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Against his oft repeated protestations he was chosen 29 May, 1724, and even after the final vote was taken he refused to yield, arguing that his age, his physical weakness, his incapacity, and a resolution which he made never to become pope, should exempt him from such a grave responsibility.
He yielded only when it was made clear to him that grave dangers were to be feared if the conclave should be reopened.
The only reproach made against his administration is that his simplicity and child-like confidence exposed him to the wiles of some unscrupulous persons who abused his confidence.
Cardinal Orsini had already taken part in four conclaves, when Innocent XIII died in March, 1724; and in all he had acted in the spirit of the zelanti .
He protested strenuously against the honour, but was compelled to accept it under the vow of obedience by the General of the Dominicans, at the insistence of the pope.
As cardinal he adhered strictly to the observance of the rule of his order, and never laid aside his habit.
Being a son of Ferdinando Orsini and Giovanna Frangipani of Tolpha, he belonged to the archducal family of Orsini-Gravina.
During this long period he seldom left his diocese.
Each year he made an episcopal visitation to every parish.
Philip Neri, that the election of a new pope might be no longer delayed.
Before the novena was finished he saw with terror that he himself would be chosen, and, reluctant to accept a position which filled him with dread, he sought by all means in his power to prevent his election.