Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Marco, Donata, Fantina

Marco Polo was born in 1254. His wife Donata Badoer was born in 1280. 26 years of difference, as there were 25 between Georg von Trapp (widower rather than explorer) and Maria, born Kutschera, the heroine of Sound of Music. They - Marco and Donata - married in 1300, when she was 20 years old.* Their daughter Fantina was born in 1303, married a man jealous of her riches, since he - Marco Bragadin by name - took from her what according to her father's testament was her very personal property. When Bragadin dies, she gets her own back when appealing to judges like Marco Dandolo, Giovanni Michiel e Natale Ghezzo.

What lessons can be learnt from this?

One is that marrying late is for a man less bad than - for gynæcological reasons - it is for a woman. It has been done and can be done. In the same vein: a difference of age where the wife is younger than her husband is also within possible limits.

A third is that legal guarantees are not sufficient for a woman not to be oppressed by a rich husband. Now we get a lot of meddling with families where husband is or is supposed to be brutal, but usually they are poor men. And a fourth is that at least back then it was still possible for a woman if belatedly after widowhood to get her rights back. Nowadays I am less sure. Especially as often the oppressor is an organ of the Modern Welfare State, like psychiatry.

A sad fifth is that if a father dies soon, as can happen if he marries late, he is not there to protect the interests of his children. By the way, Fantina was not the only child, there were three daughters of Marco Polo and Donata: after Fantina came Bellela and Moreta.

And of course: famous people have real lives. Marco Polo's happiness was not living at the court of Kubilai Khan, but returning to Venice and marrying Donata. Although this one is very much less talked about.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
San Giuseppe di Cupertino
Sacerdote, Franciscano

PS: I nearly forgot to mention it also involves a lesson about the fact that Enrique Dandolo (involved in IVth Crusade after a conflict with Byzance) was far from the only Dandolo in Venice. There were lots of Dandolos who were Doges. The line reaches back to twelfth century at least.

*For the von Trapp couple the year is 1927.

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