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256 THE POPE'S DEATH-BED
Gonzaga wrote a remarkable letter to his wife from the French camp outside the walls of Rome, telling her of the Pope's election, and repeating the legend which had already sprung up in the popular mind, that the devil himself had come to fetch the soul of the hated Borgia.
"Most illustrious and beloved Wife,—In order that you may hear the latest details which have reached us of the Pope's death, we write to inform you how, in his last illness, he began to speak and act in a way which made those about him think that he was wandering, although he retained perfect possession of his faculties. His words were: 'I will come, you are right, only wait a little longer,' and those who were in his secrets afterwards revealed that in the conclave held after the death of Innocent III. he had made a compact with the devil and had bought the papal tiara at the price of his soul. One article of the compact was that he should sit in the papal chair for twelve years, which he actually did, as well as four more days. There are others who say that seven devils were in the room at the moment when he gave up the ghost. And when he was dead, his blood began to boil, and his mouth foamed as if he were a burning caldron, and this lasted as long as he was above ground. His corpse swelled to such a size that it lost the very shape of a human body, and there was no difference between its breadth and length. He was carried to the grave with little honour, his body being dragged from the bed to the sepulchre by ajaccfuno, who fastened a cord to his feet, because no one would touch him, and his funeral was so miserable that the wife of the lame dwarf at Mantua had a more honourable burial than this Pope. And every ELECTION OF PIUS III 257
day the most shameful inscriptions are written over his grave for his last epitaph. To-day we hear that Siena is elected Pope. He is said to be a neutral person, without passions or party. We are altogether at the service of Your Highness, and beg you to kiss Federico many times. We have sent to ask for victuals and a passage through Rome for our army, as had been already promised, but since the new Pope had not yet been elected, we do not know what answer to expect . We hear that the enemy are at Genazzano and are advancing against us. Monseigneur Tremoglia is ill and has been forced to retire, so we are left in command of the camp. Bene valcat. Conjux Marchio Mantuce. Ex Insula. 22 Sept. 1503. Xmo Regis Locum tenentis Generalis."1
1 Gregorovius, "Lucrezia Borgia," App. p. 123.
Death of Pius III.—Election of Julius II.—Return of Elisabetta to Urbino—Caesar Borgia sent to Spain, and his capture—Birth of Isabella's daughter Ippolita—Francesco Gonzaga resigns his command of the French armies—Returns to Mantua—The French lose Naples — Comedies at Urbino, Mantua, and Ferrara—Death of Duke Ercole—Quarrels and plots of the Este brothers—Marriage of Francesco Maria della Rovere and Leonora Gonzaga—Sigismondo Gonzaga raised to the Cardinalate—Letters of Emilia Pia—Castiglione and Bembo— Death of Suor Osanna—A Dominican vicar-general—Birth of Isabella's son Ercole.
The election of Pope Pius III. proved to be only a temporary measure. The new Pontiff was already worn out with age and infirmities, and the fatigues of his coronation, added to the anxieties of his office, brought on a fatal illness of which he died on the 17th of October, only a month after his elevation to the papal see. This time all parties agreed to choose Giuliano della Rovere, and on the 1st of November, after the shortest conclave ever known in the long history of the Papacy,1 he was proclaimed Pope under the title of Julius II. His election produced a complete revolution in the policy of the Holy See. The Duke of Urbino, whose sister was the wife of Giovanni della Rovere, Prefect of Rome, was appointed Captain - general of the Church, with Giovanni Gonzaga as his lieutenant, and his nephew ELISABETTA RETURNS TO URBINO 259
1 Pastor, "History of the Popes," vi. 210. us
Francesco della Rovere, the son of Julius the Second's brother, was publicly recognised as heir to the duchy. Elisabetta, who had remained in Venice until peace and order were restored in her lord's dominions, now took leave of the Doge and Senate, and after thanking them publicly for the hospitality which she had received at their hands, returned to Urbino the first week in December. On the 11th, her seneschal, Alexander Picenardi, gave Isabella the following account of the rejoicings which hailed her entry:—
"Most illustrious Mistress,—I venture to give Your Highness an account of the entry of Her Excellency the Madonna into Urbino, but could not describe the disasters and discomfort that we suffered from bad weather, bad roads and bad hostelries between Venice and Urbino. When at length we were four miles from Urbino, the whole population poured out to meet her, chanting Te Deums, with olive-boughs in their hands and crying 'Gonzaga and Feltro!' And when we reached Urbino, a great number of gentlemen and citizens were at the gates, and came out to greet her with the greatest joy, kissing and clasping her hand with tears of tenderness, so that it was three hours before Her Excellency could reach the Piazza. Then she alighted from her horse in front of the Vescovado and entered the church, where all the ladies of Urbino were assembled, bringing her an olive-branch with golden leaves, and all with one voice called out Her Excellency's name and embraced her with great joy. Then Monsignore the Bishop, robed in his vestments, took Madonna the Duchess by the hand and led her to kneel down before the high altar, where all the clergy 260 THE COURT OF URBINO
were assembled, and they began to sing Te Deum laudamus and other devout prayers. When the blessing had been given, they came out of church and entered the palace, accompanied by the Bishop and all the clergy and a great multitude of people, and they remained in the palace till past midnight, and every day and every night Her Excellency has been ft,ted in this manner. She is very well and commends herself to Your Illustrious Highness, and, poor as I am, I venture to throw myself at your feet, and hope Your Excellency with forgive my presumption. —Your most faithful servant, Alexander, Seneschal." 1
Thus the good Duchess came back to reign over this people who adored her, and charm the hearts of men by her gentleness and sweetness. For the next few years the court of Urbino shone with more than its old lustre, and the most brilliant cavaliers and most accomplished scholars and artists—Castiglione and Bembo, Cristoforo Romano and l'lTnico Aretino— sought a home in this palace, where Guidobaldo and Elisabetta held up before the world a noble example of the purest virtue and the most refined culture.
By degrees the home of the Montefeltri regained its former splendour. It is true that the priceless tapestries of the Trojan war were never recovered, but the famous library, and many of the treasures of art which the palace had formerly contained, were restored by Cajsar Borgia, who, in his anxiety to conciliate the new Pope, was abject in his professions of friendship for the Duke, whom he had wronged so cruelly. But the election of Julius II. had sealed his doom. He was too dangerous a rival to be allowed to
1 Luzio e Renier, op. cit., p. 150.