A crown-cardinal (Italian: cardinale della corona) was a cardinal protector of a Roman Catholic nation, nominated or funded by a Catholic monarch to serve as their representative within the College of Cardinals and, on occasion, to exercise the right claimed by some monarchs to veto a candidate for election to the papacy. More generally, the term may refer to any cardinal significant as a secular statesman or elevated at the request of a monarch.
Francis Burkle-Young defines a crown cardinal as one "elevated to the cardinalate solely on the recommendation of the European kings and in many cases without having performed any service at all for the advancement of the Church."
According to conclave historian Frederic Baumgartner, the crown-cardinals "rarely came to Rome except for the conclaves, if then, and they were largely unknown to the majority of the College. Usually unable to take part in the pratiche, they were not papabili and rarely received more than one or two votes". Crown-cardinals generally opposed the election of crown-cardinals from other kingdoms, although they tended to unite against the election of cardinal-nephews.
Opposition to national cardinal protectors arose in the fifteenth century due to the perceived conflict of interest, and Pope Martin V attempted to forbid them entirely in 1425. A reform of Pope Pius II dated 1464 regards national cardinal protectors as generally inconsistent with curial responsibility, with several exceptions. Such protectorships were first openly permitted by popes Innocent VIII and Alexander VI, both of whom required the explicit written consent of the pontiff for a cardinal to take up a "position of service to a secular prince". An unnamed cardinal even suggested elevating national cardinal protectors to a full and official position in the Roman Curia, equivalent to an ambassador.
The institution of a cardinal protector of a nation-state may have originated in the 14th century, serving as a predecessor for the diplomatic institutions of the Holy See developed in the 16th century. The institution of the crown-cardinal first became a dominant one within the College of Cardinals with the consistory of Pope Eugene IV on December 18, 1439 (on the heels of the election of Antipope Felix V by the Council of Basel), which nominated an unprecedented number of cardinals with strong ties to European monarchs and other political institutions.
|Charles VII of France||Renaud de Chartres||Chancellor of France|
|Charles VII of France||Guillaume d'Estouteville||Royal cousin, constructor of Mont Saint-Michel|
|Henry VI of England||Louis de Luxembourg de Beaurevoir||Chancellor for France|
|Henry VI of England||John Kemp||former chancellor of England and archbishop of York|
|Afonso V of Portugal||António Martins de Chaves||Bishop of Porto|
|Kingdom of Hungary (interregnum)||Dénes Szécsi||Primate-designate of Hungary|
|W?adys?aw III of Poland||Zbigniew Ole?nicki||Archbishop of Kraków|
|Holy Roman Empire (interregnum)||Petrus de Schaumburg||Imperial Counsellor|
|René I of Naples||Niccolo d'Acciapaccio||Archbishop of Capua|
|Milan||Gerardo Landriani Capitani||Bishop of Como|
|Genoa||Giorgio Fieschi di Lavagna||Archbishop of Genoa|
|Philip the Good||Jean Le Jeune||Ambassador to the Council of Ferrara-Florence|
The first explicit reference to protectorship pertaining to a nation-state dates to 1425 (the Catholic Encyclopedia says 1424) when Pope Martin V forbade cardinals to "assume the protection of any king, prince or commune ruled by a tyrant or any other secular person whatsoever." This prohibition was renewed in 1492 by Pope Alexander VI. This prohibition was not renewed by Pope Leo X in the ninth session of the Lateran Council of 1512.
Some crown-cardinals were cardinal-nephews or members of powerful families; others were selected solely on the recommendation of European monarchs, in many cases with little previous ecclesiastical experience. During the reigns of Avignon Pope Clement VI and Pope Urban VI in particular, it was acknowledged that monarchs could select retainers and expect them to be elevated to the College of Cardinals. The going rate for the creation of a crown-cardinal was about 2,832 scudi.
World War I cemented the decline of the institution of the crown cardinal, as many monarchies either became extinct or declined in power.
In the case of Spain, France, and Austria, from the 16th to 20th centuries, crown-cardinals had the prerogative to exercise the jus exclusivae, that is, to veto a candidate for the papacy deemed "unacceptable" by their patron. Crown-cardinals usually arrived with a list of such candidates but often had to confer with their patrons during conclaves via messengers and attempt, with varying degrees of success, to delay the conclave from proceeding until they received a response. For example, Pope Innocent X (elected 1644) and Pope Innocent XIII (elected 1721) survived late-arriving veto instructions from France and Spain respectively. Austrian crown-cardinal Carlo Gaetano Gaisruck reached the papal conclave of 1846 too late to exercise the veto against Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, who had already been elected and taken the name Pius IX).
The following includes a complete list of crown cardinal-protectors in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries:
Vice-protectors and co-protectors
The King of France historically had only one cardinal protector at a time, chosen by a complicated process that involved the King, the secretary of state for foreign affairs, the French ambassador to Rome, and other French power brokers, but not the Pope. The crown-cardinal of France was also abbot commendatario of several French abbeys.
There was traditionally at least one resident French cardinal in the Roman Curia during the first half of the sixteenth century, but Louis XII and Francis I chose three successive Italian cardinals as protector of France thereafter.
Vice-protectors and co-protectors
Protectors of the Duchy of Savoy
Protectors of the Kingdom of Sardinia
The King of Spain could have as many as five or six cardinal protectors (Spanish: Protector de España) simultaneously, although traditionally the protector of Castile was the most frequently turned to.