1 In Mem. Storiche dei Monarchi Ottomani.
Now the place where Djem died, and the date of his death, were public facts about which there was no mystery; they were to be ascertained as they are still by any painstaking examiner. His poisoning, on the other hand, was admittedly a secret matter, the truth of which it was impossible to ascertain with utter and complete finality. Yet of this poisoning they know all the secrets, these four nimble writers who cannot correctly tell us where or when the man died!
We will turn from the fictions they have left us which, alas ! have but too often been preferred by subsequent writers to the true facts which lay just as ready to their hands, but of course were less sensational and we will consider instead the evidence of those contemporaries who do, at least, know the time and place of Djem's decease.
If any living man might have known of a secret poison of the Borgias at this stage, that man was Burchard the Caeremoniarius, and, had he known of it, not for a moment would he have been silent on the point. Yet not a word of this secret poison shall you find in his diaries, and concerning the death of Djem he records that " on February 25 died at the Castle of Capua the said Djem, through meat or drink that disagreed with him."
Panvinio, who, being a Neapolitan, was not likely to be any too friendly to the Pope as, indeed, he proves again and again tells us positively that Djem died of dysentry at Capua.1
Sanuto, writing to the Council of Ten, says that Djem took ill at Capua of a catarrh, which " descended to his stomach " ; and that so he died.
And now mark Sanuto's reasoning upon his death, Just so to his own infinite loss, not only of the 40,000 ducats yearly, but of the hold which the custody of Djem gave him upon the Turks.
1 Vitis Pontif. Rom, which is the very reasoning we should ourselves employ finally to dispose of this chatter of poisoning, did we not find it awaiting quotation, more authoritative therefore than it could be from us, and utterly irrefutable and conclusive in its logic. " This death is very harmful to the King of France, to all Italy, and chiefly to the Pope, who is thereby deprived of 40,000 ducats yearly, which was paid him by his [Djem's] brother for his custody. And the king showed himself greatly grieved by this death, and it was suspected that the Pope had poisoned him, which, however, was not to be believed, as it would have been to his own loss."
The reason assigned by those who charged Alexander with this crime was the bribe of 300,000 ducats offered by Bajazet in the intercepted letter. The offer which, incidentally, had never reached the Pope was instantly taken as proof of its acceptance a singular case of making cause follow upon effect, a method all too prevalent with the Borgian chroniclers. Moreover, they entirely overlooked the circumstance that, for Djem's death in the hands of France, the Pope could make no claim upon Bajazet.
Finally though the danger be incurred of becoming tedious upon this point they also forgot that, years before, Bajazet had offered such bribes to Charles for the life of Djem as had caused the Knights of Rhodes to remove the Turk from French keeping. Upon that circumstance they might, had it sorted with their inclinations, have set up a stronger case of poisoning against Charles than against the Pope, and they would not have been put to the necessity of inventing a toxin that never had place in any earthly pharmacopoeia.
It is not, by this, suggested that there is any shadow of a case against Charles. Djem died a perfectly natural death, as is established by the only authorities competent to speak upon the matter, and his death was against the interests of everybody save his brother Bajazet; and against nobody's so much as the Pope's.