Guilio Alberoni

Guilio Alberoni

Italian cardinal and politician
Date of Birth: 31.05.1664
Country: Italy

Biography of Giulio Alberoni

Giulio Alberoni was an Italian cardinal and political figure who served as the Spanish Minister under King Philip V. Born on May 31, 1664, in Fiorenzuola, near Piacenza, he was the son of a winemaker. Initially, Alberoni worked as a cleric at the cathedral in Piacenza. He gained the favor of the vice-legate of Ravenna, Baron Barni, which provided him with the opportunity to enter the clergy.

Later, Alberoni became known to the Duke of Vendôme, who commanded the French troops in Italy. In 1706, he followed the Duke to France, and in 1711, he traveled to Spain as the secretary to the court of Philip V. It was in Spain that he met the influential Princess Orsini, who hoped to use his intelligence and cunning for her own schemes. With her support, Alberoni became the ruler of the Duke of Parma's affairs and acted as an intermediary in negotiating Philip V's second marriage to Elisabetta Farnese, the last heir of the House of Parma.

However, this marriage, which diminished the Princess's power, elevated Alberoni to a higher position in the state as he himself escorted the princess from Italy to Spain. By 1714, he was in charge of affairs, and shortly after, he was elevated to the rank of cardinal by the Pope. His calm and enlightened rule revitalized Spain, but his foreign policy, which resembled a quest for adventure, set all the European cabinets in motion and led the country to new sacrifices and turmoil.

His main task, or rather that of the royal couple he served, was to restore Spain's weakened European power after the Utrecht Peace treaties. Alberoni primarily hoped to reclaim the Italian provinces that were assigned to Austria, as they seemed preoccupied with defending against Turkish attacks since December 1714. However, his hostile intentions also extended to other states interested in maintaining the inviolability of the Utrecht Treaty, including England and the Netherlands. Even in France, where the regency of Philippe d'Orléans had adopted a completely opposite system to that of Louis XIV, for which Philip V had advocated as his grandson, Alberoni's actions were seen as a threat.

Alberoni entered into close relations with Count Görtz, the leader of Swedish politics at the time. Their plan was to make peace between Sweden and Russia, divert Sweden's forces against England, support the Jacobite invasion of Scotland, and bring the same party to power in France. This led to the formation of a quadruple alliance of states, generally hostile to each other, but united in their desire to preserve the Peace of Utrecht. Alberoni's attack on Italy in the summer of 1717 initially promised success. Sardinia was occupied, and another fleet captured Palermo and Messina in 1718. However, a turn of events occurred: the Swedish ships, intended to transport Charles XII to England, were destroyed before reaching Stralsund, and the king was killed at the Battle of Fredrikshall. The Scottish uprising failed, and the Spanish fleet was virtually destroyed by Admiral Bing at the Passaro Heights on August 10, 1718. Austria freed its army and fleet by making peace with Turkey in Passarowitz. The Spanish fleet, intended for Scotland, became a victim of storms off Cape Finisterre, while the English ravaged the coast of Galicia. Furthermore, in 1719, the French army penetrated into Spain itself.

When almost all of Europe was called to arms against Spain, Philip V and Queen Elisabetta finally agreed to remove their minister, which was demanded by their allies as the first condition for peace. On December 5, 1719, Alberoni received orders to leave Spain. Clement XI prohibited him from staying in the Papal States, where he intended to go. For a whole year, he hid in the Apennines, and then, after writing a brilliant defense of his policies, he took his place in the Conclave and contributed to the election of Innocent XIII, who was favorably disposed towards him and only exiled him to a monastery for a short time for appearances' sake. Under Benedict XIII in 1724, Alberoni fell out of favor again and left Rome for his estate in Castel Romano. In 1734, Clement XII appointed him as the legate of Ravenna, where he unsuccessfully attempted to annex the Republic of San Marino to the church's authority. The Pope himself annulled everything he had done. In his final years, he lived in Piacenza, where he passed away on June 26, 1752.