Get Your Free Audiobook

The Pope Who Would Be King

The Exile of Pius IX and the Emergence of Modern Europe
Narrated by: Will Damron
Length: 13 hrs and 45 mins
Non-member price: $43.89
After 30 days, Audible is $16.45/mo. Cancel anytime.

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)

What members say

No Reviews are Available
Sort by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • S. Jones
  • 25-05-2018

Interesting perspective, somewhat confusing

I enjoyed the historic recounting of this interesting and unsettled time in Catholic history. Naturally there are lots of players in the story and at times was confused on what was going on. the narrator spoke clearly and well, but at times seemed a little robotic. overall I'm glad I finished the book and am now more knowledgeable about this particular point in time.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Karen
  • 20-05-2018

Enlightening read

I have really never had much interest in Catholicism or its history, but an NPR,review caught my attention prompting me to buy and read this fascinating book by a prized historian author. It is shocking to think as late as 1848 there was still papal rule. It really wasn't until after 1929 and Mussolini that the pope authority over the state changed and was reduced to Vatican only. And not until the 60s and Vatican 2 that many of the ancient beliefs about church authority and the notion of separation of church and state came to be. That's jjust crazy. We take for granted that separation and forget its importance. We still see glaring evidence of the issues it creates (think Arab nations), but forget it was not so long ago in our own western history when church was the state. I am ready for some more fascinating historical accounts from this author. As a note, this is a bit of a heavy read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • David
  • 31-08-2018

Like a Suspense Thriller

I had no knowledge of the life of Pope Pius IX (“Pio Nono” to the Romans) or the troubles in Italy during his tenure. So as this history progressed, I found myself wholly absorbed in the car, waiting to see what happened next. There were multiple players in a game of international politics—the French, the Austrians, the other Italian kingdoms, as well as the conservative cardinals and the rebellious Roman liberals. The major issues, primarily the church’s control of state government and the unification of Italy, were fascinating. And after the Pope’s exile from Rome (not a spoiler—it’s disclosed in the first pages), the suspense turned on whether and when he might return to Rome.

David Kertzer has a novelist’s ability to draw characters and create suspense. Characters like Cardinal Antonelli, Alexis de Tocqueville and Garibaldi are well-drawn. The pope himself comes across as somewhat tragic, longing for his people’s affection but suffering because of his own weaknesses and his tendency to be manipulated by others.

The history was well-read. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 30-05-2018

The audio

I do not know if I gave the incorrect rating for performance due to my lack of understanding of performance. I took it to mean that the overall flow of the read. I had issues with the audio. I feel like I missed a lot of words from the audio due to the smashing or skipping of words throughout the story. I think the skips came through when there was a change in chapters or sections.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Phillip Lund
  • 07-05-2018

Enlightenment

This book fills many gaps in the history of the Papacy. I was not aware of the ferocious rebellion of the Papal States-which was justified. The Roman Church as governed by Pope Pius IX was a Medieval institution whose cruel methods of governing clearl in need of reform. The author has done an outstanding job describing the Roman/Italy Culture and the very difficult transition to modern era. I can better understand the nature of foreign military intervention as used by the Papacy against "his subjects" and especially the Jewish population of Rome. "Viva the Republic" What a great read!