Oxford and Virginia Padoana, the Venetian Courtesan

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Oxford's association with the Venetian courtesan Virginia Padoana is recorded in a letter written by Sir Stephen Powle to John Chamberlain, 21 September 1587, from Venice, now Bodleian Library, MS Tanner 309 (register of letters), ff. 54v-5; full letter ff. 53v-5v; first noted and cited by Virginia F. Stern, Sir Stephen Powle of Court and Country: Memorabilia of a Government Agent for Queen Elizabeth I, Chancery Official, and English Country Gentleman (Selinsgrove, PA; London; Toronto: Susquehana UP, 1992), pp. 81-4 (excerpt p. 83).

Yf to be well neighboured be no smalle parte of happines I may repute my self highly fortunate: for I am lodged | emongst a great nomber of Signoraes. Isabella Bellochia in the next howse on my right hand: And Virginia Padoana, that honoreth all our nation for my Lord of Oxfords sake, is my neighbour on the lefte side: Ouer my head hath Lodovica Gonzaga the Frenche kinges m{ist}ris her howse: you thinck it peraduenture preposterous in Architecture to haue hir lye ouer me. I am sorry for it, but I can not remedye it nowe: Pesarina w{i}th hir sweet entertainment & braue discoorse is not 2 Canalls of[f]. Ancilla (Mr Hattons handmayde) is in the next Campo: Paulina Gonzaga is not farre of[f]. Prudencia Romana with hir courtly trayne of frenche gentlemen euery nighte goeth a spasso [=for pleasure] by my Pergalo. As for Imperia Romana hir date is out w{hi}ch florished in your tyme. I must of force be well hallowed emongst so many Saints. But in troath I am a frayde they doe condemne me of heresye, for settinge vp so fewe tapers on their high Altars. ...

I doe obserue Guicciardins method, y{a}t in euery Citties description, forgetteth not the persons y{a}t florished therin: and you hauinge hearde the names of the cheef Ladyes of account, I must put downe likewise the names of ye famous mountebanckes. ...

Doe you not merueill S{i}r to see me write in this kynde. I am boulde to make my self merry in your companye, hoapinge no man shall see these follies of myne but your owne self in your priuate Chamber: And I doe vse this kynde of musick as an Antidotum against melancoly, wherw{i}th I am sumtimes ouercharged, when I tourne my thoughts to beholde y{a}t dayly decayinge howse, and almost ruinated to the foundation: for I heare the lande is morgaged. ...

Virginia Padoana, twice on record as transgressing the Venetian sumptuary laws, is characterized each time as a courtesan: I cite G. B. Lorenzi (ed.), Leggi e memorie venete sulla prostituzione fino alla caduta della republica (Venice, 1870-72), p. 24:

Virginia Padoana Cortesana, sta a S. Geremia, condanada adi 5 Magio 1581 ducati 45, appar in libro a carte 1.

Virginia Padoana Cortesana, sta a S. Geremia, fo condanada adi 20 Ottobre 1595, ducati 35, appar in libro a carte 52.
Translation: Virginia Padoana, Courtesan, dwelling at Saint Jeremiah, was fined on 5 May 1581 / 20 October 1595, 45 / 35 ducats.

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