Thursday, 30 October 2014

Henry Carey's Venetian son

Emilia Bassano (1569-1645), the illegitimate daughter of Venetian court musician Baptiste Bassano (d.1576) and Margaret Johnson (d.1587), became the mistress to Henry Carey, Baron Hunsdon (1526-96), in 1587 when she was just eighteen years old.

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Emilia Bassano
Emilia was noted as having black hair and black eyes. She had inherited her father's musical talent and she played the virginals. After the death of her father Baptiste in 1576, Emilia went to live in the household of Susan Bertie, Countess of Kent. It was in the Bertie household that Emilia received a Humanist education, as Bertie believed in educating girls to the same level as boys. Later, she lived in the household of Margaret Clifford and her daughter Anne Clifford.
Whilst living as his mistress, Carey gave Emilia a pension of £40 a year, as well as frequent gifts of jewels.

In 1592 Emilia found she was pregnant with Carey's child. Emilia was quickly married off to her first cousin Alphonso Lanier (1567-1613), another court musician, on October 18th 1592. Carey gifted Emilia with a sum of money on this occasion. Her marriage to Lanier appears to have been the end of her relationship with Henry Carey. The following year in 1593, Emilia gave birth to a son, named Henry Lanier, after his biological father.
Emilia's marriage was not a happy one, and the couple only had one child together; a daughter, Odillya (1598-9).

It appears that Henry Lanier inherited the musical talent of his mother's musical Bassano family; trained by his uncle Andrea Lanier (1582-1660), he played the flute and became one of the king's flautists in September 1629.
Henry Lanier married in 1623 to Joyce Mansfield, and they had two children together;
+ Mary (b.1627) m. Henry Young in 1652
+ Henry (b.1629)

In 1611 Emilia published a book of poems entitled "Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum", at which time she was the first woman in England to have done so. In 1613 her husband Alphonse died, and Emilia set up a school to provide for herself and her family. However due to the school gaining a bad reputation due to arrests over rent prices in 1617 and 1619, the school lasted less than ten years.

Due to her connection with Henry Carey, the patron of the Lord Chamberlain's Men theatre company, it has been suggested by historians that Emilia was in fact Shakespeare's 'Dark Lady'. It has also been suggested that Emilia's mother Margaret Johnson was a relative of Robert Johnson, a lutenist who joined Shakespeare's company.

Henry Lanier died in 1633. Due to his death, his mother Emilia was providing financially for her two grandchildren in 1635. Emilia died in 1645.

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