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The Borgias

Chapter 4
On the occasion of each new election to the papacy, it is the custom for all the
Christian States to send a solemn embassy to Rome, to renew their oath of
allegiance to the Holy Father. Ludovico Sforza conceived the idea that the
ambassadors of the four Powers should unite and make their entry into Rome on
the same day, appointing one of their envoy, viz. the representative of the King of
Naples, to be spokesman for all four. Unluckily, this plan did not agree with the
magnificent projects of Piero dei Medici. That proud youth, who had been
appointed ambassador of the Florentine Republic, had seen in the mission
entrusted to him by his fellow-citizens the means of making a brilliant display of
his own wealth. From the day of his nomination onwards, his palace was
constantly filled with tailors, jewellers, and merchants of priceless stuffs;
magnificent clothes had been made for him, embroidered with precious stones
which he had selected from the family treasures. All his jewels, perhaps the
richest in Italy, were distributed about the liveries of his pages, and one of them,
his favourite, was to wear a collar of pearls valued by itself at 100,000 ducats, or
almost, a million of our francs. In his party the Bishop of Arezzo, Gentile, who
had once been Lorenzo dei Medici's tutor, was elected as second ambassador,
and it was his duty to speak. Now Gentile, who had prepared his speech,
counted on his eloquence to charm the ear quite as much as Piero counted on
his riches to dazzle the eye. But the eloquence of Gentile would be lost
completely if nobody was to speak but the ambassador of the King of Naples;
and the magnificence of Piero dei Medici would never be noticed at all if he went
to Rome mixed up with all the other ambassadors. These two important interests,
compromised by the Duke of Milan's proposition, changed the whole face of Italy.
Ludovico Sforza had already made sure of Ferdinand's promise to conform to the
plan he had invented, when the old king, at the solicitation of Piero, suddenly
drew back. Sforza found out how this change had come about, and learned that it
was Piero's influence that had overmastered his own. He could not disentangle
the real motives that had promised the change, and imagined there was some
secret league against himself: he attributed the changed political programme to
the death of Lorenzo dei Medici. But whatever its cause might be, it was
evidently prejudicial to his own interests: Florence, Milan's old ally, was
abandoning her for Naples. He resolved to throw a counter weight into the
scales; so, betraying to Alexander the policy of Piero and Ferdinand, he
proposed to form a defensive and offensive alliance with him and admit the
republic of Venice; Duke Hercules III of Ferrara was also to be summoned to
pronounce for one or other of the two leagues. Alexander VI, wounded by
Ferdinand's treatment of himself, accepted Ludovico Sforza's proposition, and an
Act of Confederation was signed on the 22nd of April, 1493, by which the new
allies pledged themselves to set on foot for the maintenance of the public peace
an army of 20,000 horse and 6,000 infantry.
Ferdinand was frightened when he beheld the formation of this league; but he
thought he could neutralise its effects by depriving Ludovico Sforza of his
 
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