To Love a Borgia

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Triumph and Tragedy

The story of Alfonso’s murder is more or less accurate. Burchard said in his journal that . Alfonso had been strangled. So much for anyone who got in Cesare’s way.

Caterina Sforza really did spend six weeks with Cesare, though she resisted (at first) She was known for having a penchant for handsome younger men, and Cesare was certainly that.

The Tigress of Forli stretched and smiled as she watched her young lover rouse himself. She pushed herself up on one elbow, and rested her head in her hand, looking very appealing.

“Well, my lord, this has been very pleasurable, and will no doubt become the stuff of legend, but what are you planning to do with me, and when? If I’m to face a dungeon, I need time to steel myself for it.”

Cesare playfully smacked her thigh. “Not quite a dungeon, I am having rooms prepared for you in the Castel Sant’Angelo. We should be in Rome in a week.”

“That sounds rather dull, shut in a room, none of my friends from the Romagna. And I will miss my boys and my falcon.”

“Behave yourself, and it won’t be so bad. And there will be friends to make in Rome, you have quite the reputation and will no doubt become a notorious celebrity. If you prove you can be trusted, you might be taken hawking. And we have to replenish your wardrobe.” He laughed at the pout she wore on her face, “Cheer up, you will probably escape, or someone will ransom you, or ask to take you off his Holiness’s hands. The worst you face is learning to live a tame life.”

“It’s just as well, young Spaniard, you’ve left my lands in quite the mess. You must tell my children how to find me, surely you wouldn’t begrudge me them!”

“Perhaps not.” Cesare looked at her, and thought again about the six weeks they had spent together. She was the most extraordinary woman he’d ever met. If Lucrezia and Constanzia had been the standard for women in his life, Caterina Sforza had set a new bar. Her body was not so lovely as theirs, nor her face as young and fresh, but this was a formidable woman. The time they had spent together had been a privilege, and even worth the knowing looks his men would give him when they thought he was not looking. It had been worth it.

But he wouldn’t mind handing her off to the keeper of the Castel, and get her off his hands. If she displayed good sense, she would live in comfort and be allowed a few privileges. He did not think for a moment, though, that she would be trustworthy. There were advantages to being a member of the nobility, as long as you played by the rules, and did not try to escape. If you did you better be successful, or the penalty could be severe. He fully expected that Caterina would try to escape, and God help her if she was caught.

“Perhaps I should march her in golden chains through Rome, like Augustus wanted to do with Cleopatra—not that she would stand for it. God she’s magnificent, a pain to deal with, but she’s been worth it.I wish her the best because she will need it, I think Father will be less inclined to indulge her than I am.” In truth, he was ready to return to Rome, and the reception that awaited him from the Holy Father. No doubt a triumph would be his reward for capturing both Forli and the notorious Caterina Sforza.

“I’ve proved myself to him,” he said to himself, “He will have to acknowledge my accomplishments, for I have earned it. Father, you know now I am the better son. I will send for my wife and daughter and install them in Rome. Lucrezia and Constanzia will make her feel at home. I will try and get Charlotte pregnant again, and maybe this time it will be a son. God has chosen to shower his blessings upon me, and I am going to enjoy it.”

The blessings became apparent as he approached the gates of Rome. The entire consistory, mounted on mules, was waiting to escort him into the city. Giofre, and Alfonso, too, were there, and rode on either side of him, waving to the crowd, who enjoyed seeing the sight of the three attractive young dukes. One hundred of his grooms wore black velvet capes, and followed behind him, then horses and mules carrying his plunder. Then came Vitellozzo Vitelli, his condottieri, and the infantry.

All in all, it was very impressive and grand. The pope awaited him on a balcony, Lucrezia, Constanzia, and Sancia at his side. They were clad in white and gold, each looking very lovely and desirable.

Cesare kissed his father on his right hand and both his feet, to the applause of the crowd.He stood and waved, then took “his girls” into his arms and kissed each on the lips, and the party disappeared into the Vatican. The show over for day and it had been an unwarranted success.

That night a feast was held honoring the Duke Valentino. After the end of the meal with its interminable number of courses, the Pope’s children and their cousin indulged in one of their passions—dancing. They danced until the first rays of sunrise began to show through the windows.

Cesare grabbed Constanzia’s hand and led her to his rooms. “I want to fuck you, madam,” he whispered in her ear, “I have not seen you in months, so many months that I can barely restrain myself from tearing your gown off that lovely body.” He put his mouth on her bare shoulders, and began to undo her laces. When he had disrobed her, he lifted her up and lay her on his bed.

She watched as he removed his clothes, then closed her eyes as he lay down next to her on his bed. He tormented her with his fingers and mouth, remembering each little place on her body that, when touched, could drive her to madness.

She cried out as he entered her, then released all control as he began to move, driving her crazier, making her hungrier. He pulled the pins out of her hair, and took two great handfuls of it, smelling the oils she had used to perfume it.

“Who do you love, querida?” he asked her, “Whom do you belong to?”

“You, oh you. Oh, please, give me release,” she begged, “Before I go mad.”

He smiled his wicked smile, as his body betrayed him. He let go, and released both from the fire that threatened to burn them. He held her close to him, feeling like he had come home. He may be married to royalty, but Constanzia held his heart, was eternally his as he was hers.

The next day the city celebrated Carnival, and Alexander VI bestowed the order of the Golden Rose upon his now beloved son. Cesare, with his love of pomp and circumstance, again paraded through the city with his army, to the adoration of the populace.

Then came the not so good news. Ludovico Sforza returned to Milan and took back his beloved city on February sixth, to the cheering of the populace. Cesar and Alexander did not pay it much mind, Louis would re-take Milan, later, and put an end to "Il Moro".

It was fifteen hundred, the year of Jubilee. Saint Peter’s door would be opened and the Vatican was pre-occupied with preparations, so no one noticed how unhappy Lucrezia had become. No one but Constanzia.

There was clear strife between Cesare and Alfonso, and their quarrels were growing more frequent. Cesare expected Alfonso’s allegiance, but Alfonso the son of Naples, was not inclined to oblige. Lucrezia felt herself caught between the husband she loved and the brother she loved. Though she was in agony, torn between the two, no one seemed to care how she felt, except her cousin.

She took refuge in Constanzia’s house, bringing little Giovanni and Rodrigo to play with their cousin Marco. There she felt free to unburden herself to Constanzia, who would listen to her patiently, then remind her that she must have known this was coming. Cesare expected that Alfonso would throw in with him, and she had warned Lucrezia this was coming.

“No one cares how I feel,” Lucrezia wailed, “No one has any sympathy for me.”

“I sympathize,” Constanzia told her gently, “I know how you feel. I have to live with the fact that Cesare killed my husband.”

Lucrezia put her hands over her mouth, her eyes widened and she asked, “How can you forgive him?”

“I have his child, I have loved him since childhood. If I cut him out of my life, where would I be? God help me, Lucrezia, but I do love him. I have to accept him as he is, or I shall go mad.”

“Do you think he would kill Alfonso?” Lucrezia asked.

“Yes, I do,” Constanzia replied, “Alfonso’s Neapolitan connections are worthless now. The pope was scheming to put Cesare on the throne of Naples, but Carlotta Aragona would not have him, so he had to set his plans aside. You’re a valuable pawn in the marriage market, Lucrezia, if something were to happen to Alfonso, I’m sure they are already planning matches.” She drew Lucrezia into her arms. “I feel so sorry for you, you have so little control over your fate. Tell Alfonso to be careful, he’s a marked man, Lucrezia. Unless he is willing to change, I fear that he will not survive the summer.”

On July twenty ninth, a storm blew up, high winds accompanied by large hailstones pounded the Vatican, and caused damage. The Pope narrowly escaped with minor injuries, but for a short time rumors flew about the city that the Pope was dead.

As if this were a portent, two weeks later, Alfonso was attacked after dining with the pope at the Vatican one evening. A group of thugs set upon him, and when they were finished, he was barely able to crawl up the Vatican steps.

Lucrezia fainted at the sight of her husband covered in blood. He had gashes to his head and shoulder, either of which could be fatal, the doctor warned. She and Sancia nursed him around the clock, and though it seemed touch and go, slowly, he began to improve and Lucrezia rejoiced, believing that he was out of danger. But she forgot Constanzia’s warnings about Cesare.

Rumors were flying around Rome that Cesare had indeed been responsible for the attack on Alfonso. In typical manner, Alexander VI told the Venetian ambassador that if Cesare were indeed responsible for the attack, Alfonso had most likely deserved it. The ambassador, a relative of Constanzia’s, had relayed this to her, and she had to be restrained from confronting the pope herself.

“Imagine the nerve,” she had said to Sancia, making sure that Lucrezia could not hear, “He all but said he sanctioned this attack upon your brother. How dare he? Sancia, they want Alfonso out of the way so that they can arrange a new marriage for Lucrezia.” She did not need to say who “they” were. She was furious with Cesare, and did not know how to confront him the next time they saw each other. Cesare had killed her husband, and now he was going to kill Lucrezia’s, and there was nothing she could do about it.

August 18, Alfonso was doing much better but was still confined to his bed. It was evening and he was talking with his uncle, the Neapolitan ambassador, Sancia and his wife when Micheletto suddenly appeared, along with some of the guards.

“I have come to arrest the ambassador,” he announced, and advanced towards the bed, but Lucrezia sprang up to stop him.

“Micheletto, what? Why?” asked Lucrezia, thoroughly confused, “Why do you disturb my husband in his sick bed?”

“There has been a threat on Lord Cesare’s life. As a precaution, we are taking into custody all strangers and suspicious people.”

“Surely my brother cannot suspect that my husband’s family would make an attempt upon his life?This cannot be right, Micheletto.”

“My lady, why do you not go find his Holiness and see if this matter cannot be straightened out?” Micheletto stood there, unmovable as a rock.

“I’m going to do just that,” Lucrezia said coldly and took Sancia by the hand, casting one last glance at Alfonso lying in bed. Suddenly she had the feeling that it may be the last time she would see him alive.

Sancia was upset, but thinking clearly. “Lucrezia, go to your father, I am going to find Constanzia. If anyone can handle Micheletto, it’s her. He won’t dare hurt her, Cesare would kill him. I am afraid, Lucrezia, afraid. Something is terribly wrong.”

She ran to the stables and had her horse saddled. Though she rode at a swift gallop, her progress seemed painfully slow, and she was grateful when she reached Constanzia’s villa. She dismounted her horse and ran inside, hoping that Constanzia was at home.

“Sancia, what is wrong?” Constanzia took her by the arms, “I can tell by your face you are frightened. What has happened.”

“Alfonso,” Sancia tried not to stumble over her words. “We were visiting him when Micheletto suddenly appears, saying that he had to arrest my uncle. He told Lucrezia to find the pope so it could be straightened out, but she told me to come here and find you.”

“You left Alfonso alone with Micheletto? Foolish girls, he’s as good as dead, if he isn’t already. Let me have my horse saddled and I will see if I can take care of this.” Constanzia went to a drawer and opened it, then clicked a button and revealed a hiding place underneath it.She drew out a stiletto which she placed in her bodice.

“Madame, are you not afraid of Micheletto? I know his reputation, he is Cesare’s assassin.” Sancia’s voice was rising as her panic grew.

“Yes, Sancia, I am,” Constanzia answered, “But Micheletto is also afraid of me. He knows better than to come between Cesare and me. If he kills me, Cesare will kill him, and I do not think he is ready to embrace death, not yet.”

When they reached the Vatican, they found the doors locked against them. Lucrezia was standing and looking helpless. “They told me he’s dead, that he tore open his wounds. That can’t be, but what can I do?”

Constanzia drew the stiletto out of her bodice, and shoved it against Micheletto’s stomach. “Open the damn door, Micheletto, or I’ll kill you. Cesare will forgive me, but if you hurt me he won’t forgive you, now will he? We both know whom he’ll choose. Now open that door or I’ll be forced to commit the first murder of my life.”

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