This essay attempts a reappraisal of nepotism in the Seventeenth century by looking at the causes of the persistence of this system as well as at those of its institutional «abolition» and by challenging the traditional view that regards it as a «sin» of papal real politik inevitably destined, sooner or later, to be corrected. Alternatively, the debate on nepotism can be seen not as the effect of the crises of conscience of the popes, nor as the cyclical return of a theoretical and teleological matter, but as a consequence of actual and specific crises of political legitimacy of the papacy in an international arena dominated by the confrontation between Spain and France. In the same way, the «deinstitutionalization» of the nepotistic practice is to be interpreted as the result of the French political attack as well as of a cultural change, namely the overcoming of the sceptic viewpoint that justified such a practice.[...]
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