At about the same time that Burchard was making in his Diarium those entries which reflect so grossly upon the Pope and Lucrezia, Gianluca Pozzi, the ambassador of Ferrara at the Vatican, was writing the following letter to his master, Duke Ercole, Lucrezia's father in law elect :
" This evening, after supper, I accompanied Messer Gerardo Saraceni to visit the Most Illustrious Madonna Lucrezia in your Excellency's name and that of the Most Illustrious Don Alfonso. We entered into a long discussion touching various matters. In truth she showed herself a prudent, discreet, and good natured lady." 1
The handsome, athletic Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, with his brothers Sigismondo and Fernando, had arrived in Rome on December 23 with the imposing escort that was to accompany their brother Alfonso's bride back to Ferrara.
Cesare was prominent in the welcome given them. Never, perhaps, had he made greater display than on the occasion of his riding out to meet the Ferrarese, accompanied by no fewer than 4,000 men at arms, and mounted on a great war horse whose trappings of cloth of gold and jewels were estimated at 10,000 ducats.
The days and nights that followed, until Lucrezia's departure a fortnight later, were days and nights of gaiety and merry making at the Vatican ; in banquets, dancing, the performance of comedies, masques, etc., was the time made to pass as agreeably as might be for the guests from Ferrara, and in all Cesare was conspicuous, either for the grace and zest with which he nightly danced, or for the skill and daring which he displayed in the daily joustings and entertainments, and more particularly in the bull fight that was included in them.
1 See Gregorovius's Lucrezia Borgia.
Lucrezia was splendidly endowed, to the extent, it was estimated, of 300,000 ducats, made up by 100,000 ducats in gold, her jewels and equipage, and the value of the Castles of Pieve and Cento. Her departure from Rome took place on January 6, and so she passes out of this chronicle, which, after all, has been little concerned with her.
Of the honour done her everywhere on that journey to Ferrara, the details are given elsewhere, particularly in the book devoted to her history and rehabilitation by Herr Gregorovius. After all, the real Lucrezia Borgia fills a comparatively small place in the actual history of her house. It is in the fictions concerning her family that she is given such unenviable importance, and presented as a Maenad, a poisoner, and worse. In reality she appears to us, during her life in Rome, as a rather childish, naive, and entirely passive figure, important only in so far as she found employment at her father's or brother's hands for the advancement of their high ambitions and unscrupulous aims.
In the popular imagination she lives chiefly as a terrific poisoner, an appalling artist in venenation. It is remarkable that this should be the case, for not even the scandal of her day so much as suggests that she was connected directly or even indirectly with a single case of poisoning. No doubt that popular conception owes its being entirely to Victor Hugo's drama.
Away from Rome and settled in Ferrara from the twenty second year of her age, to become anon its duchess, her life is well known and admits of no argument. The archives of the State she ruled show her devout, god fearing, and beloved in life, and deeply mourned in death by a sorrowing husband and a sorrowing people. Not a breath of scandal touches her from the moment that she quits the scandalous environment of the Papal Court.
Cesare continued at the Vatican after her departure. His duchess was to have come to Rome in that Easter of 1502, and it had been disposed that the ladies and gentlemen who had gone as escort of honour with Lucrezia should proceed after leaving her in Ferrara to Lombardy, to do the like office by Charlotte d'Albret, and, meeting her there, accompany her to Rome. She was coming with her brother, the Cardinal Amanieu d'Albret, and bringing with her Cesare's little daughter, Louise de Valentinois, now two years of age. But the duchess fell ill at the last moment, and was unable to undertake the journey, of which Cardinal d'Albret brought word to Rome, where he arrived on February 7.
Ten days later Cesare set out with his father for Piombino, for which purpose six galleons awaited them at Civita Vecchia under the command of Lodovico Mosca, the captain of the Pontifical navy. On these the Pope and his son embarked, upon their visit to the scene of the latest addition to Cesare's evergrowing dominions.
They landed at Piombino on February 21, and made a solemn entrance into the town, the Pope carried in state in the Sedia Gestatoria, under a canopy, attended by six cardinals and six singers from the Sixtine Chapel, whilst Cesare was accompanied by a number of his gentlemen.
They abode four days in Piombino, whence they crossed to Elba, for the purpose of disposing for the erection there of two fortresses a matter most probably entrusted to Leonardo da Vinci, who continued in the ducal train as architect and engineer.
On March I they took ship to return to Rome ; but they were detained at sea for five days by a tempest which seems to have imperilled the vessels. The Pope was on board the captain's galley with his cardinals in waiting and servants, and when these were reduced by the storm and the imminent danger to a state of abject terror, the Pope this old man of seventy one sat calm and intrepid, occasionally crossing himself and pronouncing the name of Jesus, and encouraging the very sailors by his example as much as by his words.
In Piombino Cesare had left Michele da Corella as his governor. This Corella was a captain of foot, a soldier of fortune, who from the earliest days of Cesare's military career had followed the duke's fortunes the very man who is alleged to have strangled Alfonso of Aragon by Cesare's orders. He is generally assumed to have been a Spaniard, and is commonly designated as Michelotto, or Don Miguel; but Alvisi supposes him, from his name of Corella, to have been a Venetian, and he tells us that by his fidelity to Cesare and the implicit manner in which he executed his master's orders, he earned as is notorious considerable hatred. He has been spoken of, indeed, as the ante damnee of Cesare Borgia; but that is a purely romantic touch akin to that which gave the same designation to Richelieu's Father Joseph.
The Romagna was at this time administered for Cesare Borgia by Ramiro de Lorqua, who, since the previous November, had held the office of Governor in addition to that of Lieutenant-General in which he had been earlier invested. His power in the Romagna was now absolute, all Cesare's other officers, even the very treasurers, being subject to him.
He was a man of some fifty years of age, violent and domineering, feared by all, and the dispenser of a harsh justice which had at least the merit of an impartiality that took no account of persons.
Bernardi gives us an instance of the man's stern, uncompromising, pitiless nature. On January 29, 1502, two malefactors were hanged in Faenza. The rope suspending one of them broke while the fellow was alive, and the crowd into which he tumbled begged for mercy for him at first, then, swayed by pity, the people resolved to save him in spite of the officers of justice who demanded his surrender. Preventing his recapture, the mob bore him off to the Church of the Cerviti. The Lieutenant of Faenza came to demand the person of the criminal, but he was denied by the Prior, who claimed to extend him sanctuary.
But the days of sanctuary were overpast, and the laws of the time held that any church or consecrated place in which a criminal took refuge should ipso facto be deemed unconsecrated by his pursuers, and further, that any ecclesiastic sheltering such a fugitive did so under peril of excommunication from his bishop. This law Ramiro accounted it his duty to enforce when news was carried to him at Imola of what had happened.
He came at once to Faenza, and,compelling the Prior by actual force to yield up the man he sheltered, he hanged the wretch, for the second time, from a window of the Palace of the Podesta. At the same time he seized several who were alleged to have been ringleaders of the fellow's rescue from the hands of the officers, and made the citizens of Faenza compromise for the lives of these by payment of a fine of 10,000 ducats, giving them a month in which to find the money.
The Faentini sent their envoys to Ramiro to intercede with him ; but that harsh man refused so much as to grant them audience which was well for them, for, as a consequence, the Council sent ambassadors to Rome to submit the case to the Pope's Holiness and to the Dukeof Valentinois, together with a petition that the fine should be remitted a petition that was readily granted.
Harsh as it was, however, Ramiro's rule was salutary, its very harshness necessary in a province where lawlessness had become a habit through generations of misgovernment. Under Cesare's dominion the change already was remarkable. During his two years of administration to count from its commencement the Romagna was already converted from a seething hell of dissensions, disorders and crimes chartered brigandage and murder into a powerful State, law abiding and orderly, where human life and personal possessions found zealous protection, and where those who disturbed the peace met with a justice that was never tempered by mercy.
A strong hand was wanted there, and the duke, supreme judge of the tools to do his work, ruled the Romagna and crushed its turbulence by means of the iron hand of Ramiro de Lorqua.
It was also under the patronage of Valentinois that the first printing press of any consequence came to be established in Italy. This was set up at Fano by Girolamo Sancino in 1501, and began the issue of worthy books. One of the earliest works undertaken (says Alvisi) was the printing of the Statutes of Fano for the first time in January of 1502. And it was approved by the Council, civil and ecclesiastical, that Sancino should undertake this printing of the Statutes " Ad perpetuam memoriam Illmi. Domini nostri Ducis."