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The Triple Crown: An Account of the Papal Conclaves

by Valérie Pirie

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INNOCENT IX (FACCHINETTI)

1591

 

ENGLAND
Elizabeth

FRANCE
Henry IV

GERMANY
Rudolph II

SPAIN
Philip II

THE Grand Duke Ferdinand was far too clever to be stubborn. He recognised how mistaken his attitude in the last conclave had been, and reverted without hesitation to his former policy. His letters to Vinta contained no more mention of poison; his orders now were to buy votes without counting the cost. He gave his Ambassador the most detailed instructions as to the different modes of approach for each cardinal. Flattery, promises, grants, ready cash; every individual weakness was to be exploited, and Ferdinand seemed to be intimately acquainted with them all. Monti, once more in his element, would do excellent work, and had in fact already secured the adhesion of Sfrondato, the late Cardinal-Nephew. He was a dull-witted, boorish creature, quite incapable of forming a personal opinion and had fallen an easy prey to the experienced diplomat. As to Montalto, ten months of unbridled dissipation had reduced him to a state of utter hebetude. It was sheer waste to bribe him as he was quite unreliable, and as he had lost the confidence of his followers through his instability, it seemed far simpler to buy them directly behind his back.

Before the conclave assembled Ferdinand had already concluded a confidential pact with Facchinetti, the man he had selected as the future pontiff. He was a whimsical old cardinal, incredibly thin; with the brightest, shrewdest eyes looking out of his corpse-like countenance, so piercing as to be almost uncanny. He was perpetually shivering with cold even in midsummer and practically never got up, lying wrapped in innumerable coverlets, as inseparable from his bed as a snail from its shell.

Matrimonial alliances played the chief part in this secret contract, Ferdinand apparently making no attempt to recover the sums expended on the election, the total of which must have been staggering, as the grant to Cardinal de Joyeuse alone amounted to 270,000 crowns wherewith to pay his debts, besides an annuity of 35,000 ducats! [p. 126]

Philip had nominated Mendoza to the leadership of his party with Maddruzzo as candidate. There were still three millions left in the vaults of S. Angelo, and the King meant to have the spending of them if it could possibly be managed. He was well aware that he would have to purchase the cardinal's votes, a deplorable necessity no doubt, but a customary one to which generations of monarchs had become inured. Philip, however, was afflicted with one of those testy consciences which, like a fretful infant, needed perpetual soothing; so he called a meeting of wise men to discuss the question and decide whether such simoniacal methods were legitimate. The members of the conference after mature deliberation gave the verdict which was expected of them, concluding that the ends justified the means, and that by endeavouring to secure the election of a pope worthy of his high office, the King was benefiting all Christendom, and was therefore entitled to adopt any measures he deemed expedient. His scruples thus exorcised, Philip ordered his agents to distribute bribes on a princely scale, so that one way and another the cardinals left the Vatican a good deal richer than they entered it. The customary intrigues kept the conclave sitting for about three weeks and ended in the election of Facchinetti, who took the name of Innocent IX.

The new Pontiff was a man of great charm and was known to be favourable to a reconciliation with France—but he was too ill and exhausted to embark on any very definite policy, though he firmly refused to give Philip any subsidies whatever, seeming anxious, on the contrary, to restore peace and promote goodwill between the Powers. The hardships of a winter conclave and the emotions and strain of his election proved too much for Innocent in his debilitated condition and he died on December 30th, his pontificate having lasted barely three weeks.

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