Chapter 6

The French in Rome


FRANCESCO GUICCIARDINI described Italy as "never having enjoyed such prosperity or known so favourable a situation as that in which it found itself in the years immediately before and after 1490." He continued:

The greatest peace and tranquillity reigned everywhere.... Not only did Italy abound in inhabitants, merchandise and riches, but she was also highly renowned for the magnificence of many princes, for the splendour of so many most noble and beautiful cities, as the seat and majesty of religion, and flourishing with men most skilful in the administration of public affairs and most nobly talented in all disciplines and distinguished and industrious in all the arts. Nor was Italy lacking in military glory according to the standards of the time, and adorned with so many gifts that she deservedly held a celebrated name and a reputation among all the nations.

Had Guicciardini described Italy as it was to become a few years later, during the pontificate of Alexander VI, he would have painted a less comforting picture. The quarrel between King Ferrante I of Naples and Ludovico Sforza of Milan was to have far wider political implications, involving France and Spain, each of which laid claim to Naples, and it now brought the threat of imminent war. For, in order to dispose of his enemy, Ludovico Sforza decided to suggest to King Charles VIII of France that he should invade Italy to assert his claim to Naples, as heir to the rights of the House of Anjou, which had been ousted from Naples by Ferrante I's father, Alfonso of Aragon, some fifty years earlier.

Charles VIII's belief that he was the rightful king of Naples had been "instilled in him from an early age, so that it was almost an innate instinct, and it had been nourished under the guidance of several close advisers," so Guicciardini said, and these men played on his vanity and his youthful inexperience, suggesting that, by enforcing his claim to the kingdom, he would "surpass the glory of his ancestors," and that, having taken Naples, it would be just a simple step to seize the Holy Land from the Turks.

On January 25, 1494, Ferrante I died, "without the light of grace, without the cross and without God," as Burchard stated. "On 21 January he visited the baths at Tripergole because he did not feel well"—Tripergole, once famous for its sulphur baths, was buried after a volcanic eruption covered it with lava in 1538. On the following day Ferrante "returned to Naples and, on dismounting from his horse in the courtyard of Castel Nuovo, suffered a fainting fit; three days later he died, without confession and without receiving the sacraments." This, so it seemed, was his own choice: "Although his confessor, a Franciscan friar, came into the bedroom and, standing before him, urged him to repent of his sins," Ferrante I refused to do so. "The friar, it was said, did not see a single sign of repentance from the King."

Ferrante I died at the age of seventy, loathed by his subjects for the cruel way he had exercised his authority. There was, however, little talk of poison; many in Italy thought it likely he had died of misery at the prospect of seeing his kingdom seized by the powerful armies of Charles VIII, which were poised to leave France on their long march to conquer Naples.

Charles VIII was just twenty-four years old, and he was the "ugliest man" that one observer had ever seen, "in all [his] days—tiny, deformed with the most appalling face that ever man had." The chronicler Philippe de Commynes added that "neither his treasury, nor his understanding, nor his preparations were sufficient for such an important enterprise as the conquest of Naples." Commynes believed he never said a word to anyone that could "in reason, cause displeasure." This unprepossessing but adventurous young monarch also had the most grandiose ideas; he was contemplating a march upon Naples not only to take possession of his ancestor's throne but also to go on from there to conquer Jerusalem and, on the way, to reform the corrupt papacy of Alexander VI.

In Italy, where the forthcoming conflict now seemed inevitable, reactions varied. Ludovico Sforza promised his support, as did his father-in-law, the Duke ofFerrara, and his cousin Giovanni Sforza, husband of Lucrezia and Lord of Pesaro, who sent details of papal troop deployments to Milan with the warning that "if any word of what I am doing is known, I will be in the greatest danger." The Republic of Venice remained neutral; Florence and the Papal States were both ill-equipped to fight a war; the Neapolitan army was a more formidable force than any other in Italy, but it had no hope of halting the French advance on its own.

The issue had become even more complicated for Alexander VI since Ferrante I's death in January and the succession of Alfonso II as the new king. The pope now faced a stark choice—Naples was a papal fief and he had either to crown Alfonso II or to agree to the demands of Charles VIII to invest him as the rightful ruler.

Throughout March Alexander VI sought to placate both sides; he sent Charles VIII the papal rose, a mark of his favour, but when the ambassadors of Alfonso II arrived in Rome, their French counterparts made a point, as they had been ordered to do, of pointedly refusing to meet them. By Easter, which fell on March 30 that year, it was clear that Alexander VI had decided in favour of his alliance with Naples. At the Great Mass in St. Peter's on Easter Sunday, led by the pope in person, it was the cardinal of Naples who acted as his assistant. "The Pope gave communion to all the cardinal-deacons, except for the Cardinal of Valencia, who was absent," noted Johannes Burchard, using the title by which Cesare had chosen to be known in the college, and "afterwards the Lance of Christ was shown twice to the people and the Vernicle three times."

On the Tuesday after Easter, Alexander VI went to the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva to hear Mass, which was celebrated by the bishop of Concordia. Cardinal Ascanio Sforza made a witty aside, recorded by Burchard, to the effect that "when the Pope is in concord with the King of Naples, he asks the Bishop of Concordia to celebrate the mass; the Pope, who overheard this remark, asked me to tell Ascanio that his choice had not been premeditated but that it had been coincidence." Alexander VI then quipped, much to the discomfiture of his vice-chancellor, that "when there is peace between His Holiness and Ludovico Sforza," the pope would "have mass celebrated by the Bishop of Pace"—pace is the Italian for peace and also the Latin name for the Spanish city of Badajoz.

The college of cardinals was deeply divided by the quarrel, Alexander VI's Spanish cardinals firmly opposing the French party, led by Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, the pope's inveterate enemy, and those loyal to Milan, notably Ascanio Sforza. Alexander VI was even approached by one of della Rovere's supporters, who threatened him bluntly that if he did not agree to the crowning of Charles VIII as king of Naples, it would no doubt become necessary to summon a council to investigate the charge that the pope had been guilty of simony in securing his election to high office. Whether or not persuaded by this threat, Alexander VI was induced to agree that Charles VIII should be crowned in Naples when the French army entered the city.

The issue of crowning Alfonso II as king of Naples was discussed at length in a secret consistory that lasted eight hours; it was finally agreed that the pope's nephew, the cardinal of Monreale, would be appointed legate to Naples and would go there to "anoint and crown" Alfonso as king. Two days later Burchard himself left for Naples to make the necessary preparations; orders for the reception of the legate, for the carrying of the baldachin, the itinerary to be followed for the cardinal of Monreale's entry into Naples, and his procession to the cathedral were all listed by the methodical master of ceremonies, together with "the roles of the legate and the King on the day of the coronation."

On April 30 Burchard had an audience with Alfonso II in order to explain to him the details of the ceremony and to fix the date, which was to be May 8, chosen by the king because it was the Feast of the Ascension.

The day before the coronation, in grateful thanks to Alexander VI for his support, Alfonso II announced his gifts to the pope's children. Cesare was given lucrative Neapolitan benefices; Juan was to get fiefs and the offer of 33,000 ducats a year to serve as a condottiere for Naples; Jofrè was given six Neapolitan fiefs, worth 4,000 ducats a year, including the prestigious title of Prince of Squillace, and the king invested him as a knight of the royal chivalric Order of the Ermine. He also ratified the marriage contract between his illegitimate daughter, Sancia of Aragon, and the twelve-year-old Jofrè, who, as Prince of Squillace, carried the crown during the coronation ceremony.

Three days later, as rain cascaded down in torrents outside, Jofrè and Sancia were married in the chapel of Castel Nuovo. After the wedding banquet, the couple were accompanied to their bedchamber, "where their bed had been prepared," reported Burchard.

The legate and the King remained waiting outside; the newly-weds were now undressed by maids-of-honour and placed together in the bed, the groom on the right of the bride. When the two, now naked, had been covered with the sheets and blanket, the legate and the King entered. In their presence, the newly-weds were uncovered by the maids-of-honour as far as the navel, or thereabouts, and the groom embraced his bride without shame. The legate and the King remained there, talking between themselves, for about half an hour before leaving the couple.

Burchard, meanwhile, had taken the opportunity to do some sightseeing around the Bay of Naples, visiting various sites of interest, including the hot springs at Pozzuoli and the sulphur and salt baths at Bagnoli, before leaving Naples with a four-year-old mule, named Idrontina, which he was given as a present by the king, together with 100 gold ducats in gratitude for services rendered.

On July 12 Alexander VI, accompanied by several cardinals, including the nineteen-year-old Cesare, left Rome for Tivoli, where he intended to stay a few days in order to escape the stifling summer heat and to attend a meeting with Alfonso II at the nearby fortress of Vicovaro, a castle belonging to Virginio Orsini, one of the condottieri captains fighting with the Neapolitan army. They discussed at length the measures that would be needed for the defence of Naples against the French. A plan of action was agreed upon; but, before it could be put into operation, an immense French army, thirty thousand strong with forty powerful cannons, under the personal command of Charles VIII, crossed the Alps in early September and started its long march south.

In Rome Alexander VI's open alliance with Naples and Spain made life very uncomfortable for the supporters of Milan and France, not least in the college. Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere had fled to France in April; Cardinal Ascanio Sforza left at the end of June. With the plague raging, the celebrations for the anniversaries of Innocent VIII's death and of Alexander VI's accession were both cancelled, adding to the pall of dread that hung over the city, and which grew daily as news bulletins of Charles VIII's slow but relentless approach were delivered. There had been a moment of hope soon after the French crossed the Alps when it was learned that Charles VIII had taken to his bed in Asti, suffering from smallpox; but the moment was brief, and the king soon recovered enough to continue on his way.

Guicciardini recorded many signs and portents of impending doom that were seen at about this time:

In Puglia one night three suns were seen in the sky, surrounded by clouds and accompanied by terrifying thunder and lightning. In the territory of Arezzo huge numbers of armed soldiers riding enormous steeds were seen for many days passing across the sky with a terrible clash of trumpets and drums. All over Italy holy images and statues were seen to sweat and everywhere monstrous babies and animals were born ... whence the people were filled with unbelievable dread, frightened as they already were by the reputation of French power.

The French troops met with little opposition; it was said that they conquered Italy with the bits of chalk that the quartermasters used in order to mark the doors of the houses they occupied on their march south. Certainly the army was one of the most powerful ever assembled, and it was "provisioned by a large quantity of artillery," wrote Guicciardini, "of a type never before seen in Italy." The French had developed new weapons: "These were called cannon and they used iron cannonballs instead of stone, as before, and this new shot was considerably larger and heavier than that previously deployed." Not only were they more powerful than anything seen before; they were also more manoeuvrable; the massive cannons were transported to Italy by ship and unloaded in the harbour at Genoa, where they were loaded onto specially made gun carriages. "This artillery," concluded Guicciardini, "made Charles VIII's army formidable."

After outflanking the weak resistance of the Neapolitan forces in the Romagna and routing the Neapolitan fleet at Rapallo, they crossed the Apennines in October and seized the fortress of Sarzana, one of Florence's key border defences. Alexander VI appointed the cardinal of Siena, Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini, as legate to Charles VIII to negotiate, but Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, who had joined the French camp, persuaded the king not to meet him.

On November 17 Charles VIII entered Florence in triumph, to the wild cheers of the fickle populace, for whom the arrival of the French army had been the catalyst that had enabled the expulsion of the detested Piero de' Medici, who had arrogantly exercised his authority in the city since the death of his father, Lorenzo il Magnifico, two years earlier. After signing an alliance with Florence's new republican government on November 26, Charles VIII and his troops continued their march south, sacking and pillaging the Tuscan countryside as they went.

A few days later in Rome, Alexander VI arrested those prominent supporters of the French who remained in the city, including Cardinal Ascanio Sforza and the illegitimate son of the great Cardinal d'Estouteville, imprisoning them in apartments on the upper floor of the Vatican Palace. Though the rooms were comfortable and the prisoners were allowed to attend Mass in the Sistine Chapel, they were heavily guarded. That same day Alexander VI informed the ambassadors of France, who had come to Rome to seek free passage for the French army through the Papal States, that their request was refused. Charles VIII ignored the pope and continued to march south; a month after arriving in Florence, the invading army captured Civitavecchia, an important port inside papal territory, while the Orsini surrendered their fortress at nearby Bracciano.

Near Viterbo the vanguard of the French army, under the command of Yves d'Alègre, came across two obviously well-to-do women. One of these turned out to be Giulia Farnese, Alexander VI's beautiful mistress, who was returning to Rome from a visit to her husband on his country estate. The other was Adriana da Mila, her friend and the pope's cousin, who had been entrusted by him with the care of his children. A messenger was sent to the king informing him of this unexpected encounter, and Charles VIII declared that the French did not fight against women; but Yves d'Alègre saw no reason why money should not be made out of the captives who had so unexpectedly fallen into his hands, and he accordingly demanded 3,000 ducats for their release.

Alexander VI astutely agreed immediately to pay this ransom, and the two women were sent on to Rome under an escort of four hundred soldiers. Ludovico Sforza was not pleased: "These ladies," he declared, "could have been used as a fine whip for compelling the Pope to do all that was required of him, for he cannot live without them. The French received a mere 3,000 ducats for them when he might well have paid 50,000 or even more to have them back."

With the main body of the French drawing ever closer to Rome, the city grew increasingly fearful; houses and palaces of known supporters of France were ransacked. Alexander VI had been advised to escape from Rome while he could still do so; but, for the first time in his life, he seemed utterly irresolute. He had called in Neapolitan troops only to dismiss them; he had repeated his refusal to allow the French free passage through the Papal States only to rescind the order; on one occasion he fainted.

Finally the pope decided to stay in Rome and began to consider the ways in which he might secure an agreement with Charles VIII. First he set about ordering the defence of the city and summoned Burchard together with a number of other members of the German colony living in Rome to an audience, to ask for their help. He outlined the "insolent behaviour" of the French king and his invasion of the Papal States; "he did not anticipate a siege by the French," he said, but would welcome any help that the German nation, "in whom he had great confidence," might be able to contribute to the defence of Rome. Burchard continued his account:

His Holiness suggested that we should appoint constables and officers ... and arm them with weapons and issue all the requisite orders so that, when the time came, they would be able to defend themselves and the Pope would be able to use this militia within the city, although not outside the walls.

In the end, Burchard failed to persuade his compatriots to agree to the formation of this highly irregular militia; they felt bound, they said, to their promise to obey the captains of their neighbourhood watches, which was what usually happened in an emergency such as this. Nor was the commander of the papal troops, Virginio Orsini, cousin of the lovely Giulia's husband, any more encouraging; he chose to offer no resistance to the French, who were, he considered, irresistible.

With characteristic style, Alexander VI announced that he would defend Castel Sant'Angelo with the troops at his disposal and, if attacked, would stand on its walls in full canonicals, carrying the Blessed Sacrament. He would not leave Rome, he said, to become a prisoner in Naples; he was determined to remain and attempt to come to terms with the French king. Work now started on a deep ditch to surround Castel Sant'Angelo, which involved the demolition of several houses. "On Thursday 18 December," wrote Burchard, "all the Pope's possessions, including even his bed and daily credence-table, were assembled for removal from the Vatican Palace to Castel Sant'Angelo, the vestments from St. Peter's, all the money chests from the sacristy, the palace weapons and stores of food, and all the papal belongings were sent to the castle, whilst the cardinals also prepared to move."

Below the walls of Castel Sant'Angelo, the city was now in an uproar as people fled into the country, having buried or otherwise hidden their valuables to save them from looters and pillaging soldiers. "The discontent of the people is at its height," wrote the Mantuan envoy Fioramonte Bagolo. "The looting is fearful, the murders innumerable; one hears moaning and weeping on every side and never, in the memory of man, has the Church been in such an evil plight." All those who could afford to do so were packing their valuables into carriages and leaving the city. Looking out through the windows of the Vatican, Alexander VI and his son Cesare watched the enemy troops massing on Monte Mario, just north of the palace, thankful that they, too, had taken the precaution of locking their treasures away in Castel Sant'Angelo and were ready for flight.

Meanwhile, as rumours spread of the atrocities that the French would inflict, Charles VIII attempted to appease the fears of the Romans. The French Cardinal Bertrand Perauld, who had been refused entry into the city on December 22, was heard to say that the troops "would not take a hen or an egg or the smallest item without paying for it in full." The next day he wrote to the German colony saying that the invasion would only happen if the king's "enemies," by which he meant Alexander VI himself, "continue to remain in Rome and prevent an agreement." Moreover, he insisted, "His Majesty promises that his troops will do no harm to any prostitute in the city, nor to any other person, wherever they are from, unless they fight against the King and his followers."

With the city almost surrounded by French troops, the celebrations for the Feast of the Nativity continued with surprising normality: Burchard recorded that the pope himself was present in the Sistine Chapel for Vespers on Christmas Eve. It had been expected that the cardinal of Monreale would celebrate High Mass in the Sistine Chapel on Christmas Day, but before dawn broke that morning, a courier had arrived with an urgent message for Alexander VI to say that Charles VIII desired a peaceful agreement with the pope prior to the king's entry into the city. Having informed the cardinals assembled in the Sala del Pappagallo that he intended to allow Charles VIII to enter Rome, the pope dispatched the cardinal of Monreale to agree to terms with the king, who likewise sent his envoys to the Vatican for the same purpose. At Mass in the Sistine Chapel the next day, the Feast of St. Stephen, Burchard faced an awkward situation, being obliged to organize seating not only for these French envoys but also for two ambassadors of the king of Naples who were in Rome:

The latter did not wish to dispute their seats with the new arrivals, and withdrew, claiming not to know who they were, but when on the Pope's orders, I had explained to them that they were ambassadors from the King of France, the Neapolitans resumed their seats and gave the others precedence in position. A great many other Frenchman came in as well, and sat down quite indiscriminately next to the clerics on their benches. I moved them away and gave them more suitable places, but the Pope disliked what I was doing and summoned me angrily to say that I was destroying all his efforts and that I was to permit the French to stand wherever they wanted. I responded in a soothing manner, saying that God knew, he was not to become upset over the issue because I understood what he wanted and would speak not another word to the Frenchmen, wherever they sat in the chapel.

On December 31 Alexander VI sent his master of ceremonies to Charles VIII: "On the orders of His Holiness," Burchard wrote, "I rode out to find the King of France in order to acquaint him with the ceremonial that would accompany his reception in the city and to hear his own wishes and to do all His Majesty ordered me to do." Because of the pouring rain, the roads clogged with mud, "and the speed at which His Majesty was riding," Burchard was unable to greet the king as formally as he would have wished. In answer to Burchard's questions, Charles VIII replied "that he wanted his entry into the city to be conducted without any pomp." He did, however, invite the master of ceremonies "to continue riding with him, and for about four miles or so he talked with me continually, asking me questions about the health of the Pope and the cardinals." Burchard noted the king's particular interest in Alexander VI's son Cesare, asking many questions about his situation and his status "and many other things, to all of which I was scarcely able to give appropriate answers."

Meanwhile, the main body of King Charles's army entered Rome at about three o'clock in the afternoon of the last day of December. Alexander VI and his family took shelter in Castel Sant'Angelo, while Giulia Farnese was spirited out of the city by her brother, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. These precautions proved unnecessary. "Twice our great guns were ready to fire on Castel Sant'Angelo," wrote Philippe de Commynes, "but on both occasions the King opposed it."

It took six hours for the French army to file through the gate at Santa Maria del Popolo, and it was long after darkness had fallen that the last stragglers entered the city. By flickering torchlight and the gleam of lanterns, the men and horses marched though the narrow streets, muddy and wet in the pouring rain: Swiss and German infantry carrying broadswords and long lances, Gascon archers, French knights, Scots archers, artillerymen with bronze cannons and culverins. Escorted by cardinals Ascanio Sforza and Giuliano della Rovere, and surrounded by his bodyguard and his magnificently dressed courtiers, rode Charles VIII himself, a short, ugly young man with a huge hooked nose and thick fleshy lips, constantly open.

"There were fires, torches and lights in every house," Burchard recorded, "and people were heard shouting 'France! France!' and 'Vincoli! Vincoli!'" continually (San Pietro in Vincoli was the title of Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere). At the Palazzo Venezia, the great palace built by Paul II at the foot of the Capitol Hill and now the residence of Cardinal Lorenzo Cibò, the king dismounted and was ushered inside by his host. He limped into the dining room and sat by the fire in his slippers, while a servant combed his hair and the wispy scattered strands of his reddish beard. Food was placed upon a table; a chamberlain tasted every dish before the king ate, and the remains were thrown into a silver ewer. Four physicians likewise tested the wine into which the chamberlain dangled a unicorn's horn on a golden chain before His Majesty raised the cup to his lips.

Cardinal Cibò had prepared his best apartments "for housing the ambassadors and other Frenchmen," commented Burchard, adding that the dignitaries "were provided with plenty of straw beds, but I noticed that these sacks of straw were never cleaned; tallow candles hung from the doors and fireplaces, and, even though the walls were decorated with beautiful tapestries, the place resembled a pigsty."

Despite Charles VIII'S protestations that his troops would respect the Romans and their property, they did cause a lot of trouble. Burchard reported that "on their way into the city the French troops forced an entrance into houses on either side of the road, throwing out their owners, horses and other goods, setting fire to wooden articles and eating and drinking whatever they found without paying anything." On Thursday, January 8, he recorded, "the house of Paolo Branco, a Roman citizen, was plundered and ransacked by the French who killed his two sons, whilst others, including Jews, were murdered and their houses pillaged; even the house of Donna Vannozza Catanei, the mother of Cardinal Cesare Borgia, did not escape."

Even poor old Burchard himself was to suffer at the hands of the unruly soldiers: "When I returned to my house after mass, I found that the French had entered it against my will," he wailed. "They had taken out seven of the eight horses, mules and asses that I had in my stable and had billeted in their place seven of their own mounts which were busily eating my hay." His rooms, as well as those of his servants, had all been requisitioned by French nobles and their retinues. Eventually Charles VIII was forced to issue an order forbidding his troops from forcibly entering houses on pain of death.

While Alexander VI played a waiting game from the comfort and security of his apartments in Castel Sant'Angelo, where he was ensconced with Cesare and several of the Neapolitan cardinals, Charles VIII spent his time receiving visits from various cardinals and dealing with the deluge of complaints about his troops. One day, escorted by a company of soldiers, he was conducted on a tour of Rome to view the sights of the city: on another he rode out to the Basilica of San Sebastiano with his household.

It was not until January 16 that the two rulers finally came face-to-face. That day Charles VIII rode across Rome to St. Peter's, where he heard Mass in the French royal chapel, which had been restored by his father, Louis XI, and was dedicated to St. Petronilla, the daughter of the first pope. "If my memory is correct," recorded Burchard, "the mass was not sung." The king was then escorted to the papal palace, where the lavish rooms of Alexander VI's apartments had been prepared for him and his suite to dine. The pope, meanwhile, was on his way from Castel Sant'Angelo to the Vatican in his ceremonial litter. The ambitious twenty-four-year-old monarch, described by Guicciardini as "not particularly intelligent with regard to political affairs and carried away by his fervent wish to rule and his thirst for glory," was about to be outwitted by the wily pope.

"On being told of His Holiness's approach," wrote Burchard, the eager young king, not well versed in the subtleties of achieving diplomatic advantage, "hurried to the end of the second private garden to greet him." Catching sight of the pope, he approached him and twice genuflected before him: "At first His Holiness pretended not to see this gesture but when His Majesty came closer and was about to genuflect for a third time, the Pope removed his cap and, holding out his hand to restrain the King from kneeling, kissed him."

Alexander VI's informality was calculated, as was his apparent insistence on the equality that was seen to exist between the two rulers. "At this their first meeting," Burchard continued, "both men were bareheaded and the King kissed neither the Pope's foot nor his hand. His Holiness refused to place his cap back on his head until the King had replaced his own hat, but eventually they both covered their heads simultaneously." Later that day Alexander VI displayed a similar deference when, having accompanied Charles VIII to the Sala del Pappagallo, he declined to sit down until his guest had done so.

Alexander VI also acceded to Charles VIII's request to give a cardinal's hat to Guillaume Briçonnet, the bishop of St.-Malo and a trusted member of the king's Privy Council, and to invest him immediately. Burchard was sent off forthwith to find a cardinal's hat and robe. "The hat was supplied by Cardinal Cesare Borgia," he remarked, "and the cloak was borrowed from the rooms of Cardinal Pallavicini." All the cardinals present were now seated as if for a consistory, and Alexander VI, according to Burchard, "said he was happy to agree to the King's request providing the cardinals also considered the occasion suitable."

One by one the cardinals gave their consent, and the pope duly invested Briçonnet with the insignia of his new rank. "When this had been done the Cardinal of St.-Malo kissed the Pope's foot and hand, and then, raised up by the Pope, he received the kiss on the mouth," not just from Alexander VI but also from all the other cardinals present.

Alexander VI himself now rose from his seat and said that he wished to escort the king back to the royal apartments, but this Charles VIII "categorically refused to allow." He was therefore accompanied by the cardinals as far as the entrance, where they left him. The doors were guarded by Scottish mercenaries, who had the special duty of guarding the French king and allowed none to enter except for members of the royal household.

Two days later, on January 18, having managed neatly to sidestep two of Charles VIII's demands—the calling of a council to address the issue of the reform of the church and papal recognition of his claim to Naples—Alexander VI did give him formal permission to pass freely through the Papal States, a somewhat Pyrrhic victory for the young king, who already held most of the territory north of Rome and knew that the pope did not have the forces necessary to prevent him from taking the rest, if he wanted it. In return, the pope had extracted a promise from Charles VIII that he would profess his obedience to the pope in public.

This was a diplomatic triumph for Alexander VI. A month earlier he had been under siege, his city in an uproar, his hold on power tenuous at best; now he had fully reestablished his authority. The terms of the agreement were formally read out and written up, "in French for His Majesty and in Latin for the Pope."

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