Vain were the exertions put forth by the Spanish cardinals to obtain Cesare's enlargement, and vainer still the efforts of his sister Lucrezia, who wrote letter after letter to Francesco Gonzaga of Mantua now Gonfalonier of the Church, and a man of influence at the Vatican imploring him to use his interest with the Pope to the same end.
Julius II remained unmoved, fearing the power of Cesare Borgia, and resolved that he should trouble Italy no more. On the score of that, no blame attaches to the Pope. The States which Borgia had conquered in the name of the Church should remain adherent to the Church. Upon that Julius was resolved, and the resolve was highly laudable. He would have no duke who controlled such a following as did Cesare, using those States as stepping stones to greater dominions in which, no doubt, he would later have absorbed them, alienating them, so, from the Holy See.
In all this Julius II was most fully justified. The odious matter in his conduct, however, is the abominable treachery it entailed, following as it did upon the undertaking by virtue of which he gained the tiara.
For some months after his arrival in Spain, Cesare was confined in the prison of Chinchilla, whence as a result, it is said, of an attempt on his part to throw the governor bodily over the battlements he was removed to the fortress of Medina del Campo, and kept well guarded by orders of the Pope.
Rumours that he had been liberated by the King of Spain overran the Romagna more than once, and set the country in a ferment, even reaching the Vatican and shaking the stout hearted Julius into alarm.
One chance of regaining his ancient might, and wreaking a sweet and terrific vengeance upon his betrayers came very close to him, but passed him by. This chance occurred in 1505, when Queen Isabella being dead King Ferdinand discovered that Gonzalo de Cordoba was playing him false in Naples. The Spanish king conceived a plan according to the chronicles of Zurita to employ Cesare as a flail for the punishment of the Great Captain. He proposed to liberate the duke, set him at the head of an army, and loose him upon Naples, trusting to the formidable alliance of Cesare's military talents with his hatred of Gonzalo who had betrayed him to work the will of his Catholic Majesty.
Unfortunately for Cesare, there were difficulties. Ferdinand's power was no longer absolute in Castille now that Isabella was dead. He sought to overcome these difficulties ; but the process was a slow one, and in the course of it, spurred also by increased proofs of his lieutenant's perfidy, Ferdinand lost patience, and determined the case having grown urgent to go to Naples in person to deal with Gonzalo.
Plainly, Cesare's good fortune, which once had been proverbial, had now utterly deserted him.
He had received news of what was afoot, and his hopes had run high once more, only to suffer cruel frustration when he learnt that Ferdinand had sailed, himself, for Naples. In his despair the duke roused himself to a last effort to win his freedom.
His treatment in prison was fairly liberal, such as is usually measured out to state prisoners of consideration. He was allowed his own chaplain and several attendants, and, whilst closely guarded and confined to the Homenaje Tower of the fortress, yet he was not oppressively restrained. He was accorded certain privileges and liberties; he enjoyed the faculty of corresponding with the outer world, and even of receiving visits. Amongst his visitors was the Count of Bena vente a powerful lord of the neighbourhood, who, coming under the spell of Cesare's fascination, became so attached to him, and so resolved to do his will and effect his liberation, that says Zurita he was prepared even to go the length of accomplishing it by force of arms should no other way present itself.1
Another way, however, did present itself, and Benavente and the duke hatched a plot of evasion in which they had the collaboration of the chaplain and a servant of the governor's, named Garcia.
One September night a cord was let down from the crenels of the tower, and by this the duke was to descend from his window to the castle ditch, where Benavente's men awaited him. Garcia was to go with him since, naturally, it would not be safe for the servants to remain behind, and Garcia now let himself down that rope, hand over hand, from the terrible height of the duke's window. It was only when he had reached the end of it that he discovered that the rope was not long enough, and that below him there was still a chasm that might well have appalled even desperate men.
To return was impossible. The duke above was growing impatient. Garcia loosed his hold, and dropped the remainder of the distance, breaking both his legs in the fall. Groaning, he lay there in the ditch, whilst hand over hand now came the agile, athletic duke, unconscious of his predecessor's fate, and of what awaited him at the end. He reached it, and was dangling there, perhaps undecided whether or not to take that daring leap, when suddenly his doubts were resolved for him. His evasion was already discovered. The castle was in alarm, and some one above him cut the rope and precipitated him into the ditch.
1 Sanuto confirms Zurita, in the main, by letters received by the Venetian Senate.
Benavente's men we do not know how many of them were at hand ran to him instantly. They found him seriously injured, and that he, too, had broken bones is beyond doubt. They lifted him up, and bore him with all speed to the horses. They contrived, somehow, to mount him upon one, and, holding him in the saddle, they rode off as fast as was possible under the circumstances. There was no time to go back for the unfortunate Garcia. The castle was all astir by now to stop the fugitives, and to have returned would have been to suffer capture themselves as well as the duke, without availing the servant.
So poor Garcia was left to his fate. He was found by the governor where he had fallen, and he was immediately put to death.