It was for such a contingency as this that provision was made by the clause concerning them in Cesare's treaty with Louis.
The Orsini were still in the duke's service, in command of troops levied for him and paid by him, and considering that with them Cesare had no quarrel, it is by no means clear why they should have gone over to the alliance of the condottieri that was now forming against the duke. Join it, however, they did. They, too, were in the Treaty of Villafontana ; but that they should consider themselves bound by it, would have been had they urged it more in the nature of a pretext than a reason. But they chose a pretext even more slender. They gave out that in Milan Louis XII had told Cardinal Orsini that the Pope's intention was to destroy the Orsini.
To accept such a statement as true, we should have to believe in a disloyalty and a double dealing on the part of Louis XII altogether incredible. To what end should he, on the one side, engage to assist Cesare with 300 lances to " oppress " the Orsini if necessary, and among others whilst, on the other, he goes to Orsini with the story which they attribute to him ? What a mean, treacherous, unkingly figure must he not cut as a consequence! He may have been we know, indeed, that he was no more averse to double dealing than any other Cinquecentist; but he was probably as averse to being found out in a meanness and made to look contemptible as any doubledealer of our own times. It is a consideration worth digesting.
When word of the story put about by the Orsini was carried to the Pope he strenuously denied the imputation, and informed the Venetian ambassador that he had written to complain of this to the King of France, and that, far from such a thing being true, Cesare was so devoted to the Orsini as to be " more Orsini than Borgian."
It is further worth considering that the defection of the Orsini was neither immediate nor spontaneous, as must surely have been the case had the story been true. It was the Baglioni and Vitelli only who first met to plot at Todi, to declare that they would not move against their ally of Bologna, and to express the hope that they might bring the Orsini to the same mind. They succeeded so well that the second meeting was held at Magione a place belonging to the powerful Cardinal Orsini, situated near the Baglioni's stronghold of Perugia. Vitellozzo was carried thither on his bed, so stricken with the morbo gallico which in Italy was besetting most princes, temporal and ecclesiastical that he was unable to walk.
Gentile and Gianpaolo Baglioni, Cardinal Gian battista Orsini, Francesco Orsini, Duke of Gravina, Paolo Orsini, the bastard son of the Archbishop of Trani, Pandolfo Petrucci Lord of Siena and Hermes Bentivogli were all present. The last named, prone to the direct methods of murder by which he had rid Bologna of the Marescotti, is said to have declared that he would kill Cesare Borgia if he but had the opportunity, whilst Vitelli swore solemnly that within a year he would slay or capture the duke, or else drive him out of Italy.
From this it will be seen that the Diet of Magione was no mere defensive alliance, but actually an offensive one, with the annihilation of Cesare Borgia for its objective.
They certainly had the power to carry out their resolutions, for whilst Cesare disposed at that moment of not more than 2,500 foot, 300 men at arms, and the 100 lances of his Cesarean guard of patricians, the confederates had in arms some 9,000 foot and 1,000 horse. Conscious of their superior strength, they determined to strike at once, before Cesare should be further supported by the French lances, and to make sure of him by assailing him on every side at once. To this end it was resolved that Bentivogli should instantly march upon Imola, where Cesare lay, whilst the others should possess themselves of Urbino and Pesaro simultaneously.
They even approached Florence and Venice in the matter, inviting the Republics to come into the league against Valentinois.
The Florentines, however, could not trust such enemies of their own as Vitelli and the Orsini, nor dared they join in an enterprise which had for scope to make war upon an ally of France; and they sent word to Cesare of their resolve to enter into no schemes against him.
The Venetians would gladly have moved to crush a man who had snatched the Romagna from under their covetous eyes; but in view of the league with France they dared not. What they dared, they did. They wrote to Louis at length of the evils that were befalling Italy at the hands of the Duke of Valentinois, and of the dishonour to the French crown which lay for Louis in his alliance with Cesare Borgia. They even went so far and most treacherously, considering the league as to allow their famous captain, Barto lomeo d'Alviano, to reconduct Guidobaldo to Urbino, as we shall presently see.
Had the confederates but kept faith with one another Cesare's knell had soon been tolled. But they were a weak kneed pack of traitors, irresolute in their enmity as in their friendships. The Orsini hung back.
They urged that they did not trust themselves to attack Cesare with men actually in his pay ; whilst Bentivogli treacherous by nature to the back bone of him actually went so far as to attempt to open secret negotiations with Cesare through Ercole d'Este of Ferrara.