Bella Lucia da Verona - A Persona Story

This is something I wrote back in January 2002 for an e-group I used to participate in which encourages persona development. Persona can be much more than just a name and pretty arms to display - it can be a complete fictional, but historically accurate, world in which your persona lives. I have not gone very far into persona development as yet, not in any tangible way at least, but this story was enjoyable to write and based on my knowledge of sixteenth century Venetian history and customs at the time.

The Battle of Lepanto by Paolo Caliari (Veronese)1561

 I was born under a lucky star - or so my mother said before she died in my arms. I know many who knew me would not have thought so, but happiness is what we make it.

My parents' marriage was arranged when my mother was twelve years old, and though she wasn't married until she was sixteen, I remember her telling me once in an uncommonly open and emotional moment that she felt she had never had a true childhood, burdened as she was with the expectations of those around her. My parents loved each other - eventually - but in the beginning they were wary strangers. Perhaps it was this that led to the choices I made. Or perhaps it was the look in my mother's eyes when my father left her at home to dine "with friends", as he said. But his eyes shifted away from my mother's as he said it. There were many, many such occasions, and sometimes he didn't even come home at all. I knew that should I ever have a choice, marriage was not for me. Love yes...but then that is the realm of Venus, goddess of love and beauty, and my favourite of the old gods. Was I happy? Yes...I had happy years such as children are sometimes blessed with.

My father died. He was nearly sixty years old, yet still strong and virile. My mother wept, grief stricken, for days and days, cursing the Turks and Lepanto and fate. But she survived. I was ten, her only child, and she twenty-six. She wasn't the type to enter a convent and grieve for the rest of her days. So she did what she had to do to survive. She married again - twice in the next ten years. Her one condition before she handed over her dowry both times was that I not be forced to marry until I was ready. She was once again a widow when the plague hit Venice. When we heard I was sent away to my uncle's house in Verona. She stayed. I had wondered at the time why she did so. I only found out about her lover after she died. She had waited and sent for me, breathed into my ear the last words she ever uttered - 'be happy and live...'

I then went to live with my mother's brother and his wife in Verona, the birthplace of my ancestors, for the next two years. My mother had left me her small villa near Padua, which was quite aside from my dowry, and anything else which was bequeathed to her by my father. He had left her his larger estate in Verona, so I had a small measure of control in my own affairs. I successfully resisted my uncle's attempts to match me up with worthy nobles - that is, until I was nineteen years old.

He was very rich and well-connected, the Doge was his long-time friend. But he was old. But, worst of all, he was dull, with a cruel thinness to his lips. He lived too far away from Venice, in Florence. He was also rumoured to have killed his previous two wives. They did not bear him children I heard. I didn't wait to find out for sure. My uncle had persisted in his attempts for almost a year, but one morning he woke to find me gone. I heard later that he had washed his hands of me forever, how he had cursed and raged about how I would die on the streets. If only he had known.

What he didn't know was that since the age of thirteen, living in Venice, the place I had been born and loved above all others, where I longed to be those long months in Verona, I had often sneaked out of the house with my trusted servant. She, wordly as she was, understood me. I must admit my parents would have locked me away for months if they had known about the things she told me, the things I witnessed and the reading I did on the sly! I cherished my freedom and revelled in it, until I was threatened with its loss. She told me where to go - and I went.

Maddalena was a courtesan. An intelligent woman, well-read, well-spoken, kind, patient. She mixed in circles that astounded me - she knew artists, senators, even the Doge. In return for being her servant, she fed me, clothed me and taught me about intellectual, social and physical pleasures. I craved to be like her. And soon I was. In a city of tall blondes, whether naturally so or due to zocolli and hours on the rooftop, a short and defiantly brunette woman was a novelty. But I had much else to offer. A good conversationalist, as well as good listener, a ready wit and ready smile. Every inch the noble lady in public, not so much so in private. 

I learned quickly and love music and art and literature, above all poetry. My love of walking barefoot through the gardens of wealthy men (usually when their wives were in the country for the summer) earned me the nickname Flora. Soon I was as sought after as Maddalena. 

Since then I have loved and lost many times. I've even travelled a few times - London, Lisbon and Madrid, Florence and Rome. But Venice, my beloved Serinissima, has remained my home, and my one true love.

Anabella Wake 2002-2007


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(Copyright Information: As author I, Anabella Wake, known in the SCA as Bella Lucia da Verona, hold copyright on all information on these pages. In addition I hold copyright on all images of clothing/costume that I have made. You are allowed to make one facsimile copy for your own use provided that this notice is included on each page. Please ask permission to copy, disseminate and/or distribute my work - I would like to know when and how you are finding this information of use.)