Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tales From the Slippery Slope: V. How Cardinal de la Cueva Almost Became Pope

“I was tidying up some papers the other day,” I began, when John Strype interrupted with a grumble, “As long as I’ve known you, you’ve been tidying up some papers.”
“Knock it off, John,” said Tom “He has a lot of papers, and every time he opens a box one of the papers reminds him of something. It’s a well-known failing of badly ordered-minds.”
I laughed politely. I had gone to Alicubi after mass this Sunday to enjoy the spring weather and join my friends John, Tom Chillingworth, and Fr – now the Rev'd Canon - Sidney Smith Hawker, to celebrate Hawker’s new appointment. We were having a pint or so at the Slope before a barbecue at Tom’s. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon at The Slippery Slope. The doors were open and we sat on the deck watching the river flow gently by.
“As I was saying, while going through some papers, I came across a story you might like. This one is history – not like those old jokes that we’ve been enjoying. It’s one of the funnier things that’s happened at a papal conclave. Are you sitting comfortably? Good, then I'll begin."

In the old days when the cardinals went into the conclave, each was allowed to bring an attendant, or two if they were sick. Later the number was increased, but in the twentieth century no more were allowed. That was at about the same time that food was no longer delivered for each cardinal. One conclavist These servants, called Conclavists, could get involved in schemes and intrigues. In the conclave of 1559 one of these schemes almost made a particular cardinal pope. The cardinal in question was Bartolomé de la Cueva y Toledo de Alburquerque of Spain, a son of the second duke and duchess of Alburquerque.

“Albuquerque?” asked Tom.
“More or less,” said Canon Hawker, “Albuquerque, New Mexico, was named for the 8th duke of Alburquerque, who was Viceroy of New Spain from 1653 to 1660. It is said that the now American city lost the ‘r’ sometime in the 19th century because the postmaster couldn’t pronounce it! Speaking of New Mexico, can anyone tell me an historic link between Santa Fe and Toronto?”
I knew, but kept quiet. Hawker went on contentedly, “In 1807 when he was on his southwestern expedition, Pike was captured by the Spanish authorities and brought to Santa Fe on the way to Chihuahua. He was apparently the first American explorer to reach Santa Fe. In 1813, Pike was with the American forces that took York, now Toronto; he was killed by a chunk of rock when the powder magazine at Fort York was blown up on April 27.”
“Thank you, Canon,” I said, as the other two expressed their appreciation for this bit of knowledge.
“Now, if you’re all sitting comfortably, and your mugs are full ….” I realized my mistake too late.
Ten minutes later, when everyone had a fresh pint, and Keith had joined us for the story, I continued.

You can look up Cardinal de la Cueva’s career on Salvador Miranda’s meticulous web site The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church,[1] if you like, so I don’t need to go into detail. I’ll just say that he was ordained in Spain (after studying law and having an illegitimate son), and in 1529 went to Italy with Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor-elect, who was crowned at Bologna the following year by Clement VII (the last time an emperor was crowned by the pope). I have no information on what he did next, but he was made cardinal priest by Paul III on 9 December 1544. He is said to have been a a friend of St Ignatius Loyola. De la Cueva was ordained bishop in 1549. As Cardinal, he took part in the elections of Julius III (1549), Marcellus II (1555), Paul IV (later in 1555), Pius IV (1559). From 1558 to 1559 he was also lieutenant-general of Naples for the emperor. In September 1560 he was named Archbishop of Manfredonia, in Puglia.[2].

I noticed Hawker trying to catch my eye, so I quickly added that Manfredonia, originally called Siponto, was rebuilt sometime around 1260 and named by King Manfred of Sicily, the natural son of Frederick II.

De la Cueva died on June 29, 1562. In The Triple Crown: An Account of the Papal Conclaves Valérie Pirie says that he was a congenial fellow, and witty in his conversation, and popular among the younger cardinals. But Pirie doesn’t say where he got that. [3] Anyway, if it had not been for accident or providence, de la Cueva might have became pope in the conclave of 1559.
Pope Paul IV died on August 18th 1559. The rule that the nine days of papal mourning should be followed at once by the beginning of the conclave on the tenth day were, as Pastor puts it, “not exactly observed” It was not until September 6th that the conclave began;; it would be take four months before a pope was chosen. At the pope’s death the college had fifty-six member: four died before the conclave began, six others were absent from Rome, leaving forty six. One died during the conclave and two left on the advice of their physicians before the final ballot.
The election was a difficult one, fraught with numerous problems, both personal and political. Each of the factions was strong enough to exclude a candidate, but none strong enough to gather the necessary two-thirds majority for a candidate. As well, the seventeen Spanish cardinals were waiting to hear some indication of the wishes of Philip II. The result of all this was that the first rounds of voting were just skirmishes, with no expectation of an election. In the first scrutiny, on Saturday, 9 September, twenty-eight candidates received votes, the highest number being fifteen for Cardinal Pacecco; our friend de la Cueva was one of five who received three votes each. Since one of these five was Giovanni de Medici (not one of those Medici), the cardinal who was finally elected, it would fair to say that any of the cardinals might have held a hope of winning the tiara at this stage. (Is it just an accident that papal elections used to, and horse racing does, aim at a triple crown?)
The next day de la Cueva’s conclavist, a Spanish knight named Ferdinand de Torres, did a little campaigning. Going around quietly he asked each cardinal to consider voting for de la Cueva in the morning’s ballot. Not that he expected his master to win, he assured them, but because it would give him such joy to receive a vote. Just the same, they might bear in mind de la Cueva’s many outstanding qualities, and consider giving him a little joy with that one vote, the voto di onore. Moreover, since de la Cueva had no hope of winning, and he was quite ignorant of this little scheme, de Torres asked that the request be kept a secret. Flattered, and unaware that de Torres had asked anyone else, each cardinal gave his promise. What would one vote matter, after all? Eventually de Torres gathered thirty-three promises, more than the two-thirds required for election: the papacy would have been settled in the morning except for an accident, or as Pallavicino said, except for the divine providence, which did not mean for popes to be made by accident.
Looking at some plans of the old conclaves, it is hard to imagine how anyone could manage to plot. The cardinals were housed for the duration in small wooden cells, which were crammed into the chapels and hallways. It was apparently believed that discomfort would make for speedy elections. How could one be secret? It is said that cardinals often attended to their plotting near the latrines, which were apparently bad even for the sixteenth century. My sources give no details of de Torres' campaign, and I have refrained from trying to imagine it.
In the morning the cardinals filed into the Pauline Chapel for the scrutiny. (In those days the cardinals’ cells were erected in the Sistine Chapel, where today the voting is held.) When it was almost time to place their ballots in the chalice, there was a delay while the votes of those too ill to attend were collected and the cardinal dean, was expected. Amid some idle chatter, one cardinal said to his neighbour, "You'll never guess for whom I filled in my ballot this morning!" After a little talk, the name was revealed, and it turned out that the neighbour had made the same choice. This got the cardinals whispering, and realized what de Torres had done. The result was that La Cueva lost most of his support and received only seventeen votes. He maintained that level of votes in most of the next 66 or so scrutinies, which suggests that he had some real support. Still, he was not elected, and since he died while Pius IV was still pope, and never had another chance.

When I was finished de la Cueva's story, we went over to Tom’s for barbecued lamb and some respectable Shiraz and enjoyed the lovely Spring evening in Alicubi.


This account is mainly taken from Cardinal Sforza Pallavicini's History of the Council of Trent (French translation, Migne, 1844), co, 833, with reference to Antonio Guido’s account of the conclave publsihed in Sebastian Merkle's collection Concilii Tridenti Diariorum (Freiburg: Herder, 1963), pp 612-613, and volume 15 of Pastors History of the Popes, p. 17. For the numbers of votes, see Pastor, 382f. De la Cueva was born in 1499.
[1] http://www.fiu.edu/~mirandas/bios1544.htm (ed.)
[2] http://maps.google.ca/maps?hl=en&tab=wl (ed.)
[3] This book is online at http://www.pickle-publishing.com/papers//triple-crown-contents.htm. It has a bibliography, but no proper references.
[4] Ludwig Pastor says that it was Count Francis von Thurm, who was the Imperial Ambassador. Von Thurm and de Torres seem to have been the same person. However, neither Guido nor Pallavicino describe him as an ambassador.

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