(v) " Valentinois . . . said that what had not been done at breakfast might be done at supper." It will be observed that Capello never once considers it necessary to give his authorities for anything that he states. It becomes, perhaps, more particularly noteworthy than usual in the case of this reported speech of Cesare's.
He omits to say to whom Cesare addressed those sinister words, and who reported them to him. The statement is hardly one to be accepted without that very necessary mention of authorities, nor can we conceive Capello omitting them had he possessed them.
It will be seen that it is scarcely necessary to go outside of Capello's own relation for the purpose of traversing the statements contained in it, so far as the death of Alfonso of Aragon is concerned.
It is, however, still to be considered that, if Alfonso knew who had attempted his life as Capello states that he told the Pope and knew that he was in hourly danger of death from Valentinois, it may surely be taken for granted that he would have imparted the information to the Neapolitan doctor sent him by his uncle, who must have had his confidence.
We know that, after the prince's death, the physician and his hunchback assistant were arrested, but subsequently released. They returned to Naples, and in Naples, if not elsewhere, the truth must have been known definite and authentic facts from the lips of eye witnesses, not mere matters of rumour, as was the case in Rome. It is to Neapolitan writings, then, that we must turn for the truth of this affair ; and yet from Naples all that we find is a rumour the echo of the Roman rumour " They say" writes the Venetian ambassador at the Court of King Federigo, " that he was killed by the Pope's son."
A more mischievous document than Capello's Relatione can seldom have found its way into the pages of history ; it is the prime source of several of the unsubstantiated accusations against Cesare Borgia upon which subsequent writers have drawn accepting without criticism and from which they have formed their conclusions as to the duke's character. Even in our owe times we find the learned Gregorovius following Capello's relation step by step, and dealing out this matter of the murder of the Duke of Biselli in his own paraphrases, as so much substantiated, unquestionable fact. We find in his Lucrezia Borgia the following statement : " The affair was no longer a mystery. Cesare himself publicly declared that he had killed the duke because his life had been attempted by the latter."
To say that Cesare " publicly declared that he had killed the duke" is to say a very daring thing, and is dangerously to improve upon Capello. If it is true that Cesare made this public declaration how does it happen that no one but Capello heard him ? for in all other documents there is no more than offered us a rumour of how Alfonso died. Surely it is to be supposed that, had Cesare made any such declaration, the letters from the ambassadors would have rung with it. Yet they will offer you nothing but statements of what is being rumoured!
Nor does Gregorovius confine himself to that in his sedulous following of Capello's Relation. He serves up out of Capello the lying story of the murder of Pedro Caldes. " What," he says of Cesare, to support his view that Cesare murdered Alfonso of Aragon, " could be beyond this terrible man who had poignarded the Spaniard Pedro Caldes . . . under the Pope's very cloak, so that his blood spurted up into the Pope's face ? " This in his History of Rome. In his Lucrezia Borgia he almost improves upon it when he says that " The Venetian ambassador, Paolo Capello, reports how Cesare Borgia stabbed the chamberlain Per otto, etc., but Burchard makes no mention of the fact" Of the fact of the stabbing, Burchard certainly makes no mention ; but he does mention that the man was accidentally drowned, as has been considered. It is again and more flagrantly than ever a case of proving Cesare guilty of a crime of which there is no conclusive evidence by charging him with another, which in this instance there is actually evidence that he did not commit. But this is by the way.
Burchard's entries in his diary relating to the assault upon Alfonso of Aragon can no more escape the criticism of the thoughtful than can Capello's relation. His forty horsemen, for instance, need explaining. Apart from the fact that this employment of forty horsemen would be an altogether amazing and incredible way to set about the murder of a single man, it is to be considered that such a troop, drawn up in the square before St. Peter's, must of necessity have attracted some attention. It was the first hour of the night, remember according to Burchard that is to say, at dusk. Presumably, too, those horsemen were waiting when the prince arrived. How then, did he and why was he allowed to pass them, only to be assailed in ascending the steps ? Burchard, presumably, did not himself see these horsemen ; certainly he cannot have seen them escorting the murderers to the Pertusa Gate. Therefore he must have had the matter reported to him. Naturally enough, had the horsemen existed, they must have been seen. How, then, does it happen that Capello did not hear of them ? nor the Florentine ambassador, who says that the murderers were four, nor any one else apparently ?
To turn for a moment to the Florentine ambassador's letters upon the subject, we find in this other Capello Francesco Capello was his name accounts which differ alike from Paolo Capello's and from Burchard's stories. But he is careful to say that he is simply repeating the rumours that are abroad, and cites several different versions that are current, adding that the truth of the affair is not known to anybody. His conclusions, however, particularly those given in cipher, point to Cesare Borgia as the perpetrator of the deed, and hint at some such motive of retaliation for an attempt upon his own life as that which is given by the ambassador of Venice.
There is much mystery in the matter, despite Gregorovius's assertion to the contrary mystery which mere assertion will not dissipate. This conclusion, however, it is fair to draw : if, on Capello's evidence, we are to accept it that Cesare Borgia is responsible for the death of Alfonso of Aragon, then, on the same evidence, we must accept the motive as well as the deed. We must accept as equally exact his thrice repeated statement in letters to the Senate that the prince had planned Cesare's death by posting crossbow men to shoot him.1
Either we must accept all, or we must reject all, that Capello tells us. If we reject all, then we are left utterly without information as to how Alfonso of Aragon died. If we accept all, then we find that it was as a measure of retaliation that Cesare compassed the death of his brother in law, which made it not a murder, but a private execution justifiable under the circumstances of the provocation received and as the adjustment of these affairs was understood in the Cinquecento.
1 It is extremely significant that Capello's Relatione contains no mention of Alfonso's plot against Cesare's life, a matter which, as we have seen, had figured so repeatedly in that ambassador's dispatches from Rome at the time of the event. This omission is yet another proof of the malicious spirit by which the " relation " was inspired. The suppression of anything that might justify a deed attributed to Cesare reveals how much defamation and detraction were the aims of this Venetian.