Penella, the concubine

 

 

rsz pitigliano rocca

 

After this event, Niccolò put himself in the service of Jacopo Piccinino and with him took part in the whole war that Ferdinand made against the Duke of Anjou who wanted to win back the Kingdom of Naples. Finally, in 1466 he returned to Pitigliano, recalled by a horrible crime which put the whole Orsini family in mourning.

We have said that Aldobrandino, after the peace concluded with the Sienese, had remained only with the counties of Pitigliano and Sorano and the district of Manciano. But this Count, although he was in advanced years, succumbed to lust; and among other dishonesties he had his cousin Penelope or Penella, daughter of his uncle Guido, as a mistress; and from this infamous affair a son was born. The ambitious Penelope ardently desired that this son should become Count of Pitigliano; but an obstacle to this desire was the legitimate offspring of Aldobrandino, especially Lodovico, the oldest. The iniquitous lady therefore, hoping that the fates of war would free her from Niccolò, the younger son, decided to murder Lodovico and with great promises seduced a page through whom she had him poisoned.

Such a situation, as was natural, spread desolation in the family of the Count; and everyone at first attributed the crime to the Sienese, because although the concluded peace was recent, the Count and the Sienese always looked at each other with enmity and gave themselves up to small acts of retaliation. To support this impression it so happened that in those days, three Sienese citizens were in Pitigliano, for pleasure or for business, so that one could easily believe that these were the authors of the crime; and Aldobrandino, without caring to verify the facts, had them seized and imprisoned immediately, at the same time preparing to wage war on Siena, as revenge. The Sienese Republic stated that it was innocent of this betrayal saying that it had no reason to stoop to such villainy. But Aldobrandino persisted in his belief, buoyed forcefully by Penelope who had every concern to dispel suspicion. Thus the two armies began to move, and several acts of war were carried out on both sides until the Pope intervened to put an end to the uproar; and after long negotiations they arrived at a new agreement, remitting all their differences to the same Pontiff, who declared that Count Aldobrandino should receive 1200 ducats from the Sienese as a compensation for damages, to be paid in three instalments within a year, and that the three Sienese prisoners should be remanded into the hands of the Pope, who would judge them. This decision however found favour neither with the Sienese nor with the Count; they were on the point of resuming the attacks when the justice of God, intervening in time, made all misunderstanding cease by revealing the true author of the crime. The page, who on order from Penella or Penelope had poisoned Lodovico, afterwards bitten by remorse and seeing himself badly compensated for his evil deed, ran away from Pitigliano to Niccolò, who was with Piccinino, and wrote about Penella’s betrayal, giving him at the same time proofs beyond doubt. Thus Niccolò returned promptly home, resolute not only to revenge the death of his brother by killing Penelope, but to take the earldom from his father. Actually, he feared, and with good reason, that he would share the fate of the unhappy brother and knew that Aldobrandino loved his illegitimate son more than his legitimate ones.

Before the author of the crime was discovered to the family, Niccolò entered Pitigliano. As soon as he arrived, he killed the infamous Penelope with his own hand. After that, he revealed to the people the whole tragedy and, exciting them to rebellion, he proclaimed himself Count.

Aldobrandino, anguished and surprised, barely had time to raise the bridges of the fortress to which he withdrew and which the people immediately attacked. The fortress had enough munitions; on the other hand, Niccolò did not want to push the conflict with his father to an extreme, well aware that it is easy to raise a rebellion, but difficult to put a stop to it. Aldobrandino, not wishing to stand the violence of his son, wrote to the Sienese government requesting help, as he had himself given help in similar danger, submitting to all conditions that Siena was willing to impose. Such is the blind ambition to reign that he sacrificed to it even the noblest sentiments of freedom and independence. The Republic (as we said several times before) desired nothing more than to manage Pitigliano’s affairs, hoping to become in due course its master. And it was certain that if it had been informed in time, everything would have gone according to its wishes because the citizens of Pitigliano were not ready to defend themselves and the Sienese could not be accused of unjust aggression, as they had been summoned by the legitimate Lord of Pitigliano. Niccolò on the other hand, knowing the practices of Aldobrandino, found the means to dispel the danger threatening him and promptly sent a messenger to Siena and bribed with gold the captain of that people, Leonardo Bentivogli, who kept in his pocket for three days Aldobrandino’s letter requesting help from Siena. Thus Niccolò had all the time he needed to establish his dominion and prepare the defences; and Aldobrandino, seeing he received no reply from the Sienese, came to an agreement with his son and ceded the earldom to him. The Sienese finally moved, but when arrived on Mount Amiata learned that there was an agreement between father and son and that Niccolò, after having armed the castles of Pitigliano and Sorano, was gone out to campaign with a good number of soldiers and, deployed in battle, was boldly waiting for the enemies between the valleys of Castagneta and Vitozza. Thus judging that the deed, if not impossible, was at least difficult enough, the Sienese returned home. In this way, in 1466 Niccolò became Count of Pitigliano and was the third bearing this name.

 

REFERENCE

Bruscalupi, Giuseppe. [Penella the concubine.]  Historical Monograph on the Earldom of Pitigliano: Posthumous Work. Translated by Roxana Preda and Massimo Bacigalupo, August 2018. The Cantos Project, 6 September 2018.

 

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