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Authors: Andrea Di Robilant

Lucia (19 page)

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9. A highly symbolic moment in the fall of Venice: the lowering of the four bronze horses from the facade of Saint Mark’s Basilica by Bonaparte’s troops. The horses, which the Venetians had brought back from Constantinople after the Fourth Crusade, were shipped to Paris and placed atop the new arc de triomphe in the Place du Carrousel.

10. During the siege of Venice in 1849, the Austrians dropped bombs carried by air balloons that were strung together by very long ropes. To counter this move, Venetian engineers planned to launch projectiles with ropes attached.

11. Lucia’s husband commissioned this statue of Napoleon from Angelo Pizzi with the intention of placing it in the main square in Alvisopoli. Then Napoleon fell and Lucia no longer wanted it. Reluctantly, Lucia had the statue shipped up the Grand Canal to Palazzo Mocenigo. She put it in a shadowy corner on the water-level ground floor, where it stands today.

12. Alvise Mocenigo was especially proud of this etching of Emperor Napoleon and Empress Marie Louise; it was “the first work of art produced at Alvisopoli.”

13. The pro-French municipal government established in Venice proclaimed 4 June as a national holiday. The ceremonies were held in Saint Mark’s Square. In the foreground, Marina Querini Benzoni, clad in a light Greek tunic, is dancing with Fra’ Nani, a priest with strong Jacobin leanings. According to eyewitness reports, there were fewer spectators than those depicted in the painting, and the atmosphere was not cheerful.

14. Facade of the main villa at Alvisopoli and the ground-floor plan. Alvise Mocenigo wanted the main house to be simple, functional and well integrated into the working community. The estate remained in the family until my grandfather sold it in the 1930s. The park behind the villa has survived and is managed by the local branch of the World Wildlife Fund.

15. Empress Joséphine was very fond of this drawing and she gave it to her son, Eugène de Beauharnais. Lucia met the artist David in Paris in 1813 through an old friend of her father. She could see the artist’s studio from the window of her apartment.

16. Lucia saw Prince Eugène frequently at the royal palace in Milan when she was lady-in-waiting to Princess Augusta.

17. On one of Lucia’s first visits to Malmaison, Empress Joséphine took her upstairs to see her newly refurbished circular bedroom. “It is magnificent,” Lucia wrote in her diary. Today it is possible to see the same room at Malmaison just as Lucia described it.

18. In the summer of 1813 Lucia often visited Empress Joséphine at Malmaison, her retreat outside Paris. The decor was very stylish and the atmosphere relaxed. The estate was given to Joséphine by Napoleon as part of their divorce settlement.

19. Lord Byron lived at Palazzo Mocenigo during part of his stay in Venice—here he is seen at work in his study overlooking the Grand Canal. He took a three-year lease at £ 200 a year—a considerable sum in the Venice of the post-Napoleonic years. His relationship with Lucia, however, grew steadily worse as she proved to be a tough and stubborn landlady.

They were daunting questions, which Lucia presumably shared only with Paolina. Indeed, it is hard to see how Lucia could have preserved her secret without her sister’s close collaboration. But very few other people knew, apart from her trusted maid, Margherita, and the midwife who was eventually called in to assist her during delivery. It helped, of course, that Alvise was away during this ordeal. But it is unlikely Lucia spent much time at Palazzo Mocenigo at all during her pregnancy. Padua would have been too risky as well. It is possible that she returned to her mother’s family estate, Castel Gomberto, north of Vicenza, which she had not visited in nearly a decade, since last taking the waters in Valdagno. There she would certainly have felt protected, in a familiar environment, away from prying eyes. Another possibility is that Lucia made the best of Pope Pius VI’s special authorisation to visit Celestia, and spent the latter part of her pregnancy attended by the nuns of the convent which had become, over the years, a second home to her.

At the end of May, six months into her pregnancy, Lucia was relieved to hear from her friends at the Austrian military command in Padua that Maximilian was alive and well. He had found himself thrown into battle as soon as he had joined up with General Hotze’s forces in the snowy Voralberg, where the gathering Austrian troops were under the constant fire of General Masséna’s soldiers. At the end of the winter, the French had begun their retreat towards Zurich, leaving a sea of melted snow and blood-stained mud in their wake. The Austrians had advanced into Switzerland, occupying the city of Chur, and had continued their pursuit of the French, marching north and taking the French-controlled city of Winterthur, some twenty miles east of Zurich.

BOOK: Lucia
13.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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