Portrait of Ercole Consalvi (1757-1824), Cardinal of the Catholic Church (1800), Cardinal Secretary of State (1800-1806; 1814-1823), 1823
Ercole Consalvi (8 June 1757 – 24 January 1824) was a deacon and cardinal of the Catholic Church, who served twice as Cardinal Secretary of State for the Papal States and who played a crucial role in the post-Napoleonic reassertion of the legitimist principle of the divine right of kings, of which he was a constant supporter. Consalvi was born in Rome, a descendant of the ancient noble family of the Brunacci of Pisa. The cardinal's grandfather, Gregorio Brunacci, had taken the name and arms of the late Marquess Ercole Consalvi of Rome, as was required in order to inherit the large fortune the original Consalvi had left. Ercole was the son of Mario Giuseppe Consalvi, the Marquess of Toscanella, and Countess Claudia Carandini of Modena. At the death of his father in 1763, Ercole was entrusted to the care of Cardinal Andrea Negroni. He was educated at the college of the Piarists from 1776 to 1771. He then entered the seminary founded in Frascati by the English Cardinal Henry Benedict Stuart, who was also called Duke of York by Jacobites, thus often referred to as "Cardinal York", and who was the Stuart pretender to the throne of Great Britain. He became a favorite of the Cardinal's and was helped by him to obtain high office in the Roman Curia while still a young man. At the completion of his seminary studies in 1776, Consalvi took minor orders, and was named a member of a congregation charged with the direction of municipal affairs. The years from 1776 to 1782 were devoted to the studies of jurisprudence and ecclesiastical history in the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome, which trained students for the diplomatic corps of the Holy See. There he had among other professors the Jesuit scholar, Zaccaria. He then began studies in both civil and canon law at La Sapienza University, from which he received doctorates in both fields in 1789. After the French Revolutionary Army invaded Italy in 1798, Consalvi was jailed in the Castel Sant'Angelo in connection with the death of General Duphot and condemned to deportation. As an "enemy of the Roman republic" his property was confiscated. But he was soon released and joined Pope Pius VI in exile. An able diplomat, he was nominated after the death of that pope to be secretary of the conclave that met in Venice from November 1799 to March 1800 to choose his successor, and resulted in the election of Pope Pius VII. Consalvi was created Cardinal-Deacon and named Cardinal Secretary of State by the new pope in the secret consistory of 11 August 1800, receiving the red hat from him in a public consistory on 14 August 1800. In this capacity Consalvi first endeavoured to restore better conditions in the Papal States. He introduced free trade, withdrew from circulation all depreciated money, and admitted a large number of laymen to Government offices.
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