1636 The Vatican Sanctions – Snippet 23

Chapter 12

Larry Mazzare managed not to flinch at the directness of Bedmar’s question. He saw Urban’s smile become melancholy. “It is a fair question,” the pope mused, “but these days, I find that I dwell more upon the faces we shall never see again, rather than the ones who shall join us here.”

“Perhaps,” his nephew Antonio suggested, “I should begin with those we have lost? To put that unpleasantness out of the way first?”

Urban nodded, eyes downcast. Bedmar frowned; his associates shifted their feet. If Larry read Achille’s expression correctly, he was less than pleased with the cardinal-protector’s brusqueness, seeing how it had affected the pope.

Antonio’s voice lowered. “We know that Borja attempted to assassinate twenty-one members of the consistory, most of whom were located in the Lazio. About eight weeks ago, we finally confirmed that he succeeded in killing sixteen.”

Bedmar waited for a moment, then prompted quietly. “Who?”

Vitelleschi’s voice was rough with what sounded like a witch’s brew of quiet fury, bitterness, and raw grief. “Santacroce, Carpegna, Crescenzi, Savelli, Roma — even though he was Milanese — Scaglia, Biscia, Oreggi, and Rocci. The blackguards found Cesarini visiting his soon-to-be diocesan neighbor Muti in Viterbo, where they presented themselves as papal messengers. They cut their hosts’ throats after being allowed to join them for a glass of wine on the veranda.” Vitelleschi seemed about to resume the list, then faltered, looked down.

Achille waited, frowned. “That’s only eleven,” he murmured cautiously.

Vitelleschi looked away.

Urban raised his head. “The superior general understandably elects not to name the last five, out of consideration for Antonio and me. You see, they were family. Lorenzo Magalotti, my secretary, was also my brother-in-law. Girolamo Colonna, who I understand died after hours on an impaler’s stake, was Antonio’s brother-in-law. And my brother Antonio, for whom my nephew was named, also fell that day, along with my nephew’s brother Francesco. Borja was so very thorough that he even hunted down a more distant nephew of mine, Francesco Boncompagni, and killed him like a feral dog in the street. So you see,” finished the pope with wet eyes, “these are the wages of nepotism: that in raising all my loved ones up, I only ensured that they would be struck down. Instead of myself.”

Larry had a sudden impulse to push forward, to offer an arm to keep Urban upright; it seemed impossible that a man who sounded so hollow and wretched could remain standing on his own. But the pope who had been born Maffeo Barberini, one of a long line of forceful aristocrats, straightened. “Four escaped, besides my nephew and myself. Gessi was lucky; he was traveling and heard the news before they could catch him. Brancaccio was canny: he had packed by the time Borja was sending out his assassins and was long gone from his villa by the time they arrived. Marzio Ginnetti was returning from his legational duties in Austria, and would not have left the Alps alive were it not for the intervention of the ambassadora’s countrymen, including her own father, at Chiavenna. And it is now common knowledge that were it not for the most resourceful Ruy Sanchez de Casador y Ortiz and still more up-timers, I would have been buried beneath Hadrian’s Tomb as it came crashing down.”

Ruy bowed, eyes half lidded. “His Holiness does not lie, but he wildly exaggerates my humble assistance that night.”

Urban smiled. “Yes. Of course I do. That is why I made you my chief of security: to give substance to my groundless opinions of your ability.”

“And what of those cardinals who were further removed?” Achille often sounded more like a general than a cardinal, and he certainly did so now. “How many have come? How loyal can we expect them to be?”

Antonio rubbed a finger at his eyes. “Well, any who have come as cardinals have put their titles and fortunes at stake. Many, particularly those from Italy, cannot safely return to their dioceses, and the rest must be wary. So their loyalty is assured by vested self-interest. Of course, not all of them sped to join us. Some came later.”

“Measuring their options?”

“In some cases. But for others, it was a matter of difficult travel and confused news of just what transpired in Rome.”

Giancarlo stroked his beard. “And in the case of some, they could not move until they were certain they were unwatched. Such was the case with my uncle, Carlo.”

“As well as Ubaldi, Lante, and di Bagno,” Vitelleschi added. “And even though Franciotti is still in pectore tacite, he had to exercise the same care. The pope’s high regard for him was well known, and his status as in pectore was obviously suspected. Those who were at greater distance from Rome journeyed more readily. Pázmány of Hungary came quickly enough, as did almost all of the French: de la Valette, La Rochefoucald, Le Clerc, and Richelieu’s older brother, Alphonse-Louis.”

Bedmar frowned. “And Mazarin and Richelieu himself?”

Larry folded his arms, inserting each hand in the opposite sleeve. “They will not be present for the colloquium, but have signaled their intent to attend the Council that follows.” Noting the raised eyebrows in Bedmar’s group, he added, “You may have heard that political matters in France are…at a delicate point, just now. If they do not attend personally, they have arranged for radio updates and already have proxies in place.” He smiled. “They have made their support of the pope manifestly clear.”

“Well,” temporized Urban, “that may be too strong a statement. But they have certainly signaled their opinion of Borja.”

Achille nodded slowly but the expression on his face was that of a concerned bulldog. “Your Holiness, I would know the names of those that were not as swift in flocking to your standard. So that I may better protect you.”

Urban smiled again. “Truly, my good de Valençay, you must practice thinking like a cardinal. Before this day is out, it will be announced that you have been in pectore, and so, being published, you will be a cardinal in fact.”

“May it please the Holy Father, I have been a soldier my whole life, and while I love the cross, I will yet trust the sword as the best service I may offer you.”

“Very well, my son. And I will share the names of those who came or replied later, but you must bear this in mind: in only a few cases might it indicate a reluctance to commit to me. The distances were great and communication frequently difficult; any delay is more likely to be attributable to those causes.”

“I shall listen with the ear of charity that the Holy Father commands.”

“Very well. So: Aldobrandini, Bichi, Sachetti, and Spada came later, as did Caetani, who narrowly escaped the destruction of St. Angelo. His tale of flight and arrival here would be worthy of an epic poem.”

Antonio looked up. “To be honest, several of those who came later have little love for my uncle but detest what Borja has done and become. Cornaro and Durazzo are both sons of Venetian doges, so it is not surprising that they were in no great haste to support any pope. Similarly, von Harrach of Bohemia may be an old friend of some of the Spanish cardinals and the Borghese, but he has denounced Borja as a monster. The same is true of von Dietrichstein of Austria.”

“It was the same with Luigi Capponi,” Larry added. “A friend of Tuscany, he’s borne a grudge against the Barberinis ever since the Duchy of Urbino defaulted into papal control. But he cannot accept Borja’s actions. Besides, he’s friendly with Father Luke Wadding, another of the new cardinals. They share bibliophilic interests, and Wadding’s support for His Holiness apparently decided him.”

Bedmar was nodding, eyes narrowed. Larry had watched him through the recitation of the attending cardinals and could imagine him putting mental checkmarks next to the names on the roster of the consistory. “Evidently some of our brothers remain undecided.”

Vitelleschi nodded crisply. “Ginnasi is no longer in Rome: I can hardly blame him for going back to visit, or shelter, with his family in Bologna. He’s eighty-six, after all. Pio is epileptic, so travel is always difficult for him. At this point, he may consider his affliction a godsend. Monit is a Milanese, and so should be in Borja’s camp, but I suspect he disapproves. I also suspect he would not survive travel beyond his borders without openly declaring for the would-be usurper in Rome.”

Giancarlo almost sounded amused. “And how many of us are scheduled to make the transition from cardinals in pectore to actual, this day?”

“No small number,” Mazzare answered. “In addition to Father Wadding, and of course you and the lords de Valençay, there were a number of new in pectore notifications which had to be handled carefully since they were located in areas that Borja could reach quite easily. The cases of Filomarino and Giustiniani were particularly delicate, since their bishoprics were in Naples — and having come here, they can’t return. It was easier to extract Sforza from Tuscany, and Grimaldi-Cavalleroni from Perugia, but their absences have already been noticed.