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Jean Balue

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A French cardinal, b. probably c. 1421, in Poitou; d. 5 October, 1491, at Ripatransone (March of Ancona ). He has been frequently, but erroneously, called "de la Balue". He was graduated as licentiate in law about 1457, and at an early date entered the ecclesiastical state. He became so intimate with Jacques Juvénal des Ursins, Bishop of Poitiers (1449-57), that the latter named him executor of his will. The charge that in this capacity he misappropriated funds destined for the poor must be received with reserve. After the death of Des Ursins, Balue entered the service of John de Beauvau, Bishop of Angers (1451-67), who made him vicar-general (1461). In 1462, he accompanied his bishop to Rome, and thenceforth his career was marked by clever and unscrupulous intrigue. On his return, he was introduced by Charles de Melun to King Louis XI (1461-83), and, owing to the royal favour, his rise both in ecclesiastical and civil affairs was rapid. In 1464, Louis XI made him his almoner; the same year, Balue received the Abbeys of Fécamp and Saint-Thierri (Reims) and in 1465, that of Saint-Jean-d'Angély, two priories, and the Bishopric of Evreux. Having obtained the deposition of his benefactor, Beauvau, from the See of Angers , he secured the see for himself (1467). His intrigues in the affair of the Pragmatic Sanction procured him, at the request of Louis XI, the cardinalate, to which Paul II (1464-71) reluctantly raised him (1467). Guilty of high treason, he was arrested two years later (1469) with his accomplice William d'Haraucourt, Bishop of Verdun (1456-1500). As a cardinal, he could not be judged by a civil tribunal, but the negotiations between the pope and the king, regarding his trial, remaining fruitless, he was held captive by Louis XI for eleven years (1469-80). The baseless story of his detention in an iron cage originated in Italy in the sixteenth century. After many fruitless attempts, the pope in 1480 obtained Balue's freedom through Cardinal Julian de la Rovere, later Pope Julius II (1503-13). Balue went to Rome with the cardinal, was restored to all his rights and dignities (1482) and was named Bishop of Albano (1483). At the death of Louis XI (1483) he came, at the request of Charles VIII, as papal legate to France and left it as French ambassador to Rome (1485). Balue succeeded, moreover, in securing, besides several benefices, the nomination as Protector of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem and Guardian to Prince Djem, brother of the Sultan of Turkey. But his end was near; he died in 1491 and was buried at Rome. He had attained numerous dignities and amassed wealth, but dishonoured the Church.


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