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What were his exact relations with the Este, with whom he was connected,
we do not know, although they, doubtless, were not altogether pleasant.
Sforza could not have found much pleasure in life, for his famous house
was fast becoming extinct, and he could not foresee a long future for
his race. He died peacefully July 27, 1510, in the castle of Gradara,
where he had been in the habit of spending much of his time alone.

As his son was still a small child his natural brother Galeazzo, who
had married Ginevra, a daughter of Ercole Bentivoglio, assumed the
government of Pesaro. Giovanni's child died August 15, 1512, whereupon
Pope Julius II withdrew his support from Galeazzo, and forced the last
of the Sforza of Pesaro to enter into an agreement by which, October 30,
1512, he surrendered the castle and domain to Francesco Maria Rovere,
who had been Duke of Urbino since the death of Guidobaldo in April,
1508. Pesaro therefore was united with this State. Galeazzo died in
Milan in 1515, having made the Duke Maximilian Sforza his heir. The line
of the lords of Pesaro thus became extinct, for Giovanni Sforza had left
only a natural daughter, Isabella, who in 1520 married Sernigi Cipriano,
a noble Florentine, and who died in Rome in 1561, famous for her culture
and intellect. Her epitaph may still be read on a stone in the wall of
the passageway behind the tribune in the Lateran basilica.[219]

The death of Lucretia's first husband must have vividly reminded her of
the wrong she had done him, because she had now reached the age when
frivolity no longer dulled conscience; but the times were so troublous
that she directed her thoughts into other channels. August 9, 1510, a
few days after the death of Sforza, Julius II placed Alfonso under his
ban and declared that he had forfeited all his Church fiefs. The Pope
again took up the plans of his uncle Sixtus, who, in conjunction with
the Venetians, had schemed to wrest Ferrara from the Este. After the
Venetians had appeased him by withdrawing from the cities of Romagna, he
had made peace with the Republic, and commanded Alfonso to withdraw from
the League and to cease warring against Venice. The duke refused, and
this was the reason for the ban. Ferrara thereupon, together with
France, found itself drawn into a ruinous war which led to the famous
battle of Ravenna, April 1, 1512, which was won by Alfonso's artillery.

It was during this war, and on the occasion of the attempt of Julius II
to capture Ferrara by surprise, that the famous Bayard made the
acquaintance of Lucretia. After the French cavaliers, with their
companions in arms, the Ferrarese, had captured the fortress they
returned in triumph to Ferrara where they were received with the
greatest honors. In remembrance of this occasion the biographer Bayard
wrote in praise of Lucretia as follows: "The good duchess received the
French before all the others with every mark of favor. She is a pearl in
this world. She daily gave the most wonderful festivals and banquets in
the Italian fashion. I venture to say that neither in her time nor for
many years before has there been such a glorious princess, for she is
beautiful and good, gentle and amiable to everyone, and nothing is more
certain than this, that, although her husband is a skilful and brave
prince, the above-named lady, by her graciousness, has been of great
service to him."[220]

Owing to the death of Gaston de Foix at the battle of Ravenna, the
victory of the French turned to defeat and the rout of the Pope into
victory. Alfonso finding himself defenseless, hastened to Rome in July,
1512, to ask forgiveness from Julius, and, although this was accorded
him, he was saved from destruction, or a fate similar to Cæsar Borgia's,
only by secret flight. With the help of the Colonna, who conducted him
to Marino, he reached Ferrara in disguise.

These were anxious days for Lucretia; for, while she was trembling for
the life of her husband, she received news of the death, abroad, of her
son. August 28, 1512, the Mantuan agent Stazio Gadio wrote his master
Gonzaga from Rome, saying news had reached there that the Duke of
Biselli, son of the Duchess of Ferrara and Don Alfonso of Aragon, had
died at Bari, where he was living under the care of the duchess of that
place.[221] Lucretia herself gave this information to a person whose
name is not known, in a letter dated October 1st, saying, "I am wholly
lost in bitterness and tears on account of the death of the Duke of
Biselli, my dearest son, concerning which the bearer of this will give
you further particulars."[222]

We do not know how the unfortunate Rodrigo spent the first years
following Alexander's death and Cæsar's exile in Spain, but there is
ground for believing that he was left in Naples under the guardianship
of the cardinals Ludovico Borgia and Romolini of Sorrento. By virtue of
a previous agreement, the King of Spain recognized Lucretia's son as
Duke of Biselli, and there is an official document of September, 1505,
according to which the representative of the little duke placed his oath
of allegiance in the hands of the two cardinals above named.[223]
Rodrigo may have been brought up by his aunt, Donna Sancia, for she was
living with her husband in the kingdom of Naples, where Don Giuffrè had
been confirmed in the possession of his property. Sancia died childless
in the year 1506, just as Ferdinand the Catholic appeared in Naples. The
king, consequently, appropriated a large part of Don Giuffrè's estates,
although the latter remained Prince of Squillace. He married a second
time and left several heirs. Of his end we know nothing. One of his
grandchildren, Anna de Borgia, Princess of Squillace, the last of her
race, brought these estates to the house of Gandia by her marriage with
Don Francesco Borgia at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

It may have been on the death of Sancia that Rodrigo was placed under
the protection of another aunt, Isabella d'Aragona, his father's eldest
sister, the most unfortunate woman of the age, wife of Giangaleazzo of
Milan, who had been poisoned by Ludovico il Moro. The figure of Isabella
of Milan is the most tragic in the history of Italy of the period
beginning with the invasion of Charles VIII - an epoch filled with a
series of disasters that involved every dynasty of the country. For she
was affected at one and the same time by the fall of two great houses,
that of Sforza and that of Aragon. The saying of Caracciolo in his work,
_De varietate fortunæ_, regarding the Sforza, namely, that there is no
tragedy however terrible for which this house would not furnish an
abundance of material may well be applied to both these families.
Isabella had beheld the fall of her once mighty house, and she had seen
her own son Francesco seized and taken to France by Louis XII, where he
died, a priest, in his early manhood. She herself had retired to Bari, a
city which Ludovico il Moro had given up to her in 1499, and of which
she remained duchess until her death, February 11, 1524.

Donna Isabella had taken Lucretia's son to herself, and from the records
of the household expenses of the Duchess of Ferrara it appears that he
was with her in Bari in March, 1505, for on the twenty-sixth of that
month there is the following entry: "A suit of damask and brocade which
her Majesty sent her son Don Rodrigo in Bari as a present."[224] April
3d his mother sent his tutor, Baldassare Bonfiglio, who had come to
Naples, back to him. This man is named in the register under date of
February 25, 1506, as tutor of Don Giovanni. It appears, therefore, that
this child also was in Bari, and was being educated with his playfellow
Rodrigo. In October, 1506, we find the little Giovanni in Carpi, where
he was probably placed at the court of the Pio. From there Lucretia had
him brought to the court of Ferrara on the date mentioned. She therefore
was allowed to have this mysterious infante, but not her own child
Rodrigo, with her. In November, 1506, Giovanni must again have been in
Carpi, for Lucretia sent him some fine linen apparel to that place.[225]

Both children were together again in Bari in April, 1508, for in the
record of the household expenses the expenditures for both, beginning
with May of that year, are given together, and a certain Don Bartolommeo
Grotto is mentioned as instructor to both.[226] The son of Lucretia and
of the murdered Alfonso, therefore, died in the home of Donna Isabella
in Bari, which was not far from his hereditary duchy of Biselli.

We have a letter written by this unhappy Princess Isabella a few weeks
after the death of the youthful Rodrigo, to Perot Castellar, Governor of

MONSIGNOR PEROT: We write this merely to ask you to compel
those of Corato to pay us what they have to pay, from the revenue
of the illustrious Duke of Biselli, our nephew of blessed memory,
for shortly a bill will come from the illustrious Duchess of
Ferrara, and in case the money is not ready we might be caused
great inconvenience. Those of Corato may delay, and we might be
compelled to find the money at once. Therefore you must see to it
that we are not subjected to any further inconvenience, and that we
are paid immediately; for by so doing you will oblige us, and we
offer ourselves to your service.

ISABELLA OF ARAGON, Duchess of Milan, alone in

BARI, _October 14, 1592_.

Rodrigo's[228] mother laid claim to the property he left, which, as is
shown by certain documents, she recovered from Isabella d'Aragona as
guardian of the deceased, to the amount of several thousand ducats. To
do this she was forced to engage in a long suit, and as late as March,
1518, she sent her agent, Giacomo Naselli, to Rome and Naples regarding
it. His report to Cardinal Ippolito is still in existence.

Whatever were the circumstances which had compelled Lucretia to send her
son away, on whom, as we have shown, she always lavished her maternal
care, the unfortunate child's experience will always be a blot on her


[216] Campori; Una Vittima della Storia; Antonio Capelli, Lettere di L.
Ariosto, Introduction, p. lxi. Also W. Gilbert, Lucrezia Borgia, Duchess
of Ferrara, ii, 240.

[217] Despatch of Girolamo Cassola, Augsburg, February 27, 1510.
Archives of Modena.

[218] This he announced to the Marchese Gonzaga from Pesaro, November 4,
1505. Archives of Mantua.

[219] Copies of the following instruments concerning the last Sforza of
Pesaro are in the archives of Florence: will of Giovanni Sforza, July
24, 1510; agreement between Galeazzo and the Papal Legate, October 30,
1512; Galeazzo's will, March 23, 1515; Isabella's marriage contract,
Pesaro, September 29, 1520. The epitaph in the Lateran is as follows:
Isabellas Sfortiæ Joannis Pisaurensium P. Feminæ Sui Temporis Prudentia
Ac Pietate Insigni Exec. Test. P. Vix. Ann LVII. M. VII. D. III Obiit
Ann. MDLXI. XI Kal. Febr. Consensu Nobilium De Mutis De Papazurris.
Above is a profile in marble.

[220] J'ose bien dire que, de son temps, ni beaucoup avant, il ne s'est
point trouvé de plus triomphante princesse, car elle était belle, bonne,
douce et courtoise, à toutes gens. Le Loyal Serviteur Histoire du bon
Chevalier, le seigneur de Bayard, chap. xlv.

[221] Despatch of this ambassador in the archives of Mantua.

[222] Per trovarmi tuttavia involta in lachryme et amaritudine per la
morte del Duca di Biselli mio figliolo carrissimo.

[223] The instrument is in the Liber Arrendamentorum, from Lucretia's

[224] El quale zipon de Dernascho e brochato, sua Signoria el manda a
donare a don Rodrigo suo figliolo a Barri.

[225] October 24, 1506. Spesa per un nocchiero, che ha condotto Don
Giovanni Borgia de Finale a Ferrara. November 5, 1506. Tela di renso
sottile per far camicie mandato a Carpi al sig. Don Giovanni Borgia.

[226] May 15, 1508. Berette per Don Giovanni e Don Rodrigo Borgia. May
25th. Spesa per guanti a Don Giovanni e Don Rodrigo Borgia. October
16th. Bartolommeo Grotto, maestro de li ragazzi, per pagare certi libri
zoè Donati e regule per detti ragazzi. December 15. Per un Virgilio
comprato da Don Bartolommeo Grotto a don Giovanni.

[227] Unica in disgracia.

[228] Letters in the Este archives show that there was another Don
Rodrigo Borgia, who, in the year 1518, was described as the "brother" of
the Duchess Lucretia, and was then under the care of tutors in Salerno.
His guardians were Madama Elisabetta - who may have been his mother - and
her daughter Giulia. Lucretia, to whom the letters of Giovanni Cases
(Rome, May 12, September 3, 1518) and another by Don Giorgio de Ferrara
(Rome, December, 1518,) are addressed, seems to have acted as a mother
to this child. This second Rodrigo died, a young clerk, in 1527. August
30th of that year the Ferrarese ambassador in Naples, Baldassare da
Fino, wrote from Posilipo as follows: Lo Illmo et Rev. Signor Don
Rodrico de Casa Borgia, stando in Ciciano, cum la Signora Madama sua
matre, sono da 15 giorni che, prima vexato da Febre continua, se ne
morse - a sheet without any address, in the archives of Modena. Again, in
January, 1535, this deceased son of Alexander VI is mentioned in a
report sent from Rome, which contains the following words: Era venuta
nuovamente un Vescovo fratello di Don Roderico Borgia, figliuolo che fu
di Papa Alessandro.... Avvisi di Roma. State archives of Modena.



The war about Ferrara, thanks to Alfonso's skill and the determined
resistance of the State, had ended. Julius II had seized Modena and
Reggio, which was a great loss to the State of Ferrara, and consequently
the history of that country for many years hence is taken up with her
efforts to regain these cities. Fortunately for Alfonso, Julius II died
in February, 1513, and Leo X ascended the papal throne. Hitherto he had
maintained friendly relations with the princes of Urbino and Ferrara,
who continued to look for only amicable treatment from him; but both
houses were destined to be bitterly deceived by the faithless Medici,
who deceived all the world. Alfonso hastened to attend Leo's coronation
in Rome, and, believing a complete reconciliation with the Holy See
would soon be effected, he returned to Ferrara.

There Lucretia had won universal esteem and affection; she had become
the mother of the people. She lent a ready ear to the suffering and
helped all who were in need. Famine, high prices, and depletion of the
treasury were the consequences of the war; Lucretia had even pawned her
jewels. She put aside, as Jovius says, "the pomps and vanities of the
world to which she had been accustomed from childhood, and gave herself
up to pious works, and founded convents and hospitals. This was due as
much to her own nature as it was to her past life and the fate she
had suffered. Most women who have lived much and loved much finally
become fanatics; bigotry is often only the last form which feminine
vanity assumes. The recollection of a world of vice, and of crimes
committed by her nearest kinsmen, and also of her own sins, must have
constantly disturbed Lucretia's conscience. Other women who, like her,
were among the chief characters in the history of the Borgias developed
precisely the same frame of mind and experienced a similar need of
religious consolation. Cæsar's widow ended her life in a convent;
Gandia's did the same; Alexander's mistress became a fanatic; and if we
had any record of the adulteress Giulia Farnese we should certainly find
that she passed the closing years of her life either as a saint in a
convent or engaged in pious works."

[Illustration: LEO X.

From an engraving published in 1580.]

The year 1513, following the war in Ferarra, marked a decided change in
Lucretia's life, for from that time it took a special religious turn. It
did not, however, degenerate into bigotry or fanaticism; this was
prevented by the vigorous Alfonso and her children, and by her court
duties. The war had deprived Ferrara of much of its brilliancy, although
it was still one of the most attractive of the princely courts of Italy.
During the following years of peace Alfonso devoted himself to the
cultivation of the arts. The most famous masters of Ferrara - Dossi,
Garofalo, and Michele Costa - worked for him in the castle, in
Belriguardo, and Belfiore. Titian, who was frequently a guest in
Ferrara, executed some paintings for him, and the duke likewise gave
Raphael some commissions. He even founded a museum of antiquities. In
Lucretia's cabinet there was a Cupid by Michael Angelo. The predilection
of the duchess for the fine arts, however, was not very strong; in this
respect she was not to be compared with her sister-in-law, Isabella of
Mantua, who maintained constant relations with all the prominent artists
of the age and had her agents in all the large cities of Italy to keep
her informed regarding noteworthy productions in the domain of the arts.

From 1513 Ferrara's brilliancy was somewhat dimmed by the greater fame
of the court of Leo X. The passion of this member of the Medici family
for the arts attracted to Rome the most brilliant men of Italy, among
whom were the poets Tebaldeo, Sadoleto, and Bembo - the last became Leo's
secretary. Both the Strozzi were dead. Aldo, upon whose career as a
printer and scholar during his early years Lucretia had not been without
influence, was living in Venice, and from there he kept up a literary
correspondence with his patroness. Celio Calcagnini remained true to
Ferrara. The university continued to flourish. Lucretia was very
friendly with the noble Venetian, Trissino, Ariosto's not altogether
successful rival in epic poetry. There are in existence five letters
written by Trissino to Lucretia in her last years.[229] Ferrara's pride,
however, was Ariosto, and Lucretia knew him when he was at the zenith of
his fame. He, however, dedicated his poem neither to her nor to Alfonso,
but to the unworthy Cardinal Ippolito, in whose service a combination of
circumstances had placed him. No princely house was ever glorified more
highly than was the house of Este by Ariosto, for the _Orlando Furioso_
will cause it to be remembered for all time; so long as the Italian
language endures it will hold an immortal place in literature. Lucretia
too was given a position of honor in the poem; but however beautiful the
place which she there holds, Ariosto ought to have bestowed greater
praise on her if she was the inspiration which he required for his great

Lucretia's relations with her husband, which had never been based upon
love, and which were not of a passionate nature, apparently continued to
grow more favorable for her. In April, 1514, she had borne him a third
son, Alessandro, who died at the age of two years; July 4, 1515, she
bore a daughter, Leonora, and November 1, 1516, another son, Francesco.
With no little satisfaction Alfonso found himself the father of a number
of children - all his legitimate heirs. He was engrossed in his own
affairs, but, nevertheless, he was highly pleased with the esteem and
admiration now bestowed upon his wife. While the admiration she excited
in former years was due to her youthful beauty, it was now owing to her
virtues. She who was once the most execrated woman of her age had won a
place of the highest honor. Caviceo even ventured, when he wished to
praise the famous Isabella Gonzaga, to say that she approached the
perfection of Lucretia. Her past, apparently, was so completely
forgotten that even her name, Borgia, was always mentioned with respect.

About this time Lucretia was reminded of her life in Rome by a member of
her family who was very near to her, Giovanni Borgia, the mysterious
Infante of Rome, formerly Duke of Nepi and Camerino, and companion in
destiny of the little Rodrigo who died in Bari. He had disappeared from
the stage in 1508, and where he was during several succeeding years we
do not know; but in 1517, a young man of nineteen or twenty, he came
from Naples to Romagna, where he was shipwrecked. His baggage had been
saved by the commune of Pesaro, and was claimed by a representative of
Lucretia, December 2d; in the legal document Giovanni Borgia was
described as her "brother." Other instruments show that he remained at
his sister's court as late as December, 1517.[230] Her husband,
therefore, did not refuse to allow her to shelter her kinsman. In
December, 1518, Don Giovanni went to France, where the Duke Alfonso had
him presented to the king. Lucretia had given him presents to take to
the king and queen.[231]

He remained at the French court some time for the purpose of making his
fortune, in which, however, he did not succeed.

Thereupon the Infante of Rome again disappeared from view until the year
1530, when we find him in Rome, laying claim to the Duchy of Camerino.
The last Varano, Giammaria, had returned thither on Cæsar's overthrow,
and had been recognized by Julius II as a vassal of the Church. In
April, 1515, Leo X made him Duke of Camerino and married him to his own
niece, the beautiful Catarina Cibò. Giammaria died in August, 1527,
leaving as his sole heir his daughter Giulia, who was not yet of age. An
illegitimate son of the house of Varano laid claim to Camerino, and he
was ready to enforce his demands with arms, but he was frustrated in his
attempt by a suit brought by Giovanni Borgia, the first duke, who was
supported by Alfonso of Ferrara in his efforts. He furnished him with
several documents dating from the time of Alexander VI which referred to
his rights to Camerino, and which had been placed by Lucretia in the
chancellery of the house of Este. Don Giovanni had even gone to Charles
V, in Bologna, where the famous congress had been sitting since
December, 1529. The emperor had advised him to endeavor to secure his
rights by process of law in Rome, through the Pope. From that city, in
1530, the infante wrote a letter to Duke Alfonso, in which he informed
him of his affairs, and asked him to have further search made in the
archives of the Este for documents concerning himself.

Don Giovanni began suit. In a voluminous document dated June 29, 1530,
he describes himself not only as Domicellus Romanus Principalis, but
also as "orator of the Pope." From this it appears that he - one of the
illegitimate sons of Alexander VI - was a prominent gentleman in Rome,
and was even in the Pope's service. The Roman Ruota decided the suit
against Giovanni, who had to pay the costs. In a brief dated June 7,
1532, Clement VII commanded him to cease annoying Giulia Varano and her
mother with any further claims.[232] From that time we hear nothing more
of this Borgia except from a letter written in Rome, November 19, 1547,
apparently by a Ferrarese agent to Ercole II, then reigning duke. In it
he mentions the death of Don Giovanni. The letter is as follows:

Don Giovanni Borgia has just died in Genoa; it is said he left many
thousand ducats in Valencia. Here (in Rome) he had a little
clothing, two horses, and a vineyard worth about three hundred
ducats. As he left no will the property will be divided between
your Excellency, your brothers, and among others the nobles of the
Mattei family here, the Duke of Gandia, and the children of the
Duke of Valentino, provided their rights are not prejudiced by the
fact that they are natural children. I will not omit to inform
myself regarding the money in Valencia, and will report to your


[229] Printed in the Italian edition of Roscoe's Life of Leo X, vii,

[230] Cittadella N 31. She endeavored to secure the Prebend of S. Jacopo
for him. In her record of household expenses there are entries of
purchases of clothing for him, beginning with December 23, 1517.

[231] Two golden bracelets - per donare alla Regina de Franza, 27 Aprile,
1518; other articles of personal adornment - mandati per lo Illmo D.
Joanne Borgia al Re de Franza (November 16, 1518). The ambassadors Carlo
da Correggio and Pistofilo Bonaventura informed Lucretia of his
favorable reception at the court of France, in letters dated December,
1518, and January to March, 1519. State archives of Modena.

[232] Documents in the State archives of Florence, among the papers
regarding Urbino. CI. I. Div. C. Fil. xiv. In 1534 Giulia Varano married
Guidobaldo II of Urbino and brought him Camerino, which, however, he was
compelled to relinquish in 1539 to Paul III, who gave it to his nephew
Octavio Farnese.

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