1902 Encyclopedia > Guido Alberoni

Guido Alberoni
Italian cardinal and statesman
(1664-1752)




GIUDO ALBERONI, cardinal and statesman, was born near Piacenza, probably at the village of Eiorenzuola, on the 31st May 1664. His father was a gardener, and he himself became first connected with the church in the humble position of verger in the cathedral of Piacenza. Having gained the favour of Bishop Barni, he took priest's orders, and afterwards accompanied the son of his patron to Borne. During the war of the Spanish succession Alberoni laid the foundation of his political success by the services he rendered to the duke of Vendome, commander of the French forces in Italy; and when these forces were recalled in 1706, he accompanied the duke to Paris, where he was favourably received by Louis XIV. In 1711 he followed Venddme into Spain as his secretary. Two years later, the duke having died in the interval, Alberoni was appointed consular agent for Parma at the court of Philip V. of Spain, being raised at the same time to the dignity of count. On his arrival at Madrid he found the Princess des Ursins all but omnipotent with the king, and for a time he judged it expedient to use her influence in carrying out his plans. In concert with her he arranged the king's marriage with Elizabeth Farnese of Parma, whom he represented to be of such a facile disposition that the princess's power over Philip would be in no degree impaired by the union. Alberoni was already in Parma to conclude the negotiation ere the Princess des Ursins discovered that he had entirely deceived her as to the character of Elizabeth. A messenger was at once despatched to prevent, if possible, the ratification of the engagement; but he arrived too late. On reaching Spain Elizabeth's first act, prompted doubtless by Alberoni, was to demand the instant dismissal of the outwitted favourite, who was compelled to leave the Spanish dominions. The influence of the new queen being actively exerted on Alberoni's behalf, he speedily rose to high position. He was made a member of the king's council, bishop of Malaga, and in 1715 prime minister, and was raised to the dignity of cardinal in 1717. His internal policy was exceedingly vigorous, and, though carried out altogether regardless of popular rights and liberties, might have restored the lost greatness of Spain had it not been for his unscrupulous and audacious conduct of foreign affairs. The key to his daring and crafty schemes is probably to be found in the desire of Elizabeth to secure a throne for her son Don Carlos, born in 1716. Seizing the flimsiest pretext for making war upon Austria, he invaded the island of Sar-dinia, then Austrian territory, and took possession of Sicily. In France he pressed the claims of Philip V. to the regency in opposition to the Duke of Orleans ; he sought to keep England employed at home by encouraging the Pretender, and he pursued a similar policy towards Austria in connection with Bagotski of Transylvania and the Sultan. An alliance which he formed with Bussia and Sweden led to no practical results, and his other schemes similarly failed. England, France, Austria, and Holland united themselves in what is known as the Quadruple Alliance against the aggressions of Spain; and though their first proposals were rejected fearlessly by Alberoni, they were strong enough to succeed when, in a second negotiation, they re-quired of Philip the dismissal of his minister as an indispen-sable condition of peace. On the 5th December 1719 he was ordered to leave Spain, Elizabeth herself having taken an active part in procuring the decree of banishment. He went to Italy, and there had to take refuge among the Apennines, Pope Clement, who was his bitter enemy, having given strict orders for his arrest. On the death of Clement, Alberoni boldly appeared at the Conclave, and took part in the election of Innocent XIII. (1721), after which he was for a short time imprisoned by the pontiff on the demand of Spain. At the next election he was himself proposed for the papal chair, and secured ten votes at the Conclave which elected Benedict XIII. Benedict's successor, Clement XII., named him legate of Bavenna, in which capacity he incurred the pope's dis-pleasure by the strong and unwarrantable measures he adopted to reduce the little republic of San Marino to subjection to Borne. He was consequently replaced by another legate in 1740, and soon after he retired to Pia-cenza, where he founded a college which still bears his name. He died on the 16th June 1752, leaving a sum of 600,000 ducats to endow the seminary he had founded, and the residue of the immense wealth he had acquired in Spain to his nephew. Alberoni left a large quantity of manuscripts; but the genuineness of the Political Testa-ment, published in his name at Lausanne in 1753, has been questioned.








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