Before researching medieval Venice, I had absolutely no idea about the existence of the Council of Ten (see their symbol below, "CX", representing the name Consiglio Dei Diece), or their significance in the history of state control. I sometimes think that societies get the organisations they deserve, a broad generalisation, and one I would probably struggle to defend, yet in the case of the Venetian Republic, I think this is true.
The creation of The Ten, in the aftermath of the failed coup of 1310, was initiated only to ensure that a repeat of the insurgency could be avoided. And the organisation was only ever intended to be temporary (a period of only two and a half months). But the Doge liked the idea of having such a body, and asked the Major Council to approve a number of extensions. They became a permanent fixture of the state in 1335 (they were allowed to vote this change in themselves, which already says quite a lot!), fifteen years before the events of THE QUARANT. Misleadingly, there were actually 17 members at the time when Malin re-enters Venice, as the Doge and each of his six councillors attended each Ten meeting. This would therefore include Soranzo, the councillor for San Marco.
The Lion's Mouths were effectively the primary means by which anonymous whistleblowers could offer tipoff's to The Ten, for discussion at their meetings every Wednesday or Thursday afternoon. This did not, however, prevent anyone exploiting the system for their own means - they also became a great way to spread malicious gossip amongst rival families. Fake News, anyone?.
As mentioned earlier in the tour, those Heads that remain are situated in the interior of the Doges Palace, in the later wings, but the mechanism is broadly the same as those five or six that were built into the outer walls of the renovated Palace porticos in the 1340's. I remain happy with my decision to feature their striking appearance on the front cover of the novel.