Giuliano della Rovere, Cardinal of S. Pietro in Vincoli, had much in his character that was reminiscent of his terrible uncle, Sixtus IV. Like that uncle of his, he had many failings highly unbecoming any Christian laic or ecclesiastic which no one has attempted to screen ; and, incidentally, he cultivated morality in his private life and observed his priestly vows of chastity as little as did any other churchman of his day. For you may see him, through the eyes of Paride de Grassi,1 unable one Good Friday to remove his shoes for the adoration of the cross in consequence of his foot's affliction ex morbo gallico. But with one great and splendid virtue was he endowed in the eyes of the enemies of the House of Borgia contemporary, and subsequent down to our times a most profound, unchristian, and mordacious hatred of all Borgias.
Roderigo Borgia had defeated him in the Conclave of 1492, and for twelve years had kept him out of the coveted pontificate. You have seen how he found expression for his furious jealousy at his rival's success. You have seen him endeavouring to his utmost to accomplish the deposition of the Borgia Pope, wielding to that end the lever of simony and seeking a fulcrum for it, first in the King of France and later in Ferdinand and Isabella; but failing hopelessly in both instances. You have seen him, when he realized the failure of an attempt which had made Rome too dangerous for him and compelled him to remain in exile, suddenly veering round to fawn and flatter and win the friendship of one whom his enmity could not touch.
1 Burchard's successor in the office of Master of Ceremonies.
This man who, as Julius II, was presently to succeed Pius III, has been accounted a shining light of virtue amid the dark turpitude of the Church in the Renaissance. An ignis fatuus, perhaps; a Jack o'-lanthorn begotten of putrescence. Surely no more than that.
Dr. Jacob Burckhardt, in that able work of his to which reference already has been made, follows the well worn path of unrestrained invective against the Borgias, giving to the usual empty assertions the place which should be assigned to evidence and argument. Like his predecessors along that path, he causes Giu liano della Rovere to shine heroically by contrast a foil to throw into greater relief the blackness of Alexander. But he carries assertion rather further than do others when he says of Cardinal della Rovere that " He ascended the steps of St. Peter's Chair without simony and amid general applause, and with him ceased, at all events, the undisguised traffic in the highest offices of the Church."
Other writers in plenty have suggested this, but none has quite so plainly and resoundingly thrown down the gauntlet, which we will make bold to lift.
That Dr. Burckhardt wrote in other than good faith is not to be imputed. It must therefore follow that an entry in the Diarium of the Caerimoniarius under date of October 29, 1503, escaped him utterly in the course of his researches. For the Diarium informs us that on that day, in the Apostolic Palace, Giuliano della Rovere, Cardinal of S. Pietro in Vincoli, concluded the terms of an agreement with the Duke of Valentinois and the latter's following of Spanish cardinals, by which he undertook that, in consideration of his receiving the votes of these Spanish cardinals and being elected Pope, he would confirm Cesare in his office of Gonfalonier and Captain-General, and would preserve him in the dominion of the Romagna. And, in consideration of that undertaking, the Spanish cardinals, on their side, promised to give him their suffrages.
Here are the precise words in which Burchard records the transaction :
" Eadem die, 29 Octobris, Rmus. D. S. Petri ad Vincula venit in palatio apostolico cum duce Valentino et cardinalibus suis Hispanis et concluserunt capitula eorum per que, inter alia, cardinalis S. Petri ad Vincula, postquam esset papa, crearet confalon ierium Ecclesiae generalem ducem ac ei faveret et in statibus suis (relinqueret) et vice versa dux pape; et promiserunt omnes cardinalis Hispani dare votum pro Cardinali S. Petri ad Vincula ad papatum."
If that does not entail simony and sacrilege, then such things do not exist at all. More, you shall hunt in vain for any accusation so authoritative, formal and complete, regarding the simony practised by Alexander VI on his election. And this same Julius, moreover, was the Pope who later was to launch his famous Bull de Simoniaca Electione, to add another stain to the besmirched escutcheon of the Borgia Pontiff.
His conciliation of Cesare and his obtaining, thus, the support of the Spanish cardinals, who, being Alexander's creatures, were now Cesare's very faithful servants, ensured the election of della Rovere; for, whilst those cardinals' votes did not suffice to place him in St. Peter's Chair, they would abundantly have sufficed to have kept him out of it had Cesare so desired them.
In coming to terms with Cardinal della Rovere, Cesare made the first great mistake of his career, took the first step towards ruin. He should have known better than to have trusted such a man. He should have remembered the ancient bitter rancour ; should have recognized, in the amity of later times, the amity of the self seeker, and mistrusted it. But della Rovere had acquired a reputation for honesty and for being a man of his word. How far he deserved it you may judge from what is presently to follow. He had acquired it, however, and Cesare, to his undoing, attached faith to that reputation. He may, to some extent, have counted upon the fact that, of Cardinal della Rovere's bastard children, only a daughter Felice della Rovere survived. Raffaele, the last of his bastard boys, had died a year ago. Thus, Cesare may have concluded that the cardinal having no sons whose fortunes he must advance, would lack temptation to break faith with him.
From all this it resulted that, at the Conclave of November i, Giuliano della Rovere was elected Pope, and took the name of Julius II; whilst Valentinois, confident now that his future was assured, left the Castle of Sant'Angelo to take up his residence at the Vatican, in the Belvedere, with forty gentlemen constituting his suite.