By FRANK DAVEY
THE CARDINAL DE BERNIS, by Sir Marcus Cheke, with a preface by Fr. Gordon Albion (Cassell, 25s.).
THE LAST MEDICI, by Harold Acton (Methuen, 32s.).
DORN in 1715-year of the death of Louis XIV, Le Roi Soleil Francois-Joachim de Pierre, Count de Bemis, served Louis XV, lived to see Louis XVI executed, and (says Fr. Gordon Albion) -survived by a few months the judicial murder of the greatest murderer of them all, Robespierre".
Tonsured at 12, he left the seminary of Saint-Sulpice at 19, a mischievous and clever "cupid in Abbe's garb" (without major orders or religious vows) to become the pet of the prettiest women of Paris and favourite of Madame de Pompadour.
During four years as ambassador in Venice he got involved in one of Casanova's escapades. At the Court of Versailles he lost the post of Foreign Minister through opposing the Pompadour's foreign policies and spendthrift habits, and was exiled but consoled with a cardinal's hat.
'King of Rome'
0RDA1NED at last in 1758, he proved an excellent Provencal archbishop for five years-probably the happiest of his life-till
called to Rome to elect Clement XIV and be France's ambassador for his last 25 years in such sumptuous state that he was nicknamed "King of Rome".
He helped to suppress the Jesuits, and thought the popular furore on the death of the saintly "beggar of the Colosseum" (Benedict Joseph Labre, canonised in 1881) a farce used by Jesuit and Jansenist factions alternatively.
It took a Benedictine Pope (Pius VIII to restore the Jesuit order! On November 3, 1794, Bernis died "along with his epoch . . . the institutions he had loved :Ind the monarchy he had served". Four years later Bonaparte's troops were in Rome and carried off Pius V.1 to die a prisoner in exile.
20 year-old ambition MARCUS CHEKE, British Minister to the Holy See, has achieved a 20-year-old ambition in writing this biography. It is a diplomat's tribute to a diplomat. and full of human understanding. Eighteenth century Europe! Mr. Harold Acton has the phrase for it: "An ironical chiaroscuro of magnificence and sordid interhides." Among the brilliant portraits in this revision of a book he wrote at 25 in 1932, at least three Medici cardinals figure, in the sunset of the ruling house of Tuscany.