Born in Rome in 1571, PIETRO CARDINAL ALDOBRANDINI, the son of Pietro Aldobrandini and of Flaminia Ferracci, was nephew of Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605). He obtained a doctorate in Civil and Canon Law, and was named Protonotary Apostolic. He was created a cardinal deacon in 1593, and along with his cousin Cardinal Cincio took over the affairs of the papal government. On December 20, 1599 he was appointed Cardinal Chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church for life. He acted as Legate for the Pope to Henri IV of France, first to regularize his situation with the Church, and then to finalize the marriage of the king with Catherine de' Medici (1600-1601). He became Archbishop of Ravenna in 1604, and in 1620 was promoted Bishop of the Suburbicarian See of Sabina. He was unable to carry out the duties of Camerlengo at the Sede Vacante due to his very bad health, which kept him confined to his bed. He did not even go to the Apostolic Palace until the day of the opening of the Conclave. He died on the day after the conclusion of the Conclave of 1621.
The Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals was Cardinal Antonio Maria Sauli, Bishop of Ostia and Velletri. Originally from Genoa, Sauli was educated in the Universities of Florence, Bologna, Pisa and Padua. He began his career as a diplomat in the service of Genoa, but was brought to Rome by Pius IV and made a Referendary in the Signatures of Justice. Gregory XIII appointed him Nuntius to Naples, where he served for five years, and managed to preserve the rights of the Church in that kingdom. He was then dispatched as Internuncio to Portugal, to convince Cardinal Henry, the King of Portugal since August of 1578, to name a successor to the disputed throne. He failed in his task, and the result on the death of Cardinal Henry in January of 1580 was a war in which Philip II of Spain, one of the claimants through his mother, Isabella of Portugal. Philip conquered the country and incorporated the Crown of Portugal into his collection of titles and territories. Pope Gregory gave him no further assignments. In 1585 Sauli was appointed by Sixtus V as coadjutor to the Archbishop of Genoa, and in 1586 he succeed to the Archbishopric, a post he held until 1591. In December of 1587 he was named Cardinal by Sixtus V and given the titulus of SS. Vitale (1588-1591). In 1591 he opted for the titulus of S. Stefano al Monte Celio, and in 1603 for that of S. Maria in Trastevere. In 1607 he was appointed Cardinal Bishop of Albano by Pope Paul V, which he exchanged for of Sabina in 1611. He was promoted to Cardinal Bishop of Porto e Santa Rufina in 1615, and finally to Cardinal Bishop of Ostia e Velletri and Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals in 1620. At the time of the Conclave of 1621 he was 79 years old. He died on September 24, 1624. [Ciaconius-Olduin IV, 177; Cardella V, 276-278]
The Secretary of the Sacred College of Cardinals, and therefore Secretary of the Conclave, was Msgr. Muzio Riccerio.
The Governor of the Conclave was Msgr. Varese.
The Maestri di ceremonie were Msgrs. Paolo Alaleone, Giovanni Battista Alaleone, Carlo Antonio Vaccario, and Pietro Ciammaricone [L. Cherubini et al., Magnum Bullarium Romanum editio novissima Tomus Tertius (Lugduni 1712), p. 421, column 1]
The Holy Roman Emperor, Matthias (Hapsburg), who had no heir, had attempted to arrange the succession to the Empire in view of his approaching death. In 1617, he arranged for his cousin, Ferdinand of Styria, to be elected to the thrones of Bohemia and Hungary. Ferdinand was a Catholic, which caused the Protestand leaders of Bohemia to fear for their religious security. They had proposed an alternative in Frederick V, the Palatine Elector. But when Ferdinand was elected, and sent commissioners to assume the government of Bohemia, the Protestant leaders defenestrated them (May 23, 1618) and began the Bohemian Revolt. When Matthias finally died in 1618, the revolting Bohemians appealed for support from their protestant coreligionists, and a regional conflict became an European war. The Bohemians were assisted for a time by Carlo Emmanuele I of Savoy (who saw the conflict as an opprotunity to weaken Imperial Austria). The loss of the Battle of Sablat (June 10, 1619) changed that. The Spanish sent an army from the Netherlands under the command of Marquis Ambrosio Spinola, to assist the Emperor Ferdinand II. Frederick V, the head of the Protestant Union, was defeated by the forces of the Empire at the White Mountain, on November 8, 1620. Frederick went into permanent exile, the Protestant Union dissolved, Bohemia became firmly Catholic (with many of its nobility dispossessed), and the Spanish seized Frederick's territory in the Rhenish Palatinate, a move which seriously disturbed the French, who felt themselves increasingly surrounded by Hapsburgs and threatened by internal revolts of the protestant Huguenots.
In sending forces to the aid of the Austrian Hapsburgs, the Spanish faced serious difficulties, the more so when they took possession of the Palatinate. To send troops and supplies by sea to the Netherlands and then up the Rhine involved immense logistical problems, complicated by the hostility of Catholic France and Protestant England. As it was, their grip on the Netherlands was constantly and expensively threatened by the Dutch, the Flemish and the French. An obvious alternate route for logistics was by way of Genoa and the (Spanish) Duchy of Milan into Upper Austria. It was desirable for Spain to seize the Valtelline (valley of the Adda River), which would complete the route, but this would involve conflict with France, Savoy, Venice, and others. The only other route was through Venetian territory, which would have a similar result. The Valtelline was Catholic, while its overlords, the League of Grisons, was Protestant.
In 1602, Henri IV had negotiated with the Grisons, at a considerable cost, the right of passage through the four major alpine passes that led down into the Valtelline. The Venetians did the same thing in 1603, likewise at a considerable cost. The Spanish governor of Milan, Fuentes, then closed the lower Adda, which seriously interrupted Lombard trading. In 1617, the Spanish attempted to starve out the Grisons unless they opened the alpine passes to the Spanish troops. On July 20, 1620, some 400 Protestants in the Valtelline were massacred by Catholics who had been armed by the Spanish in Milan. Immediately Spanish troops moved in and occupied the valley.
Gregory knew the problems intimately, since he had negotiated the peace between Carlo Emmanuele I of Savoy and Philip III of Spain in 1616, for which he received the red hat of a Cardinal.
Pope Paul V (Borghese) died on January 28, 1621 at the age of 69, after an illness of more than three months, and after suffering a series of strokes, the last on the morning of his death. Six hours after the stroke he died at the Quirinal Palace. Paul V had been very actively involved in negotiating with Spain over the issue of the Valtelline and the position of Savoy, and his death caused great frustration in Madrid. One cardinal at least, Alessandro Ludovisi, knew the problems intimately, since he had negotiated the peace between Carlo Emmanuele I of Savoy and Philip III of Spain five years earlier, in 1616, for which he had received the red hat of a Cardinal. The need of the Cardinals in Conclave, and the need of the Emperor, was for a pope who would successfully conclude these negotiations, and (as far as the Emperor was concerned) bring about the weakening of Venice and the exclusion of France from Italy. The conclave began late on February 8, there having been some trouble in getting the French Ambassador to leave the Conclave area. The College of Cardinals was at its prescribed full strength of seventy members, but only fifty-one participated in the Conclave. (Montor, 239).
The first Congregation of Cardinals after the death of the Pope took place on January 29, during which the Fisherman's Ring was broken by Msgr. Paolo Alaleone, Master of Ceremonies, as he relates in his own Diarium. The nine days of mourning (Novendiales) for the deceased pope ended on February 7, 1621. After the Requiem Mass, the Funeral Oration was preached by Msgr. Gaspare Palono, Canon of St. Peter's.
A list of the participants is to be found in the Bull of Gregory XV which grants privileges and graces to the Conclavists who participated [Cherubini et al., Magnum Bullarium Romanum editio novissima Tomus Tertius (Lugduni 1712), pp. 421-422; Bulliarum Romanum Turin edition 12 (1867), pp. 497-500]. See also Ciaconius-Olduin IV, columns 465-467. P. Gauchat, Hierarchia Catholica IV (Monasterii 1935), p. 15, n.1
The pre-conclave posturing and politicking was especially intense. The cardinals were divided into several factions: the "Elders" (5) , led by Alessandro Cardinal Peretti de Montalto (Bishop of Albano), had among their number Cardinals Benedetto Giustiniani (Bishop of Porto), Monti, Peretti, and Sauli. Another faction (10), led by Cardinal Aldobrandini, counted Cardinals Bandini, Bellarmino, Bevilaqua, Cenesio, Cesi, Delfino, Detti, Ginnasio, and Pio in their number; unfortunately Cardinal Aldobrandini himself fell ill just before the conclave began. The faction of Cardinal Borghese, the dead pope's nephew (29), included Cardinals Aquino, Aracoeli [Francesco Bourbon del Monte Santa Maria, Bishop of Palestrina], Ascoli, Barberini, Brioli, Campori, Cappone, Caraffa, Crescenzio, Filonardi, Gerardi, Lanti, Leni, Ludovisi, Mellini, Muti, Orsini, Pignatelli, Rivarolo, Giulio Roma, Santa-Susanna (Scipione Cobelluzzi), Savelli, Scaglia, Serra, Tonti, Ubaldini, Valerio and Varallo. This group were in considerable disaccord, however, on a number of matters, though Borghese was campaigning hard for Campora. Cardinal Ubaldini, however, suggested to the French Ambassador the Marquis de Coeuvres, that he might be able to organize ten or twelve of Borghese's cardinals for the French faction ["Relation", 307]. The Spanish faction had three members present: Gaspar Borgia, Carlo Madruzzo (Bishop of Trent), and Antonio Zapata. The French faction included Cardinals Jean de Bonsi, Alessandro d'Este, Odoardo Farnese, and Francesco Sforza (Bishop of Frascati). The Florentines followed Cardinal Carlo de' Medici, and included Cardinal Farnese, whose House was allied with the Medici. Eighteen cardinals could impose an exclusion by withholding their votes; such a grouping was in place as the conclave began: Aldobrandini and his faction (10), the 3 Spanish votes, Orsini, Ubaldini, Bonsi, and Sforza, joined later by Priuli. (Petruccelli, 21). The favorites seemed to be Ludovisi and Aracoeli.
Guicciardini, the Ambassador of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, reported (on January 28, the day the Pope died) that the Spanish Ambassador had dared to demand of Cardinals d'Este, Farnese, Sauli and Orsini, that they give no exclusions to any other party except his own king's. No one wanted to permit this, and those favoring the French interest were outraged [Petruccelli, 6]. On February 4, Cardinal de' Medici wrote that Cardinal Savelli had told him to be on guard against Bandini, who was saying (inter alia) that Cardinal [Domenico] Giannisi was excluded by Spain [Petruccelli, 7]. This was not, of course, a formal veto, which could only be presented in Conclave. Later in the letter Medici comments that Cardinal Aquino was excluded by the Duke of Savoy—who did not enjoy the formal right of the exclusiva. The cardinal's language in his letter, therefore, is to be taken in a casual rather than in the technical sense. But the exclusion of Aquino must be taken seriously nonetheless. Savoy was operating in concert with France, and that party could produce enough votes to impose an exclusiva. Likewise in a letter to Cardinal Medici, the Florentine Secretary of State Pichena notes that "Savoy excludes Monti." Austria appears to have favored Cardinal Millini, the Vicar-General of Rome, who had been a special ambassador to the Hapsburgs in Vienna [Petruccelli, 9]. According to Giuliano de' Medici (writing from Spain on February 18), the Spanish Court favored the election of Cardinal Campori or Cardinal Cobelluzzi.
Count Orso d'Elci, a representative of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, was of the opinion that Cardinal Scipione Borghese favored Cardinal Pietro Campori in the first instance (which was correct), and then Ladislao d'Aquino or Alessandro Ludovisi. Campori's chances, which seemed close to a certainty, collapsed, however, as accusations circulated about his dissolute youth and about a homicide which he may have committed [Novaes, 162; Moroni, 32, 309; the statement is attributed to Cardinal Sforza: Petruccelli III, p. 25]. The French Ambassador, moreover, was working feverishly with Cardinal Aldobrandini to stop Campori. Alessandro Orsini, too, a personal enemy of Cardinal Borghese, did everything he could to put together an exclusiva against Campori. He had support among the creature of Clement VIII (Aldobrandini), as well as that of Cardinal Ubaldini; the French and the Venetians were also interested. Only eighteen votes would be needed. Borghese, on his part, attempted to put together a group of cardinals large enough to stimulate the whole college to elect Campori by "adoration" as soon as the Conclave had been enclosed. But Cardinal Bellarmino remarked that the middle of the night was a time for sleep, not electing popes, and so the scheme misfired (Wahrmund, 123). Indeed, this attempt at an election by adoration, "inspired" by the Holy Spirit, and the circumstances of his own election, may have motivated the future pope, Gregory XV, to rewrite the conclave regulations to exclude such maneuvers.
On Monday, February 8, the Mass of the Holy Spirit was sung by Cardinal Benedetto Giustiniani, Bishop of Porto and Pro-Decanus, and at 9:00 p.m. (sexta hora noctis) the Conclave was supposed to be sealed. There had been a good deal of trouble trying to get the French Ambassador, the Marquis de Coeuvres, to leave the Conclave area. He was frantically trying to make up for the fact that Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, his close ally, was confined to bed and unable to engage in the pratticà. Cardinal Borghese, however, seeing the prospects of his choice, Cardinal Campora, near to success, got the Spanish Ambassador to leave, thereby putting pressure on Coeuvres to quit his politicking and leave as well, with his work of organizing the opposition to Campora and Borghese not yet done. Coeuvres, however, continued his visits, and did not leave the Conclave until six in the morning.
On Tuesday, February 9, the Mass of the Holy Spirit was sung inside the Conclave by the Dean of the Sacred College, Cardinal Antonio Maria Sauli. In the first ballot, in the Pauline Chapel, on the morning of the 9th, the largest number of votes went to the Jesuit Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino. Cardinal Campori, the "inspired" choice of the previous day, did not even have a majority, let alone a two-thirds majority (Petruccelli, 30, says "pas un seul"). Several Cardinals were not present, due to real or diplomatic illnesses, Montalto, Aldobrandini, Cesi, Aquino, Farnese and Capponi. Two cardinals, Borromini and Maurizio di Savoia, were not yet in Conclave. Bellarmine, however, who had a very good chance of being elected, was insistant in his refusal of the papal honor. He expressed his own preference for François Cardinal de la Rochefoucault—who was not in attendance.
There is something peculiar about the story of Cardinal Bellarmine's support. The French Ambassador, the Marquis de Coeuvres, in a Relation written after the Conclave for Louis XIII, does not mention the name of Bellarmine even once. His name is not included on any list of papabili, nor is his name on any list of those to be excluded. Though Coeuvres worked all day on Monday the 8th and all the way until dawn on the 9th, stroking and prodding one cardinal after another, no one so much as mentioned the name of the Jesuit Cardinal. Bellarmine's appearance in the talley of the first ballot, therefore, must represent either a tribute to his genius and orthodoxy, or else the choice of a non-starter by cardinals who had not made up their minds whether to vote for Aquino or Ludovisi. Two of the faction leaders, Aldobrandini and Montalto, were ill and unable to move around the Conclave for an efficient prattica. Bellarmine's own recommendation of Rochefoucault is no testimony to his political astuteness; Rochefoucault would have been rejected immediately by the Spanish. But in any case, Rochefoucault was not present at the Conclave, and the Cardinals were never minded, except in the most extraordinary circumstances, to consider an absent Cardinal as a real candidate.
A Milanese writer, Filippo Argelati (Biblioteca degli scrittori milanesi), alleges that the Cardinals offered the tiara to Cardinal Federigo Borromeo, the cousin of the sainted Charles Borromeo, but that he too refused—but this is another conclave myth, inspired no doubt by local Milanese patriotism.
That evening, at 11:45, in a movement organized by Cardinals Ubaldini and Orsini, Cardinal Ludovisi was escorted to the chapel, and a vote took place. He was elected by fifty of the cardinals. He cast his own vote for Cardinal Sauli. There were fifty-two cardinals in Conclave at the time, but only fifty-one participated in the final vote. Cardinal de Aquino was in bed in his cell, in the process of dying. During the homage, the Ring of the Fisherman was presented to the new Pope by Cardinal Aldobrandini, the Camerlengo. Since the hour was late, the new Pope was not taken to St. Peter's, but instead the Pope and Cardinals remained the night in the Conclave [Paolo Alaleone, Magister Caeremoniarum, in Gattico I, 349; Novaes, 162; Petruccelli, 33].
Cardinal Ludovisi took the name Gregory XV, and was crowned in the Vatican Basilica on Sexagesima Sunday, February 14, by Cardinal Andrea Baroni Peretti Montalto. The Basilica was so cold that the chapel in which the Pontifical Mass took place had to be shut off with boards, and cloths laid to keep off the chill. The areas of the Basilica in which ceremonies took place were closed off with barriers to control the crowds [Paolo Alaleone, Magister caeremoniarum].
He took possession of his cathedral, the Lateran Basilica, on May 9, the Fourth Sunday in Easter time [Gattico, I, pp. 407-408].
On November 26, 1621, Gregory XV issued a bull, Aeterni Patris, revising the regulations for the Election of a Pope. The bull was prepared with the assistance of a committee (Congregatio ceremonialis) composed of Cardinals Sauli, Sforza, Bandini, Garsia, Ubaldini, Cobelluzzi, Ludovisi and Sacrati; and Paulo Alaleone, Master of Ceremonies, and Francesco Ingoli, Secretary of the Congregation. [Meuschen, 6-69]. The bull was subscribed by forty-one cardinals [Bullarium Romanum Turin edition 12, 619-627].
"Relation du Conclave, dans lequel on éleut le Cardinal Ludovisio, nommé depuis Gregoire quinziéme," in Les Memoires de la Régence de la Reyne Marie de Medicis (Paris: Chez Thomas Iolly, 1666), pp. 297-336. "Cette Lettre de l'Ambassadeur de France [the Marquis de Coeuvres] écrite au Roy incontinant apres l' élection de Gregoire XV., faisant connoistre combien ce choix estoit avantageux au service de sa Majesté, " Les Memoires de la Régence de la Reyne Marie de Medicis (Paris: chez Thomas Iolly, 1666), 337-350.
Joannes Baptista Gattico, Acta Selecta Caeremonialia Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae ex variis mss. codicibus et diariis saeculi xv. xvi. xvii. Tomus I (Romae 1753), pp. 349-350 [Conclave diary of Paolo Alaleone]; 407-408 [Coronation and Possessio]. Iohannes Gerhardus Meuschen (editor), Caeremonialia Electionis et Coronationis Pontificis Romani et Caeremoniale Episcoporum (Francofurti: ex officina B. Joh. Max. a Sande. MDCCXXXII)
Ferdinando Petruccelli della Gattina, Histoire diplomatique des conclaves Volume III (Paris 1865) 5-38. A. F. Artaud de Montor, Histoire des souverains pontifes Tome V (Paris 1852) 239-241. G. Novaes, Elementi della storia de' sommi pontefici terza edizione Tomo nono (Roma 1822) 161-163 . Ludwig Wahrmund, Das Ausschliessungs-recht (jus exclusivae) der katholischen Staaten Österreich, Frankreich und Spanien bei den Papstwahlen (Wien: Holder 1888), 121-123.
A. Mascardi, "Scrittura intorno alla elezione in Sommo Pontefice del Card. Ludoviso," Atti della Società ligure di storia patria 42 (1908) 523-542. A. Tassoni, "Il conclave in cui fu eletto Papa Gregorio XV, " Miscellanea Ceriani (edited by C. Stornaiolo) (Milano 1910), 329-350. C. Wood, Gregory XV (1621-1623) (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press 1990). F. Baumgarten, A History of the Papal Elections (New York 2003) 143-144.
Francesco Rivola, Vita di Federico Borromeo, Cardinale del titolo di Santa Maria degli Angeli ed Arcivescovo di Milano (Milano: Giuseppe Gariboldi 1656).
John Paul Adams, CSUN