Cesare answered him calmly (" senza segno d'alter azione alcuna") that without a condotta, he didn't know what to make of a private friendship whose first principles were denied him. And there the matter hung, for Macchiavelli's legation had for only aim to ensure the immunity of Tuscany and to safeguard Florentine interests without conceding any advantages to Cesare as the latter had perceived from the first.
On December 10 Cesare moved from Imola with his entire army, intent now upon the conquest of Sinigaglia, which State Giuliano della Rovere had been unable to save for his nephew, as king and Pope had alike turned a deaf ear upon the excuses he had sought to make for the Prefetessa, Giovanna da Montefeltre the mother of the young prefect who had aided her brother Guidobaldo in the late war in Urbino.
1 See the twenty first letter from Macchiavelli on this legation.
On the morrow Valentinois arrived in Cesena and encamped his army there for Christmas, as in the previous year. The country was beginning to feel the effects of this prolonged vast military occupation, and although the duke, with intent to relieve the people, had done all that was possible to provision the troops, and had purchased from Venice 30,000 bushels of wheat for the purpose, yet all had been consumed. " The very stones have been eaten," says Macchiavelli.
To account for this state of things and possibly for certain other matters Messer Ramiro de Lorqua, the Governor-General, was summoned from Pesaro ; whilst to avert the threatened famine Cesare ordered that the cereals in the private granaries of Cesena should be sold at reduced prices, and he further proceeded, at heavy expense, to procure grain from without. Another, less far seeing than Valentinois, might have made capital out of Urbino's late rebellion, and pillaged the country to provide for pressing needs. But that would have been opposed to Cesare's policy, of fostering the goodwill of the people he subjected.
On December 20 three of the companies of French lances that had been with Cesare took their leave of him and returned to Lombardy, so that Cesare was left with only one company. There appears to be some confusion as to the reasons for this, and it is stated by some that those companies were recalled to Milan by the French governor. Macchiavelli, ever inquisitive and inquiring, questioned one of the French officers in the matter, to be told that the lances were returning because the duke no longer needed them, the inference being that this was in consequence of the return of the condottieri to their allegiance. But the astute secretary did not at the time account this convincing, arguing that the duke could not yet be said to be secure, nor could he know for certain how far he might trust Vitelli and the Orsini. Presumably, however, he afterwards obtained more certain information, for he says later that Valentinois himself dismissed the French, and that the dismissal was part of the stratagem he was preparing, and had for object to reassure Vitelli and the other confederates, and to throw them off their guard, by causing them to suppose him indifferently supported.
But the departure of the French did not take place without much discussion being provoked, and rumour making extremely busy, whilst it was generally assumed that it would retard the Sinigaglia conquest. Nevertheless, the duke calmly pursued his preparations, and proceeded now to send forward his artillery. There was no real ground upon which to assume that he would adopt any other course. Cesare was now in considerable strength, apart from French lances, and even as these left him he was joined by a thousand Swiss, and another six hundred Romagnuoli from the Val di Lamone. Moreover, as far as the reduction of Sinigaglia was concerned, no resistance was to be expected, for Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere had written enjoining the people to surrender peacefully to the duke.
What matters Cesare may have found in Cesena to justify the arrest of his Governor-General we do not know to the full with absolute certainty. On December 22 Ramiro de Lorqua, coming from Pesaro in response to his master's summons, was arrested on his arrival and flung into prison. His examination was to follow.
Macchiavelli, reporting the arrest, says : " It is thought he [Cesare] may sacrifice him to the people, who have a very great desire of it."
Ramiro had made himself detested in Romagna by the ruthlessness of his rule, and a ruthless servant reflects upon his master, a matter which could nowise suit Borgia. To all who have read The Prince it will be clear that upon that ground alone of having brought Valentinois's justice into disrepute by the harshness which in Valentinois's name he practised Macchiavelli would have approved the execution of Ramiro. He would have accounted it perfectly justifiable that Ramiro should be sacrificed to the people for no better reason than because he had provoked their hatred, since this sacrifice made for the duke's welfare. He does, as a matter of fact, justify this execution, but upon much fuller grounds than these. Still, had the reasons been no better than are mentioned, he would still have justified it upon those. So much is clear ; and, when so much is clear, much more will be clear to you touching this strange epoch.
There was, however, more than a matter of sacrificing the Governor-General to the hatred of the people. There was, for one thing, the matter of that wheat which had disappeared. Ramiro was charged with having fraudulently sold it to his own dishonest profit, putting the duke to the heavy expense of importing fresh supplies for the nourishment of the people. The seriousness of the charge will be appreciated when it is considered that, had a famine resulted from this peculation, grave disorder might have ensued and perhaps even a rebellion against a government which could provide no better.
The duke published the news of the governor's arrest throughout Romagna. He announced his displeasure and regret at the harshnesses and corrupt practices of Ramiro de Lorqua, in spite of the most urgent admonishings that he should refrain from all undue exactions and the threat of grave punishment should he disobey. These frauds, corruption, extortion, and rapine practised by the governor were so grave, continuous and general, stated the duke in his manifesto, that " there is no city, country side, or castle, nor any place in all Romagna, nor officer or minister of the duke's, who does not know of these abuses; and, amongst others, the famine of wheat occasioned by the traffic which he held against our express prohibition, sending out such quantities as would abundantly have sufficed for the people and the army."
He concludes with assurances of his intention that, in the future, they shall be ruled with justice and integrity, and he urges all who may have charges to prefer against the said governor to bring them forward immediately.
It was freely rumoured that the charges against Ramiro by no means ended there, and in Bologna and from Bologna the truth of such a matter might well transpire, all things considered it was openly said that Ramiro had been in secret treaty with the Bentivogli, Orsini, and Vitelli, against the Duke of Valentinois : " Aveva provixione da Messer Zoane Bentivogli e da Orsini e Vitelozo contro el duca," writes Fileno della Tuate, who, it will be borne in mind, was no friend of the Borgia, and would be at no pains to find justification for the duke's deeds.
But of that secret treaty there was, for the moment, no official mention. Later the rumour of it was to receive the fullest confirmation, and, together with that, we shall give, in the next chapter, the duke's obvious reasons for having kept the matter secret at first. Matter enough and to spare was there already upon which to dispose of Messer Ramiro de Lorqua and disposed of he was, with the most summary justice.
On the morning of December 26 the first folk to be astir in Cesena beheld, in the grey light of that wintry dawn; the body of Ramiro lying headless in the square. It was richly dressed, with all his ornaments upon it, a scarlet cloak about it, and the hands were gloved. On a pike beside the body the black bearded head was set up to view, and so remained throughout that day, a terrible display of the swift and pitiless justice of the duke.
Macchiavelli wrote : " The reason of his death is not properly known " (" non si sa bene la cagione della sua morte") "beyond the fact that such was the pleasure of the prince, who shows us that he can make and unmake men according to their deserts."
The Cronica Civitas Faventice, the Diarium Cae senate, and the Cronache Forlivese, all express the people's extreme satisfaction at the deed, and endorse the charges of brutality against the man which are contained in Cesare's letter.