ANNIBALE CARDINAL ALBANI (1682-1751), was born at Urbino on August 15, 1682. His uncle became Pope Clement XI in 1700 (dying on March 19, 1721). He was created Cardinal Deacon on December 23, 1711, being appointed to the Deaconry of S. Eustachio on March 2, 1712. He became Archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica in 1712, where he had long been a Canon, and was promoted to be Cardinal Priest of S. Clemente in March, 1722, for which he was finally ordained a priest in October. He was appointed Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church on March 29, 1719, a post he held until 1747. He became bishop of Sabina on July 24, 1730, and was translated to Porto and Sta. Rufina in 1743. From 1719 he was director of the English hospital of St. John in Jerusalem.
The Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals was Sebastiano Tanara, Cardinal Bishop of Ostia and Velletri, but he left the conclave on April 15 and died during the Sede Vacante, on May 5.
The Treasurer General of the Holy Roman Church was Msgr.Carlo Collicola.
The Majordomo of the Apostolic Palaces was Msgr. Niccolo del Giudice (1715-1725), nephew of Cardinal Francesco del Giudice, Cardinal Bishop of Frascati. He was made a cardinal by Benedict XIII in 1725, with the title of S. Maria Rotonda.
The Governor of the Conclave was Msgr. Maffeo Farsetti, Protonotary Apostolic.
The Marshal of the Holy Roman Church was Prince Augusto Chigi, appointed by Pope Clement XI to succeed Prince Giulio Savelli, the last male member of the Savelli family.
Pope Innocent XIII (dei Conti), who was often ill and who suffered from hernia, died of a fever on March 7, 1724, and was buried on March 11. The Interregnum lasted two months and twenty-seven days. Proceedings were overshadowed by the death of Cardinal Dubois, the French Foreign Minister, on August 10, 1723; by the death of the Grand Duke of Tuscany (November 1, 1723); by the death of the French Regent, Philippe d' Orleans, on December 2, 1723; and by the abdication of King Philip V of Spain (January 14, 1724). Spain, to name but one, was planning to have its Infante, Don Carlos, made Duke of Tuscany.
Since the last Conclave in 1721, only a few participants had died: Conti (Innocent XIII), Cornaro, Mailly, and Paracciani (who died the day after Conti's election). Innocent XIII had named only three cardinals: Bernardo Conti, Guillaume du Bois (who had died),and Alessandro Albani. This was a net loss of two, leaving sixty-six living cardinals.
The Conclave of 1724 began on March 20, with thirty-six cardinals in attendance. There were again, as in 1721, four groups, but the French and the Spanish were working in concert. The French had no authorized representative at the opening of the Conclave. Cardinal de Rohan would not arrive for some weeks. In the meantime Abbe Pierre de Tencin acted as the French agent. He made the appropriate speech of condolence to the assembled cardinals, and he made the courtesy rounds of each cardinal. (Boutry, 102)
The Imperial party was led by Cardinals Alvaro Cienfuegos, SJ, Bishop of Catania, and Francesco del Giudici, Cardinal Bishop of Frascati. The Emperor was recommending several candidates: Corsini, Spada, Bussi, Piazzi, Barbadigo, and Gozzadini. On his own initiative Cardinal Cienfuegos was promoting Cardinal Imperiali. He sent Count Kaunitz again as Ambassador Extraordinary to represent his interests, and insisted that Cardinal Althan should leave Naples, where he was acting as Viceroy, and present himself at the Conclave. Unfortunately, the Imperial cardinals were not in evidence—Schoenbrunn (Speyer), Schrattembach (Olomouc), and Imre Czaki (Kalocsa and Bacs, Hungary); neither was the Cardinal of Malines. In the meantime Cienfuegos frantically tried to delay proceedings until the Cardinals of 'the Crowns' could arrive. In this he had the cooperation of Abbé de Tencin and Cardinal Acquaviva, who had been the representative of Philip V of Spain and Cardinal Protector of Spain (since 1713) in Rome. (Boutry, 102-103)
The Venetians wanted their three cardinals to hold back and await developments which might be favorable to Venice, but Cardinal Ottoboni was already committed to the French, Priuli (Bishop of Bergamo) was in league with Albani, and Barbarigo (Bishop of Brescia) wanted nothing to do with the political schemes of the Venetian Republic.
The Zealots, the most numerous group, were led by Cardinal Giuseppe Imperiali, the papal Legate in Ferrara and Protector of Ireland, and by Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni. Parties formed in favor of Cardinal Giulio Piazza (Bishop of Faenza), comprised of Italian nationalists; and another in favor of Cardinal Ulisse Gozzadini, Bishop of Imola. Cardinal Alberoni was also active, and along with Cardinal Giorgio Spinola, Cardinal of S. Agnese, formed a bloc of eight votes. They were working with the English agent in Rome, John Walton (an informant of no high reliability), whose purpose was to see that neither Paolucci nor Albani, nor their partisans, would be elected (Petruccelli, 24).
In March Prince Albani wrote to his two brothers in conclave, "If conscience orders you to elect this pope [Gozzadini: portrait at left], I have nothing to say. I just warn you that on the day Gozzadini is pope, I will leave Rome with my family and not return until after his death." Unfortunately Gozzadini came to know about this letter (dispatch of Giacobazzi, March 25; Petruccelli, 31; Cardinal Ulisse Gozzadini's image at left).
On April 10, Cardinal de Rohan arrived in Rome. followed by Cardinal de Bissy on the 12th, and Cardinal Melchior de Polignac on the 21st. (Boutry, 105). Polignac had been the conclavist of Cardinal de Bouillon in 1669 and again in 1691; he was thoroughly familiar with the habits of conclaves. He was also thoroughly familiar with the transaction in 1721 involving Cardinal Conti, Cardinal Rohan, Archbishop Dubois and Abbé Tencin that made Conti pope: "Quand il fut mort, on ne parle dans Rome que de cette affaire. Les zélants protestèrent de mourir plutôt que de souffrir une seconde fois de semblables pratiques et les moins zélés se demandaient comment on pourrait se fier à quelqu'un, après ce qui venait d' arriver." (Boutry, 34-35).
Cardinal Rohan believed that, thanks to his groundwork with Cienfuegos, Aquaviva and Albani, he would have an easy time achieving his goals. He was taken by surprise by the revelations of his past deeds, but worse was about to befall him. He had been carrying an agreement, made in Paris, to join with Cardinal Albani's faction to make Cardinal Fabio Olivieri pope, in exchange for a number of concessions, including (according to Walton, in a dispatch of April 18) three red hats for the French. The agreement was made public by Cardinal Del Giudice, the Cardinal Bishop of Frascati, and it caused a sensation of indignation (a leak in Paris had become known to Cardinal Corsini, who passed on the information). The ambassador of Turin, De Gubernatis, wrote, in a dispatch of April 22, of a universal outcry against Olivieri. (Petruccelli, 34) An investigation, pressed by the Zelanti, revealed that Olivieri had signed more than twenty letters involving negotiations with France, Spain and Vienna. Twenty-one cardinals, led by Giorgio Spinola and Francesco Del Giudice, signed a pledge to die in conclave before giving their assent to the election of Olivieri (Petruccelli, 35). Corsini agreed to the pledge, but refused to sign the agreement. That number constituted an exclusiva tacita. Albani finally abandoned Olivieri. Without a candidate, Rohan immediately wrote to Paris for instructions; Cienfuegos wrote to Vienna; and Acquaviva wrote to Madrid. While waiting for responses, Cardinal Albani proposed one after another of his candidates, without hope or expectation of success. The Zealots continued to advance the cause of Paolucci. Rohan, ill, left the conclave for a few days. On his return, he is said to have remarked in very bad humor, "Ah! Vous ne voulez pas d' Olivieri; soit; mais vous n'aurez pas non plus Paolucci." (Petruccelli, 36)
Cienfuegos wrote to Vienna that the election of Paolucci was almost inevitable, but when Count Kaunitz arrived, a long conversation made clear to Cienfuegos that Paolucci was absolutely unacceptable to the Imperial advisors in Vienna. But he also stated that the Emperor himself had been persuaded by the Jesuits and by Prince Eugen that, if no candidate more sympathetic to Vienna could be found, Paolucci would be accepted.
By April 29, there were fifty cardinals in conclave (dispatch of Giacobazzi, Petruccelli, 38).
In the midst of all the bad humor and recriminations, a committee of some Zelanti and the representatives of the Crowns attempted to agree upon the names of some acceptable candidates. They proposed Ruffo, Cusani, Corsini and Gozzadini. Immediately messengers were sent to consult with the various Courts. (various dispatches of 3, 6, and 8 May) The results of the consultations, however, seemed to point to Cardinal Giulio Piazza, Bishop of Faenza, and, at a meeting that took place in the cell vacated by the death of Cardinal Tanara, the French, Imperialists and Zelanti laid their plans. Unfortunately a space in the quarters was still occupied by a servant of the late Cardinal Dean, and he immediately informed the Albani of what was being discussed. The night was spent by the Albani faction trying to find the seventeen votes needed to block the election of Piazza. Cienfuegos had a particularly disagreeable conversation with Annibale Albani in his cell, and, though they were both supposed to be supporting Piazza, they parted in angry disagreement as to whose creature Piazza actually was.
Alessandro Albani put together an unsavory biography of Piazza, which he quickly circulated, and Cardinal Scotti went around accusing Piazza of being a supporter of Jansenist doctrines. Argument went on into the next day, but finally Albani had twenty-four votes, ten for Fabbroni (he announced) and fourteen for Orsini. Piazza could not advance to the Throne of Peter.
Cardinal Luis Belluga, Bishop of Cartagena, arrived. More significantly,Cardinal Carlos de Borja-Centelles (Patriarch of the West Indes) also arrived, at last, with the latest instructions from Madrid. (Petruccelli, 44) They were said to be hostile to Piazza. Cienfuegos immediately wrote to Vienna in exaspiration, demanding either plenary powers or help. The return courier arrived on the evening of May 28, with an order from the Emperor not to break with Albani but to come to an agreement with him on a choice (Petruccelli, 46). At the same time a courier arrived from Paris with news for Cardinal Rohan of the death of his nephew. A chance word of Rohan to Del Giudice in compliment to Orsini caused Del Giudice, who was a secret partisan of Orsini, to invite Rohan to think seriously about Orsini, who had already received fourteen votes. Fabbroni, Vallemani, and Tolomei, inspired by Del Giudice, wondered why the cardinals should not take seriously the votes for Orsini which Albani had certainly authorized just to show his power.
When Cardinal Cienfuegos was approached, he could only say that he had no instructions on Orsini, and was waiting for a courier. It was pointed out that Orsini was a Neapolitan, and thus an Imperial subject who had fiefs and supporters in the Kingdom of Naples. Cienfuegos replied that Orsini was a monk, was too zealous, and had stirred up his diocese of Benevento. The cardinals replied that he and his Emperor would be left behind on the morrow.
In the morning scrutiny of May 29, Orsini received thirty votes, six short of the two-thirds majority. Cienfuegos would only give way after consulting with the representatives of the other Crowns and with Albani. Then Cardinals Tolomei, Belluga and Albani had to convince Orsini to accept; this took three hours. Finally, at the afternoon scrutiny, which actually took place around the dinner hour, Vincenzo Maria Cardinal Orsini de Gravina, OP, Cardinal Bishop of Porto, was elected with 52 votes; his own went to Cardinal Paolucci. He took the name Benedict XIII.
The coronation took place on June 4 in the Vatican Basilica. He reappointed Cardinal Paolucci as his Secretary of State, a post which he held from 1700 until his death on June 12, 1726 (portrait at right). On September 24, 1724, the new pope took possession of the Lateran Basilica.
See: Giuseppe de Novaes, Elementi della storia de' Sommi Pontefici third edition Volume 13 (Roma 1822), 7-16; 37; 44-46. G. Moroni, Dizionario di erudizione storico-ecclesiastica Vol. V (Venezia 1840) 9-11. Alexis François Artaud de Montor, Histoire des souverains Pontifes Romains, Volume VI (Paris 1851), pp. 332; 346-347. Ferdinando Petruccelli della Gattina Histoire diplomatique des conclaves Volume IV (Bruxelles 1864), 21-52
Lorenzo Cardella, Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Ecclesia Tomo Ottavo (Roma: Pagliarini 1794).
Maurice Boutry, Une créature du Cardinal Dubois: Intrigues et missions du Cardinal de Tencin deuxième édition (Paris 1903).
'John Walton' was in fact a Prussian, Baron Philip de Stosch, who served as an espionage agent for the British Government (in particular Lord Carteret) in Rome: Martin Haile, James Francis Edward, the Old Chevalier (London: Dent 1907) 293-294.
Ludwig Wahrmund , Das Ausschliessungs-recht (jus exclusivae) der katholischen Staaten Österreich, Frankreich und Spanien bei den Papstwahlen (Wien: Holder 1888) 225.
© 2009 John Paul Adams, CSUN