Lucia : A Venetian Life in the Age of Napoleon

Written by Andrea di Robilant
Review by Diane Scott Lewis


Lucia, daughter of a Venetian diplomat, is married off at sixteen to nobleman Alvise Mocenigo. Lucia loves her husband, but her many miscarriages and the death of a small son threaten their future. Alvise takes care of his many estates, neglecting his wife. When Napoleon storms into Italy in 1796, Alvise aligns himself with the French general. Lucia learns to manage through the fall of her beloved Venice under French rule and assists her husband in his agricultural interests. When France signs a treaty with Austria, Venice comes under Austrian rule, and Alvise is ostracized as a collaborator. Lucia has an affair with an Austrian colonel and bears his son. When Alvise finds out, desperate for an heir, he legitimizes the boy. In Vienna, Lucia works hard for Austrian favor, but alliances shift again. Napoleon is now Emperor of France, and Alvise rises in his regime. Through war and hardship, Lucia struggles to keep her family together.

Lucia, an ancestor of the author, experiences firsthand the great events of her era. She befriends Empress Josephine, and is in Paris when Napoleon falls. Despite a few incorrect historical dates (e.g., Napoleon’s coronation was in 1804, not 1805), her life and times are fascinating.