Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/261

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the unseemly contests of Cardinals Borgia and della Rovere, quarrelling in his presence over the steps to be taken after his decease. Strange stories, probably groundless, were told of boys perishing under the surgeon's hands in the endeavour to save the dying Pope's life by transfusion of blood, while he lay in a lethargy. The scene closed on July 25, and on the following day the Pope was interred, in the sarcastic words of a contemporary diarist, lasso singultu, modicij lacrimis et ejulatu nullo. Little, indeed, had his life left posterity to applaud or to condemn. His pontificate is only redeemed from absolute insignificance by his docility to the wise counsels of Lorenzo de' Medici,—almost the last occasion in history when it has been possible for a Pope to lean upon a native Italian prince. Lorenzo had preceded him to the tomb by a month; and from Milan to Naples no ruler remained in Italy who was capable of following any other policy than one of selfish aggrandisement.

The election of a Pope (as was remarked above) has frequently resulted in the choice of a successor strongly contrasted in every respect with the previous occupant of the chair of St Peter. It might have been expected that the vacant seat of Innocent would not be filled by another feeble Pope: yet little attention seems to have been paid at first to the prospects of the two ablest and strongest men in the College of Cardinals. Cardinal della Rovere, indeed, might seem excluded by the unwritten law which almost forbade a Cardinal intimately connected with the late Pope to aspire to the Papacy on the first vacancy. The Cardinal was not indeed a relative of Innocent's, but he had been his minister, and was his countryman. Had he been chosen, three Genoese Popes would have worn the tiara in succession,—a scandal to the rest of the peninsula. Moreover, Innocent's promotions of Cardinals had been few and unimportant; he had left no posthumous party in the College. Rodrigo Borgia, Vice-Chancellor and Senior Cardinal, seemed, on the other hand, the man especially pointed out for the emergency. His long occupation of the lucrative Vice-Chancellorship had given him enormous wealth; great capacity for affairs was associated in his person with long and intimate experience; the scandals of his private life counted for little in that age; and, although a Spaniard by birth, he might almost be regarded as a naturalised Italian. If, however, a foreign ambassador may be believed, haughtiness and the imputation of bad faith had ruined his chances at the last election; and it may have been thought that these causes would continue to operate. At all events, his name finds no place in the first speculations of the observers of the conclave. Two of its most respectable members, the Cardinals of Naples and of Lisbon, are apparently the favourites,—when, all on a sudden, on August 11 Rodrigo Borgia is elected by the nearly unanimous vote of the Sacred College, and takes the name of Alexander VI.