ERCOLE CONSALVI (1757-1824), Italian cardinal and statesman, was born at Rome on the 8th of June 1757.
Here Consalvi soon became one of the cardinal's favourite proteges.
In 1798, when the French occupied Rome, Consalvi was imprisoned in the castle of St Angelo, together with other papal officials, in retaliation for the murder of General Duphot; a proposal to whip him through the streets was defeated by the French general in command, but, after three months' confinement, he was deported with a crowd of galley slaves to Naples, and his property was confiscated as that of "an enemy of the Roman republic."
As secretary to the conclave which assembled in the monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore at Venice, Consalvi had the difficult task of corresponding with the various governments and organizing the assembly at a time when the Revolution had confused all issues and reduced the individual cardinals to beggary.
On the 3rd of June the new pope re-entered Rome; on the 11th of August Consalvi was appointed cardinal-deacon and secretary of state, or prime minister.
The appointment was an admirable one; for Consalvi possessed just the qualities necessary to supplement those of Pius.
Pius, who had openly expressed sympathy with the new liberties of France, was accused of "Jacobinism"; Consalvi, brought up in the legitimist atmosphere of the entourage of Cardinal York, was a convinced supporter of the divine right of kings generally and of Louis XVIII.
But, though opposed to the principles of the Revolution, Consalvi was far from being a blind obscurantist, and he recognized the urgent need for reform in the system of papal government.
In the long debates between Rome and France about the Concordat Consalvi took the leading part.
During the pope's absence in Paris, at the coronation of Napoleon, Consalvi remained as virtual sovereign in Rome; and his regency was rendered remarkable by a great inundation, caused by the overflow of the Tiber, during which he exposed himself with heroic humanity for the preservation of the sufferers.
The emperor was irritated; and his ambassador, Cardinal Fesch, kept up the irritation by perpetual complaints directed more especially against Consalvi himself.
"Tell Consalvi," wrote the conqueror, still flushed with Austerlitz, "that if he loves his country he must either resign or do what I demand."
Consalvi did accordingly resign on the 17th of June 1807, and when in 1808 General Miollis entered Rome, and the temporal power of the pope was formally abolished, he broke off all relations with the French, though several of them were his intimate friends.
On his release Consalvi hastened to his master's assistance; and he was soon after allowed to resume his functions under the restored pontificate at Rome.
In 1814 Consalvi went, as the pope's representative, to England to meet and confer with the allied sovereigns, and later in the year was sent as papal plenipotentiary to the congress of Vienna.
(August 2 1, 1823), Consalvi retired to his villa of Porto d'Anzio; and, though he accepted from the new pope the honorary office of prefect of the college De Propaganda Fide, his political career was closed.
Consalvi, besides being a statesman, was a man of wide and varied interests.
Other collections of documents are: - C. von Duerm, Correspondance du Cardinal Consalvi avec le Prince C. de Metternich, 1815 (Louvain and Brussels, 1899) S.
Rinieri, Correspondenza inedita dei Cardinali Consalvi e Pacca, 1814-1815 (Turin, 5903).
Bartholdy, Ziige aus dem Leben des Cardinal Hercule Consalvi (Stuttgart, 1824); Cardinal Wiseman, Recollections of the Last Four Popes (London, 1858); CretineauJoly, L'Eglise romaine en face de la Revolution (1859); Ernest Daudet, Le Cardinal Consalvi (Paris, 1866); E.
Fischer, Cardinal Consalvi (Mainz, 1899); Dr Fredrik Nielsen, bishop of Aarhus, Hist.
And his minister Cardinal Consalvi oppression had not been very severe, and Metternichs proposal to establish a central inquisitorial tribunal for political offences throughout Italy had been rejected by the papal government.
His foreign policy, entrusted at first to Della Somaglia and then to the more able Bernetti, moved in general along lines laid down by Consalvi; and he negotiated certain concordats very advantageous to the papacy.
His successor Pius VII., elected at Venice on the 14th of the following March, soon entered Rome and began his reign auspiciously by appointing as secretary of state Ercole Consalvi, the greatest papal diplomatist of the 19th century.
The foreign policy of the papacy so long as conducted by Consalvi, or in his spirit, was supremely successful.
Throughout Europe the governing classes regarded this " union of throne and altar " as axiomatic. For the pope, as eldest legitimate sovereign and protagonist against the Revolution, Consalvi obtained from the Congress of Vienna the restitution of the States of the Church in practically their full extent.