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The ecclesiastical and political history of the popes of Rome during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Volume 2) online

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ceremony. The pope's throne was erected in front
of St. Peter's, while the cardinals and the curia re-
verently surrounded their head. The king's peti-

* Requite du Roi, in Amelot's notes on Ossat, i. IGO.

t The court of Rome still thought this resolution rash and
daring. Dolfino, Relatione : "I piii gravi negotii il papa ha sa-
puto espedire e molto bene e molto ancora con gran celerita :
perche con tanti contrarj quanti ogn' uno sa benedisse il re di
Francia, lo accetto nel grembo della chiesa, mandoli un legato nel
tempo che tutti lo ributtavano sotto pretesto che non fosse sua
dignita mandarlo avanti che 1 re mandasse il suo ambasciatore
a Roma, et in quello 1' autorita della S"'^ V* giovo assai, che cosi
mi disse S. S", per diversi offici che a quel tempo io aveva fatto a
nome di lei."



^ VI.] OF HENRY IV. 263

tion, and the terms to which he had agreed, were
read aloud. Thereupon the representatives of
the most christian king threw themselves at the
feet of the pope, who granted them absolution by
a slight stroke with a wand. The papal chair once
more appeared in all the fulness and splendour of
its ancient and traditional authority*.

This ceremony was indeed a symbol or manifes-
tation of an important fact. The ruling power in
France, now strong and firmly established, was
again catholic, and had an interest to stand well
with the pope. A new focus of Catholicism was
thus formed, from whence important influences
^iiust of necessity emanate.

On nearer consideration, however, this fact pre-
sents itself under two distinct aspects.

It was not by the immediate efforts of the pope,
nor by a triumph of the strict party, that France
had been won ; on the contrary, it was by a union
of the moderate opinions lying between the two
extremes, by the superior popularity of a party
originally in opposition to the court of Rome, that
this had been brought about. Hence it came to pass
that the French church assumed a totally different
attitude from that of Italy, the Netherlands, or from
the newly-established church of Germany. It sub-
mitted to the pope, but it did so with a freedom

* Ossat, who usually describes everything most circumstanti-
ally, passes over this ceremony with a very slight mention (i. 1 68).
" Tout s'y est passe," says he, " convenablement ä la dignite de
la couronne tres chretienne." This opinion was not, however,
entertained by all.



264 ABSOLUTION OF HENRY IV. [bOOK VI.

änd an independence based on its origin, and the
sentiment of Avliich it never lost. Hence the papal
see could never regard France as in the slightest
degree an absolute conquest.

But the advantages which resulted to Rome in a
political point of view were unqualified. The ba-
lance of power, which had been lost, was restored ;
two great nations, mutually jealous, and involved
in interminable wars and conflicts, held each other
in check ; both were catholic, and might obey the
same impulse ; at all events the pope occupied a
far more independent station between them than
he or his predecessors had for a long time found it
possible to attain to. He was now in a great degree
emancipated from the bonds in which the prepon-
derancy of Spain had bound him.

It was only by the course of events that this po-
litical consequence of the reconciliation of France
was brought to light. On the lapse of Ferrara to
the papal see, French influence first showed itself
again in Italian affairs. This event was also one
of such great importance to the growth of the po-
litical power of the Roman states, that it must for
awhile divert our attention, as it did that of cotem-
poraries, from the affairs of religion.

We shall begin by casting back a glance on that
state under the last of its princes.



§ VII.] FERRARA UNDER ALFONSO II. 265



§ 7. FERRARA UNDER ALFONSO II.

It is frequently assumed by historians that Fer-
rara was in a peculiarly flourishing state under the
last prince of the house of Este ; but this is an il-
lusion, like a multitude of others, which rests on
antipathy to the secular power of Rome.

Montaigne visited Ferrara in the reign of Alfonso
II. He admired the wide streets and the beautiful
palaces of the city, but even he was struck, as tra-
vellers are in our day, with their empty and desert-
ed appearance*. The prosperity of the country
jdepended on the maintenance of the dams and the
regulation of the course of the waters ; but neither
the dams nor the rivers and canals were kept in
good order ; inundations were not unfrequent ; the
Volana and Primaro were choked with sand, so
that their navigation was utterly stopped f.

It were a still greater mistake to imagine that
the subjects of this house were free and happy.
Alfonso II. enforced the claims of his treasury in
the severest manner. At the conclusion of every
contract, even were it only for a loan, the tenth of
the sum in question fell to the duke ; and he took
a tenth of everything that was carried into the

* Montaigne, Voyage, i. 226—231.

t A report on the States of the Church in the beginning of the
seventeenth century relates, that the duke had employed the
peasants whose duty it was to work on the Po, on his own
estates at Mesola, and the banks of the river had thus so entirely
fallen to decay that they could not be restored. (Inff, Politt. torn
ix.)



266 FERRARA UNDER [bOOK VI.

city. He had the monopoly of salt ; he laid a new
tax upon oil, and by the advice of his administrator
of the taxes, Christofano da Fiume, he at last took
exclusive possession of the trade in flour and bread ;
nor could these prime necessaries of life be obtained
except from the duke's officers ; no man dared to
lend a handful of flour to a neighbour*. Even the
nobles were not allowed to hunt for more than a
few days, and never with more than three dogs.
One day the bodies of six men were seen hanging in
the market-place, with dead pheasants tied to their
feet, to show, it was said, that they were shot poach-
ing in the duke's preserves.

When therefore writers dwell on the prosperity
and activity of Ferrara, they cannot mean to apply
this either to the country or to the town, but
merely to the court.

In the stormy times of the first ten years of the
sixteenth century, in which so many flourishing
houses, so many powerful principaUties, were utterly
wrecked, and all Italy was convulsed from its very
foundations, the house of Este had contrived, by
an union of dexterous policy with spirited self-

* Frizzi, Memorie per la Storia di Ferrara, torn. iv. p. 364. And
especially Manolesso, Relatione di Ferrara : " II duca non e cosi
amato come li suoi precessori, e questo per 1' austerita et esattioni
che fa Christofano da Fiume cognominato il Frisato (Sfregiato)
suo gabelliere. — II Frisato s' offerse di vendere miglior mercato
le robbe a beneficio del popolo di quello che facevano gli altri e
di dame molto utile a S. Ecc'^^ : piacque il partito al duca: — ma
se bene il Frisato paga al duca quello che gli ha data intentione,
non sodisfa pero al popolo, vendendo la robba cattiva quanto alia
qualita e molto cara quanto al prezzo."



^ VII.] ALFONSO II. 267

defence, to sustain itself erect amidst all dangers.
With these, however, it united other qualities.
Who has not read of that race which, as Bojardo
expresses it, was destined to be the preserver of
all valour, kindliness, courtesy, love, grace, and
gaiety"^? — of their residence, which, as Ariosto
says J " they had adorned, not so much with walls
and spacious royal roofs, as with fair studies and ex-
cellent mannersf ?" If, however, the princes of the
house of Este deserved well of the world for their
patronage of learning and poetry, they have been
richly rewarded. The memory of their power and
their splendour, which would soon have passed
away, has been rendered eternal by its connexion
with the memory of writers who cannot die.

Alfonso II. sought to maintain things in the
same state in which they had existed under his pre-
decessors. He was actuated by the same views.
He had not indeed to resist such violent storms as
had assailed them; yet as he was involved in inces-
sant misunderstandings with Florence, and was not
always very secure of the dispositions of his feudal
lord, the pope, he did not abandon his defensive
attitude. Ferrara was esteemed the strongest for-
tress of Italy after Padua ; twenty-seven thousand

* Bojardo, Orlando Innamorato, ii, 22.

" Da questa (stirpe) fia servato ogni valore, ^
Ogni bontade et ogni cortesia,
Amore, leggiadria, stato giocundo
Tra quella gente fiorita nel mundo."
t x\riosto, Orlando Furioso, xxxv. 6.

" Non pur di mura e d'ampli tetti regj.
Ma di bei studi e di costumi egregi."



268 FERRARA UNDER [bOOK VI.

men were enrolled in the militia*', and Alfonso
was anxious to foster a military spirit in his sub-
jects. In order to counterbalance the favour which
Tuscany enjoyed at the court of Rome, by a
friendship of not less importance, he attached him-
self to the emperors. He crossed the Alps re-
peatedly with a brilliant retinue, married an Austrian
princess, and, it is affirmed, spoke German; in the
year 1556 he led an army consisting of four thou-
sand men into Hungary to the assistance of the
emperor against the Turks.

Nor was his reign less favourable to literature
and art. Seldom indeed has the literary element
been so strongly infused into the government or the
court of any country. Two professors of the uni-
versity, Pigna and Montecatino, were successively
prime ministers ; nor did they relinquish their lite-
rary pursuits ; Pigna at least, while at the head of
affairs, continued to deliver lectures, and occasion-
ally pubUshed books f. Battista Guarini, the author
of the Pastor Fido, was sent ambassador to Venice,

* Relatione sopra la Romagna di Ferrara : " Erano descritti

nelli rolll della militia dal commissario della battaglia a cio depu-

tato tutti i sudditi atti a portar armi. Erano costretti a starne

provisti per haver da servire nell' occasion! a piedi o a cavallo

secondo le forze delle loro facolta e godevano essi alcune esen-

tioni."

f Manolesso : " Segretario intimo e il S"" Giovamb. Pigna, per

mano del quale passano tutti negotii. Legge publicamente la
filosofia morale, e scrive 1' istoria della casa d' Este : e oratore,
filosofo e poeta molto eccellente : possiede benissimo la lingua
Greca, e servendo il suo principe ne' negotii e trattando e iscri-
vendo quanto occorre, non tralascia pero i studi, et in tutte le
professioni e tale che pare che ad una sola attenda."



§ VII.] ALFONSO II. 269

and then to Poland. Even Francesco Patrizi, al-
though occupied with abstruse subjects, boasts of
the sympathy he received from the court. Every
kind of liberal pursuit was encouraged. Scientific
discussions alternated with disputations on question-
able points of love, such as Tasso, who was for a time
attached to the university, once held. Plays were
given sometimes by the university, sometimes by
the court ; and the theatre was not only a place of
transient amusement, but a school of art, in which
new dramatic forms were continually attempted,
and which had the merit of perfecting the pastoral
drama, and of founding the opera. Occasionally Fer-
/ rara was visited by foreign cardinals and princes,
by those of the neighbouring cities of Mantua, Gua-
stalla andUrbino, and sometimes even by a prince of
the imperial house. The court then appeared in all
its brilliancy. Tournaments were held in which the
nobles spared no cost, and a hundred knights some-
times jousted in the court-yard of the palace. These
were representations of some fabulous incidents or
poetical creations, as the names used at them show —
the Temple of Love*, the Happy Island, &c. En-
chanted castles were stormed, defended, and con-
quered.

The court of Ferrara thus exhibited the most sin-
gular union of poetry, learning, politics, and chi-
valry. Pomp was ennobled by its objects, and any
defect of means was amply supphed by talent and
taste.

* Extracts from descriptions which then appeared, e.g. of the
Tempio d'amore, may be found in Muratori, Serassi, and Frizzi.



270 FERRARA UNDER [bOOK VI.

Tasso, both in his ** Rime " and his epic poem,
has placed before us a lively picture of this court ;
of " the high-hearted and energetic prince, of
whom it is difficult to say whether he is a better
knight or captain ;" of his consort, and, above all,
of his sisters. The elder, Lucrezia, lived but for a
short time with her husband in Urbino, and re-
turned to reside in Ferrara, where she exercised a
considerable influence in public affairs, but was
chiefly distinguished as the promoter and inspirer of
literature and of music, — the especial patroness of
Tasso. The younger, Leonora, was less prominent in
the court and the world; she was of a delicate consti-
tution, and quiet retiring manners, but sharing with
her sister the higher and stronger qualities of mind*.
During an earthquake both of them refused to quit
the palace ; Leonora especially seemed to delight
in an opportunity of displaying a stoical indiffer-
ence to danger, nor did they give way till the peril
was imminent ; the roof fell in at the very moment
they quitted it. Leonora was regarded as so pure
and holy a creature that the deliverance of Ferrara
from an inundation was ascribed to her prayers f.
The homage which Tasso paid to these remarkable
women was of a nature corresponding with their
respective characters ; — to the younger, rare and
chastened, always as if he felt more than he dared to

* In the year 15G6 she carried on the regency during the duke's
absence, according to Manolesso, " con infinita sodisfattione de'
sudditi ;" — " non ha preso," he continues, " ne vuol jorcndere
marito, per esser di debohssima complessione : 6 perö di gran
spirito."

t Serassi, Vita di Torquato Tasso, p. 150.



§ VII.] ALFONSO II. 271

express ; to the elder, perfectly free and unreserv-
ed ; he compared her with the full-blown fragrant

rose, from which maturity has taken none of its
charms. Other ladies in subordinate ranks graced
the court of Ferrara ; among them we distin-
guish Barbara Sanseverina and her daughter Leo-
nora Sanvitale. Tasso has described the calm
discretion of the mother, the brilliant charm of
youthful beauty in the daughter, with exquisite
finish ; no portrait could bring them more vi-
vidly before us. Then follow descriptions of the
charming villeggiature of the court ; of their hunt-
ing-parties and sports, and all the pleasures and the

^business which filled their lives ; nor is it easy to
conceive how any mind can resist the captivation
of his rich stream of harmonious description.

Yet it would not be safe to surrender ourselves
implicitly to this impression. The same power
which exacted such absolute obedience in the
country, was not unfelt at court. Those scenes of
poetry and of pleasure were sometimes interrupted
by incidents of a far different character : the noble
and the great were as little spared as the humble.

One of the family of Gonzaga was assassinated.
The crime was universally imputed to the young
Ercole Contrario, and it was at least certain that
the murderers found refuge on one of his estates.
The duke demanded that they should be given up.
Contrario, probably fearing their testimony against
him, immediately put them to death himself, and
sent their dead bodies to the duke. Upon this he
was summoned to appear at court in person j on



272 FERRARA UNDER [bOOK VI.

the 2nd of August 1 575, he had audience. The
Contrarj were the oldest and wealthiest family of
Ferrara, and Ercole the last scion of this illus-
trious stock ; yet in a short time after he had en-
tered the palace he was brought out of it a corpse.
The duke said the young man was suddenly struck
with apoplexy in the midst of their conversation.
But no one believed this ; marks of violence were
visible on the body; and indeed the duke's friends
confessed that their sovereign had caused him to
be put to death, and excused him on the ground
that he did not choose to inflict on an illustrious
name the stain of an ignominious death*. It was
a way of executing justice which kept every man
in terror, and which was rendered the more suspi-
cious and the more formidable, from the fact that
the property of the family must now lapse to the
duke.

But we may affirm generally, that it would not
have been prudent in any one to oppose the sove-
reign in the slightest degree f. The court of Fer-
rara was such slippery ground, that even Monte-
catino, subtle and polished as he was, could not
eventually keep his footing in it. Panigarola, at

* Frlzzi, Memorie, iv. 382.

f When Tasso is not in good humour, he expresses himself
very differently from what we have quoted ahove : " Perche io
conosceva," says he in a letter to the duke of Urbino, " il duca
per natural inclinatione dispostissimo alia malignita e pieno d'
una certa ambitiosa alterezza, la quale egli trae della nol)iltu del
sangue e della conoscenza ch' egli ha del suo valore, del quale in
molte cose non si da punto ad intendere il falso." (Letteve, n.
284. Opere, torn. ix. 188.)



^ VII.] ALFONSO II. 273

that time the most celebrated preacher in Italy,
was with some difficulty induced to settle at Fer-
rara ; he was suddenly banished in a public and
violent manner, and when inquiries were made as
to the cause of his disgrace, no other charge was
adduced against him, than that he had listened to
some proposals of advancement from another quar-
ter. It is no wonder if such an atmosphere was
fatal to the wayward, sensitive, melancholy Tasso.
The duke appeared attached to him, listened to
him with pleasure, frequently took him into the
country with him, and did not disdain to correct
the descriptions of military transactions which occur
in the Gerusalemme. But from the time that Tasso
showed a sort of inclination to enter the service of
the Medici, all cordiality between them was at an
end ; the unhappy poet left the court ; dragged
back by a resistless longing, he returned, and a few
reproachful words which he uttered in one of his
melancholy moods, were sufficient to determine the
duke to condemn him to seven long years of cap-
tivity*.

We have here a perfect type of an Italian prin-
cipality, such as it existed in the fifteenth century;
resting on well-calculated political relations abroad ;
unlimited and despotic at home ; surrounded with
splendour, intimately connected with literature, and
jealous of the very appearance of power. Strange
form of society ! The strength and the resources
of the country combine to produce a court; the

* Serassi, Vita del Tasso, p. 282.
VOL. II, T



274 FERRARA UNDER [bOOK VI.

central point of that court is the prince ; and thus
the ultimate product of the social body is, in the
last result, the conscious power and the unchecked
will of one man. The feeling of his own value and
importance arises from his position in the world,
from the obedience he commands, the respect he
receives.

Alfonso IL, though twice married, had no chil-
dren. His conduct under this disappointment is
characteristic of his entire policy.

His aim was twofold ; first, not to let his sub-
jects believe that it was possible for them to fall
off from his house ; and secondly, to keep the nomi-
nation of a successor in his own hands, and not to
raise up a rival to himself.

In September, 1.589, he went to Loreto, where
the pope's sister Donna Camilla then happened to
be, and spared neither gifts nor promises to win
her to his interests. He hoped through her means
to obtain the power to nominate the one of his
nearest relations whom he held to be the fittest.
Scarcely however were the negotiations opened,
when Sixtus V. died.

By similar means, presents to the pope's sister-
in-law, and obsequious attentions to his nephew,
Alfonso obtained access to Gregory XIV. in the
year 1591. As soon as he perceived that he might
entertain a hope of success, he went to Rome to
conduct the negotiation in person. The first ques-
tion was, whether the bull of Pius V., which pro-
hibited the re-investiture of escheated papal fiefs,
applied to Ferrara. Alfonso denied that it was ap-



§ VII.] ALFONSO II. 275

plicable, inasmuch as Ferrara had never escheated.
Yet the words were but too precise ; the con-
gregation decided that the bull certainly included
Ferrara. The only question then was, whether a
pope had not the power to give a special decision
in a special case. This the congregation did not
venture to deny ; it only annexed the condition that
the necessity must be urgent, the utility manifest*;
— a condition involving important consequences.
It is not improbable that if the proceedings had
been hastened, and a new investiture had been made
out in the name of a particular individual, the mat-
ter might have been brought to the desired close.
But Alfonso would not name his heir ; nor indeed
was lie of the same opinion as the Sfrondati on
this point ; they proposed marchese Filippo d' Este,
whereas he preferred his cousin Cesare. In this
way time passed, and Gregory died before anything
could be definitively arrangedf .

Meanwhile negotiations had also been opened
with the imperial court. Ferrara was a fief of
Rome, but Modena and Reggio of the empire.

* Dispaccio Donato : " Quando cl fusse evidentissima utilita et
urgente necesslta . . , . il clie fu fatto per aprire la strada all' in-
tentione del S"" duca." Cardinal S. Severina asserts that it was
principally he who prevented this plan, although with much dif-
ficulty and opposition ; and that afterwards the pope repented of
that addition,

t Cronica di Ferrara, MS. Bibl. Albani also says, there was
no doubt that Gregory XIV. would have done something for Fer-
rara ; that he left the congregation in a fit of rage, which made
him ill. Alfonso went to a villa of cardinal Farnese's, " aspet-
tando o vita o morte di questo papa. Venne la morte. II duca
ritornö." ~^

t2



276 FERRARA UNDER [bOOK VI.

Here therefore the duke's wonted policy came to
his aid ; he was on the best terms with the most
powerful minister of the emperor, Wolf Rumpf,
through whose influence Rudolf IL was induced to
grant him a renewal of the investiture, and even to
allow him a certain period within which he should
be at liberty to name whomsoever he pleased as his
successor.

But these compliances of the emperor only ren-
dered the new pope, Clement VIII., the more un-
yielding. It appeared more consonant to catholic
and ecclesiastical policy that the pope should re-
duce an escheated flef into possession, than re-
grant it ; this had been the judgement of the holy
pontiff" Pius V. In the year 1592, Clement propos-
ed, in secret consistory, the ratification of the bull
in question in its original form, without the qualifi-
cation annexed by Gregory XIV. ; and in that form
it was passed*.

The time appointed by the emperor had also ex-
pired, and it was become necessary for the duke to
designate his successor. Alfonso I. towards the
close of his life had married Laura Eustochia, by
whom he had already a son : from this son was des-
cended Don Cesare d'Este, who, after long hesita-
tion, was chosen by the duke. But even after his
choice was determined, he used the most mysterious
precautions. Without the privity of any individual,
he sent an autograph letter to the emperor con-
taining the nomination in form ; at the same time
earnestly entreating him to let no one know it, not

* Dispaccio Donate, 27 Dec, 1592.



^ VII.] ALFONSO II. 277

even his own envoy at the imperial court ; and to
express his assent in no other way than by simply
sending back the document subscribed with the
imperial name*.

He was determined to retain undivided to his
last gasp the highest consideration in his narrow
territory; he could not endure to witness the ho-
mage of his court to the rising sun. Cesare him-
self knew nothing of the favour conferred upon
him ; indeed he was kept under rather stricter rule
than before ; the splendour of his appearance was
somewhat diminished (for instance, he was not al-
lowed more than three nobles in his retinue) ; and
^it was not till the duke's life was at its last ebb,
till the physicians had given up the last hope, that
Alfonso sent for him to announce the fortune which
awaited him. The will was opened in the presence
of the first persons of Ferrara, who were admonished
by the minister to be faithful to the house of Este.
The duke told Cesare that he bequeathed him the



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