Marco Polo had previously unknown daughter before marriage, will suggests

A researcher in Venice has found evidence revealing that Marco Polo had a daughter out of wedlock.

Agnese is believed to have been born between 1295, the year the merchant and explorer returned to Venice after more than two decades travelling through Asia, e 1298, the year he was imprisoned in Genoa for his involvement in a naval conflict between the two cities.

Polo, who wrote a book about his travels that went on to become one of the world’s first bestsellers, was in jail for a year before returning to Venice and marrying Donata Badoer, with whom he had three other daughters.

Marcello Bolognari, a PhD student at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, said there were “hints of Agnese’s existence” in other Polo family documents, but her last will, recently discovered in Venice’s state archive, provides strong evidence that the explorer was her father.

The document, written on 7 luglio 1319, shows that Agnese, who died in her early 20s, had entrusted her father, Polo, to deliver her will and testament to the priest, Pietro Pagano, at the church of San Felice in Venice’s San Giovanni Grisostomo neighbourhood.

“We know for sure he had three daughters and this document reflects that most probably he had another daughter from a previous relationship,” said Bolognari. “We don’t know if he had been married before his second marriage or if the child was born from an affair.”

The fact that Agnese had entrusted Polo with her will was proof that he knew of her existence and that the pair had a “strong and trusting relationship”, added Bolognari.

Agnese did not name her mother in her will, which Bolognari said could have been a sign that her mother had died. He said Agnese’s will depicted “an intimate and affectionate family life”. She was married with two young children.

Polo had three daughters with Badoer – Fantina, Bellela and Moreta. He died in 1324, invecchiato 69.

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