Never, since the fall of the Roman Empire, which collapsed heavily onto the ruins of paganism, has the Eternal City been more troubled, nor more bloodied, than at the arrival of Pope Alexander VI, whose election caused unbelievable disorders.
Once installed on the throne of Saint Peter, he did not try to deliver Italy from this bloody folly. Quite the contrary. He favorised the tumult, thanks to which he won his fortune and increased his tyrannical authority.
In Rome, crimes succeeded crimes. Not only traditional vengeances, Corsican vendettas, Capulets against Montaigus, family against family, but more often murders dictated by cowardly cupidity, and by ambition which was never satisfied.
The son kills his father to inherit straight away. The Pope gets rid of the Roman cardinals, because he is their only heir, and he is tormented by pressing money needs.
Cardinal Ferdinand, not having been able to stop the marriage of his brother, Francesco de Medicis, with the adventuress Bianca Capello, poisons both of them during a hunting dinner, at Poggio. A famous crime which tragically ends this extraordinary love story.
Bianca, a Florentine patrician, seduced by the clerk Buonaventuri, manages, through ruse and flirtation, to gain the love of Duke Francesco. The Duke immediately flaunts his scandalous liaison, in spite of the presence of the legitimate Duchess, Joanna of Austria.
Proclaimed reigning mistress, Bianca Capello simulates pregnancy, buys a baby boy, and passes him off as her son. Not wanting to be denounced, she has all of the participants in the substitution executed.
She is at the height of her power when she becomes, on the death of Joanna of Austria, the legitimate spouse of Francesco de Medicis and, at the same time, Grand Duchess of Toscany. She dies a few hours after her husband, from Cardinal Ferdinand’s mysterious poison.
A common and banal adventure in this Renaissance, made of great highs and deep lows.
Under the reign of Pope Borgia, assassinations multiplied, unpunished. Burckard reports that, in the course of one night, a fisherman saw more than one hundred bodies thrown into the Tiber, without anybody seeming to be bothered by it.
The most illustrious princes did not escape the carnage. Caesar Borgia, the son of Alexander VI, crowned his numerous forfaits by fratricide. He had the throat of his elder brother, the Duke of Gandia, slit for the unique reason that he wanted to exchange his cardinal’s robes, which condemned him to inaction, for the gonfalon armour, which would give him supreme commandment of the armies.