At last he roused himself, partly in response to the instances of the Cardinal of Segovia, partly spurred by the desire to avenge the death of his child, and he ordered Rome to be ransacked for the assassins; but, although the search was pursued for two months, it proved utterly fruitless.
That is the oft told story of the death of the Duke of Gandia. Those are all the facts concerning it that are known or that ever will be known. The rest is speculation, and this speculation follows the trend of malice rather than of evidence.
Suspicion fell at first upon Giovanni Sforza, who was supposed to have avenged himself thus upon the Pope for the treatment he had received. There certainly existed that reasonable motive to actuate him, but not a particle of evidence against him. Next rumour had it that Cardinal Ascanio Sforza's was the hand that had done this work, and with this rumour Rome was busy for months. It was known that he had quarrelled violently with Gandia, who had been grossly insulted by a chamberlain of Ascanio's, and who had wiped out the insult by having the man seized and hanged.
Sanuto quotes a letter from Rome on July 21, which states that " it is certain that Ascanio murdered the Duke of Gandia." Cardinal Ascanio's numerous enemies took care to keep the accusation alive at the Vatican, and Ascanio, in fear for his life, had left Rome and fled to Grottaferrata. When summoned to Rome, he had refused to come save under safe conduct. His fears, however, appear to have been groundless, for the Pope attached no importance to the accusation against him, convinced of his innocence, as he informed him.
Thereupon public opinion looked about for some other likely person upon whom to fasten its indictment, and lighted upon Giuffredo Borgia, Gandia's youngest brother. Here, again, a motive was not wanting. Already has mention been made of the wanton ways of Giuffredo's Neapolitan wife, Dona Sancia. That she was prodigal of her favours there is no lack of evidence, and it appears that, amongst those she admitted to them, was the dead duke. Jealousy, then, it was alleged, was the spur that had driven Giuffredo to the deed ; and that the rumour of this must have been insistent is clear when we find the Pope publicly exonerating his youngest son.
Thus matters stood, and thus had public opinion spoken, when in the month of August the Pope ordered the search for the murderer to cease. Bracci, the Florentine ambassador, explains this action of Alexander's. He writes that his Holiness knew who were the murderers, and that he was taking no further steps in the matter in the hope that thus, conceiving themselves to be secure, they might more completely discover themselves.
Bracci's next letter bears out the supposition that he writes from inference, and not from knowledge. He repeats that the investigations have been suspended, and that to account for this some say what already he has written, whilst others deny it; but that the truth of the matter is known to none.
Later in the year we find the popular voice denouncing Bartolomeo d'Alviano and the Orsini. Already in August the Ferrarese ambassador, Manfredi, had written that the death of the Duke of Gandia was being imputed to Bartolomeo d'Alviano, and in December we see in Sanuto a letter from Rome which announces that it is positively stated that the Orsini had caused the death of Giovanni Borgia.
These various rumours were hardly worth mentioning for their own values, but they are important as showing how public opinion fastened the crime in turn upon everybody it could think of as at all likely to have had cause to commit it, and more important still for the purpose of refuting what has since been written concerning the immediate connection of Cesare Borgia with the crime in the popular mind.
Not until February of the following year was the name of Cesare ever mentioned in connection with the deed. The first rumour of his guilt synchronized with that of his approaching renunciation of his ecclesiastical career, and there can be little doubt that the former sprang from the latter. The world conceived that it had discovered on Cesare's part a motive for the murder of his brother. That motive of which so very much has been made shall presently be examined. Meanwhile, to deal with the actual rumour, and its crystallization into history. The Ferrarese ambassador heard it in Venice on February 12, 1498. Capello seized upon it, and repeated it two and a half years later, stating on September 28, 1500 : " etiam amazo il fratello."
And there you have the whole source of all the unbridled accusations subsequently launched against Cesare, all of which find a prominent place in Gregorovius's Geschichte der Stadt Rom, whilst the rumours accusing others, which we have mentioned here, are there slurred over.
One hesitates to attack the arguments and conclusions of the very eminent author of that mighty History of Rome in the Middle Ages, but conscience and justice demand that his chapter upon this subject be dealt with as it deserves.
The striking talents of Gregorovius are occasionally marred by the egotism and pedantry sometimes characteristic of the scholars of his nation. He is too positive ; he seldom opines; he asserts with finality the things that only God can know ; occasionally his knowledge, transcending the possible, quits the realm of the historian for that of the romancer, as for instance to cite one amid a thousand when he actually tells us what passes in Cesare Borgia's mind at the coronation of the King of Naples. In the matter of authorities, he follows a dangerous and insidious eclecticism, preferring those who support the point of view which he has chosen, without a proper regard for their intrinsic values.
He tells us definitely that, if Alexander had not positive knowledge, he had at least moral conviction that it was Cesare who had killed the Duke of Gandia. In that, again, you see the God like knowledge which he usurps; you see him clairvoyant rather than historical. Starting out with the positive assertion that Cesare Borgia was the murderer, he sets himself to prove it by piling up a mass of worthless evidence, whose worthlessness it is unthinkable he should not have realized.