Pope Clement VII

The Benefits of Nepotism

Born Giulio di Giuliano de’ Medici, he was the illegitimate son of Giuliano de’ Medici. Reared by his uncle Lorenzo the Magnificent, considered the most brilliant of the Medici, he was made archbishop of Florence and cardinal in 1513 (age 35)) by his cousin Pope Leo X, the Pope who excommunicated Luther in 1521 before dying the same year.  Clement VII succeeded Pope Adrian VI in 1523.

History suggests he was primarily focused on Italian politics, the patronage and enjoyment of Renaissance culture, and the advancement of his family, the Medici.  He gravely underestimated the depth and the dangers of his unpopularity in Germany and was unprepared to meet the challenges of Reformation.


Political Ineptness

After crowning Charles V, King of Spain, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1519, Clement was caught between the power struggle between the Emperor and the King of France, Francis I.  His allegiance with Francis led to the emperor’s sack of Rome in 1527 and Clement’s seeking refuge in the Castel Sant’Angelo.

The unintended consequences of his political ineptness complicated Charles’ opposition to the burgeoning Reformist movement in Germany and his delay and subsequent decision in declaring Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon valid. The latter led to England’s 1534 Act of Supremacy making Henry the head of the English church.