Conclave 1549-1550

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The conclave of 1549–1550 took place from November 29, 1549 to February 7, 1550 in the Cappella Paolina in the Apostolic Palace in Rome as a result of the death of Pope Paul III. († November 10, 1549). This conclave is the second longest of the sixteenth century and with 51 cardinals elected the largest of its time. The electorate was divided into three factions: the French ( Henry II of France ), the German-Spanish ( Emperor Charles V ) and the group around Alessandro Farnese , the cardinal nepot and grandson of Paul III.

The conclave, which is known for the strong influence of the European powers, also decided with its election whether and under what conditions the Council of Trent (which was supported by Charles V and opposed by Henry II) will be convened for further conference periods and the fate of the Duchies of Parma and Piacenza (claimed by Charles V and the Farnese).

After the Conclave almost elected the Englishman Reginald Pole , the late arrival of more French cardinals again led it to a dead end. Eventually Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte was chosen as a compromise. He gave himself the papal name Julius III.

The French had hoped Julius was hostile to the emperor's interests - but tensions between the new pope and the French rose when he reconvened the Council of Trent in November 1550, which culminated in a threatened split in August 1551 the brief war for the Duchy of Parma broke out between France, which was allied with Ottavio Farnese , and a papal-imperial army. The French prelates did not attend the sessions of the Council of Trent 1551–1552 and were slow to adopt their reforms.

Eligible voters

Pope Paul III had expanded the college of cardinals to an unprecedented 54, and the duration of the conclave kept many of the foreign cardinals in Rome on time, raising the number of voters to 51. Since two of them died during the conclave and several fell ill, the number of actual participants reduced to 44 by the last ballot.

According to the count made by Cardinal Charles de Lorraine-Guise in his letter to Henry II, after the arrival of the 12 participating French cardinals, 23 cardinals were in the French faction, 22 in the imperial faction and four were neutral; Guise therefore considered it impossible that one of the factions could obtain the necessary two-thirds majority simply by persuading neutral cardinals. In addition, eleven Italian cardinals Guise included in the French faction would likely only vote for one Italian compatriot, making the choice of one of Henry II's three favorites - Louis de Bourbon-Vendôme , Jean de Lorraine and Georges d'Amboise - impracticable. The non-French cardinal protector of France, Ippolito d'Este , would then have been the choice of Henry II, while his wife Caterina de 'Medici preferred her cousin Giovanni Salviati, who, however, was not unacceptable to the imperial faction and the Farnese.

In contrast, Charles V favored Juan Álvarez y Alva de Toledo , followed by Reginald Pole, and rejected all French cardinals as well as Salviati, Niccolò Ridolfi and the two prelates responsible for the transition of the Council from Trent to Bologna (Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte and Marcello Cervini degli Spannochi ) - and the two successors of Paul III. were.

Three cardinals were absent, the French Claude de Longwy de Givry , Bishop of Poitiers , Jacques d'Annebaut , Bishop of Lisieux , and Henry of Portugal , Archbishop of Évora .


The rules of the conclave, as set out in the Ubi periculum and codified in canon law , were nominally observed, but also obviously ignored, especially with regard to the rules that forbid communication with the outside world. It is known that some unauthorized persons were present in the conclave because a small door was open ( per portulam ostio conclavis relictam ). The Portuguese Cardinal Miguel de Silva, annoyed by the presence of envoys from Charles V and Henry II, complained to Dean de Cupis that the conclave was "more open than closed" ( non concluded sed patens conclave ). On January 14th, when Louis de Bourbon arrived, there were about 400 people in the conclave, only 48 of whom were cardinals - including the brothers of some cardinals, representatives of secular rulers, and those whose sole aim was to gain access to the outside world to inform the procedure.

On November 27th, the twelve cardinals who had arrived in Rome by then joined the 29 who had died at the death of Paul III. had been in Rome. The monastery cells were raffled, whereby those who were sick did not have to draw a lot, but were assigned preferentially. The cardinals decided, on December 3rd, it was decided to continue with "secret" voting ( ut vota secreto darentur ) after swearing on December 1st that they would abide by the bull of Pope Julius II against Simon elections ( contra simoniacos ) , and to keep the bull Ubi periculum of Pope Gregory X, who founded the conclave. On January 31, a reform committee - consisting of Carafa, Bourbon, Pacheco, Waldburg, de Silva and Pole - decided thirteen new rules: to limit each cardinal to three helpers, to prevent cardinals from occupying any other cells or cells beyond the assigned cell to swap, prohibit private meetings of more than three cardinals, prohibit dining or sharing together, and lock the cardinals in their cells between 10:30 p.m. and dawn; the number of doctors and barbers was limited to three Italians and one each from France, Germany and Spain.


The first ballot took place on December 3rd, the fifth day of the conclave in the Cappella Paolina (not in the Sistine Chapel, which was divided into 19 cells for sick cardinals). Since it had taken ten days for the news of Pope Paul III. When he died at the French court, almost all the cardinals of the Holy Roman Empire were in Rome at the beginning of the conclave, but only two of the 14 French cardinals (one was Antoine du Meudon, who had been on holiday in the Farnese); since a clause of the Bologna Concordat allowed the Pope to take on French benefices if the French prelate died in Rome, Henry II exhorted his cardinals to remain in France, relying on his non-French allies (notably Ippolito II d ' Este) as his mediator with the Roman Curia. Este had done his best to delay the start of the conclave so the French cardinals could arrive, and used his influence to have the papal funeral rite (which, by law, lasted nine days) begin only nine days after Paul's death.

At the beginning of the conclave, Alessandro Farnese, the cardinal nepot (and grandson) of Paul III, and his faction of four or five cardinals (including Ranuccio Farnese and Guido Ascanio Sforza), whom Guise had included in the French faction, began to nominate the emperor's second candidate promote, Reginald Pole, since he had apparently received the assurance that Ottavio Farnese's claim to the Duchy of Parma would be supported by Charles V. On December 5, Pole received 26 votes, only two less than the required two-thirds majority, prompting French ambassador Claude d'Urfé to rush to the door to the conclave to demand that the conclave await the French cardinals who, like he claimed they were in Corsica and threatened that the election of a Pope in her absence was likely to create a split.

Whether or not Urfé's warning affected those present, from December 7th, when the French cardinals landed south of Genoa, until the end of the conclave, Pole didn't get 24 or 23 votes. On December 11th, four French cardinals - Guise, Charles de Bourbon, Odet de Coligny and Jean du Bellay - arrived and raised the required majority to 31 votes. Henry II financed Guise with a sum of 150,000 Ecu, probably for bribes. At the turn of the year, other French cardinals arrived: Georges d'Amboise and Philippe de la Chambre on December 28th; Jean de Lorraine on December 31; and (the extremely old) Louis de Bourbon on January 14th.

At the end of January, Pole had fallen to 21 votes and the French faction remained split between Carafa, de Bourbon, Lorraine and Salviati; Este's candidacy, though wanted by many in the French part of the College, had not yet been proposed, perhaps withheld in the hope that it would be more acceptable if the conclave went on. Towards the end of January, in keeping with tradition, the conveniences and rations of the Conclave were reduced and the windows on the upper floor were closed to reduce natural light and fresh air. Soon after, Ridolfi - the French candidate most acceptable to Farnese - died on January 31st on suspicion of poisoning.

A February 6 letter from Henry II urging Guise to support a neutral candidate did not reach the conclave until its conclusion. Although Del Monte was originally opposed by both the Imperial faction (for his role in the move of the Council of Trent) and the French (for his simple origins and alleged personal indiscretions), he won the support of the French because of his previous perceived hostility towards him the Empire, Farnese's support for his promise to support Ottavio Farnese's claim to Parma, and the support of some imperialists who had not been expressly excluded in Charles V's last letter. On February 7th, in the 61st ballot, Del Monte was "unanimously" Pope Julius III. elected: 41 cardinals had previously approved his candidacy.


The main sources for the negotiations and the election results of the conclave are the reports of the Venetian Enrico Dandolo, Simon Renard (imperial ambassador to France) and Diego de Mendoza (ambassador of Charles V), the correspondence between Henry II, Guise and Este, as well as the Diaries of the various conclavists. Angelo Massarelli in particular, Marcello Cervini's secretary, devotes his entire fifth diary to the conclave.

The papabili

Before and during the conclave, many Roman bankers offered bets on the papabili (cardinals who were likely to be elected). According to Dandolo, "it is more than clear that the merchants are very well informed about the state of the voting and that the cardinals' companions in the conclave are betting with them, which means that many thousands of kroner are switching hands". Cardinal del Monte (who was eventually elected) had started 1 to 5 as the favorite, followed by Salviati, Ridolfi and Pole, but Pole was 1 to 4 three days later. By December 5, Poles' odds were 95 to 100 gone up. With the arrival of four more French Cardinals on December 11th, Pole's chances fell to 2 to 5. On January 22nd, the bets that this would end in January were 9 to 10, against February: 1 to 2, against March: 1 to 5 and never: 1 to 10.


  • Ferdinando Petruccelli della Gattina , (1864). Histoire diplomatique des conclaves Volume 2. Paris: A. Lacroix, Verboeckhoven et cie. Pp. 23-64.
  • Frederic J. Baumgartner (December 19, 2003) Behind Locked Doors: A History of the Papal Elections. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Pp. 104-110. ISBN 978-0-312-29463-2 .
  • Frederic J. Baumgartner, "Henry II and the Papal Conclave of 1549". Sixteenth Century Journal. 16 (3) (1985) pp. 301-314. JSTOR 2540219.
  • Kenneth Meyer Setton, The Papacy and the Levant, 1204-1571: The 13th & 14th Centuries. American Philosophical Society, 1984. ISBN 0-87169-114-0 .