As alluded to in the update before last, the Yongfrau Agathe almost certainly has far fewer guns than its nominal complement, and with a crew of 12 it couldn't use them even if it was fully armed. Additionally, Barentz's contract is to drop off the goods and return with oil, not to go privateering. What Theodore needs, much more than a single ship, is to prove to the syndicate that supporting him is profitable, and that he can deliver what he's promised.

There will, eventually, be a naval dimension to this conflict, but we're not quite there yet.
Last edited:
The Return of the King
The Return of the King


Algajola and its citadel

Patience till the winter's snow
Be dissolved from off the land;
Then shall sudden vengeance flow
From the mountains to the strand!
Spreading, catching, far and near,
Like the fiery flame's career.

- Translated from a Corsican vocero, or funeral dirge

The Corsican regency was not much of a government. In the interior, Marquis Luigi Giafferi was no more than a figurehead, and the Corsican pieves and villages retained the precarious autonomy they had possessed since Genoese authority melted away in 1730. The "liberated" coastal regions remained largely under the control of Theodore's military governors. These commanders remained nominally loyal to Theodore, and thus to his regency council, but the full extent of their cooperation with the regents was to allow delegates to be sent to the Corti consulta.

The foremost of these governors, as well as one of the regents, was Marquis Simone Fabiani. His position was crucial, for his territory, the Balagna, was both the source of most of the island's olive oil (which Theodore needed to pay the syndicate) and adjacent to the Genoese citadel of Calvi, the seat of the Genoese colonial government since the fall of Bastia. Fortunately, Fabiani's loyalty was not in doubt; the general gave his sovereign a lavish welcome. Most of the armaments that Theodore arrived with on the Yongfrau Agathe seem to have gone to Fabiani's militia, including both of the cannons.

Further east, the rebel position was not as strong. Northeastern Corsica had been divided between Count Gio Giacomo Ambrosi di Castinetta, in Bastia, and Colonel Giovan Natali, in the Nebbio. These were especially restive regions where pro-Genoese sentiment was still widespread, and their governors handled the resentment of the populace. Natali, before the victory at San Fiorenzo, had distinguished himself chiefly as a guerrilla, and once in power he spent most of his efforts on settling local scores, harassing those who had cooperated with the Genoese as well as longtime rivals of his own Nebbian family. Castinetta had less of a personal interest—he was not from Bastia—but ran the former capital like an iron-fisted tyrant, terrorizing the populace by rousting out suspected Genoese sympathizers and publicly executing them. There were also accusations that Castinetta's proscriptions tended to target men of means, whose wealth was ostensibly seized "for the cause" but in reality lined the count's pockets. Throughout the region, there was an increasing number of violent incidents and outright skirmishes as the rebels found themselves in the unfamiliar role of being an army of occupation instead of fighting one.

Theodore charged Fabiani with the reduction of Algajola, and then made his way east with his followers. The king met Colonel Natali at Oletta—the colonel had established his headquarters in his home village—and gently reminded him that the priorities for the Nebbio were to restore oil production, as it was desperately needed to pay the syndicate, and to fortify San Fiorenzo against possible Genoese counterattack. In fact Natali had hardly bothered with the city the rebels had struggled so hard to take; it was a small village anyway, and had been utterly ruined by bombardment and battle. Nevertheless, it was strategic, and putting Natali to some productive purpose was reason enough in itself. Theodore visited Bastia next, but although appraised of the allegations regarding Castinetta's corruption, there was not much he could do. Castinetta was too important, and if he was enriching himself he at least seemed to be a loyal patriot. He was also probably not wrong about dissenters within the city, for the population was both large and generally sympathetic to the Republic.

Theodore remained in Bastia for a few days before proceeding south into the Castagniccia, where he was enthusiastically welcomed in the pieves of Casinca, Rostino, and Orezza. In Rostino he received the fealty of Clemente Paoli, the 22 year old son of the martyred general Giacinto Paoli, who was made a militia captain and a signore.[A] He was reunited with Captain Giovan Luca Poggi, whom he had placed in command of the "royal guard;" that unit still existed, but a lack of funds had pared it down to around 130 men. Recently on the scene was Marc-Antonio Giappiconi, brother of Theodore's assassinated secretary of war Count Anton-Francesco, who was an officer in the Venetian army who had returned to Corsica. Experienced—and, perhaps more importantly, reliably anti-Genoese thanks to the murder of his brother – Theodore gave him his brother's old office and the rank of major-general.

Theodore, who had been supplied with some spending money by the syndicate, paid Poggi's remaining troops (they were desperately in arrears) and urged Giappiconi and Poggi to work on recruiting more. Perhaps realizing that the liberation of Corsica was bound to be a longer fight than he had anticipated, Theodore's new strategy was to sustain a "regular" battalion, drilled frequently by professional officers, in the hopes that it would be a more effective use of limited funds than the large but ill-trained hordes of irregulars he had previously summoned from the mountains. Poggi, for his trouble, was made a Lieutenant-Colonel and a Count.

Theodore spent two weeks in the Castagniccia, surveying his "realm" and re-establishing personal contacts with the various caprales, colonels, and noblemen who had given their allegiance more than a year before. He visited his provisional capital in Vescovato, where his chancellor Sebastiano Costa noted on the embarrassing "poverty" of the royal dwelling and made some efforts to spruce up the place with fresh paint and colorful banners. Theodore visited the royal mint as well, although it had not been in use for many months thanks to a dearth of specie. His next move was inland to Corti, where he met Count Gianpietro Gaffori, his secretary of state, and Colonel Felice Cervoni, who had been moved from the Nebbio to Niolo before Theodore's departure. He also met Marc-Antonio Raffaelli, one of the leaders of the indifferenti, who had grown disillusioned with their leadership and had decided to switch sides again. Theodore presided over some fairly inconsequential matters of governance at Corti and then ordered Cervoni to prepare his troops to assist Fabiani.

His friend Francesco dell'Agata, meanwhile, had arrived at Livorno. Evidently the captain of the chartered vessel had refused to approach the island after a close encounter with some Genoese patrols. Unlike the Yongfrau Agathe, however, which had been tasked by the syndicate with bringing back oil, dell'Agata's ship was paid for in advance, and the captain had no need to return to the island after offloading his stores. The Genoese consul in Livorno, who knew very well who dell'Agata was, demanded that the port officials move against him and seize his "contraband." The ship and its cargo were briefly impounded, but after a search the imperial officers released the vessel and the goods. Dell'Agata was a Tuscan citizen, he was a known merchant whose goods appeared legitimate, and there was nothing illegal about buying merchandise in Amsterdam and taking it to Livorno. The French consul reported that the cargo included both small arms and "artillery and mortars," and Costa claims that dell'Agata sailed with "six bronze cannon." It appears that much of the cargo was smuggled into Corsica by small feluccas and tartanes, and although the Genoese claimed to have captured one such smuggler this was probably only a portion of the overall purchase.

Foreigners had fought on the side of the Corsican rebels before, most notably Lieutenant-Colonel Antoine Dufour, who had commanded the rebel artillery in 1736.[1] The largest share of them had been the soldiers in the "foreign company" created soon after his arrival. This had started out as a minuscule unit, but deserters from the Genoese army—mostly Germans, and some Spanish—and freed galley slaves had increased its number to around 200 by the time of the Battle of San Fiorenzo. Theodore's return brought new reinforcements. A few dozen Germans came with him to Corsica on the Yongfrau Agathe, and more arrived in Livorno with dell'Agata and made their way to Corsica thereafter. In Tuscany, dell'Agata and other Corsican agents recruited men from the crowds of idle soldiers in Tuscany. They were mostly veterans of the War of Polish Succession, deserters and discharged mercenaries from the great armies which had recently trodden through Italy. Many were German deserters from the imperial armies in Italy or Spanish troops from the Spanish garrison in Tuscany who had stayed behind when that unit was withdrawn.

The influx of men required Theodore to reorganize his foreign contingents. Eighty men, nearly all of them Germans, were formed into a bodyguard company to safeguard the king against assassins. The rest went into the old foreign company, which was now properly a foreign regiment. They included mainly Spanish and German soldiers, although it included some Italians as well as a handful of Dutchmen, Swedes, Englishmen, Frenchmen, Greeks, Turks, and Livonians. In fact Theodore had too many of them, to the point where they were troublesome to pay, feed, and arm. A British newspaper reported in November of 1737 that Theodore had "a life-guard of six hundred Germans;" another source improbably claimed over a thousand. Some of the dross was sent back to Livorno, particularly the freed galley slaves with little combat experience, but several hundred at least remained.

Also along for the ride in 1737 were a few other foreigners we know by name. There was Giraud Keverberg,[2] the son of a Dutch colonel who had been recommended to Theodore by Cesar Tronchin, one of the syndicate's partners, and Denis Richard, a young Englishman from Guernsey who Theodore took on as a personal secretary and whose notes on his tenure as secretary to the King of Corsica would become the only English-language primary source of the Corsican revolution and Theodore's early reign. These men joined the royal "staff," such as it was, which included the king's personal valet Antonio Pino (a Corsican from Capo Corso), his chaplain Antonio Candeotto (a native of Elba who had been doing missionary work in Tunis when Theodore found him in 1735), and other unnamed servants including—so Costa tells us—two cooks, a butler, a surgeon, two squires, three "hunters," and four "Moorish" footmen.

Still on a lean budget and without much of a functioning government, Theodore could do little but wait for more help to arrive. He had promised to return with aid, and the aid he had brought so far was not proving very impressive. Still, it did help Fabiani; with Theodore's arms and guns, plus reinforcements from Niolo and the foreign regiment, he succeeded in gaining the commanding heights over Algajola and closely invested the town, with five guns plunging fire into the Genoese citadel. A large Genoese relief force sent from Calvi was completely routed when, according to the British consul John Bagshaw, the Corsican auxiliaries who made up most of the Genoese army fired their muskets once and then fled the field. Fabiani had also loyally obeyed the king's commands, transmitted from Amsterdam, to amass olive oil to pay the syndicate. He wrote the partners of Lucas Boon in Livorno, by the names of Evers and Bookmann,[3] pushing them to ask the syndicate for supplies, armaments, and money to be sent immediately.

Theodore had good reason to want prompt action, for by now he was aware of the agreements which the Genoese had made with the French. In September of 1737, the Genoese finally accepted the long-proffered aid of France. Denis Richard wrote that the king put on a stoic and serene face to his commanders and followers; he promised them that he would bring sufficient arms and aid for the patriots to withstand any enemy, but at the same time implied that he had contacts with Versailles and assured the Corsicans that His Most Christian Majesty would see that Corsica was a friend of France. Richard was astonished at his reaction in private; upon hearing the news, the king turned white and "was struck dumb with despair." Soon, however, he broke his silence with a laugh. He admired, he said, the cleverness of the French chief minister André-Hercule Fleury, who had deftly played the game and now stood ready to take control of Corsica while Genoa paid him for the privilege. Evidently Theodore suspected from the start that the French aimed at more than merely assisting the beleaguered Republic.

The French would not arrive immediately. Negotiations on the intervention agreement were not concluded until November, and due to winter weather it would not be until February that the first French forces would arrive on the island. Until then, Theodore could only try to do his best to prepare. The little Kingdom of Corsica would soon have to weather the assault of the French colossus, the strongest military power in Europe.

[1] Dufour makes no appearance in 1737, and little more is said of him—the mysterious Frenchman vanished as suddenly as he appeared. His ultimate fate is unknown. It is possible that, as the French government moved ever closer to supporting the Genoese, he decided that it would be best not to remain long enough to become an enemy of the state.
[2] Some sources claim "Giraud" was a pseudonym, which if true means his actual given name is not known.
[3] The man whose name Theodore had assumed on his voyage.

Timeline Notes
[A] The (much) older brother of Pasquale Paoli. Pasquale is 12 years old at this time. Clemente lacked the charisma and education of his younger brother, but IOTL was an important rebel leader in his own right. Giacinto was expelled from the country and went to Naples with his family during the French occupation in 1738, but Clemente returned to Corsica shortly thereafter to take care of the family's interests in Corsica. Clemente gained prominence as a lieutenant of Gaffori, who later became the generalissimo of the Corsican rebels. After Gaffori's assassination in 1753 it was supposedly on Clemente's suggestion that the rebel leaders invited Pasquale to return from exile to lead the patriotic movement. That, at least, is the usual account, but it is somewhat romanticized. Actually, the chief enemies of Clemente and his comrades were not the Genoese but the Matra clan, which constituted a rival power base to the Paoli family of Rostino and their highland allies. Pasquale was appointed as "capo generale" by only one faction of the rebels in 1755, and it took a civil war lasting the better part of a decade before he actually consolidated his control as the undisputed ruler of "national" Corsica. The Matra forces very nearly killed him in 1757; allegedly, only Clemente's swift intervention saved his life and prevented Corsican history from going in a quite different direction. Mario-Emmanuel Matra represented a more "conciliatory" and pro-French rebel faction that was opposed to the Genoese but supportive of French protection/annexation. They lost, and Mario-Emmanuel was killed, but in the end it was their vision of Corsica which became reality.
Last edited:
Brrilliant, brriliant, BRRILIANT! (bad spelling intended) Awesome turn of events. I wonder how the French will be defeated, IF they are, this is...
Oh boy, I would be struck dumb with despair too if France suddenly joined a war against me. The Genoese are one thing but the French are an entirely different beast altogether especially in the early 18th century. Hopefully Theodore can find something, or someone, to counter France otherwise the Corsican Kingdom is real trouble.
@Carp you forgot to put in the fourth footnote.​

So I did... but I don't recall what was supposed to go there, so I removed it. Oh well!

Might French involvement trigger some of their rivals siding with Corsica for the sake of maintaining the balance of power?

Well, keep in mind that the French aren't actually upsetting the balance of power so long as they keep their word - their ostensible reason for intervention is to maintain the status quo by returning Corsica to the obedience of Genoa. Their main continental rival, Austria, has already formally approved their intervention; the only remaining "rival" of consequence is Britain, which has thus far proved uninterested in Corsica.

Even if they were overtly trying to conquer and annex Corsica, I still doubt that either the Habsburgs or the Hanoverians would be terribly interested in a war with France over the island (particularly not the Habsburgs, who are quite busy embarrassing themselves in a botched war with the Ottomans).

Militarily, at least, the rebels stand alone. Yet there may be some powers that are willing to support them indirectly, or through covert means.

Oh boy, I would be struck dumb with despair too if France suddenly joined a war against me. The Genoese are one thing but the French are an entirely different beast altogether especially in the early 18th century. Hopefully Theodore can find something, or someone, to counter France otherwise the Corsican Kingdom is real trouble.

The bottom line is that if France really wanted to, they could (and did) conquer Corsica. France's peacetime army was larger than the island's entire population.

That said, however, the expeditionary force is only 3,000 men initially, to be scaled up to 10,000 as necessary. 10,000 is nothing in terms of continental armies but it's a lot in a Corsican context, and a similarly sized imperial force compelled the rebels to ask for terms a few years earlier. The rebels can't militarily defeat an army of that size if the French decide to field it, although they could shift to a guerrilla strategy in the mountains. That, however, would mean giving up all the coastal territories and citadels that they have worked so hard to capture - and would cause them to lose the Balagna and the Nebbio, which are economically vital to the rebellion.

What limits France, as we will see, is not sheer ability but political will and time - how far are the French willing to go to subdue Corsica for Genoa's sake, and will they accomplish it before the clock runs out on Charles VI and the War of Austrian Succession begins?
Last edited:
The French Arrive
The French Arrive


Infantryman of the Auvergne Regiment
Theodore wasted no time in trying to make the best of the diplomatic situation, and began by penning a letter King Louis XV. Theodore hailed the beneficence, justice, and mercy of the Most Christian King and claimed to have heard the news of the French arrival in Corsica with great joy. Theodore, in his usual grandiloquent prose, welcomed the French with open arms, presenting the French intervention as though it were a mediation between the Genoese and Corsicans rather than an invasion on behalf of the latter. He had no doubt, he wrote, that the "great humanity" of the French king would put in check the "tyranny" of the Republic. This was, of course, nonsense, and Theodore knew it. Yet while the letter was delivered to Paris (by two unnamed Corsican "plenipotentiaries" whose very presence in France elicited another official protest by the Genoese) it was also widely published in Corsica and the continent. Theodore was, in effect, trying to get out in front of the story, and his letter played to multiple audiences. To the Corsicans, he sought to boost morale by suggesting the French were not actually their enemy; to Versailles, he wished to communicate his desire for negotiation and reconciliation; and to the rest of Europe, he wanted to set up an expectation that France was coming as merely a neutral arbitrator, so that they would appear treacherous if in the end they turned their guns on the Corsicans.

Versailles, at least, got the message. While the French government assured the Genoese that it intended nothing less than a prompt and thorough pacification of the island and its restoration to Genoese sovereignty, they clearly had no intention of landing on the beaches of Corsica with guns blazing. The government was reluctant to deal with Theodore, who they were still convinced was a possible English agent, but they were interested in a potential rebel interlocutor, and found him in the person of Father Gregorio Salvini. Salvini, a Balagnese priest, was an agent for the Corsican rebels in Livorno. He had pledged allegiance to Theodore in 1736 and had covertly purchased arms in Livorno to be smuggled into the country. He was also a literate man who had earned his doctorate in civil and canon law in Rome, and had arranged the publishing of the anti-Genoese tract Disinganno intorno alla guerra di Corsica written by the patriot Giulio Matteo Natali in 1736. Recently, he and certain other Corsicans in Livorno had written to the French chief minister André-Hercule Fleury to request French mediation in the Genoese-Corsican war. Whether this letter was done with the knowledge or consent of Theodore is unclear; Salvini was certainly in communication with and a subordinate of Father Erasmo Orticoni, Theodore's foreign minister. Regardless, it suited Theodore's purposes, and the French saw it as the contact within the rebellion they had been looking for. Marquis Jean-Jacques Amelot de Chaillou, the French secretary of state for foreign affairs, sent instructions to Pierre-Jean Pignon, a physician who served as the French consul in Tunis, to go to Livorno and meet directly with Salvini. Amelot made it clear that the matter was to be done in the utmost secrecy, and that the government preferred "ways of conciliation rather than ways of rigor."

On Corsica, the war continued. In December, Algajola fell to the forces of Marquis Simone Fabiani, reducing thereby the Genoese presence in the northwest to Calvi alone. Theodore urged him to besiege that citadel, and even joined him in person; perhaps he thought to wrest this position from the Genoese so as to prevent French forces from having a disembarkation point so near the vital Balagna. Victory, however, would elude the Corsicans this time. The position was simply too strong. The rebels did not have enough artillery, and while they gained the heights south of the city this position was too far to directly bombard the citadel as they had managed at Algajola. Calvi, as the Genoese headquarters in Corsica after the fall of Bastia, had a strong Genoese garrison and was well-stocked with food, water, and ammunition. The Corsicans could cut off Calvi by land, but the Genoese retained control of the sea. Although the siege was maintained through the winter, it accomplished little other than to cause some logistical difficulties for the Republic.

Theodore returned to the Castagniccia in January, dwelling first at Vescovato and then in his first capital of Cervioni. Wherever he was, Theodore continued his efforts at diplomacy, constantly writing letters to any acquaintance or distant relation he could think of, and dictated missives to the syndicate, foreign ministers, diplomats, and consuls. Denis Richard, his English secretary, was kept busy indeed. When not writing letters, he made legislation on various and sundry matters, and when not doing that he took walks in the countryside, attended always by his German life-guard.

Theodore was always coming up with new schemes, most of which never came to fruition. One particularly innovative example which deserves mention here was a proposal, sent to Minister Fleury in January of 1738, suggesting that Pope Clement XII might be persuaded to revive his ancient claim to Corsica, and that in exchange for French recognition of this claim His Holiness might be persuaded to "exchange" Corsica for Avignon, thus ceding that Papal enclave in France to the Most Christian King. That Rome might claim Corsica for its own, following medieval precedent, had occurred to Theodore before, but the Papacy had been unresponsive to his overtures; Theodore now presented the idea to France with the implication that Rome was already on board or at least congenial to the idea. It was an incredible presumption, and one which the French probably saw through at once, but one must at least credit Theodore for trying.

Overall command of the French intervention was vested in the 50 year old Lieutenant-General Louis de Frétat, Comte de Boissieux, a nobleman of Auvergne.[1] Boissieux was the nephew of the famous Marshal Villars and had served as his aide-de-camp. Although the Genoese would come to criticize him for inactivity, he was by no means an armchair general. He had been in the thick of the fighting in the Italian theater of the War of Polish succession, having been wounded at Parma and noted for personally leading a bayonet charge at Guastalla in 1734. The force which he would be leading was composed of six infantry battalions, two from the Auvergne Regiment and one each from the regiments of d'Ourouer, La Sarre, Nivernais, and Bassigny. Each battalion amounted to about 500 men, for a total force of 3,000 infantry. No cavalry or artillery was provided, although it scarcely seemed necessary:[A] Boissieux, like Pignon, had been informed of the government's preference to avoid undue "rigor," and it was expected that the very sight of the French army would be sufficient to overawe the rebels and compel their capitulation—or at least reconciliation—without serious opposition. To provide naval support for the intervention, chiefly by patrolling Corsican waters for smugglers, a flotilla of three light frigates was provided; the identity of only one vessel is certainly known, the 26-gun Flore.[2]

The expedition had a difficult start. The French transport fleet set out from Antibes on the 6th of February, but the weather quickly turned foul and the French fleet was scattered by a storm.[B] No ships were lost, but several were driven east and sustained enough damage that they had to put into Livorno for repairs. Boissieux landed at Calvi on the 9th with two battalions. He was welcomed by the Genoese commissioner-general, Giovanni-Battista de Mari, but their relationship was not to be a warm one. Mari, who had long been a skeptic of French assistance, had strong opinions as to how Boissieux and his forces should conduct themselves. Mari's strategy had been one of terror and spoliation, and he demanded that Boissieux immediately march against the rebels, drive them from the Balagna, offer amnesty to all who surrendered and disarmed, and then raze and burn the homes, crops, and orchards of any who refused that generous offer.

Boissieux had no intention of following this advice. His government vastly preferred a peaceful resolution to the rebellion, or at least one of minimal force. A cynic—and Mari was just such a man—might have interpreted this as a desire to demonstrate the mildness and enlightenment of French rule, as contrasted with Genoese brutality, in order to stoke pro-French sympathy on the island and pave the way for its conquest by France. Although no "smoking gun" exists to prove this ulterior motive, it is quite plausible. Boissieux outright refused to make any aggressive moves at this early point, explaining that several of his battalions had not yet arrived because of complications with the weather. His true aim, however, was made quite obvious two days later, when Pignon arrived in Corsica on the orders of Secretary Amelot. Pignon was instructed by Amelot to make contact with the Corsicans, and Boissieux provided him with letters saying that he would happily have talks with members of the "Corsican nation."

These letters were not addressed to Theodore, as the French still considered him an untrustworthy adventurer and thought they might bypass him entirely. Theodore, however, was by now aware of the Pignon-Salvini correspondence (if he had not been before), and ensured that he was made aware of all of Pignon's proposals. Salvini, under his instructions, informed Pignon that the Corsicans would convene a consulta at Casinca to choose representatives and decide upon a course of action. In the meantime, Salvini asked for peace, and promised that the rebels would not initiate hostilities against the French. Boissieux was willing to wait, but demanded that the rebel sieges end as a token of good faith. Reluctantly, Marquis Fabiani drew back from Calvi, and in late February Marquis Luca d'Ornano lifted the long siege of Ajaccio. Boissieux would have to wait longer than expected, however, for it was still winter and there was still snow in the mountains, and owing to logistical difficulties (assuming this was not merely an excuse) the consulta did not actually convene in full until March.

Theodore, when the consulta finally assembled, related to the assembly his recent and fervent hope that the French would come as liberators and allies against Genoese tyranny. The French, however, seemed to have decided otherwise, and at this point he produced a letter from Boissieux to Salvini in which the general stated politely but firmly that while the French desired to bring peace to Corsica, they had not come to annex the island but to restore the sovereignty of Genoa. After the general groan of dismay had passed, Theodore went on with humility and resolve. If his own presence, he said, was ever an obstacle to freedom from Genoese tyranny, he would gladly abdicate that very day; if France had offered to take the isle under her wing, and that was the will of the Corsican people, then he would be the first to submit to their rule, and if his own exile from his beloved kingdom was a condition than he would not hesitate to bid them his farewells. It was probably true—in fact Theodore had written a letter to the King of Naples while he had been in prisoner in Amsterdam, offering him the crown of Corsica in exchange for support, and around the same time he had contacted his old Jacobite friends proposing that with their help Corsica could be made a kingdom for the British pretender James Stuart. He knew the odds against him, and he was clearly willing to surrender his crown if it meant the liberation of Corsica and an honorable position for himself.

The Corsicans, of course, knew none of this, and Theodore did not think it wise to tell them. If France had offered her protection, he said, he would submit, but he would never submit to any arrangement in which the Corsican people would be compelled to return to the rule of the Genoese. That was an uncontroversial opinion, and it drew hearty cheers. If it meant defying the might of France, he went on, so be it, for he would ensure the Corsicans were well-prepared; but Theodore tamped down talk of war, saying that such a fraught endeavor should only be attempted when all peaceful means had failed. Thus, he called upon the representatives to ratify his choice of deputies to be sent to Boissieux: Orticoni, his foreign minister, and Gianpietro Gaffori, his secretary of state. They were easily approved by acclamation. Theodore, again, was being sincere; he certainly did hope that the French could be made to change their stance on Genoese sovereignty. Negotiations, however, were also a way to buy time.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the intervention of the French army in Corsica would have dissuaded the syndicate from its plans to prop up Theodore. Instead, they doubled down. After the Yongfrau Agathe returned to Amsterdam with oil, investment in the scheme had only grown, and the syndicate began preparing a new shipment. All the French intervention seems to have done is convince them that this time they would have to send much more materiel and ensure it was much better protected. The 16-gun Yongfrau Agathe now prepared for its return, but it would be joined by the 12-gun sloop Jacob et Christine; the 40-gun Indiaman Africain; and an escort from the Dutch Navy, the 60-gun warship Preterod. In the holds of the three syndicate ships would be enough munitions to equip an army. Theodore asked for peace, and meant it, but his backers were ready for war.

[1] Technically Boissieux was not a lieutenant-general when he arrived. He was given that rank in March of 1738, less than a month after he arrived on Corsica.
[2] The Flore was a "second order" demi-batterie frigate, meaning that it mounted a partial battery of guns on its second deck—in the case of the Flore, four 8-pounder guns on the lower deck and twenty-two 6-pounders on the upper deck and works. This type of design was abandoned in the second half of the 18th century, in part because the lower gun-ports on these ships were so close to the waterline that rough seas sometimes rendered the lower battery unusable. It was replaced by the "true" frigate beginning in the 1740s, which mounted all its guns on the upper deck and reserved the lower deck for crew quarters and storage. That basic design, frequently augmented with additional guns on the forecastle and quarterdeck, would remain standard for the frigate into the age of steam.

Timeline Notes
[A] Based on what I've read, it seems as if regimental guns were not in use by the French infantry at this time, with even the 4-pounder pieces being under the general command of the artillery corps. This suggests that the initial French force had no artillery at all, although that's hardly incredible—they probably imagined, very sensibly, that they would have little use of it. That list of regiments, by the way, is the same as the OTL list of French regiments which landed in the first French intervention in Corsica around this time. Artillery battalions and several hussar squadrons were eventually posted in Corsica during the first French intervention IOTL, but not until after Boissieux's death in 1739. I'm not aware of the artillery battalions actually doing anything except garrisoning Bastia, and the hussars were soon dismissed because it proved too difficult to find forage for the horses. Corsica is not cavalry country.
[B] Lest you think I am just making the weather favor Theodore, there actually was a storm at about this time, and it really did mess with the French fleet.
If it seems too incredible to believe, keep in mind that the syndicate did this IOTL even though a) the voyage of the Yongfrau Agathe largely failed and no oil was procured, b) Theodore hopped on a ship back to Amsterdam without setting foot on Corsica, and c) the rebels did not control Bastia, San Fiorenzo, or more than half of the Balagna.

When I said that the investors were "not averse to a little risk," I meant it.
Are those shipments larger compared to OTL? I guess the syndicate would invest more money as Theodore actually can show of some results.
Are those shipments larger compared to OTL? I guess the syndicate would invest more money as Theodore actually can show of some results.

The thing is that we only know the shipment from a manifest published in Le Mercure which was provided to the paper by (IIRC) Theodore's cousin. There is substantial reason to think that it was an exaggeration - after all, why would you publish the manifest unless you wanted to impress/frighten somebody. I'll post some full numbers in the next update, but suffice it to say the OTL arms in the manifest are sufficient to equip the entire Genoese army - and I don't just mean the army deployed in Corsica, I mean the whole thing, which at this moment is probably 5-6k men. The number of muskets alone - not counting pistols, musketoons, etc. - was claimed to be 6,000 (or, in some sources, 8,000). That's actually not completely incredible, given that Amsterdam was a world hub of arms manufacture and sale; the Dutch traded a lot more guns than that in Africa as part of the slave trade. Still, because of where and how the manifest was published, I tend to think that it is as much a work of propaganda as anything else.

The other thing to consider is that there is a ceiling on how much weaponry is useful to the rebels. The largest army he's ever fielded was no greater than 2,000 men. While Theodore also needs muskets to distribute to various local chiefs and generals to buy their loyalty and help them prosecute the war elsewhere, the amount claimed in the manifest is enough that Theodore could field his maximal historical army and they could all be rolling like that guy in the hoodie I posted earlier. At a minimum, or so says the manifest, that's more than eight times what Theodore brought with him on the Richard. At some point Theodore simply can't use any more muskets, and the syndicate can only really contribute by making sure he's topped off for powder/shot/flints.

Finally, remember that the syndicate is not giving him these goods, they're selling them. Theodore can only buy with olive oil, and his amount of that and ability to collect it is not limitless. The syndicate can't simply dump merchandise on him without end and expect him to pay for all of it. They want Theodore to win, because that opens up the possibility of future investment, but they don't want him to win at all costs, and they're determined to make money on every shipment. Their venture is risky, but they're attempting to mitigate their risk by at least trying to remain in the black rather than suffering losses for years in the hope of a distant, uncertain payout.

So, what I would say is that ITTL the syndicate indeed has more money and is investing at least marginally more of it in Theodore, but I've chosen to interpret this as the shipment being closer to the claimed OTL manifest, which I suspect was a exaggerated propaganda document. The additional investors the syndicate has ITTL will help sustain this investment, I would think, over the years it will take for Theodore to win; after all, there's a new olive crop every year, and we've still got two and a half years before Charles VI kicks the bucket and continental politics require the French to start drawing down their troops (not that the syndicate knows that).
Last edited:
Theodore hopped on a ship back to Amsterdam without setting foot on Corsica
Theodore wasn't in Corsica during the initial French intervention in OTL?

Hopefully, his "diplomacy" with the French lasts as long as possible and if it happened to go on for say 2 and a half years that wouldn't be a bad thing either. ;)
The Ancien Regime is massive, strong and very proud, but there's a lot of rust in a lot of places and the wheels squeak loudly during each and every maneouver. The war in Corsica might not end, simply put into the back burner by them. I doubt they would withdraw from any strategic settlements they manage to "re"take from the locals when the big war comes. Any ongoing military engagements, however, will put more strain on the squeaky little wheels and it is too late to start a nice gradual modernisation process.
Theodore wasn't in Corsica during the initial French intervention in OTL?

Not initially, no. He was on the Yongfrau Agathe in 1737, but switched ships in Sardinian waters and went back to the continent for reasons I discussed a bit earlier in the thread (mainly, that his cover had been blown and everyone was looking for him). He did not set foot on Corsica again until 1738, when he arrived with the "syndicate armada" (the Africain, Preterod, et. al.). His 1738 stay did not last long, because most of the fleet's supplies never made it to Corsica, and because Boissieux declared him an outlaw and promised to take punitive action against any rebels who sheltered him. Thus, Theodore played no personal role in the resistance against the French, although his cousins (who we will meet soon ITTL) led a guerrilla campaign and held out in the mountains until the spring of 1740.

The war in Corsica might not end, simply put into the back burner by them. I doubt they would withdraw from any strategic settlements they manage to "re"take from the locals when the big war comes.

Historically, the French did not immediately withdraw from Corsica with the emperor's death, but they started drawing down their forces and left the island completely in mid-1741. Circumstances then, however, were different - the last resistance, led by Theodore's "nephews," had been stamped out in the previous year and the island was completely pacified. Many of the rebel leaders were exiled, and others joined the newly-created French regiment Royal Corse as they preferred French service to Genoese rule. With the island quiet, the French saw no good reason to remain, particularly since there was now a major war on, although the Genoese knew that things would probably explode again once the French forces left (which is exactly what happened) and fruitlessly begged them to stay.

Assuming Corsica is not pacified by early 1741, the French may indeed decide to keep a force on the island, but as Corsica is not a priority I would expect that this force would be reduced to little more than a garrison of a few coastal strong points as you suggest. Even this, however, will become untenable once 1744 rolls around, the year of the formal declaration of war between Britain and France, as the British Mediterranean squadron will make keeping these battalions supplied all but impossible. It seems likely to me that the French would have the forethought to withdraw these stranded soldiers before that point, as they are of absolutely no strategic value to France in Corsica.
Last edited:
Soldiers, Smugglers, and Diplomats
Soldiers, Smugglers, and Diplomats


Father Erasmo Orticoni, first foreign minister of the Kingdom of Corsica

By late March, Theodore's deputies Gianpietro Gaffori and Father Erasmo Orticoni were on their way to Calvi. Mindful of how previous rebel envoys had been treated by the Genoese, Gaffori and Orticoni requested a guarantee of safe passage from Lieutenant-General Louis de Frétat de Boissieux. He did better than that; a company of grenadiers was dispatched a few miles outside of Calvi to escort them, and to make sure that once in the town they were not arrested by Commissioner-General Giovanni-Battista de Mari.

Boissieux treated the envoys very hospitably, but they were not exactly the men he had been hoping for. Boissieux's instructions from Versailles were somewhat conflicted—he was to exhaust all peaceable methods to subdue the rebellion before resorting to violence, but he was also told to avoid any dealings with Theodore, who was presumed to be a likely foreign agent, possibly British. To make peace, he needed high-level interlocutors among the rebels, but while Gaffori and Orticoni fit the bill he was also aware that they were associated with the adventurer-king. When Father Gregorio Salvini had told him by letter that a consulta would be convened to choose representatives, he had welcomed the news and pledged to wait, but he had not known it was to be an affair presided over by Theodore.

Boissieux asked them if they were representing the "Corsican nation," as he had been expecting, or "the Baron Neuhoff." "Why, seigneur," replied Gaffori with a bit too much cheek for a diplomat, "I might just as well ask whether you are a representative of France, or His Majesty King Louis." Boissieux's reply to this is not known, but the dilemma was clearly laid out—while Theodore's "reign" was a very loose one, he was sufficiently well-regarded by the Corsican leaders that it was difficult for Boissieux to negotiate with the "rebel movement" without going through him or his ministers, and that made it impossible for Boissieux to have it both ways. The general was irked but not dissuaded by this, and continued the talks for several more days, but the proposals of Gaffori and Orticoni were nonstarters. They suggested a number of possible alternatives. Of course, they said, independent Corsica could be a friendly and faithful ally of France, or failing this perhaps the French could permit Corsica to be an autonomous principality under the ultimate suzerainty of the French king. Orticoni even re-iterated Theodore's inventive proposal that through the mediation of the Pope, the French could recognize the "ancient claim" of Rome to Corsica in exchange for the cession of Avignon. Such proposals were somewhat beyond Boissieux's pay grade, but his orders were fairly clear. He could not, he reiterated, endorse or accept any proposal which denied the sovereignty of Genoa over Corsica.

To his credit, Boissieux's counter-proposal was humane and generous, and had it been offered a few years before the rebels would have considered themselves lucky. He proposed a general amnesty for all the rebels, forgiveness for all debt incurred by unpaid taxes since 1729, limits on the hated salt tax to put it in line with what the rebels had written into their own 1736 constitution, a mandate that all dioceses on Corsica be filled by Corsican bishops, the construction and funding of a university in Corsica for the native people, and other such concessions. Boissieux was obviously aware of the various demands the rebels had made since the rebellion's inception.

Had the rebels possessed any confidence in the willingness of the Genoese to honor these concessions, perhaps they would have accepted the general's offer, but one further proviso was a deal-breaker—Boissieux insisted that the Corsicans be disarmed. Gaffori and Orticoni, like all of the rebel leaders with half a brain, understood very well that promises by the French were only good so long as the French were present. Disarmament, however, was rather more permanent, and as soon as the French were gone the people would be helpless to resist any arbitrary decision by the Genoese Senate to rescind Boissieux's concessions. Indeed, that exact story had played out in 1734, when the rebels had surrendered to the might of the imperial forces and received promises that their grievances would be addressed if they only gave up their arms, only for the Genoese to rip up the agreement the very moment Austrian boots left Corsican beaches. They were not going to be fooled again.

Boissieux soon came to sympathize with their cause. He had no strong opinion on the Corsican matter prior to his arrival, aside perhaps from a general aristocratic distaste for rebellion, but his experiences soon turned him against the Genoese. Part of it was personal—he came to detest Mari, who fumed at him for meeting with the Corsican envoys and even tried unsuccessfully to engineer their arrest despite them being under French protection. Mari was furious with Boissieux for the offer he had given the rebels; his proposals were well outside his authority, Mari claimed, for the French had no business dictating Genoese policy, and a Lieutenant-General should dare not presume to tell the Senate what taxes it should demand or what universities it should build. Mari refused to even consider amnesty for the ringleaders of the rebellion, a matter on which he was probably less flexible than his government was, but the pitiless Senate seems to have agreed that the Corsicans had to make up the last nine years of lapsed taxes (for how else were they to pay for this ruinous French occupation force?). Driven by desperation, senatorial debates on the subject of Corsica had grown increasingly deranged and on occasion nearly genocidal. A proposal was made by one senator that, when the French had suppressed the rebellion, the island ought to be "depopulated" and resettled with foreign colonists of a "less contumacious race." As far as the Genoese government was concerned - and Mari quite agreed - Boissieux's job was a mere military matter; he was to crush the rebellion with fire and sword and then hand whatever was left over to the Genoese with no questions asked or demands made. Genoa was, after all, paying his troops; why should she not set the agenda?

Boissieux also came to resent the interference and evasiveness of his own government. Pierre-Jean Pignon, who had held talks with Salvini in Livorno under the authority of the French foreign secretary Jean-Jacques Amelot de Chaillou, arrived in Corsica shortly after Boissieux, but his presence was evidently not diplomatic in nature. The general correctly suspected that Pignon's purpose was to inform Amelot and the chief minister Cardinal André-Hercule Fleury of his activities, and complained to his superiors that Pignon was obviously biased towards the Genoese and probably in their pocket. He may also have resented the notion that Fleury trusted the reports of Pignon, a mere doctor and consul, over a count and veteran French general. Boissieux eventually won that contest, and managed to secure Pignon's recall from Corsica in May, but he was unable to make his government see the situation as he saw it. In a letter to Cardinal Fleury, he argued that no resolution was possible given the circumstances, for even if he reduced the island to submission by force the rebels would resume the fight as soon as he was gone. He requested that the government consider the Corsican request to be made subject to France, either as a French province or as a dependent principality, presumably for some Bourbon cadet.

As Boissieux waited for a response to this missive and for the Corsicans to formally consider his own proposal, hostilities continued between the Corsicans and Genoese. Skirmishing in southeast Corsican continued to escalate, with the Genoese in Porto Vecchio and rebel irregulars from La Rocca, Zicavo, and Fiumorbo launching increasingly violent raids and counter-raids against one another. In the west, the Corsican forces under Marquis Luca d'Ornano had duly complied with the French request to lift the siege of Ajaccio, but in April the Genoese took advantage of his to launch their own offensive from that city under the Genoese commandant Soprani. Soprani's force reaved through the countryside destroying orchards, stealing livestock, and burning houses. A furious d'Ornano managed at last to catch him, and on April 26th the rebels ambushed Soprani's force and reportedly massacred 200 Genoese and filogenovesi militiamen. D'Ornano ordered that no quarter be given, and the few men who somehow ended up as prisoners anyway were brought to the outskirts of Ajaccio and hanged within view of the walls. The French at Ajaccio were shocked, but Boissieux only saw the confirmation of his prior conviction that the rebels would never be reconciled with Genoa.

In May, as diplomacy and conflict were proceeding in parallel in Corsica, a curious and sensational document was published in Le Mercure Historique et Politique, the Amsterdam-based French language gazette edited by Jean Rousset de Missy. It purported to be a cargo manifest of a fleet which had just sailed from Texel bearing cargo for King Theodore and his army of liberty-loving patriots. The sums were sobering:
  • 8,000 muskets, half of these with bayonets
  • 4,000 pistols
  • 1,000 "large muskets" (wall guns?)
  • 800 carbines
  • 27 artillery pieces: a dozen 24-pounders, a dozen 12-pounders, and three "large culverins" of 18-pound caliber
  • 6,000 cannonballs of various calibers
  • 100,000 pounds of coarse gunpowder for artillery
  • 120,000 pounds of fine gunpowder for small arms
  • 400,000 gun flints
  • 100,000 pounds of lead shot
  • 2,000 grenades
  • 1,000 "wooden bombs" (bombes de bois)[A]
  • 2,000 lances
  • 500 hunting knives
  • 3,000 bandoliers, military belts, powder horns, etc.
  • 2,000 picks and other tools
  • 8,000 pairs of shoes
  • Cloth sufficient for 1,000 straw mattresses and canvas for 1,000 tents
  • 400 uniforms and an unstated number of "flags and standards"
  • 50 drums, 24 trumpets, and one "timbale" (kettle drum)
  • 80 chests containing the personal effects of the king, including cash for paying soldiers and "establishing commerce"

To say that this elicited some comment would be a bit too modest. If accurate, it was enough to supply an army—certainly the Genoese army, with a likely strength of less than 6,000 at the time, would have been amply armed by such a cargo. Some of the items are questionable—what, exactly, did the syndicate think the Corsicans would do with two thousand lances? Otherwise, however, it demonstrated as holistic a view of armed rebellion as one could expect from merchants, in which shoes, tools, and tents are no less important than arms. There are reasons to doubt the strict accuracy of the manifest, as its was published in a known pro-Theodore gazette and provided to de Missy by "Baron von Droste," a relative of Theodore. The fact that it was published at all suggests that it was intended as propaganda, either to dismay the Genoese (or French, for that matter) or to assure readers on the continent that Theodore was no joke.

Regardless, the cargo was still substantial enough to require three merchant ships to carry it, and internal letters within syndicate reveal their estimation of the value of the cargo at a considerable half million florins.[1] Even those who have confidently described the manifest as exaggerated must concede that the sums, at least when it comes to small arms, are not necessarily implausible. Amsterdam had emerged as a major hub of the arms trade in the 17th century. That a consortium of wealthy merchants with connections to banking houses in Amsterdam and Switzerland and the apparent tacit approval of the States General (for certainly nobody could have amassed and exported such a sum of arms without the government's knowledge) could have, in 1738, sent several thousand muskets to Corsica is entirely plausible. Compared to the roughly 180,000 firearms exported to the West African coast in the year 1730 alone by the Dutch and British, such a shipment was practically a rounding error.

To ensure compensation for such a princely sum of armaments, the syndicate placed one of their own in command of the fleet, Pierre Keelmann. Not merely an employee but a major investor himself, Keelmann allegedly had 100,000 florins sunk into the venture and could therefore be relied upon to take a very personal interest in full and prompt payment. He was given express instructions by the syndicate to not unload the supplies until that payment was forthcoming, preferably in the form of oil, to the tune of a million florins in value.[B] The exact profit margin expected is unclear, as the half-million estimate for the cargo clearly does not cover the overhead of the expedition, and it may not include the ready cash which Theodore was provided with. Clearly, however, the syndicate expected to profit, and it would not take much of a margin to make the venture notable; the margin on the musket trade to West Africa in those days sometimes sunk as low as 7%.

It would be several months before this fleet was to arrive. In the meantime, the Corsicans appeared to be more isolated than ever. The French had added four galleys to the initial blockading force of three frigates,[2] although those resource-intensive ships were of somewhat less value to the blockade than the cruisers. Yet the blockade failed to stop at least one ship bearing arms to the rebels, a "pinnace" out of Livorno which arrived in April. The manifest of that ship is unknown—it was small, and the contribution could not have been great—but it was notable in that on board was Matthias von Drost (or Mathieu), widely reported on the continent to be a nephew of Theodore.

Matthias von Drost has long been the most obscure of Theodore's relations. The Genoese alleged that he was not a relation of Theodore at all, nor even a German, but a Corsican spy by the same of "Salvini." Perhaps they were confusing him with the rebel spy and agent Father Gregorio Salvini, who was also active in Livorno. The name "Von Drost" suggests a connection to Theodore's uncle Franz Bernhard Johann von Neuhoff zu Pungelscheid, who was commonly known as the Freiherr von Drost from his subsidiary title of Drost zu Altena und Iserlohe and was the probable "Baron von Droste" who was the source for the manifest published by Le Mercure. Yet while Franz Bernhard had several known sons, none of them appear to have been named Matthias, Mathieu, or any variant thereof, and Franz Bernhard had only adopted that title as a kindness to Theodore, who would himself have been the inheritor of the Neuhoff zu Pungelscheid baronetcy had he not been disinherited by his grandfather. It is impossible that Matthias could have been the son of Franz Bernhard, as Franz's actual heir was 13 years old at the time, and one source gives the father of Matthias as "Georg von Drost."

Clearly the Genoese were wrong, for Theodore himself had no doubt that von Drost was his kinsman. Yet if Matthias was a close relation it is unclear why, despite apparently being in Tuscan service, he would have not appeared in Theodore's schemes until 1738. One must remember, however, that "nephew" was used loosely in this era to mean all matter of male relatives, and that drost was a fairly common title (approximately meaning "bailiff") in the region of the Low Countries and Westphalia. It seems most likely that Matthias was a somewhat distant cousin of Theodore, a theory which is supported by the fact that despite being the first one of Theodore's "nephews" to meaningfully contribute to the cause he appears to have never been considered as a plausible successor. Perhaps that only burnishes his image: he alone of the "Neuhoff nephews" cannot be accused of participating in Theodore's scheme in the hope of attaining royal power.

Drost, unlike Theodore's actual nephew Count Charles Philippe of Trévou, was here to stay, and he fit in well. Drost clearly spoke the language, having been in Tuscany for some years, and while he was no military genius he soon demonstrated that he was competent enough to command and charismatic enough for the Corsican militia to obey him. Theodore made him a general, which seemed to pass without comment; while the promotion of a fellow Corsican to such a rank always elicited envious complaints from their peers, the idea that the king might grant his "nephews" that exalted position immediately upon arrival appears to have been uncontroversial. He was, after all, the king's relative, and in a world where even the Popes exalted their nephews (and had, three years earlier, made a Spanish infante a cardinal at the age of 8), such nepotism was viewed as par for the course.

[1] Presumably "florins" is a reference to Dutch guilders, which were also commonly called florins. Based on known exchange rates in 1731, half a million guilders was equal to approximately 1.07 million French livres. Now, perhaps, would be a good time to remind the reader that Theodore was unable to raise money to get out of debtor's prison when the sum was "only" 30,000 florins.
[2] French galleys of the time were generally 3-gun ships, although for such a small armament the caliber was impressive: Two 18-pounder guns and a 36-pounder, all mounted as bow-chasers.
Some mounted an additional pair of 4-pounder guns in the bow.

Timeline Notes
[A] I don't know what this is. Any French speakers care to help me out here?
[B] I've tried to run some math on this, and without going into details, it doesn't really make sense. Part of the problem is the very limited information on prices and exchange rates that we have. It seems as if either Costa's estimate for the value of Balagnese olive oil was horribly off-base or the syndicate was valuing the oil at an extremely low rate, which seems unlikely. Then again, the syndicate was not basing its assumptions off a thorough study of the Corsican olive economy, but the claims Theodore had made in conversations from his jail cell. This was, essentially, a multi-million dollar gun-running scheme based on the equivalent of figures drawn hastily on the back of a napkin.
Last edited: