1635: THE CANNON LAW — snippet 78

 

1635: THE CANNON LAW – snippet 78:

 

 

            Barberini frowned. "The situation in Naples? It has worsened?" He had heard some few small things about the worsening politics south of the border with the King of Spain's Italian possessions, the part of Italy that Spain did not rule through local proxies. It had, of course, been news touching most directly on Barberini's own principal concerns, those of the arts, music and, recently, natural philosophy, but he had heard enough to know that matters were growing … restive there. Not that there weren't always at least some agitators; Campanello for one had been more-or-less constantly in jail for one sedition or another prior to his recent refuge in Paris.

 

            "Your Eminence may recall that we discussed the reason for Spain's movement of troops to Naples some weeks ago," Vitelleschi said, the reproof in his tone being no more than mild. "It now appears to have been a measure with no small degree of foresight regarding the situation in Naples, not simply pre-positioning for a movement toward France."

 

            "So Borja will be refused any men he asks for?" Barberini asked. While Vitelleschi had not reported what despatch that rider from Borja's estate had carried—doubtless even the Society of Jesus had limits to the information they could obtain—that Borja had reacted to Rome's troubles by asking for troops to  "help quell the disorder" seemed obvious. The man had a hair-trigger temper and would not have given thought to the simple fact that a message would take at least two days to get to Naples and even troops stationed on the border would take weeks to move back. Bad as the rioting had been, only the incurably pessimistic would think that it would not have burned itself out before any  “help” could arrive. It was, Barberini thought, another example of Borja acting before thinking, a habit of his that had caused Madrid to have to issue hasty apologies for his conduct during his last sojourn in Rome.

 

            "I consider that likely, Your Eminence," Vitelleschi said.

 

            "Unless the plans for this were laid ahead of time?" His Holiness suggested. "Borja knows that he ought properly to await a request before providing troops. Perhaps he knows that troops are already available, should he find some suitable pretext for summoning them?"

 

            Barberini swallowed, hard. It was not unprecedented that kings should attempt to rewrite papal policy by simply strong-arming the reigning Pope. He himself had spent time as legate at Avignon, a papal seat that existed principally because the King of France had compelled the Pope to reside where he could be controlled. After bringing one pope to heel by force of arms, the kings of France found that the Frenchmen subsequently elected as popes were happy to reside at Avignon where, for decades, the Papacy danced to the tune played by a piper paid in French money.

 

            "Your Holiness is, perhaps, too cautious?" Vitelleschi ventured. "I would suggest that Borja's strategem remains primarily political. Such is the Society's understanding of his instructions from Madrid, and a military action would mean that the movement of every Cardinal friendly to the Spanish party into Rome were no more than a diversion."

 

            "Borja has gone beyond his brief before," Barberini interjected, "if the Father-General and Your Holiness will forgive the interruption. And he did stop in Naples before coming here."

 

            The silence that followed that was long, deep, and embarrassing.

 

            "Antonio," His Holiness said, "even Spain would balk at setting the precedent of impeaching a Pope. They would certainly stop at ordering me openly killed to make way for a more compliant Pope. And too many of Europe's Catholics already regard their consciences unbound by the See of Rome's political leadership for a new Captivity to be worth their while."

 

            Vitelleschi nodded. "Perhaps a further embarrassment for Your Holiness is in view?"

 

            His Holiness raised an eyebrow. "That I cannot control the city? Perhaps. How do we stand with arrangements to bring our party to Rome?"

 

            "In hand, Your Holiness. You may depend on having every vote we can count on, enough at least for a bare majority, in Rome within two weeks of your order to begin, at the latest. You will force your opponents to ensure they have every cardinal present for every session within eight days."

 

            Barberini could not resist the obvious question. "Why not bring them all in now? The Spaniards are."

 

            "Better, Antonio, that they should try and fail than that they should be discouraged. I wish them to be seen to fail of their purpose." His Holiness had a smile that was not even faintly humorous. "I wish to make it plain what happens when overweening cardinals seek to frustrate the workings of Holy Mother Church. So we must await their first move before reacting swiftly."

 

            Barberini frowned. It was all very well leading a debating opponent into a false position in order to expose his error, in the best Socratic tradition. But—

 

            "Your Holiness, the risk—?" He saw no need to be articulate about what might happen. Even the most optimistic need spend only a single quiet afternoon with the histories of the Church to gain an inkling of that. After a night spent listening to Rome erupt in a criminal carnevale, Barberini was in no mood to be even slightly optimistic. Imagining grew more doleful by the hour.

 

            "Is justified." It was Vitelleschi who had spoken, curt as usual. "If Borja intends misfeasance in the curia, a few days' delay in assembling the cardinals to defeat him will matter nothing. If he has truly taken leave of reason, and has engineered this strife in order to seek a new Captivity or even depose Your Holiness, the presence of the cardinals will make scant difference."

 

            Barberini nodded. That made sense, at least. And then he caught up with parsing what Vitelleschi had said. "Trouble which Borja has engineered? How?"

 

            "Quevedo." Vitelleschi said the name like it was sufficient explanation all by itself, and in a way it was. The Spanish soldier-poet was that most paradoxical of creatures, a notorious secret agent. There was little that Spain had done in the Italian peninsula for years past that had not had his name floating to the top like scum in a pond.

 

            Oh, for certain the man's writing was excellent, he was truly an ornament of Spanish letters. But he had taken his several years' exile from Spain as license to stir Italy's constantly-simmering stockpot of trouble whenever it took his fancy. A good many of Italy's politicians had heaved a sigh of relief when, only a few years previously, the man had returned to Spain. Barberini had mentioned the man to Mazarini, very much the coming man in European diplomacy and every inch the peacemaker and conciliator. Mazarini had, in the few moments that followed, taught Barberini more obscenities in four different languages than he had learned in his entire life up to that point.

 

            And yet that tirade of obscenity and vulgar abuse had been tinged with no small measure of respect. Fiascos like Osuna's plot against Venice apart, Quevedo did have a habit of delivering the goods, even if ordering them was usually something of a devil's bargain. They had known he was in the city, of course, but Barberini had assumed that he had been about the business of suborning senior clergymen. Guiltily he realized that he had not troubled to set his own people to tracking the Spanish troublemaker, but clearly the Father-General had not been so remiss.

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