= ROOT|William_Dean_Howells|Italian_Journeys-3852.txt =

page 95 of 101

play, he has never (properly speaking) been bored. For the happiness
of mankind, it has not been translated out of the original Italian.

From the time of the first Vincenzo's death, there are only two tragic
events which lift the character of Mantuan history above the quality
of _chronique scandaleuse_, namely, the Duke Ferdinand's repudiation
of Camilla Faa di Casale, and the sack of Mantua in 1630. The first of
these events followed close upon the demise of the splendid Vincenzo;
for his son Francesco reigned but a short time, and died, leaving a
little daughter of three years to the guardianship of her uncle,
the Cardinal Ferdinand. The law of the Mantuan succession excluded
females; and Ferdinand, dispensed from his ecclesiastical functions
by the Pope, ascended the ducal throne. In 1615, not long after his
accession, as the chronicles relate, in passing through a chamber
of the palace he saw a young girl playing upon a cithern, and being
himself young, and of the ardent temper of the Gonzagas, he fell in
love with the fair minstrel. She was the daughter of a noble servant
of the Duke, who had once been his ambassador to the court of the Duke
of Savoy, and was called Count Ardizzo Faa Monferrino di Casale; but
his Grace did not on that account hesitate to attempt corrupting her;
indeed, a courtly father of that day might well be supposed to have
few scruples that would interfere with a gracious sovereign's designs
upon his daughter. Singularly enough, the chastity of Camilla was
so well guarded that the ex-cardinal was at last forced to propose
marriage. It seems that the poor girl loved her ducal wooer; and
besides, the ducal crown was a glittering temptation, and she
consented to a marriage which, for state and family reasons, was made
secret. When the fact was bruited, it raised the wrath and ridicule
of Ferdinand's family, and the Duke's sister Margaret, Duchess of
Ferrara, had so lofty a disdain of his _mesalliance_ with an inferior,
that she drove him to desperation with her sarcasms. About this time
Camilla's father died, with strong evidences of poisoning; and the
wife being left helpless and friendless, her noble husband resorted to
the artifice of feigning that there had never been any marriage, and
thus sought to appease his family. Unhappily, however, he had given
her a certificate of matrimony, which she refused to surrender when
he put her away, so that the Duke, desiring afterwards to espouse
the daughter of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, was obliged to present
a counterfeit certificate to his bride, who believed it the real
marriage contract, and destroyed it. When the Duchess discovered the
imposition, she would not rest till she had wrung the real document
from Camilla, under the threat of putting her son to death. The
miserable mother then retired to a convent, and died of a broken
heart, while Ferdinand bastardized his only legitimate son, a noble
boy, whom his mother had prettily called Jacinth. After this, a
kind of retribution, amid all his political successes, seems to have
pursued the guilty Duke. His second wife was too fat to bear children,
but not to bear malice; and she never ceased to distrust and reproach
the Duke, whom she could not believe in anything since the affair
of the counterfeit marriage contract. She was very religious, and
embittered Ferdinand's days with continued sermons and reproofs,
and made him order, in the merry Mantuan court, all the devotions
commanded by her confessor.

So Ferdinand died childless, and, it is said, in sore remorse, and was
succeeded in 1626 by his brother Vincenzo, another hope of the faith
and light of the Church. His brief reign lasted but one year, and
was ignoble as it was brief, and fitly ended the direct line of the
Gonzagas. Vincenzo, though an ecclesiastic, never studied anything,
and was disgracefully ignorant. Lacking the hereditary love of
letters, he had not the warlike boldness of his race; and resembled
his ancestors only in the love he bore to horses, hunting, and women.
He was enamored of the widow of one of his kinsmen, a woman no longer
young, but of still agreeable person, strong will, and quick wit,
and of a fascinating presence, which Vincenzo could not resist. The
excellent prince was wooing her, with a view to seduction, when he
received the nomination of cardinal from Pope Paul V. He pressed his
suit, but the lady would consent to nothing but marriage, and Vincenzo
bundled up the cardinal's purple and sent it back, with a very
careless and ill-mannered letter to the ireful Pope, who swore never
to make another Gonzaga cardinal. He then married the widow, but soon
wearied of her, and spent the rest of his days in vain attempts
to secure a divorce, in order to be restored to his ecclesiastical
benefices. And one Christmas morning _he_ died childless; and three
years later the famous sack of Mantua took place. The events leading
to this crime are part of one of the most complicated episodes of
Italian history.

Ferdinand, as guardian of his brother's daughter Maria, claimed
the Duchy of Monferrato as part of his dominion; but his claim was
disputed by Maria's grandfather, the Duke of Savoy, who contended that
it reverted to him, on the death of his daughter, as a fief which had
been added to Mantua merely by the intermarriage of the Gonzagas with
his family. He was supported in this claim by the Spaniards, then at
Milan. The Venetians and the German Emperor supported Ferdinand, and
the French advanced the claim of a third, a descendant of Lodovico
Gonzaga, who had left Mantua a century before, and entered upon the
inheritance of the Duchy of Nevers-Rethel. The Duke of Savoy was one
of the boldest of his warlike race; and the Italians had great hopes
of him as one great enough to drive the barbarians out of Italy. But
nearly three centuries more were wanted to raise his family to the
magnitude of a national purpose; and Carlo Emanuel spent his greatness
in disputes with the petty princes about him. In this dispute for
Monferrato he was worsted; for at the treaty of Pavia, Monferrato was
assured to Duke Ferdinand of Mantua.

Ferdinand afterwards died without issue, and Vincenzo likewise died
childless; and Charles Gonzaga of Nevers-Rethel, who had married
Maria, Ferdinand's ward, became heir to the Duchy of Mantua, but his
right was disputed by Ferrante Gonzaga of Guastalla. Charles hurriedly

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