Rinuccini, GianBattista (1592–1653), archbishop of Fermo and papal nuncio to the confederate catholics of Ireland, was born 15 September (NS) 1592 in Rome, son of Camillo Rinuccini, a Florentine patrician, and his wife Virginia Bandini, sister of the important Cardinal Ottavio Bandini, a genuine candidate for the papal throne in 1623. He had several sisters and a brother, Tomasso, who became chief gentleman of the bedchamber of the grand duke of Tuscany. His first schooling was from the Jesuits in Rome and he then attended the universities of Bologna, Perugia, and finally Pisa, where he received a doctorate in Utrumque ius (canon and civil law). He then occupied significant positions in the Roman curia as secretary of the Congregation of Rites and, evidently more importantly, as a referendary in the two most important courts in Rome, the Segnatura di Giudizio and the Segnatura di Grazie. In 1623 he became a giudice civile in the special tribunal of the cardinal vicar of Rome.
In August 1625, although not yet in major orders, he became the third consecutive nephew of Ottavio Bandini to be offered the cardinal's former archiepiscopal see of Fermo, in the Marche of the papal state. Having accepted, he was quickly ordained and consecrated bishop on 17 November (NS) 1625, and was to remain largely resident in his see until 1645. It was evidently here that he composed most of his large literary output, in particular the enormously popular quasi-novel Il Cappuccino Scozzese and what he considered his chief work, Della dignita et offitio dei vescovi (‘Concerning the dignity and office of bishops’).
Rinuccini proved a devoted pastor in Fermo and refused to transfer to the more prestigious archiepiscopal see of Florence in 1631, but in March 1645 he was confirmed as the nuncio of the newly elected Pope Innocent X to the confederate catholics of Ireland. His appointment, which had not been sought by the confederates themselves, caused general surprise in Rome, and there is little doubt that Rinuccini accepted the office chiefly because he believed it to be of great ecclesiastical importance. His avowed mission was the restoration of the full and public exercise of the catholic religion in Ireland and to further this end he was equipped with 50,000 scudi (c.£12,500). From a papal perspective the mission was something of a religious showpiece and also offered the opportunity to place a visiting minister in the hostile court of France. Between May and September 1645 Rinuccini remained in Paris but failed completely to improve relations between Mazarin's government and Rome. He then completed his journey to Ireland, making landfall in Kenmare, Co. Kerry, after a dangerous pursuit by a protestant privateer, and finally entered the de facto confederate capital of Kilkenny in November 1645.
By the time of his arrival the confederate catholics were close to the completion of a two-pronged peace settlement with the royalist forces in Ireland. The first section of this involved a public treaty with the king's lord lieutenant, the marquess of Ormond (qv), chiefly dealing with matters of interest to secular catholics. The second consisted of a secret protocol, negotiated by the king's private emissary, the earl of Glamorgan (qv), which concerned issues of central importance to the catholic clergy, most notably the right to church property.
Rinuccini was unhappy with this agreement, but until Glamorgan's imprisonment in Dublin towards the end of December, ordered by Ormond to protect the king's reputation after parliament's publication of the details of the secret negotiations, he had little prospect of successful opposition. Further encouraged by information concerning an altogether more satisfactory peace under negotiation by Sir Kenelm Digby, the queen of England's envoy in Rome, he put sufficient pressure on the confederate supreme council that they agreed to resummon the general assembly, the quasi-parliament of the association, to discuss the crisis. Rinuccini's addresses to this body were so explosive that the council ultimately offered him a compromise, pledging to wait for the possible arrival of the papally negotiated peace until 1 May 1646.
This bargain was quickly broken: on 28 March the peace with Ormond was secretly concluded, although not to be published until May. In the meantime the papal peace collapsed completely, but Charles's public disowning first of Glamorgan's mandate (news of which reached Ireland in March) and then of Ormond's, rendered the alternative agreement extremely doubtful. Ultimately the Ormond peace was only resuscitated by a strong application of French influence, and the public commitment of the king's secretary of state, George Digby, that it was consonant with the monarch's will to promulgate the peace. The treaty was finally published in Dublin on 30 July 1646.
Rinuccini was deeply offended by these events. In addition to a number of other slights, during June he had belatedly become aware of the supreme council's deceitfulness concerning the conclusion of peace. Even more importantly, that month marked the beginning of a short but intense sequence of confederate military success at the battle of Benburb, in Roscommon, and at the siege of Bunratty. All these victories owed much to the papal monies which the nuncio had deployed, and he was intensely disappointed at the prospect of their being squandered by the acceptance of peace. In addition military success confirmed his conviction that God would favour those who were steadfast in his cause. He had previously convoked a legatine synod in the town of Waterford for early August and this now became the vehicle for his opposition to the acceptance of the treaty. Although Rinuccini was clearly a dominant personality at the synod, it seems clear that the vast majority of the Irish clergy present shared his view of the iniquity of the Ormond peace. Aided by poor communications between the confederate peace party and the lord lieutenant, and the alienation of the two most important confederate generals, Owen Roe O'Neill (qv) and Thomas Preston (qv), the synod used the weapon of excommunication to destroy the treaty. Ormond, who had belatedly ventured down to Kilkenny in an attempt to protect the settlement, was forced to scramble back to Dublin while Rinuccini entered the confederate capital in triumph and quickly became the head of a newly selected confederate supreme council.
The decision was then made to attack Ormond in Dublin, despite the existence of more dangerous protestant forces in Munster and Ulster, and despite the lord lieutenant's willingness to entertain the prospect of a new truce. Rinuccini's convictions that the capture of Dublin would help to stimulate further papal generosity, and that the confederates would never truly commit themselves to the acquisition of acceptable religious terms as long as they entertained hopes of negotiating a settlement with Ormond, undoubtedly played a central role in this decision. It was arguably his cardinal error in Ireland. The campaign itself was a total fiasco, not least because of the decision to employ the mutually hostile commanders and armies of both Ulster and Leinster.
The peak of Rinuccini's influence had now passed. Largely under the direction of the bishop of Ferns, Nicholas French (qv), and Nicholas Plunkett (qv) (d. 1680), a more moderate clerical strategy was now embarked upon. Although the supreme council elected by the reconvened general assembly was broadly sympathetic to the nuncio, he lacked the necessary finance to supplement his influence. Throughout 1647 he expected further supplies of money from Rome, but in the event they were not to arrive until March 1648. In the interim the confederate military position declined sharply. In the summer of 1647, unable to maintain himself in Dublin any further after the devastation of Rinuccini's campaign of the previous year, Ormond handed his garrisons over to parliament. In August his successor Michael Jones (qv) routed Preston's army at Dungan's Hill. To the south, the reinforced parliamentary commander, Baron Inchiquin (qv), devastated large tracts of several counties, and in November inflicted a decisive defeat on the confederate Munster army.
Although shocked at these events, Rinuccini continued to believe that the root of confederate weakness lay in the internal dissensions of the association. Unlike many Old English confederates, who feared Owen Roe O'Neill's soldiers little less than the English parliament, he was willing to entrust the defence of confederate territory almost exclusively to the Ulster army, while awaiting fresh supplies of money from Rome. The general assembly that was convened in November 1647 revealed almost intractable divisions among the confederates. Ultimately the association chose to seek a foreign protector and missions were prepared to France, Spain, and Rome. Although the nuncio doubted that the pope would accept this office, he hoped to make use of the confederate embassy to acquire additional money. In the event, the nomination of French and Plunkett for the Roman delegation removed their moderating influence from the association for nearly a year.
By March 1648 Rinuccini was seriously contemplating leaving Ireland. The return of his auditor, Dionysio Massari, from Rome convinced him that massive papal aid was no longer likely to materialise, and his chief political opponents had once again been reinstalled within the confederate supreme council. Conscious, however, of his obligations to the clerical party, he elected to stay and became embroiled in the crisis of the Inchiquin truce. The nuncio's objections to this agreement were principally because of his (correct) assessment that it represented part of a plot to reintroduce the Ormond peace. Ultimately, acting to protect O'Neill's army to which he had fled from Kilkenny, he ignited a confederate civil war on 29 May 1648 by issuing an excommunication against all who supported the truce.
The Ulster army lacked the resources to achieve victory and by November the nuncio was reduced to an impotent marginality in Galway. The return from Rome of Plunkett and Ferns in November, and their decision to throw their weight behind renewed negotiations with Ormond, helped bring about the second Ormond peace of January 1649 which was evidently the final factor in convincing Rinuccini to leave Ireland the following month. Unable to stay in France because of governmental hostility, he journeyed to Rome and presented a long report on his mission to the pope. Never robust, his health deteriorated sharply in 1651. He died 13 December (NS) 1653 and was buried in the cathedral at Fermo. The majority of his surviving papers are to be located in the Biblioteca Trivulziana of the Archivio Storico Comunale di Milano.