“I Forgive My Sons for Any Disgust They Might Have Caused Me”: Alvise I Mocenigo and the Decline of Paternal Authority in Nineteenth-century Venice

Previously posted at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0363199019856287?ai=2b4&mi=ehikzz&af=R

Journal of Family History, Ahead of Print.
To a nineteenth-century noble family, cohesion was synonymous with status and played a major role in the construction of its identity as part of a powerful social class. Within this society—so reliant on inequality and strongly centered around obedience and hierarchy—the story of Alvise I Mocenigo and his sons shows how the paterfamilias problematized his relatives’ insubordination and how, despite the several challenges to his authority, his decisions regarding the devolution of his wealth were driven to ensure the continuing of the family name and status. In doing so, Alvise bequeathed his goods to his grandsons (i.e., sons of his unsubordinated son, who at that time was already dead) and penalized his own sons. When one of his disinherited sons, Alvise IV Pietro Giulio, went before a court to claim his rightful share of the paternal patrimony, he was not just challenging his father’s will but his own world, where personal ambitions and expectations had to be sacrificed in the name of obedience and family honor. Through the consultation of a number of firsthand materials such as letters, wills, and judicial records held at Venetian archives, this article contributes to the understanding of the Venetian upper-class families and uncovers the changing family dynamics in place in nineteenth-century society.