This book attempts to overcome the traditional historiographical approach to the role of the early modern papacy by focusing on the actual mechanisms of power in the papal court. The period covered extends from the Renaissance to the aftermath of the peace of Westphalia in 1648 - after which the papacy was reduced to a mainly spiritual role. Based on new research in Italian and other European archives, the book concentrates on the factions at the Roman court and in the college of cardinals. The sacred college came under great international pressure during the election of a new pope, and consequently such figures as foreign ambassadors and foreign cardinals are examined, as well as political liaisons and social contacts at court. Finally, the book includes an analysis of the ambiguous nature of Roman ceremonial, which was both religious and secular: a reflection of the power struggle both in Rome and in Europe.