The question is frivolous, for the whole trouble in this matter is that there were no sources at all, in the proper sense of the word good or bad. There was simply gossip, which had been busy with a dozen names already.
Macchiavelli includes a note in his Extracts from Letters to the Ten, in which he mentions the death of Gandia, adding that " at first nothing was known, and then men said it was done by the Cardinal of Valencia."
There is nothing very conclusive in that. Besides, incidentally it may be mentioned, that it is not clear when or how these extracts were compiled by Macchiavelli (in his capacity of Secretary to the Signory of Florence) from the dispatches of her ambassadors. But it has been shown though we are hardly concerned with that at the moment that these extracts are confused by comments of his own, either for his own future use or for that of another.
Matarazzo is the Perugian chronicler of whom we have already expressed the only tenable opinion. The task he set himself was to record the contemporary events of his native town the stronghold of the blood dripping Baglioni. He enlivened it by every scrap of scandalous gossip that reached him, however alien to his avowed task. The authenticity of this scandalmongering chronicle has been questioned; but, even assuming it to be authentic, it is so wildly inaccurate when dealing with matters happening beyond the walls of Perugia as to be utterly worthless.
Matarazzo relates the story of the incestuous relations prevailing in the Borgia family, and with an unsparing wealth of detail not to be found elsewhere ; but on the subject of the murder he has a tale to tell entirely different from any other that has been left us. For, whilst he urges the incest as the motive of the crime, the murderer, he tells us, was Giovanni Sforza, the outraged husband ; and he gives us the fullest details of that murder,time and place and exactly how committed, and all the other matters which have never been brought to light.
It is all a worthless, garbled piece of fiction, most obviously ; as such it has ever been treated ; but it is as plausible as it is untrue, and, at least, as authoritative as any available evidence assigning the guilt to Cesare.
Sanuto we accept as a more or less careful and painstaking chronicler, whose writings are valuable; and Sanuto on the matter of the murder confines himself to quoting the letter of February 1498, in which the accusation against Cesare is first mentioned, after having given other earlier letters which accuse first Ascanio and then Orsini far more positively than does the latter letter accuse Cesare.
On the matter of the incest there is no word in Sanuto; but there is mention of Dona Sancia's indiscretions, and the suggestion that, through jealousy on her account, it was rumoured that the murder had been committed another proof of how vague and ill defined the rumours were.
Pietro Martire d'Anghiera writes from Burgos, in Spain, that he is convinced of the fratricide. It is interesting to know of that conviction of his ; but difficult to conceive how it is to be accepted as evidence.
If more needs to be said of him, let it be mentioned that the letter in which he expresses that conviction is dated April 1497 two months before the murder took place ! So that even Gregorovius is forced to doubt the authenticity of that document.
Guicciardini is not a contemporary chronicler of events as they happened, but an historian writing some thirty years later. He merely repeats what Capello and others have said before him. It is for him to quote authorities for what he writes, and not to be set up as an authority. He is not reliable, and he is a notorious defamer of the Papacy, sparing nothing that will serve his ends. He dilates with gusto upon the accusation of incest.
Lastly, Panvinio is in the same category as Guicciardini. He was not born until some thirty years after these events, and his History of the Popes was not written until some sixty years after the murder of the Duke of Gandia. This history bristles with inaccuracies ; Re never troubles to verify his facts, and as an authority he is entirely negligible.
In the valuable Diarium of Burchard there is unfortunately a lacuna at this juncture, from the day after the murder (of which he gives the full particulars to which we have gone for our narrative of that event) until the month of August following. And now we may see Gregorovius actually using silence as evidence. He seizes upon that lacuna, and goes so far as to set up the tentative explanation that Burchard " perhaps purposely interrupted his Diary that he might avoid mentioning the fratricide."
If such were the case, it would be a strange departure from Burchard's invariable rule, which is one of cold, relentless, uncritical chronicling of events, no matter what their nature. Besides, any significance with which that lacuna might be invested is discounted by the fact that such gaps are of fairly common occurrence in the course of Burchard's record. Finally it remains to be shown that the lacuna in question exists in the original diaries, which have yet to be discovered.
So much for the valuable authorities, out of which and by means of a selection which is not quite clearly defined Gregorovius claims to have proved that the murderer of the Duke of Gandia was his brother Cesare Borgia, Cardinal of Valencia.1
Now to examine more closely the actual motives given by those authorities and by later, critical writers, for attributing the guilt to Cesare.
In September of the year 1497, the Pope had dissolved the marriage of his daughter Lucrezia and Giovanni Sforza, and the grounds for the dissolution were that the husband was impotens et frigidus natura admitted by himself.2
If you know anything of the Italy of to day, you will be able to conceive for yourself how the Italy of the fifteenth century must have held her sides and pealed her laughter at the contemptible spectacle of an unfortunate who afforded such reason to be bundled out of a nuptial bed. The echo of that mighty burst of laughter must have rung from Calabria to the Alps, and well may it have filled the handsome weakling who was the object of its cruel ridicule with a talion fury. The weapons he took up wherewith to defend himself were a little obvious. He answered the odious reflections upon his virility by a wholesale charge of incest against the Borgia family ; he screamed that what had been said of him was a lie invented by the Borgias to serve their own unutterable ends.1 Such was the accusation with which the squirming Lord of Pesaro retaliated, and, however obvious, yet it was not an accusation that the world of his day would lightly cast aside, for all that the perspicacious may have rated it at its proper value.