The Doge of Venice was the Republic’s chief magistrate and ruler, the elected heir to a long and glorious tradition of rulership that was admired throughout Europe. Until the advent of modern democracies one of the trickiest things to sort out in the governance of any state was organising a replacement ruler without either descending into civil war or being subject to the unwanted attentions of external powers at a time of vulnerability. Venice had managed this feat for over a thousand years by means of a highly elaborate voting system (see blog ‘The successor problem’). The Doge held the office for life although his power was limited by the need for support and approval from the other ruling institutions and Councillors of the state. His authority was very different to that of an absolute monarch such as Louis XV. He was quite often an elderly man who had served the Republic with distinction in a variety of offices and this would be the pinnacle of his career.
Our Doge not only represents the authority of Venice but is its embodiment. He is cultured, sophisticated and implacable. Although Casanova is not significant in the great scheme of things, nonetheless his escape, and the celebrity he achieved on the basis of it, is a huge embarrassment to the city in the same way that it is a stain on the reputation of the Doge on whose watch it occurred.
The Shadows of the King’ is now freely available here.
27 long form articles on Casanova’s life and times are freely available here.
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