Veronica Franco (1546-1591) was a poet and courtesan of Venice during the sixteenth century.
Veronica Franco was the daughter of a “cortigiana,” or courtesan, and was married at an early age. The marriage turned out badly, and she chose to leave her husband. In order to support herself she turned to the profession of courtesan and quickly rose through the ranks to consort with some of the leading notables of her day. She even had a brief liaison with King Henri III of France. She was listed as one of the foremost courtesans of Venice in the “catalog,” Il Catalogo di tutte le principale et piu honorate cortigiane di Venezia.
An educated woman, Veronica Franco also wrote two volumes of poetry: Terze rime and Lettere familiari a diversi, in 1575 and 1580, respectively. She published books of letters and collected the works of other leading writers into anthologies. She also founded and funded a charity for courtesans and their children.
While prosperous in her dual career, Veronica Franco’s life was not without hardship. In 1575, a year of the Black Death, she was forced to leave Venice and lost much of her wealth when her house and possessions were looted. On her return in 1577 she was to face a trial before the Inquisition for witchcraft, but was acquitted of the charges. Her later life is largely obscure, though surviving records suggest reasonable prosperity.
The life and times of Veronica Franco were made into the 1998 movie, Dangerous Beauty.