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The Sack of Rome

Imperial troops of the Holy Roman Emperor head for Rome to express his displeasure with Pope Clement the 7th. To be fair... the Pope has been about as reliable as a politician after election season. He has just switched sides again, and frankly, the troops have missed too many paychecks so when they get to Rome they take their pay out of the Pope's hide. 147 of the Swiss Guard go down hard on the steps of Saint Peter's Basilica in a delaying action to allow the Pope to escape to the Castle of the Holy Angel. The Pope ransoms his freedom for 400,000 ducats (about $53 million in February 2015 money). For perspective, Venice bought the entire city of Zadar, Croatia for 100,000 ducats in 1409. Thereafter, the Pope is careful not to make the Emperor upset. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The Sack of Rome was out of proportion to any offense of the Pope. Granted, the Pope was being bad, but that doesn't explain all the destruction. The troops were using churches as horse barns. That kind of disrespect can only be explained by a general discontent with the Church at the lay-level. Some historians mark this event as the beginning of Church reform, but frankly, the Church will find justification for "business as usual" even after this debacle. The only Church officials that are reforming are the ones going Lutheran. The Catholic establishment is hunkering down.

King Henry the 8th Wants a Divorce

King Henry the 8th of England has been having a reasonably secret affair with Elizabeth Blount and maybe Mary Boleyn, the sister of Ann Boleyn. The King is currently married to Catherine of Aragon, so he sends an envoy to Pope Clement the 7th in Rome to get an annulment. However, by the time the envoy gets there, Rome has been sacked and the Pope is holed up in the Castle of the Holy Angel... leaving the Pope at a disadvantage. This allows King Henry to lean fairly hard on the Pope. The King's argument is that his wife is too closely related to himself (which is true) and that she is too old to produce children. (She is around 42 years old at this point.) It will take a few years but eventually the marriage will be annulled. [7]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Hmmm... King Henry was hot to marry Catherine in the first place, but she became focused on reading and religious study. While the King liked reading, he also liked sex and apparently he wasn't getting any at home so he was often "gone to Jericho," a cottage in Essex that he leased from the local priory. (Wink, wink.) He believed that affairs with married women made more sense so as to cover up any pregnancies. That may be why he arranged a marriage for Mary Boleyn with an understanding fellow at court. He eventually pursued Mary's sister, Anne Boleyn and married her. These sort of shenanigans were tolerated as long as it was kept out of public, but when the King started divorcing and beheading wives, it became intolerable and very disruptive to the government. [8] [9]

In a Word: Eavesdropper *

That "drip, drip, drip" is the sound of moisture from the roof falling from the eves and becomes associated with "drips" hanging around the window. People would share the latest gossip or hear conversation at the window so they began to be called eavesdroppers at this time. [10]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The Japanese have a similar idea of "listening at the gate". The Kanji symbol for eavesdropping is a picture of two gate doors and an ear in the center. [11]

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1527, Wikipedia.

See Also


* The asterisk in the section header indicates that it was read on the podcast.
  1. Sack of Rome - 6 May 1527. The Borgias Fan Wiki (2015). Retrieved on 24 February 2015. “Numerous bandits, along with the League's deserters, joined with the army during the march. The Duke left Arezzo on 20 April 1527, taking advantage of the chaos among the Venetians and their allies after a revolt which had broken out in Florence against the Medici. In this way, the largely undisciplined troops sacked Acquapendente and San Lorenzo alle Grotte, and occupied Viterbo and Ronciglione, reaching the walls of Rome on 5 May.”
  2. (1910) Emperor Charles V, The Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved on 24 February 2015. “Charles believed that this peace would be lasting. But Clement VII exerted every effort to at once form a coalition against Charles, and to induce Francis to recommence the war. Under these circumstances Charles directed his army against Rome. The result of this action was the frightful sack of Rome by the imperial troops in 1527, which the emperor had never intended, but his generals were powerless to prevent, since discipline had vanished in presence of constant privations.” 
  3. The Sack of Rome. Vatican Articles (2015). Retrieved on 24 February 2015. “The attack led to vast destruction of property, looting, killings, and arrests. The rude actions of the Imperial troops stopped when Clement VII surrendered and agreed to pay a ransom of 400,000 ducats, to save his life. Many people died during the Sack and as a commemoration of the Sack, Swiss Guards are still sworn in on the 6th of May every year.”
  4. Sack of Rome (1527) - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 12 December 2014.
  5. Swiss Guard (Pontifical Swiss Guard) - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 12 December 2014.
  6. Pope Clement VII - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 12 December 2014.
  7. Catherine of Aragon - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 25 February 2015. “Catherine of Aragon (Castilian: Catalina; 16 December 1485 – 7 January 1536) was Queen of England from 1509 until 1533 as the first wife of King Henry VIII; she was previously Princess of Wales as the wife of Prince Arthur.”
  8. Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings. Ballantine Books. ISBN 9780345521354. 
  9. Anne Boleyn - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 25 February 2015. “Henry's marriage to Anne, and her subsequent execution, made her a key figure in the political and religious upheaval that was the start of the English Reformation.”
  10. Merriam-Webster Staff writer. The Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories (BOOK), Merriam-Webster Inc.. ISBN 9780877796039. “The original meaning of eavesdropper, as it was used in the fifteenth century, was one who stood within the eavesdrop of a house to overhear what is going on inside” 
  11. Alex Shrugged notes: My Kanji comment is from memory. I'm willing to be corrected but I can see the symbol in my mind. In my studies it was used as an example of how Kanji symbols are built out of more simple symbols.

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