Some papal elections during the rennaisance were notorious for allegations of bribery. For example the 1492 conclave which elected Rodrigo Borgia as Pope Alexander VI. The amount needed for bribes were considerable, e.g. Wikipedia mentioned "four mule-loads of silver". Also, elections were not frequent enough for people to simply trust each other by habit. How did people ensure that such a risky transaction was honored?

If the payment was first, how could the payer know that, after that big payment, the cardinal would vote as requested? If the payment was later, how could the cardinal know that he would be paid?

  • a third party maybe? – ed.hank Dec 11 '16 at 16:05
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    To begin with, those interested in Papal elections and with the means to bribe cardinals are usually in the rank of Kings and above. It is never wise to cross a King or an Emperor. But, as you comment, there were not enough elections to develop an habit, so probably there was no standard way or price for votes. – SJuan76 Dec 11 '16 at 20:23
  • @ed.hank Yeah, like escrow. – Geremia Dec 11 '16 at 20:37
  • @ed.hank do you have any references to instances of papal election bribery going through a third party? – user69715 Dec 12 '16 at 4:22
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    Presumably, part of the bribe was paid in advance and the rest was contingent upon some verification of the result. – Felix Goldberg Dec 18 '16 at 3:38

Probably the same way that bribery in the elections of bishops was honored? Or in the elections for MPs from rotten boroughs in England? What about ensuring that bribery in the elections of municipal officials was honored? What about elections for king of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1572 to 1796? What about imperial elections?

There were many elective offices in that era, and in some cases the number of electors, such as the cardinals and the imperial electors, was small enough that bribery was feasible.

So researching allegations of bribery in elections for other offices will no doubt give some clues about the practical mechanics of bribery in papal elections.

  • Sorry, too broad to be useful, and perhaps even misleading. Alas, -1. – Felix Goldberg Dec 18 '16 at 3:37
  • For example: in rotten boroughs there were non-secret elections, unlike in the OP's case of interest. – Felix Goldberg Dec 18 '16 at 3:39

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