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The ecclesiastical and political history of the popes of Rome during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Volume 2) online

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render less conspicuous and less mischievous the
weaknesses which gradually appeared in if**", but
he won the confidence and approbation of foreign
ambassadors to such a degree, that they all desired
to see political affairs in his hands. It was origi-
nally intended that he should divide them with his
cousin Cinthio, who was also a man of some talents,
especially for literature ; but Pietro soon shook off
his associate in power. In the year 1603, the car-
dinal was omnipotent at court. " All negotiations,"
says a report of that year, " all favour and patron-
age originate with him ; prelates, nobles, courtiers,

* Relatione al CI. Este. " Dove il papa inasprisce, Aldobran-
dino mitiga : dove rompe, coasolida : dove comanda giustitia,
intercede per gratia."


ambassadors throng to his house. It may be said
that everything passes through his ear, and is de-
termined by his opinion ; that every project is pro-
claimed through his mouth, and executed by his

Such a power as this, so unlimited, so all-pervad-
ing, and at the same time with so little claim to
legitimacy, whatever friends it might find, inevitably
excited in the majority a profound though secret
feeling of discontent. A shght incident afforded
an occasion for this feehng to break out into open

A man who had been arrested for debt, seized
the moment when the sbirri were leading him past
the Farnese palace, to throw off his chains and
rush into it for shelter. The popes had long re-
fused to recognise the right of the great families
of Rome to grant asylum to malefactors in their
houses. Cardinal Farnese, though connected with
the pope by the marriage of an Aldobrandino into
his family, now reasserted that right. He ordered
his people to drive out the sbirri, who wanted to
search the palace for their prisoner ; he told the
governor, who sought to interpose his authority,
that it was not the custom of his house to give up

* " Orbis in urbe." Yet even Aldobrandino was subject to se-
cret influences. " Ha diversi servitori," says the same narrative,
" ma quel che assorbe i favori di tutti, h il cav. demente Sennesio,
mastro di camera, salito a quel grado di privatissima fortuna, e
che per ampliar maggiormente la sua autorita ha fatto salire il
fratello al segretariato della consulta : cosi possedendo tralor due
la somma, 1' uno della gratia del cardinale, 1' altro della provisione
d' officj e delle maggiori espeditioni."

Y 2


the accused; he peremptorily refused the mediation
of cardinal Aldobrandino, who, wishing to avoid
scandal, came himself to arrange the aflair ami-
cably ; and told him that after the death of the
pope, which might soon be looked for, a Farnese
would be of more importance than an Aldobran-

What mainly gave him courage for so daring a
defiance of the pope's pow'er, was his connexion
with the Spaniards. Henry IV. 's cession of Saluzzo
(which had been regarded at Rome as rather poor-
spirited) had led to the inference that he would not
meddle in Italian affairs. This had raised the im-
portance of Spain again in public estimation, and
as the Aldobrandini manifested so strong a leaning
towards France, their antagonists attached them-
selves to Spain. The Spanish ambassador Viglien-
na, gave his entire approbation to Farnese's con-
duct in this affair* .

What more could be w^anting than the support
of a foreign power and the protection of a great fa-
mily, to bring to an open explosion the discontent of
the Roman nobles ? Cavalieri and nobili thronged
to the Farnese palace ; some cardinals joined them
openly, others favoured them secretly f. There was

* Contarini, Historia Veneta, torn. iii. lib. xiii. MS., amongst
all the authors of the time, the most circumstantial and worthy
of credit on this subject: " Viglienna mando ordine a tutti i baroni
e cavalieri llomani obligati alia corona che per servitio del re
fossero immediate nella casa del cardinal Farnese."

i' Contarini : " Dicde grand' assenso al fatto la venuta de' cardi-
nali Sfondrato e Santiquatro, che niente mirarono trattandosi di
Spagna al debito de' cardinal! verso il papa : cd a questi che


an universal outcry that the pope and the church
must be emancipated from tlie thraldom they were
in to cardinal Aldobrandino. On the pope order-
ing troops to Rome, the Spanish ambassador pro-
mised subsidies to the conspirators, and advised
them to call in some armed bands which just then
appeared on the Neapolitan frontier. But little
was wanting to cause the outbreak of an open feud,
in the spirit of past ages, within the walls of Rome

But cardinal Farnese would not suffer things to
proceed to such an extremity. It was enough for
him to have proved his independence, his power,
and the possibility of resistance. He determined
to retire to Castro, his own estate. He executed
this in a grand style. He secured one gate, caused
troops to be posted at it, and then left tlie city,
escorted by a retinue of ten carriages and three
hundred horsemen. He had indeed gained all
he wanted ; this display of insubordination an-
swered his ends ; a formal negotiation was set on
foot ; the pope's party affected to believe that the
whole blame rested with the governor, and made a
show of effecting a reconciliation between him and
the house of Farnese. The cardinal then returned,
with not less pomp and splendour than had marked
his departure. Every street, window, and roof was
filled with people, and never, in the time of their

apertamente si dichiaravano diversi altri in occulto adherivano,
tra' quali il cl. Conti. — Ma il popolo, la plebe senza nome, sempre
avida di cangiar stato, favoriva al cardinale, e per le piazze, per
le strade a gran caterve applaudevano al partito di lui."


greatest power, were the Farnesi so brilliantly re-
ceived, or greeted with such loud acclamations*.

But it was not only weakness or forced com-
pliance w^hich led cardinal Aldobrandino to permit
this triumphal entry to take place ; the Farnesi
were after all near kinsfolk of the papal house ;
neither would it have answered any end to display
implacable resentment ; the main thing was to
remove the cause of the evil, which lay in poli-
tical circumstances. It was impossible to obtain
from the Spaniards any alteration of their system,
or even the recall of so troublesome an ambassador;
Aldobrandino's only resource therefore was, to in-
spire Henry IV. with a lively interest in Italian

The arrival, in December 1604, of three French
cardinals at once, all distinguished men, was as re-
freshing to him, say his enemies, as a cool and gentle
breezein a scorching day. It was once more practica-
ble to form a French party in Rome. The new-comers
were received with joy, and the signora Olympia,
the cardinal's sister, declared to them a thousand
times that her house would place itself uncondition-
ally under French protection. Baronius declared
that his historical researches had proved to him that
the Roman see was more indebted to the French

* Contarini: "S' invioinRoiua entrando in guisa trionfante con
clamori popolari che andavano al cielo, incontrato in forma di re
dair ambasciator di Cesare, di Spagna, dalli cardinali Sfondrato,
Santiquatro,San Cesareo e Conti, dal general Georgio suo cognate,
tutta la cavalleria e tutte le guardie del papa, confluendo li cava-
lier! e baroni."


nation than to any other ; when he saw a picture
of the king he broke out into a shout of deUght.
He endeavoured to discover whether after the ces-
sion of Saluzzo there was no other pass of the Alps
remaining in the hands of the French. Now Ba-
ronius was not merely a writer of history, he was
the pope's confessor and saw him every day; and
however circumspect and reserved the pope and
Aldobrandino might be, the effect was the same,
so long as their nearest followers expressed them-
selves so openly, since they were supposed to re-
peat the sentiments of their master. As Henry
at length resolved to grant pensions, he had soon
a party strong enough to counterbalance that of

But Aldobrandino 's views reached much further.
He often represented to the Venetian ambassadors
and cardinals the necessity of setting bounds to
the arrogance of the Spaniards. *' Can it be en-
dured," he said, " that they should rule in the house
of another in his own despite*?" It might indeed
be dangerous for one who would soon have to return
to private life, to draw upon himself the ill-will of
that power ; but his honour would not permit him
to endure that the papacy should lose anything of
its reputation under his uncle. In short he pro-
posed to the Venetians a union of the Italian states,
under French protection, against Spain.

Already too he had entered into negotiations
with the other states. He did not love Tuscany,
» Du Perron au Roi, 25 Janv. 1605. (Ambass. i. 509.)


with Modena he had continual disputes, Parma was
impUcated in the transactions of cardinal Farnese ;
but he seemed to forget all these things for the
sake of avenging himself on Spain. To this object
he devoted himself with passion ; he spoke of no-
thing else, he appeared to think of nothing else.
In order to be nearer to the states with which he
wished to combine, he repaired to Ancona in the
beginning of the year 1 605.

He had as yet accomplished nothing, when his
uncle died, on the 5th of March, 1605, and with
him ended his power.

Meanwhile the stimulus given to public opinion,
and the industrious revival of French influence in
Rome and Italy, were already of considerable im-
portance. They marked a tendency of the general
policy of the Aldobrandini.

We shall not, I think, be over-refining, if we
trace the causes of this policy to the original situa-
tion of that family in Florence. It had always be-
longed to the French party. Messer Salvestro had
been an active leader in the commotion in the year
1527, in which the Medici were exiled^ and the
French called in. Accordingly when his enemies,
the Spaniards and the Medici, remained masters of
the field, he had to pay the penalty of his hostility,
and to quit his country. Was it likely that pope
Clement would forget this ? that he would love the
Spaniards and the Medici ? He was naturally of a
close, reserved temper ; on the rare occasions when
he opened himself to his intimate friends, he uttered


this maxim : " Ask your forefathers, and they will
show you the way in which you should go *." It is
certain that he once had the view of reforming the
state of Florence, as he expressed himself. His
partiality to France is obvious ; he found the pa-
pacy in the strictest alliance with Spain, he led it to
the verge of a union with France against Spain. If
the restoration of a national power in France was
for the interests of the church, it was at the same
time with Clement an affair of inclination, — a per-
sonal satisfaction. Nevertheless he was cautious,
provident, guarded; he attempted nothing that he
could not carry through. Instead of reforming
Florence, he reformed, as a Venetian said, his own
thoughts ; when he saw that it could not be done
without universal danger, he abandoned itf. It
never was his intention to invite the French arms
into Italy. He was satisfied with restoring the
equilibrium, emancipating himself from the tyranny
of Spain, and giving a wider basis to ecclesiastical
policy; peaceably, gradually, without noise or con-
vulsion, but so much the more securely.

* Delfino : " La pocainclinatione che per natura e per heredita
ha il papa a Spagnoli."

t Venier : " Vedendo le preparazioni e risolutioni di V""'"* S^ et
anco del granduca e che la nostra republica s' era dichiarata col
mandar un ambasciatore espresso per questo negotio a S. S^, co-
noscendo eUa che si sarebbe acceso un gran fuoco in Italia e con
pei'icolo di gravissimo incendio della chiesa, in luogo di tentar la
riforma dello stato di Firenze riformo i suoi pensieri."



The influence of the French manifested itself in
the very next conclave, and, when Aldobrandino
joined them, became irresistible. They raised to
the papal dignity a cardinal whom the king of
Spain had expressly excluded, — a Medici, nearly
related to the queen of France. The letters in
which Du Perron announces this unexpected event
to Henry IV. are full of exultation, and the acces-
sion of the new pope was celebrated in France with
pubhc rejoicings*. The triumph, however, was
short, for Leo XI. survived his election only twenty-
six days ; it is asserted that the weight of his new
dignity, and the feeling of the arduousness of the
office imposed upon him, extinguished vital powers
already enfeebled by age.

The contest at the new election raged with greater
violence than before, from the circumstance that
Aldobrandino was no longer in such close connexion
v»^ith the French, and was powerfully opposed by
Montalto. As at some former elections, a contest
ensued between the creatures of the last pope and

* Histoire de la Vie de Messire Philippe de Mornay Seigneur
du Plessis, p. 305 : " Ce pape de la maison des Medicis, dit Leon
XL, qui avoit couste au roi 300,000 escus a faire, en la faveur
duquel il faisoit grand fondement, et pour I'^lection duquel par
un exemple nouveau furent faits feux de joye et tire le canon en
France, quivescut peu de jours et ne laissa au roy que lereproche
par ies Espagnols d'une largesse si mal employee et le doute
de rencontrer une succession, comme il advint, plus favorable ä


those of his predecessor. Each of these party
leaders, surrounded by his followers, conducted his
chosen candidate to one of the chapels, and pro-
posed him in opposition to the other party ; at-
tempts were made to elect several in succession.
Baronius, in spite of the most violent resistance on
his part, was dragged to the Capella Paolina ; but
the opposition only seemed more furious each time,
nor could either party succeed in carrying the elec
tion of any one of its candidates. The election
of a pope, like most other successes of the kind, was
gradually determined by the question, who had the
fewest enemies, not who could plead the most

At length amongst his uncle's creatures, Aldo-
brandino cast his eyes upon a man who had suc-
ceeded in conciliating general favour, and in avoid-
ing all dangerous enmities, — cardinal Borghese.
He contrived to enlist on his side the French, who
had already partially effected a reconciliation be-
tween Montalto and Aldobrandino; Montalto there-
fore gave his vote to Borghese, who was accordingly
elected before the Spaniards even knew that he was
proposed (May 16, 1605)^,

We have here a fresh example of the rule we for-
merly remarked ; the kinsman of the last pope de-
cided the choice of the new one. The Borghesi

* Still it may have also been, that Montalto and Aldobrandino
first came to an agreement about Borghese. Conclave di Paolo V.
p. 370 ; it is there said of both, " Dopo d' haver proposti molti,
elessero Borghese, amico di Montalto e creatura confidente di


too were originally in a similar position with the
Aldobrandini ; they had quitted Siena, as the
latter had abandoned Florence, in order to escape
the domination of the Medici. From these causes
it appeared evident that the new government must
be a direct continuation of the preceding.

Paul v., however, immediately on his election,
betrayed a harsh and eccentric disposition.

From the situation of an advocate, he had risen
through every step of clerical dignity*; he had
been vice-legate at Bologna, auditore di camera,
vicar of the pope, and inquisitor. He had lived in
seclusion, buried in his books and deeds, and had
never taken part in any political affairs ; hence he
had incurred no personal or active hostiUties.
No party beheld in him an antagonist ; neither
Aldobrandino nor Montalto, neither French nor
Spaniards, had experienced or feared his oppo-
sition ; and this was the quality that gained him
the tiara.

He, however, took a totally different view" of his
own success. That he should have attained the dig-
nity of pope without any effort of his own^ without
employing any arts or intrigues, appeared to him an
effect of the immediate interposition of the Holy
Ghost. He felt raised above himself by it ; the
entire change in his air and demeanor, in his ges-

* Relatione di IV. Ambasciatori mandati a Roma, 15 Genn.
1605, m. v., i. e. 1606. " II padre Camillo non volendo piu ha-
bitare Siena caduta della liberta, se ne ando a Roma. Di buono

spirito, d' ingegno acuto, riusci nella professione d' avvocato

II papa non vuol esser Sanese ma Romano."


tures and tone of voice, astonished even a court so
familiar with metamorphoses of all kinds. He also
felt the whole weight of his duties and obligations,
and proposed to himself to administer the supreme
power with the same uncompromising rigour he
had shown in adhering to the letter of the law in
all his former offices.

Other popes had usually signalized their acces-
sion by some act of mercy. Paul V., on the con-
trary, began his reign by passing a sentence which
even to this day excites horror.

A poor author named Piccinardi, a native of Cre-
mona, out of revenge for some real or supposed in-
jury, had employed his solitary hours in writing a
biography of Clement VIII. , in which he compared
that pope to Tiberius, — small as is the resemblance
between those two rulers. Not only had Piccinardi
never allowed this singular work to be printed, but
he had kept it to himself, and communicated it to
scarcely any one ; a woman who had formerly lived
in his house gave information of its existence.
Paul V. at first expressed himself very calmly on
the subject, and, as several powerful persons and
even ambassadors used their influence in the au-
thor's behalf, he seemed to have little to fear. The
universal astonishment may be imagined, when one
day Piccinardi was brought out and beheaded on
the bridge of St. Angelo. Whatever might be said
in palliation of his offence, it is undeniable that he
had committed the crime of high treason, to which
the laws awarded the punishment of death. No
mercy could be hoped from a pope like Paul ; even


the unfortunate man's small pittance was confis-

At court the pope immediately re-established the
rules of the council of Trent with regard to resi-
dence ; he pronounced it a deadly sin for a bishop
to live out of his diocese while enjoying its reve-
nues. He did not even except the cardinals, nor
would he allow a place in the administration of
public affairs as an excuse. Many retired to their
sees; others only petitioned for delay f; while
others again, rather than either quit Rome or be
thought regardless of their duty, sent in their re-

But the most serious evil was, that he had im-
bibed from his canonical studies the most ex-
aggerated ideas of the importance of the papacy.
He maintained in its fullest significancy the doc-
trine that the pope was the sole vicegerent of Jesus
Christ ; that the power of the keys was confided im-
plicitly to his discretion, and that he was to be re-
verenced by all nations and sovereigns in profound
humility]:. He said he had been raised to the

* The four ambassadors mentioned in the last note relate this
incident ; " si congettura," they add, " fondatamente che abhi
ad esser il pontefice severo e rigorosissimo et inexorabile in fatto
di giustitia."

t Du Perron ä Villeroy, 17 May, 1606. " Le pape ayant fait
entendre ces jours passez que sa volonte estoit que tous les car-
dinaux qui avoient des eveschez y allassent ou bien les resignassent
ou y missent des coadjuteurs, . . . . j'ay pense "

I Relatione di IV. Ambasciatori : '•' Conoscendo il pontefice pre-
sente sua grandezza spirituale, e quanto se le debba da tutti li
popoli christian! attribuir di ossequio e di obedienza, non eccet-
tuando qualsivoglia grandissirao principe."


papal seat, not by men, but by the Holy Spirit,
which imposed upon him the duties of protecting
the immunities of the church and executing the
judgements of God ; and that he was bound in
conscience to exert all his powers to deliver the
church from usurpation and oppression : for this
he would rather risk his life, than hereafter, when
he had to appear before the judgement-seat of God,
be called to account for a single neglect of his

With lawyer-like keenness he assumed that the
rights of the church were commensurate with her
claims, and looked upon it as a matter of con-
science to maintain and renew them in all their


From the time that the papal power had suc-
ceeded in making head against protestantism, and
had brought into fresh activity the ideas on which
the hierarchy is mainly founded, it had also success-
fully reasserted all its canonical rights with rela-
tion to the internal affairs of cathohc states.

In subduing her adversaries, the church increased
her authority over her adherents.

As soon as the bishops had been constrained to
a more perfect obedience, the monastic orders
closely united to the curia, and all reforms made
in a spirit calculated to advance the supreme power
of the pope, regular nuntiatures arose in all the


capitals of Europe, and combined with the dignity
of an embassy from an influential power, a juris-
diction which enabled them to exercise an import-
ant control over all the most momentous affairs
of public and private life.

But even where the church had re-established her-
self in unison with the state, and where they had
employed their combined powers for the suppression
of Protestant opinions, this very connexion between
them soon produced disagreements.

At that time, as indeed at the present day, the
court of Rome was extremely attentive to the main-
tenance of all its claims in Italy ; we And the Ita-
lian states involved in interminable disputes with
the church from this cause. The ancient struggles
between the popes and those states had not been put
an end to, either in general, by a decisive principle,
or in detail, by treaty and agreement. The popes
themselves differed in their conduct on this point.
Pius V. and Gregory XIII. (in the former half of
his reign at least) were the most obstinate in the
assertion of their claims ; Sixtus V. was in several
instances far more yielding. The policy of the
states and of their envoys was, to get over the mo-
ments of difficulty without prejudice to themselves,
and to turn the favourable ones to account ; — a
line of conduct which can never entirely fail of suc-
cess : the inclinations of individual popes changed
and passed away, but the interests of states remained
unaltered. At all events the questions to be resolved
thus fell far less within the province of the canon
law and legal interpretation, than within' that of


policy, and the adjustment of mutual demands and

Pope Paul v., however, viewed his rights in a
thoroughly lawyer-hke manner : he regarded the
canonical regulations of the Decretals as the laws of
God. The occasional concessions or connivances
of his predecessors he ascribed, not to the stringent
necessity of the case, but to their own weakness and
negligence, and felt himself bound to atone for their
faults. Hence we find him, shortly after his acces-
sion, involved in the bitterest animosities with all
his Italian neighbours.

In Naples, the regent Ponte, president of the
king's council, had sentenced to the galleys an ec-
clesiastical notary for refusing to give information
of a marriage to the civil court ; and also a book-
seller, who, contrary to a royal decree, had published
the work of Baronius against the Sicilian monarchy.
A remonstrance of Clem.ent VIII. against these
sentences had produced no effect. PaulV. did not
hesitate an instant to pronounce sentence of ex-
communication against the regent*.

The duke of Savoy had conferred some benefices,
the gift of which was claimed by the court of Rome ;

Online LibraryLeopold von RankeThe ecclesiastical and political history of the popes of Rome during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Volume 2) → online text (page 22 of 39)