• The Pope Who Would Be King

  • The Exile of Pius IX and the Emergence of Modern Europe
  • By: David I. Kertzer
  • Narrated by: Will Damron
  • Length: 13 hrs and 45 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (96 ratings)

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The Pope Who Would Be King

By: David I. Kertzer
Narrated by: Will Damron
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Publisher's summary

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Pope and Mussolini tells the story of the bloody revolution that stripped the pope of political power and signaled the birth of modern Europe.

“[David I.] Kertzer’s brilliant treatment of the crisis in the papacy between 1846 and 1850 reads like a thriller. All the characters, from the poor of Rome to the king of Naples, stand out with a vividness that testifies to his mastery of prose.” (Jonathan Steinberg, The New York Review of Books)

Named one of the best books of the year by the The Christian Science Monitor and The Seattle Times

Only two years after Pope Pius IX’s election in 1846 had triggered great popular enthusiasm across Italy, the pope found himself a virtual prisoner in his own palace. The revolutions that swept through Europe and shook Rome threatened to end the popes’ thousand-year reign over the Papal States, if not the papacy itself. The resulting drama - with a colorful cast of characters, from Louis Napoleon and his rabble-rousing cousin Charles Bonaparte to Garibaldi, Tocqueville, and Metternich - was rife with treachery, tragedy, and international power politics. David Kertzer, one of the world’s foremost experts on the history of Italy and the Vatican, brings this pivotal moment vividly to life.  

Praise for The Pope Who Would Be King 

“Engaging, intelligent, and revealing...essential reading for those seeking to understand the perennial human forces that shape both power and faith.” (Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Soul of America)

“Subtle and brilliantly told.” (Christopher Clark, London Review of Books)

“Richly rewarding...church history at its most fascinating.” (The Christian Science Monitor)

“Required, and riveting, reading that shares many of the qualities of Kertzer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece: an exceptionally deep archival and scholarly foundation, and a rare capacity to tell the story of a critical chapter in European history with novelistic verve.” (Kevin Madigan, author of Medieval Christianity)

“A remarkable achievement - both a page-turner and a major contribution to scholarship accomplished with outstanding clarity and economy. Kertzer gives this story a notable degree of freshness and brings out vividly the determination, passions, blood, and gore of this dramatic moment in European history.” (John Davis, editor, Journal of Modern Italian Studies)

©2018 David I. Kertzer (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

“In this riveting tour de force, David Kertzer shows how and why Pope Pius IX turned Roman Catholicism into the nemesis of modernity, with drastic consequences not only for the church but for the West - consequences felt to this day, when religion and politics form a lethal brew. Elegant writing, the pace of a novel, scrupulous scholarship - these hallmarks of Kertzer’s body of work are all in evidence here, wonderfully so.” (James Carroll, author of The Cloister)

“Kertzer provides an exceptionally deep archival and scholarly foundation and has a rare capacity to tell the story of a critical chapter in European history with novelistic verve. He brilliantly links the history of Italian characters to epochal changes in modern European history, including the changing fortunes of the papacy and its rule over the Papal States, of the time-honored tradition of divine right, and of the separation of church and state.” (Kevin Madigan, author of Medieval Christianity

The Pope Who Would Be King is a remarkable achievement - both a page-turner and a major contribution to scholarship accomplished with outstanding clarity and economy. Kertzer gives this story a notable degree of freshness, and brings out vividly the determination, passions, blood, and gore of this dramatic moment in European history.” (John Davis, editor, Journal of Modern Italian Studies)