patronize those in White Russia without reference to Rome. Under the circumstances, Clement XIII and Pius VI had no choice but to rely on the good offices of Maria Theresa to support the independence of the Uniates.
A vacancy in St Peter's chair always precipitated a furious level of diplomatic activity as the Catholic powers lobbied to secure their candidate's election, a sign that having the right man in the post could facilitate policy-making appreciably and confer a slight advantage in international relations that was worth a good deal. Failure to obtain the right result could have long-term consequences. Thus Alexander VII (1655-67) could not develop a close working relationship with Mazarin, who had initially worked against his election. It was therefore vital for every Catholic ruler to have cardinals nominated on whose loyalties he could draw at election time. The explicit claims of France and Spain to name 'crown' cardinals had been rejected in 1667, and Benedict XIII met French plans to limit his freedom in creating cardinals by threatening to resign the papacy and retire to his other see of Benevento.
Despite the opportunities it presented, the papal office was a heavy burden, even for the outstandingly able Benedict XIV. Like other supreme pontiffs, Benedict relied heavily on the professional assistance of his secretary of state and those other officers (usually cardinals) holding the post of nuncio in the various Catholic capitals of Europe. The long eighteenth century witnessed the rapid maturation of papal administration. In the half century from Westphalia to the accession of Clement XI in 1700, the traditional role of the cardinal nephew became marginal as part of a steady drive against nepotism. Thus, in 1692 Innocent XII decreed in Romanum decet pontificem that popes could nominate only one kinsman to the cardinalate. There was a corresponding growth in significance of the secretary of state's office. Postings for lengthy periods to a nunciature became normative for senior members of the Curia, and the reports they filed rank as some of the most professional and insightful of their age. Some were outstandingly talented, such as Cardinal Garampi, nuncio to Poland in the aftermath of the first partition, who disarmingly made himself'the pivot of an international network which set about refuting the policies favouring national churches and their legal rights'.4 Considerable prestige came to be attached to this office, with rulers of the revived and elected monarchies of Portugal and Poland insistent that nuncios to their courts be created cardinals so as to place them on a basis of equality with larger states. It was a sure sign of diplomatic pressures when a nuncio was either expelled or had his office reduced to an ordinary embassy, as occurred in Florence in the 1780s.
Was this article helpful?