly astound- 
ing ; and pregnant with indubitable signification. 

He reformed the monasteries of Austria, and the secular 
clergy of Portugal. He confirmed the Rule of the Religion 
of Friars Minim, founded by San Francesco da Paola. He 
approved the Rule of the Third Order of Friars Minor, 
founded by San Francesco d' Assisi. He permitted Madame 
Jean de Valois to found her Religion. In 1499, He con- 
firmed the Rule of the Jesnats of San Girolamo, a congre- 
gation of laymen leading a religious communal life under 
the Rule of St. Aurelius Augustine, nursing the sick, and 
distilling aquavitae, (as Carthusians distil Chartreuse, yellow 
and green, now.) He founded and confirmed in Rome the 
Order of Military Knights of St. George, for the defence of 
Christendom against the Muslim Infidel. He granted 
privileges to the College at Windsor : (Chapter of St. 
George, or King Henry VI Plantagenet's Foundation at 
Eton ?) He approved the Order of Praying Knights of 
St. Michael in France. He reformed the Order of Military 
Knights of Christ in Portugal. He canonized no saints. 
His personal piety was simple, diligent, and real. He 
greatly revered the Deipara, the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 
her honour. He ordained the bell which rings at sunset, 
sunrise, and noon, for the Ajigehis Domini in memory of 
The Incarnation. On His death-bed, He said, "We 
"always have had, and have, a singular affection for the 
"Most Holy Virgin." 

In the Secret Archives of the Vatican, (merely a 
technical term, for they are open to all the world,) His 
original acts are preserved ; the veritable Briefs and Bulls 
which He laboured to utter during His reign. They are 
bound in one hundred and thirteen large-folio volumes, 
each tome containing about ten thousand separate docu- 
ments.^ To understand what kind of thing is a Papal Bull 
or Brief, the Epistles of St. Peter, which are easily acces- 
sible, may be mentioned as the best examples extant ; — 
earnest disquisitions, simple or scholarly, dealing authori- 
tatively with subjects the most vital. The Lord Alex- 

^ Rene, Comte de Maricourt, who quotes M. L'Abbe Morel in L'Ufiivers. 


Pontifex Maximus Alexander VI et Princeps 

ander P.P. VI is responsible for more than a million of 
these ; and He only reigned eleven years. 

The days and nights appreciably were not longer then 
than now. Where, then, did the Lord Alexander P.P. VI 


He was the father of bastards. He was not the first or 
last, — plebeian, patrician, potentate, or pontiff. 

He was inflexible to foes. Was ever peace assured 
except by a stern martinet ? 

The Lord Alexander P.P. VI was a very great Prince, 
a very faithful Pastor, a very human Man. 

By members of that Church, at least, which He so ably 
ruled. He should be regarded as above and beyond criticism 
(so-called), amenable to no judge, ecclesiastical, or secular.^ 

For the rest — the dwellers in glass houses 


tF ^ w 

^ When it becomes a question of blaming a priest or a Pope, the principle 
of proportion demands that the lesser should bear. Two modern Roman 
Catholics have presumed with "unctuous rectitude" to scold the Holiness of 
the Pope as follows : 

" From a Catholic point of view, it is impossible to blame Alexander too 
severely." — (History cf the Popes. Pastor + Antrobus. VI. 139.) 

This inhuman pronouncement is saved by the " a." Comment is needless : 
but there is another " Catholic point of view." 


sparks that Die 

" A fire, that is kindled, begins with smoke and hissing, while it lays 
hold on the faggots; bursts into a roaring blaze, with raging 
tongues of flame, devouring all in reach, spangled with sparks 
that die." 

On the death of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, Duke Cesare 
de Valentinois della Romagna was the most potent person- 
age in Italy. Several of his veteran legions under Don 
Michelotto held the Eternal City. Usually, during the 
Novendiati after a Pope's demise, armed bands of Colonna 
and Orsini pervaded the streets, to intimidate the Conclave 
with their war-cries Cohunn — Coluni7i — , Bear — Bear — . 
In August and September 1503, the baronial partizans 
were dumb ; and all Rome shouted Duca — Diua — Duca — 
for Duke Cesare. He might have done anything that he 

Now, if Duke Cesare were the ambitious ruthless 
impious despot and villain which a fashion has painted him, 
he must also have been a fool ; in that he did not force the 
Sacred College to raise another Borgia to Peter's Throne. 
There were three Borgia cardinals ready to his hand, all 
quiet and malleable and inoffensive, and two of them aged 
men ; viz., 

(o) the Lord Luis Juan de Milay Borja, Cardinal-Prior- 
Presbyter of the Title of Santi Quattro Coronati 
and Bishop of Lerida ; first cousin and contem- 
porary of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI : 

(/3) the Lord Francisco de Borja, Cardinal-Presbyter of 
the Title of San Nereo e Sant' Achilleo, Arch- 

sparks that Die 

bishop of Cosenza ; bastard of the Lord Calix- 
tus P.P. Ill: 
(-y) the Lord Pedro Luis de Borja y Lancol, Cardinal- 
Deacon of Santa Maria in Via Lata ; son of the 
late Pope's sister Dofia Juana de Borja by her 
marriaee with her cousin Don Guillelmo de 

The last was a young man, a contemporary of Duke 
Cesare himself, and appears to have been of a modest and 
retiring disposition. Whether his youth would have taken 
fire at being crowned with the Triregno, is an open question. 
He was not elected, and is numbered with the sparks that 
die. The Cardinal de Mila had resided nearly half a 
century at his bishopric in Spain ; and was completely out 
of touch with his Italian relatives, as well as with the 
Sacred College. 

But Cardinal Francisco de Borja seems to have been an 
ideal nominee for the purpose of Duke Cesare. He owed 
his rank to the Lord Alexander P.P. VI. He was of the 
age of sixty-two years, a gentle old gentleman of placid 
nature, of sweet and lovable habits, easily plastic. If he 
had been elected Pope by the influence of Duke Cesare, 
the consolidation of the Borgia Dynasty would have been 
an accomplished fact. Theoretically, it matters not a jot 
who may be the Pope, Caius or Balbus, Peter or Paul. If 
there be any basis for the claims of the Holy Roman 
Church, Her mission goes on till the world's end, as well 
and as inevitably when Borgia, as when Pecci, reigns; as 
well an'i as mevitably under Boys of the age of twelve and 
eighteen years, like the Lord Benedict P.P. IX and the 
Lord John P.P. XII, as under Saints, like the Lord St. 
Sylvester P.P. and the Lord St. Fabian P.P. ; as well and 
as inevitably under a Jew, like the Lord St. Peter P.P. as 
under an Englishman like the Lord Hadrian P.P. IV. 
The personality of God's Vicegerent is of no consequence 
whatever to the purity of rhe Faith, or to the triumph of the 
Holy Roman Church These things being so, it is hard to 
understand why Duke Cesare did not menace with his 
unconquerable army the Sacred College, or assassinate 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

samples of the cardinals w'lio should decline to vote at his 
direction ; until, by ultimate intimidation, he should have 
secured the election of his candidate. If he had been the 
godless wretch that his enemies designated, he would have 
achieved some such co//>o di stato as this. 

But, in the role of an unconscionable villain, Duke 
Cesare was a failure — an accented failure. Contrariwise, 
he comported himself as exemplarily as any good and pious 
Catholic. Most likely his fever, or the murderous remedies 
of his physicians, was responsible for this. There is no 
doubt but that the scheme for a Borgia Dynasty had been 
adumbrated ; and that this was the psychological moment 
for giving it concrete expression : but the death of the Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI, and Duke Cesare's own illness came 
with sobering effect to him ; and his course of action may 
be translated thus — that he resolved not to usurp the pre- 
rogative of the Supreme Disposer of events. For a villain, 
the resolve was weak : but it was what was to be expected 
of a splendid man of sense. 

Duke Cesare knew that he held his riches, his supre- 
macy, his titles of Duke of Romagna, Gonfalonier of the 
Holy Roman Church, and Castellan of Santangelo, solely 
at the pleasure of the Pope ; yet he made no effort to secure 
the election of a Pope who would confirm his possession of 
them. There is still in existence a ring of his, (they call it 
a " Poison-Ring " — but of that much has been said — ) 
which bears the splendid motto 

Fays ceque doys avien que pourra 
Do thy duty, coine what 7?iay. 
That principle informed his action now. Duke Cesare did 
his duty. 

He renewed his feudal oath of allegiance in the presence 
of the Sacred College. He formally recognized the supre- 
macy, during the interregnum, of the Cardinal- Dean and the 
Cardinal-Chamberlain. He divested himself of the sem- 
blance and reality of power, by relinquishing the Mola 
of Hadrian (which impregnable fortress he held as Castellan 
of Santangelo, and whence he could have overawed both 
the Vatican and Rome). Further, finding that the mere 
presence of his army in the City was considered disrespectful 


Sparks that Die 

to the Conclave, he retired it to his province of the 
Romagna ; and he himself withdrew to France to his 
duchy of Valentinois. 

So, the Conclave of 1 503 met in absolute freedom ; and 
elected, as Successor of St. Peter, Ruler of the World, 
Father of Princes and of Kings, and Earthly Vicar of Jesus 
Christ our Saviour, the Lord Francesco de' Piccolhuomini, 
Cardinal Archdeacon of Sant' Eustachio, Archbishop of 
Siena, who deigned to be called the Lord Pius P. P. Ill, 
in memory of His august uncle, the Lord Pius P. P. II ^ 
Who had reigned from 1458 to 1464. 

Then momentous events came thick and fast. The new 
Pope, on His coronation in St. Peter's, graciously permitted 
Duke Cesare to return to Rome. Such a mighty and 
splendid vassal as he was naturally inspired fear and distrust 
among the clergy. Such a trenchant weapon as he 
possessed in his unconquerable veteran army was described 
as a danger to the papacy. It is always very hard to make 
the clergy understand that a laic can be as sentimental and 
conscientious and self-sacrificing as a clerk. The word was 
put about that, seeing the Romagna to have been reduced 
to order, the necessity for Duke Cesare 's army had ceased 
to be. Naturally, the clergy could not be expected to 
understand the necessity for an "army of occupation." 
The first rumour speedily grew into the statement that 
Duke Cesare's army was to be disbanded. 

Colonna and Orsini heard, in their ugly exile, in their 
battered fortresses. Like the chained wolves on the Capitol 
who know when rust makes thin their fetters, they lifted 
up their horrid heads and waited till the ultimate link should 
part. If Duke Cesare's army were disbanded, thousands 
of condottieri would be at large, brigands ready to take 
service under a new chief, under any banner. Why not 
under the banners of the Column and the Bear ? Colonna 
and Orsini in alliance, reinforced by those same unconquer- 
able mercenaries might recover their old position, and once 
more become the strong right and left hands of a feeble 
Pope of their own ; and then the days of the hated Borgia 
would be numbered. Colonna and Orsini, like their 

^ Enea Silvio Bartolomeo de' Piccolhuomini. 

257 ^ R 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

antipodes righteousness and peace, forgot their ancient 
feud and each kissed other. Duke Cesare indeed was in 
evil case. 

And then, suddenly, after a pontificate of six and twenty 
days, the Lord Pius P.P. Ill died. 

This moment was the opportunity of the psychic epileptic, 
the Lord Cardinal- Bishop Giuliano della Rovere, eternal 
enemy of the House of Borgia. He had emerged from the 
exile, which his innumerable treasons and malfeasances had 
merited, in time for the election of the Lord Pius P.P. HI 
during Whose short reign he had employed himself to his 
own advantage. He had no friends. He gained the 
loathinor of all with whom he had to do. The Sacred 
College to a man was inimical to him. He was not wealthy. 
He was thoroughly plebeian, he had no learning, no 
diplomatic skill, no charm. And there, on the other hand, 
was the splendid Duke Cesare, feared ; yes : but admired 
also ; and his unconquerable army was within call. A 
second time the election appeared likely to depend on him. 

Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere was a desperate man. 

The only advantage that he possessed was, that at this 

time when all the other cardinals were in a state of nervous 

perturbation at the unusual occurrence of the deaths of two 

Popes in three months, he alone preserved his equanimity. 

He alone knew what he wanted. His colleagues in the 

Conclave were mentally collapsed : they shewed signs of a 

liability to come under the influence of, to take advice, to 

take even direction from any one who would tell them what 

they wanted ; and chiefly from him who was the one strong 

man of Italy, the man with the veteran army, Duke Cesare 

de Valentinois della Romagna (detto Borgia). The strongest 

laic is no match for an unscrupulous clerk when it comes to 

wits. Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere saw that he could 

gain the Sacred College, by gaining Duke Cesare. He 

concentrated all his crude rough desperate will on the one 


* * * 

The historian Varillas, who writes as a violent upholder 
of the Papacy, relates an extraordinary story ; which, if 
true, is a veritable solution of mysteries ; which, in short, is 


Sparks that Die 

so strange, that it very likely is not fiction, historical or 
otherwise, but the blind and naked Truth emerging from 
her well unabashed, luciferous, and, naturally, unwelcome. 

He says that Duke Cesare proposed to the Second 
Conclave of 1 503 to elect a cardinal whom he should name : 
that Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, becoming aware of 
this, endeavoured to attract Duke Cesare's influence to 
himself : that to this end the said Cardinal privately 
announced to the said Duke that he was his father after 
the manner of men, further alleging this to have been the 
cause of his (the said cardinal's) enmity against the Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI deceased : that the said Cardinal asked 
the said Duke to assist him, his father, to gain the papal 
throne, promising, in return for such assistance, after his 
coronation with the Triregno, publicly to acknowledge the 
said Duke as his son, to confirm him in possession of his 
duchies and his conquests, and to retain him in all the offices 
which he then held : that the said Duke believed the said 
Cardinal, and by withdrawing from opposition, and by 
exerting full influence in a filial manner, he had compassed 
the election of the said Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere : 
that after his election the said Cardinal had belied all his 
promises, deprived the said Duke, of Umbria, and the 
Romagna, and all the fiefs which he had won, and of all 
the situations which he enjoyed, and finally had harassed, 
despoiled, and exiguously persecuted, all who bore the 
name of, or were connected with. The Borgia. 

This is an extremely probable tale. Certainly a part of 
it is true, and perhaps the whole. 

The identity of the father of Duke Cesare (detto Borgia) 
is involved in mystery. 

The Brief of the Lord Xystus P.P. IV 1 dated the first 
of October 1480, which dispenses Messer Cesare from the 
necessity of proving his legitimacy, calls him " son of a 
cardinal bishop and a married woman," de episcopo cardmali 
genitus et coniugata. 

The Brief of the Same, dated the sixteenth of August 
1482, which makes Cardinal Rodrigo de Lan^ol y Borja 

1 Secret Archives of the duchies of Ossuna and Infantado. 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

administrator of Messer Cesare's estate, calls the boy "son 
of a cardinal bishop and a married woman," de episcopo 
cardinali genitus et coniugata. 

The name of this "cardinal bishop" is not given in 
either Brief. 

Most of the scribblers, diarists, chroniclers, orators, 
speak of Don Cesare, Cardinal Cesare, and Duke Cesare, 
as the son of Cardinal Rodrigo de Lan^ol y Borja (the 
Lord Alexander P.P. VI). Some, like Peter Martyr and 
Fioramondo Brugnolo call him " nephew of a brother of 
our Lord the Pope." In his autograph letter to the 
Pope, dated the sixteenth of January 1500, he himself 
speaks of Cardinal Giovanni Borgia (detto Giuniore), 
(who was the son of Don Pedro Luis de Lancol y Borja, 
own brother of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI) as "my 

In no official document is he named as the son of 
Cardinal Rodrigo de Lan9ol y Borja (the Lord Alexander 
P.P. VI) : but the Venetian Senate, in conferring on him 
the patriciate of that Republic in 1500, styled him " nephew 
of Pope Alexander." 

The Lord Alexander P.P. VI never called him "son" : 
but, in an autograph Brief of recommendation addressed to 
the Christian King Louis XII, He introduced Duke Cesare 
as His " heart." 

Duke Cesare's subscription of a letter, which he wrote 
to the Pope on the twenty-eighth of January 1503, at the 
time of the Orsini revolt, is very curious. He signed 
himself " The most humble servant and most faithful 
handiwork of Your Holiness." Vestrae Sanctitatis humil- 
linius servus et devotisshjia factura. As cardinal he might, 
and did, call himself the Pope's "creature," creatura: that 
is the form. A son, however, is not " handiwork" in 
any sense of the word : but a duke, who is made by his 
sovereign's signature of his patent, precisely is. 

The authorities, who call Duke Cesare " nephew," may 
be dismissed. Popes, like other human beings, generally 
have nephews stride dicte vel late. 

His own appellation of Cardinal Giovanni Giuniore is 
susceptible of the meaning "comrade." 


Sparks that Die 

And "factura" will bear reference to his duchy, gon- 
falonierate, castellanship, etc. 

Who then was the father of Duke Cesare ? 

Madonna Giovanna de' Catanei (wife of Don Giorgio 
della Croce, and, after his death, of Don Carlo Canale,) was 
certainly his mother. Two official inscriptions bear witness 
to this. The first, which was published by Signor Gnoli in 
the Nuova Antologia of the first of February 1881, refers to 
a house on Campo di Fiori which she left as an endowment 
for anniversary masses for the repose of the souls of herself 
and her two husbands named. The deed is the work of 
Messer Andrea Caroso, Notary Public, and is dated the 
fifteenth of January 15 17. In it she is called " Vanoza 
Catanea madre del Duca Borge.'' The second is her epitaph 
on her tomb in Santa Maria del Popolo (Forcella. Iscrizioni 
delle chiese di Roma I. 335) shewing her natural pride at 
finding herself the mother of two dukes, a prince duke, and 
a sovereip'n duchess. 


" Faustiae Cathanae, Caesare Valentiae, Joannae Candiae, 
Jufredo Scylatii, et Lucretia Ferrariae ducib. filiis nobili 
Probitate insigni religion! eximia pari et aetate et 
Prudentiae optime de xenodochio Lateranen. Meritae 
Hieronimus Picus fidei commis. procur. ex test (amento) pos (uit). 
Vix(it) ann. LXXVI m. IV d. XIII. Objit anno M.D.XVIII. XXVI Nov." 

In the absence of anything more authoritative than the 
foregoing, the story of Varillas remains the most probable 
solution of the mystery. The Lord Alexander P.P. VI 
never named, never treated, Duke Cesare as His son ; never 
shewed for him the paternal love and affection which He 
shewed for his bastards, Don Pedro Luis, Madonna 
Girolama, Duke Juan Francisco, Duchess Lucrezia, Prince 
Gioffredo, Madonna Laura, Duke Giovanni. Yet Duke 
Cesare was splendid and superb ; his abilities were immense, 
and pre-eminently useful to the Pope. And the Pope used 
him on all occasions as His most serviceable subject, reward- 
ing him with lavish generosity for the service which he 
rendered. Between the Duke and his Sovereign Patron, 
there was a certain privileged and familiar confidence : but 
never intimate relationship, or filial or paternal love. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

The status of Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere ; his 
furious, blind, instinctive, and eternal hatred of the Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI and of every one connected with Him, 
is susceptible of an extremely human explanation. It bears 
the strongest possible resemblance to that very singular and 
very distinguishable passion of revengeful jealous rage which 
consumes the vulgar man in regard to a superior (in rank, 
breeding, or physique,) who shall have supplanted him in 
the favours of a lady. 

Cardinal Rodrigro and Cardinal Giuliano both were 
cardinals and bishops at the time of the birth of Duke 
Cesare. Cardinal Rodrigo had wealth, illustrious ancestry, 
incomparable charm of manner, a sumptuous aspect. He 
was magnificent and invincible. Cardinal Giuliano as a boy 
had peddled onions in a boat between Arbisola and Genoa, 
he had no money except the revenues of a few benefices, he 
was of a saturnine habit of mind, repulsive to his fellow 
creatures. His portraits, as cardinal on his medal by 
Sperandio, as Pope by II Caradosso (Ambrogio Foppa), 
shew him as a hatefully ugly man with satyr-brows, sunken 
and bleared eyes, fierce but haggard mien, and the animal 
appetites hugely predominant in the lips, the back of the 
head, and the curious little muscles which obliquely tend 
downward right and left in the region of the root of the 
nose. In the age of the Discovery of Man, Cardinal 
Giuliano della Rovere's physique did not qualify him to 
gain, or retain, the fidelity of any woman whom, inevitably, 
he would hunger to possess. 

Nothing is known against the character of Madonna 
Giovanna de' Catanei except that she was the mistress, first 
of Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, second of Cardinal 
Rodrigo de Lan^ol y Borja. A woman who indulges in 
systematic adultery ajid sacrilege is liable to be as false to 
her lovers, as she is to her husband and her God, at least 
until she has repented of her crimes and sins, giving proof 
of her repentance by surceasing from those same to lead a 
godly righteous and sober life, as Madonna Giovanna did 
during the whole reign of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, 
and especially in, and after, 1508, when she was converted, 
together with Madonna Fiametta, a leman of Duke Cesare's, 


Sparks that Die 

by hearing Frat' Egidio da Viterbo preach the Lent in 
Rome. But history and rumour agree in this, that with 
the exception of these two separate intrigues lasting from 
1473 to 1 48 1 Madonna Giovanna de' Catanei was " alioquin 
proba mulier" as even the rascally Paulo Giovio says, (Vita 
Gonsalvi 212) — otherwise, an honest woman. 

It is humanly probable that Duke Cesare was the son of 
Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere by Madonna Giovanna de' 
Catanei. He was born in 1474, "son of a cardinal bishop 
and a married woman." The following year, 1475, the lady 
bore to Cardinal Rodrigo de Lan^ol y Borja, Don Juan 
Francisco; in 1478, Madonna Lucrezia ; in 1481, Don 
Gioffredo. It is as humanly natural that, after the birth of 
Duke Cesare, Cardinal Rodrigo should win the mother from 
Cardinal Giuliano ; as that in 1492 he should win the 
Triregno from him in full conclave. The two prelates were 
antipathetic from heel to crown. There was bound to be 
rivalry between them. The loss of the papal throne in 1492 
would have embittered Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere : but, 
by itself, hardly could have imparted that virulent vicious 
smack to his revenge that made him agonize, during twenty 
years, to dispossess and grind to powder the House of 
Borgia. The introduction of the feminine element provides 
a key to the enigma of that pettiness. 

The narration of Varillas, therefore, deserves considera- 
tion as a contribution to the solving of the mysteries of the 
unquenchable hatred of Dellarovere for Borgia, and of 
Duke Cesare's relations with the Lord Alexander P.P. VI. 

Whatever the truth may be, it is circumstantially evident 
that to Duke Cesare de Valentinois della Romagna, his 
advocacy or neutrality, his influence exercised or his 
abstention from opposition. Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere 
owed his election in the Conclave of November 1503. He 
chose to be called the Lord Julius P.P. II.; and He instantly 
set about the ruin of the House of Boro-ia. 


The three Borgia cardinals naturally did not vote for 
Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere. Cardinal Luis Juan de 
Mila y Borja did not deign to attend the Conclave : but 
remained at his bishopric of Lerida in Spain. Cardinal 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Pedro Luis de Lan9ol y Borja, immediately after the 
election, passed into voluntary exile in the Regno without 
speaking to the Pope. Cardinal Francisco de Borja followed 
the custom of his House in regard to the voting : but he 
remained in Rome ; and no doubt hoped with his charming 
innocent good nature that the Lord Julius P.P. would be 
satisfied, would be appeased, now that the world had 
nothing more to give Him. The Cardinal was bitterly 

From Madonna Lucrezia's little boy, Duke Roderico, 
His Holiness seized the duchy of Sermoneta ; and restored 
it to the Caietani from whom it originally had been taken, 
and who hold it still, a.d. 1901. (The present Duke of 
Sermoneta also has the superb sword of state which Maestro 
Ercole, the master-sword-smith of his age, had made to 
carry before Duke Cesare (detto Borgia) when he officiated 
as Cardinal Ablegate at the coronation of King Don 
Federigo of Naples in 1497. It is a miracle of damascening 
and design, a lesson to Twentieth-Century makers of 
decorative swords who heap glories on hilt and scabbard, 
and leave the blade to be hidden. Of this sword of Duke 
Cesare's the blade is the soul. The sheath of plain embossed 
leather is in the Victoria and Albert Museum.) 

Then, the Lord Julius P.P. H demanded of Duke 
Cesare the renunciation of his duchy of the Romagna. 
That province was a fief of the Holy See ; and it was com- 
petent for the Holiness of the Pope to deal with it at His 
pleasure : but, seeing that to Duke Cesare's splendid 
services, the Papacy practically owed the peace, the posses- 
sion, the heftiness of the Romagna, heretofore a hell of 
turbulent bandits, brigands and assassins who defied their 
Over-lord to collect His revenues, — the demand of the 
Lord Julius P.P. H at least was discouraging. 

Duke Cesare, while willing to take the oath of allegiance 
of a feudal vassal to the Prince, refused to relinquish the 
fortresses of the Romagna which by conquest he had won, 
and garrisoned with his veteran army, now disbanded by 
the Judas wiles of Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, and 
re-enlisted under alien banners. 

Whether the Lord Julius P.P. H had made, or had not 



u^-e^j -^- '^ -^ ■ 

Sparks that Die 

made, promises before His election, He was now de iure 
and de facto Ruler of the World, and absolutely despotic. 
He arrested Duke Cesare in Rome ; and imprisoned him 
as a rebel in the Borgia Tower. The utter and vacuous 
helplessness of the Duke is in striking- contrast to the 
masterful energy of all his previous life. Some enormous 
mental shock might produce such degeneration ; the hideous 
treachery of Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere as related by 
Varillas, for example. Duke Cesare behaved, in his mis- 
fortune, like a son staggered, struck breathless and speech- 
less by a revelation of a father's iniquity. A Bull of 
Deprivation despoiled him of all fiefs and dignities held 
from the Holy See, and confiscated all his personal property. 
He literally was stripped naked. In 1504, he escaped from 
Rome to Ostia in disguise, and thence to Naples. Here 
he might have found a pied a terre ; and, with the splendour 
of his past achievements, have won an opportunity of 
recovering his lost estates by war : but the Lord J ulius P. P. H , 
conscious of the danger to His peace that such an aggrieved 
and notable personality would be, had intrigued with the 
Catholic King ; and, on Duke Cesare's arrival in the Regno, 
he was re-arrested, and shipped to a new prison in the 
castle of Medina del Campo in Spain. 

The marriage of Madonna Lucrezia Borgia with Don 
Alfonso d'Este was a most happy one. The sweet young 
bride had made herself beloved by all Ferrara, from her 
husband's father Duke Ercole to the meanest of his subjects, 
by her beauty, her goodness, and her wonderfully able 
versatility, three indispensable qualities in the wife of the 
heir to the throne. Attired in "a mulberry satin gown 
embroidered with gold fish-bones each two fingers broad," 
with the lace-flounce worth thirty thousand ducats (say 
^60,000) which, according to Giovanni Lucido, was in her 
wedding-chest, she would amuse herself in the ducal palace 
by witnessing performances of the Casina or the Miles 
Glortosus, comedies of Plautus. Sometimes, (as Sanuto, 
the Venetian Orator at Ferrara, informed his government,) 
she would remain all day in her apartments, writing letters, 
and having her head washed : or she would sit for hours 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

and listen to the violin-music of her adept young husband. 
On the Maundy Thursday of the first year of her marriage^ 
she publicly washed the feet of one hundred and sixty poor 
men. Her observance of religious duties was as notable as 
the spirit of genuine piety which pervades her many letters 
still extant. 

On hearing of Duke Cesare's disgrazia, Madonna 
Lucrezia earnestly wrote to the Marquess of Mantua, and 
to her friend, sister-in-law, and confidante, the Marchioness 
Isabella, begging them to use the influence of their House 
of Gonzaga with the Lord Julius P.P. H to procure his 
freedom. The times were out of joint for Este personally 
to interfere ; for Madonna Lucrezia was stricken down with 
the effects of an a/if^Xwaig, and the old Duke Ercole was 
breathing his last sigh. 

On the nineteenth of January 1505, the Lord 
Julius P.P. II issued His notorious Bull against Simony; 
striking a new blow at the House of Borgia, by the 
aspersion cast upon the memory of the Lord Alexander 
P.P. VI. 

Duke Alfonso d'Este and his Duchess Lucrezia ascended 
the throne of their duchy in due course ; and negotiations 
with the Holiness of the Pope, for the enfranchisement of 
Duke Cesare, might have been, and would have been 
instituted : but, early in the spring of the year Ferrara was 
threatened by famine, and the hands of the young sove- 
reigns were entirely occupied. Had Duke Cesare been own 
brother to the Duchess Lucrezia, perhaps more urgent steps 
would have been taken : but she never seems to have 
regarded him otherwise than as a half-brother, who was 
her Father's most useful servant, and her mother's shame. 
Duke Alfonso proceeded to Venice to buy food stuffs in 
view of the famine, for the patriarchal rule obtained in 
Ferrara ; and left the Duchess Lucrezia as Regfent of his 
state. Her lovely womanly character may be seen in an 
edict which she issued for the protection of Jews, who were 
attacked and pillaged by Christians rioting for food ; and 
in the sweet indignant letter, abounding in mis-spelt words 
(as do all good and distinguished women's letters,) and 
enjoining the Podesta (mayor) to be energetic about secur- 


Sparks that Die 

ing to the Jews protection of their Hves and property 
equally with the Christians. 

When Duke Alfonso returned, after some months' 
absence during which the Duchess sent him periodical and 
frequent accounts of her regency, addressed " To the Most 
Illustrious and Most Excellent Lord, My Most Honourable 
Lord and Consort, These, with speed — speed — speed — " the 
summer brought plague on the heels of famine. The visi- 
tation was most severe. The unselfish exertions of the 
Duke and Duchess were noble and untiring. The health 
of the Duchess Lucrezia suffered ; and before the year was 
over she grave birth to a dead child. 

In 1506, Duke Cesare de Valentinois escaped from his 
Spanish prison, and made his way into the neighbouring 
realm of Navarre, where the King Jean d'Albret was 
brother to his wife Madame Charlotte d'Albret, Duchess of 
Valentinois. The events of the last three years had not 
broken his splendid spirit. All his triumphs, all the results 
of his strenuous energy and talent had been nullified for 
him. At the age of thirty-three years he was despoiled of 
his life's work, and was a ruined man. The Romagna for 
ever was gone from him. His French duchy seems to have 
been of small account. Still, he was not crushed, he had 
the courage to begin again to carve out a career in a new 
country ; and to this end he took service in the army of his 
brother-in law King Jean of Navarre. 

The Lord Julius P.P. II having decreed Himself and 
His Successors to be the heir-at-law, next-of-kin, residuary 
and sole legatee, of all cardinals, and of all clergy who die 
within the walls of Rome, an era of sumptuous premortal 
cenotaphs and sepulchres set in among the Illustrissimi 
Colendissimi ed Osservantissimi Porporati, as well as among 
the lesser ecclesiastical dignitaries ; to the end that as little 
as possible of their riches, after their demise, should go to 
the pontifical exchequer. 

There is a codicil to the will of the Genoese mariner, 
Messer Cristoforo Colombi of this date, the fourth of May 
1506, by which the Inventor of America bequeathed to his 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

native Republic of Genoa " the prayer-book which Pope 
Alexander gave him ; and which, in prison, in conflict, and 
in every kind of adversity, had been to him the greatest of 
comforts." How simply bright a light does this incident 
throw upon the relations of a great and good man with the 
Lord Alexander P.P. VI ! 

The Lord Julius P.P. II was capable of doing without 
Duke Cesare in the Romagna. The Pope's Holiness Him- 
self was a man of war. Who found it consistent to wear 
cuirass and casque on battlefields equally with pluviale and 
triregno in the Vatican Basilica. Men called Him II Ponti- 
Jice Ter7'ibile. "Give Us in Our hands no stupid book, 
but a bare blade," He impatiently roared to the painter of 
His portrait, now in the National Gallery. But Messer 
Rafaele Sanzio, despite all his conventional macaronics, was 
for once in his life artist enouo^h to omit both book and 
blade, and to concentrate on the painting of the character 
of those fierce vulgar insatiable empty hands gripping the 
arms of the chair. And the Romagna found the whips of 
Duke Cesare to be preferred before the scorpions of the 
Lord Julius P.P. II. Perugia was the seat of the Baglioni. 
Twenty years before, in 1487, there had been an outbreak 
of the feud of Baglioni and Oddi, months of continual 
rioting, the gutters running blood, the city like a slaughter- 
house ; until Oddi was driven away, and Baglioni turned 
the place into a fortress and the churches into barracks. 
In 1 49 1, in another outbreak, Baglioni hanged a hundred 
and thirty conspirators from the windows of the Palazzo 
Communale in a single day ; and, (with the quick reversion 
from carnage to piety which is a characteristic of the age,) 
incontinently erected five and thirty altars in the public 
square, and caused continuous masses to be said and pro- 
cessions to be performed, to purify the city and to procure 
repose for the souls of the slain. Duke Cesare made a 
marked impression on these brigands, who learned to give 
him little trouble : but, when he was dispossessed and his 
lonor sword sealed in its scabbard, Bagrlioni took the bit 
between their teeth and reared, refused tribute to their 
sovereign Over-lord, and broke out in rebellion in the 
customary manner. The Lord Julius P.P. II promptly 


Sparks that Die 

raised an army which He led in person ; and reduced 
Perugia. Without precautions for His safety, trusting to 
the moral effect of His presence for the inviolability of His 
sacrosanct person, He adventured Himself in the heart of 
the rebel city, and beat Don Giampaolo Baglioni to his 
knees. In a man of sensibility this hardihood would indi- 
cate a very dare-devil : in the case of the Supreme Pontiff 
a distinction must be made between courage and mere 
plebeian callousness. Messer Niccolo Machiavelli sneered 
at this miserable Don Giampaolo Baglioni, because he 
lacked the boldness to strangle his unwelcome visitor, the 
Lord Julius P.P. H, and so crown his life of crime with 
a signal act of " Magnanimita " ! Certainly a man would 
need some boldness to strangle the Pope, the Ruler of the 
World, the Father of Princes and of Kings, the Earthly 
Vicar of Jesus Christ our Saviour ! Certainly, a man who 
would strangle in cold blood the Sovereign Poniiff coming 
to him as his guest, unarmed, under a flag of truce, would 
win fame, or infamy, for endless ages. But that such a 
deed should deserve the epithet " magnanimous," should 
be considered to be indicative of greatness of soul, is a 
matter of opinion. Evidently the Twentieth Century 
considerably has curtailed and straitened the signification 
and the application which the word Magnanimity bore in 
the Fifteenth. Now, we call a man magnanimous who, at 
huge self-sacrifice, does noble deeds. Then, Messer Nic- 
colo Machiavelli thought that startling actions, good, or 
bad, proclaimed the greatness of their agent's soul ! 

The Lord Julius P.P. H was not without His flatterers. 
No man is, if he can pay. Literary petits maitres like 
Messer Baltassare Castiglioni found it profitable to address 
the Terrible Pontiff in terms like these : 

" O Pater, O Pastor populorura, O " O Father, O Shepherd of the people,, 
Maxime mundi O Supreme 

Arbiter, humanum qui genus Master of the world, AVho rulest all 

omne regis ; the human race ; 

lustitiae pacisque Dator placid- Giver of Justice, Peace, and tran- 

aeque quietis, quil Ease, 

Credita Cui soU est vita salusque Thou to Whom alone is committed 
hominum ; the life and salvation of men ; 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Quern Deus Ipse Erebi fecit caeli- Whom God Himself has made Lord 

que potentem, of heaven and hell, 

Ut nutu pateant utraque regno That either realm might open at Thy 
Tuo ; — nod — 

" When the spiritual authority of the Popes came thus to be expressed 
in Latin verse, it was impossible not to treat them as deities. The temp- 
tation to apply to them the language of Roman religion was too great ; the 
double opportunity of flattering their vanity as pontiffs, and their ears as 
scholars, was too attractive to be missed." ' 

The Terrible Pontiff, however, was no scholar, but an 
unadulterated plebeian. It is true that He, as Cardinal- 
Bishop of Ostia. bought that vastly over-rated piece known 
as the Apollo of the Belvedere, when first it was discovered 
at Porto d'Anzio (Antium). It is true that He bought, in 
1 506, for six hundred gold crowns {?) the Laocoon, (which 
Messer Michelanorelo Buonarroti saw unearthed in the 
Baths of Titus,) to the supreme disgust of his " art- 
adviser " who declared that the two sons of the Thymbraian 
priest were not boys, but little men. It is true that He 
bought the Ariadne (which He called Cleopatra), the Torso 
of Herakles, and the Commodus, unearthed on Campo di 
Fiori, and now in the Vatican. He did these things 
because they were modish things to do in 1506. One 
gained more Kvdog in the pose of a Sixteenth-Century 
Maecenas, than as Successor of the Galilean Fisherman. 
The plebeian pontiff of the Sixteenth Century was ashamed 
of His plebeian predecessor of the First. The times were 
changed, he argued, as the faithful vainly argue to excuse 
prelatical vagaries now. He preferred competition with 
"men of the world" to the cure of souls. He was quite 
unable to appreciate intellect. He was congenitally in- 
capable of appreciating the delicacy, or the validity, of 
Letters. The plebeian chiefly is touched by way of the 
sense of sight; and the Lord Julius P.P. II understood 
naked statues, things which He could see : wherefore He 
bought Apollo and Laocoon and the rest. There is not 
the slightest credit due to Him for discrimination in His 
purchases, or for a deliberate choice of what was beautiful. 
Men happened to dig up those marbles in Roman territory 

^ Symonds, J. A. Renascence, II. 493-5. 

Sparks that Die 

just then. Any one could see them to be beyond the 
ordinary. Any one could see them to be antiques. It 
was the fashion to buy antiques ; and the Terrible Pontiff 
bought — bought as retired grocers buy, who buy their 
libraries by the cwt. Also, He had Messer Michelangelo 
Buonarroti at His ankle, with whose advice it would have 
been difficult for a sardonic goat to commit an artistic 
blunder. They were a pair, those two, the artist and the 
pontiff, uomini terribili, terrible men, both. Messer 
Michelangelo had been educated at the expense of Lorenzo 
de' Medici in the Palazzo Medici of Florence and the Villa 
Medici of Fiesole. There, at the suggestion of Canon 
Angelo Ambrogini (detto Poliziano), he had sculptured his 
Battle of Herakles with the Centaurs, while listening to 
Fra Girolamo Savonarola and Messer Giovanni Pico della 
Mirandola surnamed the Phoenix of Genius {Fe7tice deo-li 
iugegni.) Could any man but Poliziano have suggested a 
more admirable subject for Michelangelo than this of weird 
muscular gigantic energy? In 1500, in the reign of the 
Lord Alexander P.P. VI, he had carved his lily-pure Pieta 
of the Vatican Basilica, the most divinely pure present- 
ment of God's Maiden Mother, of the MijrpoTrap^evoe, 
save those of Alessandro Filipepi (detto Botticelli) since 
Byzantine art had faded. Now, he was in Rome, "art- 
adviser " to the Terrible Pontiff, eating his own heart in 
inactivity, burning and yearning to work with his own 
hands, with all the passionate excruciating torture suffered 
by every artist who may not put his talent "out to the 
exchangers." It was the lust of creation in Michelangelo 
that made him terrible to his fellow men. His incivi- 
lities to his colleagues are proverbial. " Goffo nell' arte " 
he flung with contemptuous scorn to Messer Pietro di 
Cristoforo Vanucci of citti della Pieve (detto Perugino) 
who had a picture-shop at Florence, and bought estates 
with the proceeds of his smooth and stony saints and 
seraphs, stencilled by his pupils on the canvases, and 
touched by himself in his workshop or picture-factory at 
Perugia, at the very time when Oddi and Baglioni each 
were tearing the other's throats to tatters outside his door. 
Then in 1508 the Lord Julius P.P II ordered Messer 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Xystine Chapel. 
The gods on high Olympos never allow a man to do the 
thing that he wants to do : they are jealous lest a man 
should create a god. Messer Michelangelo wanted to 
practise sculpture ; wherefore he was told to paint a ceiling. 
"I'm not a painter !" (Ne io pittore !) he roared to the 
Terrible Pontiff, who fulminated and thundered in reply. 
They both were terrible men ; and they unrestrainedly 
spoke with perfect frankness as between man and man, 
using no set form whatever. 

The Terrible Pontiff, like all clerical patrons, was an 
infernal nuisance to the Terrible Painter, who well-nigh 
killed himself by years of ceaseless toil, lying on his back 
upon a scaffold in the filthy air that hangs about a ceiling. 
He would have no assistant save a boy or two. He lived, 
and ate, and slept on the scene of his labour. Many times 
the Terrible Pontiff came to see what was being done ; and 
every time the Terrible Painter instructed Him in the art 
and mystery of anathema, and drove Him away. At last 
the Lord Julius P.P. II threatened to have Messer Michel- 
ano-elo flung down, and the scaffold pulled about his ears: 
but this was when the work was done. The Terrible 
Painter had the scaffold removed, and invited his patron to 
view the sumptuous ceiling. The Terrible Pontiff came ; 
and saw ; and suggested that the scaffold should be re- 
erected so that the work might be touched up with — ultra- 
marine and gold-leaf ! 

# * # 

In Ferrara, the year 1506 was marked by one of those 
tragical expositions of naked human passion which afflict 
humanity in every age. Madonna Angela de Borja y 
Lan^ol, a cousin of theDuchess Lucrezia — being the daughter 
of the Lord Alexander P.P. VI's sister, Dofia Juana, by 
her marriage with Don Guillelmo de Langol, and sister to 
Cardinal Juan de Borja y Lan9ol (detto Giovanni Seniore), 
Archbishop of Monreale, and Cardinal Pedro Luis de 
Borja y Lan^ol, — was a maid-of-honour attached to the 
suite of the Duchess of Ferrara. She was very beautiful, 
and is called in the chronicle " a most elegant damsel " — 
damigella elegantissima. Two younger brothers of Duke 


Sparks that Die 

Alfonso, the athletic Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, and Don 
Giulio d'Este (bastard of the old Duke Ercole) fell in love 
with her. Madonna Angela favoured the Bastard Giulio 
whose lovely eyes she unreservedly admired — consequently, 
as the manner was, his rival the Cardinal hired four pro- 
fessionals to put out those eyes. Naif unpaltering straight- 
forwardness of the Sixteenth Century ! The operation failed 
of execution, for the Bastard Giulio, being forewarned, 
escaped with his eyes unharmed. But such conduct does 
not make for the peace of a state, brawling royalties afford- 
ing disedification to the mob. The laws of Ferrara, paternal 
in character, ordained a scale of penances graduated to 
the rank of culprits : for example, a working man, who 
obscenely swore, would pay a fine ; a swearing burgess paid 
a double fine and a swearing noble was mulcted of a triple 
fine. Therefore Duke Alfonso put the ban on his brother, 
the Lord Cardinal Ippolito, who retired to Rome to nurse 
his discontent and plan his next move against the Bastard 
Giulio. Madonna Angela, who was no more to be blamed 
than any other girl whose charms have inflamed a lusty pair of 
rivals to desperation, married the third, Don Alessandro Pio 
Estense di Savoja, Count of Sassuolo. The bandit^ Car- 
dinal Ippolito had not long to wait in exile. If he had been 
the Master of Fate, he could not have devised a neater or com- 
pleter vengeance than that which came to him. It is one 
thing to attempt to blind a bastard brother who is a royal 
prince. It is another thing to compass the death of a brother 
who is a reigning sovereign. The robust young Cardinal 
was equal to the first : but above the second. 

Duke Alfonso's brothers, Don Ferdinando d'Este and 
the Bastard Giulio, engaged in a conspiracy to assassinate 
him. News of the plot reached Cardinal Ippolito in Rome. 
He promptly warned Duke Alfonso of his danger. Finding 
themselves discovered, the conspirators fled. Don Ferdi- 
nando was caught : but the Bastard Giulio, good at escapes, 
took refuge in sanctuary with his brother-in-law the Marquess 
of Mantua, who replied to Duke Alfonso's demand for 
extradition that, if evidence of guilt were shewn, the criminal 
should be delivered up to justice. Evidence was shewn, in 

^ One bandito, under sentence, or ban, of exile. 

273 S 

chronicles of the House of Borgia 

the shape of the full confession of Don Ferdinando ; and the 
Bastard Giulio passed into his sovereign brother's hands. 
Brought to the common block in the square of Ferrara, the 
two detected traitors were allowed to suffer all the pangs 
of the approach of death : but, at the last moment, Duke 
Alfonso in his mercy granted a reprieve, commuting their 
penance to life-imprisonment. 

* * * 

Early in 1507, died Duke Cesare de Valentinois (detto 
Borgia), by a mean inglorious death for one who had been 
in life so mighty a man. While commanding a small 
squadron on behalf of the King of Navarre, he was killed 
in a petty skirmish by the castle of Viana. His corpse 
was quietly interred in the cathedral of Pampeluna, which, 
by a curious coincidence, had been the first piece of eccle- 
siastical preferment conferred on him by the Lord Alex- 
ander P.P. VI. So ended a phenomenal personality in 
which superb and tawny beauty of physique, prodigious 
force of character, fierce all-conquering energy, swift unerr- 
ing almost-feline agility of action, and transcendent splen- 
dour of achievement, were blasted and nullified and marred, 
humanly speaking, by one single delicacy of respectful 
conscientious self-sacrifice and supreme confidence in 
clerical honour. His beautiful elegy by Ercole Strozzi, 

" lUe diu, qui dum caelestibus auris 
Visitur, implet onus laudis, caelumque meretur " 

is too well-known to be quoted at length. He left three 

(a) Madame Eloise de Valentinois ; who married, first, 
the Sieur Louis de la Tremouille, second, the Sieur 
Philippe de Bourbon, Comte de Busset, whose direct 
descendants flourish in France at the present day : 

(/3) Don Girolamo de Valentinois ; who, by marriage 
with Madonna Isabella Carpi patrician of Ferrara, 
had issue Madonna Lucrezia de Valentinois married, 
in 1562, to Don Bartolomeo Oroboni patrician of 
Ferrara, who died in 1565. 

(7) a bastard Madonna Camilla Lucrezia ; (evidently the 
offspring of an intrigue carried on when Duke Cesare 

sparks that Die 

was In Ferrara in 1 500-1 arranging the marriage 
of Madonna Lucrezia Borgia to the heir of Duke 
Ercole d'Este ;) born of Duke Cesare and a married 
woman In Ferrara ; according to the deed of legi- 
timation/ dated 1509, where Madonna Camilla 
Lucrezia Is said to be "of the age of more than 
seven years " : she became Abbess of San Bernar- 
dino in Ferrara, In 1545 ; and died In 1573. 

The Duchess Lucrezia Borgia d'Este w^as deeply grieved 
by the death of Duke Cesare her half-brother. There is a 
very touching letter written by her friend and sister-in-law, 
the Marchioness Isabella Gonzaga of Mantua, to Duke 
Alfonso who at that time was in Rome. It is dated the 
eighteenth of April 1507 ; and describes how that the 
Duchess of Ferrara, on receiving the sad news, immediately 
went to the church of the monastery of Corpus Domini and 
remained during two days and nights, praying for the 
repose of the soul of Duke Cesare de Valentinols. A 
simple act ; and precisely what any good Christian woman 
would do In similar circumstances. 

* # =;^ 

A year later, on the fourth of April 1 508, at the Castle 
of Ferrara to the Immense joy of all, fonnosus puer est 
for^noso natus Aprili, says Benedetto Lampridil in his 
Carmina Inedlta, the Duchess Lucrezia bore to Duke 
Alfonso a son and heir, who was baptized by the name 

During this year, a league of the Powers was formed 
under the Elect- Emperor Maximilian directed against 
Venice ; and Duke Alfonso, whose dominions marched with 
those of that Republic, threw in his lot with its foes. While 
he was enofag-Inof the Venetians on the Romaona frontier, 

' Observe the chivalrous gentleness of the Borgian Era in regard to 
women, compared with the bald mercilessness of modern parochial and civil 
Registers. In these deeds of legitimation, the woman is never named, and 
not always the man. The weaker party is never punished by eternal gibbeting, 
by eternal record of her shame by name. She is always permitted to hide 
under the veil of coniugaia, or soltita, "a married woman" or "a spinster." 
Still, the Twentieth Century is humane to the wolfs brother and the hysena's 
cousin; and nourishes a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: 
and perhaps that balances the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries' humanity 
and chivalry to sex. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

the Duchess Lucrezia ruled as Regent in Ferrara. She 
administered government of the state with the same sweet 
womanly thoroughness as she shewed in the administration 
of the government of her domestic affairs. History is rich 
in records relating to this lovely lady. She superintended 
the household matters of her palaces with a minute attention 
to detail which, to the modern middle-classes, would appear 
amazino- in a Sovereion Duchess. To set a fashion of rare 
liberal-mindedness she appointed the Jewess Mazzolino ta 
the care of her extensive wardrobe, and Messer Ludovico 
as her physician. Her regime was of the simple patriarchal 
type of the old Duke Ercole, who, on the occasion of an 
outbreak of plague in 1500, issued an Edict which said that 
" Duke Ercole d'Este, for good reasons to him known, and 
because it ahvays is well to be on good ter7ns with God,'' 
ordained religious processions every day throughout Ferrara. 
A second quaint Edict of the same fatherly potentate, (which 
incidentally speaks for the meticulously cleanly personal 
habits of the Borgian Era, so strenuously maintained on a 
previous page of this book,) proclaims that " inasmuch as 
"bakers are known to knead their dough with feet that, 
" frequently, are unclean, such practices must not continue 
" except on penalty of fine or imprisonment : but the dough 
"must be worked with clean hands and nails ^ 

Evildoers, all the same, had a shocking time. Mario 
Equicola gives exact particulars of a certain Madonna 
Laura (name suppressed) who, being caught in adultery, 
was immured alive ; that is to say, she was publicly confined 
in a cell a few feet square, with a little window, outside the 
episcopal palace, near the entrance on the right of the high 
altar of the cathedral of Ferrara. Perjurers went about 
after their conviction with their tonoues securelv nailed ta 
little logs of w^ood. The accounts for the nails and logs 
exist. Duchess Lucrezia's sumptuary laws were unsuccess- 
ful. The sex of the legislator prevented her from manu- 
facturing laws to regulate fashion, which could be put into 
practical effect. That was perfectly natural ; nor does the 
failure in any way reflect upon the excellence of the inten- 
tions of her ducal highness. She ordained that no woman 
should wear a gown whose value was higher than the sum 


Sparks that Die 

of fifteen ducats (say ^30), nor jewellery worth more than 
fifty ducats (say ^100). She furnished a specification of the 
i^ems which might be worn, and of the fabrics of which 
<^owns might be made. Also, she precisely specified the 
quantity of material that might be used, and the cut and 
fashion that was to be adopted. Further, in order to secure 
the observation of these laws, she ordained a box, having a 
slit in its lid like a modern letter-box, to be placed in the 
cathedral by the holy-water-stoup ; so that fathers, husbands, 
•or lovers, who found themselves outraged by the length or 
the rotundity of the skirts, or the bulk of the sleeves, or the 
violence of the style of their women-folk, — and the cost ot 
the same, — secretly might drop in denunciations while in 
the act of taking holy water ; the said denunciations after- 
wards to be attended-to in a legal manner by the justiciary. 
Delightfully solemn and futile efifort of a charming woman. 
Well, it failed ; not on account of the female peacocks of 
Ferrara, but by reason of the very skewbald harlequins 
whose propriety and purses it had aimed to benefit. How 
many denunciations secretly were dropped into Duchess 
Lucrezia's precious box, how many scandalized fathers, 
husbands, and lovers, sneaked about their daughters, wives, 
and lemans, is not known. Only one thing is known, — 
there was not a justiciar in all the duchy of Ferrara, 
married or unmarried, who dared even to allude to, much 
less to act upon, the said denunciations, and enforce the 

On the twenty-fifth of August 1509, the Duchess 
Lucrezia gave birth to a second son, Don Ippolito d'Este, 
named after his uncle the heraklean Cardinal ; and who, in 
after years, became Archbishop and Cardinal of Milan. 

All through 1508 and 1509 the war went on. In 
December of the latter year, a powerful Venetian fleet 
advanced to the mouth of the Po, devastating the country 
on both banks, and invading the duchy of Ferrara with 
frightful atrocities. Duke Alfonso, hurrying to meet the 
foe, won a glorious victory at Policella : but the war dragged 
■on till 1512, keeping him in camp, away from his capital, 
which almost exclusively was governed by the Duchess 
Lucrezia (she bore Don Alessandro d'Este in 151 1), 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

assisted by Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, now no longer a 
bandit, but completely in the confidence and favour of his 
sovereign brother. 

^: * # 

On the fifth of February 1510 died the noble and 
strenuous knight Don Pietro Gregorio Borgia of the Junior 
Branch. He had been high in honour with Duke Cesare 
de Valentinois della Romagna since he saved him from the 
clutches of the Christian King Charles VIII in 1495 ; and 
had served him as mounted scale-armoured arbalister^ 
lieutenant, and standard-bearer. On the fall of the Duke, 
he returned to his allegiance to the Regno now ruled by 
the Catholic King Don Hernando. He was Viceroy of 
the province of the Abruzzi when he died, and was buried 
in the Church of San Clemente at Velletri, his native city.^ 
His fine epitaph- runs : 

" Hic REQUiESCiT NoB. ET Strenuus Eques Dom. Petrus Borgia, 
Cataphractor. Locum-tenens, AC SiGNiFER Cesaris Borgiae Ispani 
Valentini Ducis, Qui objit An. Dni. MDX. D. qv. Men. Feb." 

* * :^< 

The year 1 5 1 1 is remarkable for a wildly frenetic 
insurrection on the part of the gentle old Cardinal Francisco 
de Borja, which cost that Most Worshipful Lord his rank 
and his life. There is a limit to human endurance. In 
some men it is wide ; in others narrow : but human nature 
subjected to unnatural suppression and restraint, sooner or 
later desperately will struggle to burst its bonds. This 
principle has never been understood by the clergy. It 
is one of the disabilities under which they labour in dealing 
with men. History teems with examples of amiable, would- 
be obedient, and respectable characters, tried beyond their 
strength by inconsiderate ignorant oppressive injustice on 
the part of churchmen, and transformed into savagely bitter 
and appallingly destructive suicides. There is no better 
example than Cardinal Francisco de Borja. 

He was of the age of seventy years. Though his 
illustrious House had been predominant in Christendom 

1 TheuH. Bonaventura Abp. Teatro Istorico di Velletri, II. 5. 
- Vit. Synop. Stef. Borgiae S.R.E. Card. Ampliss. (Peter Paul of St, 
Bartholomew, discalced Carmelite. Rome, 1805, I. 2.) 


sparks that Die 

during more than fifty of those years, he had never sought 
to benefit by the fact that his father was the Lord 
Calixtus P.P. Ill, nor to intrude himself among the mighty 
who were his blood-relations. Not till he was on the verge 
of his sixtieth year did he become a personage ; and then 
his august cousin, the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, in admira- 
tion of his enchanting disposition, dignified him with the 
scarlet hat and the rank of Cardinal-Presbyter of the Title 
of Santa Lucia in Silice, [Atfi ConsistojHali). Later, he 
proceeded to the Title of Santa Cecilia, [Ciacconi and 
Moroni); thence again to the Title of San Nereo e Sant' 
Achilleo [Atti Co7isistoriali) ; and last to the Title of San 
Clemente. He also was Treasurer of the Holy See, 
Bishop of Teano, and Archbishop of Cosenza. 

Seeing^ the exacerbatinof measures which the Terrible 
Pontiff, the Lord Julius P.P. II was using against the 
House of Borgia, and especially the spoliation of the two 
little boys Duke Roderico and Duke Giovanni, this very 
sympathetic old cardinal had the indiscretion to put his 
frank opinion of the Pope's Holiness into certain letters 
which he wrote to the Orator of Ferrara at the Court 
of Rome. This opinion could not fail to be unfavourable 
and the reverse of complimentary. No doubt the Orator 
was in direct communication with his sovereign, Duke 
Alfonso d'Este, whom he would keep advised of the 
trend of sentiments and of events in Rome. These 
letters came, by means which it would be improper to 
describe, into the anointed hands of God's Vicegerent. 
His Holiness read them ; and vehemently enraged himself 
against the Duke Alfonso d'Este of Ferrara, and upon 
Cardinal Francisco de Borja, whom he incontinently flung 
into prison with every species of indignity. The Sacred 
College, tremorous for its own security if such treatment 
of a Purpled One should pass without remonstrance, 
exerted its influence on the Holiness of the Pope, and 
procured the ungracious liberation of Cardinal Francisco 
de Borja. 

But the ill was done. The milk of human kindness 
effectually had been soured ; the placid amiable old gentle- 
man had been changed into a violent malcontent breathing 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

threatenings and slaughter, and whose fiery Spanish blood 
at last was boiling over. Two other cardinals joined in 
his savage revolt, the Lord Bernardino Lopez de Caravajal 
Cardinal- Bishop of Sabina, and the Lord Guillaume de 
Brigonnet Cardinal- Bishop of Praeneste (Palestrina). 
These three decamped from Rome to Pisa, where, a 
fourth, the Lord Rene de Prie Cardinal- Presbyter of the 
Title of Santa Sabina, having joined them, they con- 
stituted themselves as a General Council ; and dared to 
cite the Lord Julius P.P. II to shew cause before them 
why He should not be declared a Pseudopontiff, and 
deposed from Peter's Throne, by reason of the irregularity 
of His election due to Simony and other crimes : — an 
excellent example of the sauce for the goose being served 
to the gander. 

Melpomene is own sister to Thalia ; and never has a 
ghastlier tragedy been more comically played. This self- 
styled Council of Pisa laboured under the disadvantage of 
being radically schismatic. Only the Roman Pontiff can 
summon, or confirm the decrees of, a General Council. 
The acts of the Schismatic Council of Pisa, therefore, 
were hopelessly and irretrievably invalid. The very impos- 
sibility of the whole affair is proof conclusive that these four 
well-intentioned, well-living pathetic old men had been tried 
beyond their strength, beyond all patience, goaded by 
insult and by gross injustice into frenzy. Their conduct 
w^^s simply frenetic. 

The Lord Julius P.P. II replied to Cardinal Francisco 
de Borja with short incisive action. By His supreme 
authority He issued a Bull of Deposition from the car- 
dinalate ; and denounced him to all Christendom as an 
heresiarch and schismatic with whom none mioht have to 
do. A Bull (Bulla Monitorii Apostolici) was issued on the 
twenty-eighth of July 151 1 '' cotra tres reverendissimos 
cardinales . . . . ut redeCit ad obedietd S.d.n. ne Schisma in 
eccl. ill sancta deioriet^ This was followed by a second 
'''' BiLlla intimatiois Generalis Concitii apiid Lateraiiwn per 
S.d.n. Juliii Papa II cdita^' directed, with the scrupulous 
politeness of a cleric about to crush, against '' dilectu filiu 
7iostru Franciscti Titiili Sancti Cleinentis pbytermn Car- 


Sparks that Die 

dinalem'' \ who ''in seipsis arinis assuviptis et pro 
sacerdotalibtis vestis Tho7-ace^ indiUis et gladiis armati Papa 
se cottderCity Printed contemporary copies of these two 
Bulls are in the British Museum ; and, bound with them, 
but, strange to say, uncatalogued (a.d. 1900) — (strange, 
because of the unique perfection of every thing at the British 
Museum) — is the momentous Brief announcing the issue of 
the Bull of Deposition. Its title is ''Breve Julii Secudi Pont. 
Max. ad reges, duces, et principes christianos, etc. "Julius 
Papa II'' addresses Himself to 

" Our well-beloved son in Christ Maximilian, Elect-Emperor, Always 

August ; 
„ „ ,, Louis (XII), of the French, the Most 

Christian King ; 
„ „ ,, Hernando, of Aragon and the Two 

Sicilies, the Catholic King ; 
„ „ „ Emanuele, of Portugal, the Illustrious 

King ; 
„ „ „ Henry (VII), of England, the Illus- 

trious King ;^ 
„ „ „ James (V), of the Scots, the Illustrious 

King ; 
,, ,, „ Wladislaf, of Hungary and Bohemia, 

the Illustrious King; 
„ „ ,, Jean and Katharine, King and Queen 

of Navarre ; 
„ „ „ Sigismund, King of Poland ; 

„ „ „ John, King of Denmark ; 

„ „ „ Carlo, Duke of Savoja ; 

„ „ ,, LionardoLauredano, DogeofVenice;" 

and proclaims that "this day, in Public Consistory, We have 
deprived " of all things ecclesiastical, and of the cardina- 
litial hat, [s^alero cardinaiatzis), Bernardino Cardinal-Bishop 
of Sabina, Guillaume Cardinal Bishop of Praeneste (Pales- 
trina), Francisco Cardinal-Presbyter of the title of San 

' It appears to be a little inconsistent of a Pope, Who wished Messer 
Rafaele Sanzio to paint Him with a Sword and not a book in His hand, to 
object to a Cardinal in a Breast-plate: for the sword is the weapon of offence ; 
bui the Breast-plate, of defence merely. But many terms in this Bull are simply 
*' corroborative detail calculated to lend an air of verisimilitude to an other- 
wise bald and unconvincing narrative "—simply words, " full of sound and 
fury, signifying nothing." 

- The Twentieth Century may be shocked to notice that, in the Sixteenth, 
England ranked as the fifth Power in Europe, after Portugal. 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Nereo e Sant' Achilleo (a clerical error for his Title, as 
given above in the Bull, was San Clemente), and Rene de 
Prie Cardinal-Presbyter of the Title of Santa Sabina, that 
they no longer may be considered Cardinals, nor called 
Cardinals, by word or by writing. The Brief is Dated at 
Rome at St. Peters, and given Under the Fishe^'maii s Ring, 
the twenty foitrth of October 1 5 1 1 and the eighth year ofOzir 
Pontificate. This summary is appended here as an example 
of form. 

Death had hurled his dart before the Terrible Pontiff. 
Cardinal Francisco de Borja died of an apoplexy at Pisa, 
before the sentence of his disgrace and deposition reached 
him there. 

The student of history, who seeks a field wherein few 
yet have walked, will be well advised to investigate the life 
of this gentle and quiet cardinal, who departed in the tragic 
blaze of madness and revolt. 

* *: * 

In 15 12 death relieved the Lord Julius P.P. II of two 
more of the Borgia whom He loathed : for there died in his 
Neapolitan exile the Most Worshipful Lord Pedro Luis de 
Lan^ol y Borja, Cardinal- Deacon of Santa Maria i7i Via 
Lata, Arch-presbyter of the Liberian Basilica (Santa Maria 
Maggiore), Abbot of San Simpliciano at Milan, and Arch- 
bishop of Valencia in Spain. Having heard a rumour of 
the death of the Supreme Pontiff, he was on the verge of 
returning to Rome for the Conclave ; but he was killed by 
falling from his mule at Naples, where he is buried in the 
church of San Piercelestino without any memorial. 

This year also died Don Roderico de Aragona e Borgia, 
at the age of thirteen years, the son of Madonna Lucrezia 
by her first legitimate marriage with Don Alonso de 
Aragona Prince of Bisceglia. He had been despoiled of 
his duchy of Sermoneta in favour of Caietani by the Lord 
Julius P.P. II ; and his existence as a step-son was 
embarrassing in Ferrara, except to his mother, who most 
sincerely mourned him. 

The Duchess Lucrezia was to suffer much this year. 
The Lord Julius P.P. II put the ban of Greater Excom- 
munication upon her beloved husband Duke Alfonso. 


sparks that Die 

As the consort of a Borgia — a Borgia universally adored, 
a sovereign Borgia, a Borgia of unblemished character, — 
the Duke of Ferrara naturally was intensely antipathetic 
to the Holiness of the Pope. If that were not enough, the 
facts remained that Duke Alfonso was the friend of France, 
(as the Supreme Pontiff's predecessor also had been); and, he 
was coofnizant of Cardinal Francisco's disesteem for the 
Lord Julius P.P. II. Naturally the Pope's Holiness found 
the Duke's Excellency most annoying. The awful import 
of Excommunication barely can be realized at the present 
time. People idly wonder why the excommunicated take 
their case so seriously — why they do not turn to find 
amusement, or satisfaction, in another channel, — why they 
persist in lying prone in the mire where the fulmination 
struck them. And, indeed, in modern times the formal 
sentence rarely is promulgated, and only against per- 
sonages of distinction, like the German Dr. Dollinger or 
the Sabaudo King Vittoremanuele II di Savoja, whose 
very circumstances provided them with the means to allay 
the temporal irritation of the blow. There are excom- 
munications ''gerendae sententiae " and " /(3;/<2;^ sententiae." 
In the former, excommunication is threatened for some act : 
but the offender must have sentence passed upon him. In 
the latter, the offender is excommunicate the moment he 
performs the act forbidden, ("ipso facto"). This however 
operates only " in foro interno,'' and in the Eyes of God. 
To make it effectual " in foro externo'' it is necessary that 
the guilt be proved and be declared to be so by some " com- 
petent judge." Excommunication latae sententiae appears 
not to have been uncommon in the Victorian Era. A 
Leading Case occurred in December 1882, when it was 
enforced against a Scots clergyman on the strength of the 

following letter : — 

" Rome, 6 Deceinbey 1882. 

" My dear Lord Archbishop (of Saint Andrews and Edinl)urgh), 
— I have just received a message from the Cardinal-Prefect (of Propaganda, 
Cardal Simeoni,) to tell your Grace ' che il noto sacerdotc il quale voleva 
citare i Vescovi incorrerebbe senza dubbio la censura al primo atto efficace 
che ponesse, ossia all' atto della citazione, come cogens Ecclesiasticwn ad 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

tribunal laiciim. Se fosse ancora in tempo sarebbe bene che rArcivescovo 
ne avvertisse il Sacerdote per distoglierlo da tale atto.' 
" Yours very respectfully, 

" F. A. Campbell, 
" (then Rector of the Scots College of Rome.)" 

The censure was Excommunicatio latae sententiae special! 
modo reservatae Romano Pontifici. Bulla Apostolicae 
Sedis. VII} Seldom does a case of Excommunication 
terminate in a perridiculous collapse, as this one did, 
when the Cardinal- Prefect denied having sent the quoted 
message. Seldom, on the whole, is Excommunication 
latae sententiae made effectual by proof of guilt and 
■declaration of proof of guilt by a competent judge. The 
effect can be produced in another and far more exitial 
way. Simple secret instructions, or even hints, can be 
^iven by bishops to clergy, or adverse opinions can be 
expressed by one clerk to another, suggesting that it 
would be well (that it would tend ad majorem Dei 
o^loriam, some say,) to obstruct the worldly welfare of 
such and such an one, to refuse him his rites and 
sacraments, or at least to offer the last upon such conditions 
as the "proper pride" in human nature will disdain to 
accept. This mode is purely devilish. It is capable of 
abuse by unworthy clerks for personal ends. It admits 
of no defence, of no appeal, of no redress, by the very 
reason of its intangibility. It constricts a man in phantom 
folds. It blanches him with venomous breath. The world, 
ever ready to pity some obscene dog who manifests his 
pain, here sees nothing save one bruised and broken ; 
desperately digladiant, struggling with some invisible (and 
therefore incredible) foe. The civilized world goes in 
terror of the invisible ; goes by "on the other side." 
Excommunication of any kind is a fearsome thing for 
him to whom the Faith once delivered to the saints is 
the only prize worth having. To the man who, in defect 
of spiritual advice, is convinced of his own integrity, to 

' See McngJtini. (C. Canon) Opinion . . . upon the Question whether . . . 
John Carmont D.D. incurred the Major Excommunication, etc. /. Anderson 
and Son. Courier and Herald Offices, Dumfries. J8S6: and leading article in 
Scotsman, May nth, i8S6. 


Sparks that Die 

whom the sacraments are as " odorifera panacea, "^ to whom 
the sacraments are the only means which keep him from 
Despair, their deprivation, by the revenge of a personal 
enemy, of an offended vanity abasing spiritual powers to- 
satiate secular ambition, signifies that, for the excom- 
municate, the light goes out of life, love is eradicated 
from the heart, confidence in man is killed, hope is banished 
from death. Sympathy he may have from aliens, if he 
can humiliate himself to expose his grievous wounds : but 
he may have it only at a price which in honour he cannot 
pay — the price of insincerity to his convictions — the price of 
apostasy. The dire Ban of excommunication, formal or 
informal, drives a man wild ; turns his hand against every 
man, and every man's hand against him ; he is savage ; he 
is a Bandit, actually and literally. Sometimes he becomes 
criminal. Ostracism practised is a school for scoundrels. 
Far more merciful — divinely merciful, not humanly — it 
would be to slay outright the body ; than to doom a soul to 
live a solivagous life of torture — the torture of Hopelessness. 
That is why Excommunication is so horrible in this present 
age of works. That is why it was so trenchant a weapon in 
the ages of faith. It was, and is, perfectly impossible to be 
resisted by one who is, and was, sincerely faithful. Often 
enough, an excommunicate sovereign would try resistance ; 
for sovereigns are stronger than ordinary plebeians in the 
matter of resources. Then, when an interval for considera- 
tion had elapsed, the second blow of the Flail would fall — 
Interdict : his demesne would be made to suffer loss of the 
means of grace, the sacraments, which were denied to him. 
His subjects generally rose, resentful and revolting. There 
was no reason why they should be afflicted, when sub- 
mission of their sovereign to God's Viceo^erent would suffice 
for their enfranchisement. But sometimes Interdict also 
failed. The third blow came. Subjects were absolved 
from their oath of allegiance to the excommunicate ; his 
throne was declared vacant ; kings and princes of Christen- 
dom were invited to invade his realm, to take his crown and 
sceptre, to expel him a homeless friendless connudate out- 
cast in a world that shunned him like a pestilence, like the 

^ (Verg. Aen. XII. 419.) 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

horrid leprous scab of creeping things which his blasted 
human body inevitably would become. Then, suppliant, 
submissive, he crawled to his Canossa ; as the late Duke of 
Lauenberg crawled to the Lord Leo P.P. XIII the other 
day ; as Caesar Fridericus Ahenobarbus Semper Augustus 
abjectly crawled to, and waited at, the gates of the huge 
Englishman, Nicholas Breakespeare, the Lord Hadrian 
P.P. IV, who ruled the world eight hundred years ago, 
" Not for thee, but for Peter," that indignant Emperor 
muttered, perforce doing groom's service for Peter's Suc- 
cessor, holding the stirrup of the pontifical palfrey. " For 
Us, and for Peter," the superb English Pope retorted, as 
He bent Caesar to His unconquerable will. Arrogant ? 

Arrogant of any miserable mortal man who did not 

believe himself to be, who had not been officially crowned 
and saluted, and to whom every emperor and king and 
prince of Christendom, every Christian sovereign and subject 
of Europe, had not sworn allegiance as, " Ruler of the 
World, Father of Princes and of Kings, Earthly Vicar of 
Jesus Christ our Saviour." 

When the action of the human mind is inspired by the 
principle endeavoured here to be set down, the inexpugnable 
face of Excommunication, (magnified by the assent to its 
validity of the excommunicated one,) perhaps, may be 
realized. Duke Alfonso d'Este could not hope to stand 
where Caesar Semper Augustus fell. Naturally, he went 
in desperate and horrid fear. He knew that he had not 
deserved to be gibbeted as a Bandit before the world : but 
he knew also that, before the Holiness of the Pope, he, a 
sovereiofn-re^nant, was crushable as a worm. He lost no 
time in omittino- to seek release from the hideous ban. 

Early in 15 13, he chose the poet Messer Ludovico 
Ariosto, with his beautiful Greek profile and noble intellect, 
secretary and laureate of Cardinal Ippolito ; and named him 
as his Orator to open negotiations with the Pope. 

The Lord Julius P.P. II was perfectly implacable. He 
had not pardoned the indiscreet criticisms of Cardinal 
Francisco de Borja, who had passed beyond His power. 
It was the complete ruin of Borgia that alone would slake 
His passionate thirst for vengeance ; — and a Borgia was 


sparks that Die 

Duchess of Ferrara. He did not intend kindness to the 
consort of that Duchess : and He resolved to begin, in a 
clerical manner, with intimidation. Accordingly, He 
admitted Messer Ludovico Ariosto to an audience ; and 
immediately ordered him to quit the Vatican by the door 
before he should be thrown from the window. After this 
reception of a proffered olive-branch, the Pope's Holiness 
coolly awaited Duke Alfonso's next move, 

Don Fabrizio Colonna flourished in the favour of the 
Lord Julius P,P, H ; and he, also, was under many vital 
obligations to the Duke of Ferrara. He, in his turn, tried 
the role of peacemaker between pontiff and sovereign ; and 
so far succeeded, that the Holy Father farcically permitted 
the Duke to come to Rome, assured of a favourable recep- 
tion, to plead his cause and to arrange the terms of his 

He came. He saw the Ruler of the World. He was 
conquered. The Terrible Pontiff named the sole conditions 
on which He would consent to remit the ban of excom- 
munication. Nothing could be more enormously radical 
and sweeping. They were, abdication of his sovereignty 
over the city and whole duchy of Ferrara, with absolute 
renunciation for himself and his heirs for ever of all rights 
therein, in favour of the Holy See ; also, his retirement to 
voluntary life-long exile at the little city of Asti in the 
province of Lombardy. Death and obliteration of the 
Borgia, not by vulgar assassination but by constitutional 
withdrawal of the means to live, was the aim of the Terrible 
Pontiff; wherefore He would strip naked Duke Alfonso, as 
aforetime He had stripped naked Duke Cesare. 

Duke Alfonso d'Este refused to purchase release from 
excommunication on these disgraceful terms. The Lord 
Julius P.P. n let him have hints which gave to understand 
that the said terms might be mitigated. By various sub- 
terfuges he was detained in Rome. 

The army of the Terrible Pontiff stealthily was advancing 
on Ferrara. 

There was only a woman there. 

Duke Alfonso chanced to hear of the pontifical stratagem. 
On the instant, he made his plans for quitting Rome. But 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

he found that he was in a prison. The Terrible Pontiff 
held him ; and would not let him go. The Lord Alexander 
P.P. VI may not have been a Saint : but He never dirtied 
His honour like this. 

This treachery of the Holiness of the Pope disgusted 
the Ghibellinism of Don Fabrizio Colonna. This was not 
w^hat he had contemplated, when he persuaded Duke 
Alfonso to adventure his right hand in the jaws of the 
Wolf of Rome. Considering himself to be responsible, his 
own honour at stake, he played a counter-stratagem upon 
the Lord Julius P.P. H. By his aid, the Duke broke 
prison ; and, under his protection, in his fortress of Marino 
fifteen miles from Rome, a safe asylum was provided. 
Duke Alfonso desired to hasten to defend his duchy now 
menaced by the Pope : and all Colonna acclaimed his 
resolution. Don Prospero Colonna undertook to bring him 
there where he would be. Travelling by night through 
hostile territory, environed by ever-present dangers, at 
length, disguised as Don Prospero's cook, the royal and 
ducal Bandit reached Ferrara. 

In the city there was joy. In the duchy there was 
confidence restored. In the heart of the Duchess Lucrezia 
there was gratitude for the safety of her much-loved lord. 
Ferrara was fresh from four years successful war : an 
excessively dangerous enemy to assault, now that her leader 
led her. The pontifical army executed a second strategic 
movement at the double — to the rear. 

And, before the year 15 13 was three months old, the 
Terrible Pontiff, the Lord Julius P.P. II, (Who, according 
to Monsignor Paris de Grassis, successor to Burchard as 
Papal Caerimonarius, suffered from the French Disease,) 
died at Rome, raving in His last delirium " Frenchmen, 
begone from Italy! Begone from Italy, Alfonso d'Este!" 

Dreadful end of a furious revengeful disappointed 
plebeian who was Ruler of the World! The monstrous 
Moses of Michelangelo, in San Pietro ad Vincula, marks 
His ambitious unfinished tomb. 

The Most Illustrious Lord Giovanni de' Medici, Car- 
dinal-Deacon of Santa Maria in Domnica, was the son of 


Sparks that Die 

Lorenzo de' Medici of Florence, born the eleventh of 
December 1475. His mother was Madonna Clarice 
Orsini, one of the sweetest and best of good mothers. Her 
husband said that his own mother chose her for him, 

" Tolsi donna . . . ovvero mi fu data. 

When Don Giovanni was of the age of seven years (the 
age of reason, technically,) the Christian King named him 
Abbot of Fonte Dolce, on the nineteenth of May 1483, in 
which preferment the Lord Sixtus P.P IV. confirmed him 
twelve days later by Brief dated the thirty-first of May 
1843. On the first of June he received the ecclesiastical 
tonsure, when episcopal hands wielded scissors to cut the 
child-clerk's hair in five places — on the front, the back, the 
right, the left, and the crown, of the head — while bishop 
and boy recited the psalm verse : 

" The Lord is the portion — " Dominus pars — 

" Of mine inheritance — " Haereditatis nieae — 

" And of my cup — " Et calicis mei — 

" Thou art He Who shall restore — " Tu es Qui restitues — 

" Mine inheritance to me — " Haereditatem meatn mihi — 

and finally the bishop endued him with the fair white 
linen surplice, (super pellicem) the official vesture of his 
clerical estate. The symbolism of this mystery seems to be 
that the clerk enlists himself in the regular army of the 
Church Militant, sacrificing an actual piece of his person as 
a pledge of his fidelity, and receiving as handsel, so to 
speak, his uniform. From this date the child was called in 
his family Messer Giovanni, (Mr. John). On the first of 
March 1484, he was named Abbot of Passignano. He 
grew up a good and manly boy, fond of nice things, grave, 
quietly merry, and a perfect gentleman. On the third of 
March 1489, his father's friend the Lord Innocent 
P.P. VIII created him Cardinal- Deacon of Santa Maria 
in Domnica ; but, as he was only of the age of thirteen 
years, the creation was reserved in petto, while he continued 
his studies under Canon Angelo Ambrogini (detto 
Poliziano) ; who, in 1492 wrote to the Pope about his 

289 T 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

" This youth is so formed by nature and education that, being inferior 
" to none in genius, he yields not to his equals in industry, nor to his 
" teachers in learning, nor to old men in gravity of demeanour. He natur- 
" ally is honest and ingenuous, and he has been so strictly bred that never 
" from his mouth there comes a lewd, or even a light, expression. Though 
"he be so young, his judgement is so secure that even the old respect him 
" as a father. He sucked piety and religion with his mother's milk, pre- 
" paring himself for his sacred office even from his cradle. (Ep. v. Lib. 

" vni) 

In the Publick Consistory of the twenty-second of 
March 1492, he was admitted to the Sacred College, re- 
ceiving the scarlet hat and the cardinalitial sapphire-ring, 
(whose value was six hundred zecchini d'oro — say, ^1200) ; 
and he was of the age of sixteen years, three months, eleven 

During his cardinalate his most delightful trait was the 
loving kindness which he shewed to his young cousin 
Giulio, (Botticelli's most precious model), the bastard of 
Don Giuliano de' Medici, by Madonna Antonia Gorini of 
Florence, and who ended his life as the Lord Clement 
P.P. VII. Cardinal Giovanni got him ennobled as a 
Knight of St. John of Jerusalem of Malta, and Prior of 
Capua ; and gave him an honourable position in his house- 
hold as confidential counsellor : and, indeed, it was to Don 
Giulio, attending him as esquire in the Conclave of March 
1 5 13, that Cardinal Giovanni generously said, when the 
result of the squittino (scrutiny) was made known, " Come 
Giulio, let us enjoy the Papacy, since God hath given it to 
Us :" and he immediately raised His cousin to the purple, 
orivino- him His Own vacated rank of Cardinal- Deacon of 
Santa Maria m Doinnica} 

Cardinal Giovanni, like all the Medici, was congenitally 
myopic. In all presentments of him, there is the slight 
forward bend or set of the neck which marks the short- 
sighted man. Messer Paolo Giovio says that he surveyed 
the world through a concave crystal, and that this affected 
his skill as a sportsman. Messer Rafaele Sanzio's portrait 

1 These two charming personages used a most beautiful handwriting, 
neat, clear, well-mannered, decisive ; as may be seen in the private Brief of 
the Lord Leo V.V.y^, placet et ita moin proprio mandamus ; and in the letter of 
Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, dated April 1516; which are preserved in the 
British Museum 23.721. 


Sparks that Die 

of him and his cousin shows him with this concave crystal 
spy-glass in his hand. No doubt his physical incomplete- 
ness wonderfully aided in developing his enchanting taste 
and temperament ; for it is well known that the best artist 
is the man who does not see all,^ 

The crowd, waiting outside the Conclave of 1 5 1 3 for the 
annunciation of the new Pope, were confronted by a door- 
way builded of the fragments of other buildings. Some of 
the stones bore portions of mutilated inscriptions ; and the 
crowd amused itself by piecing these together. But there 
was one large stone above the lintel, whose inscription 
baffled explanation. It bore the letters 

M. C. C. C. C. X. L. 

and presumably had come from some edifice dated 1440. 
Presently, the door was flung open ; and the scarlet 
Cardinal- Archdeacon proclaimed, " I announce to you 
great joy. We have for a Pope the Lord Giovanni de' 
Medici, Cardinal- Deacon of Santa Maria in Domnica, who 
wills to be called Leo the Tenth." And in the dooway 
stood the white figure of the new Successor of St. Peter, of 
the age of thirty-eight years. His head straining a little 
forward, peering through His half-closed bright eyes, 
lifting His hand in Apostolic Benediction. Instantly a wag 
in the kneeling crowd explained the cryptic inscription 
Miilti Caeci Cardinales Ci'eavertmt Caecttin X {decinuuii) 
Leonem ; "Many short-sighted cardinals created a short- 
sighted one Leo the Tenth." That is a specimen of wit in 
the year 15 13, bright, quick, direct, pungent, and finished. 
* # # 

The election of the Lord Leo P.P. X was an immense 
relief to the Duke and Duchess of Ferrara. It meant de- 
liverance from unscrupulous persecution ; for the Pope's 
Holiness now was patrician, and at least a gentleman, 
though no enemy to the House of Borgia. So Ferrara and 
Borgia went in peace. The duchy had been at war for 
nearly six years, almost without cessation ; her resources 
were quite exhausted ; her exchequer was empty. So 
keen was the distress, that, in order not to add to his people's 

^ Whistler counts his myopia as his chief talent. 

chronicles of the House of Borgia 

burden by pressing- for his revenues, Duke Alfonso pawned 
his plate, and Duchess Lucrezia her jewels which were of 
enormous value. These were redeemed three years later : 
and it is to the inventory, made when they were pawned, 
that modern knowledge of their extraordinary rarity and 
worth is due. 

^^ ^f * 

On the thirteenth of September 15 13 was born in Rome, 
of Don Tarquinio Poplicola di Santacroce and Madonna 
Ersilia his wife, the Noble Don Prospero Poplicola di 
Santacroce, afterwards Cardinal- Presbyter of the Title of 
San Girolamo de^/z Schiavoni and Nuncio, who introduced 
Tobacco into Italy and gave it the name Ei'ba Santacroce, 
Holy cross Herb. 

-JV" W w 

The life of the Duchess Lucrezia, durino- the next few 
years, was a life of calm after storm, post tot natifragias titta. 
She won fresh fame by her goodness to young girls, whom 
she provided with dowries, to tempt them to keep continency 
by marrying well. Delightfully practical age, which went 
directly to the point attempting no maudlin half-measures, 
" so sweetly mawkish and so smoothly dull " ! The ideal of 
the professional philanthropist, then, was to make virtue 
easy, and vice difficult. The ideal of the professional 
philanthropist, now, is to make virtue horribly vulgar and 
vice an imperious necessity. The Duchess Lucrezia had 
observed that the lack of money is the root of all evil ; and, 
at that root she struck. 

Charming descriptions are extant of the evenings which 
this egregious lady spent in conversation with poets and 
scholars, listening to music, and working on the lovely 
embroidery for which she was so celebrated. On the third 
of July 1 5 15, she presented her lord with a daughter. The 
same year she was grieved by the death of her friend, 
the great printer, Messer Aldo Manuzio. That cool-headed, 
shrewd, and very learned Venetian, the hereditary enemy of 
Ferrara, has left laudations of the Duchess Lucrezia which 
are sincere and unsurpassable. It is not singular that the 
great and good among her intimate contemporaries should 
be those who praise her ; and that her defamers should be 


Sparks that Die 

professional squibbers, notoriously base and venal. The 
following year, the eleventh of July, 1516, she suffered the 
loss of her little son who was of the age of five years. Is 
the touching letter, by which she conveyed the news to her 
confidante and sister-in-law, the Marchioness Isabella 
Gonzaga of Mantua, the letter of a wicked woman or of a 
good ? She says, 

" the Most Illustrious Don Alessandro, my youngest son, after a 

-" long and painful illness, in which remedies were of no avail, was seized by 
^' a cruel dysentery. Yesterday, at the fourth hour of the night, (say, mid- 
^' night,) the poor little man (poven'no) yielded his blessed soul into the 
'' hands of our Lord God, leaving me much afflicted and full of sorrow; as 
*' Your Excellency, being a woman and a tender mother yourself, may easily 
■*' believe.^ 

On the Festival of All Saints, she bore another son to 
Duke Alfonso, who was baptized by the name Francesco. 

# # # 

On the twenty-sixth of November 15 17, there died 
in Rome Madonna Giovanna de' Catanei, the mother 
of the Duchess Lucrezia ; and w^as buried in Santa Maria 
de/ Popolo by the Flaminian Gate. Nine of her letters to 
her daughter, and rather crabbed letters too, are preserved 
in the Archives of Modena. They are subscribed, ''La 
felice ed infelice madre ; which seems precisely to describe 
her condition. She was a happy mother ; happy in the 
gorgeous loveliness of her children, happy in their good 
fortune, happy in being the mother of two dukes, a prince- 
duke, and a sovereign duchess : but unhappy, in that human 
law made their father not her husband. Another letter of 
hers, dated from Rome the fifteenth of December 15 15, and 
signed " Perpetua Oratrice Vanozza," has been the means 
of causing some uncertainty as to her real name. The 
following is suggested at an explanation. 

"Vanozza", of course, is a familiar abbreviation of 
■" Giovanozza ", which is equivalent to " Big Jenny ". 
Italians are deliciously disrespectfully inoffensive in their 
use of universal and personal nicknames ; which are taken 
conferred without the least aggrievance. " Perpetua 

' Belriguardo. xi Jul. 1516. 

chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Oratrice ^ " is not a name at all : but a quasi-officiai 

In Enoiand at the present day, one frequently is startled 
by the receipt of a letter, from some fervent member of 
that devout female sex (for which Holy Church, knowing- 
needs, diurnally prays), bearing as signature the names 
of the writer, with the addition " E de M ". If one has 
not yet seen the lions, (as the Fifteenth Century said of a 
novice,) one looks for the university degree, knightly order 
municipal or parochial rank, of which those letters are the 
sign. But, when one knows them to stand for " Enfant de 
Marie," one remembers that a pious sodality, of French 
origin and called " The Children of Mary," is an excessively 
and universally fashionable one among females ; and doubts 
are at an end. 

It is probable that there was some such pious associa- 
tion for females of the Borgian Era. Madonna Giovanna 
always was a respectable well-living character : but we know- 
that she found salvation, was converted, became divote, in 
1508, when she sat under Frat' Egidio da Viterbo preaching 
a course of Lent sermons in Rome. 

It is suofsested, then, that at once she beo-an " to make 
her soul," to prepare to meet her God, for she was well on 
in years ; and that she became a member of some Confra- 
ternity of Perpetual Prayer, resembling those of the present 
day whose members divide among themselves the duty of 
praying the clock round, so that an unending stream of 
supplication shall flow toward the Throne of Grace. It is 
suggested, that, being a human woman, cherishing no 
objection to a little perfectly legitimate advertisement of 
virtue (like the ladies of the " E de M " description). 
Madonna Giovanna de' Catanei formed the habit of signing 
her private letters "The Perpetual Suppliant, Big Jenny." 

Her epitaph has been given on p. 261. 

* * * 

There are two documents of this year 15 17, which 
go to prove that, at this time, there existed no idea of 

1 Oratrice (oratrix) is a rare word = but perfectly classical; and its use 
shews that the Renascence of Learning had done something to improve eccle- 
siastical Latin, and, by consequence, Italian also. 


sparks that Die 

concealing the parentage of Don Giovanni Borgia the some- 
time Duke of Nepi and Camerino. The boy appears to 
have made his home with his sister, the Duchess Lucrezia ; 
for both documents are issued under her protection and 
authority. She was nineteen years older than her brother, 
who now was of the age of twenty-one years ; and her 
notable good-nature, as well as her royal estate, make it 
natural enouoh that she should be more mother than sister 
to her august Father's youngest son. 

The first brief (they both are quoted in Cittadella,) is 
dated "sub die 1° Nov. 1517"; and names the Bishop of 
Adria as Don Giovanni's agent in some pecuniary trans- 
action, he being less than twenty-five, and more than 
eighteen, years old. It begins, " Ferrariae in palatio 
"habitationis 111™ . . . Ill""' Dominus Joannes Borgia, 
^^ f rater 111'"^'' Dominae Lucretiae Borgiae Ducissae Fer- 
" rariae, minor annis vigintiquinque, maior tamen decem 
" octo, ." 

The second brief is addressed to Messer Filippo 
Strozzi ; and claims, from the consuls of Pesaro, the baggage 
which the young noble had lost after his shipwreck in sight 
of that city ! It is dated the second of December 1517; 
and begins, " Mandatum IH""^^ Dominae Ducissae Ferrariae 
" in palatio Ducali . . . Ill"'* Domina Lucretia Borgia 
" Estensis . . . suo nomine, et nomine ac Tanquam 
" coniuncta persona 111™ Domini Joannis Borgiae eius 
^' J7'ater . 

Little or nothing further has been discovered regarding 
the life of this youth. His history, with that of his brother 
Prince Gioffredo Borgia of Squillace, waits to reward 
research in the archives of Naples, Nepi, Camerino and 
Ferrara. Reluctantly, they must be left here among the 
Sparks That Die. 

The following announcement closes the second epoch of 
the House of Borgia. It is dated the twenty-first day of 
June 1519 ; and was sent by flying posts to his nephew, the 
Marquess Federigo Gonzaga of Mantua : "It hath pleased 
"the Lord God to take unto Himself the soul of the 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

" Illustrious Duchess, my much-beloved Consort. (Signed) 
" Alfonsus Dux Feraria. 

The " Illustrious Duchess" Lucrezia Borgia was buried 
in her favourite church at the monastery of Corpus Domini, 
by side of her husband's mother the Duchess Leonor de 
Aragona, deeply and sincerely mourned by her children, 
and her husband Duke Alfonso d'Este, and, indeed, by all 
Ferrara duchy crowding round her bier. She was only in 
the forty-second year of her age. 

May she rest in the fragrant peace of her good deeds. 

# # # 


The Brilliant Light' 

" A fire that is kindled, begins with smoke and hissing, while it lays 
" hold on the faggots ; bursts into a roaring blaze, ivith raging 
" tongues of flame, devouring all in reach, spangled with sparks 
" that die ; settles into the steady genial glare, the brilliant light, 
" that men call fire ; 

The Borgia, who have gone before, present no difficulty to 
the Twentieth Century. When once their formula has 
been learned, they are found to be men of like passions 
with ourselves. They were born — they struggled through 
life with an amazing amount of dignity and success— they 
died. For a reason which has yet to be explained, the 
human race has made them serve for hell-myths, for 
prodigies of turpitude, for symbols wherewith to express 
ultimate and abysmal crime. 

" The slave of his own appetites, in bondage to conventional laws, his 
" spirit emasculated by the indulgences, or corroded by the cares of life, 
"hardly daring to act, to think, or to speak, for himself; man, — gre- 
" garious man, — worships the world in which he lives, adopts its maxims, 
" and treads its beaten paths. To rouse him from his lethargy, and to 
" give a new current to his thoughts, heroes appear from time to time on 
" the verge of his horizon ; and hero-worship, Pagan or Christian, withdraws 

' Authorities for this sketch of Saint Francisco de Borja, General of 
Jesuits, and sometime Duke of Gandia, etc. 

1. Ribadaneira. Life. 

2. Cardinal Alvaro Cienfuegos. La heroica vida, etc. del grande San 
Francisco de Borja. Madrid 1717. 

3. Monumenta Historica Societatis Jesu. Madrid 1894-5. 

4. Sir James Stephen. Essays in Ecclesiastical Biography. 

5. A. M. Clarke. St. Francis Borgia. Lond. 1872 etc. 

The last was prepared under the auspices of the late Fr. John Morris, S.J. ; 
and is useful in giving the modern English Jesuit point of view. 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

" him for a while from still baser idolatry. To contemplate the motives 
" and the career of such men may teach much that well deserves the know- 
" ing : but nothing more clearly than this — that no one can have shrines 
" erected to his memory in the hearts of men of different generations, unless 
" his own heart was an altar, on -which the daily sacrifices, of fervent devo- 
" tion and magnanimous self denial, were offered to the only true Object of 
" human worship. i 

The wheel of time makes one unerrino" revolution ; and 
lo, a saint, — a Borma Saint. 

To write of Saint Francisco de Borja, so that he may 
be known of men, is more than difficult. Each man knows 
another, not by his strength but by his weaknesses, not as 
surpassing but as lacking such and such of the Ideal ; for 
weakness makes men kin. And Saint Francisco de Borja 
gave no sign of human weakness, little or no sign of human 
nature, after he had reached his manhood. He has been 
called "a magnified non-natural man" ; and that is the only 
point of view from which he can be observed. He lived 
entirely on the supernatural plane : the world, to him, was 
nothing but an enemy with whom he would have neither 
art nor part : he was in it, but not of it : his ways were not 
men's ways, nor his thoughts men's thoughts : he rightly 
cannot be liked, or disliked, hated, or loved, admired, or 
even judged. He must be taken as he was, comparable to 
none, the exact antipodes of his strenuous august invincible 
magnificent ancestors for there are " diversities of gifts," in 
opposition to all human ideals, a "magnified non-natural 
man." His note is brilliantly personal. He was utterly 
and absolutely selfishly solicitous about his own salvation. 
He made that the unique object of his life ; and, to that 
end, he deliberately chose renunciation, hardship, ignominy, 
utter and extreme. His singular devotion, to the task of 
living according to his light, is a phenomenon of an intensity 
beyond the natural, environing him with an aura as of one 
aloof, as of one alien among men, and, therefore, altogether 
antipathetic to men. 

He was the orreat-orandson of the Lord Alexander 
P.P. VI, Whose bastard Don Juan Francisco de Borja, 
Duke of Gandia in Spain, Prince of Teano and Tricarico, 

* Sir James Stephen. Essays in Ecclesiastical Biography, i. 29. 


The Brilliant Light 

Count of Chiaramonte, Lauria. and Cerignola, Constable of 
Naples, and General of the Pontifical Army, had married 
Doiia Maria de Aragona, a princess of the royal House of 
Arag-on. After the mysterious murder of her husband at 
Rome in 1497, the Duchess Doiia Maria married Don 
Enriquez de Luna, uncle and Master of the Household to 
the Viceroy Don Hernando of Castile, and Grand Com- 
mander of Leon, who soon left her widowed the second 
time. She lived at Baeza in Granada, and devoted herself 
to her two children, Doiia Isabella, and Don Juan H de 
Borja, who succeeded his murdered father as Duke of 
Gandia and the rest. When her son married, she retired to 
the monastery of Poor Clares (the Second Order of the 
Religion of San Francesco d'Assisi) at Gandia, where she 
took the vows of a nun, and became Suor Maria Gabriella 
till her death in 1537. Her daughter, Dona Isabella, who 
was betrothed to the Duke of Segorbe, obtained the 
necessary dispensations, broke before marriage from her 
affianced husband ; and followed the Duchess of Gandia 
her beloved mother to the Poor Clares, where she also took 
the vows as Suor Francisca de Jesus. 

Don Juan II married, first. Dona Francisca de Castro y 
Pinos ; secondly, Doiia Juana de Aragona, bastard of 
Archbishop Don Alonso de Aragona of Saragossa nephew 
of the Catholic King Don Hernando of Spain. ^ Fourteen 
children were the offspring of these marriages ; 

Don Francisco, the Saint : 

Don Alonso, Abbot of Valdigna : 

Don Enrico, Cardinal-Deacon of San Nereo e Sant' Achilleo : 

Dona Luisa, married Don Martino de Aragona y Gurrea, Duke of Villa- 

hermosa : 
Don Rodrigo, Cardinal- Deacon of San Niccolo in Carcere TuUiaiio : " while 

still a youth " (Ciacconi) 
Don Pedro Luis, Viceroy of Cataluna : 
Don Tommaso, Archbishop of Saragossa, (in succession to Archbishop 

Don Juan de Aragona bastard of Archbishop Don Alonso,) and 

Viceroy of Aragon : 
Don Felipe, Knight of Montesa and Governor of Oran : 
Don Diego, died young : 

^ A second bastard of Archbishop Don Alonso de Aragona, also called 
Doiia Juana, married Don Felipe of Austria, and became the mother of the 
Emperor Carlos. 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Dofla Jiia)ia, First Abbess of the Royal Monastery of Discalced Carmelites 

at Madrid. She died in the Odour of Sanctity : 
Doiia Leonor, married Don Juan de Gurrea : 

Dona Magdalena, married Don Hernando de Proxita, Count of Almenara : 
Dona Margarita, married Don Fadrique de Portugal y Cordo : 

Dona Isabella, followed her grandmother Dona Maria (Suor Maria Gabri- 

c»eru ella), and her aunt Dona Isabella (Suor Francisca de Jesus) to the 

Poor Clares of Gandia, of which monastery she became Abbess. 

That is a very characteristic family of a Grandee and 
Hijo de algo (son of something) of Spain. Leaving- the 
heir out of the question, the eight sons divide between 
them two cardinalates, an archbishopric, an abbacy, two 
viceroyalties, and a governorship: while, of the six daughters, 
two enter religion and become abbesses, and four marry 
g-randees and semi-royalty of Spain. It is worth noting 
too, that shame on account of their origin, or their 
ancestors' supposed misbehaviour, has not yet made its 
appearance. Alonso was the name of many royal bastards 
of the House of Aragon, as well as of the Lord Calixtus 
P.P. III. Rodrigo was the name of the Lord Alexander 
P.P. VI, who also began his public career in the Cardinal- 
Diaconate of San Niccolo in Carcere Tulliano, and Whose 
eldest bastard (ob. 1481) was called Pedro Luis. All these 
names were repeated here in the third and fourth genera- 
tion ; and the eldest son of Don Juan II, bore the second 
name of his murdered grandfather, Francisco. 

The Terrible Pontiff, the Lord Julius P.P. II was 
reigning in Rome, when Don Francisco de Borja was born 
in 1 5 10 at the ducal palace of Gandia in Spain. 

The Terrible Pontiff was only a terrible memory ten 
years later, and the Lord Leo P.P. X. was trying hard to 
"enjoy the Papacy," in Rome when riots arose in Gandia, 
the ducal palace was sacked, and Don Juan II, with his 
family, was forced to flee for life. Don Francisco, then a 
gracious boy of ten, was sent to his uncle Archbishop Don 
Juan de Aragona at Saragossa,^ who supplied him with a 
house and retinue suited to his condition, and masters who 

1 Anciently Salduba, colonized by Caius Julius Caesar Octavianus 
Augustus B.C. 27, who called it Caesaraugasta ; afterwards corrupted into 

The Brilliant Light 

taught him music, fencing, and Latin grammar ; for he was- 
to be bred as became the heir to the duchy of Gandia, and 
the future head of the Spanish Branch of the House of 

In January 1522 died the Lord Leo P.P. X ; and the 
Lord Hadrian P.P. VI, a ship-carpenter's son out of 
Utrecht in Flanders, was elected Pope, called the Laocoon 
a pagan idol, walled-up the Belvedere statue -gallery of the 
Vatican ; and died. To Him, in 1523, succeeded Cardinal 
Giulio de' Medici, cousin and life-friend of the Lord Leo 
P.P. X, who ascended Peter's Throne under the title of 
the Lord Clement P.P. VII. Great changes were taking- 
place in Europe. By marriage, conquest, inheritance, or 
lapse, the Holy Roman Empire had passed into the hands 
of Spain. The Elect-Emperor Carlos V, though he 
ceremonially had not been crowned with the Iron Crown or 
the Double Golden Diadem, ruled in Spain, Naples and 
Southern Italy, Germany, Austria, and part of France. 
King Henry VIII Tudor, the Defender of the Faith, was 
becoming a power in England. The Christian King of 
France was his rival : but the Continent of Europe mainly 
was the Elect-Emperor's, and wholly, perhaps, the Roman 

At the age of fourteen years, Don Francisco de Borja went 
to Tor de Sillas as page of honour to the Infanta Dona 
Catalina, the Elect-Emperor's sister, who was about to be 
married to King Don Juan HI of Portugal. 

When the marriage took place in 1525, Don Francisco 
did not accompany his royal mistress to her new kingdom ; 
because his father, who had for him a higher ambition, had 
commanded his return to Saragossa to study rhetoric and 
philosophy under his uncle, the Archbishop Don Juan. 
Here he remained until he passed his seventeenth year ; and 
in 1528 he entered the Court of the Elect-Emperor Carlos V, 
where his robust physical beauty, his courteous manner, and 
his brilliant ability, gained for him a notable reception, 

Humanly speaking, this acceptance of service under 
such a potentate is most astonishing in a youth of the 
gracious piety of Don Francisco. The Elect- Emperor was 
hot and reeking from the commission of what must have 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

seemed to be a perfectly appalling crime — the ghastly Sack 
of Rome of 1527, the fierce beleaguerment of God's Vice- 
crerent the Lord Clement P.P. VII in the Mola of Hadrian, 
carnage, pillage, rape, rapine, sacred monastic enclosures 
violated, virginity deflowered, nuns and the wives and 
dauofhters of Roman citizens oambled for and ravished in 
the public streets by the Elect-Emperor's unpaid army of 
drunken Lutheran Goths and Catholic Catalans. It was to 
the Court of this monarch that Don Francisco de Borja 
brought the edacious flower of his maiden manlihood. 

Amid voluptuous surroundings, he found that it was 
better to marry than to burn; and, in 1529, being then of 
the age of nineteen years, he led in marriage the Noble 
Dofia Leonor of Portugal. The Elect-Emperor, to mark 
imperial approval, perhaps, also, from the generous 
benevolence of a man who himself is about to receive — 
(he had come to terms with the Lord Clement P.P. VII, 
and was hoping for the Dual Coronation,) — created Don 
Francisco Marquess of Lombay. 

The relations between Pope and Elect-Emperor were 
after this fashion. Both were exhausted : both were 
desirous of peace. Peace, then, was signed, and a per- 
petual alliance, on the twentieth of June 1527. The Elect- 
Emperor had gained territory from Venice, and detached 
Genoa from France ; the Pope's Holiness had promised to 
invest him with crown of Naples, (which his predecessor 
the Catholic King Don Hernando of Spain had stolen from 
the bastard Aragon dynasty in 1501); and formally to 
crown him as Holy Roman Emperor. The Lord Clement 
P.P. VII had gained a strong ally, who guaranteed to 
subdue rebellious Florence for the pontifical nephew Duke 
Alessandro de' Medici, to consolidate the alliance by 
marrying the Bastard Dofia Margarita of Austria to the 
said pontifical nephew ; and to procure the restoration of 
pontifical authority in Emilia, Ravenna, and Cervia. They 
had been hideous enemies, these two ; and the Elect- 
Emperor had behaved abominably. Even now, he refused 
to go to Monza or to Sant' x'\mbrogio at Milan for the Iron 
Crown, or to the Lateran Basilica of Rome for the Golden 
Imperial Diadem, as by precedent he would have been 


The Brilliant Light 

compelled to do, had he belonged to the House of Swabia. 
But he was a Spaniard, arrogant, cruel, unscrupulous, and 
infamously powerful ; and he insolently told the Pope's 
Holiness that he had not the habit of running after crowns, 
for, instead, they came to him. 

If the coronation of the Successor of St. Peter be a 
remarkable function, the coronation according to the 
Roman Rite of the Successor of Caius Julius Caesar 
Octavianus Augustus is but one degree less sumptuous. 
It would be worth the while of any man of the Twentieth 
Century to exchange lives with William of Hohenzollern, 
for the sake of the opening which lies before him. In the 
case of Carlos V, all ceremonies duly were observed. The 
Lord Clement P.P. VII came to Bologna, a neutral city, 
for the coronation, and the Elect-Emperor met Him there. 
On the twenty-second of February 1530, in the Chapel of 
the Apostolic Palace, the Iron Crown ^ was set upon the 
imperial head. Two days later, in the Cathedral of San 
Petronio, curtains were drawn around the imperial canopy 
forming a pavilion wherein the Elect-Emperor stripped 
naked for the anointing with holy oil and chrism. He was 
ordained deacon, vested in the sacred imperial dalmatica, 
endued with orb and sword and sceptre offered by reigning 
sovereigns, God's Vicegerent crowned him with the high 
closed Double Crown of Empire and heralds proclaimed 



Tonus DoMiNus Universis Dominis Universis Princi- 
piBus ET PopuLis Semper Venerandus. 

These things having been done. Pope and Emperor 
appeared in the cathedral porch. There, Caesar Carlos V 
vested in full imperial insignia, held the Pontiff's stirrup as 
He mounted, and led His palfrey several paces, as a public 
act of homage and allegiance to Him By Whose Sanction 
Kings Do Reign. Then, he mounted his own charger, and 

1 A plain gold band, studded with uncut gems, round whose inner rim runs 
one of the Nails that nailed our Divine Redeemer to the Cross of Calvary 
hammered into a flat band to press the brows of him who wears the Iron 
Crown. It may be seen enshrined in the Treasury of the Cathedral at Monza. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

rode by the Lord Clement P.P. VII's side through the city 
of Bologna making knights, as the way is, when the Pontiff 
left him. 

It is probable enough that the Marquess Don Franciso 
de Borja witnessed, and assisted at, this superb ceremony. 
He was attached to the personal suite of Caesar Carlos V : 
but there is another circumstance that implies that, in 
some way or another, most presumably in the flesh, he was 
brought into contact with the Pope's Holiness about this 
time. It is that a little later, the Supreme Pontiff con- 
ferred an extraordinary favour on his illustrious House, 
consisting of Five Privileges granted to Duke Juan II of 
Gandia, his heirs and descendants of both sexes, and whom- 
soever they might marry, in consideration of the signal 


Borgia. This unmistakeably distinct statement shews that 
calumnies and lampoons of Messer Francesco Guicciardini 
had made no ill impression on the Lord Clement P.P. VII, 
who actually had met that writer when he was the guest of 
the bas bleu Madonna Veronica Gambara during the corona- 
tion festivities at Bologna. The fable of Borgia iniquity is 
a plant of later growth. In 1531 the House was considered 
to have rendered signal services, deserving recognition, for 
a perpehtal memorial. Hence the granting of the Five 
Privileges which follow here. 


" To any confessor whom they may select,^ powers to absolve them 
" from the gravest ecclesiastical censures and penalties : to commute the 
" obligation of fasting to almsgiving : once a year to absolve them in cases 
" usually reserved to the Holy See ; or from any oath or vow but those 
*' generally excepted. 


" Special indulgences for the hour of Death, and for visits to a churchy 
" or an altar : also, for every mass offered byd, scion of the House (he being 
" in priest's orders), or for any scion of the House, indulgences equal to 
" those which might be gained at the altars of San Sebastiano, San Lorenzo, 
" Santa Pudentiana, and Santa Maria de Panis in Rome. 


" Permission to use Ladicinia (all food made of milk and eggs) and 
1 In Catholic countries one is bound to use the clergy of one's own parish, 


The Brilliant Light 

meatji on fast days throughout the year : this permission to extend to 
guests and servants of the family. Permission to take luncheon at mid- 
day, and dinner at night. Permission to receive the sacraments within 
prohibited times.- Permission to be buried on any day in the year, 
Easter alone excepted. 


" Priests who are scions of the House of Borgia may anticipate or 
postpone their recitation of the Breviary Offices without observing the fixed 
hours, reciting the whole office at once, or dividing it at their pleasure. 


" To female scions of the House of Borgia, or connections by 
marriage, liberty once a month to enter the enclosure of nuns,^ taking with 
them four others to converse with the nuns, and to eat with them, pro- 
vided only that they do not remain for the night." [La heroica vida, etc., 
del grande San Francisco de Borja, by Cardinal Alvaro Cienfuegos. Madrid, 
1 71 7. I. iii. 3, 4. 

The marriage of the Marquess Don Francisco, and the 
Marchioness Dona Leonor, of Lombay, resulted in the birth 
of eight children, who were, 

Don Carlos, the heir : 

Don Juan, Count of Ficalho ; Viceroy of Portugal ; Ambassador of King 

Don Felipe HI.; Author of Empresas Morales (1^81); Married to 

Dona Lorenza Onaz de Loyola, heiress of Don Beltrano, Sehor de 

Loyola : 
Don Alvaro, Marquess of Alcaguizes ; Ambassador of King Don 

Felipe HI to the Holy See : 
Don Hernando, Knight of the Order of Calatrava : 
Don Alonso, Chamberlain to the Empress Maria : 
Dona Isabella, married Don Francisco de Sandoval y Rojas, Marquess 

of Denia, Count of Lerina : (from this marriage descends the ducal 

house of Lerina :) 
Dona Juana, married Don Juan Enriquez de Almanas, Marquess of 

Alcanices : 
Dona Dorotea, nun at the monastery of Poor Clares in Gandia. 

Six years the Marquess Don Francisco spent in the 
duties of a husband, father, and courtier. In 1536, he 
accompanied Caesar Carlos V on a futile vainglorious 

1 Milk and meat were forbidden during Lent, and on every Saturday 
throughout the year. 

2 e.g., one might marry in Lent or Advent. 

3 To enable the Borgia ladies sometimes to see their relations in the 
Monastery of Poor Clares, whose Rule is one of the strictest. 

305 U 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

expedition into Provence. Harassed by the French com- 
mander Montmorency, his vast preparations all nullified, 
his troops wasted by disease and discredited by disaster, 
half his army hors de combat by reason of famine and plague, 
two months of inglorious campaigning sufficed for Caesar 
Carlos V. The French raised the peasantry against him ; 
his retreat became a rout ; and only a shattered fragment 
of his once-magnificent army reached the gates of Milan. 
Burning to retrieve his shame in the eyes of Europe, he 
launched a second vast expedition against Algiers ; only to 
encounter a second ignominious disaster. Such were the 
Marquess Don Francisco de Borja's experiences of war. 

In 1 537, died in the monastery of Poor Clares at Gandia, 
the Suor Maria Gabriella (Doiia Maria de Aragona y Luna) 
widow of the murdered Duke of Gandia (bastard of the 
Lord Alexander P.P. VI), and grandmother of the Mar- 
quess Don Francisco. The same year, also, death claimed 
his brother Don Rodrigo, who had enjoyed the Cardinal- 
Diaconate of San Niccolo in Car cere Tulliano only one year. 

In 1539, an event occurred which fundamentally affected 
the Marquess Don Francisco. He and his wife the Mar- 
chioness Dofia Leonor, were lord- and lady-in-waiting to 
Caesar*s wife, the Empress Dona Isabella. While Caesar 
was at Toledo trying to wring a grant of money from the 
Cortes of Castile, a sudden illness took the Empress,andshe 
died. The Marquess and Marchioness of Lombay were en- 
trusted with the duty of bringing the imperial corpse for burial 
to Elvira. There, was performed the ceremony of verification. 
Before the opened coffin, the Marquess Don Francisco was 
required to swear before the magistracy, that its contents 
were the mortal relics of the Empress Isabella. Corruption 
had set in, completely ravaging the dead : the face was like 
no human face and totally unrecognizable. The Marquess 
Don Francisco swore, not from recognition, but from 
knowledge that the coffin had never left his care. But a 
permanent impression scathed and branded him. He saw 
Death the Inevitable, the Horrible. Life at its highest and 
best, such as he himself enjoyed, offered no equivalent to, 
no consolation for, the end which none escape. He resolved 

to qualify for life eternal. 


The Brilliant Light 

Perhaps the most prominent note in the Spanish cha- 
racter is sing-lemindedness. It can pursue a single aim with 
a concentration of energy, with a fulness and pertinacity of 
unwavering will which is simply astounding. Is it kind 
and noble : the kind nobility of Don Quixote de la Mancha 
exemplifies Spanish ideal. Is it cruel : the ruthless remorse- 
less impersonal cruelty of Torquemada makes worlds to 
wince. Is it pious : it achieves complete disagreeable 
detachment of soul from every earthly sentiment, possession, 
hope, desire. Is it impious : a Spaniard will ravish an 
abbess of eighty, the corpse of a virginal novice, the statue 
of Truth. Is it gay : no lark in the sun on the morning of 
Easter is gayer. Is it gloomy : black moonless night, 
unstarred, brooding on pools obscure, shadowed by funeral 
pines, is not more fathomless than the deep depth of gloom 
veiling sad Spanish eyes. The sight of the dead Empress 
Isabella drew that veil across the joy of living, for the 
Marquess Don Francisco. He resolved to abjure the 
world : he prayed that God would shew the way, and break 
the bonds that bound him there. He was of the age of 
nine and twenty years. 

When he returned to Toledo, Caesar named him 
Viceroy of Cataluna and Knight of the Order of Sant' Jago. 
Entering with zeal on his new duties, he swept away the 
brigands who made travelling dangerous and obstructed 
commerce in his province. He found justice hard to come 
by ; and the judges corrupt and venal. He reformed them 
all. Hospitals for sick and needy, schools and colleges for 
the education of the young, sprang up under his viceregal 
rule. A Sixteenth Century Viceroy was responsible, not 
to press or parliament or self-styled philanthropists ; but to 
one earthly power alone — the Caesar. So long as his 
province regularly paid its tribute, and gave no trouble to the 
imperial exchequer, the Viceroy had absolute freedom. He 
was a despot in all but name. On this account, a Viceroy 
who laboured for his people's welfare was something of a 
novelty. The piety of the Marquess Don Francisco grew 
intenser ; he changed his habit ; going to Holy Communion 
once a week instead of once a month. He was trying to 
detach himself from the world — that despotic Viceroy. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Presently, there came a new kind of religious man, 
neither monk, nor friar, nor secular priest (to speak strictly), 
but a priest, one Padre Aretino Aroaz, "of the company of 
Jesus," he said ; and he preached before the Viceroy at 
Barcelona. From him, the Marquess Don Francisco heard 
the marvellous history of the marvellous man, the Sefior 
Don Ifiigo Lopez de Recalde, of the House of Loyola ; 
who, born in 1491, the year before the Borgia Lord 
Alexander P.P. VI began to rule Christendom from Rome, 
had followed a career of arms ; taken a serious incapaci- 
tating wound in 1521 ; become converted ; gone on a 
pilgrimage to Nuestra Sefiora, the MnrpoirdpSsvog, of Mont- 
serrat, in 1522; lived ten months in an hermitage at 
Manresa ; studied theology in that same city of Barcelona ; 
testified everywhere to his faith in Christ ; been imprisoned 
by the Spanish Inquisition for heresy — six weeks at Alcala, 
three weeks at Salamanca ; studied theology again in Paris 
from 1528 to 1532; received Holy Order as a priest; 
founded a Religion of military priest-knights of Christ ; 
gained the sanction and benison of Christ's Vicar, the Lord 
Paul P.P. Ill, for his "Company of Jesus" ;^ and given 
to the world a book of Spiritual Exercises for the 
training of the soul in counsels of perfection. All 
this was of extreme interest and significance to the 
Marquess Don Francisco. To know more, he enter- 
tained a correspondence with this Padre Ifiigo de Loloya 
in Rome. 

This same year 1539, the Viceroy's brother Don Enrico 
had news that the Lord Paul P. P. Ill deigned to raise him 
to the Sacred College, as Cardinal-Deacon of San Nereo e 
Sant' Achilleo, the Title of which previously had been held 
by Cardinal Francisco de Borja, bastard of the Lord 
Calixtus P.P. Ill who died excommunicate in 151 1. 
Setting out for Rome to receive the cardinalitial insignia, 
Don Enrico reached Viterbo, where he suddenly died in 
September 1540. His epitaph in the Vatican Basilica 
shews that no shame was known at this date on account of 
descent from the invincible Lord Alexander P.P. VI. 

1 The Bull Regimini was not finally sealed till xxvii Sept. 1540, 

The Brilliant Light 

" Henricus . Gente . Borgia . natione . Hispanus . 
Patria . Valentinus . Alexander . VI. . Pronepos . 
Ducis . Gandiae . F . dum . in . maxima . spe . assurgeret . 


There were now no cardinals of the House of Borma. 

In 1543, died the Duke Don Juan II. de Borja, father 
of the Viceroy Marquess of Lombay, who now succeeded 
to the Duchy of Gandia, the principaHties of Teano and 
Tricarico, the counties of Chiaramonte, Lauria, and 
Cerisfnola. Having" obtained Caesar's leave to resign the 
Viceroyalty of Cataluna, Duke Don Francisco de Borja 
returned to court, where he was appointed Master of the 
Household of the Infanta Dona Maria de Portugral. This 
princess was betrothed to the Infante Don FeHpe, son of 
Caesar Carlos V ; and it appeared that worldly ties were not 
to be untied, but tightened for the Duke of Gandia. But 
the Portuguese Infanta died before marriage, her household 
was dispersed ; and Duke Don Francisco retired to his 
duchy, where he began to make plans for a new college for 
the Company of Jesus (which perfectly had charmed him), 
and for a new monastery of Dominican nuns in whom his 
Duchess Dona Leonor was interested. 

* # # 

The year 1546, in a most signal manner marked the 
Duke of Gandia's progress along the road of detachment 
from the world. 

The Duchess was sick. The Duke was praying for her 
recovery. The Figure on the Crucifix spoke to him. 

What follows here rests on sworn testimony at the sub- 
sequent process of canonization, later to be described ; a 
formal legal process that, from its scope and stringency, 
demands as much consideration as the Report of a Royal 
Commission, or, better still, a Decision of the Judicial 
Committee of the Privy Council, in modern England. 

The Figure on the Crucifix spoke : " — oyo una voz 
sensible, carinosa e distinta, que Christo articulaba desde 
aquella estatua muerta." ^ 

1 La heroica vida, etc., del grande Sail Francisco dc Borja, by Cardinal Alvaro 
Cienftiegos. Madrid, 171 7, III. i. 1J5. 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

It said : " Si tu quieres que te dexe a la Duquesa mas 
tempo in esta vida, yo lo dexo en tu mano ; pero te aviso 
que a ti no te conviene esto." If thou askest Me to leave 
the Duchess longer in this life, I will do so ; but I warn thee 
that this will not be profitable to thee} 

The Duke of Gandia repeated this to his confessor. He 
also told him his reply, which was as follows : 

" What is this, O my God ? Dost Thou indeed commit to a weak 
and trembling hand like mine, a Power which belongs to Thy Divine 
Omnipotence ? What art Thou, O my Only Good ? And what am I, 
that Thou should'st desire to do my will ; when I was sent into the world 
for the purpose of doing Thine Alone, and of obeying, not only Every 
Command, but Every Inspiration of my Rightful Master ? What 
Immeasurable Goodness is This, that, in order to shew favour to a 
creature. Thou should'st be willing to abrogate Thy Supreme Prerogative 
as his Creator ! Since it is my wish to belong, not to myself, but alto- 
gether to Thee, I desire that, not my will, but Thine, should be done. 
Leave nothing O Lord to the decision of Francisco de Borja. Remember 
how often his feelings have blinded him and led him astray. Surely I 
cannot do less in return for Thine Infinite Condescension and Gracious 
Generosity, than to offer to Thee the lives of my wife and children as 
well as mine own, and everything, in fact, that I possess in the world. 
From Thine Hand I have received all : to Thee do I return all : earnestly 
entreating Thee to dispose of all according to Thy Good Pleasure." 

The Duchess died. 

It is unnecessary to engage in a disquisition anent the 
Speaking Crucifix. It is conceivable that He, Who made 
the ass of Balaam speak, could also make a statue speak. 
It already has been said that this history deals with matters 
which, as far as little human knowledge goes — and that is 
not far — , are out of the course of nature. The affair most 
rigorously has been investigated, and admitted, by a com- 
petent tribunal, whose verdict must be taken as going as 
near the path of truth as it is possible for a human tribunal 
to go. Therefore, the item of the Speaking Crucifix, with 
other items of supernatural manifestation, will be related as 
they occur, without attempts to explain them away, or to 
fit them with an adequate apology. If it be granted that they 
be possible, they at once become extremely probable. The 

^ La Jieroica vida, etc., del grande San Francisco de Borja, by Cardinal Alvaro 
Cienfufgos. Madrid, 1717, IILi. 115. 


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length and elaboration of the Duke of Gandia's reply are 
considered, by some, as proving it to have been composed 
after the event, and with due consideration. This con- 
clusion is quite worthy of notice, because it is open to serious 
and practical objection. The few men, and the many 
women, who habitually pray to God and to His saints, who 
are in direct frank frequent and habitual communication 
with the other world, will be perfectly well aware of the 
spontaneous ease with which ideas automatically sort them- 
selves, the formal phrases of the special language automati- 
cally flow, from the lips of those whose life is one continual 
prayer. To these the Duke of Gandia's utterance presents 
no difficulty : they recognize a foreign tongue with which 
they chance to be acquainted. Also, it is quite permissible 
to understand those words as not having been uttered 
actually, but as clothing the sentiments of the mind of the 
Duke of Gandia. 

Viewing the affair from a human stand-point, ordinary 
men will regard Duke Don Francisco's conduct as abhorrent, 
as heartless, as utterly brutal. It was. Granting the 
circumstances, he deliberately sacrificed the life of his wife. 
But his conduct was purely superhuman, purely super- 
natural. He was one of the many Roman Catholics of the 
Sixteenth Century — the Twentieth is less prolific — who 
really and truly believed In The Life Of The World To 
Come. His actions prove it. He knew that every man 
inevitably must submit to the hideous ordeal of surrendering 
to God's enemy. Death, as the price of entrance to eternity. 
He judged that, the sooner this ordeal was over, the better 
it would be. Therefore, confident in the merits of his 
Saviour and his wife's, the chance of translation being 
offered, he incontinently accepted on her behalf It was 
the act of a truly Christian, of a cruelly unworldly man. 
" He wished to be rid of his wife ! " 

He did wish. Is it wrong to accept the joy of heaven 
for one loved, suffering here on earth } " But his wish was 
selfish ! " 

His wish was selfish. The Duke of Gandia gained by 
the death of his wife. He gained liberty to tear the flesh 
of his gracious body with thongs and scourges. He gained 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

liberty to abdicate his duchy, his marquessate, his two 
principalities, his three counties ; to strip himself of every 
farthing of his enormous wealth ; to forsake his home, his 
children, his palaces, and his power ; to starve on foul bread 
and fouler water ; to wear odiously ugly clothes ; to do 
menial service for his natural inferiors ; to wheel manure 
in barrows ; worst of all, to herd with vulgar men ; to make 

himself disliked and scorned and hated, literally : if it 

be selfish to desire these things, then the Duke of Gandia 
was a selfish man. " It is impossible to admire him ! " 

People who say these silly things make the mistake, 
commit the injustice, are guilty of the absurd inconsistency, 
of judging the Duke of Gandia by comparing him to their 
own ideal. He must be regarded as he was ; not as he 
mieht have been if he had imitated the ideal of some 


Twentieth-Century plumber, haberdasher, or journalist. It 
is not necessary to admire him. He never courted admira- 
tion ; nor imitation either. What he did was personal 
between himself and his God. He acted up to his lights. 
He obeyed the voice of his conscience. He took for his 
ideal, that of San Francesco d'Assisi, 

NuDUs NUDUM Christum sequens, 

He had the right. The affair was his. And his deeds 
can be related only : for, to use them to teach a lesson or 
to point a moral would be like a vain beating of the air. 
Lessons in this department of knowledge are given by no 
human instructor ; and they are given solely to the hearts 
of willing learners. 

The first hindrance was removed. 

A few days after the death of the Duchess, Pere Pierre 
Lefevre of the Company of Jesus arrived at Gandia, by 
previous arrangement, to lay the foundation stone of the 
college which the Duke was building for the Jesuits, He 
brought with him the Book of Spiritual Exercises written 
by the General Padre liiigo de Loyola. The Duke of 
Gandia took advantage of his presence to perform these 
Spiritual Exercises, consisting of prayers, pious meditations, 
and rigorous and systematic searchings of the heart. Feeling 
profited by this experience, he wrote to the Lord Paul 


The Brilliant Light 

P.P. Ill, begging Him to pronounce Apostolic Approval 
of the book. In course of post, (which the Sixteenth 
Century carried on by means of private couriers,) that is to 
say in the course of a few months, he received from the 
Holiness of the Pope a Brief of Recommendation. The 
Bull of Approval was issued on the thirty-first of July 

'548. , , 

This Brief caused him to resolve to join the Company of 
Jesus ; and he wrote his resolution to the General without 
delay. When the death of his Duchess made him free to 
renounce the world, he seriously had thought of becoming 
a Friar Minor. His name Francisco Qrave him San Francisco 
d'Assisi, the founder of the Religion of Friars Minor, as 
his patron-saint : the abject poverty, the singular contempt 
of the world, the awful austerities of the Franciscans admir- 
ably agreed with his habit of mind. He consulted his 
resident chaplain who himself was a Friar Minor. To this 
friar, there came a vision of Madonna Mary saying, " Tell 
the Duke to enter the Company of my Son." To Duke 
Don Francisco, also, a statue of Madonna Mary spoke the 
same words. Hence his jfinal resolution. 

Padre Ribadaneira of the Company of Jesus, who, 
afterwards was his confessor, and who wrote the life of the 
Duke of Gandia and swore before five tribunals of the truth 
of every word that he had written, says (xv. 238) that, for 
the next seven days, Duke Don Francisco was afflicted 
with an apparition of a sumptuous mitre always floating 
above his head. He had much fear. He knew that, when 
a person of his quality relinquished a brilliant secular 
career, an equally brilliant ecclesiastical one lay open to 
him. This was the very last thing that he desired. He 
swore to God that, unless the apparition left him, and he 
should be allowed to practise poverty during his whole life 
yet to come, he would refuse to don the clerical habit : for 
he felt the prospect of dignity to be a danger. Then the 
apparition left him : How exceedingly natural is this 
example of unconscious cerebration. It would have been 
strange indeed if the Duke's crushed and bruised humanity 
had not asserted itself in phantasmal apparitions. 

The singular reply of the General of the Company of 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Jesus shall be given in full. Its curious worldly care for the 
worldly welfare of worldly people, its wonderful depth of 
spirituality for him who is spiritually minded, its complete 
grip of the subject, its polite piety, its discreet judgment, 
its personal humility, its impersonal dignity, its authoritative 
decision, its quaint gravity of form, stamp it as the work of 
a great and powerful mind. Padre liiigo de Loyola wrote 
as follows : 

"Most Noble Lord: — 

" It gave me great delight to hear of the resolution with which 
God in His Infinite Goodness has inspired you. Since we, who are on 
earth, are unable to render Him sufficient thanks for the favour which 
He has been pleased to show to our humble Company, in calling you 
to join it, I humbly beseech the angels and the saints who are now 
enjoying His Presence in heaven to supply our deficiency in this respect. 
I trust that Divine Providence will cause this decision of yours to be 
the means of effecting much good, not only in regard to your own 
soul, but to the souls of many others who may be led to follow your 
example. As for us who are already members of the Company, we shall 
strive to serve with increased devotion the Gracious Father, who has 
given us so skilled a labourer to aid in the work of cultivating the 
tender vine, which He has been pleased to entrust to my care, although 
I am in every respect unworthy of the office. In the name of the Lord, 
I therefore receive you at once as our brother, and shall henceforth 
regard you as such. Most truly can I promise to feel for you, now, and 
always, an affection proportioned to the large-hearted generosity with which 
you desire to enter the House of God, there to serve Him more perfectly. 

" With reference to your enquiries as to the time and manner of your 
entrance into the Company, I have laid the matter before God in prayer. 
It is my opinion that this change must be made with much caution and 
deliberation, in order that you may not leave any of your immediate 
duties unfulfilled ; otherwise it may not prove to be A.M.D.G. (Ad Maiorem 
Dei Gloriam — To The Greater Glory Of God ; the motto of the Company 
of Jhesus.) You had better keep the affair a secret at present ; at least 
as far as it is possible to do, striving meanwhile so to arrange things as 
to be free as soon as you can, and at liberty to carry out the plan you so 
ardently desire to execute for the love of our Lord. 

" In order to make myself more plainly understood, I may as well 
say that, as your daughters are of a marriageable age, I think you ought 
to endeavour to see them suitably settled. It would be well if you were 
also to choose a suitable wife for your eldest son, the Marquess of 
Lombay. In regard to your other sons, it would be better not to 
leave them dependent upon their elder brother : but to assign to each a 
suitable and sufficient income of his own ; allowing them meanwhile 


The Brilliant Light 

to pursue their university career. It is reasonably to be hoped that, if 
they fulfil, as I trust and believe they will, the promise of their youth, 
the Emperor will extend to them the favour he has always shown to you : 
and will bestow upon them, when the right time comes, appointments in 
keeping with their rank. You must also try and push on the various 
buildings you have begun ; for I think it desirable that they should all be 
completed, before the great change you are contemplating is generally made 

" Meanwhile, you cannot do better, since you are already a proficient 
in most branches of human learning, than apply yourself to the study of 
Theology. It is my wish that you should do this with much care and 
pains ; for I should like you to take a doctor's degree in the University 
of Gandia. 

" I cannot conclude without inculcating upon you to take every 
possible precaution in order to prevent this astonishing piece of news 
from being prematurely divulged. I feel that I need add no more on 
this head. 

" I shall hope to hear frequently from you ; and I will try to give you all 
the advice and assistance you may need. In the meantime, I shall 
beseech our Lord to grant you all graces and blessings, in ever-increasing 

That truly is an extraordinary letter. The two men 
had never met. Only a few letters at long intervals had 
passed between them ; yet there is not the slightest doubt 
or misunderstanding. The humble priest, readily but not 
avidly, calmly but not arrogantly accepts the role of mentor 
to the brilliant duke. He is very glad to get a duke — who 
will have done with dukedom : but he will allow no looking 
back when once the hand is put to the plough. The 
severance must be absolute and irrevocable ; and, to this 
end, Padre liiigode Loyola gives an exhibition of plain and 
practical common sense expressed in terms of courteous 
and definite command, It is my wish — I thinkyo2i ought 

So during the next four years the Duke of Gandia 
laboured to carry out the orders of his ecclesiastical superior, 
removing the only hindrances that bound him to the world. 
His late wife's sister Doiia Juana de Meneses acted as 
mother to his children. In 1548, he married his heir the 
Marquess Don Carlos of Lombay, at the age of eighteen 
years, to Dofia Magdalene de Centellas y Cardona, 
Countess of Oliva. In 1549, he married his daughter Dona 
Isabella to Don Francisco de Sandoval y Rojas, Marquess 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

of Denia and Count of Lerina. He finished the buildings of 
the Dominican monastery at Gandia, and of the Jesuit 
College which is richly endowed with houses for poor 
scholars, and for children of the Maranas or Jews on 
condition of baptism. He also obtained charters from the 
Lord Paul P. P. HI and from Caesar Carlos V. raising this 
college to the rank of an university. 

At last, in 1550, he left his duchy of Gandia and 
journeyed toward Rome, escorted by a retinue of thirty 
servants, and his second son Don Juan de Borgia of the 
age of seventeen years. He had to pay the penalty of his 
extraordinary notoriety. On his passage through Ferrara, 
the reigning Duke (who himself came of Borgia stock) met 
him with fetes and processions. At Florence, Duke Cosmo 
de' Medici accorded a state-reception. He was going to 
renounce the world ; and the world made a triumphal 
progress of his going. His desire to slink into the lowest 
place won him attention verging on adoration. His chagrin 
was undisguised. He envoyed an avant-courier to ask 
his superior's leave to enter Rome by night avoiding 
publicity. Padre Inigo de Loyola peremptorily refused : 
for the Duke of Gandia was too good an object-lesson to be 
thrown away. His entrance into the Eternal City, whose 
citizens even in 1550 revered the memory of Borgia, was 
like that of a king- who comes into his kino-dom. The Lord 
Paul P.P. HI sent ambassadors to welcome him, and to 
offer lodging in the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican : but 
the Duke of Gandia hurried to the Jesuit College ; doing 
obeisance at the feet of the General and Founder of the 
Company of Jesus. So these two unique personalities first 
met, whom now men call Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint 
Francis of Borcjia. 

Padre Inigo de Loyola immensely admired the Duke of 
Gandia. This last, whose gracious and brilliant figure 
caused him to be compared to Apollo and gained for him 
the nickname The Modern Narcissus, already was known 
to fame as a ruler and orator born. He was the master of 
enormous wealth and influence ; and his only ambition in 
life was to strip himself of these and abnegate his will at the 
command of another. During his sojourn in Rome, he 


The Brilliant Light 

lavished his revenues on the foundation of the Roman 
College. The honourable title of Founder was offered to 
him by his own General : but he begged to be excused ; and 
the title afterwards w^as accepted by the Lord Gregory 
P.P. XIII, Who named the college The Pontifical 
Gregorian University of Rome. Meanwhile, he sent a 
courier to Augsburg, where Caesar Carlos V was, with a 
letter in which he asked his sovereign's leave to resign all 
his titles and estates. While he was .waiting for the reply, 
his General obliored him to fulfil all the duties of his ducal 
rank ; whereby he was brought into intimate relations with 
the Holiness of the Pope and the Curial Cardinals. Even 
in this august assemblage he won regard. The Pope and 
the cardinals became so fond of him, that they disliked the 
notion of allowing so brilliant a man to bury himself in the 
severe Religion of Padre Inigo de Loyola. It was a waste 
of talent, they said ; and the Supreme Pontiff proposed 
instantly to name him cardinal, like his dead brothers Don 
Rodrio-o and Don Enrico. 

It did appear to be a waste of talent. But that was a 
personal account which the Duke of Gandia would have to 
settle with his Judge. In these specimens of abnormal 
humanity, interference invariably is fatal, owing to natural 
forces. It always is the safest and wisest plan, not to 
hinder, but to help a sane well-meaning man, who is aware 
of his responsibilities, to do the thing which he wants to do. 
For human nature is capable of amazing outbreak, violence, 
and divarication, where it is not free. 

After four months in Rome, suddenly, and with nO' 
leave-taking, the Duke of Gandia fled to Spain. The 
prospect of a scarlet hat had become too real, too terrifying. 
Of course there is not the slightest danger that a man may 
be made cardinal against his expressed desire. The 
cardinalate is not an infectious disease like the plague, or 
scarlet fever ; nor is it a sacrament, like baptism, which 
leaves an ineradicable mark upon the soul. It conceivably 
is possible that only brutal rudeness and incivility will 
suffice for its avoidance : — but they will suffice. And it 
can always be renounced, rare though renunciations be. 
The Duke of Gandia was a very gracious lord, in full 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

possession of all his faculties, utterly uninfluenced ; and, no 
doubt, he wished to avoid an occasion when his conscience 
would direct him to be unoracious or uncivil to the 
benevolence of the Holiness of the Pope. In his flight, he 
first went to the castle of Loyola, where his General had been 
born, to thank Heaven for the nativity of that marvellous 
man : then, onward again, a few miles to the little town of 
Onata in Guipuscoa, where there was a house of the Com- 
pany of Jesus. The Lord Paul P.P. HI died in Rome this 
year 1550 : and was succeeded by the Lord Julius P.P. HI. 
The Duke of Gandia received a Brief from Caesar 
Carlos V, dated the twelfth of February 1551, giving per- 
mission, to divest himself of rank and to renounce the world, 
with very much regret at losing the allegiance of his most 
brilliant subject, and solely because Caesar felt that to refuse 
would be opposition to the Divine Will. He made the 
formal act of renunciation before a notary at Ofiate ; 
bestowing his duchy, his principalities, and his counties on 
his heir, the Marquess Don Carlos of Lombay ; distributing 
his estates and wealth amono- his children. He laid aside 


his sword, which, according to the fashion of the courtiers of 
Caesar Carlos V, he rode cock-horse, (so to speak,) as it 
hung between his legs. He had his hair cut short, and 
the tonsure shaved on his head. He changed his ducal 
robes for the shabby ill-fitting black habit of a Jesuit. On 
Whit Saturday he was ordained priest ; and the Duke 
of Gandia disappeared in Padre Francisco de Borja. In 
his after life, he never would allow of any allusion to his 
former style, except when he chanced to hear of the refusal 
by the Company of Jesus to admit a would-be but unsuit- 
able novice, when he would say, " Now I thank God from 
the bottom of my heart for having made me a duke ; for 
assuredly there was nothing else about me which could 
have induced the superiors to accept me " : an opinion 
which shews that Padre Francisco's extremely poor opinion 
of himself betrayed him into exaggeration — a little human 
touch which brinafs him nearer to human understandinof. 

He said his first mass privately in the chapel of the 
castle of Loyola, on the first of August 155 1, the Festival 
of St. Peter's Chains ; and gave Holy Communion to his 


The Brilliant Light 

second son, Don Juan de Borja, who, having found it hard 
to leave his father, was losing his young heart to Dona 
Lorenza Oiiaz de Loyola, heiress of the Seiior Don Beltrano 
de Loyola. 

Padre Francisco's second mass was a public function. 
All the people round about persisted in nicknaming him 
" Lo Santo Duque," The Holy Duke. The Lord Julius 
P.P. Ill granted a plenary indulgence to all who should 
assist at this mass, on the usual conditions of confession and 
communion. To satisfy the multitude the mass was to be 
said in the city of Vergara : but no church would hold the 
crowd, and the altar was erected in a field by the hermitage 
of Santa Ana. It began at nine o'clock in the morning of 
the fifteenth of November 1 5 5 1 , and continued till three in the 
afternoon, so overwhelming was the number of communi- 
cants. (The ordinary mass lasts half an hour.) The sermon 
was preached by Padre Francisco in the courtly Castilian 
dialect : but it is recorded that people of all provinces under- 
stood him, even those whose native tongue was Basque, A 
certain Don Juan de Moschera publicly cursed him ; to 
whom Padre Francisco instantly went, begging pardon for 
being worth a cursing. 

He set up as a hermit in a wooden cell near the Jesuit 
House at Ofiate ; and gained fame as a preacher, especially 
(strange to say) among the learned clergy. Men who take 
pleasure in approving of others, newcomers, of the same 
trade, are very rare : but for the clergy to approve of a 
preacher is rarer. He wrote a manual of Advice to Preachers, 
which had an unusual vogue. He was very fond of the 
breviary hymn Vexilla Regis prodeunt, (The Royal Banners 
forward go ;) and repeated with delight of soul the stanza, 

" Arbor decora et fulgida, 
Ornata regis purpura : 
Electa digno sHpite, 
Tarn Sancta Membra tangere. 

" O Tree of glory, Tree most fair, ordained those Holy Limbs to bear; 
How bright in purple robe It stood, the purple of a Saviour's Blood." 

(" Hymns Ancient and Modern.") 

He worked miracles. A lady had two splinters of 
wood ; the one was unnotable, the other was a Relique of 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

the True Cross : but which was the Relique was not known. 
Padre Francisco, to decide, broke them both ; from one, 
Blood dropped upon a piece of paper. An Infanta of 
Spain put him to a similar test : but in this case the relique 
was said to be a piece of the skin of St. Bartholomew 
Apostle (he was flayed alive), with another. Padre Fran- 
cisco tore both skins ; and again blood dropped from one 
on linen. The blood-stained paper and the blood-stained 
linen, with both reliques, are in the monastery of Poor 
Clares at Madrid. Multitudes came to see the quondam 
duke as hermit ; they said that they saw a radiant nimbus 
lighting the pallor of his brow ; and to prevent Padre 
Francisco from becoming puffed up, (an excessively unne- 
cessary precaution, one would think,) his superior at Onate, 
Padre Ochiva, set him to hard menial labour, to dig, 
saw, carry stones, chop wood, light fires, help in the kitchen, 
and wheel barrows of manure. The General, to whom 
every detail was reported, sent Padre Francisco to preach 
in Portugal, where the Company of Jesus was little known ; 
and his mission met with great results. With himself 
he was most severe. All physical beauty was gone from 
his once gracious body, macerated in ceaseless austerities. 
He took the habit of signing his letters Francisco Pecador, 
" Francis the Sinner " : but his sapient General promptly 
stopped that practice, saying that Singularity was not the 
seed of Sanctity. All letters which came to him addressed 
to The Duke of Gandia, he returned, inscribed Not /or me, 
F^^ancisco S.J. 

The Lord Julius P.P. Ill issued a Brief, offering him a 
scarlet hat. He sent a firm refusal in reply. It has been 
said that he feared to accept the cardinalate, lest he should 
be elected Pope at the next Conclave. The statement is 
absurd ; because 

(a) in theory, the election of the Successor of St. Peter 
is the work of the Holy Spirit ; and ubi Spiritus ibi 
libej'tas, where the Spirit is there is liberty : not 
cardinals alone, but humble priests as well, or newly 
tonsured clerks, or any Christian male, is eligible : 
— there is no such absurd thingr as a restriction on 

The Brilliant Light 

the Right of the Divinity to choose his Vicar ; and 
Padre Francisco, therefore, was as Hable in black, 
as he would have been in scarlet : 
()3) if he had been elected Pope, it was open to him to 
refuse or to accept the Call. 

Some Roman Catholics hold that he could not have 
refused. But Popes can abdicate, and have abdicated ! 
But would he have refused ? Would he have been allowed 
by the General of the Company of Jesus to refuse? There 
is no knowing". Such a case has never occurred. 

There never has been a Jesuit Pope. It would have 
been an unique, an unheard of situation, — the Company of 
Jesus in full power, armed with plenary authority, absolute 
in all the world, practising unscrupulous, uncompromising 
Christianity. The conditions of the Millennium would stand 
in a fair way of being fulfilled — to speak by the Book. — 
But Padre Francisco de Borja refused the scarlet hat ; for 
he wished for himself complete detachment from the world, 
and nothing more, here. 

Returning from his mission in Portugal to Spain, he 
evangelized the provinces of Castile and Andalusia. At 
Alicaza, he healed a cripple girl. At Valladolid, he raised 
the dead to life. Two teeth being knocked out of the head 
of a great preacher, his companion, they were replanted by 
Padre Francisco : and never old age nor decay affected them. 
The General named him Provincial for Spain and the Indies ; 
and Father and Founder of the Company of Jesus in 
Spain and Portugal. His preaching converted the rich 
and worldly Bishop of Plasencia who returned to his religious 
duties. Padre Francisco introduced the Company of Jesus 
at Valladolid, Medina, San Lucar, Burgos, Granada, 
Plasencia, Murcia, Sevilla, Valencia. Did he, in passing 
through Valencia, find any of the old stock of Don Juan 
Domingo de Borja who, exactly a century earlier, had 
given the Lord Calixtus P.P. Ill to Rome and Christen- 
dom ? 

He was the first to establish the Jesuit Noviciates ; 
and the Noviciate at Simancas was his favourite. Here 
are his methods of dealing with novices. A certain novice 

321 X 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

of noble birth and breeding, but pious all the same, found 
it intolerable that he should have to wait upon himself with 
no menial to truss his points, or brush his clothes, or sweep 
his floor to serve him. Padre Francisco heard his com- 
plaint ; and, having there another novice, who in the world 
had been a valet, he ordered him on his obedience to serve 
his noble brother. The thing was done ; and in a little 
while, the noble novice sensibly took shame at his own 
singularity, as might have been expected ; and dispensed 
with further service. Another noble novice found his 
narrow cell and his hebdomadal shirt altogether insupport- 
able. Padre Francisco promptly furnished him with a large 
room, and a clean shirt every day ; and, presently, he grew 
to hate his privileges, renounced them, and assimilated 
himself with the rest. Padre Francisco at least believed 
what already has been said here, viz., that the wise man does 
not hinder, but helps the sane well-meaning man who is 
aware of his responsibilities, to do the thing that he desires 
to do : for, if that thing be undesirable, the doer quickly will 
find it out, and so convince himself ; while the thing undone, 
the wish unsatisfied, causes the unconvinced to hanker 
after, to struggle for, and to revolt. Once when Padre 
Francisco was visitino- the Colleo-e of Sant' Andrea of 
Valladolid, the resources were at an end ; and there was 
neither food nor money in the house. Natheless, he 
ordered the bell to be rung as usual for supper though the 
board was bare ; and, in the nick of time, there came to the 
outer door an old grey-headed man with a huge lovely boy, 
strangers in the city, who brought baskets of meat and 
bread and fish and eggs and wine, and a purse of money : 
whom the pious have called St. Andrew and an Angel. 

The year 1555 saw three Popes; the Lord Julius 
P.P. Ill, Who died and was succeeded by the Lord 
Marcellus P.P. II, Who died and was succeeded by the 
Lord Paul P.P. IV. 

In 1556, Padre Ifiigo de Loyola died; and Padre 
Francisco instantly began to invoke his departed chief, — 
Holy Ignatius of Loyola, pray to the Lord our God for 7ne ; 
— while Padre Jago Laynez was elected General of the 
Company of Jesus. 


The Brilliant Light 

In 1558, also died the Holy Roman Emperor Carlos V, 
who long had given himself to religion. On his death-bed, 
Imperial Caesar cried for " santo Padre Francisco de 
Borja " to assist him in his agony. But the Jesuit was 
unable to arrive except in time to preach the funeral ora- 
tion. Caesar had shown to the priest the unparalleled 
respect and honour of naming him executor of his will ; an 
office which the unworldliness of Padre Francisco impelled 
him to decline. The royal and imperial family, conscious 
of the Kvdog which they would gain by his acceptance, 
appealed against his decision. The Princess- Regent also 
invoked the General, who issued a command upon obe- 
dience ; which Padre Francisco perforce obeyed, carried 
out the provisions of the will of Caesar Carlos V, taking as 
little as possible of his own share, to avoid offence. Of 
course, all he had would go to the funds of his order, his 
vow of poverty debarring him from personal possessions. 

In 1559, he was in Portugal once more, sick of an inter- 
mittent fever at Evora. The people of this country, natural 
enemies of Spain and Spaniards, so loved Padre Francisco 
that they said he must be a Portuguese. During his sick- 
ness, he wiled the weary waiting and cheered his soul by 
setting music to the anthem Regina caeli laetare (" Rejoice, 
O Queen of Heaven"), and the hundred and seventy-six 
verses of Psalm cxviii, Vulgate Version, Beati hnmaculati^ 
(Psalm cxix. Authorized Version, " Blessed are the unde- 
filed in the way.") This year, his sister Dona Juana de 
Borja y Aragona (Suor Juana de la Cruz,) died In The 
Odour of Sanctity. She was the first Abbess of the 
Royal Monastery of Sandalled (Discalced) Carmelites in 
Madrid. This year 1559, died the Lord Paul P.P. IV and 
the Lord Pius P.P. IV succeeded Him. In 1560, Padre 
Francisco calmed the terrified population of Oporto during a 
total eclipse of the sun, spontaneously preaching an im- 
passioned sermon on the eclipse, of mortal sin, which veils 
man's soul from the Sun of Righteousness, Then, again, 
sickness laid him low ; neuralgia, paralysis, ulcers. The 
vile body was resisting the strain which he made it bear. 

Restored to health in 1561, he was summoned to Rome 
and named Vicar-General of the Company of Jesus. Let 

chronicles of the House of Borgia 

It never be forgotten that, while the Borgia Pontiffs paved 
the way for, Padre Francisco de Borja governed the Jesuits 
throughout the world while the General Padre Jago de 
Laynez was present at, the CEcumenical of Trent. The 
connection between the House of Borgia and the Triden- 
tine Decrees is of enormous significance. Here, at last, 
was the General Council for the Reformation of the Holy 
Roman Church, summoned and legally constituted by law- 
ful authority. For years, self-seeking malcontents, eccle- 
siastical and royal, had howled for it. Now, it was come : 
but the German schism was an accomplished fact. The 
cry had gone through Christendom that Rome was effete, 
corrupt, on the verge of decay and dissolution. And lo. She 
arose in Her strength, and cut away the parasitic ulcers that 
long had blurred with open wounds Her contours ; refur- 
bished spiritual arms long rusted ; set Her house in order ; 
and was ready again, like a giant refreshed, for Her inter- 
minable affray. The Barque of Peter went into dock. The 
Garden of Souls was weeded. The Council of Trent re- 
formed the Holy Roman Church : and a Borgia, as General's 
deputy, was ruling the Company of Jesus in all the world. 

During four years, Padre Francisco was Vicar-General 
in Rome. He preached often in the Spanish church of 
San Giuseppe on Via del Monserrato. The Religion of 
Padre liiigo de Loyola endured one of its numerous phases 
of attack. In this world, things being as they are, to such 
an institution a liability to disesteem is inevitable. Perse- 
cutors and calumniators arose ; and Padre Francisco showed 
a talent for successful defence. Having completely crushed 
himself, he could bring to his cause an amount of irresistible 
force of which the ordinary man, distracted by the whimsy 
interests of this and that, is altogether unaware. 

His behaviour, in one of those cases with which the 
Holy Roman Church occasionally shocks the world, is quite 
remarkable. His son Don Alvaro de Borja, who was about 
the age of twenty-seven years, and Ambassador of Spain in 
Rome, desired to marry Dofia Laniparte de Almansa y 
Borja, daughter of his own sister Doiia Juana, and of the 
age of about fourteen years. Padre Francisco refused to 
countenance a marriage between his grand-daughter and his 


The Brilliant Light 

son, between uncle and niece : refused to ask the Pope's 
Holiness for the necessary dispensation. Whereupon, Don 
Alvaro approached the Lord Pius P.P. IV directly, in his 
capacity of ambassador, and obtained the dispensation ; 
while the Pope scolded Padre Francisco for his conduct in 
the matter. 

In 1565 Padre Jago Laynezdied. Deliberately shutting 
their ears to his appeals, the Jesuits elected Padre Francisco 
de Borja Prepositor-General of the Company of Jesus on the 
second of July. With the single exception of the Roman 
Pontiff, he now was the most powerful ruler in Christendom, 
general of an army unrivalled in discipline, utterly reliable, 
because voluntarily enlisted and morally ruled. Yet he 
gave no sign of pride or pleasure. He was a perfect Jesuit, 
humanely sensitive, completely self-distrustful. He said 
" It is evident that our Lord has condescended to assume 
the government of this Company since He sees fit to use so 
deplorably unworthy an instrument." What words could 
express more sincerely abject and unworldly humility than 
those ? 

Aut pati aut mori was his motto. As General, he 
relaxed not one of the stern rigorous austerities with 
which he kept under his body and brought it into sub- 
jection. Every passion and appetite of his human nature 
he deliberately killed. He slept little. He ate little. He 
had freed himself from every earthly love. 

What he might have been ! 

What he was ! 

A brilliant and gracious duke, master of territories and 
boundless wealth, father of a noble family allied with the 
bluest blood of Spain, honoured by his sovereign, re- 
verenced by his equals, loved by his kin, adored by his 

A sinister shadow of a man, wracked with continual 
pain, deliberately apart from all his kind, feared, disliked, 
distrusted, alone, suffering, — alone. 

Every day he systematically meditated during five 
hours on superhuman things. Every morning and every 
night, he subjected his conscience to rigorous examination, 
and confessed even every impulse to evil thought. He 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

prayed without ceasing. Once, when travelling in Spain 
with Padre Bustamente, the two slept side by side on 
the bare floor of a loft, because there was no room for 
them in the inn. Padre Bustamente, being asthmatic, spat 
all night long, unknowingly on the face of his companion, 
who never moved. In the morning light, he was horrified 
to see what he had done : but Padre Francisco consoled 
him, saying that in all the world no more suitable place 
could have been found. He had been very urgent with 
his sister Dofia Juana, Abbess of the Poor Clares at 
Gandia, that she should persevere in penance and mor- 
tification till her life's end. Has there ever been a case 
of a consistent Roman Catholic who has committed suicide 
from religious melancholomania ? Rarely ; if ever : for the 
Church, wisely recognising that peculiar temperament, has 
provided a system where voluntary mortification has its 
places, its rules, and may be practised by whoever will. 

Padre Francisco had the gifts of intuition and of clear- 
seeing, which generally are found developed respectively 
in women and brute beasts. He knew when a house was 
about to fall some time before it fell. He knew, on seeing 
a courier from his eldest son, that an heir was born to 
the Duke Don Carlos of Gandia. The courier did not 
relish this intuition, thinking that he deserved reward for 
his good news : of which disgust, also, Padre Francisco 
was aware ; and gave reward. The greater the detachment 
from the world, over worldly things the greater power is 
gained. People who saw Padre Francisco during his 
generalship, saw rays of mysterious light playing round 
his head. The phenomenon of the electric aura now is 
well-known ; and the camera will show it on occasion. 
Often, in his trances of prayer, he was seen floating above 
the ground. 

In 1566 the Lord Pius P.P. IV died; and, succeeding 
Him, the Lord Pius P.P. V. stopped his coronation pro- 
cession at the Jesuit House in Rome, that He might pay 
His respects to the holy General. In 1569 Padre Francisco 
again was stricken with fever. Recovering, he made a 
pilgrimage to the Holy House of Nazareth, which angels 
carried over the sea from Palestine and set down at Loreto 


The Brilliant Light 

by Ancona, In 1571 the Pope's Holiness sent an em- 
bassage to France and Spain and Portugal, to rouse the 
sovereigns of Christendom against the Muslim Infidel. The 
ambassadors were the Papal Nephew, the Lord Michele 
Bonello, son of Madonna Gardina the Pope's sister, born at 
Boschi near Alessandria, who at his august Uncle's first 
creation in 1566 had been named Cardinal- Presbyter of the 
Title of Santa Maria sopra Minerva with the cognomen 
Alessandrino ; and Padre Francisco de Borgia, Prepositor- 
General of the Company of Jesus. The two left Rome in 
1 57 1. In Barcelona, they settled a long-standing dispute 
between the government and the cathedral chapter ; for 
Padre Francisco was ever a peacemaker. In the province 
of Cataluna, which was not unmindful of him who had been 
its viceroy, the ambassadors were received with the highest 

The record of this journey, through the scenes of his 
youthful glory, is one of the most pathetic things in human 
history. This sinister emaciated phantom shabbily robed 
in thread-bare black, whose thin lips bit perpetual pain ; 
this great and narrow spirit with eyes tardy and grave, 
furtively, drowsily, reluctantly, regarding earthly things, 
having seen the heavenly ; this mendicant, whose com- 
panion was a prince of the church sumptuous in ermine and 
vermilion, — he was no stranger in Cataluna, where afore- 
time as marquess, duke, and imperial viceroy he had 
exercised despotic and sovereign rule. Now he thought no 
place low enough, foul enough, for his deserts. He was in, 
but not of, the world. 

At Valencia, his children and his grandchildren knelt to 
kiss his way-worn feet. They prayed him to visit his duchy 
of Gandia. He refused. He was no longer of the world. 

He preached for the last time in the cathedral of 
Valencia — Valencia the shrine of the House of Borja. 
Here, a century and a half earlier. Canon Alonso de Borja 
had been raised to the bishopric. The Bishop of Valencia 
became cardinal. The Cardinal of Valencia became the 
strenuous Lord Calixtus P.P. III. From Xativa by 
Valencia sprang Don Rodrigo de Lan^ol y Borja, Bishop 
of Valencia, Cardinal of Valencia, the magnificent invincible 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Lord Alexander P.P. VI. The splendid Don Cesare 
(detto Borgia) also was Bishop of Valencia and Cardinal, 
before he renounced the purple for the French duchy of 
Valentinois. Three huge personalities had borne the name 
that now was represented by this obscure wan figure whose 
voice, whose magic pleading fading voice, thrilled in the aisles 
of Valencia's fane. Here, in Valencia, the fire was kindled; 
hence, from Valencia, blazed the all-devouring flame ; here, 
in Valencia, the cresset glowed with steady brilliant light, so 
shining before men that they might see good works, and 
glorify the Father which is in heaven. Padre Francisco de 
Borja preached for the last time in the cathedral of Valencia. 
In France, the ambassadors met with no success. That 
miserable country was in the throes of the Huguenot 
Rebellion ; and the Queen- Dowager, Madame Caterina de' 
Medici, ruled the maniac King. After travelling through 
France in the winter, gaining converts and confirming the 
churches, but failing in the object of their journey, the 
ambassadors reached Turin ; and became guests of the 
Duke of Savoy. Padre Francisco, utterly worn out with 
exertion and anxiety, his vital forces being on the verge 
of exhaustion, fell ill on the second of February, Candle- 
mas Day 1572. The exigencies of courtly etiquette bored 
him to distraction ; and he hurried on. Low Sunday found 
him in Ferrara. Here, having concluded his ambassadorial 
duties, the last remains of his strength departed. His 
nephew, the Duke of Ferrara, gave him a royal escort, and 
a royal litter, as he was too weak to ride, and sent him 
onward to Rome. During this last journey, it was noticed 
that, though he lay still, more like a corpse than a man, his 
characteristic oresture of command remained with him to the 
very end. 

He attained the Flaminian Gate of Rome on the twenty- 
eighth of September. All the Company of Jesus were there 
to receive their dying General. He was carried to the 
Jesuit House, and the last Sacraments of Unction and 
Viaticum fortified his soul. 

On the Festival of St. Michael Archangel, he lay a-dying. 
The next day, his speech departed. His last words, the 
last words of the sometime gracious and brilliant duke, 


The Brilliant Light 

the last words of the Jesuit General, were the words of a 
simple little Christian child, " I long for Jesus!" 

He had done with the Latin of the Church. He had 
gone back to his mother-tongue, " A Jesus quiero." 

On the first of October 1572, he died of a decline, being 
of the age of two and sixty years. 

■^ ^ .^ 

•vr "if' t5» 

Instantly, the pious opinion was entertained that Padre 
Francisco de Borja had died In The Odour of Sanctity. 

It was found impossible to undress the corpse. Among 
others, his brother Don Tommaso de Borja, the Viceroy of 
Aragon, made an attempt to perform the last duties, but all 
without success. This same Don Tommaso, who afterwards 
became Archbishop of Saragossa, wrote a detailed history 
of this phenomenon which he calls miraculous. Various 
explanations are given of the sudden and complete rz^or 
Tnortis, which, however, are mystical, not practical ones. It 
is said that modesty prevented the disrobing, or that it was 
intended to hide the scars of long-practised austerities, or 
that the greatest reverence was due to the body which had 
been the temple of the Holy Spirit. 

His family, and all who in his life had known him, 
looked upon Padre Francisco de Borja as a saint : as such, 
they privately venerated his fragrant memory, and invoked 
the aid of his intercession. No public honours were 
accorded, for his right to these had not yet been made 
clear : but it was alleged that these private invocations 
produced marvellous results. Two shall be named. The 
physicians attending the Duchess of Uzeda in child-bed 
found themselves unable to effect delivery owing to con- 
genital malformation. After the invocation of the dead 
Jesuit, instant safe and painless delivery took place with 
perfect health to mother and child. Queen Dofia Margarita, 
wife of King Don Felipe III of Spain, endured puerperal 
fever. The invocation of Padre Francisco brought a cure. 
Then, and with these credentials, the Company of Jesus 
formally petitioned the Papal Nuncio in Spain, Monsignor 
Decio Carafa afterwards Cardinal, to order an enquiry into 
the virtues and miracles of the Servant of God, their departed 
General. Five tribunals were found at Valencia, Madrid, 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Barcelona, Saragossa, and Recanati ; multitudes of witnesses 
were examined and cross-examined. Padre Ribadaneira, 
confessor of the deceased, confirmed on oath his book on 
the life of Padre Francisco de Borja. From this book, 
many of the foregoing facts are taken. In 1615, after 
thirty-seven years' labour, the proceedings of the five 
tribunals in writing were sent to Rome, where Spain's 
ambassador presented them to the Lord Paul P.P. V with 
recommending letters from King Don Felipe III, the 
Grandees and Hidalgos of Spain, archbishops and bishops, 
cathedral chapters, municipalities, and universities. 

The Supreme Pontiff was pleased to refer the matter to 
the Sacred Congregation of Rites, the Roman tribunal 
competent to deal with such a case. Before this court, all 
evidence was verified ; and a decree was issued attesting 
the orthodoxy of the teaching of the Venerable Servant of 
God, his sanctity of life, and the authenticity of the alleged 
miracles, satisfactorily to have been proved ; and granted 
permission to proceed to Beatification. The Lord Paul P. P. V 
confirmed this decree ; and named three Apostolic Commis- 
sioners to carry on the cause in Spain. The proceedings of 
a Royal Commission are so well understood, that it merely 
is necessary to say that the business of an Apostolic Com- 
mission is to search for information, to hear and weigh 
evidence, and to compile a report on a given subject. 

Meanwhile, the claims of Spain to possess the remains 
of her renowned son were recognized ; and on the twenty- 
third of February 161 7, the body of the Venerable Francisco 
de Borja, (except an arm retained at the Gesu in Rome,) 
was translated to the chapel of the Jesuit House in Madrid. 

In 1623, the eight years labours of the Apostolic 
Commission were concluded ; and brought to the usual 
scrutiny in Rome. Later, the verdict was given to the 
effect that the sanctity and miracles of the Venerable 
Francisco de Borja fully had been established ; and that, 
therefore, he was worthy of Beatification : which decision 
duly was confirmed by the Lord Gregory P.P. XV. 

Thirty-one years later, on the thirty-first of August 
1654, a decree in accord with this decision was issued 
by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, and ratified by the 


The Brilliant Light 

Lord Urban P.P. VHP, Who, on the twenty-fourth of 
November, published the Bull of Beatification with the 
Office and Mass in honour of the Blessed Francisco de 
Borja for the Universal Church, 

Another seventeen years of public prayers and legal 
action passed ; and on the eleventh of April 1671, the Lord 
Clement P.P. XI solemnly canonized Saint Francisco de 
Borja. adding to the Roman Martyrology, which is the 
official roll of sanctitude, the three lines, in which the Holy 
Roman Catholic Church delivers Her authoritative judg- 
ment, and of which the following is a literal translation : 
" Sixth day of the Ides of October. This day, at Rome, is 
kept the festival of Saint Francisco of Borja, Repositor- 
General of the Company of fesus, memorable, having abdi- 
cated secular things and refised dignities of the Church, by 
aspejHty of life, by the gift of prayer. 

In 1680, the reliques of the saint were translated to the 
gorgeous church in Madrid which the Duke of Lerma built 
A.M.D.G. To the Greater Glory of God, and of his 
ancestor St. Francisco de Borja. So, a century after his 
death, a Borgia was numbered with the Saints. 

Rational human judgment may be glad to stand aside 
before the sober judgment of the Church, so far removed from 
bias, from ecstatic extravagance, so calmly judicially personal. 
She has divined all, and is reticent. She has settled his 
key. She has struck his note, and is sufficient. She has 
shewn him in an Ideal Content. He "left all"; and for 
that She honours him : and She has Scriptural Warrant, 

" An accomplished courtier, a clever diplomatist, a 
brilliant and gracious viceroy, a perfect religious. 

*' A masterful imperious character — in breaking his own 
will he broke himself. 

"A magnified non-natural man. 

" Saint Francisco de Borja — Memorable — By asperity of 
life — By the gift of prayer. 

" Memorable. 

* # -1$ 

* * # 

1 This Pontiff once was asked to give an opinion as to who had been the 
greatest Popes. He answered, St. Peter, St. Sylvester, Alexander VI and 



"/4 fire, that is kindled, begins with smoke and hissing, while it lays 
hold on the faggots ; bursts into a roaring blaze, with raging 
tongues of flame, devouring all in reach, spangled with sparks 
that die ; settles into the steady genial glare, the brilliant light, 
that men call fire : burns away to slowly-expiring ashes ; — 

From the birthday to the Life eternal of St. Francisco de 
Borja, the Spanish Branch of the House in his direct 
descendants increased and multipHed ; intermarried with the 
grandest names in Spain ; and decreased in importance, 
until its extinction in the penultimate decade of the last 
century. Four only, of these, need be mentioned here. 

Don Gaspard de Borja was a great-grandson of the 
Saint, and son of Duke Don Francisco de Gandia by his 
wife Doi^a Juana de Velasco Tovar. He studied at the 
Complutensian University, becoming a Laureate in Theology 
and Dean of the University. He was the first Grandee of 
Spain to occupy the Chair of Professor and Public Lecturer. 
At the instance of the Catholic King, he obtained a 
Canonry at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Toledo ; and here 
he began to nourish the enormous ambition of becoming the 
third Pope of the House of Borgia.^ 

On the seventeenth of August 1611, he was named 
Cardinal- Presbyter of the Title of Santa Croce in 
Ge7^usa/em7ne,he\ngthen a youth; " invenis," says Ciacconi ; 
twenty-two years of age, says the exact and uniquely well- 
informed Moroni. On the fifteenth of May 1630, he was 

^ "Card Zappata ajebatfrustra Card. Gasparem Borgia mores componere 
" et a natura recedere, ut Pontificatum assequatur. Quandoquidem a multis 
"annis Spiritus Sanctus non spiret in Hispania, Cubebat nihilominus fidem 
" adhibere inani, et fatuae predictioni bovem tertio murgiturum. Quod assen- 
"tatores interpretabantur ut post Calixtum III et Alexandrum VI, ipse tertius 
" Pontifex renuntiantur, et famiglia Borgia, bovem in scuto ferens." {Arnidenio, 
" in Vite m. s.s. de' Cardinali) 



raised to the Cardinal-Bishopric of Albano, and named 
Archbishop of Seville. In Rome, he was on the Sacred 
Congregation of the Holy Office, and ambassador of the 
Catholic King to the Holy See. In the Kingdom of 
Naples, he was Viceroy. He bought, (Mr. Henry Harland 
wittily says that one may buy such things,) the additional 
title of " Father of the Poor," by distributing annually in 
charity ten thousand crowns ; and he exchanged his arch- 
bishopric of Seville for that of Toledo. In 1641, he held a 
diocesan synod over which his Vicar-General presided as 
his proxy, and governed his archdiocese, while he was 
cultivating his ambition in Rome. He was an unwilling 
assistant at the two Conclaves, which elected the Lord 
Gregory RR XV and the Lord Urban RP. VIII. And 
in November 1645, while England was in the throes of the 
Great Rebellion, he died at Madrid, after fifty-six years of 
life, and thirty-four of cardinalate, a disappointed man, 
and was buried in the metropolitan cathedral of Toledo. 
^ ^'f ^ 

Don Francisco de Borja, great-great-grandson of the 
Saint, son of Duke Don Carlos de Gandia by his wife 
Dona Maria Ponce de Leon, was born on the twenty- 
seventh of March 1659. He was a man of singular and 
extraordinary piety and learning. Archdeacon of Calatrava 
and Canon of Toledo. By his proved fidelity he gained 
the favour of the Catholic King Don Carlos II, who made 
him Councillor of Aragon. From Rome, he received the 
bishopric of Calagurita ; and (on the fourteenth of 
November 1699, according to Moroni, or on the twenty- 
first of June 1700, according to Guarnacci,) the scarlet hat 
of the cardinalate and the archbishopric of Burgos. He 
died on the fourth of April 1702, undistinguishable from 
other ecclesiastics of his rank. 

w -tS -tc 

Don Carlos de Borja was brother to the foregoing. 
Born at Gandia his family's fief on the thirtieth of April 
1653 (Moroni), or 1663 (Guarnacci,) he studied theology 
at the college of Sant' Ildefonso, and succeeded his brother 
as Archdeacon of Calatrava and Canon of Toledo. On the 
death of Archbishop Don Pedro de Portocarrero, the Lord 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Clement P.P. XI named him Archbishop of Tyre and 
Trebizond in partibtis infidelhmi ; a see held at the present 
moment by an Englishman who is the ornament of the 
" Black " drawing-rooms of Rome. From Tyre and 
Trebizond, Archbishop Don Carlos de Borja rose to the 
Patriarchate of the Indies, continuing to reside in Spain 
where he shewed piety and zeal as chaplain and almoner 
to the Catholic King Don Felipe V. On the thirtieth of 
September 1720, he was raised to the Sacred College ; and 
in his capacity of cardinal, hurried to Rome for the 
Conclave of 1721. There, he found already elected and 
crowned, the Lord Innocent P.P. XIII, who named him 
Cardinal- Presbyter of the Title of Santa Pudenziana, and 
placed him on the Sacred Congregations of The Index of 
Prohibited Books, of Indulgences, of Signaturae Gratiae. 
He died at the Royal Villa of Sant' Ildefonso near Madrid 
on the eighth of August 1733, and honourably was buried 
there. He has left nothing of his personality, save a 
physically effete but beautiful gentle generous shadowy 
visage, in his portrait painted by Procaccini, and engraved 
by Rossi in Guarnacci II. 357-8. 

# * ^ 

So the Senior Branch, in the line of the direct 
descendants of the murdered Duke of Gandia, bastard of 
the Lord Alexander P.P. VI, withered in sumptuous 
obscurity ; heaping up secular titles and estates by marriage, 
heaping up ecclesiastical dignity and preferment by the 
enchantment of the Borja name added to personal merit, 
until its final extinction only eighteen years ago. The 
names and titles of the last of the Spanish Borja, here 
recorded, will shew what that House had accumulated in a 
bare four hundred years — three principalities, seven duchies, 
ten marquessates, sixteen counties, and one viscounty, besides 
knightly orders and decorations. 

His name was 

Don Mariano Tellez-Giron y Beaufort Spontin Pimentel 

de Quifiones Fernandes de Velasco y Herrera Diego 

Lopez de Zuniga Perez de Guzman Sotomayor 

Mendoza Maza Ladron de Lizana Carroz y 



Arborea Borja y Centelles Ponce de Leon 
Benavides Enriquez Toledo Salm-Salm Hurtado 
de Mendoza y Orozco Silva Gomez de Sandoval 
y Rojas Pimentel y Osorio Luna Guzman Mendoza 
Aragon de la Cerda Enriquez Haro y Guzman. 

His tides were 

Prince of Squillace^, Eboli, Melito ; 

Duke of Osuna, Infantado, Benevente, Plasencia, Bejar, 

Gandia, Arcos de la Frontera, Medina de Rioseco 

y Lerma ; 
Marquess of Tavara, Santillana, Algecilla, Argiiesco, 

Gibraleon, Zahara, Lombay, Penafiel, Almenara 

y Cea ; 
Count of Benevente, Plasencia, Bejar, Gandia, Arcos 

de la Frontera, Medina de Rioseco y Lerma, Real 

de Manzanares, La Oliva, Belaleazar, Urefia, 

Casares, Melgar, Baiten, Mayorga y Fontenar ; 
Viscount of La Puebla de Alcocer. 

He was Ten Times Grandee of Spain of the First Class, 
Knightof the Orders of Calatrava, of St. John of Jerusalem, 
of the Golden Fleece, Knight Grand Cross and Collar of 
the Orders of Carlos V, of St. Hermenegild, of St. 
Alexandra Newski, of the Christ of Portugal, of the Crown 
of Bavaria, of the Legion of Honour, etc., etc., etc., 

He died without issue on the second of June 1882.^ 

^ tF ^ 

^ ^ -^ 

*«" -TV- -A- 

1 It would be very interesting to know how and when this title passed from 
the line of Prince Gioffredo Borgia into the line of his elder brother Don Juan 
Francisco de Borja the murdered Duke of Gandia ; for Prince Gioffredo, 
married at fourteen, certainly originated a notable branch of Borgia, which, in 
the Seventeenth Century intermarried with the Orsini Duke of Gravina. It 
is most unusual for a title to turn back, as it were, and vest itself in another 
branch. And what has become of the principalities of Teano and Tricarico, 
and the counties of Chiaramonte, Lauria, and Cerignola which were held by 
the murdered Duke of Gandia, his son Don Juan II, and the son of the last 
St. Francisco de Borja ? 

^ All from El Blason de Espaha, by Don Augusto de Burgos, III. i. 85-95. 


3300& tfje jFourtft 

A Flicker from the Embers 

A fiyc, that is kindled, begins with smoke and hissing, while it lays 
Jiold on the faggots ; bursts into a roaring blaze, with raging 
tongues of flame, devouring all in reach, spangled with sparks 
that die ; settles into the steady genial glare, the brilliant light, 
that men call fire : burns away to slowly-expiring ashes ; save 
where smouldering embers flicker, and nurse the glow, — 

While St. Francisco de Borja was his contemporary in 
the Spanish Branch, Don Pietro Borgia, (the great-grand- 
son of that Don Pietrogorio Borgia who was the Trusty 
famiUar of Duke Cesare de Valentinois della Romaorna and 
Viceroy of the Abruzzi,) was Hving in Velletri on the frontier 
of the Regno, the Httle Volscian city where his family had 
been settled since Don Niccolo Borgia was its Reo^ent in 
1 41 7. He married Madonna Filomena — gentildonna violio 
pia, is the sweet breath of her, which Archbishop Bona- 
ventura Theuli has preserved for us,^ — and had three 
children : 

(o) The youngest son, Don Polidoro Borgia, died in 
his youth, the year before St Francisco de Borgia 
died General of Jesuits in Rome. His epitaph, 
in the porch of Santa Maria del Trivito at Velletri, 
is as follows 

D . O . M . 

Polidoro Bor- 

-giae inveni vir- 

-tutibus et 

morib. ornat- 

^ Theuli. Teatro Istorico di Velletri. Velletri, 1644. H^- 304- 


A Flicker from the Embers 


MATER Hector 


lus Borgia fr. 
B.P . vix . A . XXII 
OB . A . M.D . LXXJ 
Die XII 


(/3) The second son, Don Orazio Borgia, became com- 
mander of a squadron of Pontifical Cavalry ; and 
fell gloriously fighting in the Crusade of Hungary 

(7) The eldest son, Don Ettore di Pietro Borgia, 
married Madonna Porzia Landi, who bore him 
two sons : — The younger, Don Alessandro Borgia 
became Dean of the cathedral-chapter of his native 
city. The elder, Don Camillo Borgia, became 
Governor of Velletri, married the Noble Madonna 
Constantia Gallinella, and died in 1645. His 
epitaph,^ in the chapel of the Visitation of the 
IlapOevofxiiTrip (the patron-saint of the Veliternian 
Borgia) in the cathedral of San Clemente at 
Velletri, is as follows 

D. T. V. 

Camillo Borgiae Nobili 


Hectoris I.e. ET D. Portiae Landae 

filio non minus celebri 

avorum toga et armis insignium 

Claritudine illustri 

In Patriae regimine 


Vitae candore morum suavitate 

Ubiq. claro omnibus charo 

Anno aet. suae LV et men. IV 


Die XXVI. Sept. a partu Virginis 


Alexander I.V.D. et huius cathed. 

Canonicorum decanus prater 

1 Theuli, III. 335. 2 Ricchi, 251. 

2 Theuli, III. 312-3. 

337 Y 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Hector I.V.D. ex Nobili Constantia 
Gallinella filius 
extremum amoris 

mcestiss . posuere^ 

Don Camillo Borgia left three sons, 

(o) The youngest, Don Giampaolo Borgia, was a canon 
of Velletri : 

(/3) The second, Don Ettore Borgia, was a celebrated 
Jurisprudent, who held governorships of pontifical 
cities, and was auditor-general and familiar of Prince 
Savelli, the Hereditary Marshal of the Holy 
Roman Church : 

(y) The eldest, the Noble Don Clemente Erminio 
Borgia, Roman Patrician, and Governor of Velletri, 
who married Madonna Cecilia Carboni, by whom 
he had seven children at the least. 

Five of these children of Don Clemente Erminio Borgia 
have been traced. 
They were 

(a) Madonna Angela Caterina Borgia, who became a 
nun in a convent of Santa Lucia in Silice at Rome, 
and who died In The Odour Of Sanctity : 

(/3) Don Fabrizio Borgia, born 1689, studied ten years 
with his uncle Canon Giampaolo Borgia, became 
Bishop of Ferentino in 1729, and died in 1754 : 

(7) Don Cesare Borgia, was a Knight Commander of 
the Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Malta in 
1703 :2 

^ While it indubitably is Christian, this epitaph shews that the modern 
sophistication, which has destroyed belief in the world to come, already had 
made its appearance in Italy. Death here is no longer regarded with the 
calm dignity perceivable in earlier epitaphs, (that of his lineal ancestor Don 
Pietrogorio Borgia, for example, on p. 434), but as a Horror and an End. 

'^ The Order of Malta, or of St. John of Jerusalem, was founded by Don 
Gerardo di Martiquez di Provenza, warden of the Hospital of St. John Baptist 
for Pilgrims, in 1098. The Hospitallers were dedicated to the service of the 
poor ; and wore a black habit, with an eight-pointed Alaltese Cross, in white, 
on the breast. They took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The 
Regular Foundation was delayed till 1104 when Baldwin I was king in Jeru- 
salem. The Rule was that of St. Aurelius Augustine ; and the Order was 
finally confirmed by the Bull of the Lord Paschal P.P. II in 11 13. Its Consti- 


A Flicker from the Embers 

(d) Don Alessandro Borgia, born 1682, studied widi his 

brother Don Fabrizio under their uncle Canon 
Giampaolo ; won the laurel wreath of the Archgym- 
nasium of Sapienza at Rome ; in 1706, was attached 
to the Secret Nunciature of Monsignor Bussi at 
Cologne ;^ in 17 16, became Bishop of Nocera, and 
in 1723, Prince- Archbishop of Fermo. [In Mtisetem 
Ma32zcc/iel/iana (Tom. 11. Tab. CXCIV, p. 382-3) 
there is an engraving of a medal of this prince- 
archbishop, which was struck to commemorate the 
consecration by him of his nephew, (the son of one 
of his sisters whose name remains to be discovered,) 
Don Pierpaolo Leonardi, as Prince- Bishop of Ascoli. 
The obverse of the medal shews three bishops 
sittinor and one kneelino;, with the legend A. Borgia 
Archiep. et Princeps Fermanus p. Paulum 
Leonardum Ep. et Prin. Asculan. inungit. The 
reverse shews the Osotokoq in Assumption blessing 
two churches, with the legend Utriusqueecclesiae 
Patrona Firmi et Asculi A.D. M.D.CCLV.] 
Prince- Archbishop Alessandro Borgia died in 1764. 

(e) the heir Don Stefano Camillo Borgia, of the Supreme 

Magistracy, who married Madonna Maddalena 
Gagliardi, and had issue, 

(a) Cavaliere Giampaolo Borgia, general in the 

Pontifical Army ; 
(j3) The Noble Don Stefano Borgia, in whom 
the embers of the House of Borgia flickered 
a hundred years ago. 
^ i^ # 

Don Stefano Borgia was born at Velletri on the third of 
December 1731. His early education was conducted in 
that little Volscian city where his House had been estab- 

tution admitted of Knights of Honour and Brothers of Devotion ; the former 
swore to defend the Faith against all enemies, the latter to minister to pilgrims 
and afflicted. There were two badges, a cross of six points in gold enamelled 
white, and a crowned cross of eight points of the same, worn on a black 
riband. The Order had a Priory in London before the Reformation — St. 
John of Jerusalem in Clerkenwell — whose original gate and crypt may yet be 
seen. The present soi-disant Order which occupies this Priory has yet to 
shew authority for its existence. 
1 P. E. Cav. Visconti in Tipaldo. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

lished certainly since 141 7, and probably since the Document 
of Donation of the Lord Lucius P.P. Ill, 1181-1185. 
[Ricchi.) Later, he went to his uncle the Prince- Arch- 
bishop Alessandro Borgia of Fermo, with whom he lived, and 
under whom he studied, till the latter's death in 1756. The 
nature of this education can be judged from Don Stefano's 
after-life in which he cut so noble a figure as ecclesiastic, 
diplomatist, ruler, scholar, archseologist, man of letters, and 
Christian gentleman. 

At the age of nineteen years, he had written a learned 
little treatise on the monument of the Lord John P.P. XVI ; 
and a Short History of the ancient city of Tadino in 
Umbria, with an exact account of the latest researches 
among its ruins, two octavo volumes published in Rome 
1 750-1 : so that when he arrived in the Eternal City after 
his uncle's death, he found himself appreciated not only for 
his illustrious name, but also for the crescent ability of which 
he had given evidence. Three years later, in 1759, he was 
named Governor of the city and duchy of Benevento, the 
pontifical fief formerly occupied by another Borgia, the 
murdered Duke of Gandia. Here he wrote his Historical 
Memorials of the Pontifical City of Benevento from the 
Eighth to the Eighteenth Century, in three quarto volumes 
published in Rome 1763-9. In 1764 he was secretary to 
the Sacred Congregation On Indulgences. In 1765, at the 
age of thirty-four years, his hands were anointed and he 
received the order of priesthood. In 1770 he was named 
Secretary a secretis to the Sacred Congregation of the Pro- 
pagation of the Faith, (v. title-page of his De Cruce.) 

His career was now well-begun ; and he had time to 
pursue his favourite occupations of letters and archaeology. 
Writing under his initials S. B., he published in 1773 his 
discovery of a Venetian Kalendar of the Eleventh Century 
from a vellum MS., and a Koptic and Latin Fragment of the 
Acts of St. Koluthus. In 1774, he published an edition of 
the Lord Pius P.P. IPs (Enea Silvio) work, Against the 
Turks. In 1775 the Signor Abbate Stefano Borgia 
addressed to the Etruscan Academies of Cortona and 
Florence, a duodecimo Philological Dissertation on an 
antique gem-intaglio, " la pregiabile vetusta agata — la bella 


A Flicker from the Embers 

e rara gemma — Gemma Borgiana — " ; which the celebrated 
and learned antiquary Martinello, in a letter to Padre 
Ignazio della Croce a sandalled Augustinian, calls most 
scholarly and precious. In 1776 he produced a work in 
quarto on the Shrine of St. Peter in the Vatican Basilica. 
In 1779, he published a folio on the curious Cross of the 
Vatican which is venerated on Good Friday, with the 
Syriac Rite of Salutation of the Cross, all most learnedly 
set forth and illustrated with notes and commentaries. 

He did not forget his House, or his native city of Velletri : 
for he established there the Borgia Museum of Antiquities, 
which chiefly was famous for the Mexican Codex of his 
presentation, lately found worthy to be produced in fac- 
simile in Rome with a splendour and importance unap- 
proachable by English publishers. 

In 1780, he brought out his quarto on the Ancient Cross 
of Velletri, " a cross-full of reliques conserved in the 
cathedral with much decency." {^Theuli II. 158.) It is a 
curious and luscious work, which relates the history of the 
Cross, a fine gold piece encrusted with large single pearls 
(unionibus) and other gems, from the middle of the 
Thirteenth Century, when it was given to the Veliternian 
Cathedral of St. Clement by the Lord Alexander 
P.P. IV, who, before His election was known as the Lord 
Rainaldo de' Conti di Segni,^ Cardinal- Bishop of Ostia 
and Velletri.^ The year 1788, saw the issue of a new 
quarto from his gifted pen, being a Short History of the 
Temporal Dominion of the Apostolic See in the Two 
Sicilies ; which went into a second edition the following year. 

But at this point, the year of the French Revolution, 
the fortunes of the Abbate Stefano Borgia took a signal 
turn opening limitless possibilities. The Lord Pius 
P.P. VI named him Cardinal- Presbyter of the Tide of San 
Clemente, in the Consistory of the thirtieth of March 
1789; and promoted him from the secretariate of Propa- 
ganda to the Prefectures of the Sacred Congregation of 
Index and of the Pontifical Gregorian University of Rome. 

* The Sforza-Cesarini, who in the Fifteenth Century intermarried with the 
Borgia, enjoy the Duchy of Segni at the present day. 
' Coronelli, Bibl. Univ. II. 870. 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

The cardinalitial scarlet is the proper setting for this 
noble personage. The Most Eminent Lord Stefano Car- 
dinal Borgia becomes at once a type of the huge and 
sumptuous princes of the church, to whom letters and the 
fine arts lend their glamour, " Quest' Amplissimo Por- 
porato," as his friend and biographer the sandalled 
Carmelite Fra Pietro Paolino da San Bartolomeo calls him, 
had the two marks whereby the perfect gentleman and 
scholar universally may be known. He had a pretty taste 
for letters, a habit of acquiring rare books and manuscripts ; 
and was himself a writer of extreme distinction. He had 
also a passion for collecting beautiful and singular things, 
especially engraved gems. The magic of carven precious 
stones enchanted him, as camei and intaglii ever have 
enchanted men of delicate and powerful mental mould. 
The times in which he lived were not convenient for the 
cultivation of these exquisite tastes : but it is in no case 
desirable that they should be cultivated. They lead 
nowhere, neither to heaven, nor to hell. Essentially they 
have no relation to the work of life, or death ; and it is not 
well that they should usurp attention — for there are greater 
things. But the possession of these tastes is an imperative 
necessity to him who would do those greater things ; for 
they bring, as nought else brings, the habit of discrimina- 
tion, of selection, of appreciation ; they refine and temper 
and grace the steel with which the greater deeds of life, 
and death, are done : and, so, their only end is served ; 
while he who has them in the nature of him, not laboriously 
acquired but congenitally possessed, is the better man, the 
more capable man, the more enduring, skilful, potent, and 
triumphant man, and, correlatively, the happier man. 
Cardinal Stefano Borgia, then, having this gentle generous 
love for books and precious stones, most naturally became 
one of the most distinguished ecclesiastics of his age. 

In 1 79 1, he published as a supplement to his Short 
History, a learned quarto in Defence of the Temporal 
Dominion of the Apostolic See in the Two Sicilies. To 
this, he added, in 1793, a treatise on two Koptic saints, 
Koluthus and Panesnice, whose original Acts were in his 
possession. But it chiefly was as cardinal of the Curia, as 


A Flicker from the Embers 

Protector of Religious, as Ruler and Governour, as Pro- 
prefect of Propaganda (to which he was appointed in 
1798,) that he manifested his ability and sterling worth. 
When the armies of Revolutionary France invaded Italy, 
engaging in those extravagant monstrosities of turpitude 
which habitually disgrace the French toward the close of 
every century, His Eminence allowed nothing of war or 
tumult to disturb the serene and strenuous performance 
of his multifarious offices. In those horrid times, when 
another or lesser man would have been paralysed, he retired 
with superb dignity from Rome to Padua, whence he con- 
tinued to administer and govern not his own estates only, 
but all the foreign dioceses and missions throug-hout the 
world which were subject to Propaganda. And it was 
here in Padua that he quietly found time to do a beautiful 
and noble deed, by which alone, had he done nothing 
else, he would have prepared for himself a more illustrious 

At this time, the College of Cardinals contained a 
certain August Personage, an Englishman of paramount 

When, in the Revolution of 1688, King James II 
Stewart had been driven from his kingdom of England by 
the Prince of Orange, His Majesty took refuge in France. 
His son Prince James, vulgarly called the Old Pretender, 
unsuccessfully warred for his rights in 1715 ; and, on the 
death of his father, assumed in exile his birthright with the 
style, James III D.G. of Great Britain France and Ireland 
King F. D. King James 1 1 1 had two sons, — observe the ad- 
mirable insouciant carriage of head on their medals as boys. 
The elder. Prince Charles Edward, as Prince of Wales, 
vulgarly called the Young Pretender, advanced his father's 
claim to the crown of England by force of arms in 1745. 
The result was the Massacre of Culloden Moor. The 
younger. Prince Henry Benedict, the Duke of York, was a 
priest. Hunted from France by Hanoverian diplomacy, 
King James III found refuge in Rome, where, at length, 
he died ; the Prince of Wales succeeding him as King 
Charles III. Prince Henry Benedict meanwhile rose in 
ecclesiastical rank through the Cardinal- Bishopric of Ostia 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

and;; Velletri (Cardinal Borgia's city), to the Cardinal- 
Bishopric of Tusculum and the Vicechancellorship of the 
Holy Roman Church. His medal, by Filippo Cropanesi, 
dated 1766, shows his royal Stewart profile, still with the 
admirable high carriage of head, and the legend 

Henricus M.D. Ep. Tusc. Card. Dux. Ebor S.R.E.V. Canc. 

In 1788, his brother, King Charles HI, died at Rome; 
and was buried with his father in the crypt of the Vatican 
Basilica. As he left no legitimate heirs, his rights in the 
Majesty of England devolved upon Cardinal Henry Bene- 
dict Stewart, who was known as His Royal Highness the 
Cardinal Duke of York. This Personaofe combined with 
transcendent beauty and truly royal demeanour, rare and 
solid virtue and the extreme of o"Ood sense. Nothinof could 
have been more perfectly kingly than his easy and ready 
realization of his situation. He was aware, as well of his 
hereditary rights, as of the fact that his subjects, having 
settled down under an usurping dynasty, had disowned and 
would disown his claims on their allegiance. He had seen 
war in his path. He had no insatiable craving for a crown. 
He arrived at a decision absolutely luminously wise. That 
the rights of his dynasty should suffer no diminution, by 
renunciation on his part, he made a technical assertion of 
his sovereignty, proclaiming his accession in such a way 
that the usurpation of his throne by the Elector of Hanover, 
(vulgarly called George III) should be undisturbed, except 
by Engla7i(£s Will. He caused a medal to be struck, 
bearing on the obverse His Majesty's effigy in a cardinal's 
habit with zucchetto and the pectoral-cross of his episco- 
pate, — the kingly head is drooping now — ; with the 

Henry the Ninth, of Great Britain France and Ireland King, 
Defender of the Faith, Cardinal-Bishop of Tusculum. 

The reverse shows a design of Faith, at whose feet are 
the cardinalitial hat and kingly crown, and who turns from 
the Lion to the Cross ; with the legend 

Not by the desires of men but by the Will of God. 


A Flicker from the Embers 

At the same time was struck a touch-piece, for dis- 
tribution among the few loyal English who had not bowed 
the knee to Hanoverian Baal, and for curing those afflicted 
with struma or kings evil ; an occult power which died with 
this last Stewart. The obverse bears a design of a frigate 
with the legend 

Henry the Ninth, of Great Britain France and Ireland, King 
BY the Grace of God, Defender of the Faith, Cardinal-Bishop 


The reverse shows St. Michael Archangel overcoming 
the Dragon, with the legend 

To God Alone be Glory. 

And that was all, — an enduring record, carven in peren- 
nial bronze, that the King's Majesty had come to the 
inheritance of his ancestors. He believed in his Divine 
Right, the right implied in his existence, his existence by 
the Sanction of Him by Whom kings do reign ; and he 
simply affirmed his Right, waiting for his people to re- 
cognize him as their lawful sovereign, to do their part as he 
had done his. Could anything be more superbly, more con- 
temptuously kingly than this distinction of the parts of 
sovereign and subject? Cardinal-King Henry IX was 
happy in his lot, for he had a goodly heritage, — in the Holy 
Roman Church. Had His Majesty desired, the Supreme 
Pontiff" could have released him from his ecclesiastical 
estate and obligations by a stroke of the pontifical pen, to 
enable him to prosecute his indubitable right. But he did 
not so desire. He had chosen the better part — peace — and 
the happiness of the subjects who were his, but who never 
would own him as their liegfe lord and sovereioi'n. No more 
splendid and disinterested example of self-sacrifice exists 
in human history than the spectacle of this King of England 
who scorned to seek to compel unwilling homage. It was 
indeed the act of a king. 

After the technical assumption of sovereignty. His 
Majesty made no further claim. ^ He did not hesitate to 

^ By his last will and testament, Cardinal King Henry IX bequeathed his 
rights in the English Crown to the descendants of Anna Maria d'Orleans, 
{daughter of Henrietta Stewart, and niece of King Charles I,) who married 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

use his regal style on monuments which he erected in his 
Sub- Urban Diocese, or in similar places : but he was con- 
tent to be called the Cardinal- Duke of York, as before, 
though all the world knew him as he really was, and invari- 
ably accorded the respect due to him as a prince of the 
church. There was, however, one notorious exception. 
The chivalrous nation of France, which formerly had re- 
venged itself on the Lord Alexander P.P. VI by attacking 
Madonna Giovanna de' Catanei and Madonna Giulia Orsini 
nata Farnese, was just as ready now to strike at the old 
and helpless ; and it is to the shameful atrocities of France 
that EnHand owes the noble action of a Borgia in reo;ard 
to the last of the Royal House of Stewart. 

It has been said that Cardinal Stefano Borgia was at 
Padua in the autumn of 1799 while the regicidal armies of 
the French Consulate were earning infamy by ravaging the 
pontifical states. From Padua His Eminence indited a 
private letter, dated the fourteenth of September 1799, 
addressed to an English baronet, one Sir John Coxe 
Hippisley, at Grosvenor Street, London, which will tell a 
tale. The Cardinal wrote as follows, in beautiful Italian 
with the incorrect spelling of a gentlemian born : 

" The friendship with which you honoured me in Rome encourages 
" me to lay before you a case worthy of your most mature reflection : which 
" is, that, among the other cardinals who have taken refuge in Padua, here 
" is also the Cardinal-Duke ; and it is greatly afflicting to me to see so 
" great a Personage, the last descendant of his Royal House, reduced to such 
" distressed circumstances, having been barbarously stripped by the French 
"of all his property " (dai Francesi barbaraniente spogliato di ttdto •) " and, 
" if they deprived him not of life also, it was through the mercy of the 
" Almighty, Who protected him in his flight both by sea and land, the 
" miseries of which, nevertheless, greatly injured his health, at the advanced 
"age of seventy- five ; and produced a very grievous sore in one of his legs. 

" Those who are well-informed of this most worthy Cardinal's affairs, 
" have assured me that, since his flight, having left behind him his rich 
"and magnificent valuables, which were all sacked and plundered both at 
" Rome and Frascati, he has been supported by the silver-plate which he 
" had taken with him, and of which he began to dispose at Messina ; and, 
" I understand, that in order to supply his wants during a few months in 
" Venice, he has sold all that remained. 

Duke Vittoramadeo of Savoja ; from whom descends — not the Bavarian 
Princess of the Order of the White Rose, but — KingVittoremanuele III of Italy. 


A Flicker from the Embers 

" Of the jewels ^ that he possessed, very few remain, as the most 
" valuable had been sacrificed in the well-known contributions {forced levies 
" would be a juster word than the gentle Cardinal's meek contributions) " to 
" the French our destructive plunderers ; and, with respect to his income, 
" having suffered the loss of forty-eight thousand Roman crowns annually 
" by the French Revolution, the remainder was lost also by the fall of 
" Rome ; namely, the yearly sum of ten thousand crowns assigned to him 
" by the Apostolic Chamber, and also his particular funds in the Roman 
" Bank. 

" The only income which he has left is that of his benefices in Spain,- 
" which amount to fourteen thousand crowns : but this, as it is only payable 
" in paper at present, is greatly reduced by the disadvantage of exchange ; 
" and even that has remained unpaid for more than a year, owing, perhaps, 
" to the interrupted communication with that kingdom. 

" But here it is necessary that I should add that the Cardinal is heavily 
" burdened with the annual sum of four thousand crowns for the dowry of 
'* the Countess of Albany his sister-in-law ; three thousand crowns for the 
" mother 3 of his deceased niece ; and fifteen hundred for divers annuities of 
" his father and brother : nor has he credit to supply the means of acquit- 
" ting these obligations. 

" This picture, nevertheless, which I present to your friendship, may 
" well excite the compassion of every one who will reflect upon the high birth, 
" the elevated dignity, and the advanced age of the Personage whose situa- 
" tion I now sketch in the plain language of truth, without resorting to the 
" aid of eloquence. I will only entreat you to communicate it to those 
" distinguished persons who have influence with your government ; per- 
" suaded as I am that English Magnanimity ^ {la Magnanimitd Inglesc) will 
" not suffer an Illustrious Personage of the same nation to perish in misery. 

" But here I pause, not wishing to offend your national delicacy, which 
" delights to act from its own generous disposition, rather than from the 
" impulse and urgency of others.^ 

" We have here (Padua) not only the Cardinal-Duke, but other car- 
" dinals, namely, the two Doria, Caprara, and Livizzani ; and perhaps very 
" soon they will all be here, as it is probable that the Conclave will be held 

■' A ring belonging to Cardinal King Henry IX, containing miniatures of 
his father and mother, King James III and Queen Clementina, has found its 
way into the Fortnum Collection at the Oxford University Galleries. 

2 " Benefices in Spain," the possession of which is alleged as a crime in the 
Lord Alexander P.P. VI, appear to be common enough. 

^ Miss Clementina Walkinshaw, Countess Alberstorf, the mistress of King 
Charles III. 

■* The word magnanimitd had undergone a change of meaning since the 
Sixteenth Century, when Messor Niccolo Machiavelli sneered that the Bag- 
honi of Perugia shewed no magnanimitd, because they did not garrote the 
Lord Julius P.P. II, their guest. 

^ Could any hint be more obscurely obvious, more insinuatory of compli- 
ment ? Cardinal Borgia's little trick of leaving the initiative (!) to John Bull 
is a master-stroke of Latin diplomacy, whose strength is, now, and ever, in the 
pulling of wires. 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

•" in this place ; for it has pleased God to deliver from all His labours the 
•" so eminently unfortunate Lord Pius P.P. VI, Who cherished for you the 
" most tender affection, and Who was pleased when He was in the Car- 
" thusian convent (Certosa) at Florence to invest me with the charge of the 
•" Proprefecture of the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith. 
" My paper fails me, but I shall never fail of being 
" Your true friend and servitor {servitore) 

" Stefano, Cardinal Borgia." 

That letter was written in September 1799. It is not 
clear by what route Cardinal Borgia's courier carried 
it to England, nor how long was occupied by the journey. 
It manifestly is probable that the frightful disorders in 
France closed the short road through that country ; and the 
short road in time of peace was not traversed in less 
than three weeks. An English lady^ who married Don 
Lorenzo Sforza-Cesarini Duca di Segni, etc., (they were the 
grand-parents of the present Duke Lorenzo,) made the 
journey with post-horses in the autumn of 1837 ; and 
described it in detail to the present writer a few years ago, 
incidentally mentioning that, between London and Rome, it 
was necessary to pass in and out of the Pontifical States no 
less than five times, with the usual custom-house incon- 
veniences. What then would the journey have been in 
1799, when France, internally distracted, was inimical to all 
and sundry, especially to England and England's friends ! 
Further the journey from Vienna to Venice occupied a 
fortnight, as may be seen from the dates of succeeding 
letters on a later page. These considerations are necessary 
to explain the fact that three months elapsed before 
Cardinal Borgia was able to acknowledge Sir John Coxa 

' From the Annual Register, 1837, P- i47- " xvii Sept. 1837. At the 
private chapel of the rt. rev. the bishop Griffiths, {Vicar-Apostolic of the London 
District) Caroline Shirley, only daughter of Robert Sewallis Shirley, Viscount Tatn- 
worth, to Don Lorenzo Sforza. Duca Sforza, only son of the late Don Francisco 
Sforza, Duca Sforza, of Rome." 

(There is a slight inaccuracy in this notice. Duke Lorenzo should be 
descnhed a.s only surviving son of Don Francisco, not as only son; for Don 
Francisco's elder son, Don Salvatore, died xix May 1832 ; and Don Francisco's 
daughter Donna Anna, wife to Don Marino Torlonia, egregiously failed, before 
the Tribunal of the Kuota, to dispossess her younger brother the aforesaid 
Don Lorenzo, the legitimate son, born on the night between xvii and xviii of 
March 1807, to the aforesaid Don Francisco Sforza-Cesarini, by his wife the 
Duchess Geltruda de' Conti. This hideous law-suit was the excitement of 
all Rome at the time.) 


A Flicker from the Embers 

Hippisley's reply ; for, during those three months, the 
journey — the long journey — had to be made twice over by 
the courier, going and returning ; which would leave little 
time for action between. 

It is curious to think that these events occurred only a 
hundred years ago ; and that this intimate view of the 
private and secret history of the last royal Stewart, and the 
last illustrious Borgia, should have been suffered to remain 
obscure. Had there been any disgraceful element in the 
transaction, concealment could be understood : but contrari- 
wise, the very greatest credit is reflected upon all concerned, 
on Borgia, on Stewart, on Englishmen, and — to give the 
devil his due — on the Elector of Hanover, vulgarly called 
George HI. The indiscretions, the human weaknesses of 
the earlier Borgia are the things by which they are 
remembered : 

" The evil, that men do, lives after them ; 
The good is oft interred with their bones." 

Here, then, is a good deed of a Borgia, which 
incontinently shall be translated from its inadequate 
sepulchre, ostended for the veneration of the faithful, and 
enshrined anew more worthily. Upon receiving Cardinal 
Borgia's enchanting letter. Sir John Coxe Hippisley sent 
to his Eminence a draft for ;^500, begging him to offer this 
to the August Personage, " for the exigencies of the 
moment " ; and promising to air the matter in a proper 

The meticulous precautions which invariably are taken 
to secure the freedom of the Conclave for the election of a 
Pope, already have been described here. On the death of 
the Lord Pius P.P. VI alluded to in Cardinal Borgia's letter, 
when Rome was in the hands of the French and all Italy 
distracted by foreign occupation, the Sacred College made 
its way by slow degrees and amid infinite peril to Venice, 
where it assembled in the convent on the Island of San 
Giorgio, and enclosed itself in Conclave with all 
formality. This means, among other things, that no 
cardinals were allowed to receive or to send out letters, unless 
these were subjected to a rigorous examination by the 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Cardinal-Censors ; the object of which is to prevent the 
voting from being influenced by secular and external Powers 
or considerations. 

On the fourth of January 1800, the said Cardinal-Censors 
on the Island of San Giorgio permitted the egress of a letter 
from Cardinal Borgia to Sir John Coxe Hippisley, acknow- 
ledging the receipt of the ;^500, speaking of the gratitude and 
satisfaction of the August Personage at knowing what was 
being done on his behalf. " I find myself shut up here 
in Conclave for the election of a new pontiff, (says Cardinal 
Borgia,) with thirty-four cardinals, who, when they heard of 
the English generosity to their Illustrious Colleague,"^ — 
and he describes the many kindly complimentary and 
genuinely admiring sentiments which these Italian Cardinals, 
in common with Italians of all epochs and of all ranks, 
(excepting cardinals of the Nineteenth Century )2 always felt 
and feel for Enoland and the Enorlish. The letter is sub- 
scribed in the politely respectful third person, 

" Suo servitore cordialissinio ed Amico 

" S. Card. Borgia." 

On the twenty-sixth of February 1800 a second letter 
was allowed to pass out of the Conclave from Cardinal 
Borgia to Sir John ; a short note, in fact, which said that an 
English gentleman^ had just been permitted to enter the 
Conclave, being the bearer of "a very polite letter from 
Lord Minto " to the August Personage. This "very polite 
letter " is given in its original form, as well for its own sake, 
as for an example of the French of English diplomacy a 
hundred years ago. It is addressed to the Cardinal- Duke 
of York. 

" De Vienna, 9 Feb. 1800. 


" J'ai re^u les Ordres de Sa Majeste le Roi de la Grande 
" Bretagne de faire remettre a Votre Eminence la somme de deux 
•' mille livres Sterling, et d'assurer V.E. qu'en acceptant cette marque 
" de I'interet et de I'estime de S.M. elle lui fera un sensible plaisir. II 

^ " lo qui mi trovo racchiuso in conclave per I'elezione del nuovo pontifice 
con trenta quatro Cardli, i quali avendo saputa la generosita Inglese verso 
deir Illustro loro Collega." 

2 It is too early yet to speak about the twentieth. 

3 It was Mr. Oakley, heir of Sir Charles Oakley Bart., who was entrusted 
with this confidential and very delicate mission. 


A Flicker from the Embers 

" m'est en meme terns ordonne de faire part a V.E. des intentions de 
" SM. de lui transmettre une pareille somme de ;^2ooo Sterling au mois 
"de Juillet si les circonstances demeuraient telles que V.E. continuat a la 
" desirer. 

" J'ai done I'honneure de la prevenir que la somme de ^,^2000 Stg. 
" est deposee a la maison de Messieurs Coutts et Cie., Banquiers a 
" Londres a la disposition de Votre Eminence. En executant les Ordres 
" du Roi mon Maitre, V.E. me rendra la justice de croire que je suis 
" infiniment sensible a I'honneur d'etre I'organe des sentiments nobles et 
" touchants, qui ont dicte a S.M. la demarche dont elle a daigne me charger, 
" et qui lui ont ete inspires d'un cote par ses propres vertus, et de I'autre 
" tant par les qualites eminentes de la Personne Auguste, qui en est I'object, 
" que par son desir de reparer partout oil il est possible, les desastres dans 
" lesquels de fleau Universel de nos jours a paru vouloir entrainer par 
" preference tout ce qui est le plus digne de Veneration et de Respect. 

" Je prie V.E. d'agreer les assurances de mes hommages respectueux et 
" de la Veneration profonde avec laquelle 
" J'ai I'honneur d'etre 

" De Votre Eminence 

" Le tres humble et tres obeissant Serviteur 

" MiNTO 

" Env. Ex. et Min. Plm. de S.M.B. 
'■'■ a la Cour de Viennc. 

Stripped of polite verbiage this letter conveyed to 
Cardinal King Henry IX the offer of an annuity of ^4000 
for so long as he might please to need it. It is ungracious 
to say with some Scots that, after all, the Elector of 
Hanover only offered to the Majesty of England a calf of 
his own cow. The situation was fraught with difficulty. 
The essentials and the accidentals of his birth combined to 
make Cardinal Henry Benedict Stewart the only rightful 
King of England. He could not help that ; any more than 
any man can help being the son of his father and mother, 
born in lawful wedlock ; and King-ship, being of Divine 
origin, can only be conferred or transferred or confirmed by 
the Divinity acting through His Earthly Vicegerent, the 
Roman Pontiff. With these principles to guide him, and 
the circumstances being as they were, Cardinal Henry 
grandly decided to be king only in name. His mere exist- 
ence, however, made the tenure of the occupant of the 
English Throne to some extent uncertain : for an alien 
dynasty can never feel entirely comfortable while any of 
the dispossessed remain. The old order had changed, and 


chronicles of the House of Borgia 

had given place to new : but the New could not know that 
the Old would accept — would condescend to accept — help 
in its private necessity. It was a most delicate position. 
On the other hand, it was out of the question that the 
King's Majesty should make known to Englishmen his 
desperate plight, for Cardinal Henry was every inch a King. 
But the good heart and clever pen of Cardinal Stefano 
Borgia solved that difficulty, by invoking on grounds of 
private friendship the intervention of Sir John Coxe 

The method of relief, when relief was seen to be re- 
quired, was a task for the wits of diplomacy. When the 
English choose to change their sovereign dynasties, they at 
least should secure their nation against the disgrace of 
seeing, perishing in indigence, one who truly could say My 
grandfather formerly wore the Crown, touched for the king's 
evil 071 the steps of St. IVifiifred's Well, and reigned as 
King in England. The spectacle of the blind beggar of 
Constantinople, crying " Date obolum Belisario " is shame- 
ful enough for one continent, and can be spared the disgrace 
of repetition. A pension on the Civil List would have met 
the needs of the case : but it would have had many disad- 
vantages. It would necessitate publicity; it would have 
been most disagreeable to the gentle pride of the August 
Personage whose life and character commanded nothingr 
but respect. 

At the present day, one is accustomed to hear members 
of a certain class of Scot, desirous of shining at least in a 
reflected light, boasting that their forbears were "out in the 
'15 " or "out in the 45." One does not so often hear an 
Englishman congratulating himself on his descent from 
heroes who endured confiscation, attainder, in the self-same 
cause — but in 1688. The English resist aggression at the 
outset ; they are used to, are glad to, make sacrifices for, 
not bargains of, their sovereigns ; and, needing no reflected 
light, they are not good boasters. There is no doubt that a 
great deal of Scots flesh was given in 17 15 and in 1745 for 
the House of Stewart. There is no doubt that some Scots 
gold was offered on the same account. But one has not 
heard that the loyal Scots — loyal, as they say, to the 


A Flicker from the Embers 

Stewarts, — ever attempted to minister to the necessities of 
their liege Lord, the Cardinal King Henry the Ninth. 
Ethics, derived from Master John Knox, whose iconoclastic 
ardour stopped at the " saxpence " and made it the idola- 
trous object of supreme worship of dulia and hyperdulia 
and latria, no doubt mitigated the sentiment of loyalty in 
regard to a king who happened to be a prelatical papist. 
A national fund, a fund raised by the adherents of the 
Stewarts, to provide a yearly income for their exiled sove- 
reign, would have been graceful and acceptable. It is the 
duty of a people to maintain its monarch; and it is not beneath 
the dignity of monarchy to accept such maintenance offered 
in loyalty. Peter's Pence is nothing but a fund of yearly 
offerings instituted by King Alfred the Great of England 
for the maintenance of the Sovereign Pontiff. In the case 
of Cardinal King Henry the Ninth, however, no such 
guaranteed annuity was forthcoming from the nation 
of which no inconsiderable part admitted his right to 
rule. Loyalty to the Stewarts — practical living loyalty — 
was confined to individuals, few in number ; and it 
became necessary to seek another method of solving the 

Private munificence, towards the King de jure, on the 
part of — let it be said, for Cardinal Henry himself said it, 
and none had more right to decide than he — on the part of 
the King de facto, King George the Third, the official 
representative of the English nation, was the only possible 
method, which was likely to be agreeable or acceptable. 
Therefore, an annuity of ^4000 was offered, not from the 
Civil List, not from the Nation, but from the Privy Purse, 
from King George to Cardinal Henry — from one English 
Gentleman to another. The delicate tact and straightfor- 
wardness with which the Envoy Extraordinary and Minister 
Plenipotentiary of His Britannic Majesty at the Court of 
Vienna made the offer ; the complimentary terms of his letter 
to the "August Personage ;" his guarded denunciation of 
the French robbers of the Cardinal as " the Universal 
" Plague of our time which seems to design the destruction 
" of all that is most worthy of Veneration and Respect ;" his 
proffered homage ; — all these qualities egregiously deserved 

353 z 

Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Cardinal Stefano Borgia's epithet "very polite," and made 
the proposal one which honourably and gratefully could be 
accepted. At least the Cardinal-Duke of York was pleased 
to think so, as the two letters following here will shew. It 
may be observed that they are written in incoherent and 
peculiar English. Let it be remembered that they were 
written by a very old gentleman, under circumstance of 
extreme agitation ; in a language of appalling difficulty 
which, though his native tongue, was altogether strange 
to him ; for he had not lived in England, and, in his 
life-long exile, he used nothing but Latin with his clergy or 
Italian with his friends. 

He wrote from the Conclave on the Island of San 
Giorgio on the twenty-sixth of February 1 800 ; and the 
letters are sealed with the Royal Arms of England and 
France surmounted with the Cardinalitial Hat instead of the 

(I. To Lord Minto.) 

" With the arrival of Mr. Oakley who has been this morning with Me, 
*' I have received by his discourse, and much more by your letters, so 
" many Tokens of your regard, singular consideration, and attention for My 
" Person, that oblige Me to abandon all sort of ceremony, and to begin 
" abruptly to assure you My dear lord, that your letters have been most 
" acceptable to Me in all shapes and regards. I did not in the least doubt 
" of the noble way of thinking of your generous and beneficent Sovereign ; 
" but I did not expect to see in writing so many and so obliging ex- 
" pressions that well calculated by the Persons who receive them and 
*' understand their force, impressed in their minds a lively sense of tender- 
" ness and gratitude which, I own to you, obliges me more than the 
*' generosity spontaneously imparted. 

" I am in reality at a loss to express in writing all the sentiments of 
" My Heart, and for that reason leave it entirely to the interest you take 
" in all that regards My Person to make known in an energetical and 
" convenient manner all I fain would say to express My thankfulness 
" which may easily be by you comprehended after having perused the con- 
" tents of this letter. 

" I am much obliged to you to have indicated to Me the way I may 
" write unto Coutts the Court Banker, and shall follow your friendly in- 
" sinuations. In the meantime I am very desirous that you should be 
" convinced of My sentiments of sincere esteem and friendship with which 
*' My dear lord with all My heart I embrace you. 

" Henry Cardinal." 


A Flicker from the Embers 

(II. To Sir John Coxe Hippisley.) 

" Your letters fully convince me of the cordial interest you take in 
<* all that regards My Person, and am happy to acknowledge that princi- 
" pally I owe to your friendly efforts, and to them of your friends, the 
" succour generously granted to relieve the extreme necessities into which 
" I have been driven by the present dismal circumstances. I cannot 
" sufficiently express how sensible I am to your good heart : and write 
" these few lines in the first place to contest to you these My most sincere 
" and grateful sentiments and then to inform you by means of Mr. Oakley 
" an English Gent" arrived here last week, I have received a letter 
" from Lord Minto from Vienna, advising Me that he had orders from his 
*' Court to remit to Me the sum of ^^2000 Sterling, and that in the 
" month of July I may again draw, if I desire it, for another equal sum. 
" The letter is written in so extremely obliging and genteel a manner, 
" and with expressions of singular regard and consideration for Me, that, 
" I assure you, excited in Me most particular and lively sentiments, not 
" only of satisfaction for the delicacy with which the affair has been 
" managed, but also of gratitude for the generosity with which has been 
" provided for my necessity. 

" I have answered Lord Minto's letter, and gave it Saturday last to 
" Mr. Oakley who was to send it by that evening's post " (the ambassadorial 
courier) " to Vienna, and have written in a manner that I hope will be 
" to his lordship's satisfaction. I own to you that the succour granted to 
" Me could not be more timely, for, without it, it would have been 
^' impossible for Me to subsist on account of the absolutely irreparable 
" loss of all My income, the very funds being also destroyed ; so that I 
" would otherwise have been reduced during the short remainder of My 
" life to languish in misery and indigence. I would not loose a moment's 
" time to apprize you of all this, and am very certain that your experi- 
" mented good heart will find proper means to make known in an energical 
" and proper manner, these sentiments of My grateful acknowledgment. 

" Your best of friends, 

" Henry Cardinal." 

Of the remaining history of H.R. H. The Cardinal- 
Duke of York it is not necessary to speak here. He died 
in 1807, and was honourably buried in the Vatican Basilica 
with his father and his brother, in a tomb which bears 
their names and styles, James III, Charles III, Henry IX, 
last of the Royal House of Stewart, three kings " who 
paid three crowns for a mass," who sacrificed the crowns 
of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, rather than their 
religious convictions. May they rest in peace. ^ 

TT •«" TV 

1-It should be said that loyalty to the Stewarts, as it has been here 
entreated of, implies no shadow of disloyalty to the present Royal House of 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

The action of Cardinal Stefano Borgia which just has 
been described, was not the only evidence of nobility of 
soul that he exhibited during the long Conclave of 1 799- 
1800. He did, or rather he did not do, another deed ; the 
neglect of which suffices to win him high renown. 

It already has been manifested here, that the tide of 
human ambition runs at its highest in the Conclave for the 
election of a Pope. At different periods of history, the 
papacy has been regarded as an appanage of the empire, or 
of the great Italian baronies, Crescenzi, Colonna, Orsini, 
Savelli, Medici. The House of Borgia, not without reason 
of a kind, desired to rank with these ; and cardinals of that 
House complacently expected election. There already had 
been two Borgia Popes, the strenuous Lord Calixtus 
P.P. III. and the invincible Lord Alexander P.P. VI. 
The great-grandson of St. Francisco de Borja, Cardinal 
Don Gaspero, publicly hoped to be the third, and was 
disappointed. Now, in the last year of the Eighteenth 
Century, was enclosed in another Conclave another Borgia 
Cardinal, the noble Cardinal Stefano, and it confidently 
was expected that he would emerge therefrom not Stefano, 
but Peter, crowned with the Triregno, the pontifical diadem 
made of feathers of white peacocks encircled with three 
crowns of oold. 

Humanly speaking his chance of election was not 
chance but certainty. He was admitted on all hands to 
be facile Princeps of the Sacred College. His learning, 
his dominant power, his simple piety, his universally sym- 
pathetic personality, assured him of an unanimous majority, 

England. The law of Prescriptive Right by itself would be sufficient to re- 
quire the most dutiful allegiance on the part of all the subjects of Her Most 
Sacred Majesty the late Queen-Empress. But it may be said further, that, 
as far as Roman Catholics are concerned, the most ingeniously scrupulous 
conscience can have no possible doubt about its obligation, since the Lord 
Leo P.P. XIII accorded that formal Recognition of the late Queen's Majesty 
as Queen, by the presence of an Apostolic Ablegate at the Jubilee of 1887. 
In the course of this book the immense importance which sovereigns of 
the Borgian Era attached to this Recognition has been shewn. They were 
ready to fight for it, knowing that without it they could not hope to stand. 
In the present instance it was not even asked for; and its spontaneous 
granting by the Roman Pontiff should emphasize the fact that, what formerly 
might have been a matter for discussion, is now an imperative religious 
duty, namely, undeviating loyalty to the Royal and Imperial Dynasty of 
Queen Victoria. 

A Flicker from the Embers 

had he chosen to enter the ranks of the cardinals-com- 
petitors, that is to say, of the cardinals who were eHgible 
and also willing. 

When a man is aware of his own ability to do certain 
legitimate and beneficent deeds, the world is wont to 
call him fool as well as knave when he neglects to seek 
the situation, the opportunity, for exercising his peculiar 
talent. In this matter, the world is not ill-advised. Then, 
if an ecclesiastic is convinced that, in a certain position of 
authority, he can do God-service, why should he be deterred 
from seeking that position by craven terror of the inevitable 
scowls, rhodomontades, and lampoons of envious incom- 
petent venal mediocrity.'* The Lord Pius P.P. II was not 
afraid. He knew His own powers. He was convinced of 
the purity of His intentions ; and, as Cardinal Enea Silvio 
Bartolomeo de' Piccolhuomini, he met the schemes of 
Cardinal Guillaume d'Estoutville in the Conclave of 1458 
with counter-schemes, and accomplished His Own eleva- 
tion to the pontifical throne. There is another and more 
intimate example, nearer home, and no later than the last 
century : the example of a provost of a metropolitan 
cathedral chapter, who knew his power, who knew the 
lawfully designated successor of the archbishop to be 
unfitted for the responsibilities of office, who kept an agent 
at the Vatican to urge his candidature when the see was 
vacant, until the Lord Pius P.P. IX, declaring it to be ini 
colpo-di-stato di Domeniddio, transformed the convert-provost 
into Westminster's Archbishop. It cannot be alleged that 
Cardinal Henry Edward Manning became inglorious by 
giving practical evidence of his contempt for the ridiculous 
and wicked doctrine which is preached by vicious de- 
generates, that the Almighty intends much of His Good 
Work to be wasted. It cannot be alleged that Cardinal 
Manning was actuated by personal arrogance, or by 
desire for personal aggrandisement. His whole life of 
saint-like self-sacrifice, of intensest humility, of ascetic 
mortification, of ceaseless toil for the spiritual and tem- 
poral welfare of all men without distinction of creed, has 
proved the contrary. By the same token, on this score, 
there would have been no stain on the noble character of 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

Cardinal Stefano Borgia had he desired to exert himself to 
compass his own election to the Throne of Peter. 

But he did not so desire. Indeed, he shewed himself 
unwilling to be elected ; and the Sacred College made 
choice of the next Most Eminent Lord, the Benedictine 
Cardinal Gregorio Luigi Barnabo Chiaramonte, whose 
accession was proclaimed under the name of the Lord 
Pius P.P. VIL So Christendom still lacks the third 
Borgia Pontiff, — a lack unlikely soon to be made good ; 
seeing that, since Cardinal Stefano, no Borgia wears the 
scarlet hat ; yet by no means irremediable, seeing that the 
House of Borgia is living, and not dead. 

Little remains to be written of the last pre-eminent 
Borgia. On the death of Cardinal Gerdil, Cardinal 
Stefano was promoted from the Proprefecture to the 
Prefecture of Propaganda Fide. 

In 1804, while attending the debile Lord Pius P.P. VII 
to Paris, (whither His Holiness had been summoned for 
the coronation as emperor of the Corsican upstart Consul 
Napoleon Buonaparte,) Cardinal Stefano Borgia died, at 
the age of seventy-three years, on the Festival of St. 
Clement the twenty-third of November, at Lyons, and was 
buried there in the cathedral. It is worth noting that he 
had been baptized in the cathedral of St. Clement at 
Velletri in December 1731 ; that he derived his cardinalitial 
Title from the church of St. Clement m Rome ; and that 
on the Festival of St. Clement 1804, he died. His friend, 
P>a Pietro Paolino da San Bartolomeo, a sandalled 
Carmelite, wrote his biography. The celebrated Cancel- 
lieri composed his elegy, which has been republished by 
Bodoni. The Borgia Museum of Antiquities which he 
established in Velletri, and whose elaborate catalogue is 
the work of his uncle Don Filippaurelio Visconti, in chief 
part is in the Royal Museum of Naples ; the College of 
Propaganda has the lesser part, and also his splendid 

The House of Borgia continues to flourish in the 
descendants of Cardinal Stefano's brother, the Cavaliere 

A Flicker from the Embers 

GiAMPAOLO Borgia of Velletri, a general in the pontifical 
army ; who married the representative of two of the most 
important houses of the Romagna, often mentioned in these 
pages as having been subdued by the splendid Duke Cesare 
(detto Borgia) di Valentinois della Romagna, in the 
campaigns of 1499 and 1501-2, — the Countess Alcmena^ 
Baglioni-Malatesta of Perugia. Eighteen children were 
the issue of this marriage. The names of five have been 
recovered at the date of writing, viz., the eldest, Cavaliere 
Camillo ; Don Clemente ; Don Alessandro ; Don Cesare ; 
and the youngest Don Francesco. 

(a) The Cavaliere Camillo Borgia, born 1777, was 
Adjutant-General and Field- Marshal under King 
Joachim Murat of Naples ; Aulic-Counsellor and 
Charge d'affaires of the King of Denmark in 
Rome ; Knight of the Legion of Honour,^ and of 
the Order of the Two Sicilies.^ Distinguished in 
arms by his military talent, he was not less renowned 
in the kingdom of Letters. After his retirement 
from the army, he travelled much in Northern 
Africa to study Latin antiquities. At least one of 
his works has achieved fame — the Planisfero 
Borgiano. He married Mdlle. Adelaide Quaison, 
(who died in 1865); and he died in 181 7, leaving 

Don Ettore Borgia, born at Velletri in 1802, 
a Roman Patrician, Knight of Honour and 
Devotion of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem 
of Malta, Knight-Commander of the Order of 
St. Gregory the Great,"^ Gonfalonier of Velletri, 

^ 'A'XKfirjvr]. It is curious to note the survival of Greek names in the ancient 
families of Etruria. 

2 The Legion of Honour is a French Order founded during the Consulate 
of Napoleon Buonaparte, 20 Fiorile, An. x: ratified by the Christian King 
Louis XVIII on VI July, 1814. It is governed by a Grand Master who is the 
Emperor, King, or President of France according to the fashion. It contains 
five classes. The Knights and Officers wear silver crosses. The Commanders, 
Grand Officers and Grand Crosses wear the decoration in gold. The motto 
is HoNNEUR ET Patrie. {Tettoni e Saladini. Teatro Araldico.) 

2 The Order of the Two Sicilies were founded by Joseph Buonaparte, XXIV 
Feb. 1808, to recompense loyalty, courage, and long service. {Tettoni c Sala- 
dini. Teatro Araldico.) 

* The Order of St. Gregory the Great was founded by the Lord Gregory 


Chronicles of the House of Borgia 

National Representative of Velletri in the 

Roman Parliament of 1848, and Provisional 

Governour of Velletri in 1871. He departed 

this life, in 1892, at Melazzo in Sicily, being of 

the age of ninety years ; and his death without 

issue extinguished the Veliternian Branch of 

the House of Borgia. 

(j3) Don Clemente Borgia of Rome, who married 

Donna Luisa Calderoni, and died in 1852, leaving 


(a) Don Adriano, who died unmarried : 
(j3) Don Tito, who died unmarried : 
(y) Don Costantino, a prelate, (author of De 
Cathedra Romaiia Sancti Petri Principus 
Apostolorum Oratio, etc. a quarto published 
at Rome in 1845 ;) died unmarried in 1878 : 
(g) Don Augusto, a prelate, born 1820. His 
death, on the second of September 1900, 
without issue, extinguished the Roman Branch 
of the House of Borgia. 
(7) Don Alessandro Borgia, born 1788, Bali of the 
Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Malta, died 
(g) Don Cesare Borgia, was a Knight-Commander 
of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Malta ; 
and followed the profession of a man of letters in 
Ferrara, (the city of which his kinswoman, Madonna 
Lucrezia, formerly had been the sovereign duchess,) 
until his death in 1861. 

[Here should be inserted the names of thirteen children 
of the Cavaliere Giampaolo Borgia and his wife the Countess 
Alc7ne7ia Baglioni-Malatesta of Perugia, which, at present 
are not accessible. The eighteenth and youngest son of the 
said Cavaliere Giampaolo was,) 

p.p. XVI for Merit, Civil and Military, I Sept. 1831. There are four classes, 
viz. First, and Second Grand Cross, Commanders, and Knights. The obverse 
of the octagonal silver medal bears an eight-pointed cross in red enamel, with 
a shield in pretence shewing an effigy of the Lord St. Gregory P.P. I the 
Great (the Pope who sent St. Augustine to convert the English, a.d. 596.) 
The reverse bears the legend, Pro Deo et Principe Gregorius XVI. P.M. 
ANNO I. (Tettonie Saladim. Teatro Araldico.) 


A Flicker from the Embers 

(c) The Noble Francesco Borgia, born 1794 ; Knight 
of Honour and Devotion, and Hereditary Com- 
mandant of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem of 
Malta ; Knight of the Order of the Lily of France^; 
Knight of the Order of the two Sicilies ; Patrician 
of Rome : who married the Noble Luigia Ferrari 
di Cremona, Dowager-Countess Cassera (died 
1855); and established the House of Borgia in 
Milan on his marriage with a Milanese lady in 
1822. He died in 1861 leaving issue, 

(a) The Noble Alcmena, married to the Mar- 
quess Paolo Litta-Modignani of Milan : 
(/3) The Noble Cesare Borgia, {the present 
Head of the Illustrious House of Borgia) ; 
Knight of Honour and Devotion and Here- 
ditary Commandant of the Order of St. John 
of Jerusalem of Malta ; Patrician of Rome, 
(which patriciate gives its holder the right to 
the title of Count ;) born at Milan on the 
twenty-seventh of January 1830; married in 
1856 Donna Clementina Tarantola (who died 
in 1884) and has issue, 
(a) Don Francesco Borgia, born in 1863 ; 
married in 1885 the Marchioness Eugenia 
Litta-Modignani di Menzago e Vinago, 
Patrician of Milan ; and has issue, 

(a) Don Cesare Borgia, born 1886 : 
(/3) Don Alessandro Borgia, born 


On the second of April 1814, M. la Comte d'Artois permitted the 
National Guard of Paris to wear a silver Fleurdelys suspended from a 
white watered riband, in recognition of service. On the twenty-sixth of 
April, a Star was substituted for the Fleurdelys, and a blue border added 
to the white riband. The Decoration was called the Order of the Lily of 
France, and all decores made to swear an oath of fidelity to God, and of 
obedience to the King. {Tettoni e Saladini. Teatro Araldico.) 




Appendix I 


Very little can be said of the women of the Borgian Era ; for the simple 
reason that they as yet had not renounced and abjured the observation of 
the maxim of Euripides 

" Women should stay at hovie and talk^ 

For women, then, to cultivate an intellect was rare. The sacred ofifices 
of mother and wife, of comforter and helper, chiefly occupied them. Yet 
no stupid restrictions were invented to harass and embitter the exceptions 
to this rule, the freaks, the Sports of Nature, (in modern medical 
phraseology;) and thus the splenetic self-assertive abnormalities of the 
twentieth century were avoided. Women, who so willed, were absolutely 
free ; they were admitted to the same intellectual training as men in the 
universities and colleges ^ ; professorial chairs rewarded talent male or 
female ; and a learned lady was called Virago, in no sarcastic vein but in 
flattering admiration, the word being used in its scriptural sense. ( Vulgate, 
Gen. ii. 23.) 

Of these the most famous were Madonna Vittoria Colonna and 
Madonna Veronica Gambara. The first was the daughter of Don 
Fabrizio Colonna, Grand Constable of Naples, (who already has been 
mentioned as helping the Duchess Lucrezia Borgia's consort to evade the 
snare of the Lord Julius P.P. II,) by his wife Madonna Agnesina di 
Montefeltro, daughter of Duke Federigo of Urbino. She was born in 1490; 
and married at nineteen in 1509 to Don Ferrando Francisco d'Avalos, who 
died in 1525. She consecrated the remaining twenty-two years of her life 
to her husband's memory and to the duties of religion, residing, for the 
sake of her reputation, as a parlour-boarder in religious houses at Orvieto, 
Viterbo, Ischia, and Rome, where she kept a literary salon. Many 
celebrated men were her frequent visitors, among whom may be mentioned 
Cardinals Reginald Pole and Giacopo Sadoleto ; the poets Marcantonio 
Flaminio and Pietro Carnesecchi ; and Fra Bernardino Ochino the second 
general of the new religion called Cappuccifii, who, after apostatizing to 
write his Twenty-one Dialogues advocating Polygamy as authorized by the 
example of the Patriarchs, was in turn expelled by the heresiarchs of 
Geneva. But by far the greatest of Madonna Vittoria Colonna's admirers 

^ Burckhardt. CultJtr de Renaissance, see 5 ed. 2, p. 312. Gregorovius, Lucrezia 
Borgia, II 4. Janitschek, Gesellschaft der Renaissance, III, 


Appendix I 

was the sculptor-painter-poet Messer Michelangelo Buonarroti, who 
respectfully inscribed to her many beautiful sonnets — sonnets which he 
hewed out of language, as also he hewed statues out of marble, and with 
the same aloof and rugged majesty. The following is given as a specimen, 
not only of the style of Messer Michelangelo Buonarroti, but also for the 
profession of faith contained in the latter half of the sestett — a human 
document which lends marvellous light to the more secret soul of this true 
artist and gigantic misanthrope. 

"Per ritornar la donde venne fora "As one whowillreseekher home of light, 

"L' immortal forma al tuo carcerterreno "Thy form immortal to this prison-house 
"Venne com' angel di pieta si pieno "Descended, like an angel piteous, 

"Che Sana ogn' intelleto, e'l mondo onora. "To heal all hearts and make the whole 

world bright. 
"Questosolm'arde.e questo m' innamora; "'Tis this that thralls my soul in love's 

"Non pur di fora il tuo volto sereno : "Not thy clear face of beauty glorious ; 

"Ch'amor non gia di cosache vien meno "For he who harbours virtue still will 

"Tien ferma speme, in cu' virtu dimora. "To love what neither years nor death can 

"Ne altro avvien di cose altere e nuove "So fares it ever with things high and rare 
"In cui si preme la natura ; e '1 cielo "Wrought in the sweat of nature; heaven 

"E ch' a lor parte largo s' apparecchia. "Showers on their birth the blessings of 

her prime : 
"NeDio, suo grazia, mi se mostra altrove, "Nor hath God deigned to shew Himself 

"Piu che 'n alcunleggiadro e mortal velo; "More clearly than inhuman forms 

"E quel sol amo.perche'n quel si specchia, "Which, since they image Him, alone I 

Michelangelo Buonarroti. Translation by John Addington 


Madonna Vittoria Colonna herself was a poet, but her literary history 
is not included in the Borgian Era. It may be mentioned that her 
descendant and namesake the beautiful Princess Vittoria Colonna married 
into the patrician House of Sforza-Cesarina, so prominent in these pages, 
and is the mother of the present Duke Lorenzo. 

Madonna Veronica Gambara, the friend and fellow-virago of Madonna 
Vittoria Colonna was the daughter of Count Gianfrancesco Gambara, and 
Madonna Alda Pia da Carpi. She was born in 1485, and educated by 
Messer Pietro Bembo (afterwards Cardinal) ; married in 1509 to Don 
Guilberto di Cor Reggio ; and widowed nme years later. At her Palazzo 
Marsili at Bologna, on the occasion of the coronation of Caesar Carlos V 
in 1530, she received in princely state the scholars of the day, "Bembo, 
Molza, the witty Francesco Berni, the learned Vida, the stately Trissio, the 
noble-hearted Marcantonio Flaminio, Paolo Giovio and Francesco Guicci- 
ardini." She lived till 1550, a good mother to her two sons, Ippolito and 
Girolamo, noble, learned, virtuous, and a poet and woman-of-letters of 
much distinction. 


Appendix II 


Query ? Whether the Lord Pietro Ciero can be considered a cardinal of 
His creation ? 

"Vidi ego, ingint Andreas Victorellus, excriptum diploma fide 
"publica firmatum, datum Romae sub annulo Piscatoris anno 1501 
" die xvii Aprilis in quo haec verba : Te in cardinakm approbamus, 
" quod tamen sub silentio tenebts, donee tenipus idoneum aderit.'^ 


Appendix III 


The following tribute was used to be paid yearly on the Vigil of St. 
Peter, xxviii June, in accordance with the rule of the Lord Boniface 
P.P. IX. 

By the city of Forrara 

,, ,, Benevento 
island,, Sardinia 
city ,, Terracina 
,, ,, Gallese 
., M Porto 
,, ,, Monte Caprello 
,, ,, Sant' Ippolito 
College of Apostolick Scribes 

„ ,, Notaries 

Kingdom of Naples 

Two thousand scudi and a chalice 

A white horse 

A stag 

A brace of pheasants 

A dog and a sparrow-hawk 

A brace of partridges 

A pyx and one hundred scudi 

A silver chalice 

The "Chinea." This was a valuable 
white horse or mule, richly capari- 
soned, carrying seven thousand ducati 
d' oro in a splendid coffer. The Prince 
Colonna, as Grand Constable of 
Naples, was the ofl&cial in charge of 
the " Chinea." 

Monks and friars belonging to Abbeys which were Papal Peculiars, ( — the 
Abbey of Westminster was a Papal, for five hundred years before it was a 
Royal, Peculiar, — ) instead of paying tribute, pronounced the Holy Name 
of Jesus, when their names were called at this ceremonial. 


Appendix IV 


One of the most amusing poses of the Borgian Era was the affectation 
of classical antiquity. This pose was engendered of the revival of learning 
upon human vanity. Scholars were the favourites of princes and of kings ; 
and they modelled their mental deportment on that plane. The man who 
called himself Pomponious Laetus (for they Latinized or Hellenized even 
their names,) was a v66os of the baronial House of Sanseverini, who 
revivified certain pagan cults and, with Cardinal Platino and others, 
solemnly and habitually practised them in secret Catacombs. Really, he 
was a learned man who owed his learning to his own wits and exertions, 
and not to the help or influence of his own kin ; who, while he was a poor 
unknown pupil of Messer Lorenzo Valla, refused to acknowledge him. 
But, when at last he had won fame and was sought by the best society, the 
Sanseverini, being anxious to have at least the credit of an intellect, made 
him an overture of friendship, and offered to take him to their arms. His 
rejoinder is worth preservation as a specimen as well of the effect of 
megalomania, as of the successful imitation of a classic style. With 
delicious arrogance he wrote, 

" Pomponius Laetus cognatis et pvopinquis suis salutem. 
" Quod petitis fieri non potest. Valete. 

Writers of the Borgian Era curiously translated contemporary terms 
and titles into their classic phraseological equivalent. The Pope was 
Pontifex Maximus, and Princeps. The Emperor was Caesar Augustus, 
and sometimes Princeps. The Cardinals were Se?iators or Augurs, elders 
in charge of the lightning ( "aUquis senior qui pubHca fulgura condit." ) 
Nuns were Vestal Virgins. Excommunication was Dirae. Carnival was 
the Lupercalia. The Padre Eterno became, by the pen of Bishop Vida of 
Alba in Piedmont, Superum Pater Nimbipotens and Regnator Olynipi. 
The Santissimo Salvatore was known as "Hpcos' ; and the Santo Spirito as 
Ze(pvpos. Madonna was "Upa, 'Acppodirr], and 'AOrjvrj -n-apOevos upon occasion. 
The saints were gods, bios ?} 8la, divus vel diva ; St. Christopher 
was Herakles ; St. Sebastian, or St. Michael Archangel, was ^o\^o^ 
'AttoXXcoi/ ; St, Gabriel Archangel was Hermes ; St. Raphael Archangel 
was Asklepios ; St. George, St. Maurice, St. Theodore, were Perseus or 
Theseus according to the taste of the writer. This pose was affected in 

369 2 A 

Appendix IV 

England as well as in Italy, as may be seen in the following verse from 
William Caxton's Boke of Ctirtesye, a.d. 1477. 

" Loke also/ upon Dan John Lydgate 

" My maister whylome/ monke at berye 
" Worthy to be renomede/ as poete laureate 
" I prayeto gode in bliss his soul be mercy 
" Syngynge Rex Spleiidens that heuenly kyrye 
" Among the Muses Nine celestyalle 
" Before the hyest lubyter of alle." 

The scholarship of the Renascence of learning, however, was not all 
empty foolishness, not all the merest pose. The extravagances of the 
Yellow School of the day were inevitable ; and, though their unreaUty soon 
palls and cloys, they afford ephemeral amusement. But the new learning 
did much to improve taste ; and, in the hand of men of goodwill, was of 
vast benefit to the purity of letters. The following verses are quoted as 
additional examples of the style of noted scholars of the Borgian Era. 

Angeli Politiani, Monodia in Laurentium Medicem. 

(Intonata per Arrighum Isae. ) 

sub cuius patula coma, 
et Phoebi lyra blandius, 
at vox dulcius insonat. 
Nunc muta omnia, 
nunc surda omnia. 

Quis dabit capiti meo 
aquam ? Quis oculis meis 
fontem lacrymarum dabit ? 
Ut nocte fleam ; 
ut luce fleam, 
sie turtur %'iduus solet, 
sie cygnus moriens solet, 
sie luscinia, conqueri. 
Neu miser, miser, 
O dolor, dolor. 

Laurus impetu fulminis, 
ilia, ilia, iacet subito, 
laurus omnium Celebris 
musarum choris, 
nj'mpharum choris, 

Quis dabit capiti meo 
aquam ? Quis oculis meis 
fontem lacrymarum dabit ? 
ut nocte fleam, 
ut luce fleam ; 
sie turtur viduus solet 
sie cygnus moriens solet, 
sie luscinia, conqueri. 
Neu miser, miser, 
O dolor, dolor. 

Andreae Nangerii (Navagero) Hymnus in Gabrielem Archangelum. 

lam caeli reserat fores 
aurato e thalamo exiens 
Mater Memnonis, et diem 

laeto provocat ore. 
Nos te maxima Maximi 
minister, canimus, Patris : 
quo nuUus, qui hominum genus 

tam praesans iuvet, usquam est. 
Tu nostras celer ad pracas, 
aures protinus an Deum has 
defers : nee tenues sinis 

evanescere in auras. 

Tu dum fers nova nuncia 
virgini ^Etherio Patri 
dilectae, quibus indicas 

Magni vota Tonantis ; 
nobis fers nova nuncia : 
quais a faucibus impii 
erepti hostis, in aurea 

caeli templi vocamur. 
Adsis, o bone : et in dies 
semper nos propius iuva 
nee patrocinio tuo 

unquam mitte tueri. 

Angeli Politiani, Hymnds in Divam Virginem. 

Cuius devota humilitas 
gammis ornata fulgidis 
fidentis conscientiae 
Amore Deum rapuit. 

O Virgo prudentissima, 
quam caelo missus Gabriel, 
supremus Regis nuntius, 
plenam testatur gratia. 

Appendix IV 

Te sponsam Factor omnium, 
te matrem Dei Filius, 
te vocat habitaculum 
Suum Beatus Spiritus. 

Per te de tetro carcere 
antiqui patres exeunt : 
per te nobis astriferae 
panduntur aulae limina. 

Tu stellis comam cingeris, 
tu lunam premis pedibus, 
te sole amictam candido 
chori stupent angelici. 

Tu Stella Maris diceris, 
quae nobis inter scopulos 
inter obscuros turbines 
portum salutis indicas. 

Audi Virgo Puerpara, 
et Sola Mater Integra, 
audi precantes, quaesumus, 
tuos Maria servulos. 

Repelle mentis tenebras, 
disrumpe cordis glaciem, 
nos sub tuum praesidium 
confugientes protege. 

Da nobis in proposito 
sancto perseverantiam, 
ne noster adversarius 
in te sperantes superet : 

Sed et cunctis fidelibus, 
qui tuum templum visitant, 
benigna Mater dexteram 
da caelestis auxilii. Amen. 


Appendix V 


The British Museum possesses the following Original Letters by 

Alessandro Borgia, Bishop o/Nocera, Prince- Archbishop ofFermo viiii Nov. 


„ „ „ » » ,. ...Apr. 1727 

NiccoLO ^OKGix, Bishop of Cava, xiii Jan. 1752 

„ „ . . xviii Jul. „ 

Don Gasparo de Borja y Velasco, Cardinal-Archbishop of Seville and 

„ ,, „ „ „ Letter to the Duke of Ossuna 1620 

concerning his embassy in Rome „ 

XX Dec. 1625 
Don Juan de Borja, Conde de Ficalho, n.d. Portug. Signed. 
Don Carlos de Borja, Cardinal-Patriarch of the Indies, xi Oct. 1 7 1 1 

to viiii Sept. 1724 
Stefano Borgia, Cardinal of San Clemente ii June 1801 

„ „ „ xyii Jan. 1802 

„ ,, „ to L. Melini, Rome, xviii Aug. 1770 

„ „ „ „ A. da Morona, Padua, xviiii June 1798 

„ „ „ „ G. Andrei, Padua, i Sept. 1798 

Cesare, detto Borgia, i. As Cardinal. 

To the Catholick King and Queen Don Hernando and Dona 
Isabella of Spain, on sending a friar with a present, dated 1497, 
signed C Car^'- de Valencia. Very rare. 

2. As Duke. 
Holograph to Ricardo Cervini, from Cartoceto, dated i Feb. 1500. 
Eight lines of beautiful precise arrogant and masterly writing, 
signed Cesar Borgia de Francia dux Valentin, with seal. 
The Bodleian Library at Oxford has 

Indulgences conceeded to the college at Windsor (the chapter of 
St. George ?) by the Lord Alexander P.P. VI. Ashmolean MSS. 
Gasparo de Borgia, Cardal, Protestatio in consistorio 1632 

nomine Regis Hisp. 
Stefano Borgia, Cardal. Four Latin Letters to C G. Woide, 



Appendix VI 


Alessandro Borgia. Bishop of Nocera. Prince-Archbishop of Fermo. 
Bonedicti xiii Romani Pontificis .... vita cominentario 
excerpta etc. Romae. 1741. 4° 

Delia Cristiana educazione de' figliuoli. OvneUe. 

Fermo. 1760. 8^ 
Indulto sopra il Precetto di astenersi dalle opere servili in 
alcune Feste. 1752- 4° 

Istoria della chiesa e citta di Velletri descritta in quattro libri. 

Stampatoria Vescovale. Nocera. 1723. 4'^ 
(he also wrote a life of St. Gerald in 1698. Stefano Borgia in De Cruce 

Veliterna. 222. 
Antonio Borgia. Editor of 

Poesie de' Sig. Alunni e convitori del . . . Vescovile 
Seminario .... di Frascati, dedicate all' Altezza 
Reale .... del Cardinale Duca d' York, etc. 

Roraae. 1772. 4° 
Alexander Borgia. Teacher of Languages 

Case of the Free Italian Church. 1877 
Napoleon III. Italy on the eve of Freedom, i860. 
Novena of Meditations on Abuses of the Church of Rome. 1854. 
Bartolomeo Borgia. 

La sua vita. Milano. 1888. 8°. 

(He was a shoemaker of Fara Novarese, born 18 18, died 
1887 ; was converted to protestantism, and became con- 
nected with il Rev. MacDougall and il Dottore Stewart as 
Colportore della Societa Biblica Scozzese; made himself an 
evangelical nuisance, colUded with the Established Church 
of the country, wherefore he and his family suffered perse- 
cution at the hands of ignorant papists. The book is 
illustrated by an awful photograph of this Borgia with a 
bible and a billycock-hat, preaching over a satchel, on a 
painted back-ground.) 
Constantinus Borgia. Son of Don Clemente Borgia, and grandson of 
Cavaliere Giampaolo Borgia of Velletri : prelate in Rome : died 1878. 
De Cathedra Romana Sancti Petri Principis Apostolorum 
Oratio, etc. Romae. 1845. 4" 


Appendix VI 

Damiano Borgia. 

Free Christian Church in Italy. Rome. 1880 

History of the Gospel in Fara Novarese ; an episode of reform 

in the nineteenth century. Florence. 1879. 

Social Ruin, causes and remedies. 1894. 

Fabrizio Borgia. Canon of Velletri. Bishop of Ferentino inter HernicoSy 

and brother of the Prince-Archbishop Alessandro Borgia of Fermo. 

An Account of the Translation of St. Gerald. I7i4. 

Gasparo de Borja, Cardinal. 

Ossuniano coniuratio qua D. P. Gyron Ossunae Dux regnum 

Neapolitanum .... sibi desponderat, etc. : una cum 

relatione stratagematis quo Illustriss. Cardlis Borgia . . . 

in eam Provinciam sibi aditum .... fecerit. 1623. 4° 

Girolamo Borgia, detto Seniore. Jurisconsult, Bishop of Massa Labrese, 1 544 

(Massa Sorrentana ?) 

Incendium ad Avernum Lacum horribile pridie Kal. Octobr. 

MDxxxviii nocte intempestata exortum. Neapoli. 1538. 

Epithalamion. 1606. 12° 

Juris Civilis, lib. XX. Bulifon. Naples. 1689 (1678 ?) fol. 

Giuseppe di Lorenzo Borgia. 

In morte del Cav. G. di Lorenzo Borgia .... avenuta il 
di XXX Novembre mdccclxxxii. (Parole, etc.) 

Noto. 1882. 8° 
Niccolo Borgia. 

II concetto della civilta greca e sua funzione nella storia. 
Dissertatione su tema obbligato, etc. Napoli. 1881. 8° 

Paulus Borgia. 

De Rabie Canina dissertatio inauguralis, etc. Patavii. 1830. 8° 
Rosario Borgia. 

Poesie in idioma Calabrese. Napoli. 1839, 8° 

These innocent little verses valuably preserve the dialect of 
what was once a Greek colony. The author was a priest of 
the Oratory of San Filippo Neri ; and wrote sonnets 
For a seminarist-friend, 

To the same on becoming prefect of the seminary-kitchen, 
On the Triumph of Christ, 
On San Fortunato Martire, 
On San Filippo Neri, 

On the occasion of the death of his father, Don Francesc- 
antonio Borgia, Patrician of Mileto (a city of the 
commune of Mileto in Calabria, containing 3000 
inhabitants,) etc., etc., etc. 
Stefano Borgia, Cardinal. 

Kalendarium Venetum saec. xj. ex Cod. Membranaceo Biblio- 

theca S. 
Salvatoris Bononiae, a S.B. nunc primum in lucem editum. 
(Anecdota Literaria etc. II.) i773- 8° 

Fragmentum Copticum ex Actis S. Coluthi .... quod 
nunc primum in lucem profert S.B. (Anec. Lit. IIII,) 

1773. 8° 

Appendix VI 

De miraculis Sancti Coluthi et reliquis actorum Sancti Panesnice 

martyrum . . . Praeit dissertatio S. Card. B. de cultu 

S. Coluthi. J7g^_ ^o 

Pii II ox-atio de bello Tureis inferendo, eruta . . . et illus- 

trata a S.B. 1774. 8^ 

Breve istoria deldominio temporale della Sede Apostolica nelle 

due Sicilie. S.B. 1788-9. 4' 

Difesa del dominio temporale della Sede Apostolica nelle due 

Sicilie. lygi 40 

Breve istoria dell' antica citta di Tadino nell' Umbria ed esatta 

relazione della ultime ricerche fatte sulle sue ruine. 

Romae 1751. 8^ 
De Cruce Vaticana en dono Justini Augusti in Parasceve maioris 
hebdomadae publicae venerationi exhiberi solita commen- 
tarius ; cui accedit ritus salutationis Crucis in Ecclesia 
Autiochena Syrorum servatus nunc primum Syriaee et 
Latine editus adnotation ibusque inlustratus auctore S.B. 

. Romae. 1779 fol. 

De cruce Veliterna commentarius. Romae. 1780. 4" 

Dissertatione filologica sopra un antica gemma intagliata 

(Caloghiera A. Nuova raccolta d' Opuscoli III. 1775. 12° 
Marmorea monumenta Beatissimo. . . . Pio VI. Pont. 
Opt. Mar .... a Veliternis ... in' palatio 
senatorio dedicata S. Borgia . . . typis evulgari curavit, 

Velletri. 1775. 4" 
Memorie Istoriche della Pontificia Citta di Benevento dal secolo 
VIII al secolo XVIII, etc. Tom. I. II. III. 

Roma. 1763-9. 4° 
Monumento di Giovanni XVI, illustrato per S.B. 

Roma. 1750. 8° 

Vaticana Confessio Beati Petri Principis Apostolorum, chrono- 

logicis tarn veterum quam recentiorum scriptorum testimoniis 

inlustrata. Romae. 1776. 4^ 

" Improbe facit qui 
" in aliquo libro 
" ingeniosus est. 

Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson &= Co. 
London &' Edinburgh 


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