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Beatrice d'Este, Duchess of Milan, 1475-1497
by Julia Mary Cartwright
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BEATRICE D'ESTE

DUCHESS OF MILAN

1475-1497



A STUDY OF THE RENAISSANCE

BY

JULIA CARTWRIGHT

(MRS HENRY ADY)

Author of "Madame," "Sacharissa," "J. F. Millet"



1910 LONDON: J. M. DENT & SONS, LTD. NEW YORK: E. P. DUTTON & CO.



First Edition, November, 1899 Second Edition, June, 1903 Third Edition, November, 1903 Fourth Edition February, 1905 Fifth Edition, July, 1908 Sixth Edition, May, 1910

All rights reserved



PREFACE

During the last twenty years the patient researches of successive students in the archives of North Italian cities have been richly rewarded. The State papers of Milan and Venice, of Ferrara and Modena, have yielded up their treasures; the correspondence of Isabella d'Este, in the Gonzaga archives at Mantua, has proved a source of inexhaustible wealth and knowledge. A flood of light has been thrown on the history of Italy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; public events and personages have been placed in a new aspect; the judgments of posterity have been modified and, in some instances, reversed.

We see now, more clearly than ever before, what manner of men and women these Estes and Gonzagas, these Sforzas and Viscontis, were. We gain fresh insight into their characters and aims, their secret motives and private wishes. We see them in their daily occupations and amusements, at their work and at their play. We follow them from the battle-field and council chamber, from the chase and tournament, to the privacy of domestic life and the intimate scenes of the family circle. And we realize how, in spite of the tragic stories or bloodshed and strife that darkened their lives, in spite, too, of the low standard of morals and of the crimes and vices that we are accustomed to associate with Renaissance princes, there was a rare measure of beauty and goodness, of culture and refinement, of love of justice and zeal for truth, among them. As the latest historian of the Papacy, Dr. Pastor, has wisely remarked, we must take care not to paint the state of morals during the Italian Renaissance blacker than it really was. Virtue goes quietly on her way, while vice is noisy and uproarious; the criminal forces himself upon the public attention, while the honest man does his duty in silence, and no one hears of him. This is especially the case with the women of the Renaissance. They had their faults and their weaknesses, but the great majority among them led pure and irreproachable lives, and trained their children in the paths of truth and duty. Even Lucrezia Borgia, although she may not have been altogether immaculate, was not the foul creature that we once believed. And the more closely we study these newly discovered documents, the more we become convinced that this age produced some of the most admirable types of womanhood that the world has ever seen. When Castiglione painted his ideal woman in the pages of the "Cortigiano," he had no need to draw on his imagination. Elizabeth Gonzaga, Duchess of Urbino, and Isabella d'Este, Marchioness of Mantua, were both of them women of great intellect and stainless virtue, whose genuine love of art and letters attracted the choicest spirits to their court, and exerted the most beneficial influence on the thought of the day. Isabella, whose vast correspondence with the foremost painters and scholars of the age has been preserved almost intact, was probably the most remarkable lady of the Renaissance. The story of her long and eventful life—a theme of absorbing interest—yet remains to be written. The present work is devoted to the history of her younger sister, Beatrice, Duchess of Milan, who, as the wife of Lodovico Sforza, reigned during six years over the most splendid court of Italy. The charm of her personality, the important part which she played in political life at a critical moment of Italian history, her love of music and poetry, and the fine taste which she inherited, in common with every princess of the house of Este, all help to make Beatrice singularly attractive, while the interest which she inspires is deepened by the pathos of her sudden and early death.

If in Isabella we have the supreme representative of Renaissance culture in its highest and most intellectual phase, Beatrice is the type of that new-found joy in life, that intoxicating rapture in the actual sense of existence, that was the heritage of her generation, and found expression in the words of a contemporary novelist, Matteo Bandello—himself of Lombard birth—when with his last breath he bade his companions live joyously, "Vivete lieti!" We see this bride of sixteen summers flinging herself with passionate delight into every amusement, singing gay songs with her courtiers, dancing and hunting through the livelong day, outstripping all her companions in the chase, and laughing in the face of danger. We see her holding her court in the famous Castello of Porta Giovia or in the summer palaces of Vigevano and Cussago, in these golden days when Milan was called the new Athens, when Leonardo and Bramante decorated palaces or arranged masquerades at the duke's bidding, when Gaspare Visconti wrote sonnets in illuminated books, and Lorenzo da Pavia constructed organs or viols as perfect and beautiful to see as to hear, for the pleasure of the youthful duchess. Scholars and poets, painters and writers, gallant soldiers and accomplished cavaliers, we see them all at Beatrice's feet, striving how best they may gratify her fancies and win her smiles. Young and old, they were alike devoted to her service, from Galeazzo di Sanseverino, the valiant captain who became her willing slave and chosen companion, to Niccolo da Correggio, that all-accomplished gentleman who laid down his pen and sword to design elaborate devices for his mistress's new gowns. We read her merry letters to her husband and sister, letters sparkling with wit and gaiety and overflowing with simple and natural affection. We see her rejoicing with all a young mother's proud delight over her first-born son, repeating, as mothers will, marvellous tales of his size and growth, and framing tender phrases for his infant lips. And we catch glimpses of her, too, in sadder moods, mourning her mother's loss or wounded by neglect and unkindness. We note how keenly her proud spirit resents wrong and injustice, and how in her turn she is not always careful of the rights and feelings of her rivals. But whatever her faults and mistakes may have been, she is always kindly and generous, human and lovable. A year or two passes, and we see her, royally arrayed in brocade and jewels, standing up in the great council hall of Venice, to plead her husband's cause before the Doge and Senate. Later on we find her sharing her lord's counsels in court and camp, receiving king and emperor at Pavia or Vigevano, fascinating the susceptible heart of Charles VIII. by her charms, and amazing Kaiser Maximilian by her wisdom and judgment in affairs of state. And then suddenly the music and dancing, the feasting and travelling, cease, and the richly coloured and animated pageant is brought to an abrupt close. Beatrice dies, without a moment's warning, in the flower of youth and beauty, and the young duchess is borne to her grave in S. Maria delle Grazie amid the tears and lamentations of all Milan. And with her death, the whole Milanese state, that fabric which Lodovico Sforza had built up at such infinite cost and pains, crumbles into ruin. Fortune, which till that hour had smiled so kindly on the Moro and had raised him to giddy heights of prosperity, now turned her back upon him. In three short years he had lost everything—crown, home, and liberty—and was left to drag out a miserable existence in the dungeons of Berry and Touraine.

"And when Duchess Beatrice died," wrote the poet, Vincenzo Calmeta, "everything fell into ruin, and that court, which had been a joyous paradise, was changed into a black Inferno."

Then Milan and her people become a prey to the rude outrages of French soldiery. Leonardo's great horse was broken in pieces by Gascon archers, and the Castello, "which had once held the finest flower of the whole world, became," in Castiglione's words, "a place of drinking-booths and dung-hills." The treasures of art and beauty stored up within its walls were destroyed by barbarous hands, and all that brilliant company was dispersed and scattered abroad. Artists and poets, knights and scholars—Leonardo and Bramante, Galeazzo and Niccolo—were driven out, and went their way each in a different direction, to seek new homes and other patrons. But the memory of the young duchess—the Donna beata of Pistoja and Visconti's song—lived for many a year in the hearts of her loyal servants, Castiglione enshrined her name in his immortal pages, Ariosto celebrated her virtues in the cantos of his "Orlando Furioso," and far on in the new century, grey-headed scholars spoke of her as "la piu zentil Donna d'Italia"—the sweetest lady in all Italy.

And to-day, as we pace the dim aisles of the great Certosa, we may look on the marble effigy of Duchess Beatrice and see the lovely face with the curling locks and child-like features which the Lombard sculptor carved, and which still bears witness to the love of Lodovico Sforza for his young wife.

* * * * *

In conclusion, I must acknowledge how deeply I am indebted to Signor Luzio, keeper of the Gonzaga archives at Mantua, and to his able colleague, Signor Renier, for the assistance which they have lent to my researches, as well as for the help afforded by their own publications, in which many of Isabella and Beatrice d'Este's most interesting letters have already been given to the world. The State archives of Milan and Mantua are the principal sources from which the information contained in the present volume is drawn, and a list of the other authorities which have been consulted is given below.

ITALIAN.

Archivio di Stato di Milano, Beatrice d'Este, Potenze estere, etc.

Archivio Gonzaga Mantova, Copia lettera d'Isabella d'Este, etc.

A. Luzio and R. Renier, Delle Relazioni di Isabella d'Este Gonzaga con Ludovico and Beatrice Sforza. Archivio Storico lombardo, xvii.

T. Chalcus, Residua. Milano, 1644.

Archivio Storico Italiano, serie i. vol. iii.; Cronache Milanesi di G. A. Prato, G. P. Cagnola, G. M. Burigozzo, etc.; Serie iii. vol. xii., Serie v. vol. vi., Serie vii. vol. i.

L. A. Muratori, Italicarum Rerum Scriptores, vol. xxiv.

F. Muralti, Annalia.

Paolo Giovio, Storia di suoi Tempi.

Marino Sanuto, Diarii, De Bello Gallico, etc.

Bernardino Corio, Historie Milanese.

Rosmini, Storia di Milano.

Fr. Guicciardini, Storia a'Italia. Rendered into English by G. Fenton. 1618.

F. Frizzi, Storia di Ferrara, vols. iv. and v.

P. Verri, Storia di Milano.

Baldassare Castiglione, Lettere. Edizione Serassi.

R. Renier, Sonetti di Pistoia.

Giornale Storico di Letteratura Italiano, vols. v. and vi.

Archivio Storico dell' Arte, vols. i. and ii.

Renier, Canzoniere di Niccolo da Correggio.

A. Campo Ghisolfo, Storia delle Duchesse di Milano. 1542. Rivista Storica Mantovana.

Carlo Magenta, I Visconti e Sforza nel Castello di Pavia.

F. Calvi, Bianca Maria Sforza Visconti, Regina dei Romani, Imperatrice di Germania.

Marchese d'Adda, Indagini sulla Liberia Visconti Sforzesca del Castello di Pavia.

Malipiero, Annali Veneti.

Romanini, Storia di Venezia, vols. v. and vi.

Imhoff, Historia Genealogica Italiae.

G. Uzielli, Ricerche intorno a Leonardo da Vinci.

G. Uzielli, Leonardo da Vinci e Tre Gentil donne Milanesi.

G. d'Adda, Lodovico Maria Sforza.

L. Beltrami, Il Castello di Milano, sotto il dominio degli Sforza. 1450-1535.

L. Beltrami, Bramante poeta.

Padre Pino, Storia genuina del Cenacolo. 1796.

B. Bellincioni, Le Rime annotate da P. Fanfani. Bologna.

G. Tiraboschi, Storia della Letteratura Italiana, vols. vi. and vii.

P. Molmenti, La Vita Privata di Venezia.

A. Rusconi, Lodovico il Moro a Novara.

F. Gabotto, Girolamo Tuttavilla.

G. L. Calvi, Notizie dei principali Professori di Belle Arti che fiorivano in Milano.

G. Mongeri, L'Arte in Milano.

C. Amoretti, Memorie Storiche sulla vita gli studi e le opere di Leonardo da Vinci.

Brigola, Annali della Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano.

Carlo dell'Acqua, Lorenza Gusnasco di Pavia.

P. Pasolini, Caterina Sforza.

FRENCH.

Manuscrits Italiens, Affaires d'etat. Bibliotheque Nationale.

Pasquier le Moine, MS. La Conquete du Duche de Milan. Bibliotheque Nationale.

Jean d'Auton, Chroniques de Louis XII. Edition publiee pour la Societe de l'Histoire de France, par R. de Maulde La Claviere. 4 vols.

Philippe de Commines, Memoires. Nouvelle edition publiee par la Societe de l'Histoire de France.

Vicomte Delaborde, L'Expedition de Charles VIII. en Italie.

M. Eugene Muntz, La Renaissance en Italie et en France a l'epoque de Charles VIII.

M. Eugene Muntz, Musee du Capitole.

M. Eugene Muntz, Leonardo da Vinci.

C. de Cherrier, Histoire de Charles VIII, Roi de France, d'apres des documents diplomatiques inedits.

Louis Pelissier, Louis XII. et Lodovico Sforza. Recherches dans les Archives Italiennes.

Louis Pelissier, Notes Italiennes.

Louis Pelissier, Les amies de Lodovico Sforza. (Revue historique.)

Edmond Gaultier, Etude historique sur Loches.

Paravicini, Architecture de la Renaissance en Italie.

Aldo Manuzio, Lettres et Documents. Armand Baschet.

Gazette des Beaux Arts, vol. xvi.

GERMAN.

Dr. Ludwig Pastor, Geschichte der Papste, vols. v. and vi.

Jacob Burckhardt, Die Cultur der Renaissance in Italien.

Dr. W. Bode, Dr. Muller-Walde, Jahrbuch der K. Preuss. Kunstsammlungen. Vols. ix., x., and xviii.

K. Kindt, Die Katastrophe Lodovico Moro in Novara.

Dr. Muller-Walde, Leonardo da Vinci.

ENGLISH.

History of the Papacy, by Dr. Creighton, Bishop of London. Vols. iv. and v.

The End of the Middle Ages, by Madame James Darmetester.

The Renaissance in Italy. J. A. Symonds.

Old Touraine. T. Cook



CONTENTS

PAGE CHAPTER I 1471-1480

The Castello of Ferrara—The House of Este—Accession of Duke Ercole I.—His marriage to Leonora of Aragon—Birth of Isabella and Beatrice d'Este—Plot of Niccolo d'Este—Visit of Leonora to Naples—The court of King Ferrante—Betrothal of Beatrice d'Este to Lodovico Sforza, Duke of Bari—And of Isabella d'Este to Francesco Gonzaga 1

CHAPTER II 1451-1582

Lodovico Sforza—Known as Il Moro—His birth and childhood—Murder of Duke Galeazzo Maria—Regency of Duchess Bona—Exile of the Sforza brothers—Lodovico at Pisa—His invasion of Lombardy and return to Milan—Death of Cecco Simonetta—Flight of Duchess Bona—Lodovico Regent of Milan 11

CHAPTER III 1482-1490

Wars of Venice and Ferrara—Invasion of Ferrara—Lodovico Sforza and Alfonso of Calabria come to the help of Ercole d'Este—Peace of Bagnolo—Prosperity of Ferrara, and cultivation of art and learning at Ercole's court—Guarino and Aldo Manuzio—Strozzi and Boiardo— Architecture and painting—The frescoes of the Schifanoia—Music and the drama—Education of Isabella and Beatrice d'Este 27

CHAPTER IV 1485-1490

Isabella d'Este—Lodovico Sforza delays his wedding—Plot against his life—Submission of Genoa—Duke Gian Galeazzo—The Sanseverini brothers—Messer Galeazzo made Captain-General of the Milanese armies—His marriage to Bianca Sforza—Marriage of Gian Galeazzo to Isabella of Aragon—Wedding festivities at Milan—Lodovico draws up his marriage contract with Beatrice d'Este 40

CHAPTER V 1490-1491

Marriage of Isabella d'Este—Lodovico puts off his wedding—Cecilia Gallerani—Her portrait by Leonardo da Vinci—Mission of Galeazzo Visconti to Ferrara—Preparations for Beatrice's wedding—Cristoforo Romano's bust—Duchess Leonora and her daughters travel to Piacenza and Pavia—Their reception at Pavia by Lodovico 50

CHAPTER VI 1491

City and University of Pavia—Duomo and Castello—The library of the Castello—Wedding of Lodovico Sforza, Duke of Bari, and Beatrice d'Este, in the chapel of the Castello of Pavia—Galeazzo di San Severino and Orlando—Reception of the bride in Milan—Tournaments and festivities at the Castello—Visit of Duchess Leonora to the Certosa of Pavia 60

CHAPTER VII 1491

Beatrice Duchess of Bari—Her popularity at the court of Milan— Giangaleazzo and Isabella of Aragon—Lodovico's first impressions— His growing affection for his wife—His letters to Isabella d'Este —Hunting and fishing parties—Cussago and Vigevano—Controversy on Orlando and Rinaldo—Bellincioni's sonnets 75

CHAPTER VIII 1491

Relations between Lodovico and Beatrice—Cecilia Gallerani—Birth of her son Cesare—Her marriage to Count Bergamini—Beatrice at Villa Nova and Vigevano—The Sforzesca and Pecorara—Lodovico's system of irrigation in the Lomellina—Leonardo at Vigevano—Hunting-parties and country life—Letters to Isabella d'Este 88

CHAPTER IX 1491-1492

Isabella of Aragon and Beatrice d'Este—Ambrogio Borgognone and Giovanni Antonio Amadeo—Cristoforo Romano and his works at Pavia and Cremona—The Certosa of Pavia—Illness of Beatrice—Her journey to Genoa—Correspondence between Isabella and Lodovico Sforza—Visit of the Marquis of Mantua to Milan 99

CHAPTER X 1491

Claims of Charles VIII. to Naples—Of the Duke of Orleans to Milan —Intrigues of the Venetian Senate, of Pope Innocent VIII., and of Ferrante and Alfonso of Naples—Visit of the French ambassadors to Milan—Treasures of the Castello—Jewels of Lodovico Sforza—Isabella of Aragon and her father—An embassy to the French court proposed— Secret instructions of the Count of Caiazzo—Fete at Vigevano —Tournament of Pavia 112

CHAPTER XI 1492

Intellectual and artistic revival in Lombardy—Lodovico and his secretaries—Building of the new University of Pavia—Reforms and extension of the University—The library of the Castello remodelled —Poliziano and Merula—Lodovico founds new schools at Milan— Equestrian statue of Francesco Sforza—Leonardo's paintings at Milan—Lodovico as a patron of art and learning 125

CHAPTER XII 1492

Beatrice d'Este as a patron of learning and poetry—Vincenzo Calmeta, her secretary—Serafino d'Aquila—Rivalry of Lombard and Tuscan poets—Gaspare Visconti's works—Poetic jousts with Bramante —Niccolo da Correggio and other poets—Dramatic art and music at the court of Milan—Gaffuri and Testagrossa—Lorenzo Gusnasco of Pavia 141

CHAPTER XIII 1492

Visit of Duke Ercole to Milan, and of Isabella d'Este—Election of Pope Alexander VI.—Bribery of the Cardinals—Influence of Ascanio Sforza over the new Pope, and satisfaction of Lodovico—Hunting- parties at Pavia and Vigevano—Fetes at Milan—Visit of Isabella to Genoa—Lodovico's letters—Piero de Medici—King Ferrante's jealousy of the alliance between Rome and Milan 155

CHAPTER XIV 1493

Birth of Beatrice's first-born son—The Duchess of Ferrara at Milan —Fetes and rejoicings at court and in the Castello—The court moves to Vigevano—Beatrice's wardrobe—Her son's portrait—Letters to her mother and sister—Lodovico's plans for a visit to Ferrara and Venice 166

CHAPTER XV 1493

Lodovico's ambitious designs—Isabella of Aragon appeals to her father—Breach between Naples and Milan—Alliance between the Pope, Venice, and Milan proclaimed—Mission of Erasmo Brasca to the king of the Romans—Journey of Lodovico and Beatrice to Ferrara—Fetes and tournaments—Visit to Belriguardo, and return of Lodovico to Milan—Arrival of Belgiojoso from France 176

CHAPTER XVI 1493

Visit of Beatrice and her mother to Venice—Letters of Lodovico to his wife—Reception of the duchesses by the doge at S. Clemente— Their triumphal entry—Procession and fetes in the Grand Canal— Letter of Beatrice to her husband—The palace of the Dukes of Ferrara in Venice 185

CHAPTER XVII 1493

Fetes at Venice in honour of the Duchess of Ferrara and Duchess of Bari—Beatrice d'Este has an audience with the doge and Signory— Explains Lodovico's position and his treaties with France and Germany—Visit to St. Mark's and the Treasury—Fete in the ducal palace—The Duchess visits the Great Council—Takes leave of the doge—Return to Ferrara 195

CHAPTER XVIII

1493

Return of Beatrice to Milan—Visit of Duke Ercole and Alfonso to Pavia—Death of Duchess Leonora—Beatrice's camora and Niccolo da Correggio's fantasia dei vinci—Marriage of Bianca Maria Sforza to Maximilian, King of the Romans, celebrated at Milan —Letter of Beatrice to Isabella d'Este—Wedding fetes and journey of the bride to Innsbruck—Maximilian's relations with his wife— Bianca's future life 205

CHAPTER XIX

1493-1494

State of political affairs in Italy—Vacillating policy of Lodovico Sforza—Death of King Ferrante of Naples—Alliance between his successor Alfonso and Pope Alexander VI.—Lodovico urges Charles VIII. to invade Naples—Sends Galeazzo di Sanseverino to Lyons— Cardinal della Rovere's flight from Rome—Alfonso of Naples declares war—Beatrice of Vigevano—The Gonzagas and the Moro—Duchess Isabella and her husband at Pavia 221

CHAPTER XX

1494

Arrival of the Duke of Orleans at Asti—The Neapolitan fleet sent against Genoa—The forces of Naples repulsed at Rapallo—Charles VIII. at Asti—Beatrice d'Este entertains him at Annona—The king's illness—His visit to Vigevano and Pavia—His interview with the Duke and Duchess of Milan—Last illness and death of Giangaleazzo Sforza—Lodovico proclaimed Duke at Milan—Mission of Maffeo Pirovano to Maximilian 231

CHAPTER XXI

1494

Lodovico joins Charles VIII. at Sarzana—Suspicious rumours as to the late duke's death—Piero de' Medici surrenders the six fortresses of Tuscany to Charles VIII.—Lodovico retires in disgust from the camp —Congratulations of all the Italian States on his accession—Grief of Duchess Isabella—Her return to Milan—Mission of Maffeo Pirovano to Antwerp—His interviews with Maximilian and Bianca—Letter to Lodovico to the Bishop of Brixen—Charles VIII. enters Rome—His treaty with Alexander VI. and departure for Naples 246

CHAPTER XXII 1495

Visit of Isabella d'Este to Milan—Birth of Beatrice's son, Francesco Sforza—Fetes and comedies at the Milanese Court—Works of Leonardo and of Lorenzo di Pavia—Mission of Caradosso to Florence and Rome in search of antiques—Fall of Naples—Entry of King Charles VIII. and flight of Ferrante II.—Consternation in Milan—Departure of Isabella d'Este 258

CHAPTER XXIII 1495

Proclamation of the new league against France at Venice—Charles VIII. at Naples—Demoralization of the victors—Charles leaves Naples and returns to Rome—The Duke of Orleans refuses to give up Asti—Arrival of the imperial ambassadors at Milan—Lodovico presented with the ducal insignia—Fetes in the Castello— The Duke of Orleans seizes Novara—Terror of Lodovico—Battle of Fornovo—Victory claimed by both parties—The French reach Asti— Isabella's trophies restored by Beatrice 266

CHAPTER XXIV 1495

Ferrante II. recovers Naples—Siege of Novara by the army of the League—Review of the army by the Duke and Duchess of Milan—Charles VIII. visits Turin and comes to Vercelli—Negotiations for peace— Lodovico and Beatrice at the camp—Treaty of Vercelli concluded between France and Milan—Jealousy of the other powers—Commines at Vigevano—Zenale's altar-piece in the Brera 277

CHAPTER XXV 1496

The war of Pisa—Venice defends the liberties of Pisa against Florence—Lodovico invites Maximilian to enter Italy and succour the Pisans—The Duke and Duchess of Milan go to meet the emperor at Bormio—Maximilian crosses the Alps and comes to Vigevano—His interview with the Venetian envoys—His expedition to Pisa 287

CHAPTER XXVI 1496

Isabella d'Este joins her husband in Naples—Works of Bramante and Leonardo in the Castello of Milan—The Cenacolo—Lodovico sends for Perugino—His passion for Lucrezia Crivelli—Grief of Beatrice— Death of Bianca Sforza—The Emperor Maximilian at Pisa—The Duke and Duchess return to Milan—Last days and sudden death of Beatrice d'Este 298

CHAPTER XXVII 1497

Grief of the Duke of Milan—His letters to Mantua and Pavia— Interview with Costabili—Funeral of Duchess Beatrice—Mourning of her husband—Letters of the Emperor Maximilian and Chiara Gonzaga— Tomb of Beatrice in Santa Maria delle Grazie—Leonardo's Cenacolo, and portraits of the duke and duchess—Lucrezia Crivelli 307

CHAPTER XXVIII 1497-1498

The Marquis of Mantua dismissed by the Venetians—He incurs Duke Lodovico's displeasure by his intrigues—Isabella d'Este's correspondence with the Duke of Milan—Leonardo in the Castello— Death of Charles VIII.—Visit of Lodovico to Mantua—Francesco Gonzaga appointed captain of the imperial forces—Isabella of Aragon and Isabella d'Este—Chiara Gonzaga and Caterina Sforza— Lodovico's will 322

CHAPTER XXIX 1499

Treaty of Blois—Alliance between France, Venice, and the Borgias— Lodovico appeals to Maximilian—His gift to Leonardo and letter to the Certosa—The French and the Venetians invade the Milanese— Desertion of Gonzaga and treachery of Milanese captains—Loss of Alessandria—Panic and flight of Duke Lodovico—Surrender of Pavia and Milan to the French—Treachery of Bernardino da Corte and surrender of the Castello—Triumphal entry of Louis XII 337

CHAPTER XXX 1499-1500

Louis XII. in Milan—Hatred of the French rule—Return of Duke Lodovico—His march to Como and triumphal entry into Milan—Trivulzio and the French retire to Mortara—Surrender of the Castello of Milan, of Pavia and Novara, to the Moro—His want of men and money—Arrival of La Tremouille's army—Lodovico besieged in Novara and betrayed to the French king by the Swiss—Rejoicings at Rome and Venice—Triumph of the Borgias—Sufferings of the Milanese—Leonardo's letter 352

CHAPTER XXXI 1500-1508

Lodovico Sforza enters Lyons as a captive—His imprisonment at Pierre-Encise and Lys Saint-Georges—Laments over Il Moro in the popular poetry of France and Italy—Efforts of the Emperor Maximilian to obtain his release—Ascanio and Ermes Sforza released—Lodovico removed to Loches—Paolo Giovio's account of his captivity—His attempt to escape—Dungeon at Loches—Death of Lodovico Sforza—His burial in S. Maria delle Grazie 367

CHAPTER XXXII 1500-1564

The Milanese exiles at Innsbruck—Galeazzo di Sanseverino becomes Grand Ecuyer of France—Is slain at Pavia—Maximilian Sforza made Duke of Milan in 1512—Forced to abdicate by Francis I. in 1515— Reign of Francesco Sforza—Wars of France and Germany—Siege of Milan by the Imperialists—Duke Francesco restored by Charles V.— His marriage and death in 1535—Removal of Lodovico and Beatrice's effigies to the Certosa 375

INDEX 381



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

BIANCA SFORZA, BY AMBROGIO DE PREDIS Frontispiece From a photograph by SIGNOR D. ANDERSON, of Rome.

SFORZA MS. ILLUMINATED To face p. 83 From a private photograph.

ALTAR-PIECE, ASCRIBED TO ZENALE, WITH PORTRAITS OF LODOVICO SFORZA, BEATRICE D'ESTE AND THEIR SONS To face p. 284 From a photograph by SIGNOR D. ANDERSON, of Rome.

GALEAZZO DI SANSEVERINO, BY AMBROGIO DE PREDIS To face p. 304 From a photograph by SIGNOR D. ANDERSON, of Rome.

TOMB OF LODOVICO SFORZA AND BEATRICE D'ESTE IN THE CERTOSA OF PAVIA To face p. 389 From a photograph by FRATELLI ALINARI, of Florence.



BEATRICE D'ESTE



CHAPTER I

The Castello of Ferrara—The House of Este—Accession of Duke Ercole I.—His marriage to Leonora of Aragon—Birth of Isabella and Beatrice d'Este—Plot of Niccolo d'Este—Visit of Leonora to Naples—The court of King Ferrante—Betrothal of Beatrice d'Este to Lodovico Sforza, Duke of Bari—And of Isabella d'Este to Francesco Gonzaga.

1471-1480

In the heart of old Ferrara stands the Castello of the Este princes. All the great story of the past, all the romance of medieval chivalry, seems to live again in that picturesque, irregular pile with the crenellated towers and dusky red-brick walls, overhanging the sleepy waters of the ancient moat. The song of Boiardo and Ariosto still lingers in the air about the ruddy pinnacles; the spacious courts and broad piazza recall the tournaments and pageants of olden time. Once more the sound of clanging trumpets or merry hunting-horn awakes the echoes, as the joyous train of lords and ladies sweep out through the castle gates in the summer morning; once more, under vaulted loggias and high-arched balconies, we see the courtly scholar bending earnestly over some classic page, or catch the voice of high-born maiden singing Petrarch's sonnets to her lute.

St. George was the champion of Ferrara and the patron saint of the house of Este. There year by year his festival was celebrated with great rejoicings, and vast crowds thronged the piazza before the Castello to see the famous races for the pallium. It is St. George who rides full tilt at the dragon in the rude sculptures on the portal of the Romanesque Cathedral hard by; it is the same warrior-saint who, in his gleaming armour, looks down from the painted fresco above the portcullis of the castle drawbridge. And all the masters who worked for the Este dukes, whether they were men of native or foreign birth—Vittore Pisanello and Jacopo Bellini, Cosimo Tura and Dosso Dossi—took delight in the old story, and painted the legend of St. George and Princess Sabra in the frescoes or altar-pieces with which they adorned the churches and castle halls.

The Estes, who took St. George for their patron, and fought and died under his banner, were themselves a chivalrous and splendour-loving race, ever ready to ride out in quest of fresh adventure in the chase or battle-field. Men and women alike were renowned, even among the princely houses of Italy in Renaissance time, for their rare culture and genuine love of art and letters. And they were justly proud of their ancient lineage and of the love and loyalty which their subjects bore them. The Sforzas of Milan, the Medici of Florence, the Riarios or the Della Roveres, were but low-born upstarts by the side of this illustrious race which had reigned on the banks of the Po during the last two hundred years. In spite of wars and bloodshed, in spite of occasional conspiracies and tumults, chiefly stirred up by members of the reigning family, the people of Ferrara loved their rulers well, and never showed any wish to change the house of Este for another. The citizens took a personal interest in their own duke and duchess and in all that belonged to them, and chronicled their doings with minute attention. They shared their sorrows and rejoiced in their joys, they lamented their departure and hailed their return with acclamation, they followed the fortunes of their children with keen interest, and welcomed the return of the youthful bride with acclamations, or wept bitter tears over her untimely end.

Of all the Estes who held sway at Ferrara, the most illustrious and most beloved was Duke Ercole I., the father of Beatrice. During the thirty-four years that he reigned in Ferrara, the duchy enjoyed a degree of material prosperity which it had never attained before, and rose to the foremost rank among the states of North Italy. And in the troubled times of the next century, his people looked back on the days of Duke Ercole and his good duchess as the golden age of Ferrara. After the death of his father, the able and learned Niccolo III., who first established his throne on sure and safe foundations, Ercole's two elder half-brothers, Leonello and Borso, reigned in succession over Ferrara, and kept up the proud traditions of the house of Este, both in war and peace. Both were bastards, but in the Este family this was never held to be a bar to the succession. "In Italy," as Commines wrote, "they make little difference between legitimate and illegitimate children." But when the last of the two, Duke Borso, died on the 27th of May, 1471, of malarial fever caught on his journey to Rome, to receive the investiture of his duchy from the Pope, Niccolo's eldest legitimate son Ercole successfully asserted his claim to the throne, and entered peacefully upon his heritage. Two years later, the next duke, who was already thirty-eight years of age, obtained the hand of Leonora of Aragon, daughter of Ferrante, King of Naples, and sent his brother Sigismondo at the head of a splendid retinue to bring home his royal bride. After a visit to Rome, where Pope Sixtus IV. entertained her at a series of magnificent banquets and theatrical representations, the young duchess entered Ferrara in state. On a bright June morning she rode through the streets in a robe glittering with jewels, with a stately canopy over her head and a gold crown on her flowing hair. Latin orations, orchestral music, and theatrical displays, for which Ferrara was already famous, greeted the bridal procession at every point. The houses were hung with tapestries and cloth of gold, avenues of flowering shrubs were planted along the broad white streets, and ringing shouts greeted the coming of the fair princess who was to make her home in Ferrara. The happy event was commemorated by a noble medal, designed by the Mantuan Sperandio, the most illustrious of a school of medallists employed at Ferrara in Duke Borso's time, while Leonora's refined features and expressive face are preserved in a well-known bas-relief, now in Paris. Ercole and his bride took up their abode in the Este palace, a stately Renaissance structure opposite the old Lombard Duomo, a few steps from the Castello, with which it was connected by a covered passage.

The charm and goodness of the young duchess soon won the heart of her subjects. From the first she entered eagerly into Ercole's schemes for ordering his capital and encouraging art, and brought a new and gentler influence to bear on the society of her husband's court. There, too, she found a congenial spirit in the duke's accomplished sister, Bianca, that Virgin of Este, who was the subject of Tito Strozzi's impassioned eulogy, and whose Latin and Greek prose excited the admiration of all her contemporaries. This cultivated princess had been originally betrothed to the eldest son of Federigo, Duke of Urbino, but his early death put an end to these hopes, and in 1468 she married Galeotto della Mirandola, a prince of the house of Carpi, who lived, at Ferrara some years, and afterwards entered the service of Lodovico Sforza and served as captain in his wars.

On the 18th of May, 1474, the duchess gave birth to a daughter, who received the name of Isabella, always a favourite in the house of Aragon, and was destined to become the most celebrated lady of the Renaissance. A year later, on the 29th of June, 1475, a second daughter saw the light. Her appearance, however, proved no cause of rejoicing, as we learn from the contemporary chronicle published by Muratori—

"A daughter was born this day to Duke Ercole, and received the name of Beatrice, being the child of Madonna Leonora his wife. And there were no rejoicings, because every one wished for a boy."

No one in Ferrara then dreamt that the babe who received so cold a welcome would one day reign over the Milanese, as the wife of Lodovico Sforza, the most powerful of Italian princes, and would herself be remembered by posterity as "la piu zentil donna in Italia"—the sweetest lady in all Italy. At least the name bestowed upon her was a good omen. She was called Beatrice after two favourite relatives of her parents. One of these was Leonora's only sister, Beatrice of Aragon, who in that same year passed through Ferrara on her way to join her husband, Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary, and whose presence, we are told by the diarist, gave great pleasure to both duke and duchess. The other Beatrice was Ercole's half-sister, the elder daughter of Niccolo III., who had long been the ornament of her father's court, when she had been known as the Queen of Feasts, and it had become a common proverb that to see Madonna Beatrice dance was to find Paradise upon earth. In 1448, at the age of twenty-one, this brilliant lady had wedded Borso da Correggio, a brother of the reigning prince of that city, and, after her first husband's early death, had become the wife of Tristan Sforza, an illegitimate son of the great Condottiere Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan. Although her home was now in Lombardy, Beatrice d'Este remained on intimate terms with her own family, and her son Niccolo da Correggio was known as the handsomest and most accomplished cavalier at the court of Ferrara. He had accompanied his uncle Duke Borso on his journey to Rome, and had been one of the escort sent to conduct Duchess Leonora from Naples.

In the summer of the year following Beatrice's birth, the hopes of the loyal Ferrarese were at length fulfilled, and a son was born to the duke and duchess on the 21st of July, 1476. This time the citizens abandoned themselves to demonstrations of enthusiastic delight. The bells were rung and the shops closed during three whole days, and the child was baptized with great pomp in the Chapel of the Vescovado, close to the Duomo. The infant received the name of Alfonso, after his grandfather, the great King of Naples, and a "beautiful fete," to quote one chronicler's words, "was held in honour of the auspicious event in the Sala Grande of the Schifanoia Villa." On this occasion a concert was given by a hundred trumpeters, pipers, and tambourine-players in the frescoed hall of this favourite summer palace, and a sumptuous banquet was prepared after the fashion of the times, with an immense number of confetti, representing lords and ladies, animals, trees, and castles, all made of gilt and coloured sugar, which our friend the diarist tells us were carried off or eaten by the people as soon as the doors were opened.

But a few days afterwards, while Duke Ercole was away from Ferrara, his wife was surprised by a sudden rising, the result of a deep-laid conspiracy, secretly planned by his nephew, Niccolo, a bastard son of Leonello d'Este. Niccolo's first endeavour was to seize on the person of the duchess and her young children, an attempt which almost proved successful, but was fortunately defeated by Leonora's own courage and presence of mind. The palace was already surrounded by armed men, when the alarm reached the ears of the duchess, and, springing out of bed with her infant son in her arms, followed by her two little daughters and a few faithful servants, she fled by the covered way to the Castello. Hardly had she left her room, when the conspirators rushed in and sacked the palace, killing all who tried to offer resistance. The people of Ferrara, however, were loyal to their beloved duke and duchess. After a few days of anxious suspense, Ercole returned, and soon quelled the tumult and restored order in the city. That evening he appeared on the balcony of the Castello, and publicly embraced his wife and children amid the shouts and applause of the whole city. The next day the whole ducal family went in solemn procession to the Cathedral, and there gave public thanks for their marvellous deliverance. A terrible list of cruel reprisals followed upon this rebellion, and Niccolo d'Este himself, with two hundred of his partisans, were put to death after the bloody fashion of the times.

A year later, when the danger was over and tranquillity had been completely restored, Leonora and her two little daughters set out for Naples, under the escort of Niccolo da Correggio, to be present at her father King Ferrante's second marriage with the young Princess Joan of Aragon, a sister of Ferdinand the Catholic. The duchess and her children travelled by land to Pisa, where galleys were waiting to conduct them to Naples, and reached her father's court on the 1st of June, 1477. Here Leonora spent the next four months, and in September, gave birth to a second son, who was named Ferrante, after his royal grandfather. But soon news reached Naples that war had broken out in Northern Italy, and that Duke Ercole had been chosen Captain-general of the Florentine armies. In his absence the presence of the duchess was absolutely necessary at Ferrara, and early in November Leonora left Naples and hastened home to take up the reins of government and administer the state in her lord's stead. She took her elder daughter Isabella with her, but left her new-born son at Naples, together with his little sister Beatrice, from whom the old King Ferrante refused to part. This bright-eyed child, who had won her grandfather's affections at this early age, remained at Naples for the next eight years, and grew up in the royal palace on the terraced steps of that enchanted shore, where even then Sannazzaro was dreaming of Arcadia, and where Lorenzo de' Medici loved to talk over books and poetry with his learned friend the Duchess Ippolita. Beatrice was too young to realize the rare degree of culture which had made Alfonso's and Ferrante's court the favourite abode of the Greek and Latin scholars of the age, too innocent to be aware of the dark deeds which threw a shadow over these sunny regions, where the strange medley of luxury and vice, of refinement and cruelty, recalled the days of Imperial Rome. But the balmy breath of these Southern climes, the soft luxuriant spell of blue seas and groves of palm and cassia, sank deep into the child's being, and something of the fire and passion, the mirth and gaiety, of the dwellers in this delicious land passed into her soul, and helped to mould her nature during these years that she spent far from mother and sister at King Ferrante's court.

In these early days many personages with whom she was to be closely associated in after-years were living at Naples. There were scholars and poets whom she was to meet again in Milan at her husband's court, and who would be glad to remind her that they had known her as a child in her grandfather's palace. There was Pontano, the founder of the Academy of Naples, who was busy writing his Latin eclogues on the myrtle bowers of Baiae and the orange groves of Sorrento. There was her aunt, the accomplished Ippolita Sforza, Duchess of Calabria, who had learnt Greek of the great teacher Lascaris in her young days at Milan, and whose wedding had brought the magnificent Lorenzo to the court of the Sforzas. And for playmates the little Beatrice had Ippolita's children: the boy Ferrante, whose chivalrous nature endeared him to his Este cousins, even when their husbands joined with the French invaders to drive him from his father's throne; and the girl Isabella, who was already affianced to the young Duke Giangaleazzo, who was in future years to become her companion and rival at the court of Milan. Here, too, in the summer of 1479, came a new visitor in the shape of Duchess Ippolita's brother, Lodovico Sforza, surnamed Il Moro, himself the younger son of the great Duke Francesco. On his elder brother Sforza's death, the King of Naples had invested him with the duchy of Bari, and now he promised him men and money with which to assert his claims against his sister-in-law, the widowed Duchess Bona and the minions who had driven him and his brothers out of their native land. In June, 1477, only a few days after Leonora and her children left Ferrara, the exiled prince had arrived there on his way to Pisa, and had been courteously entertained by Duke Ercole in the Schifanoia Palace. Since then he had spent two dreary years in exile at Pisa, fretting out his heart in his enforced idleness, and pining for the hour of release. That hour was now at hand. Before the end of the year, Lodovico Sforza had, by a succession of bold manoeuvres, driven out his rivals and was virtually supreme in Milan. The first step which the new regent took was to ally himself with the Duke of Ferrara. The houses of Sforza and Este had always been on friendly terms, and Ercole's father Niccolo had presented Francesco Sforza with a famous diamond in acknowledgment of the services rendered him by the great Condottiere. When Francesco's son and successor, Duke Galeazzo Maria, was murdered in 1476, his widow, Duchess Bona, had renewed the old alliance with Ferrara, and a marriage had been arranged between her infant daughter Anna Sforza and Duke Ercole's new-born son and heir Alfonso. In May, 1477, this betrothal was proclaimed in Milan, and a fortnight later the nuptial contract was signed at Ferrara. The union of the two houses was celebrated by solemn processions and thanksgivings throughout the duchy, and the infant bridegroom was carried in the arms of his chamberlain to meet the Milanese ambassador, who appeared on behalf of the little three-year-old bride. Seven years afterwards, Duchess Leonora sent a magnificent doll with a trousseau of clothes designed by the best artists in Ferrara, as a gift to the little daughter-in-law whom she had not yet seen.

In 1480, Lodovico Sforza formally asked Ercole to give him the hand of his elder daughter Isabella, then a child of six. Lodovico himself was twenty-nine, and besides being a man of remarkable abilities and singularly handsome presence, had the reputation of being the richest prince in Italy. Duke Ercole further saw the great importance of strengthening the alliance with Milan at a time when Ferrara was again threatened by her hereditary enemies, the Pope and Venice. Unfortunately, his youthful daughter had already been sought in marriage by Federico, Marquis of Mantua, on behalf of his elder son, Giovanni Francesco; and Ercole, unwilling to offend so near a neighbour, and yet reluctant to lose the chance of a second desirable alliance, offered Lodovico Sforza the hand of his younger daughter, Beatrice. The Duke of Bari made no objection to this arrangement, and on St. George's Day, Ercole addressed the following letter to his old ally, Marquis Federico:—

"MOST ILLUSTRIOUS LORD AND DEAREST BROTHER,

"This is to inform you that the most illustrious Madonna Duchess of Milan and His Illustrious Highness Lodovico Sforza have sent their ambassador, M. Gabriele Tassino, to ask for our daughter Madonna Isabella on behalf of Signor Lodovico. We have replied that to our regret this marriage was no longer possible, since we had already entered into negotiations on the subject with your Highness and your eldest son. But since we have another daughter at Naples, who is only about a year younger, and who has been adopted by his Majesty the King of Naples as his own child, we have written to acquaint His Serene Majesty with the wish of these illustrious Persons, and have asked him if he will consent to accept the said Signor Lodovico as his kinsman, since without his leave we were unable to dispose of our daughter Beatrice's hand. The said Persons having expressed themselves as well content with the proceeding, out of respect for the King's Majesty he has now declared his approval of this marriage, to which we have accordingly signified our consent. We are sure that you will rejoice with us, seeing the close union and alliance that has long existed between us, and beg your Illustrious Highness to keep the matter secret for the present.

"HERCULES, DUX FERR., ETC.[1]

Ferrara, 23rd April, 1480."

It is curious to reflect on the possible changes in the course of events in Italian history during the next thirty years, if Lodovico Sforza's proposals had reached Ferrara a few months earlier, and Isabella d'Este, instead of her sister Beatrice, had become his wife. Would the rare prudence and self-control of the elder princess have led her to play a different part in the difficult circumstances which surrounded her position at the court of Milan as the Moro's wife? Would Isabella's calmer temperament and wise and far-seeing intellect have been able to restrain Lodovico's ambitious dreams and avert his ruin? The cordial relations that were afterwards to exist between Lodovico and his gifted sister-in-law, the Moro's keen appreciation of Isabella's character, incline us to believe that she would have acquired great influence over her lord; and that so remarkable a woman would have played a very important part on this larger stage. But the Fates had willed otherwise, and Beatrice d'Este became the bride of Lodovico Sforza. Her royal grandfather, old King Ferrante, gave his sanction to the proposed marriage, although he refused to part from his little grandchild at present, and when, five years later, Beatrice returned to Ferrara, she assumed the title and estate of Duchess of Bari, and was publicly recognized as Lodovico's promised wife. She had by this time reached the age of ten, and her espoused husband was exactly thirty-four.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Luzio-Renier in Archivio Storico Lombardo, xvii. 77.



CHAPTER II

Lodovico Sforza—Known as Il Moro—His birth and childhood—Murder of Duke Galeazzo Maria—Regency of Duchess Bona—Exile of the Sforza brothers—Lodovico at Pisa—His invasion of Lombardy and return to Milan —Death of Cecco Simonetta—Flight of Duchess Bona—Lodovico Regent of Milan.

1451-1582

Lodovico Sforza was certainly one of the most remarkable figures of the Italian Renaissance. He has generally been described as one of the blackest. "Born for the ruin of Italy," was the verdict of his contemporary Paolo Giovio, a verdict which every chronicler of the sixteenth century has endorsed. These men who saw the disasters which overwhelmed their country under the foreign rule, could not forget that Charles VIII., the first French king who invaded Italy, had crossed the Alps as the friend and ally of Lodovico Moro. They forgot how many others were at least equally guilty, and did not realize the vast network of intrigues in which Pope Julius II., the Venetian Signory, and the King of Naples all had a share. Later historians with one consent have accepted Paolo Giovio's view, and have made Lodovico responsible for all the miseries which arose from the French invasion. The bitter hatred with which both French and Venetian writers regarded the prince who had foiled their countrymen and profited by their mistakes, has helped to deepen this sinister impression. The greatest crimes were imputed to him, the vilest calumnies concerning his personal character found ready acceptance. But the more impartial judgment of modern historians, together with the light thrown upon the subject by recently discovered documents, has done much to modify our opinion of Lodovico's character. The worst charges formerly brought against him, above all, the alleged poisoning of his nephew, the reigning Duke of Milan, have been dismissed as groundless and wholly alien to his nature and character. On the other hand, his great merits and rare talents as ruler and administrator have been fully recognized, while it is admitted on all hands that his generous and enlightened encouragement of art and letters entitles him to a place among the most illustrious patrons of the Renaissance. To his keen intellect and discerning eye, to his fine taste and quick sympathy with all forms of beauty, we owe the production of some of the noblest works of art that human hands have ever fashioned. To his personal encouragement and magnificent liberality we owe the grandest monuments of Lombard architecture, and the finest development of Milanese painting, the facade of the Certosa and the cupola of Sta. Maria delle Grazie, the frescoes and altar-pieces of the Brera and the Ambrosiana. Above all, it was at the Milanese court, under the stimulating influence of the Moro, that Leonardo da Vinci's finest work was done.

As a man, Lodovico Sforza is profoundly interesting. Burckhardt has called him the most complete among the princely figures of the Italian Renaissance, and there can be no doubt that alike in his virtues and in his faults, he was curiously typical of the age in which he lived. Guicciardini, who was certainly no friend to him, and regarded him as the inveterate foe of Florence, describes him as "a creature of very rare perfection, most excellent for his eloquence and industry and many gifts of nature and spirit, and not unworthy of the name of milde and mercifull;" and the Milanese doctor Arluno, the author of an unpublished chronicle in the Biblioteca Marciana at Venice, says, "He had a sublime soul and universal capacity. Whatever he did, he surpassed expectation, in the fine arts and learning, in justice and benevolence. And he had no equal among Italian princes for wisdom and sagacity in public affairs." Contemporary writers describe him as very pleasant in manner and gracious in speech, always gentle and courteous to others, ready to listen, and never losing his temper in argument. He shared in the laxity of morals common to his age; but was a man of deep affections as well as strong passions, fondly attached to his children and friends, while the profound and lasting grief with which he lamented his dead wife amazed his more fickle contemporaries. Singularly refined and sensitive by nature, he shrank instinctively from bloodshed, and had a horror of all violent actions. In this he differed greatly from his elder brother Galeazzo Maria, who was a monster of lust and cruelty, intent only on gratifying his savage instincts, and as callous to human suffering as he was reckless of human life. Lodovico, as his most hostile critics agree, was emphatically not a cruel man, and rarely consented to condemn even criminals to death. But, like many other politicians who have great ends in view, he was often unscrupulous as to the means which he employed, and, as Burckhardt very truly remarked, would probably have been surprised at being held responsible for the means by which he attained his object. Trained from early youth in the most tortuous paths of Italian diplomacy, he acted on the principle laid down by the Venetian Marino Sanuto, that the first duty of the really wise statesman is to persuade his enemies that he means to do one thing and then do another. But in these tangled paths he often over-reached himself, and only succeeded in inspiring all parties with distrust; and, as too often happens, this deceiver was deceived in his turn, and in the end betrayed by men in whom his whole trust had been placed. Another curious feature of Lodovico's character was the strain of moral cowardice which, in spite of great personal bravery, marked his public actions at the most critical moments. This sudden failure of courage, or loss of nerve, that to his contemporaries seemed little short of madness, absolutely inexplicable in a man who had faced death without a thought on many a battle-field, ultimately wrought his own downfall as well as that of his State.

And yet, in spite of all his faults and failings, in spite of the strange tissue of complex aims and motives which swayed his course, Lodovico Sforza was a man of great ideas and splendid capacities, a prince who was in many respects distinctly in advance of his age. His wise and beneficial schemes for the encouragement of agriculture and the good of his poorer subjects, his careful regulations for the administration of the University and advancement of all branches of learning, his extraordinary industry and minute attention to detail, cannot fail to inspire our interest and command our admiration. In more peaceful times and under happier circumstances he would have been an excellent ruler, and his great dream of a united kingdom of North Italy might have been well and nobly realized. As it was, the history of Lodovico Moro belongs to the saddest tragedies of the Renaissance, and the splendour of his prosperity and the greatness of his fall became the common theme of poet and moralist.

The story of Lodovico's childhood is one of the pleasantest parts of his strangely chequered career. He was the fourth son of Francesco Sforza, the famous soldier of fortune who had married Madonna Bianca, daughter of the last Visconti, and reigned in right of his wife as Duke of Milan during twenty years. On the 19th of August, 1451, a year and a half after the great captain had boldly entered Milan and been proclaimed Duke, Duchess Bianca gave birth at her summer palace of Vigevano to a fine boy. This "bel puello," as he is called in the despatch announcing the news to his proud father, received the name of Lodovico Mauro, which was afterwards altered to Lodovico Maria, when, after his recovery from a dangerous illness at five years old, his mother placed him under the special protection of the Blessed Virgin. On this occasion Bianca vowed rich offerings to the shrine of Il Santo at Padua, and in discharge of this vow, her faithful servant Giovanni Francesco Stanga of Cremona was sent to Padua in February, 1461, to present a life-size image of the boy richly worked in silver, together with a complete set of vestments and of altar plate bearing the ducal arms, to the ark of the blessed Anthony. In documents still preserved in the Paduan archives the boy is twice over mentioned as Lodovicus Maurus filius quartus masculus, but the silver image itself bore the inscription, "Pro sanitate filii. Lodovici Mariae, 1461."[2] There can, however, be little doubt that Maurus was the second name first given to Lodovico, and that this was the true origin of the surname Il Moro by which Francesco Sforza's son became famous in after-years. The most ingenious explanations of this name have been invented by Italian chroniclers. Prato and Lomazzo both say that Lodovico was called Il Moro because of the darkness of his complexion and long black hair. Guicciardini repeats the same, but Paolo Giovio, who had seen Lodovico at Como, asserts that his complexion was fair, and he owed this surname to the mulberry-tree which he adopted as his device, because it waits till the winter is well over to put forth its leaves, and is therefore called the most prudent of all trees. As a matter of fact, there is no doubt that the surname was given to Lodovico by his parents. "He was first called Moro by his father Francesco and his mother Bianca in his earliest years," writes Prato, and we find the same expression in the verse of a Milanese court poet: "Et Maurum laeto patris cognomine dictum." The name naturally provoked puns. The dark-eyed boy with his long black hair and bushy eyebrows went by the nickname of Moro, and as he grew up, adopted both the Moor's head and the mulberry-tree as his badge. These devices in their turn supplied the poets and painters of his court with themes on which they were never tired of exercising their wit and ingenuity. Moors and Moorish costumes were introduced in every masquerade and ballet, a Moorish page was represented brushing the robes of Italy in a fresco of the Castello of Milan, while mulberry colour became fashionable among the ladies of the Moro's court, and was commonly worn by the servants and pages in the palace. Lodovico early gave signs of the love of literature and the great abilities which distinguished him in after-life. His quickness in learning by heart, his extraordinary memory, and the fluency with which he wrote and spoke Latin amazed his tutors. And he was fortunate in receiving an excellent education from the first Greek scholars of the day. Madonna Bianca, the only daughter of Filippo Maria, the last Visconti who had betrothed her before she was eight years old to Francesco Sforza, proved herself the best of wives and mothers. By her courage and wisdom she helped her husband to gain possession of her dead father's duchy, and won the hearts of all her subjects by her goodness. While Francesco was engaged with affairs of state, she directed the studies of her children, and gave her six sons an admirable training in learning and knightly exercises. "Let us remember," she said to her son's tutor, the learned scholar Filelfo, "that we have princes to educate, not only scholars." We find her setting the boys a theme on the manner in which princes should draw up treaties, and desiring them in her absence to write to her once a week in Latin. Several of these letters are still preserved in the archives of Milan. There is one, for instance, in which Lodovico, then sixteen years old, tells his mother that he is sending her seventy quails, two partridges, and a pheasant, the result of a day's sport in the forest, but takes care to assure her that the pleasures of the chase will never make him neglect his books.

Many are the pleasant glimpses we catch of the family circle, whether in the Corte vecchia or old ducal palace of the Viscontis at Milan, in the beautiful park and gardens of the Castello at Pavia, or in their country homes of Vigevano and Binasco. We see Duke Francesco riding out with his young sons through the streets of Milan, visiting the churches and convents that were rising on all sides, the new hospital, which was the object of Madonna Bianca's tender care, the oak avenues and gardens with which she loved to surround her favourite shrines. We find the boys at home, helping their mother to entertain her guests with music and dancing, and accompanying her on visits to the noble Milanese families. One day their grandmother, Agnese di Maino, came to see the duke's sons with an old gentleman from Navarre, who went home declaring that he had never seen such wise and well-educated children; another time we hear of a Madonna Giovanna coming to spend the day at the palace, and dancing all the evening with Lodovico Maria; and when the duchess took her younger children to visit Don Tommaseo de' Rieti, general laughter was excited by the little four-year-old Ascanio, the future cardinal, who walked straight up to a portrait of the duke, exclaiming, "There is my lord father!" When the newly elected Pope Pius II., who as Eneas Sylvius Piccolomini had often been in Milan, came to visit the duke in 1457, he found Galeazzo reading Cicero, and his little brothers with their cherub faces sitting round their tutor, intent on his discourse; while on one occasion their sister Ippolita, the pupil of the great Constantine Lascaris, pronounced a Latin oration in honour of His Holiness. On Christmas day, a festival which was always celebrated with much pomp at Milan, each of the duke's four elder sons came forward and recited a Latin speech, and Lodovico delighted all who were present by the ease and grace of his bearing, and the eloquent periods in which he extolled his father's great deeds in peace and war.

The duke himself always singled out Lodovico for especial notice, and said the boy would do great things. It was, no doubt, his sense of the youthful Moro's talents that made Francesco choose him, at the age of thirteen, to be the leader of the body of three thousand men which were to join in the Crusade preached by Pope Pius II. On the 2nd of June, 1464, the ducal standard, bearing the golden lion of the house of Sforza and the adder of the Visconti, was solemnly committed to the charge of the young Crusader, before the eyes of the whole court, on the piazza in front of the old palace, which was gaily decorated for the occasion with garlands and tapestries. But the Pope died, and the idea of the Crusade was abandoned. Lodovico, however, was sent by his father to Cremona, the city which had been Duchess Bianca's dowry, and whose inhabitants were among the most loyal subjects of the Sforza princes. Here he lived during the next two years, enjoying his foretaste of power, and making himself very popular with the Cremonese. In 1465, his accomplished sister was married to Alfonso, Duke of Calabria, and Lorenzo de Medici came to Milan for the nuptials. Then these two men, who in days to come were to be so often named together as the most illustrious patrons of art and letters in the Renaissance, met for the first time, and discovered the mutual tastes which in future years often brought them into close relation.

The sudden death of Duke Francesco in 1466 brought a change in Lodovico's position, and the ingratitude with which the new duke, Galeazzo, treated his widowed mother, naturally irritated his brothers. In October, 1468, Bianca retired to Cremona, where she died a week after her arrival—"more from sorrow of heart than sickness of body," wrote her doctor. The good duchess was buried by her husband's side in the Duomo of Milan, and was long and deeply lamented both by her children and subjects, and by none more than her son Lodovico, who always remembered his mother with the deepest affection. But he remained on good terms with Galeazzo, and was deputed by the new duke to receive his bride, Bona of Savoy, when the princess arrived at Genoa, from the French court, where her youth had been spent with her sister, the wife of King Louis XI. During the next ten years Lodovico lived in enforced idleness at the Milanese court, and, freed from the restraint of his parents' authority, abandoned himself to idle pleasures. All we have from his pen at this period are two short letters. In one, written from Milan and dated April 19, 1476, he asks the Cardinal of Novara to stand godfather to the illegitimate son whom his mistress, Lucia Marliani, Countess of Melzi, had borne him, and who was to be baptized at Pavia. The other is an affectionate letter addressed from Vigevano a year later to Lucia herself, rejoicing to hear of her well-being, and looking forward to seeing her after the feast of St. George. Whether the son was Leone Sforza, afterwards apostolic protonotary, or whether he was the child whose death Lodovic lamented a few years later, does not appear, but all his life the Moro retained a sincere regard for the mother, Lucia Marliani, and left her certain lands by his will.

Meanwhile, in the conduct of his elder brother Galeazzo he had the worst possible example. Once in possession of supreme power, the new duke gave himself up to the most unbridled course of vice and cruelty. The profligacy of his life, and the horrible tortures which he inflicted on the hapless victims of his jealousy and anger, caused Milanese chroniclers to describe him as another Nero. He was commonly believed to have poisoned both his mother and Dorotea Gonzaga, the betrothed bride of whom he wished to rid himself when a more desirable marriage presented itself. These charges were probably groundless, but some of his actions went far to justify the suspicions of madness which he aroused in the minds of his contemporaries. When, for instance, he ordered his artists to decorate a hall at the Castello at Pavia with portraits of the ducal family in a single night, under pain of instant death, the Ferrarese Diarist had good reason to describe the new Duke of Milan as a prince guilty of great crimes and greater follies. At the same time, Galeazzo showed himself a liberal patron of art and learning. He founded a library at Milan, invited doctors and priests to the University of Pavia, and brought singers from all parts of the world to form the choir of the ducal chapel. During his reign a whole army of painters and sculptors were employed to decorate the interior of the Castello of the Porta Giovia at Milan, which his father had rebuilt when he gave up the ground in front of the old palace to the builders of the Duomo, and which now became the chief ducal residence. Under his auspices printing was introduced, and the first book ever produced in Italy, the Grammar of Lascaris—a Greek professor who had taken refuge at the court of the Sforzas on the fall of Constantinople—appeared at Milan in 1476. The splendour of his court surpassed anything that had been yet seen. Great rejoicings took place in 1469, when Lorenzo de Medici came to Milan to stand godfather to the duke's infant son, and Galeazzo was so delighted at the sight of the costly diamond necklace which the Magnificent Medici presented to Duchess Bona on this occasion, that he exclaimed, "You must be godfather to all my children!" The wealth and luxury displayed by the duke and duchess when they visited Florence two years later with a suite of two thousand persons, scandalized the old-fashioned citizens, and, in Machiavelli's opinion, proved the beginning of a marked degeneracy in public morals.

For a time the Milanese were amused by the fetes provided for them, and dazzled by the sight of all this splendour; but retribution came in time, and on the Feast of St. Stephen in the winter of 1476, Duke Galeazzo was assassinated at the doors of the church of S. Stefano by three courtiers whom he had wronged. The Milanese chronicler Bernardino Corio gives a dramatic account of the scene, which he himself witnessed, and relates how Bona, who was haunted by a presentiment of coming evil, implored her lord not to leave the Castello that morning, and how three ravens were seen hovering about Galeazzo's head on that very morning, when, in his splendid suit of crimson brocade, the tall and handsome duke entered the church doors, while the choir sang the words, "Sic transit gloria mundi."

"The peace of Italy is dead!" exclaimed Pope Sixtus IV. when the news of Galeazzo's murder reached him. And the issue proved that he was not far wrong. In her distress, the widowed duchess, who seems to have been fondly attached to her husband, in spite of his crimes and follies, addressed a piteous letter to the Holy Father owning her dead lord's guilt, and asking him if he could issue a bull absolving him from his many and grievous sins. In her anxiety for Galeazzo's soul, she promised to atone as far as possible for his crimes by making reparation to those whom he had wronged, and offered to build churches and monasteries, endow hospitals, and perform other works of mercy. The Pope does not seem to have returned a direct answer to this touching prayer, but he took advantage of Bona's present mood to hurry on the marriage of Caterina Sforza, the duke's natural daughter, with his own nephew, Girolamo Riario, which had been arranged by Galeazzo, and which took place in the following April. Lodovico was absent at the time of Galeazzo's assassination, and with his brother Sforza, Duke of Bari, was spending Christmas at the court of Louis XI. at Tours. They had not been banished, as Corio asserts, but, tired of idleness and fired with a wish to see the world, they had gone on a journey to France, and, after visiting Paris and Angers, were on their way home when the news of the duke's murder reached them. But if any hope of obtaining a share in the government had been aroused in Lodovico's heart, it was doomed to speedy disappointment. Cecco Simonetta, the able secretary and minister who had administered the state under Galeazzo, kept a firm hold on the reins of government, ruled the Milanese in the name of Duchess Bona and her young son Gian Galeazzo. The Sforza brothers soon found their position intolerable, and the intervention of a friendly neighbour, the Marquis of Mantua, was necessary before they could obtain any recognition of their right. At his request, Bona agreed to give each of her brothers-in-law a suitable residence in Milan, as well as a portion of 12,500 ducats from the revenues of their mother's inheritance, the city of Cremona. Filippo Sforza, the second of the brothers, who is described as weak in intellect and a person of no account, was content to live peaceably in Milan, where his very existence seems to have been forgotten by his family, and where the only mention of him that occurs again is that of his death in 1492. The other brothers were sent to Genoa, where an insurrection had broken out, and succeeded in subduing the rebels and restoring peace. But when they returned to Milan at the head of a victorious army, with their kinsman the valiant Condottiere Roberto di Sanseverino, a movement was set on foot among the old Ghibelline followers of Duke Francesco to obtain the regency for Sforza, Duke of Bari. Cries of Moro! Moro! began to be heard in the streets of Milan. Simonetta, becoming alarmed, threw Donato del Conte, one of the Ghibelline leaders, into prison, upon which Sanseverino and the Sforzas loudly demanded his release. Simonetta gave them fair words in return, and induced the dissatisfied chiefs to meet in the park of the Castello, where they agreed to lay down their arms. But Sanseverino, suspecting treachery, set spurs to his horse, and, riding with drawn sword in his hand out of the city through the Porta Vercellina, crossed the Ticino, and did not pause until he was in safety. His companions soon followed his example. Ottaviano Sforza, the youngest of the family, a brave lad of eighteen, was drowned in crossing the swollen Adda, and his three remaining brothers were condemned to perpetual exile. Sforza was banished to his duchy of Bari, in the kingdom of Naples, Ascanio to Perugia, and Lodovico to the city of Pisa.

During the next eighteen months Lodovico lived at Pisa, fretting his heart out in exile and wasting the best years of his life, as he complained to Lorenzo de Medici. His friend could only counsel patience, for, sympathize as he might with the banished prince, Lorenzo was closely allied with the rulers of Milan, and Lodovico soon saw that his only hope of seeing his native land again was to be found in the support of Ferrante, King of Naples, the sworn foe of the Medici. This monarch looked on Simonetta as a traitorous villain who had taken advantage of Bona's weakness to usurp the supreme power in Milan, and wrote to King Louis XI, begging him to come to his kinswoman's help and assist in restoring the Duke of Bari and his brother to their rights. But the French king had no wish to be drawn into the quarrel, and when Ferrante endeavoured to obtain the restoration of his exiled kinsmen by fair means and had failed, Sforza and Lodovico resolved to try the fortunes of war once more. Roberto di Sanseverino, whose mother had been a niece of Duke Francesco, and who had large estates of his own in Lombardy, placed his sword at their disposal, and they knew they could reckon on the secret support of their Sforza and Visconti kinsmen in Milan. Among these, Lodovico had a devoted partisan in Beatrice d'Este, the sister of Duke Ercole of Ferrara, who had lately been left a widow for the second time by the death of her husband, the brave soldier Tristan Sforza, and who kept up a secret correspondence with the exiled princes. Early in February, 1479, the Sforza brothers and Roberto di Sanseverino landed in Genoa and boldly raised the standard of revolt. Simonetta retaliated by confiscating their revenues and proclaiming them rebels, while he hired Ercole D'Este and Federigo Gonzaga to join the Florentines in resisting the advance of the Neapolitan forces. In the midst of these warlike preparations, Sforza Duke of Bari died very suddenly at Genoa. His death was attributed, after the fashion of the day, to poison secretly sent him from Milan; but, as Corio remarks, many persons thought that his excessive stoutness was the true cause of his decease. Lodovico, whom the King of Naples immediately invested with the dukedom of Bari in his brother's stead, now crossed the Genoese Alps and boldly invaded the territory of Tortona. But the enterprise was a perilous one, and the allied forces of Milan were preparing to crush his little army, when an unexpected turn of fortune altered the whole condition of affairs. Duchess Bona, a very beautiful woman, but, as Commines remarks, "une dame de petit sens" had become infatuated with a certain Antonio Tassino, a Ferrarese youth of low extraction, whom Galeazzo had appointed carver at the royal table, and who, after the duke's death, had made himself indispensable to his mistress. The liaison had created a coolness between the duchess and her prime minister, of which Beatrice d'Este and some of the Sforza party cleverly availed themselves to widen the breach. They deplored the growing arrogance of Simonetta, and lamented the success of his intrigues against Lodovico, who was his sister-in-law's nearest relative and rightful protector. Acting on their suggestion, Bona took a sudden resolve. She sent a messenger to invite Lodovico to return to Milan in his nephew's name, and late in the evening of the 7th of October, 1479, the Moro, leaving the camp at Tortona, arrived in Milan, and was secretly admitted into the Castello by the garden door. The duchess and her son, Gian Galeazzo, a boy of ten, received him with open arms, and great was the joy among all the Ghibellines of Milan, when they heard to their surprise that Duke Francesco's son was once more among them. Simonetta looked grave, as he well might, when he heard the news. "Most illustrious duchess," he said to Bona the next day, "do you know what will happen? My head will be cut off, and before long you will lose this state." But he proceeded to congratulate Lodovico on his return, and was received by him in the most courteous manner. When the news of these events reached the rival camps outside Milan, a truce was proclaimed, and the leaders on either side disbanded their armies. The object of the expedition was attained, and Lodovico restored to his rightful place at Milan. But neither Roberto di Sanseverino nor the other Ghibelline leader could be content while their hated rival Simonetta was still at large. They sent messengers to Lodovico, imperiously demanding his summary punishment, and declaring that they would never lay down their arms until he and his confederates were imprisoned. After some delay, Lodovico yielded to their demand; Bona's faithful secretary was arrested and sent to Pavia with his brother, while the fickle populace sacked their houses. Congratulations poured in from all the kinsfolk of the Sforza family. Caterina Sforza, the illegitimate daughter of Duke Galeazzo, who had been brought up by Bona with her own children, wrote from Rome, where she was living with her husband, Girolamo Riario, Count of Imola and Forli at the papal court, to rejoice with her brother the young duke over the fall of the hated minister; "quelo nefandissimo Cecho the murderer of our family and our flesh and blood." Now at length, he adds, she will be able to visit Milan and see her beloved mother once more in peace and safety. And her husband's uncle, Pope Sixtus IV., himself wrote to congratulate both duke and duchess on the arrest of Simonetta and the restoration of peace and tranquillity. Lodovico was now formally associated with Duchess Bona in the regency, and his brother Ascanio was recalled and advanced to the dignity of Archbishop of Pavia. Before many months were over peace was concluded with Florence, and with the full approval of King Ferrante, the Duke of Ferrara accepted Lodovico Sforza as his future son-in-law.

Meanwhile party feeling still ran high in Milan, and the Ghibellines, with Sanseverino and Pusterla at their head, never ceased to clamour for Simonetta's head. People began to complain that Lodovico, who had been brought back to power by the Ghibellines, was after all a Guelph at heart, and a traitor to his party. In vain the Moro advocated milder measures, and wrote a letter to Simonetta, offering to release him on payment of a ransom. The old secretary, who was upwards of seventy years of age, refused, saying that he was ill and weary of life, and had no fear of death. At length Lodovico, vexed by the continual recriminations of his Ghibelline followers, reluctantly gave way. Bona signed the death warrant of her old servant, and on the 30th of October, 1480, Simonetta was beheaded in the Castello of Pavia. His brother Giovanni, an able and learned scholar, was released, and lived to write the famous Sforziada, or history of Duke Francesco's great deeds, which he dedicated to his son Lodovico.

Already one-half of the unfortunate minister's prophecy had come true; the other half was soon to be fulfilled. For a few months Bona rejoiced in her freedom from the cares of state, and left all to Lodovico, "who could do her no greater pleasure than not to speak of these things," says Commines. She herself was treated with the utmost respect, and spent her time in feasting and dancing, and loaded her favourite with honours. Tassino lived in rooms next to her own, and rode out with the duchess on pillion behind him. But her favourite, encouraged by the folly of his mistress, became every day more indolent, until one day he kept Lodovico Sforza and the chief officers of state waiting at the door of his room while he finished his toilet. Yet nothing could cure Bona's infatuation, and she went so far as to beg Lodovico to appoint her minion's father to be governor of the Rocca of Porta Zobia (Giovia), as the Castello of Milan was called. Fortunately Eustachio, who had been appointed to the post by Duke Galeazzo, and solemnly charged to hold it, in case of his own death, until his son was of age, refused to give up the keys; and the young duke and his brother Ermes were conducted into the Rocca, while at the same moment Tassino received an order from the Council to leave Milan. This he did without delay, taking with him a large sum of money and many valuable pearls and jewels which he had received from the duchess. When Bona heard of her favourite's flight she flew into a frantic rage, and, "forgetful alike of honour and maternal duty," as Corio writes, she renounced her share of the regency, saying that she placed her son in his uncle's care, and left Milan. "Like some demented woman," continues Corio, she fled as far as Abbiategrasso, where she was detained by Lodovico's orders, and not allowed to proceed to France as she had intended. In the end, however, she effected her purpose, and retired to her brother-in-law's Louis XI.'s court, where she remained during the next few years, vowing vengeance against Lodovico, and bitterly repenting her weakness in having consented to his return. So Lodovico Moro, "that hero of patience and cunning," as Michelet calls him, at length attained his object, and found himself sole Regent of Milan. Merito e tempore was the motto which he had chosen for his own, and which he placed in golden letters on his shield, and illuminated on the vellum pages of his favourite books, in the firm belief that all things come to the man who can learn to bide his time. Henceforth his head appeared together with that of his younger nephew on all coins and medals, and the words Lodovico patrue gubernante inscribed below.

Pandolfini, the Florentine ambassador, who had watched his course with profound interest, sent a minute report of the latest developments of public events to Lodovico's friend, the Magnificent Medici. A year before, when Lodovico had just returned to Milan, the envoy remarked, "Signor Lodovico is very popular here, both with the people and with Madonna." Again, a little later, he wrote, "Madonna trusts much in Messer Lodovico's good nature." Now he added, "The whole government of the kingdom is placed in Lodovico's hands." He could not refrain from an expression of admiration at the peaceable manner in which this revolution had been accomplished. "With what ability and skill he has effected this sudden change!" And he added, "I tell him, if he uses his opportunities well, he will become the arbiter of the whole of Italy."

FOOTNOTES:

[2] Caffi in A. S. L., xiii.



CHAPTER III

Wars of Venice and Ferrara—Invasion of Ferrara—Lodovico Sforza and Alfonso of Calabria come to the help of Ercole d'Este—Peace of Bagnolo —Prosperity of Ferrara, and cultivation of art and learning at Ercole's court—Guarino and Aldo Manuzio—Strozzi and Boiardo—Architecture and painting—The frescoes of the Schifanoia—Music and the drama—Education of Isabella and Beatrice d'Este.

1482-1490

Such was the prince to whom Duke Ercole had betrothed his younger daughter, and who had suddenly become one of the chief personages in North Italy. But more than ten years were to elapse before the child-bride even saw her affianced husband. During that time both Milan and Ferrara passed through many vicissitudes, and at one moment Beatrice's father and his state were reduced to the utmost extremity.

The Venetians availed themselves of the troubled state of Lombardy and the civil strife that divided the house of Sforza, to attack their old enemy the Duke of Ferrara. In 1482 Roberto di Sanseverino, the valiant captain who had been one of the chief instruments in restoring his kinsman Lodovico Sforza to his country, left Milan in a rage, because he did not consider his salary sufficient, and offered his services to the Republic of Venice. With his gallant sons to help him, he invaded the territory of Ferrara at the head of an army of seventeen thousand men, and carried all before him. The Pope as usual took up the quarrel of the Venetians, in the hope of sharing the spoil, and while Ercole's ally, King Ferrante of Naples, was engaged in resisting the papal forces, the Genoese, who had revolted against Duchess Bona in 1478, and elected a doge of their own, occupied Lodovico Sforza's attention. The Ferrarese troops were completely defeated in a battle under the citadel of Argenta, many of the Ferrarese leaders were slain, and the duke's nephew, Niccolo da Correggio, and three hundred men were taken prisoners to Venice. Sanseverino made good use of his advantage, and his son Gaspare, better known by his nickname of Fracassa, marched to the very gates of Ferrara, and planted the Lion of St. Mark on the peacocks' house in the ducal park. Meanwhile the plague had broken out in Ferrara, and so great was the scarcity of wheat in the beleaguered city, that Battista Guarino, the tutor of the young Princess Isabella, applied to her betrothed husband Francesco Gonzaga for a grant of corn to save him from starvation. Worse than all, Duke Ercole himself lay dangerously ill within the Castello, and a report of his death was circulated through the city. At this critical moment Duchess Leonora once more showed her courage and presence of mind. Seeing the greatness of the danger, she sent her children with a safe escort to Modena, and calling the magistrates together, she harangued them from the garden loggia, and bade them be true to their old lords of the house of Este. The citizens, moved to tears at the sight of Leonora's majesty and courage, shouted with one voice, "Diamante!"—the watchword of the house of Este, and vowed to die for their duke. In their enthusiasm, the people broke open the palace doors, and rushing into the chamber where Ercole lay on his sick-bed, covered his hands with kisses, and would not be satisfied until they had heard his voice again and knew him to be alive. After this outburst of loyalty, they rallied bravely to the defence of the city. Every man who could bear arms in Ferrara helped to man the walls, and the country-folk, rising in thousands, harassed the invading army and cut off their supplies. Fortunately, help was at hand. On the one hand, Lodovico Sforza's troops checked the advance of the Venetians on the side of Modena; on the other, Ercole's brother-in-law, Alfonso, Duke of Calabria, himself rode at the head of fifty horsemen and a troop of infantry to the help of the beleaguered city.

Throughout the long struggle that followed, Lodovico Sforza proved himself a wise and faithful friend of the house of Este, and it was chiefly owing to him that Ferrara preserved her independence. But the duke and his people had to make great sacrifices on their part, and at the peace of Bagnolo, which was finally concluded in 1484, seven towns were ceded to Venice, and the fertile district of Rovigo in the Polesina, "un petit pays," in the words of Commines, "tout environne d'eau et abondant a merveille en tous biens."

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