Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/189

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the King of Naples. The great Medicean families resented this light-of-love diplomacy, and clung to the Milanese alliance. The populace hated the Neapolitan dynasty, after having endured its cruelty as an enemy, and its insolence as a friend. The whole town disliked and feared the armed opposition to the formidable hosts of France. What then was more natural than that Florence should turn to Savonarola for his guidance? Here was the very terror from the north which he had predicted; the sword that should strike the earth, and that quickly; the chastisement that should purge Italy of sin and then renew the world! Who could so well conjure the phantom as he by whom it had been raised?

The French had now crossed the Apennines and were besieging the strong Florentine fortress of Sarzana. Before Piero set out on his fateful journey to the French King, discontent found expression in the very Seventy, the stronghold of Medicean power. Diplomacy had been the palladium of the Medici. Lorenzo knew this, when he made his perilous voyage to cajole the King of Naples. Piero knew it when, in conscious imitation, he slipped away to meet the King of France before Sarzana. He wrote himself, that he was being dragged to sacrifice. Lorenzo's success had saved the dynasty, and Piero's failure lost it. A crushing defeat could have sacrificed no more. With the fortresses of Sarzana, Pietra Santa, Pisa and Leghorn in French hands, Florence herself lay at the mercy of Charles. High and low scorned this base surrender by one who had no commission from the State. Piero's cowardice gave courage to his opponents. Hitherto they had stammered and stuttered in criticising his proposals. Now, in his absence, they sent envoys to the French camp. On the morning after his return the very magistrates, picked from the adherents of the house, shut the wicket of the Palazzo Pubblico in his face. As he rode sullenly homewards, the crowd shook their caps at him; the boys pelted the uncrowned King with stones and insulted him with cat-calls. His adherents of the lower class soon melted from his side. From the Palace windows issued cries of ' People and Liberty'; from the piazza were brandished nondescript weapons, long hung up to rust. Paolo Orsini, Piero's cousin, was at the gates with 500 horse, but he perceived that the game was up, and Piero fled; the dynasty of four generations had fallen without stroke of sword. Piero's young brother, the Cardinal Giovanni, alone showed courage. He rode towards the Palace, but the crowd pushed him back. Landucci saw him at his window on his knees, with his hands clasped in prayer. "I was much moved and judged that he was a good young man and of good understanding." A little later, and the future Leo X likewise fled, disguised as a Franciscan friar. Florence had let slip the really dangerous member of his house, for whom aristocrats and rabble, saints and sinners, Piagnoni and Arrablriati, were to prove no match.

Piero had in the first instance been resisted not by the democracy but by the aristocracy, by malcontent members of the Medicean ring. Young