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226 ISABELLAS EXPENSES
erred on the side of extravagance, she was a prudent and clever manager, who made the most of her money, and had a shrewd eye to business.
"My honoured Lord and Father,—When I first entered this illustrious house I was given a yearly allowance of 6000 gold ducats, to pay for my clothes and provide dowries for my maidens, and all that is necessary for my servants—including two gentlemen; the Court supplying the food of about a hundred persons. Afterwards, in order that I might be free to increase or diminish my household, my illustrious consort gladly agreed, by the advice of his stewards, to take this burden from off their shoulders, and give me another 2000 ducats for the expenses of my whole company. Of this income 6000 was charged on the toll of the mills, 1000 on an excise duty, and the other 1000 on the lands of Letopalidano, near Gonzaga. So you see that in all I have 8000 ducats a year. It is true that by my own economy, and that of my servants, the income of this estate has been increased by about 1000 ducats, with which I have been enabled to buy some neighbouring lands; so that at present the rent brings in about 2500 ducats a year. But I also have to feed about fifty more persons of my household. And it is true that my lord has given me other houses for my pleasure, such, for instance, as Sacchetta and Porto; but their income does not exceed their expenses, and sometimes I have to spend more money to keep them in repair. This is all I can tell Your Excellency for your satisfaction."
By this statement it is clear that Isabella enjoyed a yearly income of from 8000 to 9000 ducats—no inconsiderable sum, if we consider that the ducat was worth about eleven and a half francs—or, roughly ALLIANCE WITH THE BORGIAS 227
speaking, nearly ten shillings—and that money has increased five times in value since those days.1 But considering the large demands upon her purse, and her passion for pictures and antiques, as well as fine clothes and jewels, it is decidedly to her credit that she was able to keep out of debt, and could often raise money to help her husband in bad times or sudden emergencies. The question of the Cardinal's hat for her brother-in-law, Sigismondo, was now once more raised. But this time it was complicated with another scheme. This was nothing less than the betrothal of Isabella's two-year-old son, Federico, to the infant daughter of Caesar Borgia and Ch?-lotte d'Albret . The proposal was first made by Duke Valentino. Early in June 1502 he addressed a charming letter to Isabella, expressing his joy at the prospect of this fresh link between them, and during the next few months this marriage was the object of constant negotiation. Both parties were equally wary. Francesco stipulated that his brother should be raised to the Cardinalate at once, while Borgia, on his part, demanded substantial pledges for the consummation of the marriage in future years. But flattering as were the terms in which the Duke expressed his delight at the prospect of the union between his family and the Gonzagas, both the Marquis and Isabella looked upon his proposals with deep distrust. Their suspicions were not removed by the events which took place in the course of the following summer. About the 20th of June Isabella and her sister-in-law went to Porto with a few chosen ladies, and little Federico, because, as his mother said, she could not be happy 228 CESAR BORGIA SURPRISES IJRBINO
1 See A. Luzio in Nuova Antologia, 1896.
without him. While they were enjoying the fresh breezes and delicious gardens of this charming country-house, the most terrible and unexpected news reached them from Urbino.
"We were here," wrote Isabella on the 27th of June to her sister-in-law, Chiara de Montpensier, "very quiet and contented, enjoying the company of the Duchess of Urbino, who has been with us since carnival, and often wishing that you were here to complete our happiness, when news of the unexpected and perfidious seizure of the duchy of Urbino reached us. The Duke himself arrived here with only four horsemen, having been suddenly surprised and treacherously attacked, so that he narrowly escaped with his life. We were quite stunned by the blow, and are still so bewildered and unhappy that we hardly know where we are, as Your Excellency will understand; and so great is my compassion for the Duchess that I could wish I had never known her."'
On the 13th of June, the day after Caesar Borgia addressed his affectionate letter to Isabella rejoicing over the proposed marriage of their children, he left Rome at the head of a large army, and marched through the district of Spoleto, laying the whole country waste, and spreading terror wherever he came. Before his departure he sent friendly messages to Duke Guidobaldo, asking him to allow his troops to march through the territory of Urbino, and begging for the help of some artillery in his expedition against the Varani of Camerino. But when he reached Spoleto, instead of marching against Camerino as had been expected, he suddenly turned FLIGHT OF GUIDOBALDO 229
1 Luzio, Mantova e Urbino, p. 125.
up the rocky defile of the Furlo Pass, and marched along the great Flaminian Way, and through the valley of the Metaurus towards Urbino. On the 20th of June, the Duke, "supposing himself to be in perfect security,"1 had ridden out to sup in the orange gardens of the Zoccolanti convent, a favourite sanctuary of the Dukes of Urbino, where Piero della Francesca had painted his fine altarpiece, now in the Brera. Here, in the shady groves on the outskirts of the convent garden, he was enjoying the beauty of the summer evening, when a messenger arrived in hot haste from Cagli to say that Duke Valentino was outside the city, marching on Urbino at the head of 2000 men. It was too late to think of resistance. Caesar's mercenaries were advancing in every direction. Already the passes of the Apennines were guarded, and a price had been set upon the Duke's head. Guidobaldo's only hope of safety lay in flight, and, yielding to the entreaties of his servants, he fled for his life, taking with him his young nephew, Francesco della Rovere. After many adventures and narrow escapes, the fugitives succeeded in reaching Mantua safely. "I have saved nothing but my life, my doublet, and my shirt," wrote Guidobaldo on the 28th of June to his kinsman, Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, in a long letter giving a vivid description of his midnight flight, and of the false promise with which Borgia had deceived him. "Such ingratitude and treachery," he adds, "were never before known."2 Even Lucrezia was appalled at her brother's action, and told the 230 MICHEL ANGELOS CUPID
1 Dennistoun, "Dukes of Urbino," vol. ii. p. 325, &c. 2 Alvisi, "Csesar Borgia "; Dennistoun, "Dukes of Urbino," vol. i. p. 391 i Yriarte, "Caesar Borgia," vol. ii
prete of Correggio that she was miserable when she remembered how kindly the Duchess of Urbino had treated her, and would not have had this happen for all the world.
At sunrise on the 21st of June, the Duke of Romagna, as Caesar now styled himself, entered Urbino, and, clad in a splendid suit of armour, installed himself on the ducal throne in the ancient palace of the Montefeltri. No resistance was possible, and the few loyal subjects who dared oppose the victor were stabbed or thrown into prison. During the next few weeks a long train of mules was seen descending the steep hillside, laden with the priceless tapestries and statues, the paintings and treasures of gold and silver plate, which were the pride of the ducal house. Sanuto reckons the value of the booty carried off by Duke Valentino on this occasion at 150,000 ducats, or nearly half a million of our present money.
In the general grief and consternation at Mantua, Isabella did not lose sight of her own interests. She remembered a wonderful torso of Venus, and a Cupid of almost equal beauty, which she had seen and admired in her brother-in-law's collection, and wrote off without delay to Rome, begging her brother, Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, to secure these rare statues, if possible, for her Grotta. Her letter was written on the 30th of June, only three days after Guidobaldo reached Mantua.
"Most Reverend Father in God, my dear and honoured Brother,—The Lord Duke of Urbino, my brother-in-law, had in his house a small Venus of antique marble, and also a Cupid, which were given him some time ago by His Excellency the Duke of