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best of all the mediæval Italian sovereign families in all respects—became extinct under very unfortunate circumstances during the papacy of Urban; and the Pope was able to exercise a degree of moral pressure on the old, discouraged, unhappy, and childless Duke, which ended by inducing him to give up his duchy to the Holy Father. Urbino thus fell to the Apostolic See, and completed the Papal dominions as we of this generation have known them.
Contemporaneously with that change in the condition of European affairs which operated to reduce the power of the Pontiffs to that of mere Italian princes, the political conditions of Italy assumed a form and settlement which made it impossible for the Popes to contemplate, or at all events to succeed in, carving out from the body of Italy hereditary principalities for their families. Paul III., the Farnese, was the last who accomplished this. It is true, as has been seen, that the Papal See became possessed of Urbino subsequently under the pontificate of Urban VIII; and had that pontificate and that Pope existed a century earlier, the world would doubtless have seen a series of Barberini dukes at Urbino. But the times were changed. And to put other difficulties—which, however, would have been found insuperable—out of the question, so strong a feeling had grown up in the Church, and especially in the Sacred College, the authority and power of which was now far more able to counterbalance that of the Pontiffs than it had been in earlier times, against dismembering the territory of the Holy See, that Urban did not dare to make the attempt.
It remained, then, for the ambition and family feeling of the later Popes to find some other means for the gratification of passions, which were no less strong in them than they had been in their predecessors. And these means were found in the foundation of princely families, claiming, indeed, no higher rank than that of Roman nobles, but each striving to eclipse, and in many cases succeeding in eclipsing, the relatives of former Popes in splendour, wealth, and the accumulation of real property.
Here are a few particulars of what was accomplished by the successive Popes of the nephew-enriching group; for neither has that phase of Church corruption survived the changes of the times and of public opinion, and we do not find the family names of the more recent Popes familiarized to the world by the immensity of their possessions.
Paul III. was, as has been seen, the last of the sovereign-family-founding Popes. He died in 1549. Sixtus V. was the first of the group we are now speaking of. He ascended the throne in 1585. The interval was occupied by the “ zealous Popes," whose minds were bent, as has been seen, on other things.
Sixtus V. conferred on his cardinal nephew ecclesiastical revenues to the value of 100,000 crowns a year. He negotiated a wealthy marriage for another nephew, created him Marchese di Montana, and gave him the principalities of Venafro and Celano.
Gregory XIV. reigned but ten, and Innocent IX. but two months.
Then came Clement VIII. with his thirteen years of
papacy and the Aldobrandino greatness. Pietro Aldobrandino, the cardinal nephew, already in 1599, when only the first half of his sunshine and haymaking period had elapsed, possessed ecclesiastical revenues to the amount of 60,000 crowns a year; and these were subsequently immensely increased. The Cardinal Pietro. was a careful man, bought property largely, and had moneys in the Bank of Venice. All his accumulations were destined to pass to Gianfrancesco Aldobrandini, his sister's husband, who had himself, in 1599, 60,000 crowns a year from lay offices in the Pontiff's gift, and who, besides, was constantly receiving presents in cash from the Pope. Ranke tells us that he had found a statement of accounts, according to which Clement VIII. gave to this Gianfrancesco more than a million (of crowns, I presume, is meant) in cash. Gianfrancesco also was a careful and thrifty man. He bought a property which rendered to its owner 3,000 crowns a year, and shortly drew from it 12,000! He married his daughter Margherita to Ranuccio Farnese, and gave her a dower of 400,000 crowns.
Leo XI., Clement's successor, reigned only twentyseven days; and then came Paul V. and the day of the Borghese greatness. Of course it was the object of each one of these Popes, and yet more perhaps that of their nephews, to eclipse the fortunes and the grandeur of the family of the preceding occupant of the throne; and as the scandalous nepotism and lavish expenditure of the treasure of the Church by each Pontiff in a certain sense legitimatised such practices, and rendered it pos
sible for the next in the line to go yet a little (or not a little) further, this was not difficult of accomplishment. The ecclesiastical revenues possessed by Cardinal Borghese were valued in 1612 at 150,000 crowns. But Marcantonio Borghese was the layman to whom the transmission of the family name and greatness was intrusted. He received from the Pope the principality of Sulmona, several palaces in Rome, and many of the most valuable villas in the environs. In this case, again, Ranke has found a list of the “ gratifications” given by Paul up to the year 1620. They consist in property of almost every conceivable kind, very much of it taken from the treasure-chambers and storehouses of the Apostolic Palace. But the sums in hard cash which Marcantonio Borghese is stated to have received up to 1620 amount to 689,727 crowns in ready money; 24,000 crowns of titles in the public debt, according to their nominal value; and 268,176 crowns in offices, calculated at the price for which they could have been, and ordinarily were, sold by the Apostolic Chamber! The Borghesi also bought lands on a large scale. It is calculated that they purchased about eighty estates in the Roman Campagna, sold by Roman nobles who found that they could increase their revenues by putting the purchase-money of their lands in the public funds. They established themselves also in various other parts of the States of the Church; and the unscrupulous Paul, who was so scrupulous an asserter of the rights of the Church against others, did not hesitate to damage the revenues of the State, as well as his subjects, by granting to his relatives special privileges as to the holding of
markets, and the granting remission from and levying of taxes. Upon the whole, Paul V., the Borghese, was the most unscrupulous and unconscientious of the Popes since Paul III. in his nepotism; and the Borghesi became the wealthiest and most powerful family that had yet risen in Rome. The Farnesi, Paul III.'s kin, had passed beyond those limits, and become sovereign princes, to the infinite affliction and misery of the subjects they governed.
Then came the turn of the Ludovisi. Gregory XV. had only two years and five months to work in for the enrichment and establishment of his family, but he used them to this end so energetically that the Ludovisi, from being small provincial nobles at Bologna, have ever since taken their places among that higher Roman aristocracy, every family of which has a hotbed of simony, robbery, corruption, perjury, and shameless greed at its root !
The Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi was even more absolutely master of the Pope and the Government during his uncle's pontificate than the preceding cardinal nephews had been. He received, or rather took for himself, the two greatest and most lucrative offices of the Ecclesiastical Court—those of Vice-Chancellor and Camerlengo. The Church revenues monopolized by him amounted to 200,000 crowns a year! As Ranke remarks, the very apparent probability that Gregory would not live long only impelled him and his kinsmen to a more energetic and more shameless rapidity in the work of enriching their family. The Pope's. brother was made General of the Church, and received