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Journal > Volumes > 42 (2011) / 3 (Autumn)
From Illegitimate Son to Legal Citizen: Noble Bastards in Early Modern Venice
Jana Byars
Iowa State University

This essay considers over 150 supplications submitted to the Avogaria di Comun of Venice from 1569 through 1657 by the illegitimate sons of noblemen seeking formal inclusion in the citizen class. Although law codes explicitly prohibited this practice, numerous illegitimate sons pursued inclusion in the citizen class and expected that they would be granted citizen status. Through an examination of these anomalous bastard sons a more nuanced understanding of the citizen class and its relationship with the patriciate emerges. Further, this article argues that bastardy was not always a debilitating stigma and illegitimate children had a place in their families and greater Venetian society. This type of citizen and his meaningful ties with the classes both above and below demonstrates that, legal prescriptions of class aside, in this society the walls between legally and culturally designated social classes could be quite porous.

Pages: 643 - 663