Papal conclave, 1689

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Papal conclave
August–October 1689
Sede vacante.svg
Coat of arms during the vacancy of the Holy See
Dates and location
23 August – 6 October 1689
Apostolic Palace, Papal States
Elected Pope
Pietro Vito Ottoboni
Name taken: Alexander VIII
Alexander VIII 1.jpg

The Papal Conclave of 1689 was convened after the death of Pope Innocent XI. It led to the election of Pietro Vito Ottoboni as Pope Alexander VIII.


The central political issue concerning the papacy during the pontificate of Innocent XI was the diplomatic tension between the papacy and the French monarchy over the droit de régale, the claimed right of French monarchs to receive the income of dioceses during the interregnum between the death of one bishop and the instalation of a new one.[1] In response to a bull from Innocent condemning the practice, the French held a national synod in 1682, which upheld this right of the king. Innocent, in return, refused to confirm French bishops, causing there to be thirty-five vacancies by 1688. Louis XIV responded in kind, by seizing the papal territory Avignon.[2]

In ecclesiastical affairs, Innocent was slow in creating cardinals, waiting until 1681, five years after his election, for his first creations. At that time, he created sixteen cardinals, all of whom were Italian. This caused anger among Catholic monarchs, because there were few remaining non-Italians in the college at that time. When he created twenty-seven cardinals, including one French cardinal and eleven other non-Italians.[2]


Fifty-three cardinals participated in the 1689 conclave, and seven of those were non-Italian. Of the Italian cardinals, seventeen were from the Papal States.[2]

Francesco Maria de' Medici took charge of the Spanish contingent while Rinaldo d'Este led the French factions. King Louis XIV of France planned to send Charles d'Albert d'Ailly, Duke of Chaulnes, who was to take the French cardinals to Marseille where they would meet a fleet of twenty six galleys which would convey the cardinals and their entourages to Rome.

The journey was considerably more complicated than planned. Anne Jules de Noailles, Duke of Noailles, ordered the fleet to open fire on a small English and Dutch merchant fleet but d'Albert contradicted the orders leading to an argument between the two. Eventually the fleet made it to Civitavecchia where they were met by Medici and were welcomed to Rome. The arrival of the French contingent meant the conclave set about electing a new Pope.

Medici cleverly proposed Gregorio Barbarigo but never intended to have him elected. Having tested the waters for the election of a Venetian, he put forward Pietro Vito Ottoboni. D'Este, who disliked Ottoboni, attempted to be equally clever; he jumped forward to support his nomination hoping (as he was leading the French delegation) that this would immediately draw a veto from the Spanish. But the plan failed and, realising he had lost, d'Este appealed to d'Albert for help. But the ambassador thought highly of Ottoboni and had already told Louis XIV that he supported the Venetian cardinal's nomination.

Election of Alexander VIII

On 6 October 1689, Ottoboni was elected Pope Alexander VIII.[3]


  1. ^ Baumgartner 2003, p. 162.
  2. ^ a b c Baumgartner 2003, p. 163.
  3. ^ Baumgartner 2003, p. 164.


  • Baumgartner, Frederic J. (2003). Behind Locked Doors. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-29463-8. 
  • Freiherr von Pastor, Ludwig (1940) [1891]. Graf, Ernest, ed. The History of the Popes. XXXII. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd. 
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