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.

Caesar Borgia preferred the dagger to poison.

Caesar Borgia hardly ever uses poison.  Absolute master of everyone, he kills openly and cynically, with no recourse to this hypocritical subterfuge.  He even goes so far as to stab a young Spanish chamberlain, Pedro Calves, known as Perotto, in the arms of the Holy Father.
The Pope tries to protect him as best he can with his cloak, but the sword thrusts are skilful, and find their mark.  “The blood sprays the Pope’s face,” says Capello, Venitian Ambassador, and witness of the scene.
Perotto is not badly injured but, six days later, his body will be found in the Tiber.  He had made the mistake of getting Caesar Borgia’s sister pregnant, while Caesar was in the process of preparing for her marriage.
Another time, Caesar tries to assassinate his brother-in-law, the Duke of Aragon, Lucretia’s husband.  The same man whom he had, himself, chosen for her husband.
Alphonse of Aragon is attacked at the door of Saint Peter’s.  His attackers, believing him dead, abandon him.  Only wounded, by several dagger thrusts, he is then recuperated by his servants and taken back to his wife.
Lucretia and her sister-in-law nurse him devotedly, preparing his food themselves, afraid that Caesar might try to poison him.  However, one morning, deciding to finish the job, Caesar enters the sickroom.  With one gesture he chases away the women, and says cynically into the sick man’s ear:  “What is not done at breakfast, will be done at supper.”  Then he calls in Michelotto Corella, who throws himself on the bed and strangles the Duke, in Caesar’s presence.
The Pope is not much better than his son.  To extend his domination over the whole peninsula, and fill the coffers of his treasury, always empty, he hesitates before no expedient.  As the natural heir to the cardinals, the Pope lets them steal, pillage, and sell indulgences, favours and positions, up until the day when, sufficiently rich, poison prematurely opens their succession and allows the Pope to become rich.
On a daily basis, the Pope is content with little.  The upkeep of his palace only costs him 700 ducats per month, and his daily menus are composed of only one dish.  Luxury and splendour only appear when Alexander VI invites princes and ambassadors, and his reputation as a generous host is well-known.
Second part tomorrow.
(This is the second time that I have typed this.  As soon as I upload the photo, I lose the spacing in between paragraphs.  I apologise for the inconvenience.)
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