During a frustrating custody battle for his niece, a cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church (Francesco Barberini Junior, (1662--1738)) successfully plotted her kidnapping, nearly lost custody of her because of his dramatic tirades before the pope, and in calmer but no less bitter moments, lamented what he saw as the dangerous link between public sympathy for the child's mother and the legal decisions of papal magistrates in the 1720s. This article analyzes the issues at stake in this aristocratic controversy, demonstrating that as was the case in France, such legal cases showed the impact of women's effective use of the law courts to address their grievances in the family. Of particular interest in this case is the central place the cardinal assigned to public emotion for the mother as the deciding factor, limiting his "victories," and overturning legal precedents. The case suggests that the increasing support in the mid-eighteenth century for celebrating human sentiment and for overturning laws that violate it may trace its origins to the proliferation of litigation by women for their interests in the family.


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pp. 685-703
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