The misshapen monarch himself was the very caricature of a man, hideous and grotesque as a gargoyle. He was short of stature, spindle shanked, rachitic and malformed, and of his face, with its colossal nose, loose mouth and shallow brow, Giovio says that " it was the ugliest ever seen on man."
Such was the person of the young king he was twenty four years of age at the time who poured his legions into Rome, and all full armed as if for work of immediate destruction. Seen, as they were, by torchlight and the blaze of kindled bonfires for night had fallen long before the rearguard had entered the city they looked vague, fantastic, and terrifying. But the most awe inspiring sight of all was kept for the end ; it consisted of the thirty six pieces of artillery which brought up the rear, each piece upon a carriage swiftly drawn by horses, and the longest measuring eight feet, weighing six thousand pounds, and discharging an iron ball as big as a man's head.
The king lay in the Palace of San Marco, where a lodging had been prepared for him, and thither on the day after his entrance came Cesare Borgia, with six Cardinals, from the Castle of Sant' Angelo, whither the Pope had withdrawn, to wait upon his Christian Majesty. Charles immediately revealed the full and exigent nature of his demands. He required the Pope's aid and counsel in the conquest of Naples, upon which he was proceeding; that Cesare Borgia be delivered into his hands as a hostage to ensure the Pope's friendliness ; and that the Castle of Sant' Angelo be handed over to him to be used as a retreat in case of need or danger. Further, he demanded that Prince Djem the brother of Sultan Bajazet, who was in the Pope's hands should be delivered up to him as a further hostage.
This Djem (Gem, or Zizim, as his name is variously spelled) was the second son of Mahomet II, whose throne he had disputed with his brother Bajazet on their father's death. He had raised an army to enforce his claim, and had not lacked for partisans; but he was defeated and put to flight by his brother. For safety he had delivered himself up to the Knights of Rhodes, whom he knew to be Bajazet's implacable enemies. They made him very welcome, for d'Aubus son, the Grand Master of Rhodes, realized that the possession of the prince's person was a very fortunate circumstance for Christianity, since by means of such a hostage the Turk could be kept in submission. Accordingly d'Aubusson had sent him to France, and wrote : " While Djem lives, and is in our hands, Bajazet will never dare to make war upon Christians, who will thus enjoy great peace. Thus is it salutary that Djem should remain in our power." And in France Djem had been well received and treated with every consideration due to a person of his princely rank.
But he appears to have become a subject of contention among the Powers, several of which urged that he could be of greater service to Christianity in their hands than in those of France. Thus, the King of Hungary had demanded him because, being a neighbour of Bajazet's, he was constantly in apprehension of Turkish raids. Ferdinand of Spain had desired him because the possession of him would assist the Catholic King in the expulsion of the Moors. Ferrante of Naples had craved him because he lived in perpetual terror of a Turkish invasion.
In the end he had been sent to Rome, whither he went willingly under the advice of the Knights of Rhodes, whose prisoner he really considered himself. They had discovered that Bajazet was offering enormous bribes to Charles for the surrender of him, and they feared lest Charles should succumb to the temptation.
So Prince Djem had come to Rome in the reign of Pope Innocent VIII, and there he had since remained, Sultan Bajazet making the Pope an annual allowance of forty thousand ducats for his brother's safe custody. He was a willing prisoner, or rather a willing exile, for, far from being kept a prisoner, he was treated at Rome with every consideration, associating freely with those about the Pontifical Court, and being frequently seen abroad in company with the Pope and the Duke of Gandia.
Now Charles was aware that the Pope, in his dread of a French invasion, and seeing vain all his efforts to dissuade Charles from making his descent upon Italy, had appealed for aid to Bajazet. For so doing he has been severely censured, and with some justice, for the picture of the Head of Christianity making appeal to the infidel to assist him against Christians is not an edifying one. Still, it receives some measure of justification when we reflect what was the attitude of these same Christians towards their Head.
Bajazet himself, thrown into a panic at the thought of Djem falling into the hands of a king who proposed to make a raid upon him, answered the Pope begging his Holiness to " have Djem removed from the tribulations of this world, and his soul transported to another, where he might enjoy a greater peace." For this service he offered the Pope 300,000 ducats, to be paid on delivery of the prince's body; and, if the price was high, so was the service required, for it would have ensured Bajazet a peace of mind he could not hope to enjoy while his brother lived.
This letter was intercepted by Giovanni della Rovere, the Prefect of Sinigaglia, who very promptly handed it to his brother, the Cardinal Giuliano. The cardinal, in his turn, laid it before the King of France, who now demanded of the Pope the surrender of the person of this Djem as a further hostage.
Alexander began by rejecting the king's proposals severally and collectively, but Charles pressed him to reconsider his refusal, and so, being again between the sword and the wall, the Pope was compelled to submit. A treaty was drawn up and signed on January 15, the king, on his side, promising to recognize the Pope and to uphold him in all his rights.
On the following day Charles made solemn act of veneration to the Pontiff in Consistory, kissing his ring and his foot, and professing obedience to him as the kings of France, his forbears, had ever done. Words for deeds!