At the time of his father's election to the throne of St. Peter, Cesare Borgia now in his eighteenth year was still at the University of Pisa.
It is a little odd, considering the great affection for his children which was ever one of Roderigo's most conspicuous characteristics, that he should not have ordered Cesare to Rome at once, to share in the general rejoicings. It has been suggested that Alexander wished to avoid giving scandal by the presence of his children at such a time. But that again looks like a judgement formed upon modern standards, for by the standards of his day one cannot conceive that he would have given very much scandal; moreover, it is to be remembered that Lucrezia and Giuffredo, at least, were in Rome at the time of their father's election to the tiara.
However that may be, Cesare did not quit Pisa until August of that year 1492, and even then not for Rome, but for Spoleto in accordance with his father's orders where he took up his residence in the castle. Thence he wrote.a letter to Piero de'Medici, which is interesting, firstly, as showing the good relations prevailing between them; secondly, as refuting a story in Guicciardini, wherewith that historian, ready, as ever, to belittle the Borgias, attempts to show him cutting a poor figure. He tells us 1 that, whilst at Pisa, Cesare had occasion to make an appeal to Piero de'Medici in the matter of a criminal case connected with one of his familiars; that he went to Florence and waited several hours in vain for an audience, whereafter he returned to Pisa " accounting himself despised and not a little injured."
1 Istoria d' Italia, torn. v.
No doubt Guicciardini is as mistaken in this as in many another matter, for the letter written from Spoleto expresses his regret that, on the occasion of his passage through Florence (on his way from Pisa to Spoleto), he should not have had time to visit Piero, particularly as there was a matter upon which he desired urgently to consult with him. He recommends to Piero his faithful Remolino, whose ambition it is to occupy the chair of canon law at the University of Pisa, and begs his good offices in that connection. That Juan Vera, Cesare's preceptor and the bearer of that letter, took back a favourable answer is highly probable, for in Fabroni's Hist. Acad. Pis an we find this Remolino duly established as a lecturer on canon law in the following year.
The letter is further of interest as showing Cesare's full consciousness of the importance of his position ; its tone and its signature " your brother, Cesar de Borgia, Elect of Valencia" being such as were usual between princes.
The two chief aims of Alexander VI, from the very beginning of his pontificate, were to re establish the power of the Church, which was then the most despised of the temporal States of Italy, and to promote the fortune of his children. Already on the very day of his coronation he conferred upon Cesare the bishopric of Valencia, whose revenues amounted to an annual yield of sixteen thousand ducats. For the time being, however, he had his hands very full of other matters, and it behoved him to move slowly at first and with the extremest caution.
The clouds of war were lowering heavily over Italy when Alexander came to St. Peter's throne, and it was his first concern to find for himself a safe position against the coming of the threatening storm. The chief menace to the general peace was Lodovico Maria Sforza, surnamed II Moro,1 who sat as regent for his nephew, Duke Gian Galeazzo, upon the throne of Milan. That regency he had usurped from Gian Galeazzo's mother, and he was now in a fair way to usurp the throne itself. He kept his nephew virtually a prisoner in the Castle of Pavia, together with his young bride, Isabella of Aragon, who had been sent thither by her father, the Duke of Calabria, heir to the crown of Naples.
Gian Galeazzo thus bestowed, Lodovico Maria went calmly about the business of governing, like one who did not mean to relinquish the regency save to become duke. But it happened that a boy was born to the young prisoners at Pavia, whereupon, spurred perhaps into activity by this parenthood and stimulated by the thought that they had now a son's interests to fight for as well as their own, they made appeal to King Ferrante of Naples that he should enforce his grandson in law's rights to the throne of Milan. King Ferrante could desire nothing better, for if his grandchild and her husband reigned in Milan, and by his favour and contriving, great should be his influence in the North of Italy. Therefore he stood their friend.
1 Touching Lodovico Maria's by name of "II Moro " which is generally translated as " The Moor," whilst in one writer we have found him mentioned as " Black Lodovico," Benedetto Varchi's explanation (in his Storia Fiorentina) may be of interest. He tells us that Lodovico was not so called on account of any swarthiness of complexion, as is supposed by Guicciardini, because, on the contrary, he was fair ; nor yet on account of his device, showing a Moorish squire, who, brush in hand, dusts the gown of a young woman in regal apparel, with the motto, " Per Italia nettar d'ogni bruttura " ; this device of the Moor, he tells us, was a rebus or pun upon the word " moro," which also means the mulberry, and was so meant by Lodovico. The mulberry burgeons at the end of winter and blossoms very early. Thus Lodovico symbolized his own prudence and readiness to seize opportunity betimes.
Matters were at this stage when Alexander VI ascended the papal throne.
This election gave Ferrante pause, for, as we have seen, he had schemed for a Pope devoted to his interests, who would stand by him in the coming strife, and his schemes were rudely shaken now. Whilst he was still cogitating the matter of his next move, the wretched Francesco Cibo (Pope Innocent's son) offered to sell the papal fiefs of Cervetri and Anguil lara, which had been made over to him by his father, to Gentile Orsini the head of his powerful house. And Gentile purchased them under a contract signed at the palace of Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, on September 3, for the sum of forty thousand ducats advanced him by Ferrante.