Alexander protested strongly against this illegal transaction, for Cervetri and Anguillara were fiefs of the Church, and neither had Cibo the right to sell nor Orsini the right to buy them. Moreover, that they should be in the hands of a powerful vassal of Naples such as Orsini suited the Pope as little as it suited Lodovico Maria Sforza. It stirred the latter into taking measures against the move he feared Ferrante might make to enforce Gian Galeazzo's claims.
Lodovico Maria went about this with that sly shrewdness so characteristic of him, so well symbolized by his mulberry badge a humorous shrewdness almost, which makes him one of the most delightful rogues in history, just as he was one of the most debonair and cultured. He may indeed be considered as one of the types of the subtle, crafty, selfish politician that was the ideal of Macchiavelli.
You see him, then, effacing the tight lipped, cunning smile from his comely face and pointing out to Venice with a grave, sober countenance how little it can suit her to have the Neapolitan Spaniards ruffling it in the north, as must happen if Ferrante has his way with Milan. The truth of this was so obvious that Venice made haste to enter into a league with him, and into the camp thus formed came, for their own sakes, Mantua, Ferrara, and Siena. The league was powerful enough thus to cause Ferrante to think twice before he took up the cudgels for Gian Galeazzo. If Lodovico could include the Pope, the league's might would be so paralysing that Ferrante would cease to think at all about his grandchildren's affairs.
Foreseeing this, Ferrante had perforce to dry the tears Guicciardini has it that he shed, and, replacing them by a smile, servile and obsequious, repaired, hat in hand, to protest his friendship for the Pope's Holiness.
And so, in December of 1492, came the Prince of Altamura Ferrante's second son to Rome to lay his father's homage at the feet of the Pontiff, and at the same time to implore his Holiness to refuse the King of Hungary the dispensation the latter was asking of the Holy See, to enable him to repudiate his wife, Donna Leonora Ferrante's daughter.
Altamura was received in Rome and sumptuously entertained by the Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere. This cardinal had failed, as we have seen, to gain the Pontificate for himself, despite the French influence by which he had been supported. Writhing under his defeat, and hating the man who had defeated him with a hatred so bitter and venomous that the imprint of it is on almost every act of his life from the facilities he afforded for the assignment to Orsini of the papal fiefs that Cibo had to sell he was already scheming for the overthrow of Alexander. To this end he needed great and powerful friends ; to this end had he lent himself to the Cibo-Orsini transaction; to this end did he manifest himself the warm well wisher of Ferrante; to this end did he cordially welcome the latter's son and envoy, and promise his support to Ferrante's petition.
But the Holy Father was by no means as anxious for the friendship of the old wolf of Naples. The matter of the King of Hungary was one that required consideration, and, meanwhile, he may have hinted slyly there was between Naples and Rome a little matter of two fiefs to be adjusted.
Thus his most shrewd Holiness thought to gain a little time, and in that time he might look about him and consider what alliances would suit his interests best.
At this Cardinal della Rovere, in high dudgeon, flung out of Rome and away to his Castle of Ostia to fortify to wield the sword of St. Paul, since he had missed the keys of St. Peter. It was a shrewd move. He foresaw the injured dignity of the Spanish House of Naples, and Ferrante's wrath at the Pope's light treatment of him and apathy for his interests; and the cardinal knew that with Ferrante were allied the mighty houses of Colonna and Orsini. Thus, by his political divorcement from the Holy See, he flung in his lot with theirs, hoping for red war and the deposition of Alexander.
But surely he forgot Milan and Lodovico Maria, whose brother, Ascanio Sforza, was at the Pope's elbow, the energetic friend to whose efforts Alexander owed the tiara, and who was therefore hated by della Rovere perhaps as bitterly as Alexander himself.
Alexander went calmly about the business of fortifying the Vatican and the Castle of Sant' Angelo, and gathering mercenaries into his service. And, lest any attempt should be made upon his life when he went abroad, he did so with an imposing escort of men at arms; which so vexed and fretted King Ferrante, that he did not omit to comment upon it in scathing terms in a letter that presently we shall consider. For the rest, the Pope's Holiness preserved an unruffled front in the face of the hostile preparations that were toward in the kingdom of Naples, knowing that he could check them when he chose to lift his finger and beckon the Sforza into alliance. And presently Naples heard an alarming rumour that Lodovico Maria had, in fact, made overtures to the Pope, and that the Pope had met these advances to the extent of betrothing his daughter Lucrezia to Giovanni Sforza, Lord of Pesaro and cousin to Lodovico.
So back to the Vatican went the Neapolitan envoys with definite proposals of an alliance to be cemented by a marriage between Giuffredo Borgia aged twelve and Ferrante's granddaughter Lucrezia of Aragon. The Pope, with his plans but half matured as yet, temporized, was evasive, and continued to arm and to recruit. At last, his arrangements completed, he abruptly broke off his negotiations with Naples, and on April 25, 1493, publicly proclaimed that he had joined the northern league.
The fury of Ferrante, who realized that he had been played with and outwitted, was expressed in a rabid letter to his ambassador at the Court of Spain.
" This Pope," he wrote, " leads a life that is the abomination of all, without respect for the seat he occupies. He cares for nothing save to aggrandize his children, by fair means or foul, and this is his sole desire. From the beginning of his Pontificate he has done nothing but disturb the peace, molesting everybody, now in one way, now in another. Rome is more full of soldiers than of priests, and when he goes abroad it is with troops of men at arms about him, with helmets on their heads and lances by their sides, all his thoughts being given to war and to our hurt; nor does he overlook anything that can be used against us, not only inciting in France the Prince of Salerno and other of our rebels, but befriending every bad character in Italy whom he deems our enemy ; and in all things he proceeds with the fraud and dissimulation natural to him, and to make money he sells even the smallest office and preferment."