Cesare was mounted on a superb war horse that was all empanoplied in a cuirass of gold leaves of exquisite workmanship, its head surmounted by a golden artichoke, its tail confined in a net of gold abundantly studded with pearls. The duke was in black velvet, through the slashings of which appeared the gold brocade of the undergarment. Suspended from a chain said by Brantome's poet to be worth thirty thousand ducats, a medallion of diamonds blazed upon his breast, and in his black velvet cap glowed those same wonderful rubies that we saw on the occasion of his departure from Rome. His boots were of black velvet, laced with gold thread that was studded with gems.
The rear of the cavalcade was brought up by more mules and the chariots bearing his plate and tents and all the other equipage with which a prince was wont to travel.
It is said by some that his horse was shod with solid gold, and there is also a story pretty, but probably untrue that some of his mules were shod in the same metal, and that, either because the shoes were loosely attached of intent, or because the metal, being soft, parted readily from the hoofs, these golden shoes were freely cast and left as largesse for those who might care to take them.
The Bishop of Rouen that same Georges d'Amboise for whom he was bringing the red hat the Seneschal of Toulouse and several gentlemen of the Court went to meet him on the bridge, and escorted him up through the town to the castle, where the king awaited him. Louis XII gave him a warm and cordial welcome, showing him then and thereafter the friendliest consideration. Not so, however, the lady he was come to woo. It was said in Venice that she was in love with a young Breton gentleman in the following of Queen Anne. Whether this was true, and Carlotta acted in the matter in obedience to her own feelings, or whether she was merely pursuing the instructions she had received from Naples, she obstinately and absolutely refused to entertain or admit the suit of Cesare.
Delia Rovere, on January 18, wrote to the Pope from Nantes, whither the Court had moved, a letter in which he sang the praises of the young Duke of Valentinois.
" By his modesty, his readiness, his prudence, and his other virtues he has known how to earn the affections of every one." Unfortunately, there was one important exception, as the cardinal was forced to add : " The damsel, either out of her own contrariness, or because so induced by others, which is easier to believe, constantly refuses to hear of the wedding."
Della Rovere was quite justified in finding it easier to believe that Carlotta was acting upon instructions from others, for, when hard pressed to consent to the alliance, she demanded that the Neapolitan ambassador should himself say that her father desired her to do so a statement which, it seems, the ambassador could not bring himself to make.
Baffled by the persistence of that refusal, Cesare all but returned a bachelor to Italy. So far, indeed, was his departure a settled matter that in February of 1489, at the Castle of Loches, he received the king's messages for the Pope. Yet Louis hesitated to let him go without having bound his Holiness to his own interests by stronger bonds.
In the task of tracing the annals of the Borgias, the honest seeker after truth is compelled to proceed axe in hand that he may hack himself a way through the tangle of irresponsible or malicious statements that have grown up about this subject, driving their roots deep into the soil of history. Not a single chance does malignity, free or chartered, appear to have missed for the invention of flagitious falsehoods concerning this family, or for the no less flagitious misinterpretation of known facts.
Amid a mass of written nonsense dealing with Cesare's sojourn in France is the oft repeated, totally unproven statement that he withheld from Louis the dispensation enabling the latter to marry Anne of Brittany, until such time as he should have obtained from Louis all that he desired of him in short, that he sold him the dispensation for the highest price he could extract. The only motive served by this statement is once more to show Alexander and his son in the perpetration of simoniacal practices, and the statement springs, beyond doubt, from a passage in Macchiavelli's Extracts from Dispatches to the Ten. Elsewhere has been mentioned the confusion prevailing in those extracts, and their unreliability as historical evidences. That circumstance can be now established. The passage in question runs as follows :
" This dispensation was given to Valentinois when he went to France without any one being aware of its existence, with orders to sell it dearly to the king, and not until satisfied of the wife and his other desires. And, whilst these things were toward, the king learnt from the Bishop of Ceuta that the dispensation already existed, and so, without having received or even seen it the marriage was celebrated, and for revealing this the Bishop of Ceuta was put to death by order of Valentinois."
Now, to begin with, Macchiavelli admits that what passed between Pope and duke was secret. How, then, does he pretend to possess these details of it ? But, leaving that out of the question, his statement so abundantly repeated by later writers is traversed by every one of the actual facts of the case.
That there can have been no secret at all about the dispensation is made plain by the fact that Manfredi, the Ferrarese ambassador, writes of it to Duke Ercole on October 2 the day after Cesare's departure from Rome. And as for the death of Fernando d'Almeida, Bishop of Ceuta, this did not take place then, nor until two years later (on January 7, 1499) at tne siege of Forli, whither he had gone in Cesare's train as is related in Bernardi's Chronicles and Bonoli's history of that town.
To return to the matter of Cesare's imminent departure unwed from France, Louis XII was not the only monarch to whom this was a source of anxiety. Keener far was the anxiety experienced on that score by the King of Naples, who feared that its immediate consequence would be to drive the Holy Father into alliance with Venice, which was paying its court to him at the time and with that end in view. Eager to conciliate Alexander in this hour of peril, Federigo approached him with alternative proposals, and offered to invest Cesare in the principalities of Salerno and Sanseverino, which had been taken from the rebel barons. To this the Pope might have consented, but that, in the moment of considering it, letters reached him from Cesare which made him pause.