Alberoni, Julius

, an eminent Spanish statesman, and cardinal, was born May 15, 1664. His birth and early employments afforded no presage of his future ambition and fame. He was the son of a gardener near Parma, and when a boy, officiated as bell-ringer, and attended upon the parish church of his village. The rector, finding him a shrewd youth, taught him Latin. Alberoni afterwards took orders, and had a small living, on which he resided. While here, M. Campistron, a Frenchman^ secretary to the duke of Vendome, who commanded Louis XIV‘s armies in Italy, was robbed, and stripped of his clothes and money, by some ruffians near Alberon^s village. Alberoni, hearing of his misfortune, took him into his house, furnished him with clothes, and gave him as much money as he could spare, for his travelling expences. Campistron, no less impressed with the strength of his understanding than with the warmth of his benevolence, took him to the head quarters, and presented him to his general, as a man to whom he haxi very great obligations.

M. de Vendome first employed him in discovering where the people in his neighbourhood had concealed their grain; an undertaking which rendered Alberoni’s departure for Spain, with Vendome, as prudent as it turned out to be advantageous. By degrees he obtained the marshal’s confidence, and ventured to propose the daughter of his sovereign, the duke of Parma, to him, as a fit match for the king of Spain. Alberoni’s proposal was attended to, and the princess was demanded in marriage by that monarch, then Philip V. The duke of Parma consented with great readiness to a match that was to procure for his daughter the sovereignty of so great a kingdom as that of Spain, When every thing was settled, and immediately before the princess was to set out for her new dominions, the ministers of Spain had heard that she was a young woman of a haughty imperious temper, and extremely intriguing and ambitious. They therefore prevailed upon the king to write to the duke, requesting another of his daughters in marriage, to whose quiet disposition they could not possibly have any objections,. The king did as he was desired, and sent his letter by a special messenger. Alberoni, who was then at Parma, hearing of this, and afraid that all his projects of ambition would come to nothing, unless the princess whom he recommended, and who of course would think herself highly obliged to him for her exalted | situation, became queen of Spain, caused the messenger to be stopped at one day’s journey from Parma, and gave him his choice, either to delay his coming to Parma for a day, or to be assassinated. He of course chose the first, and the princess set out upon her journey to Spain, and became queen.

Alberoni was now prime minister of Spain, a cardipal, and archbishop of Valentia; and exercised his ministry with the most complete despotism. One of his projects was, to dispossess the duke of Orleans of the regency of France, and to bestow it upon his own sovereign, as the oldest representative of the house of Bourbon: to place the pretender on the throne of England, and to add tq Spain the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily. This project, however, was discovered by the regent; and one of the conditions he made with the king of Spain was, the banishjnent of Alberoni from his councils and his kingdom. With this he was obliged to comply, and the cardinal received orders to leave Madrid in twenty-four hours, and the kingdom of Spain in fifteen days. Alberoni, who took with him great wealth, had not proceeded far, when it was discovered that he was carrying out of the kingdom the celebrated will of Charles II. of Spain, which gave that kingdom to its then sovereign. Persons were immediately detached from Madrid, to wrest this serious and important document from him, which it was supposed he intended ta take to the emperor of Germany, to ingratiate himself with him. With some violence they effected their purpose, and the cardinal proceeded on his journey to the frontiers of France, where he had the additional mortification of being received by an officer, sent by the regent to conduct him through that kingdom, as a state prisoner. Unembarrassed, however, by this circumstance, Alberoni wrote to the regent, to offer him his services against Spain, but his highr ness disdained to return any answer.

The cardinal’s disgrace happened in 1720, and he retired to Parma for some time, till he was summoned by the pope to attend a consistory, in which his conduct was to be examined by some of the members of the sacred college, respecting a correspondence he was supposed to have kept up with the Grand Signior; and he was sentenced to be confined one year in the Jesuits college at Rome. After this, he returned to Parma, near which city he founded, at a very great expence, an establishment for the instruction | of young men destined for the priesthood. In the disastrous campaign of 1746, the buildings of this academy were destroyed by the three armies that were in the neighbourhood: and as the cardinal was not supposed to have been over delicate in procuring the means by which his establishment was to have been supported, his countrymen, did not appear to express much dissatisfaction at the demolition of it. He soon after this went to Rome, and was made legate of Romana by pope Clement XII. He died at Rome in 1752, at the age of 87 years, having preserved entire to the last, the powers of his mind and of his body. In the account given of his old age, by the editor of the Dictionnaire Historique, he is said to have been very chatty in conversation, and talked in so lively and so agreeable a manner, that it made even the verv curious facts he had to tell more interesting to those who heard them. His stories were interlarded with French, Spanish, or Italian, as the circumstances required. He was continually applying some maxim of Tacitus, in Latin, to corroborate his own observations, or to support those of others. His general topics of conversation were, the campaigns in which he attended M. de Vendome, his ministry in Spain, or the common political events of the day. He was rather impatient of contradiction, and expected that in argument or in narration the company should defer to him.

Our own history shews, that his spirit was always very high, and his temper very violent. During the time that he was prime minister of Spain, colonel Stanhope, afterwards lord Harrington, the English envoy, carried him a list of the ships of his country that were then before Barcelona, and would act against it, if he persisted in his endeavours to enioroil the peace of Europe, by arming the Porte against the Emperor, and by making the Czar and the king of Sweden go to war with England, in order to establish the Pretender upon the English throne. Alberoni snatched the paper which contained the numbers out of the envoy’s hands, and, according to the continuator of Rapin’s history, threw it on the ground with much passion. Mr. Seward, from whose “Anecdotes of distinguished Persons” we have taken the principal part of this article, says, that he tore it in a thousand pieces. Col. Stanhope, nothing abashed, went on coolly with the thread of his conversation, which may be seen in the continuation of Rapin. That Alberoni wrote with the same spirit he acted, is | evinced by three letters of his to lord Melcombe, which Mr. Seward has published.

From the same authority, we shall conclude this article with two anecdotes, which, although different in their kind, are highly characteristic of the humorous pride and turbulent spirit of this statesman. When the marshal de Maillebois commanded the French troops at Parma, in 1746, Alberoni waited upon him concerning some business, but was refused admittance to him by his secretary, who told him the marshal was engaged in some affairs of importance, and could not see him. “Mon ami,” replied the cardinal, very indignantly, and opening the door of the marshal’s apartment at the same time, “sachez que M. de Vendome me recevoit sur la chaise percee.

When he was legate of Romagna, and at the age of seventy, he endeavoured to bring the little republic of San Marino, which was near his government, under the dominion of the pope. He had intrigued so successfully with some of the principal inhabitants, that the day was fixed on which these republicans were to swear allegiance to the sovereign under whose protection they had put themselves, On the day appointed, Alberoni rode up to the mountain with his suite, and was received at the door of the principal church by the priests and the chief inhabitants of the place, and conducted to his seat under a canopy, to hear high mass and Te Deum sung (a ceremony usual in all Catholic countries upon similar occasions). Unluckily, however, for him, the mass began, as probably is usual in that republic, with the word Libertas (liberty). This word had such an effect upon the minds of the hearers, who began then, for the first time perhaps, to recollect that they were about to lose the thing itself, that they fell upon the cardinal and his attendants, drove them out of the church, and made them descend the very steep mountain of San Marino with great rapidity; and the popes ever after left the inhabitants of San Marino to their old form of government. This singular event took place in the year 1740, and was communicated to Mr. Seward by general Paoli. A bon mot of Benedict XIV. on the occasion was current in every mouth.“Alberoni is like a glutton, who, after having eaten a large salmon, cannot help casting a wistful eye at a minnow.” The “Testament Politique” of cardinal Alberoni, collected from his memoirs and letters, was published at Lausanne in 1753, but is a compilation of no | authority, and was written by Maubert de Gouvest. His life, to the year 1719, was published by John Rousset, translated from the Spanish into French, and in the same year was translated into English, and published in London.

M. Beauchamp, his latest biographer, observes, that it has been said he was rather an intriguer than a politician; that he was as ambitious as Richelieu, and as supple as Mazarine, but had less forecast and less depth than either. Such is the character, adds M. Beauchamp, which most French writers have given of Alberoni, either from judging of events after they happened, or from prejudice against him, because he showed himself the enemy of France. But if we reflect, that within a very few years Alberoni retrieved a considerable part of the ancient glory of the Spanish monarchy; that in midst of his complicated and extensive designs, his genius, which comprehended every branch of public administration, established regulations favourable to agriculture, arts, and commerce; that he neglected no endeavours which might inspire the Spaniards with a love of industry, while he prompted them to display their ancient valour; and if we lastly consider, that the failure of his projects was owing to the indiscretion of his agents, it may probably appear, that he wanted nothing to place him in a rank with Ximenes or Richelieu, but that success which justifies every thing, and which oftener depends on chance than on genius. 1


Seward’s Anecdotes, vol. III. Dictionnaire HJstorique. Rapin’s History, vol. V. fol. Biographic Universelle. —Moreri.