To Cesare this would have been the thin end of a mighty edge. Here was a chance to begin all over again, and, beginning thus, backed by Spanish arms, there was no saying how far he might have gone. Meanwhile, what a beginning ! To avenge himself thus upon that Florentine Republic which, under the protection of France, had dared at every turn to flout him and had been the instrument of his ultimate ruin ! Sweet to him would have been the poetic justice he would have administered as sweet to him as it would have been terrible to Florence, upon which he would have descended like another scourge of God.
Briskly and with high running hopes he set about his preparations during that spring of 1504 what time the Pope's Holiness in Rome was seeking to justify his treachery by heaping odium upon the Borgias. Thus he thought to show that if he had broken faith, he had broken faith with knaves deserving none. It was in pursuit of this that Michele da Corella was now pressed with questions, which, however, yielded nothing, and that Asquino de Colloredo (the sometime servant of Cardinal Michaeli) was tortured into confessing that he had poisoned his master at the instigation of Alexander and Cesare as has been seen which confession Pope Julius was very quick to publish.
But in Naples, it may well be that Cesare cared nought for these matters, busy and hopeful as he was just then. He dispatched Baldassare da Scipione to Rome to enlist what lances he could find, and Scipione put it about that his lord would soon be returning to his own and giving his enemies something to think about.
And then, suddenly, out of clearest heavens, fell a thunderbolt to shiver this last hope.
On the night of May 26, as Cesare was leaving Gonzalo's quarters, where he had supped, an officer stepped forward to demand his sword. He was under arrest.
Julius II had out manceuvred him. He had written to Spain setting forth what was his agreement with Valentinois in the matter of the Romagna the original agreement which was the price of the Pontificate, had, of course, been conveniently effaced from the pontifical memory. He addressed passionate complaints to Ferdinand and Isabella that Gonzalo de Cordoba and Cardinal Carvajal between them were affording Valentinois the means to break that agreement, and to undertake matters that were hostile to the Holy See. And Ferdinand and Isabella had put it upon Gonzalo de Cordoba, that most honourable and gallant captain, to do this thing in gross violation of his safe conduct and plighted word to Valentinois. It was a deed under the shame of which the Great Captain confessedly laboured to the end of his days, as his memory has laboured under it ever since. For great captains are not afforded the immunity enjoyed by priests and popes jointly with other wearers of the petticoat from the consequences of falsehood and violated trust.
Fierce and bitter were Valentinois's reproaches of the Great Captain for this treachery as fierce and bitter as they were unavailing. On August 20, 1504, Cesare Borgia took ship for Spain a prisoner bound for a Spanish dungeon. Thus, at the early age of twenty nine, he passed from Italy and the deeds that well might have filled a lifetime.
Conspicuous amid those he left behind him who remained loyal to their duke was Baldassare Scipione, who published throughout Christendom a cartel, wherein he challenged to trial by combat any Spaniard who dared deny that the Duke of Valentinois had been detained a prisoner in Naples in spite of the safe conduct granted him in the name of Ferdinand and Isabella, " with great shame and infamy to their crown." 1
This challenge was never taken up.
Amongst other loyal ones was that fine soldier of fortune, Taddeo della Volpe, who, in his Florentine prison, refused all offers to enter the service of the Signory until he had learnt that his lord was gone from Italy.
Fracassa and Mirafuente had held Forli until they received guarantees for Cesare's safety (after he had left Ostia to repair to the Spanish camp). They then rode out, with the honours of war, lance on thigh. Dionigio di Naldo, that hardy captain of foot, entered the service of Venice; but to the end he wore the device of his dear lord, and imposed the same upon all who served under his banner.
Don Michele da Corella was liberated by Julius II after an interrogatory which can have revealed nothing defamatory to Cesare or his father ; as it is unthinkable that a Pope who did all that man could do to ruin the House of Borgia and to befoul its memory, should have preserved silence touching any such revelations as were hoped for when Corella was put to torture. That most faithful of all Cesare's officers and sharer of the odium that has been heaped upon Cesare's name entered the service of the Signory of Florence.
1 Quoted by Alvisi, on the authority of a letter of Luigi da Porto, March 16, 1510, in Latere Storiche.