Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rinuccini, Giovanni Battista

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RINUCCINI, GIOVANNI BATTISTA (1592–1653), archbishop of Fermo and papal nuncio in Ireland, was born in Rome on 15 Sept. 1592. His father was the senator Camillo, a Florentine patrician; his mother, Virginia, was daughter of Pier Antonio Bandini, and sister of Cardinal Ottavio Bandini. His first studies were under the jesuits of the propaganda, and he went to the university of Bologna in his eighteenth year. He afterwards studied law at Perugia, took a doctor's degree at Pisa, and was elected a member of the Cruscan academy. Rinuccini subsequently became chamberlain to Gregory XV, and secretary to the congregation of ecclesiastical rites. At his accession in 1623 Urban VIII made him civil lieutenant of the cardinal-vicar, and archbishop of Fermo in 1625. In 1631 he declined the archbishopric of Florence, on the ground of his attachment to the people at Fermo.

Meanwhile the Irish rebellion had broken out in 1641, and in 1643 Scarampi was sent to the catholic confederates at Kilkenny to represent the pope. The Irish, however, requested a nuncio with full powers. Richard Bellings [q. v.] was sent to Rome, where he arrived in March 1645, to find that Rinuccini had been already appointed by Innocent X. Bellings, whose views were perhaps coloured by later events, says Rinuccini's appointment was a job to please the Duke of Florence (Confederation and War, iv. 2). Full instructions, both avowed and secret, were given to the new nuncio, whose main object was to secure the open exercise of the catholic religion in Ireland, with a view to the gradual extirpation of heresy in the north of Europe. The regular and secular clergy, whose discipline had been relaxed by circumstances, were to be brought into line. Ormonde, Charles I's lord-deputy, was to be gained if possible. The nuncio was enjoined to be absolutely impartial as between France and Spain.

Before leaving Rome Rinuccini openly declared his hostility to everything English, and it is not surprising that the English merchants at Leghorn plotted to intercept him at sea. At Genoa he was received in state by the doge. At Paris, where he arrived about the last week in May, Rinuccini was encouraged by Gaston, duke of Orleans, and by Condé; but no practical result came of these princely civilities. Mazarin was characteristically cautious, and his influence was paramount with the French queen. The news of Naseby (14 June O.S.) had a very chilling effect on French sympathy with the English royalists. Rinuccini found, too, that the English royalists generally looked on the conquest of Ireland only as a stepping-stone to the triumph of their cause in England, which was and would remain protestant. Rinuccini declined to see Henrietta Maria, except in public audience, and this was refused; for the English about her, without much distinction of creed, heartily dreaded the designs of Rome. At Paris Rinuccini was on friendly terms with Secretary Bellings, but he was especially anxious to prevent Bellings from reaching Ireland first. Bellings placed the interests of Charles I before those of the pope. Scarampi, writing entirely in the interests of the church, declared that peace between English royalists and Irish catholics, if concluded without Rinuccini's aid, would be fatal to papal interests (ib. p. 44).

Rinuccini remained three months in Paris. Bellings says he did not like the Irish mission, and tried to be made nuncio to France instead (Confederation and War, iv. 5). He was sharply reprimanded for loitering, contrary to his instructions (Embassy, p. 569). At last Mazarin allowed some small vessels to be equipped. Rinuccini drew upon the pope for about fifteen thousand dollars; Cardinal Antonio Barberini gave him ten thousand, and Mazarin added twenty-five thousand. About two-fifths of this was spent on arms, ammunition, and shipping, and the rest was to be taken to Ireland in specie (Embassy, pp. x, lii). The place named for Rinuccini's embarkation was Rochelle, but Rinuccini sailed finally from St. Martin, in the isle of Ré, with Bellings and about twenty Italians. He reached Kenmare on 23 Oct. (Confederation and War, iv. 5; Castlehaven, p. 62), and at once started with Bellings for Limerick. There they found Scarampi, who had persuaded that hitherto independent city to join the catholic confederacy. On 12 Nov. Rinuccini was received at Kilkenny with great pomp by the nobility, clergy, and populace.

Rinuccini's first residence at Kilkenny lasted six months. With hazy notions as to the meaning or strength of party divisions in Ireland, he made little allowance for local considerations in pursuing his aim of securing the full predominance and recognition of the Roman catholic religion. Negotiations for peace were going on between Ormonde, the representative of Charles I and of the protestant royalists on the one side, and the catholic confederates on the other, on the basis of the status quo, leaving the question of religion to be decided by the king. The catholic general, Thomas Preston [q. v.], and his friends thought these the best available terms, but Rinuccini made it an indispensable condition that all future viceroys should be Roman catholics, and that the bishops of his church should be peers of parliament—things which no king of England would have power to grant. The Anglo-Irish nobility adhered to Ormonde. But Rinuccini was resolved to abandon the king rather than postpone any of the church's claims. He consequently quarrelled with the Irish catholic royalists. On 28 March 1646 peace was concluded between Ormonde and the catholic confederates. In May Rinuccini went to Limerick, taking credit for having ‘adroitly prevented’ the despatch of ten thousand Irish infantry to Charles in England, and set to work to annul the treaty with Ormonde.

In Owen Roe O'Neill [q. v.], the Ulster leader, whose nationalist and catholic sympathies were more pronounced than those of the confederates, Rinuccini found a thorough-paced supporter; and, after O'Neill's great victory over the Scottish supporters of the English government at Benburb on 5 June, Rinuccini supplied him with funds, and accompanied him to the siege of Bunratty, which surrendered in July. Rinuccini then went to Waterford. Ormonde's peace was proclaimed at Dublin on 30 July, and accepted by the supreme council at Kilkenny; but Rinuccini and the clerical party procured its rejection by Limerick, Waterford, and other towns (Confederation and War, vi. 126). Rinuccini held an ecclesiastical congregation at Waterford, where, on 12 Aug., all confederate catholics adhering to the peace were declared perjured, because they had not obtained for their church such terms as they were bound to by their oath of association. Rinuccini's victory cost him a severe reprimand from Rome for exceeding his instructions. The pope and cardinals ‘never intended to maintain the Irish rebels against the king, but simply to assist them in obtaining the assurance of the free exercise of the catholic religion in Ireland’ (Embassy, p. 580).

Nevertheless, Rinuccini returned to Kilkenny in triumph, accompanied by the Spanish agent, who had advanced money for the use of O'Neill's Ulster army. The papal nuncio imprisoned most of the supreme council, and assumed the direction of affairs. He excommunicated all adherents of the peace (Clarendon, Ireland, p. 25). With the subservient remnant of the council he went to Kilkea Castle in Kildare, in the fond hope of procuring a joint attack by the Leinster and Ulster armies on Dublin, where Ormonde was; but the dissensions between O'Neill, the commander of the latter, and Preston, the commander of the former, and between Preston and Rinuccini, caused the plot to fail (Castlehaven, p. 69). Ormonde refused to listen to Rinuccini's extravagant demands (cf. Clarendon, Ireland, p. 25), and opened communications with the parliamentary authorities at Westminster for the surrender of Dublin to them.

Rinuccini's plan was to confer the vice-royalty on the catholic Lord Glamorgan, who was now a tool in his hands (Embassy, p. 205) [see Somerset Edward, second Marquis of Worcester]. But the native Irish cared nothing for an English sovereign or his viceroy, while the Anglo-Irish preferred Ormonde to an English ultramontane. Rinuccini now demanded in behalf of Irish catholics, not only the abolition of penal laws and the free exercise of his religion throughout Ireland, but also that all the property that had passed into the hands of the Roman catholic secular clergy should be enjoyed ‘in as full and ample a manner as the protestant clergy lately enjoyed it’ (Embassy, p. 585). The property of the regulars was reserved for future consideration, because faithful catholics were quite as unwilling as the heretics to disgorge abbey lands. In Rinuccini's opinion these impropriations were the church's real difficulty, for it was thought that the clergy designed to take them back. ‘I speak,’ he said, ‘promise, preach to the contrary, but not one of them believes me’ (ib. p. 322).

The general assembly of the confederates met once more at Kilkenny in January 1646–1647. Rinuccini promised the continued help of the holy see to Ireland, and begged them to be guided by his advice. There was a great deal of angry talk throughout the session, but the clergy under Rinuccini dominated the proceedings (Confederation and War, vi. 177). In other matters Rinuccini was less successful. The quarrel between Preston and O'Neill continued. Ormonde, whom Rinuccini detested, prepared to surrender Dublin to the English parliament. Subsequently Rinuccini procured the election of a new supreme council, of which twenty members out of twenty-four were his adherents (Embassy, p. 264). In June he and his council went to Clonmel to support Glamorgan, whom they had made general of the Munster army in place of Donogh MacCarthy, second viscount Muskerry [see under MacCarthy, Donogh, fourth Earl of Clancarty]; but officers and soldiers declared for their old chief. Inchiquin, who was then supporting the parliamentary cause, was carrying all before him in Munster, and the net was evidently closing round Rinuccini and the confederacy. From Clonmel the nuncio went to Galway, where he heard that Ormonde had left Ireland, and that Preston's army had been annihilated by the parliamentarian Michael Jones near Trim (ib. p. 299). In October Monnerie, the French agent, thought Rinuccini meditated flight from Ireland. ‘Your eminence,’ he wrote to Mazarin, ‘knows the nuncio's inclinations, and I will merely say that he now receives as many curses from the people as he formerly received plaudits’ (Confederation and War, vii. 334). Glamorgan, now Marquis of Worcester, sailed from Galway to France in September, and in October the appearance of Mahony's inflammatory ‘Apologetic Disputation’ increased the nuncio's difficulties at Galway, where the book was condemned by the municipality in language of extraordinary vigour (Hardiman, p. 123) [see Mahony, Connor].

Rinuccini returned to Kilkenny in November, only to hear of Inchiquin's brilliant victory at Knocknanuss. The assembly was sitting and engaged in bitter recrimination [see MacMahon, Heber]. The nuncio found he had little power, ‘being now,’ says Bellings, ‘better known, and his excommunications by his often thundering of them grown more cheap’ (Confederation and War, vii. 38). Finding his position pleasanter at Waterford, he withdrew thither at the end of January. In February Inchiquin took Carrick-on-Suir for the parliament, and threatened Kilkenny, but declared for the king in April, and at once sought an accommodation with the confederacy on the basis of the status quo, and until Ormonde should return to Ireland. Rinuccini refused to treat with a general who had killed priests, but the supreme council, in spite of Rinuccini's threats, concluded a truce with Inchiquin on 20 May (ib. vi. 235). On the 27th Rinuccini, who was supported by a majority of the bishops, excommunicated all who adhered to the truce, and put under an interdict the towns which submitted to it (ib. p. 241). Four days later the supreme council appealed to Rome against this sentence. Rinuccini escaped from Kilkenny to O'Neill's quarters at Maryborough, and thence by Athlone to Galway, where he busied himself about the convocation of a national synod. The party opposed to him at Kilkenny pronounced his censures null and void [see Roth, David]. The jesuits, barefooted Carmelites, and cathedral clergy were against the nuncio, while the Franciscans and Dominicans took his side (Embassy, p. 453). He resented the attitude of the jesuits bitterly, attributing to them and their provincial Malone ‘the greater share of the blame for the loss of Ireland’ (ib. p. 475). He even declared that the people of Ireland were ‘catholic only in name’ (ib. p. 436).

Ormonde landed at Cork on Michaelmas day 1648, and on 16 Jan. 1648–9 concluded a peace with the catholic confederates, thus consolidating the chief royalist interests in Ireland. The confederates broke finally with Rinuccini at the beginning of the negotiations, and warned him to ‘intermeddle not in any of the affairs of this kingdom’ (Confederation and War, vi. 294–301). Due notice of this was given to the corporation of Galway, and the nuncio's last months there cannot have been agreeably spent. The Carmelites having resisted the interdict under which the churches were closed, Rinuccini had their bell pulled down. John de Burgo [q. v.], archbishop of Tuam, sided with the friars, and wished to see the nuncio's warrant (Hardiman, p. 124). ‘Ego non ostendam,’ said Rinuccini. ‘Et ego non obediam,’ retorted De Burgo, whom the nuncio had himself recommended for the archbishopric. Rinuccini was blockaded by Clanricarde. The latter acted with Ormonde and Inchiquin, and was determined that no national synod should be held at Galway (ib. p. 539). The nuncio kept a frigate ready for months, and at length sailed for Havre on 23 Feb. 1648–9.

Rinuccini did not reach Rome till early in November. His agents had been smoothing the way for him, and working against Father Rowe, provincial of the barefooted Carmelites, who had been there since January on behalf of the Irish supreme council. Rinuccini's outward reception was honourable, but Innocent, according to the oft-repeated story, accused him of rash conduct. On 28 March 1650 the pope empowered certain prelates to absolve those who had disobeyed Rinuccini's censures. A general absolution was refused, for it would ‘seem to make the pope decide that the censures were unjust, and it would further follow that the see apostolic would positively approve of contracts made with heretics, which it never did at any time’ (Confederation and War, vii. 113).

Rinuccini went back to Fermo in June 1650, and was received there with rejoicings. He suffered an apoplectic seizure soon after, and a second carried him off on 5 Dec. 1653. He had adorned the hall of the archiepiscopal palace with pictures to illustrate his Irish mission, but they were destroyed by Cardinal Paracciani in the next century. He left behind him a vast quantity of papers. His only purely literary production was ‘Il Capuccino Scozzese,’ purporting to be a life of George Leslie (d. 1637) [q. v.] The preface to the French version, of which there are many editions, calls Rinuccini ‘homme d'esprit, de condition, et de haute probité.’ It was licensed by the prior and sub-prior of the Paris Jacobins, as ‘histoire merveilleuse et très véritable.’

As a statesman Rinuccini failed through lack of patience and adaptability, but as an ecclesiastic he deserves praise. Irish church patronage was in his hands for some years, and there is abundant evidence of the pains he took to make good appointments. He was accused of making bishops who would be his tools afterwards, but De Burgo was one of his nominees. His foibles were an uneasy sense of dignity, an almost childish delight in the outward trappings of authority, and a despotic temper peculiarly unsuitable to the work in hand. He quarrelled with every one who had an opinion of his own, and made personal enemies of men without whose support he was merely beating the air.

[The chief printed authority is La Nunziatura in Irlanda, by Giuseppe Aiazzi, Florence, 1844, which was translated by Annie Hutton as The Embassy in Ireland, Dublin, 1873. Aiazzi was librarian to the Rinuccini family at Florence, and the manuscripts under his charge, from which he published selections only, were dispersed after the death of the marquis, Pietro Francesco Rinuccini, in 1848. Many were purchased by the Tuscan government, and these are now in the Biblioteca Nazionale at Florence, where they were examined by the present writer in March 1895. No papers relating to the Irish mission were found among them. The catalogues are rudimentary, but the officials, both of the library and archives, believe that all the documents used by Aiazzi are now at Milan in the possession of the Trivulzi family, who are related to the Rinuccini. The papers at Holkham are described in the Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. ii. 341. Among them is a copy of the compilation made for Tommaso Rinuccini after his brother's death. Carte referred to this as the nuncio's memoirs, and Dr. Thomas Birch [q. v.] attacked Carte for the use he had turned it to. As Lord Leicester's MS. it has been more thoroughly explored for Gardiner's History of the Great Civil War. A modern copy, which has accompanied him to Australia, was made for Cardinal Moran, who has published many documents in the Spicilegium Ossoriense, 3rd ser. See also Gilbert's Contemporary Hist. of Affairs in Ireland, and Confederation and War in Ireland; Vindiciæ Catholicorum Hiberniæ, Paris, 1650; Bishop French's Unkind Deserter, 1676; Relazione della Battaglia. … di cinque di Giugno, 1646, Rome and Florence, 1646; Clarendon's Hist. of the Rebellion; De Burgo's Hibernia Dominicana, 1762; Walsh's Hist. of the Remonstrance, 1674; Borlase's Hist. of the Execrable Irish Rebellion, 1680; Castlehaven's Memoirs, ed. 1715; Carte's Ormonde; Hardiman's Hist. of Galway; and articles on Preston, Thomas, first Viscount Tara, and O'Brien, Murrough, first Earl of Inchiquin.]

R. B-l.