The Life of Cesare Borgia

Author: Rafael Sabatini

Chapter IV the Murder of the Duke of Gandia

On June 14, 1497, the eve of Cesare and Giovanni Borgia’s departure for Naples, their mother Vannozza gave them a farewell supper in her beautiful vineyard in Trastevere. In addition to the two guests of honour several other kinsmen and friends were present, among whom were the Cardinal of Monreale and young Giuffredo Borgia. They remained at supper until an advanced hour of the night, when Cesare and Giovanni took their departure, attended only by a few servants and a mysterious man in a mask, who had come to Giovanni whilst he was at table, and who almost every day for about a month had been in the habit of visiting him at the Vatican.

The brothers and these attendants rode together into Rome and as far as the Vice-Chancellor Ascanio Sforza’s palace in the Ponte Quarter. Here Giovanni drew rein, and informed Cesare that he would not be returning to the Vatican just yet, as he was first "going elsewhere to amuse himself." With that he took his leave of Cesare, and, with one single exception—in addition to the man in the mask—dismissed his servants. The latter continued their homeward way with the cardinal, whilst the Duke, taking the man in the mask upon the crupper of his horse and followed his single attendant, turned and made off in the direction of the Jewish quarter.

In the morning it was found that Giovanni had not yet returned, and his uneasy servants informed the Pope of his absence and of the circumstances of it. The Pope, however, was not at all alarmed. Explaining his son’s absence in the manner so obviously suggested by Giovanni’s parting words to Cesare on the previous night, he assumed that the gay young Duke was on a visit to some complacent lady and that presently he would return.

Later in the day, however, news was brought that his horse had been found loose in the streets, in the neighbourhood of the Cardinal of Parma’s palace, with only one stirrup-leather, the other having clearly been cut from the saddle, and, at the same time, it was related that the servant who had accompanied him after he had separated from the rest had been found at dawn in the Piazza della Giudecca mortally wounded and beyond speech, expiring soon after his removal to a neighbouring house.

Alarm spread through the Vatican, and the anxious Pope ordered inquiries to be made in every quarter where it was possible that anything might be learned. It was in answer to these inquiries that a boatman of the Schiavoni—one Giorgio by name—came forward with the story of what he had seen on the night of Wednesday. He had passed the night on board his boat, on guard over the timber with which she was laden. She was moored along the bank that runs from the Bridge of Sant’ Angelo to the Church of Santa Maria Nuova.

He related that at about the fifth hour of the night, just before daybreak, he had seen two men emerge from the narrow street alongside the Hospital of San Girolamo, and stand on the river’s brink at the spot where it was usual for the scavengers to discharge their refuse carts into the water. These men had looked carefully about, as if to make sure that they were not being observed. Seeing no one astir, they made a sign, whereupon a man well mounted on a handsome white horse, his heels armed with golden spurs, rode out of that same narrow street. Behind him, on the crupper of his horse, Giorgio beheld the body of a man, the head hanging in one direction and the legs in the other. This body was supported there by two other men on foot, who walked on either side of the horseman.

Arrived at the water’s edge, they turned the horse’s hind-quarters to the river; then, taking the body between them, two of them swung it well out into the stream. After the splash, Giorgio had heard the horseman inquire whether they had thrown well into the middle, and had heard him receive the affirmative answer—"Signor, Si." The horseman then sat scanning the surface a while, and presently pointed out a dark object floating, which proved to be their victim’s cloak. The men threw stones at it, and so sank it, whereupon they turned, and all five departed as they had come.

Such is the boatman’s story, as related in the Diarium of Burchard. When the Pope had heard it, he asked the fellow why he had not immediately gone to give notice of what he had witnessed, to which this Giorgio replied that, in his time, he had seen over a hundred bodies thrown into the Tiber without ever anybody troubling to know anything about them.

This story and Gandia’s continued absence threw the Pope into a frenzy of apprehension. He ordered the bed of the river to be searched foot by foot. Some hundreds of boatmen and fishermen got to work, and on that same afternoon the body of the ill-fated Duke of Gandia was brought up in one of the nets. He was not only completely dressed—as was to have been expected from Giorgio’s story—but his gloves and his purse containing thirty ducats were still at his belt, as was his dagger, the only weapon he had carried; the jewels upon his person, too, were all intact, which made it abundantly clear that his assassination was not the work of thieves.

His hands were still tied, and there were from ten to fourteen wounds on his body, in addition to which his throat had been cut.

The corpse was taken in a boat to the Castle of Sant’ Angelo, where it was stripped, washed, and arrayed in the garments of the Captain-General of the Church. That same night, on a bier, the body covered with a mantle of brocade, the face "looking more beautiful than in life," he was carried by torchlight from Sant’ Angelo to Santa Maria del Popolo for burial, quietly and with little pomp.

The Pope’s distress was terrible. As the procession was crossing the Bridge of Sant’ Angelo, those who stood there heard his awful cries of anguish, as is related in the dispatches of an eye-witness quoted by Sanuto. Alexander shut himself up in his apartments with his passionate sorrow, refusing to see anybody; and it was only by insistence that the Cardinal of Segovia and some of the Pope’s familiars contrived to gain admission to his presence; but even then, not for three days could they induce him to taste food, nor did he sleep.

At last he roused himself, partly in response to the instances of the Cardinal of Segovia, partly spurred by the desire to avenge the death of his child, and he ordered Rome to be ransacked for the assassins; but, although the search was pursued for two months, it proved utterly fruitless.

That is the oft-told story of the death of the Duke of Gandia. Those are all the facts concerning it that are known or that ever will be known. The rest is speculation, and this speculation follows the trend of malice rather than of evidence.

Suspicion fell at first upon Giovanni Sforza, who was supposed to have avenged himself thus upon the Pope for the treatment he had received. There certainly existed that reasonable motive to actuate him, but not a particle of evidence against him.

Next rumour had it that Cardinal Ascanio Sforza’s was the hand that had done this work, and with this rumour Rome was busy for months. It was known that he had quarrelled violently with Gandia, who had been grossly insulted by a chamberlain of Ascanio’s, and who had wiped out the insult by having the man seized and hanged.

Sanuto quotes a letter from Rome on July 21, which states that "it is certain that Ascanio murdered the Duke of Gandia." Cardinal Ascanio’s numerous enemies took care to keep the accusation alive at the Vatican, and Ascanio, in fear for his life, had left Rome and fled to Grottaferrata. When summoned to Rome, he had refused to come save under safe­conduct. His fears, however, appear to have been groundless, for the Pope attached no importance to the accusation against him, convinced of his innocence, as he informed him.

Thereupon public opinion looked about for some other likely person upon whom to fasten its indictment, and lighted upon Giuffredo Borgia, Gandia’s youngest brother. Here, again, a motive was not wanting. Already has mention been made of the wanton ways of Giuffredo’s Neapolitan wife, Doña Sancia. That she was prodigal of her favours there is no lack of evidence, and it appears that, amongst those she admitted to them, was the dead duke. Jealousy, then, it was alleged, was the spur that had driven Giuffredo to the deed; and that the rumour of this must have been insistent is clear when we find the Pope publicly exonerating his youngest son.

Thus matters stood, and thus had public opinion spoken, when in the month of August the Pope ordered the search for the murderer to cease. Bracci, the Florentine ambassador, explains this action of Alexander’s. He writes that his Holiness knew who were the murderers, and that he was taking no further steps in the matter in the hope that thus, conceiving themselves to be secure, they might more completely discover themselves.

Bracci’s next letter bears out the supposition that he writes from inference, and not from knowledge. He repeats that the investigations have been suspended, and that to account for this some say what already he has written, whilst others deny it; but that the truth of the matter is known to none.

Later in the year we find the popular voice denouncing Bartolomeo d’Alviano and the Orsini. Already in August the Ferrarese ambassador, Manfredi, had written that the death of the Duke of Gandia was being imputed to Bartolomeo d’Alviano, and in December we see in Sanuto a letter from Rome which announces that it is positively stated that the Orsini had caused the death of Giovanni Borgia.

These various rumours were hardly worth mentioning for their own values, but they are important as showing how public opinion fastened the crime in turn upon everybody it could think of as at all likely to have had cause to commit it, and more important still for the purpose of refuting what has since been written concerning the immediate connection of Cesare Borgia with the crime in the popular mind.

Not until February of the following year was the name of Cesare ever mentioned in connection with the deed. The first rumour of his guilt synchronized with that of his approaching renunciation of his ecclesiastical career, and there can be little doubt that the former sprang from the latter. The world conceived that it had discovered on Cesare’s part a motive for the murder of his brother. That motive—of which so very much has been made—shall presently be examined. Meanwhile, to deal with the actual rumour, and its crystallization into history. The Ferrarese ambassador heard it in Venice on February 12, 1498. Capello seized upon it, and repeated it two and a half years later, stating on September 28, 1500: "etiam amazó il fratello."

And there you have the whole source of all the unbridled accusations subsequently launched against Cesare, all of which find a prominent place in Gregorovius’s Geschichte der Stadt Rom, whilst the rumours accusing others, which we have mentioned here, are there slurred over.

One hesitates to attack the arguments and conclusions of the very eminent author of that mighty History of Rome in the Middle Ages, but conscience and justice demand that his chapter upon this subject be dealt with as it deserves.

The striking talents of Gregorovius are occasionally marred by the egotism and pedantry sometimes characteristic of the scholars of his nation. He is too positive; he seldom opines; he asserts with finality the things that only God can know; occasionally his knowledge, transcending the possible, quits the realm of the historian for that of the romancer, as for instance—to cite one amid a thousand—when he actually tells us what passes in Cesare Borgia’s mind at the coronation of the King of Naples. In the matter of authorities, he follows a dangerous and insidious eclecticism, preferring those who support the point of view which he has chosen, without a proper regard for their intrinsic values.

He tells us definitely that, if Alexander had not positive knowledge, he had at least moral conviction that it was Cesare who had killed the Duke of Gandia. In that, again, you see the God-like knowledge which he usurps; you see him clairvoyant rather than historical. Starting out with the positive assertion that Cesare Borgia was the murderer, he sets himself to prove it by piling up a mass of worthless evidence, whose worthlessness it is unthinkable he should not have realized.

"According to the general opinion of the day, which in all probability was correct, Cesare was the murderer of his brother."

Thus Gregorovius in his Lucrezia Borgia. A deliberate misstatement! For, as we have been at pains to show, not until the crime had been fastened upon everybody whom public opinion could conceive to be a possible assassin, not until nearly a year after Gandia’s death did rumour for the first time connect Cesare with the deed. Until then the ambassadors’ letters from Rome in dealing with the murder and reporting speculation upon possible murderers never make a single allusion to Cesare as the guilty person.

Later, when once it had been bruited, it found its way into the writings of every defamer of the Borgias, and from several of these it is taken by Gregorovius to help him uphold that theory.

Two motives were urged for the crime. One was Cesare’s envy of his brother, whom he desired to supplant as a secular prince, fretting in the cassock imposed upon himself which restrained his unbounded ambition. The other—and no epoch but this one under consideration, in its reaction from the age of chivalry, could have dared to level it without a careful examination of its sources—was Cesare’s jealousy, springing from the incestuous love for their sister Lucrezia, which he is alleged to have disputed with his brother. Thus, as l’Espinois has pointed out, to convict Cesare Borgia of a crime which cannot absolutely be proved against him, all that is necessary is that he should be charged with another crime still more horrible of which even less proof exists.

This latter motive, it is true, is rejected by Gregorovius. "Our sense of honesty," he writes, "repels us from attaching faith to the belief spread in that most corrupt age." Yet the authorities urging one motive are commonly those urging the other, and Gregorovius quotes those that suit him, without considering that, if he is convinced they lie in one connection, he has not the right to assume them truthful in another.

The contemporary, or quasi-contemporary writers upon whose "authority" it is usual to show that Cesare Borgia was guilty of both those revolting crimes are: Sanazzaro, Capello, Macchiavelli, Matarazzo, Sanuto, Pietro Martire d’Anghiera, Guicciardini, and Panvinio.

A formidable array! But consider them, one by one, at close quarters, and take a critical look at what they actually wrote:

SANAZZARO was a Neapolitan poet and epigrammatist, who could not—his times being what they were—be expected to overlook the fact that in these slanderous rumours of incest was excellent matter for epigrammatical verse. Therefore, he crystallized them into lines which, whilst doing credit to his wit, reveal his brutal cruelty. No one will seriously suppose that such a man would be concerned with the veracity of the matter of his verses—even leaving out of the question his enmity towards the House of Borgia, which will transpire later. For him a ben trovato was as good matter as a truth, or better. He measured its value by its piquancy, by its adaptability to epigrammatic rhymes.

Conceive the heartlessness of the man who, at the moment of Alexander’s awful grief at the murder of his son—a grief which so moved even his enemies that the bitter Savonarola, and the scarcely less bitter Cardinal della Rovere, wrote to condole with him—could pen that terrible epigram:

Piscatorem hominum ne te non, Sexte, putemus,
Piscaris notum retibus ecce tuum.

Consider the ribaldry of that, and ask yourselves whether this is a man who would immolate the chance of a witticism upon the altar of Truth.

It is significant that Sanazzaro, for what he may be worth, confines himself to the gossip of incest. Nowhere does he mention that Cesare was the murderer, and we think that his silence upon the matter, if it shows anything, shows that Cesare’s guilt was not so very much the "general opinion of the day," as Gregorovius asks us to believe.

CAPPELLO was not in Rome at the time of the murder, nor until three years later, when he merely repeated the rumour that had first sprung up some eight months after the crime.

The precise value of his famous "relation" (in which this matter is recorded, and to which we shall return in its proper place) and the spirit that actuated him is revealed in another accusation of murder which he levels at Cesare, an accusation which, of course, has also been widely disseminated upon no better authority than his own. It is Capello who tells us that Cesare stabbed the chamberlain Perrotto in the Pope’s very arms; he adds the details that the man had fled thither for shelter from Cesare’s fury, and that the blood of him, when he was stabbed, spurted up into the very face of the Pope. Where he got the story is not readily surmised—unless it be assumed that he evolved it out of his feelings for the Borgias. The only contemporary accounts of the death of this Perrotto—or Pedro Caldes, as was his real name—state that he fell by accident into the Tiber and was drowned.

Burchard, who could not have failed to know if the stabbing story had been true, and would not have failed to report it, chronicles the fact that Perrotto was fished out of Tiber, having fallen in six days earlier —"non libenter." This statement, coming from the pen of the Master of Ceremonies at the Vatican, requires no further corroboration. Yet corroboration there actually is in a letter from Rome of February 20, 1498, quoted by Marino Sanuto in his Diarii. This states that Perrotto had been missing for some days, no one knowing what had become of him, and that now "he has been found drowned in the Tiber."

We mention this, in passing, with the twofold object of slaying another calumny, and revealing the true value of Capello, who happens to be the chief "witness for the prosecution" put forward by Gregorovius. "Is it not of great significance," inquires the German historian, "that the fact should have been related so positively by an ambassador who obtained his knowledge from the best sources?"

The question is frivolous, for the whole trouble in this matter is that there were no sources at all, in the proper sense of the word—good or bad. There was simply gossip, which had been busy with a dozen names already.

MACCHIAVELLI includes a note in his Extracts from Letters to the Ten, in which he mentions the death of Gandia, adding that "at first nothing was known, and then men said it was done by the Cardinal of Valencia."

There is nothing very conclusive in that. Besides, incidentally it may be mentioned, that it is not clear when or how these extracts were compiled by Macchiavelli (in his capacity of Secretary to the Signory of Florence) from the dispatches of her ambassadors. But it has been shown —though we are hardly concerned with that at the moment—that these extracts are confused by comments of his own, either for his own future use or for that of another.

MATARAZZO is the Perugian chronicler of whom we have already expressed the only tenable opinion. The task he set himself was to record the contemporary events of his native town—the stronghold of the blooddripping Baglioni. He enlivened it by every scrap of scandalous gossip that reached him, however alien to his avowed task. The authenticity of this scandalmongering chronicle has been questioned; but, even assuming it to be authentic, it is so wildly inaccurate when dealing with matters happening beyond the walls of Perugia as to be utterly worthless.

Matarazzo relates the story of the incestuous relations prevailing in the Borgia family, and with an unsparing wealth of detail not to be found elsewhere; but on the subject of the murder he has a tale to tell entirely different from any other that has been left us. For, whilst he urges the incest as the motive of the crime, the murderer, he tells us, was Giovanni Sforza, the outraged husband; and he gives us the fullest details of that murder, time and place and exactly how committed, and all the other matters which have never been brought to light.

It is all a worthless, garbled piece of fiction, most obviously; as such it has ever been treated; but it is as plausible as it is untrue, and, at least, as authoritative as any available evidence assigning the guilt to Cesare.

SANUTO we accept as a more or less careful and painstaking chronicler, whose writings are valuable; and Sanuto on the matter of the murder confines himself to quoting the letter of February 1498, in which the accusation against Cesare is first mentioned, after having given other earlier letters which accuse first Ascanio and then Orsini far more positively than does the latter letter accuse Cesare.

On the matter of the incest there is no word in Sanuto; but there is mention of Doña Sancia’s indiscretions, and the suggestion that, through jealousy on her account, it was rumoured that the murder had been committed—another proof of how vague and ill-defined the rumours were.

PIETRO MARTIRE D’ANGHIERA writes from Burgos, in Spain, that he is convinced of the fratricide. It is interesting to know of that conviction of his; but difficult to conceive how it is to be accepted as evidence.

If more needs to be said of him, let it be mentioned that the letter in which he expresses that conviction is dated April 1497—two months before the murder took place! So that even Gregorovius is forced to doubt the authenticity of that document.

GUICCIARDINI is not a contemporary chronicler of events as they happened, but an historian writing some thirty years later. He merely repeats what Capello and others have said before him. It is for him to quote authorities for what he writes, and not to be set up as an authority. He is not reliable, and he is a notorious defamer of the Papacy, sparing nothing that will serve his ends. He dilates with gusto upon the accusation of incest.

Lastly, PANVINTO is in the same category as Guicciardini. He was not born until some thirty years after these events, and his History of the Popes was not written until some sixty years after the murder of the Duke of Gandia. This history bristles with inaccuracies; he never troubles to verify his facts, and as an authority he is entirely negligible.

In the valuable Diarium of Burchard there is unfortunately a lacuna at this juncture, from the day after the murder (of which he gives the full particulars to which we have gone for our narrative of that event) until the month of August following. And now we may see Gregorovius actually using silence as evidence. He seizes upon that lacuna, and goes so far as to set up the tentative explanation that Burchard "perhaps purposely interrupted his Diary that he might avoid mentioning the fratricide."

If such were the case, it would be a strange departure from Burchard’s invariable rule, which is one of cold, relentless, uncritical chronicling of events, no matter what their nature. Besides, any significance with which that lacuna might be invested is discounted by the fact that such gaps are of fairly common occurrence in the course of Burchard’s record. Finally it remains to be shown that the lacuna in question exists in the original diaries, which have yet to be discovered.

So much for the valuable authorities, out of which—and by means of a selection which is not quite clearly defined—Gregorovius claims to have proved that the murderer of the Duke of Gandia was his brother Cesare Borgia, Cardinal of Valencia.(1)

1 It is rather odd that, in the course of casting about for a possible murderer of Gandia, public opinion should never have fastened upon Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. He had lately been stripped of the Patrimony of St. Peter that the governorship of this might be bestowed upon Gandia; his resentment had been provoked by that action of the Pope’s, and the relations between himself and the Borgias were strained in consequence. Possibly there was clear proof that he could have had no connection with the crime.

Now to examine more closely the actual motives given by those authorities and by later, critical writers, for attributing the guilt to Cesare.

In September of the year 1497, the Pope had dissolved the marriage of his daughter Lucrezia and Giovanni Sforza, and the grounds for the dissolution were that the husband was impotens et frigidus natura— admitted by himself.(2)

2 "El S. de Pesaro ha scripto qua de sua mano non haverla mai cognosciuta et esser impotente, alias la sententia non se potea dare. El prefato S. dice pero haver scripto cosi per obedire el Duca de Milano et Aschanio" (Collenuccio’s letter from Rome to the Duke of Ferrara, Dec. 25, 1497).

If you know anything of the Italy of to-day, you will be able to conceive for yourself how the Italy of the fifteenth century must have held her sides and pealed her laughter at the contemptible spectacle of an unfortunate who afforded such reason to be bundled out of a nuptial bed. The echo of that mighty burst of laughter must have rung from Calabria to the Alps, and well may it have filled the handsome weakling who was the object of its cruel ridicule with a talion fury. The weapons he took up wherewith to defend himself were a little obvious. He answered the odious reflections upon his virility by a wholesale charge of incest against the Borgia family; he screamed that what had been said of him was a lie invented by the Borgias to serve their own unutterable ends.(1) Such was the accusation with which the squirming Lord of Pesaro retaliated, and, however obvious, yet it was not an accusation that the world of his day would lightly cast aside, for all that the perspicacious may have rated it at its proper value.

1 "Et mancho se e curato de fare prova de qua con Done per poterne chiarire el Rev. Legato che era qua, sebbene sua Excellentia tastandolo sopra cio gli ne abbia facto offerta." And further: "Anzi haverla conosciuta infinite volte, ma chel Papa non geiha tolta per altro se non per usare con lei" (Costabili’s letter from Milan to the Duke of Ferrara, June 23, 1497).

What is of great importance to students of the history of the Borgias is that this was the first occasion on which the accusation of incest was raised. Of course it persisted; such a charge could not do otherwise. But now that we see in what soil it had its roots we shall know what importance to attach to it.

Not only did it persist, but it developed, as was but natural. Cesare and the dead Gandia were included in it, and presently it suggested a motive—not dreamed of until then—why Cesare might have been his brother’s murderer.

Then, early in 1498, came the rumour that Cesare was intending to abandon the purple, and later Writers, from Capello down to our own times, have chosen to see in Cesare’s supposed contemplation of that step a motive so strong for the crime as to prove it in the most absolutely conclusive manner. In no case could it be such proof, even if it were admitted as a motive. But is it really so to be admitted? Did such a motive exist at all? Does it really follow—as has been taken for granted—that Cesare must have remained an ecclesiastic had Gandia lived? We cannot see that it does. Indeed, such evidence as there is, when properly considered, points in the opposite direction, even if no account is taken of the fact that this was not the first occasion on which it was proposed that Cesare should abandon the ecclesiastical career, as is shown by the Ferrarese ambassador’s dispatches of March 1493.

It is contended that Gandia was a stumbling-block to Cesare, and that Gandia held the secular possessions which Cesare coveted; but if that were really the case why, when eventually (some fourteen months after Gandia’s death) Cesare doffed the purple to replace it by a soldier’s harness, did he not assume the secular possessions that had been his brother’s?

His dead brother’s lands and titles went to his dead brother’s son, whilst Cesare’s career was totally different, as his aims were totally different, from any that had been Gandia’s, or that might have been Gandia’s had the latter lived. True, Cesare became Captain-General of the Church in his dead brother’s place; but for that his brother’s death was not necessary. Gandia had neither the will nor the intellect to undertake the things that awaited Cesare. He was a soft-natured, pleasure-loving youth, whose way of life was already mapped out for him. His place was at Gandia, in Spain, and, whilst he might have continued lord of all the possessions that were his, it would have been Cesare’s to become Duke of Valentinois, and to have made himself master of Romagna, precisely as he did.

In conclusion, Gandia’s death no more advanced, than his life could have impeded, the career which Cesare afterwards made his own, and to say that Cesare murdered him to supplant him is to set up a theory which the subsequent facts of Cesare’s life will nowise justify.

It is idle of Gregorovius to say that the logic of the crime is inexorable—in its assigning the guilt to Cesare—fatuous of him to suppose that, as he claims, he has definitely proved Cesare to be his brother’s murderer.

There is much against Cesare Borgia, but it never has been proved, and never will be proved, that he was a fratricide. Indeed the few really known facts of the murder all point to a very different conclusion—a conclusion more or less obvious, which has been discarded, presumably for no better reason than because it was obvious.

Where was all this need to go so far afield in quest of a probable murderer imbued with political motives? Where the need to accuse in turn every enemy that Gandia could possibly possess before finally fastening upon his own brother?

Certain evidence is afforded by the known facts of the case, scant as they are. It may not amount to much, but at least it is sufficient to warrant a plausible conclusion, and there is no justification for discarding it in favour of something for which not a particle of evidence is forthcoming.

There is, first of all, the man in the mask to be accounted for. That he is connected with the crime is eminently probable, if not absolutely certain.

It is to be remembered that for a month—according to Burchard—he had been in the habit of visiting Gandia almost daily. He comes to Vannozza’s villa on the night of the murder. Is it too much to suppose that he brought a message from some one from whom he was in the habit of bringing messages?

He was seen last on the crupper of Gandia’s horse as the latter rode away towards the Jewish quarter.(1) Gandia himself announced that he was bound on pleasure—going to amuse himself. Even without the knowledge which we possess of his licentious habits, no doubt could arise as to the nature of the amusement upon which he was thus bound at dead of night; and there are the conclusions formed in the morning by his father, when it was found that Gandia had not returned.

1 The Ghetto was not yet in existence. It was not built until 1556, under Paul IV.

Is it so very difficult to conceive that Gandia, in the course of the assignation to which he went, should have fallen into the hands of an irate father, husband, or brother? Is it not really the obvious inference to draw from the few facts that we possess? That it was the inference drawn by the Pope and clung to even some time after the crime and while rumours of a different sort were rife, is shown by the perquisition made in the house of Antonio Pico della Mirandola, who had a daughter whom it was conceived might have been the object of the young duke’s nocturnal visit, and whose house was near the place where Gandia was flung into the Tiber.

We could hazard speculations that would account for the man in the mask, but it is not our business to speculate save where the indications are fairly clear.

Let us consider the significance of Gandia’s tied hands and the wounds upon his body in addition to the mortal gash across his throat. To what does this condition point? Surely not to a murder of expediency so much as to a fierce, lustful butchery of vengeance. Surely it suggests that Gandia may have been tortured before his throat was cut. Why else were his wrists pinioned? Had he been swiftly done to death there would have been no need for that. Had hired assassins done the work they would not have stayed to pinion him, nor do we think they would have troubled to fling him into the river; they would have slain and left him where he fell.

The whole aspect of the case suggests the presence of the master, of the personal enemy himself. We can conceive Gandia’s wrists being tied, to the end that this personal enemy might do his will upon the wretched young man, dealing him one by one the ten or fourteen wounds in the body before making an end of him by cutting his throat. We cannot explain the pinioned wrists in any other way. Then the man on the handsome white horse, the man whom the four others addressed as men address their lord. Remember his gold spurs—a trifle, perhaps; but hired assassins do not wear gold spurs, even though their bestriding handsome white horses may be explainable.

Surely that was the master, the personal enemy himself—and it was not Cesare, for Cesare at the time was at the Vatican.

There we must leave the mystery of the murder of the Duke of Gandia; but we leave it convinced that, such scant evidence as there is, points to an affair of sordid gallantry, and nowise implicates his brother Cesare.


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Chicago: Rafael Sabatini, "Chapter IV the Murder of the Duke of Gandia," The Life of Cesare Borgia, ed. Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853 and trans. Ingram, J. H. (James Henry) in The Life of Cesare Borgia (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), Original Sources, accessed April 21, 2018,

MLA: Sabatini, Rafael. "Chapter IV the Murder of the Duke of Gandia." The Life of Cesare Borgia, edited by Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853, and translated by Ingram, J. H. (James Henry), in The Life of Cesare Borgia, Vol. 36, New York, Doubleday, Page, 1909, Original Sources. 21 Apr. 2018.

Harvard: Sabatini, R, 'Chapter IV the Murder of the Duke of Gandia' in The Life of Cesare Borgia, ed. and trans. . cited in 1909, The Life of Cesare Borgia, Doubleday, Page, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 21 April 2018, from