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hand, they were told it as a profound secret. It seems as if each man was allowed to know that the head of his faction had resolved to vote for Altieri, and that an attempt to elect him was to be made, but that he was not permitted to know that it was a settled and wellnigh certain thing. And the reason of this was probably the fear that such a knowledge might have led to the attempted formation of some new combination during the night by malcontents.
All, however, passed in perfect quiet. On the evening of the 28th of April tidings were conveyed to the ambassadors of the Powers to the effect that the Pope would in all probability be elected the next morning, in the person of an hitherto unproposed candidate, against whom no objection of any sort could be found. The same night also the relatives of the proposed candidate “received notice that they would do well to pray to the Divine Majesty for the election of his Eminence Altieri.” And the next morning Clement X. was made Pope, despite his own declarations of his insufficiency, and his recommendations of other names (whom he must have perfectly well known could not be by any possibility elected), by a perfectly orderly and unanimous “ adoration.".
Before quitting the subject of this selected specimen of the Conclaves of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, I may give the reader a rather amusing anecdote of the man perhaps the best known to history of all the purple figures in that gathering. Cardinal de Retz was among their Eminences, active for evil in some way we may be very sure, although our conclavist does
not speak of him save to correct a certain report current in Rome respecting him. It was commonly said that he went about the Conclave by night in a mask, and that his fellow cardinals had been much scandalized by the practice. The conclavist, however, assures us that he had had opportunities of observing him very closely on such occasions, and that his Eminence wore no mask properly so called, but a pair of spectacles with a certain garniture attached to them, which might easily be mistaken for a mask! As if De Retz needed any mask, even among Italian cardinals, save his own features !
Letters of the French President De Brosses—Last Years of Clement XII,
Corsini.—Notices by De Brosses of the then Cardinals : of Cardinal Corsini, of Cardinal Albáni, of Cardinal Coscia, of Cardinal Fleury, of Cardinal Rohan, of Cardinal Tencin.-How Matters went in the Conclave.—Tencin loses all influence.—Proposal to elect Cardinal Aldrovandi opposed by Albani.—Albani's treacherous scheme to ruin Aldrovandi.-Albani's treachery ruins the chances of Cardinal Porzia.—Plain speaking of Cardinal Acquapiya. -Election of Lambertini as Benedict XIV.-His character and appearance.-Conclaves and Popes, sixteen in number, between that of Clement X. in 1670, and that of Pius IX. in 1846.-Saying of Cardinal Albani.—Characteristics of latter Popes.
THE President De Brosses, in his amusing volumes of “Familiar Letters," written from Italy in 1739 and 1740, gives a lively account of the Conclave which took place at the death of the Corsini Pope, Clement XII., which happened in the latter year, on the 16th of February. Clement was in his eighty-eighth year; he had been blind for the last eight years, and the gout, from which he had long been a great sufferer, continually menacing the vital parts of his system, had for some time past indicated that the end was near at hand. So that, as the French President, innocent of any knowledge or thought of canons or excommunication-fulminating Bulls on the subject, says naïvely, there had been plenty of time for the electors to conspire, combine, and intrigue with a view to the coming election.
De Brosses gives a list of the entire College of Cardinals, with a short notice of each of them, reflecting the opinions of the Roman world, as a winter's residence there had enabled him to become acquainted with them. With regard to the greater number of these names, oblivion has in a great measure destroyed the interest that no doubt attached to the President's remarks when he made them. But it may be worth while to give a glance at what he says (and of course all Rome was then saying) of a few among them of the heads of factions especially. It was known that . the Conclave would be divided into two parties, led—the one by the nephew of the Pope who had just died, Clement XII., Cardinal Corsini, and the other by the Camerlengo, the Cardinal Albani, the nephew of Clement XI. The Corsini party was the most numerous, and it was thought that if, as was considered probable, the Spanish and French factions joined him, the making of the new Pope would lie with him. But, says De Brosses, he is a man of no capacity; he has neither intelligence nor vigour. Public affairs have been going very badly in his hands; the finances especially have fallen into a deplorable condition. “We shall see." adds the President, “what he can do in the Conclave. Superiority of numbers ought to assure him the victory. But he has for his opponent a master mind.”
Of the man whom he so characterizes, Cardinal Annibale Albani, the Camerlengo, he says, that "he enjoys a very high reputation for capacity, but is excessively hated and feared. Without belief, without principles, an implacable enemy, even when feigning to be reconciled, he has
true genius in transacting affairs, is inexhaustible in resources and intrigues, is the most able man in the College and the worst in Rome. His party is not numerous, the creatures of his uncle diminishing naturally in number from day to day. But he will put himself at the head of the Zelanti (i.e. the professedly devout men, who declare that they will give their votes in Conclave truly according to the dictates of the Holy Spirit), and will attack Corsini with all his forces. An army of deer commanded by a lion is more powerful than an army of lions commanded by a deer. Albani governs in the College by the superiority of his genius, the authority of the place he holds (that of Camerlengo), and his imperious and formidable manners. He knows well that he can never be Pope ; but he hopes to have one of his making, and if he cannot accomplish that by himself, he will at least prevent anybody else from making one without him. It would be unfair to Albani not to add the last words of the President's character of him: “He is the enemy of the French !”
Another member of this Conclave may be mentioned, because the circumstances under which he entered Conclave were peculiar, and his case is a leading and very
nt one in Conclave law. This was his Eminence Cardinal Coscia, who had been the prime minister of Benedict XIII., a saintly Pope, who might possibly have been trusted advantageously with the government of the monastery in which he had spent his days, but who was utterly unfit for any more extended rule. In his innocence and ignorance he selected for his confidential minister the greatest scoundrel he could have chosen.