Keywords: Illegitimate, Patriciate, Fatherhood, Venice, Civil justice, Ounce, Stampe in causa.
The Venetian aristocratic Republic was based on a «patrician system», in which kinship and politics were inextricably linked. Illegitimate children born of patrician fathers were excluded from state government and from entailed estate. Venetian factums (stampe in causa) have revealed seven lawsuits in which illegitimate-born individuals claimed their right to a share of inheritance to their natural father’s heirs. Arbitration could be hard to achieve since some situations belonged to a «grey zone» of the Venetian law of succession. Contradictory interpretations of belonging existed not only among the families but also among the judges. Various studies have evidenced a growing number of eighteenth-century patricians reluctant to stick to the elite kinship model. This research reveals that the upper patrician oligarchy of the late Republic adhered to it more than ever in a context of crisis. The enquiry reveals that stricter «de-kinned» categories were not always what one would expect and confirms the political dimension of kinship within the Venetian elite. These lawsuits are particularly striking in a gender perspective since female protagonists played a crucial role in those trials that were won in court in favour of illegitimate-born claimants after 1755.