A crown-cardinal (Italian: cardinale della corona)[1] 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[2][3] and, on occasion, to exercise the right claimed by some monarchs to veto a candidate for election to the papacy.[4] More generally, the term may refer to any cardinal significant as a secular statesman or elevated at the request of a monarch.

D. Henrique I of Portugal was both a cardinal and King of Portugal.
Cardinal Thomas Wolsey

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."[5]

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".[6] Crown-cardinals generally opposed the election of crown-cardinals from other kingdoms, although they tended to unite against the election of cardinal-nephews.[6]

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.[7] A reform of Pope Pius II dated 1464 regards national cardinal protectors as generally inconsistent with curial responsibility, with several exceptions.[7] 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".[8] An unnamed cardinal even suggested elevating national cardinal protectors to a full and official position in the Roman Curia, equivalent to an ambassador.[8]


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.[9] 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.[10]

Monarch/Nation Cardinal Notes
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
Władysław III of Poland Zbigniew Oleśnicki 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
Zbigniew Oleśnicki, one of the first crown-cardinals

The first explicit reference to protectorship pertaining to a nation-state dates to 1425 (the Catholic Encyclopedia says 1424[11]) 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."[12] 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.[11]

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.[13] 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.[13] The going rate for the creation of a crown-cardinal was about 2,832 scudi.[2]

Pope Alexander VII had to elevate crown-cardinals in pectore.[14] Pope Urban VI (1378–1389) forbade crown-cardinals from receiving gifts from their respective sovereigns.[11]

World War I cemented the decline of the institution of the crown cardinal, as many monarchies either became extinct or declined in power.[13]

Role in conclavesEdit

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.[1] 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).[citation needed]

List of cardinal protector crown-cardinalsEdit

The following includes a complete list of crown cardinal-protectors in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries:[15]

Of HungaryEdit

Of AustriaEdit

Jan Puzyna de Kosielsko, crown-cardinal of Austria, was the last to exercise the jus exclusivae.


Vice-protectors and co-protectors

Of EnglandEdit

Of IrelandEdit

Of ScotlandEdit

Of FranceEdit

François de Joyeuse, cardinal protector of France, anointing Queen Dowager Marie de Medici in 1610

The King of France historically had only one cardinal protector at a time,[16] 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.[20] The crown-cardinal of France was also abbot commendatario of several French abbeys.[21]

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.[7]

Of the Holy Roman EmpireEdit

Ludovico Madruzzo, crown-cardinal of the Holy Roman Empire

The protector of the Holy Roman Empire was often the protector of the Austrian hereditary lands.[16]

Vice-protectors and co-protectors

Of PolandEdit

Of SwedenEdit

Cardinal-protectors of Sweden were appointed by king of Poland Zygmunt III Waza, who had claimed the rights to the Swedish Crown.[31]

Of PortugalEdit

Of Savoy/Kingdom of SardiniaEdit

Protectors of the Duchy of Savoy

Protectors of the Kingdom of Sardinia

Of NaplesEdit

Of SicilyEdit

Of the Kingdom of Two SiciliesEdit

Of Castile/SpainEdit

Ferdinando de' Medici, crown-cardinal of Spain from 1582 to 1584

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.[16]

Of AragonEdit

Of FlandersEdit

List of other national cardinal protectorsEdit

Of SwitzerlandEdit

Of Republic of GenoaEdit

List of non-cardinal protector crown-cardinalsEdit

Of Austria
Of Bavaria
  • Philipp Wilhelm (22 September 1576 – 18 May 1598), Bishop of Regensburg from 1595, Cardinal from 1597[45]
  • Johann Casimir v. Häffelin (6 April 1818 – 27 August 1827), Ambassador of Bavaria to the Holy See (since 18 November 1803), probably a de facto court bishop since 11 November 1787 (as general vicar of the Bavarian Priory of the Order of Malta)
Of England
Of France
  • Jean Jouffroy, continued role as procurator after elevation as cardinal[7]
  • Jean Balue, continued role as procurator after elevation as cardinal; styled as "French protector" in Rome[7][46]
  • André d'Espinay (March 9, 1489 – November 10, 1500)[47]
  • Armand Jean de Richelieu (November 3, 1622 – December 4, 1642), Bishop of Luçon, Prime Minister
  • Jules Mazarin (1641–1661)
  • Jean Siffrein Maury (1794–1806), Archbishop of Montefiascone, representative of the Bourbon pretender, sided with Napoleon I in 1806
  • Joseph Fesch (2 December 1804 – 22 June 1815), Archbishop of Lyons, step-uncle to Napoleon I, Ambassador of France to the Holy See (1803–1806, but in 1803 there wasn't as yet a crown) and Imperial Grand Almoner (1805–1814); his role as crown-cardinal ended with the end of the Napoleonic reign, whereas he remained Cardinal and Archbishop
Of the Holy Roman Empire
Of Poland
Of Portugal
Of Spain
Of Tuscany

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Chadwick, Owen (1981). The Popes and European Revolution. Oxford University Press. pp. 265–267. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  2. ^ a b Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Cardinal" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  3. ^ Reinerman, Alan J. 1989. Austria and the Papacy in the Age of Metternich. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press. p. 59.
  4. ^ Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Right of Exclusion" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  5. ^ Francis A. Burkle-Young. 1998. "The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church: Papal elections in the Fifteenth Century: The election of Pope Eugenius IV (1431)."
  6. ^ a b Baumgartner, 2003, p. 150.
  7. ^ a b c d e Wilkie, 1974, p. 8.
  8. ^ a b Wilkie, 1974, p. 9.
  9. ^ Bireley, Robert. 2007. Book Review. The Catholic Historical Review. 93, 1: 172–173. A manuscript list of cardinals appointed at the request of Crowns can be found in the Vatican Library in the Borghese collection, Borg. lat. 376, pp. 131-141: Pietro Francesco de Rossi, De cardinalibus electis ad preces Principum, ab anno 1294 usque in finem pontificatus Pauli III.
  10. ^ Burkle-Young, Francis A. 1998. "The election of Pope Nicholas V (1447)."
  11. ^ a b c Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Cardinal Protector" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  12. ^ Signorotto and Visceglia, 2002, p. 161
  13. ^ a b c Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "The election of Pope Eugenius IV (1431)."
  14. ^ Pastor, 1940, p. 133.
  15. ^ Wodka, Josef. Zur Geschichte der nationalen Protektorate der Kardinäle an der römischen Kurie. [publisher omitted]: Innsbruck and Leipzig, 1938, 46–130.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Signorotto, Gianvittorio, and Visceglia, Maria Antonietta. 2002. Court and Politics in Papal Rome, 1492–1700. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-64146-2. p. 163
  17. ^ a b c Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of March 12, 1565 (IV)"
  18. ^ Gillis, Clive. 2004. "Days of Deliverance Part 9: Rome makes the New Irish Confederation invincible."
  19. ^ a b Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of July 1, 1517 (V)."
  20. ^ a b Signorotto and Visceglia, 2002, p. 164.
  21. ^ Salvator, Miranda. 1998. "Consistory of November 7, 1689."
  22. ^ Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of May 3, 1527 (I)."
  23. ^ Signorotto and Visceglia, 2002, pp. 164–165.
  24. ^ Yardley, Jonathan. 2005, June 26. "The Cardinal's Hat." Washington Post. BW02.
  25. ^ Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of December 10, 1607 (III)."
  26. ^ Signorotto and Visceglia, 2002, p. 29
  27. ^ Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of March 3, 1599 (IV)"
  28. ^ Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "September 2, 1686 (II)"
  29. ^ Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of September 23, 1513 (I)"
  30. ^ pl:Alessandro Farnese (1520-1589)[1]
  31. ^ Wodka, p. 124
  32. ^ a b Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of October 1, 1732 (IV)"
  33. ^ Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of February 26, 1561 (II)"
  34. ^ Minnich, Nelson H. 2003. Book Review. The Catholic Historical Review. 89, 4: 773–778
  35. ^ Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of December 18, 1587 (V)"
  36. ^ Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of February 21, 1578 (V)"
  37. ^ Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of September June 5, 1596 (II)"
  38. ^ Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of May 17, 1706 (II)."
  39. ^ Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of January 31, 1560 (I)"
  40. ^ Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of January 19, 1626 (III)"
  41. ^ Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of January 19, 1626 (III)"
  42. ^ Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of October 7, 1624 (II)"
  43. ^ a b c Trollope, 1876, p. 51.
  44. ^ a b c Baumgartner, Frederic J. 2003. Behind Locked Doors: A History of the Papal Elections. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-29463-8 p. 173
  45. ^ Trollope, 1876, p. 52.
  46. ^ Wilkie, 1974, p. 16.
  47. ^ a b Burke-Young, Francis A. 1998. "The election of Pope Alexander VI (1492)"
  48. ^ Minor, Vernon Hyde. 2005. The Death of the Baroque and the Rhetoric of Good Taste. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-84341-3. p. 138
  49. ^ Pastor, 1941, p. 405
  • Baumgartner, Frederic J. 2003. Behind Locked Doors: A History of the Papal Elections. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-29463-8.
  • Pastor, Ludwig. 1902. The History of Popes. K. Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., Ltd.
  • Wilkie, William E. 1974. The cardinal protectors of England. Cambridge University Press.
  • Girgensohn, Dieter (1977). "Wie wird man Kardinal? Kuriale und aujierkuriale Karrieren an der Wende des 14. zum 15. Jahrhundert". Quellen und Forschungen aus Italienischen Archiven und Bibliotheken. 57: 138–162.
  • Peter Tusor, "Prolegomena zur Frage des Kronkardinalats," Archivum Historiae Pontificiae Volume 41 (2003), pp. 51–71.