On the face of it, that edict of Valentinois' seems to argue vexation at what had happened, and the desire to provide against its repetition a provision hardly likely to be made by the man who had organized the assault, unless he sought, by this edict, to throw dust into the eyes of the world; and one cannot associate dissimulation after the event and the fear of criticism with such a nature as Cesare's or with such a character as is given him by those who are satisfied that it was he who murdered Biselli.
The rumour that Alfonso had been assailed by the murderer of Gandia is a reasonable enough rumour, so long as the latter remains unnamed, for it would simply point to some enemy of the House of Borgia who, having slain one of its members, now attempts to slay another. Whether Capello actually meant Cesare when he penned those words on July 19, is not as obvious as may be assumed, for it is to be borne in mind that, at this date, Capello had not yet compiled the " relation" in which he deals with Gandia's murder.
On July 23 he wrote that the duke was very ill, indeed, from the wound in his head, and on the 28th that he was in danger owing to the same wound although the fever had abated.
On August 18 he announces Alfonso's death in the following terms : " The Duke of Biselli, Madonna Lucrezia's husband,died to day because he was planning the death of the Duke [of Valentinois] by means of an arbalest bolt when he walked in the garden ; and the duke has had him cut to pieces in his room by his archers."
I This " cutting to pieces " form of death is one very dear to the imagination of Capello, and bears some witness to his sensation mongering proclivities.
Coming to matters more public, and upon which his evidence is more acceptable, he writes on the 20th that some servants of the prince's have been arrested, and that, upon being put to the question, they confessed to the prince's intent to kill the Duke of Valentinois, adding that a servant of the duke's was implicated. On the 23rd Capello circumstantially confirms this matter of Alfonso's attempt upon Cesare's life, and states that this has been confessed by the master of Alfonso's household, " the brother of his mother, Madonna Drusa."
That is the sum of Capello's reports to the Senate, as recorded by Sanuto. The rest, the full, lurid, richly coloured, sensational story, is contained in his " relation " of September 20. He prefaces the narrative by informing the Senate that the Pope is on very bad terms with Naples, and proceeds to relate the case of Alfonso of Aragon as follows ;
" He was wounded at the third hour of night near the palace of the Duke of Valentinois, his brother in law, and the prince ran to the Pope, saying that he had been wounded and that he knew by whom ; and his wife Lucrezia, the Pope's daughter, who was in the room, fell into anguish. He was ill for thirty three days, and his wife and sister, who is the wife of the Prince of Squillace, another son of the Pope's, were with him and cooked for him in a saucepan for fear of his being poisoned, as the Duke of Valentinois so hated him. And the Pope had him guarded by sixteen men for fear that the duke should kill him. And when the Pope went to visit him Valentinois did not accompany him, save on one occasion, when he said that what had not been done at breakfast might be done at supper. . . . On August 17 he [Valentinois] entered the room where the prince was already risen from his bed, and, driving out the wife and sister, called in his man, named Michieli, and had the prince strangled ; and that night he was buried."
Now the following points must arise to shake the student's confidence in this narrative, and in Capello as an authority upon any of the other matters that he relates :
(i) " He was wounded near the palace of the Duke of Valentinois " This looks exceedingly like an attempt to pile up evidence against Cesare, and shows a disposition to resort to the invention of it. Whatever may not have been known about Alfonso's death, it was known by everybody that he was wounded on the steps of St. Peter's, and Capello himself, in his dispatches, had said so at the time. A suspicion that Capello's whole relation is to serve the purpose of heaping odium upon Cesare at once arises and receives confirmation when we consider that, as we have already said, it is in this same relation that the fiction about Pedro Caldes finds place and that the guilt of the murder of the Duke of Gandia is definitely fixed upon Cesare.
(ii) " He ran to the Pope [' Corse dal Papa '] saying that he had been wounded, and that he knew by whom" A man with a wound in his head which endangered his life for over a week would hardly be conscious on receiving it, nor is it to be supposed that, had he been conscious, his assailants would have departed. It cannot be doubted that they left him for dead. He was carried into the palace, and we know, from Burchard, that the Cardinal of Capua gave him absolution in articulo mortis, which abundantly shows his condition. It is unthinkable that he should have been able to " run to the Pope," doubtful that he should have been able to speak ; and, if he did, who was it reported his words to the Venetian ambassador ? Capello wisely refrains from saying.
(iii) Lucrezia and Sancia attempt to protect him from poison by cooking his food in his room. This is quite incredible. Even admitting the readiness to do so on the part of these princesses, where was the need, considering the presence of the doctor admitted by Capello sent from Naples and his hunchback assistant ?
(iv) " The Pope had him guarded by sixteen men for fear the duke should kill him." Yet when, according to Capello, the duke comes on his murderous errand, attended only by Michieli (who has been generally assumed by writers to have been Don Michele da Corella, one of Cesare's captains), where are these sixteen guards ? Capello mentions the dismissal only of Lucrezia and Sancia.