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144 FRANCESCO'S MISTRESS
Beatrice, died in a fit of apoplexy at Milan, and Isabella addressed heart-felt condolences to her aunt's son, Niccolo da Correggio, remarking sadly that at least his mother had died in the natural order, and that her life had not been cut short by a cruel and untimely end.
Certainly Isabella had her full share of anxieties at this time. For, as she and all the world knew, her husband was consoling himself for his reverses in the company of a mistress named Teodora, who bore him two daughters, and shocked public feeling by appearing in splendid attire at a tournament held at Brescia in honour of the Queen of Cyprus. The Marquis himself was present on this occasion with his brother-in-law, the young Cardinal Ippolito, while his rival, the Moro's son-in-law, Galeazzo Sanseverino, appeared in the lists and was not sorry to cross swords with him.1
But Isabella held her peace like a wise woman, and won general admiration by her patient and dignified bearing. "You are blessed beyond most men," wrote the Bologna humanist Floriano Dolfo to the Marquis Francesco soon after his victory at Fornovo, "in having a fair, wise, and noble wife, who is altogether discreet and virtuous, and has shown herself a true mother of concord, ever anxious to gratify your wishes, while she prudently feigns neither to see nor hear those actions of yours which must be hateful and injurious to her."2 This was plain speaking, but the writer had been long intimately acquainted with the Marquis and his wife, and the tribute of praise which he paid Isabella was well deserved.
1 Marino Sanuto, Diarii, i. 697.
3 Luzio e Kenier in Arch. St, Lomb., xvii. 646.
Intrigues of Francesco Gonzaga with Venice and Milan—Isabella seeks to reconcile him with Lodovico Sforza—The Marquis goes to Milan and is appointed captain-general of the League —Visit of the Duke of Milan to Mantua—Correspondence of Isabella with Lodovico—Conquest of Milan by the French, and flight of the Duke—Louis XII. enters Milan—Isabella pays court to the French—Receives the Milanese exiles—The Moro's return and his final surrender at Novara.
It is a difficult task to unravel the tangled web of Italian politics at the close of the fifteenth century and to follow the Marquis Francesco's course of action during the two years that elapsed between his dismissal by the Signory of Venice and the fall of his brother-in-law, Lodovico Sforza. His tortuous policy and frequent changes of front are fully discussed in a learned treatise by M. Louis Pelissier,1 while Dr. Luzio has recently brought several fresh documents on the subject to fight.2 But one thing seems clear. While Francesco and his brother Giovanni were inclined to join with Venice, Isabella d'Este's sympathies were wholly on the side of Lodovico, until it became plain that his cause was irrevocably ruined. Then, like the true "cinquecentist" that she was — to borrow M. Pelissier's 146 LODOVICO SFORZA
1 L. Pelissier, Louis XII. et L. Sforza; Documents pour Fhittoire de la domination francaise dans le Milanais.
2 Luzio, Arch. St. Ijomb., 1901.
VOI,. I. 145 K
phrase—the Marchesa applied all her energies to win the French king's favour and make Louis XII. her friend.1
During the winter and spring of 1498, her confidential agent, Capilupi, was repeatedly sent to Milan to negotiate with the Duke, and when in April a new league was formed between him and the Emperor Maximilian, the command of the allied forces was offered to Francesco, with a yearly salary of 30,000 ducats. The Marquis went to Milan, where he was splendidly entertained, and agreed to all Lodovico's proposals, but he was secretly dissatisfied because the Duke would not give him the title of captain-general of the Milanese army, which was borne by his son-in-law Galeazzo, and sent word by his brother Giovanni to the Signory that he would greatly prefer to return to his old allegiance.2 Isabella, however, strongly advised him to accept the post, saying that the salary was the important thing, although the refusal of the title might be vexatious. Lodovico now announced his intention of coming to Mantua himself, both to show the world the confidence which he placed in the Marquis, and to thank Isabella personally for her good offices. Great preparations were made for his reception, and the Marchesa borrowed plate and tapestries from Niccolo da Correggio, consulted Capilupi as to the Duke's favourite dishes and wines, and was greatly exercised in mind as to whether she ought to wear black and drape her rooms with sable hangings, since Lodovico had never laid aside his mourning since the death of Beatrice. And we learn, from the following letter to VISITS MANTUA 147
1 Les Amies de Ludovic Sforza (Revue hutorique, 1891).
2 Marino Sanuto, Diarii, i. 1112.
Capilupi, that she gave up her own rooms in the Castello for the use of her guest.
"Benedetto: We intend to lodge the Duke here, in our rooms in the Castello, giving him the Camera dipinta, with the ante-chamber, the Camerino of the Sun "—Lodovico Gonzaga's device — " the Camera of the Cassone, our own Camerino and dining-room. And we mean His Excellency to occupy the Camera of the Cassone himself, which we will drape with black and violet hangings, as, although we hear that he still wears mourning, we think this will look rather less melancholy, and show that here at least we have good reason for rejoicing on this occasion. But I hope you will consult M. Antonio di Costabili"— the Ferrarese envoy—" and Messer Visconti as to the hangings of the other rooms, if you do not think it well to mention this to the Duke himself, and let me know their opinion, as it does not seem to me convenient that our rooms should be bare even if His Excellency brings his own hangings. Please also let me know what wines the Duke usually drinks, and what kind of clothes I had better wear, as I said before."l Mantua, June 8, 1498.
The Duke however begged the Marchesa to please herself, and expressed himself highly gratified with her thoughtfulness, and when he heard that Isabella had a slight attack of fever, he sent his jester Barone on beforehand to amuse her with his merry tricks. On the 27th of June he arrived himself, bringing Isabella's brother, Cardinal Ippolito, and several foreign ambassadors in his train, and accompanied by a suite of a thousand persons. He spent three days at Mantua, visited the principal churches and 1 Luzio e Renier in Arch. St. Lamb., xvii. 656.
148 INTRIGUES WITH VENICE
palaces, and admired Mantegna's glorious frescoes, and the treasures of art which Isabella had collected in her studio. The Marquis gave a series of tournaments and comedies in honour of his illustrious guest, but the Venetians watched these proceedings jealously and Sanuto remarked that the Marchesana was evidently anxious to draw her husband to the Duke of Milan's side, and, like her father Ercole of Ferrara, was all against Venice.
Still Francesco wavered, and sent messages to the Signory through his brother Giovanni, who was known to be attached to Venice, and whose wife, Laura Bentivoglio, paid frequent visits to the convent of S. Giorgio. On the 20th of October, he came to Venice and threw himself at the Doge's feet, placing his services and those of his family at his disposal. But, although the Signory was ready to pay him the same salary as before, they would not agree to give him the title of captain-general, and he left Venice in disgust. The next day news came from Milan that the Marchesa had concluded an agreement with Lodovico, and that her little daughter Leonora was to be affianced to her cousin, Maximilian, the young Count of Pavia. "Every one agreed," wrote Sanuto, "that the Marquis had treated our Signory very scurvily, and the Pope is said to have remarked that we are well rid of a great fool."
On this occasion Isabella certainly seems to have urged her husband to come to terms with Lodovico, and herself took an active part in the negotiations. When, early in November, the Marchesino Stanga and Gaspare San Severino came to Mantua and the agreement with Francesco was finally concluded, they visited Isabella in the Castello, and told the Duke