Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Renaissance Italy - At the Court of the Borgia IV

Charles VIII of France
The Controversy Deepens
Charles VIII determined to make good his claim to the throne of Naples and during 1493 summonsed a commission at Tours to validate his intention to storm into Italy. He also intended to call a council calling for the deposition of Alexander VI on the grounds of simony[i]. This idea had been planted in his head by della Rovere, who had come to France deliberately to find allies to destroy Rodrigo.

Della Rovere frequently appears unbalanced in his detestation of the Borgia family. This time he claimed that a pope;
‘So full of vices, so abominable in the eyes of the world’[ii]
must be removed. Della Rovere was not disturbed by the possibility of creating another schism[iii] in the church and his ambitions led to four years of war in Italy[iv]. Charles was impressionable and was subjugated by this forceful prince of the church[v].
Bianca Maria Sforza
Charles’ planned invasion was assisted by the uncertainties in the Sforza family where Ludovico had refused to resign his regency when Gian Galeazzo, Duke of Milan, came of age. Gian Galeazzo’s wife Isabella[vi] complained to her grandfather Ferrante of Naples. Ferrante’s violent response convinced Ludovico that safety lay in deposing his opponent.
Ludovico allied himself with Ferrante’s disaffected nobles and invited Charles into Italy[vii]. In October 1494 Ludovico Sforza finally procured the ducal title for himself after providing a dowry for his niece Bianca Maria, who was marrying the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian.
In September 1494 a French army of 60,000 crossed the Alps. A panicking Rodrigo allied the church with Florence and Naples, the alliance quickly fell apart.
French troops enter Florence
Since 1490 Savonarola had been preaching in Florence protesting corruption in the church and demanding reform; his calls were ignored by the rulers of the city and by Rodrigo. On 9th November 1494 the de’ Medicis were expelled from Florence and a republican government was established. The French were invited in to the city.
Charles’ troops then marched on Rome which fell, unresisting, to the French. Their armed parade took six hours to enter the city, including 36 cannon on wheels. The pressure to maintain the invaders was heavy;
‘Requisitions are fearful, murders innumerable, one hears nothing but moaning and weeping. In all the memory of man the Church has never been in such an evil plight.’[viii]
French troops enter Naples
Rodrigo refused to hand over Castel Sant’Angelo or invest Charles with the throne of Naples, although he did give Charles right of passage through Naples territory. Despite attempts by della Rovere to push Charles into deposing Rodrigo, Charles was more focussed on his final objective, Naples. 
Alfonso abdicated and entered a monastery; his son Ferrante scarpered whilst the French sacked Naples and ravaged her territories. It was Spain which organised resistance; worried about the French military presence in Italy; Ferdinand of Aragon offered his daughter Johanna[ix] as a bride for Maximilian’s son Philip.
Changing Alliances
Ludovico Sforza
The following year saw Spain and the Holy Roman Empire joined in alliance with the papacy and Milan and later Venice[x]. Savonarola’s enemies were manifest and included Ludovico Sforza who wanted Florence to join the Holy League, a move opposed by Savonarola.
In Florence, Savonarola’s teachings inspired bonfires on which the Florentines would burn paintings, valuables, clothes and jewellery. Bands of children scoured Florence for vanities to burn. Like Zamometic before him, Savonarola’s call for reformation of the manifold iniquities of the church fell on deaf ears.
‘Popes and prelates speak against pride and ambition and they are plunged in it up to their ears. They preach chastity and keep mistresses…..They think only of the world and worldly things; they care nothing for souls.’[xi]
It was when Savonarola hailed Charles VIII as an instrument of reform sent by God that he was seen as really dangerous by the authorities. Rodrigo did nothing to silence the friar’s writings, although he was forbidden to preach.
Battle of Fornova
The French meanwhile had made themselves hated in Naples and marched homewards. They fought the league, under the command of Francesco II Gonzaga of Mantua; at Fornovo[xii]. The battle on 6th July 1495 was indecisive and the French continued their retreat. Alfonso and Ferrante popped back into Naples and resumed their rule.
End of a Worthy Opponent
Rodrigo was finally moved to excommunicate Savonarola in June 1497. The friar had ignored the ban on his preaching and he ignored the excommunication likewise, celebrating the Missa Solemnis on Christmas Day. Rodrigo demanded that the rulers of Florence either lock Savonarola up, or send him to Rome; if not he would lay Florence under an interdict.
In response Savonarola wrote to Rodrigo;
‘I can no longer place any faith in Your Holiness, but must trust myself wholly to Him who chooses the weak things of this world to confound the strong. Your Holiness is well advised to make immediate provisions for your own salvation.’[xiii]
Death of Savonarola
He also turned on the Florentine Signoria; but Savonarola’s supporters were wearying, worn down by bad harvests and broken promises. Charles VIII promised to return Pisa to Florence but had then reneged and the Florentines were now caught up in a war against their former satellite.
In May 1498 Savonarola was arrested and tortured and then hung in chains and burned.
‘Part of their bodies remained hanging to the chains, a quantity of stones were thrown to make them fall, as there was the fear of the people getting hold of them; and then the hangman….hacked down the post and burned it on the ground…..stirring the fire up over the dead bodies so that the very last bits were burned.’[xiv]
Savonarola was freed from the fear of purgatory as Rodrigo had shown mercy to his adversary and granted Savonarola a plenary indulgence.
Death of a Son
Painting believed to be of Juan Borgia
On 14th June1497 Rodrigo’s favourite son Juan was murdered after dining with Cesare at his mother’s house. Juan’s dead body was found in the Tiber[xv];
‘On learning that the duke was dead and had been thrown like dung into the river, the pope was deeply moved and shut himself away in a room in grief and anguish of the heart, weeping most bitterly.’[xvi]
And the rumour mill cited a jealous Cesare as being involved in his brother’s death[xvii].
Juan’s brother Joffré had reason to wish Juan dead, as Juan had bedded his wife Sancha. There was no shortage of suspects which included the Sforzas, Giovanni, Ascanio and Gian Galeazzo, not to mention the Duke of Urbino[xviii] and the Orsini. No-one was ever convicted of the murder of the pope’s beloved son.
Following Juan’s death and a period of introspection, Rodrigo announced the setting up of a commission to reform the church claiming, and there is no reason to doubt his sincerity at the time;
‘We will begin the reform with ourselves and so proceed through all levels of the church till the whole work is accomplished.’[xix]
The commission produced little of any lasting value; cardinals were to have their income of 6,000 ducats per annum[xx] reduced along with their households which should number no more than 80 persons, of which at least 12 should be in holy orders. Mounted escorts were to be reduced to 30, cardinals were to eat more abstemiously, cease attending theatricals, tournaments and were no longer to employ youths as body servants.
In addition all concubines were to be dismissed immediately; here Rodrigo lost interest. The proposed bull In apostolicae sedis specular was never published and the question of reform was dropped. A chance to alter some of the abuses at the pinnacle of the church was lost and the path to the reformation continued apace.
A Second Marriage
Coin showing head of Giovanni Sforza
Cesare seems to have been prime mover in persuading his father to annul his sister’s marriage to a scion of the Sforza family on the grounds of non-consummation of marriage; a charge that Giovanni Sforza denied vehemently, writing to his cousin Ascanio;
‘I do not want to agree to this dissolution for no man under God could do so, and even were I to give my consent it would be invalid owing to things that have passed between me and Madonna Lucrezia as I explained……[to] the most illustrious Lord Duke [of Milan].’[xxi]
There was also of course the question of returning Lucrezia’s dowry of 30,000 florins[xxii]. Giovanni put out the rumour that the pope was demanding the return of his daughter to bed her himself. The rumour was given credence by the vices of his sons and soon the wags in Rome added to the tale; the late Juan de Borgia and his brother Cesare were also indicted with the crime of incest. Nevertheless Giovanni’s wishes were ignored, the annulment proceeded and the dowry was returned.
The biddable Lucrezia was secretly married on the 21st July 1498 to Alfonso of Aragon, the illegitimate son of Alfonso of Naples. Alfonso was Duke of Bisceglie and Prince of Salerno.
At the Court of the Borgia – Johan Burchard, Folio Society 1990
Italian Dynasties – Edward Burman, Equation 1989
Lucrezia Borgia – Rachel Erlanger, Michael Joseph 1979
Florence and the Medici – JR Hale, Phoenix Press 2001
The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici – Christopher Hibbert, Folio Society 2001
The Borgias – Mary Hollingsworth, Quercus Editions 2014
Scourge and Fire – Lauro Martines, Jonathan Cape 2006
The Borgias – GJ Meyer, Bantam 2013
A History of Venice – John Julius Norwich, Penguin Books 1982
Absolute Monarchs – John Julius Norwich, Random House 2011
A Renaissance Tapestry – Kate Simon, Harrap 1988
The March of Folly – Barbara Tuchman, Cardinal 1990

[i] Trading in sacred objects
[ii] The March of Folly - Tuchman
[iii] The schism divided the Catholic church from 1378 to 1418 and had done much to blacken the church in the eyes of its believers
[iv] As pope the rigours of war on his subjects did not worry della Rovere; the most war-like of popes
[v] Including the strong minded Michelangelo Buonarroti
[vi] Alfonso of Naples’ daughter
[vii] A risk, as Charles had a stronger claim to Milan than to Naples through his ancestor Charles of Orléans
[viii] The March of Folly - Tuchman
[ix] Known as Johanna the Mad; Johanna was Katherine of Aragon’s sister
[x] Known as the League of Venice and later the Holy League
[xi] The March of Folly - Tuchman
[xii] In Lombardy
[xiii] The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici - Hibbert
[xiv] Ibid
[xv] The title was inherited by his son Juan de Borja y Enriquez,
[xvi] At the Court of the Borgia - Burchard
[xvii] Although he has been absolved of the crime by historians
[xviii] One of the della Rovere family
[xix] The March of Folly - Tuchman
[xx] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £3,948,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £109,800,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £1,579,000,000.00 www.measuringworth.com
[xxi] Lucrezia Borgia - Erlanger
[xxii] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £20,980,000.00
economic status value of that income or wealth is £567,200,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £8,123,000,000.00

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Renaissance Italy - At the Court of the Borgia III

Rodrigo the Man

Rodrigo was a hard working churchman who rarely missed a consistory; he was also learned in the scriptures being;
‘So familiar with Holy Writ, that his speeches were fairly sparkling with well-chosen texts of the Sacred Books.’[i]
Although a religious conservative Rodrigo was nevertheless tolerant of those who held less orthodox beliefs than his own. He did not take slurs personally, shrugging off the slanders of those such as Savonarola who claimed that in Rodrigo.
‘The bestiality and savagery of Nero and Caligula are surpassed.’[ii]
Rodrigo had a childish love of ceremony and pomp, agreeing that it was a cardinal’s duty to maintain the dignity of the College of Cardinals and to ensure that Rome was the most magnificent city in the world.
Rodrigo was almost unsurpassed in his prodigal display of wealth, but he was almost abstemious when it came to the food he ate. Guests at his table were presented with plain fare, so much so that it was not a pleasure to dine with him; indeed the ambassador from Ferrara described the experience as ‘disagreeable’.
The Election
Alexander VI
Innocent died in July 1492; his successor was not Giuliano della Rovere, as might have been expected, but his opponent Rodrigo di Borgia. The historian Francesco Guicciardini claimed of Rodrigo’s election[iii] that;
‘With money, offices, benefices, promises, and all his power and resources he suborned and bought the votes of the cardinals and the College.’[iv]
In reality Rodrigo was a beneficiary of the collapsing power structure in Italy. The moderate Lorenzo de’ Medici had died in April and his son Piero[v] was no politician. Piero cast the treaty with the Sforzas of Milan adrift, leaving Ludovico Sforza[vi] searching for new allies.
Giuliano della Rovere entered the conclave the favoured candidate of Ferrante of Naples and of Charles VIII of France[vii] who made 200,000 ducats[viii] available for Giuliano’s expenses, a further 100,000 ducats were donated by the city of Genoa. He was also favoured by Venice, not to mention all his cousins. The first ballot, of the twenty three cardinals in the conclave, found della Rovere with five votes; his share of the vote did not rise through subsequent ballots, although Rodrigo’s share did.
Cardinal Carafa
The cardinal leading the ballots, although without sufficient votes to win outright, was Cardinal Oliviero Carafa with nine votes. His support came from either side of the political divide; Naples and Milan. The Sforzas refused to accept della Rovere as pope and he, in his turn, would not accept a puppet controlled by Milan.
Enter the compromise candidate; the Spaniard. Sforza decided to back Rodrigo[ix], and the Sforza votes were added to Rodrigo’s tally, and so eventually did della Rovere, the cardinal with the money to bribe his fellow cardinals. Ferrante of Naples was most put out by Rodrigo’s ascension to the throne of St Peter.
A New Beginning
Rodrigo’s reign as Pope Alexander VI began on 11th August 1492; his election led the young Cardinal Giovanni de’ Medici[x] to proclaim;
‘Flee, we are in the hands of a wolf.’[xi]
Cardinal Ascanio Sforza
At the end of the month Rodrigo held the customary consistory to give away all the benefices he had collected during his career. Most of the cardinals benefitted; the young Ascanio Sforza was made Vice-Chancellor in Rodrigo’s place. The only cardinal created was one Juan di Borgia Lanzol[xii], the first of ten members of the Borgia family to be so elevated.
Following the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in the spring of 1492, by Ferdinand and Isabella; some 9,000 impoverished Iberian Jews arrived at the borders of the Papal States in the summer[xiii]. Rodrigo welcomed them into Rome, declaring that they were;
‘Permitted to lead their life, free from interference from Christians, to continue in their own rites, to gain wealth, and to enjoy many other privileges.’[xiv]
Rodrigo also allowed the immigration of Jews expelled from Portugal in 1497 and from Provence in 1498. Della Rovere, a man well-known for his lack of tolerance, claimed that Rodrigo was a marrano.
St Peter's Square 
In contrast to his humanity towards the Jews, Rodrigo celebrated the reverse side of the Alhambra Decree, the expulsion of the Moors from Spain, with a bullfight in the Piazza San Pietro.
Innocent had failed to keep law and order in Rome and Rodrigo cracked down; on 3rd September, less than a month after his elevation, two notorious murderers were hanged and their houses pulled down. Numerous lesser criminals were housed in the Castel Sant’Angelo and a new force of watchmen and constables were employed to keep the peace; twenty one were employed to enforce justice on the bridges over the Tiber.
Looking after the Family
Cesare was just 18 when his father became pope; he was to learn firsthand how devoted the new pope was to his children. Cesare had become a priest at the age of seven, an indulgence to allow this was given by Sixtus[xv]; he studied at the universities of Perugia and Pisa and finally the Studium Urbis[xvi] in Rome.
Cardinal Guiliano Cesarini junior
ow on 20th September 1493, much against his wish, Cesare was made a cardinal; what Cesare wanted was to be a soldier. It took him nearly five years to persuade his father otherwise. At the same time Giraloma’s brother-in-law
Guiliano Cesarini junior[xvii] was also made a cardinal.
Three years after Cesare’s elevation, in 1496, Juan di Borja Lanzol the younger was made a cardinal. Four years later Pedro Luis di Borja Lanzol was similarly elevated along with Amanieu d’Albret, Cesare’s brother-in-law. Rodrigo’s nephew Francisco di Borja and another relative Juan de Vera were made cardinals six months later on 28th September 1500. And finally Juan Castellar y di Borja and Francisco Lloris y di Borja were elevated three years later.
In 1493 Lucrezia’s marriage to Giovanni Sforza[xviii] was celebrated with great pomp at the Vatican.
‘They first served the pope and the cardinals, then the bride, bridegroom and ladies, whilst others went to the clergy and the rest, and finally they flung what sweets remained amongst the people outside, in such abundance that I believe more than a hundred pounds of sweets were trampled underfoot.’[xix]
Worldly Concerns
Arms of  Duchess of Gandia
In August 1493 the Spanish, concerned to counter the Sforza alliance, pressed for Juan Borgia[xx] to come to Spain and marry his affianced; Maria Enriquez de Luna[xxi], a cousin of King Ferdinand. The wedding took place the following month.
Concerned about the succession of the throne of Naples, the aged Ferrante, now 70, was pressing for closer relations with the Vatican, while the French king[xxii] demanded that Rodrigo acknowledge his claim to the Neapolitan crown. Charles’ overtures were rebuffed as Rodrigo was reconciled with two of the leading supporters of Ferrante; della Rovere and Cardinal Orsini. With their support Rodrigo was able to have Cesare made a cardinal along with Alessandro Farnese, the brother of Rodrigo’s mistress Guilia Farnese[xxiii].
Sancha of Aragon
Ferrante died on 25th January 1494 and his throne was claimed by his son Alfonso as well as Charles VIII[xxiv]. Rodrigo supported Alfonso, but della Rovere changed sides to support Charles. The cardinals in consistory agreed to support Alfonso and the pope sent his Master of Ceremonies Johann Burchard to oversee Alfonso’s coronation on 8th May.
‘Once he had been invested with the staff, His Majesty kissed it and handed it to the Royal Chancellor, and then sat down on the faldstool[xxv] opposite the legate [Cardinal Giovanni Borgia] who then commenced the coronation service.’[xxvi]
The following day Alfonso made Joffre Borgia the Prince of Squillace[xxvii]. Joffre was married to Sancha of Aragon, Alfonso’s illegitimate daughter, to cement the alliance between the papacy and the throne of Naples. The couple lived in the Vatican for most of their married lives. Sancha made friends with Lucrezia and allegedly, keeping it all the family, had affairs with Juan and Cesare.

At the Court of the Borgia – Johan Burchard, Folio Society 1990
Italian Dynasties – Edward Burman, Equation 1989
Lucrezia Borgia – Rachel Erlanger, Michael Joseph 1979
Florence and the Medici – JR Hale, Phoenix Press 2001
The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici – Christopher Hibbert, Folio Society 2001
The Borgias – Mary Hollingsworth, Quercus Editions 2014
The Borgias – GJ Meyer, Bantam 2013
A History of Venice – John Julius Norwich, Penguin Books 1982
Absolute Monarchs – John Julius Norwich, Random House 2011
A Renaissance Tapestry – Kate Simon, Harrap 1988
The March of Folly – Barbara Tuchman, Cardinal 1990

[ii] The Borgias - Meyer
[iii] He was writing of events that happened when he was 9 years old and was viewing matters with 40 years worth of hindsight
[iv] The Borgias - Meyer
[v] Known as the Unfortunate
[vi] Who was to make himself Duke of Milan in 1495 after the suspicious death of his nephew Gian Galeazzo
[vii] Soon to make his mark on Italy
[viii] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £132,400,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £3,572,000,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £52,020,000,000.00 www.measuringworth.com
[ix] A marriage between one of the Sforza family and Lucrezia was agreed in February 1492
[x] The second son of Lorenzo de’ Medici was made a cardinal aged 14; he was later Pope Leo X
[xi] The March of Folly - Tuchman
[xii] Juan had been working in Rome for Rodrigo for some years
[xiii] Many of their fellow religionists were evacuated by Sultan Bayezid II from Spain after the proclamation of the Alhambra Decree and resettled throughout the Ottoman Empire.
[xv] The church did not normally allow the illegitimate to become priests
[xvi] Now Sapienza University of Rome
[xvii] Giraloma was married to one of the sons of Gabriele Cesarini Gonfaloniere of the Roman people and his wife Godina a member of the powerful Colonna family
[xviii] The illegitimate son of Constanzo Sforza
[xix] At the Court of the Borgia - Burchard
[xx] Now Duke of Gandia following the death of Pedro Luis sometime after 1485
[xxi] Who had previously been engaged to Pedro Luis; the couple had two children
[xxii] The claim to the throne of Naples was left to his father Louis XI by René of Anjou
[xxiii] It is not known when Guilia became Rodrigo’s mistress, but at the very latest by November 1493
[xxiv] The question of which claimant had the right to rule in Naples was complicated, but Ferrante’s father Alfonso beat his rival claimant Louis III who died before he could make good his claim which then passed to René
[xxv] A bishop’s portable folding chair used in church services
[xxvi] At the Court of the Borgia - Burchard
[xxvii] A port town in Calabria