The coincidence of the arrival of the French army with the conquest of Urbino and Camerino and the Tuscan troubles caused one more to be added to that ceaseless stream of rumours that flowed through Italy concerning the Borgias. This time the envy and malice that are ever provoked by success and power gave voice in that rumour to the thing it hoped, and there ensued as pretty a comedy as you shall find in the pages of history.
The rumour had it that Louis XII, resentful and mistrustful of the growth of Cesare's might, which tended to weaken France in Italy and became a menace to the French dominions, was come to make an end of him. Instantly Louis's Court in Milan was thronged by all whom Cesare had offended and they made up by now a goodly crowd, for a man may not rise so swiftly to such eminence without raising a rich crop of enemies.
Meanwhile, however, Valentinois in the Monte feltre Palace at Urbino remained extremely at ease. He was not the man to be without intelligences. In the train of Louis was Francesco Troche, the Pope's confidential chamberlain and Cesare's devoted servant, who, possessed of information, was able to advise Valentinois precisely what were the intentions of the King of France. Gathering from these advices that it was Louis's wish that the Florentines should not be molested further, and naturally anxious not to run counter to the king's intentions, Cesare perceived that the time to take action had arrived, the time for passivity in the affairs of Florence was at an end.
So he dispatched an envoy to Vitelli, ordering his instant evacuation of Arezzo and his withdrawal with his troops from Tuscany, and he backed the command by a threat to compel Vitelli by force of arms, and to punish disobedience by depriving him of his state of Citta di Castello " a matter," Cesare informed him, " which would be easily accomplished, as the best men of that State have already offered themselves to me."
It was a command which Vitelli had no choice but to obey, not being in sufficient force to oppose the duke. So on July 29, with Gianpaolo Baglioni, he relinquished the possession of Arezzo and departed out of Tuscany, as he had been bidden. But so incensed was he against the duke for this intervention between himself and his revenge, and so freely did he express himself in the matter, that it was put about at once that he intended to go against Cesare.
And that is the first hint of the revolt of the con dottieri.
Having launched that interdict of his, Cesare, on July 25, in the garb of a knight of St. John of Jerusalem, and with only four attendants, departed secretly from Urbino to repair to Milan and King Louis. He paused for fresh horses at Forli on the morrow, and on the 28th reached Ferrara, where he remained for a couple of hours to visit Lucrezia, who was now in convalescence. Ahead of him he dispatched, thence, a courier to Milan to announce his coming, and, accompanied by Alfonso d'Este, resumed his journey.
Meanwhile, the assembly of Cesare's enemies had been increasing daily in Milan, whither they repaired to support Louis and to vent their hatred of Cesare and their grievances against him. There, amongst others, might be seen the Duke of Urbino, Pietro Varano (one of the sons of the deposed Lord of Camerino), Giovanni Sforza of Pesaro,and Francesco Gonzaga of Mantua which latter was ever ready to turn whichever way the wind was blowing, and was now loudest in his denunciations of Cesare and eagerly advocating the formation of a league against him.
Louis received the news of Cesare's coming, and endowed, it is clear, with a nice sense of humour kept the matter secret until within a few hours of the duke's actual arrival. On the morning of August 5, according to Bernardi,1 he whispered the information in Trivulzio's ear and whispered it loudly enough to be overheard by those courtiers who stood nearest.
Whatever check their satisfaction at the supposed state of things may have received then was as nothing to their feelings a few hours later when they witnessed the greeting that passed between king and duke. Under their uneasy eyes Louis rode forth to meet his visitor, and gave him a glad and friendly welcome, addressing him as " cousin" and " dear relative," and so, no doubt, striking dismay into the hearts of those courtiers, who may well have deemed that perhaps they had expressed themselves too freely.
Louis, in person, accompanied Valentinois to the apartments prepared for him in the Castle of Milan, and on the morrow gave a banquet and commanded merry makings in his visitor's honour.
Conceive the feelings of those deposed tyrants and their friends, and the sudden collapse of the hopes which they had imagined the king to be encouraging. They did, of course, the only thing there was to do. They took their leave precipitately and went their ways all save Gonzaga, whom the king retained that he might make his Deace with Cesare, and engage Two factors were at work in the interests of Valentinois the coming war in Naples with the Spaniard, which caused Louis to desire to stand well with the Pope ; and the ambition of Louis's friend and counsellor, the Cardinal d'Amboise, to wear the tiara, which caused this prelate to desire to stand well with Cesare himself, since the latter's will in the matter of a Pope to succeed his father should be omnipotent with the Sacred College.
1 Cranache Forlivese, in friendship with him, a friendship consolidated there and then by the betrothal of their infant children : little Francesco Gonzaga and Louise de Valentinois, aged two, the daughter whom Cesare had never beheld and was never to behold.
Therefore, that they might serve their interests in the end, both king and cardinal served Cesare's in the meantime.
The Duke of Valentinois's visit to Milan had served to increase the choler of Vitelli, who accounted that by this action Cesare had put him in disgrace with the King of France; and Vitelli cried out that thus was he repaid for having sought to make Cesare King of Tuscany. In such high dudgeon was the fierce Tyrant of Citta di Castello that he would not go to pay his court to Louis, and was still the more angry to hear of the warm welcome accorded in Milan to the Cardinal Orsini. In this he read approval of the Orsini for having stood neutral in the Florentine business, and, by inference from that, disapproval of himself.