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he was certainly a cardinal at the time of the election of Eugenius, and was then thought to have a good chance of the Papacy. He had at the first scrutiny ten votes— twelve, it will be observed, being needed to elect, i.e. two-thirds of eighteen—the other eight being given to the Cardinal of Fermo. The next day Prospero Colonna still held his ten votes, though many attempts were made on the part of the other eight to entice away from him some of his ten, by putting forward a variety of other candidates, several even who were not cardinals, as the Archbishops of Benevento and of Florence, and others. Prospero Colonna's ten supporters, however, stood firm, and nothing was done on that second day.
There were reasons, indeed, for electing Colonna, but they were reasons of a kind which indicate the fatal consequences which have fallen upon the Church from the universal sovereignty of its head—reasons of European policy, and in no wise reasons having any regard to his fitness as a supreme bishop of souls, nor even to a right recommending him as a governor of Eome. He was acceptable to the French party in the Conclave, and was deemed more likely than any of his colleagues to command the means of compelling the obedience of the different Italian States. But, Colonna as he was, he was not the favourite candidate of the Eoman people. They wished the Cardinal of Capua to be Pope, perhaps from having had too much experience of Colonna's highhanded and lawless violence. On the third day, the 6th of March, the steady phalanx of Colonna's ten supporters still continued unassailable; and on that day, after the first of the two scrutinies that take place daily, the Cardinal of Fermo, seeing matters thus at a dead lock, and that his own eight voices could do nothing for him, and thinking that the next best thing to getting the tiara for himself was to be the conspicuous means of obtaining it for another, rose and addressed the meeting.
"Why," exclaimed he, " are we thus losing time, seeing that there is no greater danger to the Church than a long delay in the election of a Pontiff! The city of Eome is divided into parties! The King of Aragon is close at hand on the sea with an army! Duke Amadeus of Savoy is in opposition to us! The Count Francis is our enemy! Suffering, then, from all these evils, why do we not rouse ourselves to give to the Church of Christ a pastor and a guide? Here is that angel of God, the Cardinal Prospero Colonna, mild as a lamb—mansueto agnello—why do we not elect him Pope? He has already ten votes. He needs only two more ! * Why do not some of you rise and give him these two? If only one will do so, the thing is done; for then a twelfth is sure to follow!"
But not a man moved! It was a trying moment, for any one of the eight, acceding to Fermo's call, might have had, in the eyes of Colonna, the merit of giving him the Papacy.
"Mansueto agnello !"—a mild lambkin !—his Eminence of Fermo had called him! And of course that was a characteristic that always recommended itself very strongly to those who were setting over themselves an indefeasible and despotic master. Bnt probably some of those present may have called to mind that this mild lambkin was the man who, at the death of Martin Y.t had, in company with two of his lawless kinsmen barons, seized on the papal treasure chest and carried it off; and had had to be excommunicated for the deed by Eugenius IV., till, on disgorging the plunder, the sentence was removed. Prospero Colonna, in fact, belonged to a category of cardinals from which more Popes were chosen in the subsequent centuries than had hitherto been the case—the category of "cardinal nephews." The evil wrought by them in and to the Church has been wellnigh fatal to it; and it continued to increase till increasing danger warned the Pontiffs to abstain. The worst cardinals, providing, of course, the material for the worst Popes, have been for the most part cardinal nephews, the temptation to the creation of such having been rendered too great to be resisted by the exorbitant greatness of the power, dignity, and wealth attributed to the members of the Sacred College. The value of these great "prizes" was so enormous, that the "hat" became an object of ambition to princes, and it was a primary object with a long series of Popes to bestow it on their kinsmen. If among these there was none fitted by character, education, and antecedents for the position, the dispensing power was called into requisition, and the Pope's relative, however unfit in all these respects, became one of the princes of the Church. Of course precedents once made were eagerly quoted, and it became an understood thing that a "prince of the Church" was not to be expected to have the virtues or professional character of a private in the ranks. And thus the institution went from bad to worse; the invention of the Sacred College having been, on the whole, perhaps, the most fertile source of corruption in the Church, especially of the Church as it has existed in Eome.
* It seems, therefore, that the Cardinal of Fermo, although voted for himself at the first scrutiny by eight cardinals, must have been himself one of Colonna's original ten supporters. Otherwise he could not have said that Colonna needed two more votes, seeing that he, Fermo, would have been the eleventh, and only twolve were needed.
This Prospero Colonna had been a cardinal nephew, and the Church very narrowly escaped having him for a Pope!
The speech of the Cardinal of Fermo took the Conclave by surprise, and all remained mute and motionless and watchfully expectant. Then, after a pause, the Cardinal of Bologna rose, and was on the point of giving Colonna the eleventh vote, which the Cardinal of Permo had said would surely draw after it the twelfth, when the Cardinal of Taranto brought him to pause.
"Be not in so great a hurry," he said, "to do so great a thing! Pause a little! The matter we have before us is a very weighty one; nor will a short delay matter, so that the business be well done! Think what you are doing! We are not here to choose the ruler of a town, but one who is to rule the entire world—one, remember, who is to bind and to loosen, to open and to shut; one, in a word, who is to be a God on earth! Much consideration is necessary; and he who sees quickly sees little!"
Hereupon the Cardinal of Aquileia cried out in anger,
"Cardinal of Taranto,* all that you have said, and all that you have done, has been said and done with the sole object of preventing the election of Cardinal Colonna, and forcing one of your own choice! Say at once, whom do you wish to see elected?"
* Not Otranto, as has been sometimes written. The see of Otranto was not at that time, or at any other, so far as I know, occupied by a cardinal.
This was an exceedingly impolitic outburst of temper, such as, it is safe to say, no member of any of the Conclaves of the following century, when policy had become more subtle, dissimulation finer, and manners more urbane, would have been guilty of. There is nothing which an Italian more sorely dislikes and resents than an attempt to put a pressure on him by outspoken plainness of language, which tries to break through the cobwebs of conventional surface smoothness, and fiction. The frankness which among northern people may often engage sympathy and disarm opposition is sure to be deemed rustic and ill-mannered violence by the Italians, and resisted accordingly. And the Cardinal of Aquileia had soon cause to perceive that he had made a mistake.
Instead of waiting for the Cardinal of Taranto, who had been addressed, to reply, the Cardinal of Bologna struck in dexterously: "And I follow the lead of the Cardinal of Aquileia" (who had, of course, never meant to lead in any such direction); "I am ready to give my vote for any one, whom you" (i.e. the Cardinal of Taranto) " may select." "Then," said Taranto, " I give my vote for you!" The Cardinal of Aquileia, thus caught, did not care to back out from the position in which he had placed himself, but seconded the nomination of the Cardinal of Bologna. Thereupon one after another followed till the Cardinal Marino gave the eleventh vote; and then, after a pause, the Cardinal