Sancia, Brothers and Babies
Chapter 13: Sancia, Brothers, and Babies
Author’s note: Again, I am trying to bring this a little more in line historically. It seems to be fact, for the most part, that both Cesare and Juan were competing for Sancia’s attentions. And that she seemed to enjoy the favors of both. When Juan was killed, it was rumored that not only did Cesare covet the command of the army, but it was also said he wished to eliminate his brother as a rival for her attentions—until he married Charlotte de Albret, that is. Can’t make up stuff like this. And her father was Alfonso II, not Ferrante. Gotta love history
Sancia and Lucrezia became close friends, and it was rumored that she sent her illegitimate to live with her for a time. (Sancia died at 27 or 28.) Sometimes I wish there was a way to verify facts with historical families like the Borgias, but there isn’t.
Later, much later, it was whispered by some that Sancia of Naples was the source of the trouble. Others said the elder Borgia brothers were most likely at fault. And who was to say it was not unlikely that the marriage of a twelve year old boy to a sixteen year old girl certainly added to the problem, even if she knew her duty as a wife. And was it true that Cesare…? No, it was best not to think about that, not if you valued your neck.
The Pope was of a mood to seek alliances, and Naples was a good place to start. Naples wanted its independence recognized to help protect it from France. Naples had made it clear that it would pay a generous dowry for just that, and they had just the girl in mind, Sancia, King Alfonzo II’s illegitimate daughter. And the marriage, Gioffre and Sancia would become Prince and Princess of Squillace, obtaining an income in the process.
No one knew if Sancia was asked what she thought, no one bothered to find out if she had been willing. When the beautiful dark-eyed heiress was presented to the family, she did not pass unnoticed by Gioffre’s two older brothers. And maybe that was when the trouble started.
Lucrezia, in the meantime, was passing her days content in the little nest she had made for herself in the convent of San Sisto. Her pregnancy could not be hidden now, and the only time she needed to leave was when she had to attend the Papal Court for her annulment. The only visitors she allowed were the Pope, her mother Vanozza, her brothers, which meant Cesare, and La Bella. And when she could not avoid it, Sancia.
On a bad day, like today, she would prefer to see no one at all. The baby was heavy in her body, had thankfully slowed down its movements, but her advanced pregnancy was making her tired beyond bearing, and she wanted nothing more than to sleep, but sleeping had become extremely uncomfortable. She waited by the day for Constanzia to arrive, could not wait for her to arrive in fact. They could snuggle together in bed like sisters, and to her she could confide all the little unhappinesses she wished to voice to no one else.
Since the marriage of Sancia and Gioffre, she had begun to see less of Cesare. He and Sancia would visit her together, Sancia’s bold eyes casting glances around the room, taking in the sight of the luxurious furnishings Lucrezia had brought to make herself comfortable. The girl would take liberties, putting her hand on Lucrezia’s stomach, saying that soon she hoped to find herself with Gioffre’s child, giving the Pope the joy of another grandchild.
“If you were me, you would find that you were not quite so eager for it,” Lucrezia said irritably, and Cesare laughed and kissed her forehead.
“We would not exhaust you, sister, then, but take heart, Constanzia will be here any day.”
“Thank goodness for that,” she replied, and watched her brother and Sancia take their leave. What would Sancia think when Constanzia arrived and Cesare transferred his attentions to her? Sancia was very beautiful, but Constanzia was exquisitely so. Her skin was lighter than Sancia’s and her eyes a dark amber compared to compared to Sancia’s dark brown. She was sure that some men might prefer Sancia, but it was Constanzia who would command Cesare’s attentions, if she would let him.
Why didn’t Cesare show any remorse over cuckolding his youngest brother, she wondered. Gioffre was sensitive and she knew he would be hurt. Gioffre, in fact, was showing no interest in family politics whatsoever, much to the frustration of the Pope. She didn’t understand it either, but she didn’t mind. Cesare, Juan, and she had to admit it, even she were fiercely ambitious. Constanzia was not, but neither was she indifferent. She would devote herself to her husband’s own enterprises. Calvino seemed to greatly appreciate his wife’s capabilities.
Not the next day, not the day after that, but the following day saw the arrival of Constanzia. She was riding a golden horse with flaxen mane and tail, no doubt the gift of her adoring husband. Her riding dress was a dark golden brown, and her brown hair fell in a long braid down her back.
A groom helped her down and the Pope came to greet her, first as always. She curtsied, knelt and kissed his ring before being swept up into his arms for a hug. He held her at arms length, looking at her intently. “Marriage suits you my dear, you look absolutely radiant, and that cannot all be due to the fresh air.”
She greeted La Bella, kissing her cheeks abstractedly, obviously looking around for someone. Then Cesare came and swept her up off her feet. “Cousin,” he said, and spun her around and hugged her tightly.
Sancia was not pleased with the way Cesare greeted his cousin, or the way she in turn returned his embrace. Cousinly affection, she wondered, or something else? She put a false courtier’s smile on her face as Cesare introduced her.
“Then we must be cousins, also,” Sancia said sweetly, instinctively knowing she was in the presence of a rival, “Tell me, is it true that you are part Turkish?”
“And Venetian,” Constanzia replied, and thought to herself, I know what you are thinking. Cesare must be cuckolding Gioffre with you and that’s hardly fair of him. She looked at Cesare, wondering. She was so sure that she could resist him, but at almost three months gone with child, she could safely sleep with her cousin and her husband would not know. I had not thought I would feel like this, she thought, but I still desire him and I’m sure he feels the same. I should not even think it, I should have stayed home and safe in Genoa. I carry so many sins I cannot confess, but the worst is that I feel no remorse for what I’ve done, I love him.
Sancia was looking her over, taking the measure of her beauty against her own. There was no mistaking the desire in Cesare’s eyes as he looked at his cousin and she had been certain Cesare’s desires had been exclusively for her. You’re no fool, Sancia, she told herself, you know that look. They were lovers and might be lovers still. At least there’s one more handsome Borgia brother, but you’ve lost the best one, at least until she returns to Genoa.
The next day Cesare took Constanzia to Saint Sisto to see Lucrezia. As bulky as she felt, Lucrezia ran into her cousin’s arms, kissing her and exclaiming at how her marriage must suit her. Then she suddenly had to sit down, “My pains have started,” she cried, “Have someone fetch the midwife.” One of her maids ran out the door, calling for help.
“Well,” said Constanzia, “You will not deliver right away, though you will no doubt wish you could. I have brought gifts from Calvino and me—mostly for the baby, but some for you too. It is too bad that we need to keep your chambers clear, but I’ll bring out what you might need today and show you the rest tomorrow.” She kissed her on the brow.
She’d brought all sorts of furnishings for the baby, including a lace covered bed. Little gowns trimmed in lace, swaddling bands and board, a little silver rattle, and other delights. There were nursing gowns for Lucretia, and shawls, and bolts of material for new dresses, for she knew that for a time at least, the baby would change her body.
Cesare returned to the Vatican, but Constanzia stayed, laying on the bed with Lucrezia and holding her hand. As the minutes and hours ticked by the pains slowly grew more frequent.
“Oh, how long must this last, cousin? Is this truly our punishment for the sin of Eve?”
“Some say so, but all I can tell you, is it will take as long as it takes. You should try to sleep a little, it helps if you rest. You have a very good midwife and she is looking after you. I need to go back and eat, and sleep a little myself. I will leave one of my maids here, and she will fetch me the minute it looks like the baby will finally come. Be of good cheer, we Borgias are built for bearing babies and the midwife says all is well. It is only that you are afraid, and every woman is nervous the first time.”
Lucrezia kissed her hand, “Go, I am ashamed to say that I have not even thought about you. You must still be tired from your journey. I cannot wait until I can see the rest of my gifts. I will take your advice and try and rest.”
Vanozza came into the room, “Constanzia, you must eat! I will stay with her, and I am sure that Roderigo will be here soon. You will be well looked after, Lucrezia, don’t fear, my love.”
Cesare was waiting outside the door and put his arm around her waist to support her. “I am here to see that you eat and take a little rest. The midwife told me it will be some time yet.”
She leaned against his shoulder out of habit, not really meaning to. “You could have brought me a carriage or at least a litter,” she murmured and listened to him laugh. She had missed that laugh.
“It doesn’t take that long to walk back to the Vatican, my little lazy girl. Your dinner has been brought to your rooms and I’ve arranged for someone to notify us when it’s time to return. You didn’t think you were going to get away from me so easily, did you?”
“No,” she retorted, “I knew better than that. Has little Gioffre’s bride been keeping you occupied? Poor girl, a lusty sixteen year old with a twelve year old for a husband. I won’t even ask how easy it was for her to entice you. You have always had a weakness for beauty.”
“As do you. Were it not for the fact that you and Juan hate each other, I would have worried about having a rival for your bed. Tell me, how many scruples are you going to have regarding your husband while you’re here? Maybe I should kidnap you and take you far away from here, that is my baby you carry inside you after all.” He paused and took her face in his hands and kissed her.
She resisted at first, but surrendered to his touch, as she always did. “You must never come to Genoa,” she said softly, “Calvino would know with one glance and have me imprisoned in a convent. But our life as it was must be over, Let this be our goodbye, our last goodbye, so we can put this behind us. I love you, I love you too much for my own safety.”
She was surprised that he waited to have her, insisting that she eat. They kept looking at each other, deep looks of longing, knowing their time must be over soon. The futility of it even extended to their love making, they were fierce, passionate, desperate, and could not seem to get enough of each other. Only the knocking at the door broke them apart.
Carmilla, faithful Carmilla, came into the room. “The baby is coming, you are to go to the convent. Lucrezia asks for you both.
They dressed, then ran hand in hand to San Sisto. Lucrezia was crying, afraid. Constanzia sat next to Vanozza. “It will be over soon, dear, and you will have a beautiful baby and it will all have been worth it. Remember, in six months it will be my turn, so you do not suffer this alone.
At last, with one desperate push, Giovanni Borgia made his entry into the world. The midwife and her assistant shooed them out of the room, then cleaned up both mother and child. When they came back into the room, Lucrezia was nursing, a triumphant look on her face.
The Pope said a prayer of gratitude and Constanzia remembered something similar when both Lucrezia and Gioffre were born. The love, the gratitude, the unity of the family. This little bundle was the first grandchild, and she wondered how many would follow. Perhaps she should summon her mother to Genoa, if she would consent to the journey. Both her parents had been pleased at her marriage to Calvino. He may not be royalty, but the Pallavicinis were among the leading families and very influential.
Cesare lead her from Lucrezia’s apartments, and back to her room. He undid her dress, and removed her clothes, stripping off his before he lay down next to her. “I am so tired I feel like I have given birth,” he moaned.
This made her laugh, “Cesare, you will never know the pain of childbirth or how it feels. You men are such babies, always wanting attention. Oh, to be the son of an Italian mother!”
“If such is the case, ‘mama’, your boy needs attention now.” Cesare buried his face in her neck, inhaling her amber perfume.
“The penalty of being slow, my dear, or being faced with Constanzia Pallavicini, is having to settle for me.” Juan offered Sancia his arm, noting with amusement the pout on her pretty face. Vanozza had taken Gioffre to bed, and he knew his sister in law had been counting on Cesare’s attentions, but she had not taken Constanzia into account. Though they had tried to keep their affair a secret, it had not been hard for him to find out his brother and his beautiful sister in law had been having sexual congress. It came as no surprise to him that Cesare was back in Constanzia’s bed—Sancia was beautiful, but as there was only one Lucrezia, there was only one Constanzia.
“I am yours then, at least for tonight,” Sancia gave him an insouciant smile, tossing her heavy dark hair, “But really, Juan, in the name of friendliness, you might have warned me what to expect.”
“Now why would I do that?” Juan laughed, “Watching the look on your face has been highly amusing.” Sancia started to pull away, but he held her tightly. “Besides, Cesare will be wearing those cardinal skirts for quite a while, I’m the commander of the armies of the Vatican, after all, and the Duke of Gandia—I should be quite the prize, yes?” He clasped her closer and took her to his rooms.