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The coat of arms of a cardinal are indicated by a red galero (wide-brimmed hat) with 15 tassels on each side (the motto and escutcheon are proper to the individual cardinal).
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Title and reference style
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Cardinals in pectore or secret cardinals
Vesture and privileges
Cardinals in popular culture
Article discussion

A crown-cardinal (Italian: cardinale della corona)[1] was a cardinal protector of Catholic nation, nominated or funded by a Catholic monarch to serve as their representative within the College of Cardinals[2][3] and, if applicable, exercise the jus exclusivae.[4] 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 without, in many cases, having performed any service at all for the advance 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 prattiche, 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 Kempe former chancellor of England and archbishop of York
Afonso V of Portugal António Martins de Chaves Bishop of Porto
Kingdom of Hungary (interregnum) Dionysius Szechy Primate-designate of Hungary
Władysław III of Poland Zbigniew Olesnicki Archbishop of Krakow
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 Olesnicki

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]

As of 1913, the only state with a crown-cardinal was the Kingdom of Portugal.[11] World War I cemented the decline of the institution of the crown cardinal, as many monarchies either went extinct or declined in power.[13]

Role in conclaves

In the case of Spain, France, and Austria, from the 16th to 20th centuries, crown-cardinals had the prerogative to exercise the jus exclusivae (a veto for "unacceptable" candidates) during a Papal conclave on behalf of their patron monarch. Crown-cardinals usually arrived with a list of such unacceptable candidates but often had to confer with their patrons during conclaves via messengers, and attempt (sometimes unsuccessfully) to delay the conclave until a response arrived. For example, Pope Innocent X (elected 1644) and Pope Innocent XIII (elected 1721) survived late arriving veto orders from France and Spain respectively.[1] Austrian crown-cardinal Karl Kajetan Cardinal Gaisruck arrived too late to the Papal conclave of 1846 to exercise the veto against Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti (who had already been elected and taken the name Pius IX).

List of cardinal protector crown-cardinals

Of Austria

Of England

Of Ireland
Of Scotland

Of France


Jules Cardinal Mazarin

The King of France historically had only one cardinal protector at a time,[15] chosen by a complicated process which involved the King, the secretary of state for foreign affairs, the French ambassador to Rome, and other French power brokers, but not the pope.[21] The crown-cardinal of France was also abbot commendatario of several French abbeys.[22]

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 Empire

The protector of the Holy Roman Empire was often the protector of the Austrian hereditary lands.[15]

Of Naples

Of Poland

Of Portugal

Of Savoy

Of Sicily

Of Spain

The King of Spain could have as many as five or six cardinal protectors (Spanish: Protector de Espana) simultaneously, although traditionally the protector of Castile was the most frequently turned to.[15]

List of other national cardinal protectors

Of Aragon

Of Castile and the West Indies

Of Flanders

Of Switzerland

List of non-cardinal protector crown-cardinals

Of Austria
Of Bavaria
  • Philipp Wilhelm (22 September 1576 - 18 May 1598), Bishop of Regensburg from 1595, Cardinal from 1597[52]
Of England
Of France
Of the Holy Roman Empire
Of Poland
Of Portugal
Of Spain
Of Tuscany

See also


  • 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.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Chadwick, Owen. pp. 265-267.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Wikisource-logo "Cardinal " in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.
  3. Reinerman, Alan J. 1989. Austria and the Papacy in the Age of Metternich. Catholic University of America Press. p. 59.
  4. Wikisource-logo "Right of Exclusion " in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.
  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. 6.0 6.1 Baumgartner, 2003, p. 150.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Wilkie, 1974, p. 8.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Wilkie, 1974, p. 9.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Bireley, Robert. 2007. Book Review. The Catholic Historical Review. 93, 1: 172-173.
  10. Burkle-Young, Francis A. 1998. "The election of Pope Nicholas V (1447)."
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Wikisource-logo "Cardinal Protector " in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.
  12. Signorotto and Visceglia, 2002, p. 161
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "The election of Pope Eugenius IV (1431)."
  14. Pastor, 1940, p. 133.
  15. 15.00 15.01 15.02 15.03 15.04 15.05 15.06 15.07 15.08 15.09 15.10 Signorotto, Gianvittorio, and Visceglia, Maria Antonietta. 2002. Court and Politics in Papal Rome, 1492-1700. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521641462. p. 163
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 Baumgartner, Frederic J. 2003. Behind Locked Doors: A History of the Papal Elections. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0312294638 p. 173
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 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. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of July 1, 1517 (V)."
  20. 20.0 20.1 Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of May 17, 1706 (II)."
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Signorotto and Visceglia, 2002, p. 164.
  22. Salvator, Miranda. 1998. "Consistory of November 7, 1689."
  23. 23.0 23.1 Burke-Young, Francis A. 1998. "The election of Pope Alexander VI (1492)"
  24. Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of March 9, 1489 (I)."
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of September 23, 1513 (I)"
  26. Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of May 3, 1527 (I)."
  27. Signorotto and Visceglia, 2002, pp. 164-165.
  28. Yardley, Jonathan. 2005, June 26. "The Cardinal's Hat." Washington Post. BW02.
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 29.3 29.4 Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of February 26, 1561 (II)"
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 Signorotto and Visceglia, 2002, p. 165.
  31. 31.0 31.1 Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of December 10, 1607 (III)."
  32. Signorotto and Visceglia, 2002, p. 128
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "September 2, 1686 (II)"
  34. Signorotto and Visceglia, 2002, p. 29
  35. Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of December 19, 1544 (VIII)"
  36. 36.0 36.1 Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of March 3, 1599 (IV)"
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of October 1, 1732 (IV)"
  38. [1][2]
  39. Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of March 6, 1591 (II)"
  40. Minor, Vernon Hyde. 2005. The Death of the Baroque and the Rhetoric of Good Taste. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521843413. p. 138
  41. Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of December 18, 1587 (V)"
  42. Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of September June 5, 1596 (II)"
  43. Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of February 21, 1578 (V)"
  44. Minnich, Nelson H. 2003. Book Review. The Catholic Historical Review. 89, 4: 773-778
  45. Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of December 2, 1615 (VI)"
  46. Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of November 29, 1719 (XIV)"
  47. Pastor, 1941, p. 405
  48. Robinson, Nancy Nowakowski. 2004. Institutional Anti-Judaism. Xlibris. ISBN 141342161X. p. 75
  49. Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of November 16, 1586 (III)"
  50. Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Consistory of January 31, 1560 (I)"
  51. 51.0 51.1 51.2 Trollope, 1876, p. 51.
  52. Trollope, 1876, p. 52.
  53. Wilkie, 1974, p. 16.

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