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went into Conclave on the 18th of January, no less than forty-eight were creatures of Urban VIII., and formed the faction of his nephew's adherents. Forty-six were sufficient to elect the Pope, and Barberini might have named his own man if only he could have trusted all the professing adherents of his party; but his attempt to cause the election of Cardinal Sacchetti, who would have entirely suited him, soon showed that he could not so trust them. The party of the older cardinals were strong enough, if not to elect a Pope, at least to exclude any one of his proposing. Under these circumstances it was vital to them to secure, at least, the exclusion of a declared adversary. And thus the Barberini party were at last driven to consent to the election of one who was, indeed, nominally a member of their party, and who had been a "creature" of Urban VIII., but was one of the last of those "creatures" whom they would have chosen if they could have done otherwise; for the Cardinal Pamphili had shown himself inclined to favour the Spanish party, and he had been formally excluded by France. Nevertheless, he was elected on the 16th of September, 1644, and took the name of Innocent X.
But the Barberini very soon found that the modicum of success which they had achieved in the Conclave in securing the election at least of one nominally of their own party was in the result worse than worthless. Pamphili, as has been said, inclined to the Spanish interest, which, though it had been altogether eclipsed and under a cloud during the twenty years of Urban's Papacy, was by no means dead in Eome, but ready to revive and reassume its activity in every ramification of the complicated machine of the Papal Court in the returning warmth of pontifical favour. And one of the first manifestations of this resuscitated activity was a war to the knife against the Barberini and all that was theirs. Their palaces were occupied by the Papal troops; their property was sequestered; confiscations rained upon them; demands of accounts respecting their administration of the public moneys were threatened; and Antonio Barberini deemed it prudent to fly from Eome. But for one of those sudden changes in the whole Papal sky, to which the peculiar nature of the government renders it liable, the Barberini were wholly ruined!
Innocent X.—The Story of his Reign stands alone in Papal History. —Donna Olympia Maidalchini, his Sister-in-Law.—Her Influence over him.—Her scandalous venality, greed, and corruption.— Scandal throughout Europe.—Innocent's futile Attempt to banish her.—Anecdote of her dealings in the last hours of the Pope's life.—Innocent's Death.—A Conclave without any leaders.—The "Squadrone Volante." — Anecdote of Cardinals Ottobuono and Azzolini.—Chigi proposed.—Opposed by the French interest.— The Barberini again.—Chigi elected as Alexander VII.—End of the story of Donna Olympia.—Pestilence at Rome.
Such was the punishment of the nepotism of Urban VIII. But what was the conduct of Innocent himself, who thus raged against the nepotism of his predecessor, when he was in his turn exposed to similar temptation?
The story of the reign of Innocent X. is in this respect a very singular one. It stands alone among the stories of the long line of Popes, reminding the reader of the old fables of a Pope Joan, which took their dim rise from the metaphorical accounts of the scandals of a Papal Court, not wholly dissimilar from those which Innocent reproduced in more entirely historical times.
A very singular change came over the spirit of the Papal Court. Innocent X. was guiltless of all nepotism, and yet, strange to say, after all that has been told of the Papal favourites of the preceding reigns, the pontificate of Innocent was in this matter of favouritism the most disgraceful of them all! Innocent X. was ruled by no cardinal nephew; but he was ruled, more despotically than ever a Pope was ruled before, by a sister-in-law. This was the too celebrated Donna Olympia Maidalchini, the widow of Innocent's brother!
Fifteen centuries * of Papal government had habituated mankind to see without surprise in Heaven's Vicar on earth an amount of dereliction of duty, and an enormity of distance between profession and practice, such as has never been recorded in history or exhibited to the world in any other department of its affairs. Yet Europe was startled at the novelty of the position assumed by Olympia immediately on Innocent's elevation. She accompanied the new Pope to the Vatican, and established herself there as its mistress! No step of domestic government or foreign policy decided on, no grace, favour, or promotion accorded, no punishment inflicted, was the Pope's own work. His invaluable sister-in-law did all. He was absolutely a puppet in her hands. The keys of St. Peter were strung to her girdle; and the only function in which she probably never interfered was blessing the people!
The great object of her unceasing care and diplomacy was to keep at a distance from Innocent every person and every influence which could either lessen her own or go shares in the profits to be extracted from it; for this, after all, was the great and ultimate scope of her exertions. To secure the profits of the Papacy in hard cash, this was the problem. No appointment to office of any kind was made except in consideration of a propor
* The following account of this extraordinary woman is taken from a
life of hor by the present author.
tionable sum paid down into her coffers. This often amounted to three or four years' revenue of the place to be granted. Bishoprics and benefices were sold as fast as they became vacant. One story is related of an unlucky disciple of Simon, who, on treating with the Popess for a very valuable see, just fallen vacant, and hearing from her a price at which it might be his far exceeding all that he could command, persuaded the members of his family to sell all they had for the purpose of making this profitable investment. The price was paid, and the bishopric was given to him; but, with a fearful resemblance to the case of Ananias, he died within the year, and his ruined family saw the see a second time sold by the insatiable and shameless Olympia! The incident only served her as a hint always to exact cash down, and not to content herself with a yearly payment from the accruing revenue. The criminal judges in Eome were directed to punish criminals of all degrees in purse instead of person, and the fines were all paid over with business-like exactitude to the all-powerful favourite.
At last the discontent of Eome, the remonstrances of the cardinals, and the contempt and indignation of foreign courts we rebeginning to render the position of Innocent and Olympia hardly tenable. One day a large medal was conveyed into the Pope's hands, on the obverse of which was represented Olympia with the pontifical tiara on her head and the keys in her hand, while the reverse showed Innocent in a coif with a spindle and distaff in his hands. Another day a report was brought to him from England that a play had been