The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Pope and Mussolini tells the story of the bloody revolution that stripped the pope of political power and signaled the birth of modern Europe.
“[David I.] Kertzer’s brilliant treatment of the crisis in the papacy between 1846 and 1850 reads like a thriller. All the characters, from the poor of Rome to the king of Naples, stand out with a vividness that testifies to his mastery of prose.”—Jonathan Steinberg, The New York Review of Books
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR AND THE SEATTLE TIMES
Only two years after Pope Pius IX’s election in 1846 had triggered great popular enthusiasm across Italy, the pope found himself a virtual prisoner in his own palace. The revolutions that swept through Europe and shook Rome threatened to end the popes’ thousand-year reign over the Papal States, if not the papacy itself. The resulting drama—with a colorful cast of characters, from Louis Napoleon and his rabble-rousing cousin Charles Bonaparte to Garibaldi, Tocqueville, and Metternich—was rife with treachery, tragedy, and international power politics. David Kertzer, one of the world’s foremost experts on the history of Italy and the Vatican, brings this pivotal moment vividly to life.
Praise for The Pope Who Would Be King
“Engaging, intelligent, and revealing . . . essential reading for those seeking to understand the perennial human forces that shape both power and faith.” —Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Soul of America
“Subtle and brilliantly told.”—Christopher Clark, London Review of Books
“Richly rewarding . . . church history at its most fascinating.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“Required, and riveting, reading that shares many of the qualities of Kertzer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece: an exceptionally deep archival and scholarly foundation, and a rare capacity to tell the story of a critical chapter in European history with novelistic verve.”—Kevin Madigan, author of Medieval Christianity
“A remarkable achievement—both a page-turner and a major contribution to scholarship accomplished with outstanding clarity and economy. Kertzer gives this story a notable degree of freshness, and brings out vividly the determination, passions, blood, and gore of this dramatic moment in European history.”—John Davis, editor, Journal of Modern Italian Studies
Kertzer, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Pope Pius XI (The Pope and Mussolini), expertly captures the tension of a deeply devout population, loyal to their church but receptive to the stirrings of both liberalism and nationalism. When Giovanni Mastai Meretti was unexpectedly elected pope in 1846, throngs of adoring Romans heralded his rise, convinced that the humble and fair-minded archbishop of Spoleto would loosen the screws of theocracy in the Papal States and usher in a golden era for Italy. The first months of Pius IX's rule seemed to bear out this vision, but before long political upheaval forced him to flee and after his return, chastened and mistrustful of democracy, "he pope's embrace of a medieval vision of society could not have been clearer." At the end of his papacy, Pius IX presided over "the death throes of the popes' thousand-year kingdom... the death of a doctrine of faith that had a huge impact on the course of Western civilization." From the arch-conservative secretary of state of the Papal States, Giacomo Antonelli (who oversaw daily affairs), to the avatar of Italian independence, Giuseppe Mazzini (a leading dissident fighting against clerical rule and for a united Italy), Kertzer brings to life a cast of characters whose divergent voices arose from a new Europe. A consummate storyteller, Kertzer blends academic rigor with fluid, energetic prose, and the result will satisfy specialists while entertaining those who might otherwise expect to be bored stiff by a volume of church history.