The custom that flourished, especially during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, by which a pope would name as his chief minister and most important advisor a nephew or similar relative who was elevated to the rank of cardinal and thereafter oversaw many of the most vital elements of papal administration. The practice was not invented in the sixteenth century, as papal nepotism had long been an established part of the pontifical court.

Pope Innocent III, himself a cardinal-nephew, created an unprecedented four cardinal-nephews

Pope Innocent III, himself a cardinal-nephew, created an unprecedented four cardinal-nephews

Pope Adrian IV (1154-1159), for example, named his nephew Boso to the cardinalate and put him in charge of Castel Sant’Angelo. Throughout the Middle Ages, it was common for a pope from one of the leading noble families to promote the interests of his house, but nepotism began reaching absurd heights toward the end of the fifteenth century with the accession of Alfonso de Borja y Borja as Callistus III (1455-1458). He made two nephews cardinals and worked to assist other family members with such vigor that at his death, the Aragonese who had profited from his generosity were driven from Rome. One nephew, Rodrigo Borgia, became Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503). He made his son Cesare Borgia a cardinal and surrendered to him vast powers over papal policy. Cardinal-nephew could be young chaps; in 1545, Ranuccio Farnese was made cardinal by Paul III at the age of 15.

“A Pope’s nephew dies twice; the second time like all men, the first time when his uncle dies.” – Cardinal Albani

The cardinal nephew in later years developed out of the need for the pope, usually old at the time of his election, to be assisted in the demands of office by a younger and more energetic assistant. Given the climate of intrigue that often pervaded Roman society in the period, the pope regularly turned to a promising young nephew, as relatives were slightly more reliable than scheming prelates who might be anxious to replace the reigning pontiff. As a brother to Leo XIII, Giuseppe Pecci became the last cardinal-nephew to date in 1879. The practise seems to have died out.

The Principality of Filettino

Filettino is a village located about 70 km east of Rome. As of 31 December 2004, it had a population of 542 and an area of 77.5 km².

Originally a place of the Aequi (the ancient people of northeast Latium and the central Appennines of Italy who appear in the early history of ancient Rome), and remaining a tiny hamlet until the time of Christ, it became a safe haven for those fleeing from Saracen invasions in 800 A.D, due to its mountainous location.

English: Principality of Filettino Coat of Arms

Coat of arms of the Principality of Filettino

In 1297 it fell under the control of Pietro Caetani, nephew of Pope Boniface VIII, whose family became notorious as cruel and oppressive, crushing various uprisings until the last of the Filettino Caetanis was executed in 1602 at the papal palace Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome. In the same year it was entered by Pope Clement VII into the Apostolic Chamber and was thus subsequently absorbed into the Papal States until the States themselves were annexed to the Kingdom of Italy in 1870.

In August 2011, following an Italian government announcement that all villages with under 1,000 residents would have to merge with nearby villages in order to cut administrative costs, forcing Filettino to merge with the neighbouring town of Trevi nel Lazio, the village’s mayor Luca Sellari started a campaign for Filettino to become an independent state.

The village began to print its own currency, the fiorito, which translates as ‘flowered’, referring to how Filettino will ‘flower under its new guise’, according to the mayor, and alluding to the currency first minted in 13th-century Florence, the florin.

The citizens intend to invite prince Emanuele Filiberto, from the deposed Italian royal family, to become the Prince of Filettino.

The independence movement created its own coat of arms with its motto: “Nec Flector, Nec Frangor” — we won’t bow or break.

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