Read CHAPTER XXIX of Beatrice d'Este‚ Duchess of Milan‚ 1475-1497 , free online book, by Julia Mary Cartwright, on ReadCentral.com.

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

1499

From the moment of Louis XII.’s accession, he announced his intention of making good his claim to the duchy of Milan. He refused to give Lodovico the title of duke, addressing him as Messer Lodovico, while he styled himself King of France and Duke of Milan, and told the Bishop of Arles that he would rather reign over the Milanese for one year than be King of France during his whole lifetime. At the same time he spoke freely of his plans for the conquest of Italy, and told his courtiers that he meant one of his sons to be King of Naples, and the other Duke of Milan.

These sayings were duly reported to Lodovico by his own friends at the French court, and chief among them M. de Trano, a Provencal gentleman who was in constant correspondence with Milan, as well as by the Duke of Ferrara’s envoy. Ercole himself is described by French agents as “très attache a son gendre” and Marino Sanuto speaks of him as “exceedingly partial to his son-in-law and devoted to him in his secret heart,” but he was far too wise and prudent a ruler to oppose Louis XII. openly.

The Pope, long the Moro’s firm ally, had turned against him since the dissolution of his daughter Lucrezia’s marriage to Giovanni Sforza in 1497, and the presence of Cardinal della Rovere, who returned to Rome towards the end of 1498, increased his hatred of the Sforzas. He was still more drawn to France by the offers of Louis XII. to forward the ambitious designs of his son Cæsar Borgia, who had renounced his cardinal’s hat and was seeking the hand of the King of Navarre’s daughter. The discovery of these intrigues led to a sharp passage-at-arms between the Pope and Ascanio Sforza in a consistory held on the 3rd of December. The cardinal openly accused his Holiness of bringing ruin upon Italy, upon which Alexander retorted that he was only following the Duke of Milan’s example. In vain Lodovico endeavoured to avert the gathering storm by entering into negotiations with the French king, and even approached Trivulzio with that purpose, but all attempts at a peaceable arrangement were frustrated by Galeazzo di Sanseverino and Antonio Landriano’s hatred of their old rival and the fixed determination of Louis XII. to reign in the Moro’s stead.

Meanwhile the Venetian envoys were secretly plotting the Duke of Milan’s ruin, and on the 15th of April the Treaty of Blois was signed and the partition of the Milanese between France and Venice finally determined. The Signory agreed to invade the duke’s territory with an army of 6000 men, and were to receive the district of Cremona in return for their assistance. This was followed by Cæsar Borgia’s marriage to Charlotte d’Albret, which took place at Blois on the 10th of May. The Pope’s son was created Duke of Valentinois by the French king, and Alexander VI. joined France and Venice and publicly declared that the house of Sforza must be swept off the face of the earth. At the same time, Francesco Gonzaga made secret advances to Louis XII., who accepted his offers of service and advised the Venetians to make peace with him.

In his extremity Lodovico turned to his sole remaining ally, the Emperor Maximilian, and sent Erasmo Brasca and Marchesino Stanga to Fribourg, to beg that a German force might be speedily sent to his assistance, while he earnestly entreated his niece the empress to plead his cause with her husband. Unfortunately, Bianca had little or no influence at the imperial court, and Maximilian, who would gladly have helped the duke, was hampered by want of money and already engaged in war with his turbulent Swiss neighbours. But Bianca did her best for her uncle, and in these last days her letters were his chief consolation. She sent him the latest and most confidential news, and wrote repeatedly from Fribourg and Innsbruck, encouraging him with hopes of speedy help, and reminding him how triumphantly he had overcome greater dangers in the past.

Even now, when his enemies were closing round him and the last struggle was at hand, Lodovico still clung to his old ideals. The love of art was still the ruling passion of his life, and Leonardo still for him the prince of painters. On the 26th of April, he made the Florentine master a present of a vineyard which he had bought from the monastery of S. Victor outside the Porta Vercellina, probably adjoining a house and piece of land which the painter had already received from him, near S. Maria delle Grazie. During the last few years the duke, we know, had found it increasingly difficult to provide money for his vast enterprises, and from a rough draft of a letter that has been found among Leonardo’s manuscripts, we gather that the painter’s salary was in arrears, and that his equestrian statue had not yet been cast in bronze:

“Signore,” he writes in these fragmentary sentences, “knowing the mind of your Excellency to be fully occupied, I must ask pardon for reminding you of my small affairs.... My life is at your service; I am always ready to obey your commands. I will say nothing of the horse, because I know the times; but, as your Highness is aware, two years’ salary is owing to me, and I have two masters working at my expense, so that I have had to advance fifteen lire out of my own purse to pay them. Gladly as I would undertake immortal works and show posterity that I have lived, I am obliged to earn my living.... May I remind your Highness of the commission to paint the Camerini, only asking ...”

The painter, we know, had never complained of Lodovico’s want of liberality, and before he left Milan that December, he was able to send 600 gold florins to Florence, but he probably received the vineyard outside the gate in answer to this appeal. In the deed of gift, the duke expressly states that Leonardo, in his judgment and in that of the best judges, is the most famous of living painters, and that, having been employed by him in manifold works, in all of which he has shown admirable genius, the time has come to put the promises which have been made him into execution. Accordingly, the duke presents him with this vineyard, small indeed compared with the painter’s merits, but which Leonardo may take as a sign that, as in the past, he will always find the ducal house sensible of his services, and that Lodovico himself will in the future more fully reward the master’s excellent acts and singular talents.

A week later Lodovico remembered the altar-piece which Perugino had promised to paint for the Certosa, and on the 1st of May wrote to the Carthusian friars, desiring them to urge the Umbrian painter to complete and deliver the work without delay.

“You know,” he wrote, “how much labour and expense we have bestowed on the decoration of the Certosa of Pavia, and how much we rejoice to see that the building is nearly finished. And we have always exhorted yourselves, venerable Prior and brothers, to choose the most excellent artists to paint pictures that may be at once helps to devotion and ornaments of the church. Since, with this intention, we proposed a certain Perugino and a Maestro Filippo, both of them admirable and honoured masters, to paint two altar-pieces, and disbursed large sums in order to obtain these pictures, we are seriously displeased to find that three years have passed without the work being done. This is unjust both to ourselves and the friars, since it deprives the Certosa of the perfection that we desire to see there, and we must beg you to insist on these excellent masters completing the said altar-pieces within a reasonable term, or else returning the money which they have received. For, as you know, nothing is dearer to our hearts than the things that concern this church and monastery.”

Lodovico’s exertions were not in vain, at least in the case of Perugino. Before the end of the year, the great altar-piece containing the lovely Madonna and saints, which now adorns the National Gallery, was finished, and while the duke himself wandered in exile beyond the Alps, the Umbrian painter’s masterpiece was safely placed in the glorious church which he had loved so well.

This letter relating to the Certosa altar-piece and the gift to Leonardo were the last public acts in which the great Moro showed his love of art and generosity to artists. His fate was sealed, and already his foes were at the door. Before the end of May, King Louis and Cæsar Borgia came to Lyons, and Trivulzio descended upon Asti with fifteen thousand men. A few weeks later the Milanese envoy to Venice was dismissed, and the Venetian army prepared to enter the district of Cremona. Caterina Sforza, almost the only Italian ally who was still faithful to Milan, sent a troop of men from Forlì to her uncle’s help, but the invasion of Romagna by papal troops hindered her from attacking the Venetians as she had intended. In vain Lodovico sent despairing letters to Maximilian, begging for the promised reinforcements. Week after week went by, and still the German troops did not arrive. On the 13th of August, Trivulzio invaded the Milanese with a powerful force of well-trained soldiers, and took the castle of Annona. The same day the Venetians crossed the eastern frontier and advanced towards the river Adda. On the 14th Lodovico wrote the following letter to his niece, the Empress Bianca:

“In our present great anxieties, while the French are attacking us on the one side, and on the other a large Venetian army is advancing, your Majesty’s loving letter has been a great comfort, expressing not only the sympathy which you feel in our troubles, but the efforts you have made to induce your husband, the king, to help us in these bad times. What you say of his good-will is not more than we expected, but your kind words have given us unspeakable joy, and we are exceedingly grateful, and beg you with all our heart to continue your offices on our behalf with the king, entreating him to send us help immediately (presto, presto). Indeed, his troops ought to be here now, for we are already reduced to extremity, as you will learn from Messer Galeazzo Visconti and others, whom we have sent to your Majesty, praying that help may be speedy and effectual."

Three days after, Bianca herself wrote to say that she had spoken to the emperor, and begged her maitre d’hotel to support her request, and that he had solemnly promised to send her uncle help. Maximilian kept his word, and before the month was over despatched a strong German force to the duke’s relief. But the sorely needed succour came too late. When the Germans reached the Italian frontier, Milan had already surrendered, and they met Lodovico flying for his life. There were traitors in the Moro’s camp and court. Not only had the Marquis of Mantua broken faith and refused to defend the Milanese against the Venetians, but two of the Sanseverino brothers, Fracassa and Antonio Maria, had for some time past threatened to enter the Venetian service; while Francesco Bernardino Visconti, the Borromeos, and Pallavicini were secretly corresponding with Trivulzio, and the Count of Caiazzo was out of temper and jealous of his younger brother Galeazzo, if he was not, as Corio and other contemporaries affirm, already in league with the French. Galeazzo himself, who had the supreme command of the Milanese forces and held Alessandria with 5000 men, was a brilliant carpet-knight and gallant soldier, but had little experience as a general, and had no confidence in his ill-paid and half-starved troops. When the duke, in a moment of irritation, reproached his son-in-law with thinking too much of fine clothes and fair ladies, Galeazzo boldly told him that his subjects were disaffected and tired of his rule, and that if he did not take vigorous measures, he would lose his state. His words proved all too true. One by one the fortresses of the Lomellina opened their gates to Trivulzio’s victorious army, Antonio Maria Pallavicini surrendered Tortona without a blow, and when Galeazzo prepared to relieve Pavia, his troops refused to follow him. At the head of a handful of cavalry, he made a gallant attempt to reach Pavia, but the citizens, alarmed at the approach of the French, closed their gates and refused to admit any armed men.

Alessandria was now the only fortified town in the district which could arrest Trivulzio’s onward march, and Lodovico, trusting to Galeazzo’s valour, was confident he would be able to hold the town until the arrival of Maximilian’s reinforcements. But, to the amazement of friend and foe alike, on the night of the 28th of August, Galeazzo, attended by only three horsemen, left Alessandria at nightfall, crossed the Po, and, after cutting the bridge behind him, rode as fast as he could go to Milan. There had been dissensions in the garrison, and the soldiers clamoured for pay and refused to fight, but whispers of darker treachery were abroad. The Count of Caiazzo, it was said, had forged a letter purporting to be from the duke, recalling his son-in-law to Milan on the spot, and Galeazzo himself afterwards showed the false orders which had deceived him to the French and Milanese chroniclers who repeat the story. There seems little doubt that Caiazzo’s defection was one of the principal causes of Lodovico’s ruin, but, whatever the circumstances of the case may have been, it is certain that on the next day the French entered Alessandria without meeting with any resistance, and Trivulzio sent word to his kinsman Erasmo that before the week was over he would dine with him in Milan.

When Lodovico heard that Alessandria was lost, his courage failed him. He determined to seek safety in flight, and prepared to send his sons to Germany under the charge of his brother Cardinal Ascanio Sforza and Cardinal Sanseverino, both of whom had left Rome secretly on the 14th of July, and travelled by Genoa to Milan. Once more the duke called the chief citizens together, and appealed to them, by the love which they bore to the house of Sforza and the memory of the peace and prosperity which they had enjoyed under his rule, to defend Milan against the foreign invaders. But already sedition was spreading among the people. That evening the ducal treasurer, Antonio Landriano, one of Lodovico’s ablest and most loyal servants, was attacked by the mob on the Piazza of the Duomo and mortally wounded.

On the same day Saturday, the 31st of August the duke took leave of his sons, and sent them to Como in the charge of the two cardinals and their kinswoman, Camilla Sforza. “A truly piteous and heart-breaking sight it was,” writes Corio, “to see these poor children embrace their beloved father, whose face was wet with their tears.”

Twenty mules laden with baggage, and a large chariot bearing Lodovico’s most precious jewels and 240,000 gold ducats, covered with black canvas and drawn by eight strong horses, followed in the young princes’ train. All the rest of the Moro’s treasures, including a sum of 30,000 ducats, his vast stores of gold and silver plate, and all Duchess Beatrice’s rich clothes and possessions, were left in the Castello, which was provided with ample supplies of food and ammunition, and defended by 1800 guns and a garrison of 2800 men, who had received six months’ pay in advance. These the duke entrusted solemnly to the charge of the governor, Bernardino da Corte, leaving him full instructions as to his future course of action, and a system of signals by which he could communicate with friends in the town, and telling him that he would return with 30,000 Germans before a month was over. Both Ascanio Sforza and Galeazzo di Sanseverino, it is said, entertained doubts of Bernardino da Corte’s fidelity, and warned the duke not to leave him without a colleague in this responsible office; but Lodovico did not share their fears, and trusted implicitly in the loyalty of this servant, whom he had advanced from a humble position to fill this responsible post and loaded with favours.

After his children were gone, Lodovico drew up a last deed, by which he left certain of his lands and houses to his friends in Milan, and made reparation to others whom he had wronged. Chief among these was the widowed Duchess Isabella, to whom he gave his own duchy of Bari, in the kingdom of Naples, with a yearly revenue of 6000 ducats in place of her dowry. He restored the lands of Angleria and the fortress of Arona to the Borromeos, gave poor Beatrice’s favourite country house of Villa Nuova to Battista Visconti, and divided his different domains among the chief representatives of noble Milanese families, in the hope of securing their allegiance. While he was engaged in this final disposal of his property, a deputation arrived to inform him that a meeting had been held that day in the Dominican hall of La Rosa, at which the Bishop of Como, Landriano, general of the Umiliati, Castiglione, Archbishop of Bari, and Francesco Bernardino Visconti were chosen to form a provisional committee of public safety, and that these councillors had decided to make terms with Trivulzio and admit the French. The duke said that he still put his trust in the people; upon which Visconti asked him why, if this were the case, he had sent his sons and his treasure away? “If you surrender the city to the French,” replied the duke, “I will hold the Castello for the emperor.” It was his last word. In vain Galeazzo urged him to put himself at the head of his loyal servants, and call upon the citizens of Milan to man the walls against the French and fight or die with their duke. It was already too late. While they were still speaking, news reached the Castello that the people had risen in tumultuous uproar, and that Galeazzo di Sanseverino’s stables and the seneschal Ambrogio Ferrari’s house had been sacked by the mob. The shops were closed, and the houses in the principal streets were barricaded. Terror and confusion prevailed everywhere, and Milan seemed in a state of siege. Lodovico now took leave of his faithful servants, and solemnly charged Bernardino da Corte to hold the Castello as a sacred trust. “As long as the Rocca holds out, I know that I shall return; but when that surrenders, the house of Sforza is doomed.” With these words he kissed the castellan on the cheek, and, mounted on a black horse, in the long black mantle which he always wore since his wife’s death, he rode out, accompanied by his chief senators to the Porta Vercellina. There he turned to his companions, and, with a noble and dignified air, thanked them once more for their faithful services, and bade them all farewell. “State con Dio may God be with you,” he said, and, with a last wave of his hand, put spurs to his black charger and rode off.

The sun was setting in the western sky, and the sorrowing courtiers thought that their master had gone to Como. But he alighted before the gates of S. Maria delle Grazie, and, throwing the reins to a page, entered the church where Beatrice was buried. There he knelt in prayer by the tomb of the wife whom he had loved so well and mourned so long la sua amantissima duchessa while the moments slipped away and his servants waited anxiously outside. At length he rose from his knees, took a last look at the fair face and form lying there in the deep repose of death, and left the church, accompanied by the weeping friars, who followed him with their tears and blessings to the door. Three times he turned round, while the tears streamed down his pale face, and looked at the stately pile, which held all that had been dearest to him in the world where Leonardo had painted his Last Supper, and where Bianca and Beatrice slept together. Then, in the dusk of the summer evening, he rode slowly back through the park and gardens of the Castello.

At break of day on the following morning, Monday, the 2nd of September, Duke Lodovico, accompanied by his son-in-law, Galeazzo di Sanseverino, his nephews, Ermes and the Count of Melzi, and his brother-in-law, Ippolito d’Este, and attended by a few armed horsemen, left Milan and rode to Como. Here the fugitives spent the night, and the duke issued a last decree, by which he confirmed the privileges and grants of land which he had granted to the friars of S. Maria delle Grazie. Then he told the loyal citizens of Como that he would soon return at the head of a German army, and rode along the banks of the lake to the mountains of the Valtellina. Often on the road he looked back at the blue waters and lovely shores of that native land which he had been so proud to call his own, and, at last, addressing his companions in the words of the Roman poet, said sorrowfully, “Nos patriam fugimus et dulcia linquimus arva.”

“Only think, reader,” moralizes Marino Sanuto, “what grief and shame so great and glorious a lord, who had been held to be the wisest of monarchs and ablest of rulers, must have felt at losing so splendid a state in these few days, without a single stroke of the sword.... Let those who are in high places take warning, considering the miserable fall of this lord, who was held by many to be the greatest prince in the world, and let them remember that when Fortune sets you on the top of her wheel, she may at any moment bring you to the ground, and then the closer you have been to heaven, the greater and the more sudden will be your fall.”

Already Ligny’s horsemen were scouring the country round Como in pursuit of the fugitive, and reports reached Venice that the duke had been captured and Galeazzo slain. By this time, however, Lodovico had crossed the frontier and was safe on Tyrolese soil. At Bormio he met 2000 German troops, who were marching to his relief; and when he reached Innsbruck, he found that the Empress Bianca had prepared rooms for his reception, and received kindly messages from Maximilian, promising him more efficient support as soon as he had settled his quarrel with the Swiss.

Meanwhile Pavia had opened her gates to the French, upon hearing news of the duke’s flight, Trivulzio had taken possession of the Castello, and Ligny was occupying the Certosa, while Jean d’Auton knew not whether to wonder most at the rich marbles and sumptuous chapels of the great church, or the vast herds of red deer which roamed in the park.

“Truly,” the good Benedictine exclaimed, as he wandered through these flowery meadows with their banks of roses and myrtles, and clear springs of running water “truly, this is Paradise upon earth!”

On the 6th of September, after a feeble effort on the part of the Milanese nobles to preserve the rights and liberties of the city, the keys were given up to Trivulzio, who entered by the Porta Ticinese with Ligny and two hundred horse, and, after visiting the Duomo, breakfasted in the house of his kinsman, the Bishop of Como.

The Count of Caiazzo had gone out to meet Trivulzio the day before, and had been received with great honour, while his brothers Fracassa and Antonio Maria took refuge with Giovanni Adorno at Genoa, and waited to see how the tide would turn.

Still the Castello held out, and Trivulzio was debating how best to reduce this almost impregnable citadel, when Bernardino da Corte sent a herald to parley with Francesco Bernardino Visconti. At the end of a few days the faithless governor agreed to surrender the Castello, in exchange for a large sum of money and the concession of various privileges for his family and friends. On the 22nd, letters from the duke arrived, telling the castellan to be of good cheer, for the German troops were on their way. But when they reached Milan, the Castello was already in the hands of the French. The treasures of gold and silver plate which the Rocca contained, the money and the precious stuffs, the pictures and statues and furniture which adorned its Camerini, were divided between the treacherous governor, Francesco Visconti, and Antonio Pallavicini, while Trivulzio reserved Lodovico’s magnificent tapestries, that alone were valued at 150,000 ducats, for his share of the spoil. Then the wonders of antique and modern art which the Moro had collected from all parts of Italy, the paintings of Leonardo and the gems of Caradosso, the Greek marbles and Roman cameos, Lorenzo da Pavia’s rare instruments and Antonio da Monza’s miniatures, were scattered to the winds. Certain things the gorgeous altar-plate and vestments of the chapel, with the priceless manuscripts of the Castello of Pavia, and most of the Sforza portraits were taken to Blois, others found their way to Venice or Mantua, and many fell into unworthy hands and vanished altogether.

Lodovico was lying ill of asthma in the castle at Innsbruck, discussing the best means of relieving the Castello with Galeazzo, when the news of Bernardino da Corte’s treachery reached him. For some minutes he remained silent, as if unable to realize the full meaning of the words. Then he said to the friends at his bedside, “Since the day of Judas there has never been so black a traitor as Bernardino da Corte.” And all the rest of that day he never spoke again.

Even the French were filled with horror at Bernardino’s treachery, and shunned him like a criminal when he appeared among them. As for his old friends and comrades, the poets and scholars of Lodovico’s court, their indignation knew no bounds, Lancinus Curtius hurled bitter epigrams at his head, and Pistoia held him up to the scorn of the whole world in some of his finest sonnets. He did not live long to enjoy the reward of his treachery and it was popularly believed in Italy that he had poisoned himself in his despair, or put an end to his wretched life by falling upon his own sword. Even Charon, sang the poet, shuddered when he heard the traitor’s name, and refused to let him enter the gates of Hades.

When the news of the conquest of Milan reached Lyons, Louis XII. crossed the Alps without delay. On the 21st of September he was at Vercelli; on the 26th, at Lodovico’s favourite Vigevano; on the 2nd of October he reached Pavia, where the Marquis of Mantua and the Duke of Ferrara, who feared the Pope’s vengeance and Cæsar Borgia’s army even more than the French, came to meet him.

“Duke Ercole and his two sons,” wrote the Ferrarese annalist, “are gone to meet the King of France. As for the Duke of Milan, his name is never mentioned, and you might think that he had never lived.”

On Sunday, the 6th of October, he made his triumphal entry into Milan, with the Dukes of Ferrara and Savoy riding at his side; the Cardinals della Rovere and dAmboise were in front of him; and ambassadors from all the chief cities of Italy, and a goodly array of princes and nobles, in his train. Francesco Gonzaga, who had so lately been Duke Lodovicos guest, was there. And there, too, were men like Caiazzo and Fracassa, who had eaten and drunk at the Moros table, and were fighting under his banner only a few weeks before, and with them one, who was still more closely associated with Lodovico and his wife by the ties of blood and friendship Niccolo da Correggio, the favourite courtier and poet of the Moro, and the cousin of Beatrice.

Conspicuous among them all by his height and majestic bearing was the Pope’s son, Cæsar Borgia, while the king himself made a gallant show in his long white mantle embroidered with golden lilies over a suit of royal purple, bearing the ducal cap and sword. Eight Milanese nobles carried an ermine-lined canopy over his head, and the doctors of the University of Pavia were there in their scarlet robes, as they appeared a few short years before at Lodovico’s coronation. Fair ladies in gay attire welcomed the victor with their smiles. Everywhere tall white lilies were seen blossoming in the streets that led to the Duomo Notre Dame du Dome, as the monkish chronicler calls the glorious pile of dazzling marbles that rose into the summer air. Here the procession paused, and the king walked up the vaulted aisles to pay his devotions at the Madonna’s shrine. Then he rode on again, to the sound of trumpets and horns, and the royal guard of Gascon archers led the way up the well-known street, with the frescoed palaces and goldsmiths and armourers’ shops, to the gates of the famous Castello, where the victor entered and took up his abode in this proud citadel of the Sforzas, the core and centre of the Milanese.

In the eyes of the French strangers it was all very marvellous the beautiful city with its stately palaces and hospitals, and the fair churches with their Gothic spires and pinnacles, their slender creamy shafts and deep red terra-cotta mouldings; the Milanese ladies with their jewelled robes and mantles embroidered with cunningly wrought devices, the flowering lilies and the garlands of laurel and myrtle all seen under the radiant sunshine and the deep blue of the Italian skies. But what excited their admiration and wonder more than all was the Castello.

“A thing,” writes one of them, “truly marvellous and inestimable, with so many large and beautiful rooms that I lost all reckoning. Without are broad lakes, fair running streams, and bridges. There is a fine large square on the side of the town, and on the other are beautiful meadows and woods and the chateau, where the Moro had his stables, painted with frescoes of different-coloured horses.”

King Louis wondered most of all at the strength and completeness of the bastions and excellence of the artillery, exclaiming that never before had he seen so strong and splendid a citadel! And he and all the Frenchmen greatly blamed that second Judas, who had betrayed his master and delivered it up without a blow.

The next morning, his Majesty attended mass at S. Ambrogio, accompanied by the Dukes of Ferrara and Savoy, the Marquis of Mantua, Cæsar Borgia, and all the cardinals and ambassadors, and afterwards visited the church and convent of S. Maria delle Grazie. Here he gazed with admiration on the Cenacolo of Leonardo, that master of whose genius he had heard so much, and expressed his ardent wish to transfer the famous wall-painting to France, a sentiment which can hardly have gratified the Dominican friars or the Italian princes in his train. The painter was not present on this occasion. His master had fled, the works upon which he was engaged were all interrupted, and on the approach of the French he had left Milan for one of his favourite country retreats in the hills of Bergamo or the mountains of Como, where he could study Nature and pursue his scientific researches in peace. And the French king and Cæsar Borgia, whose genuine appreciation of fine art was well known, did not fail to admire Bramante’s fair chapel and that latest masterpiece of Lombard sculpture, the noble tomb which the Moro had raised to be an eternal memorial of his love and sorrow. There were others in his train that day who could hardly look unmoved on the sleeping form of the young duchess with the child-like face and the brocade robes which Il Gobbo had fashioned with such exquisite skill. There was her brother-in-law, Francesco Gonzaga, and Niccolo da Correggio, in whose heart that fair face and bright eyes, he tells us, were for ever enshrined; there were her brothers, Alfonso and Ferrante; above all, there was her father, the aged Duke Ercole. The sight of that marble figure, with the soft curling hair and the long fringe of eyelashes and quietly folded hands, must have vividly recalled the memory of his dead child, and of all the joy and brightness that had vanished in the grave with Beatrice. For him at least that must have been a bitter moment.

And there was yet another, young Baldassare Castiglione, that courtly and handsome boy who had been sent to Milan a few years before to finish his education, and had now followed his master, the Marquis of Mantua, to wait upon the French king. He had been present many a time at those brilliant fetes in the Castello, and had seen Duchess Beatrice in her most radiant and triumphant hour, had talked with Leonardo and Bramante, and looked on Messer Galeaz as the mirror of chivalry. Now he came back to find the scene changed and that gay company all dead or gone. And the next day he sat down to write home to Mantua and tell his mother of all the pomp and splendour of the scenes which he had witnessed. He described the king’s triumphal entry, and the great procession in which he had taken part, with all a boy’s enthusiasm; but he could not refrain from a sigh over the melancholy change in the Castello, when he told her how these halls and courts, that had once been the home and meeting-place of rare intellects and accomplished artists, “the fine flower of the human race,” were now full of drinking-booths and dung-hills of rude soldiery, who defiled the place with their foul habits and polluted the air with their savage oaths. So passes the glory of the world.