Papal conclave, 1758

Papal conclave
May–July 1758

Coat of arms during the vacancy of the Holy See
Dates and location
15 May – 6 July 1758
Apostolic Palace, Papal States
Key officials
Dean Rainiero d'Elci
Sub-Dean Giovanni Antonio Guadagni
Camerlengo Henry Benedict Stuart
Protopriest Thomas Philip Wallrad d'Alsace-Boussut de Chimay
Protodeacon Alessandro Albani
Vetoed Carlo Alberto Guidoboni Cavalchini
Elected Pope
Carlo della Torre di Rezzonico
(Name taken: Clement XIII)

The Papal conclave, May 15 – July 6, 1758, convoked after the death of Pope Benedict XIV, was the conclave that elected Cardinal Carlo Rezzonico of Venice, who took the name Clement XIII.

List of participants

Pope Benedict XIV died on May 3, 1758. Forty-five out of fifty-five Cardinals participated in the subsequent conclave. Only forty-four, however, voted in the final ballot, because Cardinal Bardi left the conclave because of illness on June 24:[1]

Thirty five electors were created by Benedict XIV, eight by Clement XII, one by Benedict XIII (Borghese) and Innocent XIII (A. Albani).


Ten cardinals were entirely absent from this conclave:[1]

All the absentees were creatures of Benedict XIV, except d'Alsace, who was created by Clement XI, and Lamberg, who was appointed by Clement XII.

Divisions among cardinals

College of Cardinals was divided into several factions, which initially formed two blocs:[3]

Many cardinals created by Benedict XIV (called "Juniors") did not belong to any faction, but majority of them aligned themselves with "Union of Crowns", particularly with Spanish protector Portocarrero.

During the conclave, however, these two groups mixed with each other. Near the end of the conclave, on the one side there was the Imperial faction together with Zelanti, and on the other side Anziani, together with the Bourbon faction (defending the interests of the Bourbon crowns).

The conclave

The beginning and the early candidates

Only twenty-seven cardinals entered the conclave on May 15.[4] Eighteen more cardinals arrived to Rome until June 29. Meantime, however, Cardinal Bardi had to leave the conclave due to illness.

Because of the absence of the political representatives of the main Catholic courts the ambassadors of France and the Empire asked the electors for delay voting until their arrival. Although this demand was rejected before the conclave began, no serious candidates were proposed in the early ballots. In the first scrutiny on May 16 the greatest number of votes (eight in the ballot and three more in the accessus) were received Dean of the College of Cardinals Rainiero d'Elci, who was 88 years old.[5]

It does not mean, however, that no efforts to obtain the support for the candidates were made by the leaders present in the conclave. In particular Corsini worked vigorously for the election of Giuseppe Spinelli, leader of the Zelanti, but met with the strong opposition of Orsini, Cardinal Protector of the Kingdom of Naples. The protector of Spain, Portocarrero, also rejected Spinelli, and was able to join many of the "Juniors" to his party. Finally, the candidature of Spinelli had to be withdrawn.[6]

The first candidate with serious chances for election was Alberico Archinto, Secretary of State and Vice-Chancellor of the deceased pope. He had a strong support both among Zelanti and some of the "Crown-Cardinals", but the faction of Corsini did not agree to support him and produced as counter-candidate Marcello Crescenzi. Eventually, as had occurred many times before and later, the candidatures of Archinto and Crescenzi eliminated each other.[7]

The arrival of the French cardinals and their exclusion against Cavalchini

Gradually, the representatives of royal courts arrived to Rome with the instructions of their monarchs. On June 4 entered Cardinal Luynes with the instructions of Louis XV of France. Five days later he officially announced the nomination of Cardinal Prospero Colonna di Sciarra to the post of Protector of France.[8] But the Imperial Cardinal von Rodt was still awaited.

During the next days the new candidate Carlo Alberto Guidobono Cavalchini, received still more votes, promoted by Corsini and Portocarrero working together. On June 19 he obtained twenty-one votes, on June 21 twenty-six, and in the evening of June 22 as many as twenty-eight out of forty-three, which meant that he was only one vote short of being elected. But after that ballot Cardinal Luynes informed the Dean of the Sacred College Rainiero d’Elci of the official veto of the King of France against Cavalchini. France opposed Cavalchini because of his attitude towards the beatification of Robert Bellarmin and in the matters connected with the anti-Jansenist bull Unigenitus.[9] The exclusion met with strong protests, but Cavalchini himself said, "It is a manifest proof that God deems me unworthy to fill the functions of his vicar upon earth".[10]

After the collapse of Cavalchini's candidacy, Portocarrero advanced as a new candidate Paolucci, but he was rejected by French, who – together with the faction of Corsini, voted again for Crescenzi.[11]

The arrival of Cardinal von Rodt

The arrival of Cardinal von Rodt on June 29 with the instructions of the Imperial Court was the turning point of the conclave. He initially tried to achieve an agreement with the French, but having failed, he turned toward the Zelanti faction. Direct negotiations between von Rodt and Spinelli resulted in the proposal for election of the Venetian Cardinal Carlo Rezzonico, bishop of Padua. On July 6 in the morning the bishop of Padua received eight votes in the ballot and four additional in the accessus. Portocarrero, Albani and the French cardinals initially opposed, but finally agreed for him. After the consultations of French Cardinals with ambassador Laon it became clear that Rezzonico would be elected to the Papacy.[12]

The election of Pope Clement XIII

On July 6 in the evening Carlo Rezzonico was elected Pope, receiving thirty-one votes out of forty-four, one more than the required majority of two-thirds. The remaining thirteen (including his own) fell to Cardinal Dean Rainiero d'Elci.[10] Rezzonico accepted his election and took the name of Clement XIII, in honour of Pope Clement XII, who had elevated him to the cardinalate in 1737.[13] He was crowned on July 16 in the loggia of the patriarchal Vatican Basilica by protodeacon Alessandro Albani.[14]


  1. 1 2 List of participants of the papal conclave of 1758 (by Salvador Miranda).
  2. Left the conclave on June 24 because of illness and did not participate in the final ballot
  3. L. Pastor, p. 146
  4. L. Pastor, p. 149
  5. L. Pastor, p. 149-150
  6. L. Pastor, p. 150
  7. L. Pastor, p.150
  8. L. Pastor, p. 151
  9. L. Pastor, p. 152-153
  10. 1 2 Papal Library
  11. L. Pastor, p. 154-155
  12. L. Pastor, p. 155
  13. L. Pastor, p. 156
  14. S. Miranda: Cardinal Carlo Rezzonico (Pope Clement XIII)


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