Even if Corsica pursued neutrality similarly to how Switzerland did OTL, they would still be part of 'chessboard'.

French revanchists and Corsican francophiles might desire a union between France and Corsica. Some may settle with an alliance.

Italian nationalists might want to incorporate Corisica into Greater Italy. Some Corsicans would likely sympathise with this sentiment, allthough i think it is likely express itself through italophile attitudes intstead of Italian-Corsican unification.

Corsican irredentists might want to integrate parts of Sardinia into the Corsican state.

How would Corsica balance it's relationship between France, Italy, Great Britain and exetera?
If Corsica is being torn between France and Italy then Britain is a perfect guarantee of its independence from either.
The British sent three excellent colonels, at the least. The man nominally made general might not end up as the man credited with the victory and Wolfe is likewise perhaps a bit young for theatre command, so I would not be surprised if Arabin is made general during or after this campaign. I wonder how events in Corsica will affect the wider war?

French revanchists and Corsican francophiles might desire a union between France and Corsica. Some may settle with an alliance.

Italian nationalists might want to incorporate Corisica into Greater Italy. Some Corsicans would likely sympathise with this sentiment, allthough i think it is likely express itself through italophile attitudes intstead of Italian-Corsican unification.

Similarly to how in the previous war, neither Austria nor France fancied the idea of their foe getting their hands on Corsica and on this one France and Britain do not want the kingdom annexed by their old foe, so too will Corsican independence in a scenario which includes a unified Italian peninsula rely on playing them off against the French.
Even if Corsica pursued neutrality similarly to how Switzerland did OTL, they would still be part of 'chessboard'.

French revanchists and Corsican francophiles might desire a union between France and Corsica. Some may settle with an alliance.

There's nothing French about Corsica other than the occupying troops. It's less French than Genoa.
The Devoted
The Devoted


The Church of the Annunciation, Borgo, built in the 17th century

On the night of October 22nd 1758, nineteen men gathered at the Church of the Annunciation in Borgo and swore an oath to drive the French from Corsica by any means necessary. They were not disgruntled peasants or bandits, but notabili of some standing in the northeast, including Giuseppe Barbaggi of Murato, a bureaucrat and academic; Luigi Angelo Zerbi of Oletta, a diplomat and canon of the cathedral of Bastia; Francesco Antonio Saliceti of Patrimonio, a parish priest; his brother Giovan Carlo Saliceti, a royalist army officer; and Ignacio Domenico Baldassari of Furiani, another former officer of the Corsican army. They and their followers became known as I Devoti (“the devoted”) - either because of their devotion to the cause, or because their oath was dedicated to Saint Devota, one of Corsica’s patronesses.

Although tensions between the French and the Corsicans had been building slowly for several years, the devoti ultimately owed their existence to the British conquest of Ajaccio, and more directly to the crisis this created between the French and Corsican leadership. The few months between Ajaccio’s fall and the oath of the devoti at Borgo were pivotal in the final breakdown of this relationship, fueled by the weakness of the Corsican government, the double-dealing of King Theodore, and - perhaps most importantly - the prickly inflexibility of maréchal de camp Guy André Pierre de Montmorency, Marquis de Laval, who showed that he was completely incapable of de-escalation.

Laval had not expected the British invasion - and, in fairness, neither had anyone in his government. The French had fielded more than 10,000 soldiers in their own conquest of Corsica, and believed that a similar British effort would be sheer folly; with the loss of their vital base at Port Mahon, the logistical challenges to such an operation would be insurmountable. Accordingly, the French occupation of Corsica was not intended to repel a dedicated British assault, but rather to thwart British “gunboat diplomacy” against Corsica and ensure that its strategic ports were closed to British privateers. But the British, misled by the rosy predictions of Pasquale Paoli, had embarked on the operation not to conquer Corsica but to spur a native rebellion, and this limited goal combined with the parsimony of their own government meant that the British landed fewer than 3,000 men on the island - a much weaker force, certainly, but also one which was easier to supply.

What surprised the Marquis de Laval even more than the British landing, however, was the attitude of the Corsican government. It was not that the maréchal expected them to rise immediately to arms against the British; the French were there precisely because the Corsicans lacked the means to defend themselves. But Laval was genuinely baffled by the offense taken by Theodore to the arrival of French reinforcements - who, whatever the technicalities of the Convention, were there to protect Corsica - as well as the king’s decision to dismiss the French consul and give a warm welcome to Colonel John Arabin, an enemy officer. That the 1758 consulta generale would condemn French reinforcements in the face of a British invasion beggared belief. Despite some local friction between the French and the Corsicans under occupation, the maréchal had presumed that the “malcontents” were a vocal minority and his abuse at the previous consulta had been the work of grandstanding local politicians. Laval’s decision to headquarter himself in Calvi probably did not help his perspective; it was an isolated city whose largely Corso-Genoese population was indifferent to the royal government and welcoming to the French.

The activities of Colonel Arabin at Corti strongly suggested that the British were not merely seeking to occupy Ajaccio but to make a play, both military and diplomatic, for Corsica itself. Although initially Laval had been most concerned with the prospect of additional British landings, he soon came to fear that Arabin and an “Anglophile clique” led by the likes of Pasquale Paoli, Giovan Felice Valentini, and the king’s Scottish and Irish retainers already had their hooks in the king, and that the British would use this faction - together with leverage from their control of Ajaccio - to force the king to side with them. After all, showing up unannounced at Ajaccio with an army was exactly how the French had “convinced” Theodore’s government to accept their occupation in the first place.

Laval faced a dilemma. Military logic demanded a defensive stance, as his forces were limited and he still suspected that the British had more troops in reserve. Confining his forces to San Fiorenzo and Calvi - or better yet, just Calvi, the island's finest fortress - would give them the best chance at thwarting a British attack. Political logic, however, went in the opposite direction. If the French shut themselves within Calvi they would be effectively ceding the rest of the island to the British, who would be able to cajole and intimidate the Corsican government without hindrance. A retreat into safety would save the French army, but it would also lose Corsica, which the ministry would not tolerate.

Forced to contest the island with the British, Laval naturally cast his eye towards Bastia. The French had not occupied the city earlier because it was deemed to be of no military value; Bastia was on the wrong side of the island for raiding the French coast and its harbor was too small and shallow for ships of the line. Yet as a piece of leverage on King Theodore and his government, its value was apparent. It was the largest city on the island, Corsica’s main link with the Italian ports, and the chief residence of the royal household. This time Laval notified Theodore of his intentions, but did not wait for a reply from Corti before ordering a detachment of 800 men to take control of the city. Their orders were to secure the palace and the citadel and man its defenses. If the British arrived with a force too strong to repel, they were instructed to spike the citadel’s guns, cripple its fortifications, and destroy its arsenal before withdrawing to San Fiorenzo.

The French took the city without a fight, but not without incident. At the palazzo dei governatori, where Queen Eleonora and much of the royal household were presently residing, their way was blocked by around 60 soldiers of the king’s foreign guard who refused the French entry. The guard, however, was under orders not to fire on the French, and ultimately could not resist being forcibly disarmed by the much larger French column. The French then proceeded to take over much of the palace and use it as quarters for their troops. This was not entirely without justification; much of the palace had yet to be renovated and went unused by the Neuhoffs, while both the Genoese and Corsicans had both used the palace as a barracks in the recent past. It would, however, be a major blow to the reputation of the French on Corsica.


Front Gate of the Palace of the Governors

Rumors soon spread of the humiliation of Theodore’s guard and offenses against his family, which collectively became known as l’oltraggio di Bastia (“The Outrage of Bastia”). Although the factual basis of these stories is dubious, tales were told of the arrogant French soldiers getting drunk on the king’s wine, trampling upon the Corsican flag, and harassing Theodore's family and servants. Most incendiary was the tale of the Prince of Capraia’s pregnant wife, Elisabeth Cherrier Jeanne d'Harcourt, who was allegedly forcibly dragged out of her apartment by French grenadiers. It certainly did not help that the princess suffered a miscarriage five weeks later, which was immediately blamed upon French cruelty and maltreatment. Formerly regarded with suspicion by the Corsicans - who referred to her rather contemptuously as A Donna Francese (“the French Lady”) - Princess Elisabeth was transformed by this episode of dubious veracity into a symbol of injured national pride. The Corsicans were nothing if not sensitive to family honor; this was, after all, a country where merely touching a woman not your own was sufficient grounds to launch a vendetta. If the French thought so little of Theodore as to disrespect him in such a flagrant manner, what regard could they possibly have for the Corsican people?

The Corsicans of the northeast had more concrete grievances as well. The farmers of the Nebbio had long grumbled about the French presence, and the events of July 1758 - the peak of harvest season - fanned this smoldering discontent into a wildfire. The French practice of “compensating” the government for stores and supplies with cancelled debt had bled the state’s treasury dry, and the attempts by the Corsican authorities to requisition grain on the mere promise of future payment were not very successful. The luogotenente of Bastia, Don Simone Ginestra - himself a native of the Nebbio - was so completely disgusted by his lack of resources and the demands of the French that he simply gave up and washed his hands of the matter. The French in the northeast would now have to perform their own requisitions, and the seizure of grain and supplies by French soldiers - often with little or no payment - created immediate and intense hostility.

The combination of these forced requisitions, heavy-handed policing by the French and Greeks, and resentment stirred up by the l’oltraggio di Bastia finally broke the patience of the locals. On September 15th, a farmer from Patrimonio who had hidden grain from the French was beaten by Greek troopers of the Busacci squadron; two days later, as one of the troopers was getting water from a well near the village, a Corsican man walked up to him and shot him in the head in broad daylight. With the local government under Don Simone incapable of making any serious effort at keeping order, the French took matters into their own hands. Increasingly, men were detained or beaten on suspicion of conspiring against the occupiers or merely for insulting the French and their auxiliaries. The old revolutionary slogan from twenty years before began to make an appearance once more - "Morte ài Francesi, Evvivu u Re."

On the night of October 3rd, an explosion ripped through an old monastery in the valley of the Nebbio which had been commandeered as a barracks. Conspirators had smuggled several barrels of gunpowder into the monastery and lit the fuse as the garrison lay asleep. The resulting explosion was probably smaller than the conspirators had hoped and was far from sufficient to level the building, but nevertheless three French soldiers were killed and more than twenty wounded.

The French quickly tracked down two of the conspirators, who were arrested and interrogated. Yet being simple farmers, someone must have given them the gunpowder, and the French soon had a suspect: Don Giuseppe Ginestra of Oletta, the younger brother of the very same Simone Ginestra who was the luogotenente of Bastia (and also the brother of Don Salvadore Ginestra, Theodore’s Minister of Agriculture). Ever since the fall of Ajaccio, Don Giuseppe had been part of a group of local notables who had been stockpiling arms and munitions for the local militia. In French eyes, the evidence against him was damning: he had recently been seen in the company of one of the arrested conspirators, had made large purchases of gunpowder (and other munitions) over the last month, and went on the run immediately after the monastery bombing. But it was Giuseppe’s connections which particularly infuriated the French. As Don Simone was supposed to be in charge of security in his province, the French immediately blamed him for his brother’s escape. At best he was incompetent; at worst, he had actively colluded in this heinous act.

Count Gianpietro Gaffori immediately denounced the bombing and promised justice, but finding an arrangement with the French proved difficult. The Marquis de Laval wanted Don Simone sacked, which was easy enough; Theodore was reluctant but Gaffori seems to have convinced the king that removing a governor was worth keeping the peace with the French. But in return Gaffori wanted the arrested suspects to be tried in a Corsican court, which Laval refused to allow. The affair remained at an impasse until October 11th, when the French garrison at Bastia attempted to detain Don Simone for questioning. The luogotenente was tipped off and barely managed to escape the city before the French came for him. His flight only further convinced the French of his complicity.

With the provincial government effectively dissolved by Don Simone’s escape, Laval instructed his commander in Bastia, Colonel Jules Marc Antoine de Morell, Comte d'Aubigny, to take provisional responsibility for maintaining order. Aubigny informed Lisandro Farinola, the podesta of Bastia, that he was to continue in his duties but would now take orders from the French, at least until a satisfactory new luogotenente was appointed. Among Aubigny's first actions following this de facto institution of martial law was to publicly hang the two bombing conspirators at Bastia. Meanwhile, the French forces in the Nebbio moved to seize arms and munitions. A Franco-Greek force met with some resistance at Murato, where around 35 armed Corsican militiamen had assembled on the green outside the local church, but this small troop was dispersed with warning shots without any casualties on either side. Various small arms, as well as a cache of munitions for the local militia, were taken by the French.


Church of San Michele, Murato

It is said that those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it, and it certainly seems as though the French had failed to learn from the experience of the Genoese. By exploiting the farmers, degrading the symbols of Corsican national pride, confiscating weapons, and seeking to maintain order with brutal and heavy-handed tactics, the French turned the people against them. The Marquis de Laval believed that his actions were sensible and necessary to keep the peace, but so had the Genoese; his officers were confident that by holding the strong points of the province with regular forces they could subdue any insurrection, but the Genoese had once been confident of this too. The nineteen devoti of Borgo did not seem like much of a match for the approximately 1,600 French regulars and auxiliaries stationed between Bastia and San Fiorenzo, but their numbers would soon grow.

As this new uprising against the French began, the Corsican government continued to keep its distance and maintain its official neutrality. Theodore could do little else, as his wife and relations were effectively French hostages. Even this, however, did not stop the king from plotting. Theodore had seemingly backed off from his flirtations with the British after Gaffori’s resignation gambit during the consulta, but a series of British maritime successes in 1758 and the deteriorating situation in the northeast inspired him to resume negotiations. These negotiations would be conducted in secret, hidden even from Gaffori, using Theodore’s old ex-Jacobite friend Sir John Powers as an intermediary.

The king’s chief aim was to keep the British on the island, as he was concerned that a British evacuation from Ajaccio would leave him wholly at the mercy of the French occupiers. But Theodore was also exploring the possibility of a full defection and what sort of terms the British would offer him for it. Aside from the obvious necessity of military assistance and protection in the present war, his wish list was mainly financial - a British commitment to wiping out Corsica’s debt to France, subsidies to re-arm and rebuild the army, and more favorable terms for Anglo-Corsican trade. But Theodore was reluctant to concede too much for these goals, as he was also mindful of the future. If Corsica became a mere British satellite the French would always see his island as a threat to be stamped out, and sooner or later they would manage it. The fortunes of Britain might wax and wane, but France would always loom a hundred miles off the Corsican coast. Theodore wished to escape French dominion, but he also worried that his country could not afford to become France’s perpetual enemy.
Last edited:
Man when the Corsicans were all on the village green I was very much hoping for a Lexington and Concord situation but I’ll settle for secret negotiations with the British for now.
Fabulous update. Wow, the Corsicans are at their best (and thus also this TL) when their backs are against the wall. I'll be keeping my eye on the Ginestra family, too.

Ages ago I wondered about a Corsica playing off the two maritime powers who were both encamped at different ports in a precarious peace, à la cold war Berlin. Now we have a similar situation during a much hotter conflict. I hope for the island's sake that this is resolved before peace breaks out elsewhere, or those troop levels will skyrocket. I hope Austrian-backed forces aren't already assembling in Livorno.
Man when the Corsicans were all on the village green I was very much hoping for a Lexington and Concord situation but I’ll settle for secret negotiations with the British for now.

All in good time. Even Lexington and Concord was not the first confrontation over arms in the American rebellion; it's just that Lexington was the first time when British attempts to seize arms actually resulted in a firefight.

I suspect I know the answer, but what might be the result of Theodore’s wife and household attempting to leave Bastia?

This is a question which the people ITTL don't quite know the answer to. The French would rather the royal family remain where they are, but will they actually prevent them from leaving by force? They haven't tried yet because, contrary to public rumor, the French haven't really been abusing them; having to share the palace with soldiers is annoying, but not intolerable. Moreover, they have been dissuaded from leaving by the state of Elisabeth, who was recently pregnant and then recovering from a miscarriage.

Fabulous update. Wow, the Corsicans are at their best (and thus also this TL) when their backs are against the wall. I'll be keeping my eye on the Ginestra family, too.

The Ginestra family has already been prominent in the rebellion, but we haven't seen that much of them because a significant part of that involvement was before Theodore's landing. Pietro Simone Ginestra (b. 1670) was a lawyer, bureaucrat, and soldier who served as auditor-general (a judicial position) in the Kingdom of Naples. Under the pseudonym "Corporal Orazio di Buttafuoco," he wrote the first published tract defending the Corsican rebellion, and commanded the rebel siege of Genoese-held Bastia in 1731. His role in the uprising is illustrated by the fact that, later that year, he was specifically mentioned as one of the notorious rebels who was excluded from the general amnesty offered by the Genoese.

He hasn't appeared much in our story because by the time Theodore arrived he was already 66 and a bit past his prime for military leadership. He continued to write in support of the rebellion, however, and in the 1740s he was Theodore's minister of justice. By now ITTL he is 88 years old and has retired from public service, but he remains an influential figure. The last update mentioned his three sons: The eldest, Simone (age 69) is a former officer in French and Spanish service and is the luogotenente of Bastia; the middle, Salvadore (age 55) is a botanist who was a professor of natural history at the University of Pisa and is now Theodore's minister of agriculture; and the youngest, Giuseppe (age 46), is a former Neapolitan officer who allegedly was involved in the monastery bombing and is on the run from the French.

I hope Austrian-backed forces aren't already assembling in Livorno.

Rest assured, the Austrians aren't coming anywhere near this. They have much more important things to worry about, and Corsica is of no consequence to them whatsoever. At the moment all available resources are being diverted to Field Marshal Browne, who is playing a deadly game of maneuver with the King of Prussia.

At some point there will undoubtedly be a European update. The start of the war ITTL has gone fairly similarly to OTL, but there have already been some big departures from history that will yield a very different result.
Last edited:


A monk rallies the people against the French, 19th c. illustration.

With such resolutions and Roman spirits, what cannot a brave people do? - The Caledonian Mercury, June 1759

Despite the deteriorating relationship between the Corsicans and the French, the British did not perceive that the Corsican situation in mid-1758 was necessarily developing to their advantage. Major-General Henry Seymour Conway had delayed the second part of the campaign, and the French occupation of the city in July foreclosed this possibility entirely. Colonel John Arabin had made an impression at Corti, but the Corsican government remained ostensibly neutral and no national uprising had materialized. In August, Conway concluded that the British plan to take Corsica had failed, and that the only remaining question was whether Britain should retain Ajaccio or raze its defenses before withdrawing as Admiral Charles Saunders had recommended. Vacillating as usual, Conway decided to ask London for instructions.

Despite the failure of the original plan, the British ministry had several reasons to remain on Corsica. Ajaccio was much closer to France than Gibraltar, and provided a means of support for the British warships off Toulon and privateers in French waters. Although the lack of a local infrastructure to support fleet operations was problematic, the Admiralty considered it a useful position to hold - at least so long as it was not threatened by land. But the other factor that made British statesmen sit up and take notice was the fact that France had responded to the landing by reinforcing their position on Corsica. One of the original criticisms of the Corsica plan was that unlike attacks on coastal France, an assault on Corsica would not force the French to redirect forces away from Hanover, the only theater of Britain’s war where the British Navy offered no advantage. Plainly, however, they were interested enough in the island to make at least some effort to shore up their position there, and every battalion stationed on Corsica was a battalion not on the continent.

Yet despite France and Britain both committing themselves to keeping Corsica, neither Conway nor his counterpart Guy André Pierre de Montmorency, Marquis de Laval made any attempt to engage one another. Conway did not have the forces to attack the French, and could not depend on a decisive intervention by the Mediterranean squadron as long as it was occupied with keeping watch on Toulon. Laval had the superior force, but he was tied down in the north by his fear of another British landing and the growing native insurgency in Bastia province.

King Theodore thus found himself in an enviable position as the man holding the balance of power. With the aid of Corsican auxiliaries and logistical support, Conway could potentially press the French back into their presidi and besiege them. Conversely, if Theodore backed Laval, the British position at Ajaccio would become extremely tenuous. This latter course was not very likely given Theodore’s own preferences and the growing hostility between the Corsicans and the French, but it remained plausible, and officially the Corsican government continued to declare its faithfulness to the Convention of Ajaccio.

Theodore, who was negotiating with the British in secret without the knowledge of Count Gianpietro Gaffori, cast his own ministers as the villains. It was an old trick of the king’s, often played - to present himself as the sympathetic and rational man lamentably restrained from action by a difficult people (or, in this case, their difficult government). The actual negotiations were largely conducted in Turin, between Theodore’s personal agent Sir John Powers and the British ambassador to Sardinia Sir James Gray.[1] Gray was a seasoned diplomat, described as “wise and prudent” by his Sardinian counterpart, but he relied on General Conway for his impressions of the political situation on Corsica. Conway was an honest but also rather credulous man, hopeless at politics, who relayed the king’s official line with little interrogation: that Theodore favored a deal with Britain, but Gaffori and the rest of the ministers feared to break with France and were suspicious of the intentions of the “heretical” English. The inference was that for the right price - and strong guarantees of British military support - Theodore could prevail over his reluctant cabinet.

Obviously the Corsicans would require British subsidies and military support to expel the French and keep them from returning. The details, however, remained unsettled. Gray knew that foreign subsidies were politically sensitive in Britain and desired to keep expenditures to a minimum. He was also exasperated by Theodore’s recurrent demands for more British troops. It seemed to Gray as if Theodore wanted the British to drive the French out on their own with the Corsicans merely cheering them on. Gray, who knew that London would probably not be sending more battalions, was insistent that the Corsicans would have to provide the lion’s share of the manpower. Ships, money, muskets, and even Conway’s redcoats could be provided, but ultimately redeeming Corsican soil would require a willingness to shed Corsican blood.

In late 1758 that willingness was not much in evidence even among the devoti. The original conspirators seem to have imagined their “uprising” as a traditional armed conflict modeled after Theodore’s campaigns; they would rally the militia to defeat the French as they had done at San Pellegrino and Ponte Novo. But the devoti were too few in number and too local in character to raise the sort of armies which would have made this possible. The French could not have been greatly discomfited by a “muster” in November which saw no more than “three score hillmen with old muskets and worn flints” assemble at Vescovato. The devoti had hoped to be commanders of a new rebellion, but at the moment they were captains without soldiers. The French were widely resented, but that did not mean that Corsican peasants were standing in line to fight them on behalf of this little clique of disgruntled notables.

An alternative to this ineffective posturing was provided by Ignacio Domenico Baldassari, one of the original devoti and a former officer in the French Régiment Royal-Corse. His experiences in the French army had instilled in him a deep skepticism of militia forces. Rather than waiting for some future mass uprising, Baldassari assembled a company of motivated young radicals to fight the French in the manner of the petite guerre. His followers would descend from the mountains to attack patrols and guard posts and then fade back into the macchia, for which they were given the popular name macchiari. Aided by the terrain, the local population, and well-heeled sympathizers among the Corsican elite (including Don Giovan, Principe di Morosaglia himself) they quickly made themselves an enormous nuisance to the French. The French, unlike the Genoese, could not simply bolt themselves within their citadels; British naval power obligated them to control the productive lands of the province and to keep the land route between Bastia and San Fiorenzo open.

The escalation of this conflict was welcomed by the British, but the sluggish pace was maddening. It was particularly galling in light of the fact that, by January at the latest, Sir James Gray had a very promising draft Anglo-Corsican treaty in hand. Yet despite the progress of negotiations in Turin, Theodore hesitated at the precipice and refused to take the plunge. The stakes were high, and the overall outcome of the war still seemed in doubt. To exert some pressure, the British threatened to withdraw from Ajaccio, but since the Admiralty still desired the base it was mostly an empty gesture; all that was done was a partial redeployment to Gibraltar.

It was in February, at Borgo, that the stalemate finally began to collapse. This hilltop town just ten miles south at Bastia was little used by Baldassari’s men, but the devoti had nevertheless made it a conspicuous target. It was the conspiracy’s founding site, as well as the location of a considerable magazine. Having caught wind of these armaments, Colonel Jules Marc Antoine de Morell, Comte d’Aubigny decided to do exactly what the French had done at Murato and send a column of men to seize the cache of munitions. This time, however, d’Aubigny miscalculated. Unlike Murato, Borgo was a formidable defensive position, and the locals had advance warning of the raid; the devoti apparently were not the only ones with intelligence leaks. But Borgo also had a special resonance. It was here that, fifteen years before, the enraged Corsicans had risen up on their own and driven Boissieux’s Frenchmen from the town in a bloody battle.


The hilltop village of Borgo

When 200 French soldiers approached Borgo, they found not an armed rabble milling about in the churchyard but a company of militiamen hunkered down on a high ridge behind a hastily erected breastwork of earth and logs. An officer sent forward to demand that the locals disperse was informed by the devote Giuseppe Barbaggi that the Borghigiani did not recognize French authority, and that nothing short of a royal order would compel them to disband. It soon became evident that the Corsicans were not bluffing. The French launched an attack, but taking the fortified crest of Borgo in the face of distressingly heavy and accurate musketry proved beyond their means - or at least beyond the willingness of the French to suffer casualties. After a rather short engagement, the French withdrew to Bastia, intending to return with more men and heavier firepower. The “Second Battle of Borgo,” however, was not to be followed by a third.

The blood shed at Borgo accomplished what neither the devoti nor Baldassari’s more successful macchiari had been able to do on their own. Even in the absence of a national press, word of the engagement quickly spread - word that the Borghigiani had stood fast against foreign invasion (though many of the militiamen were from elsewhere, including Barbaggi, who was from Murato) and smashed a battalion of French soldiers (though the French suffered only 24 casualties). Motivated by fear of another attack, and perhaps a desire by the younger generation to take part in another “revolutionary” victory, armed men from the Castagniccia streamed into the village. Prominent notables encouraged them with increasingly belligerent pronouncements. Anarchy loomed, and it seemed possible that the crisis would bring down the government. Theodore was largely exempt from public scorn, with the most popular theory being that his inaction was a consequence of his family being held “hostage” in Bastia, but Count Gaffori was more vulnerable. It seemed quite likely that when the consulta generale next convened they would be demanding the resignation of the man already mocked by a few brave souls as “Don fà nunda” (“Don Do-Nothing”).

Either reluctantly pressed by events or happily seizing an opportunity, Theodore surprised even his own cabinet by summoning the French envoy to Corti and giving him a stern upbraiding before the court. The French forces, he declared, had gone far outside the bounds of the Convention of Ajaccio and had even launched an unwarranted attack against a Corsican village. As such, he demanded that the French forces return to their treaty-specified posts at Calvi and San Fiorenzo and abandon all other positions in Corsica. He further declared that Laval and d’Aubigny no longer enjoyed the trust of His Serene Majesty and demanded their immediate removal. If these demands were unmet, he suggested that he would be within his rights to consider the Convention abrogated in its entirety.

Of course Theodore could not expel the French. But Theodore always wanted to be the center of attention, and this action restored the king to his “proper” role as the protagonist on center stage, not a helpless bystander. Moreover, while his words had been harsh, they were not altogether intemperate. He had not simply ripped up the Convention as some of the more bellicose princes and notabili demanded, but rather cast himself as its strict adherent. He certainly knew that France could not - would not - return to following the letter of the Convention; aside from the blow to their prestige, it would require them to give up Bastia and would probably render their position at San Fiorenzo indefensible. Yet by framing the conflict in this manner he cast himself as the victim and the French as the faithless party. This would not deter France - indeed, it would infuriate them - but it made his course of action more palatable to the “pro-Convention” faction in his kingdom.

Although perhaps not intentionally, it was also a propaganda coup in Britain. While the Corsican expedition was certainly covered in the British press, the Corsicans themselves were not particularly sympathetic subjects. Theodore, after all, had “betrayed” Britain in the Treaty of Monaco and allied with France, and it was difficult to call Conway’s rather underwhelming Corsican campaign a blow against “French tyranny” once it became clear that the Corsicans were not particularly eager to rise up against them. Anti-ministry papers lambasted the expedition as pointless and ridiculed the idea that the Corsicans would rise up against their fellow Catholics. The skirmish at Borgo and Theodore’s theatrical turn against France, however, came as heaven-sent proof of Gallic tyranny. Here was France running roughshod over a small island of liberty-loving people and their king making a brave stand against Bourbon might, demanding only - and vainly - that France keep her word.

Theodore’s demands were for the most part ignored. The only one which was ultimately met was the removal of Laval, who had already been requesting a transfer for months.[2] This provided Theodore with cover to switch sides and enact his draft agreement with the British, if he so desired. But it would be the British, not the Corsicans, who would provide the final push. Certainly British action was prompted in part by the de facto rebellion in the northeast, but it also had much to do with shifting leadership within the British forces, who would now take their orders from the newly-promoted Brigadier General James Wolfe.

[1] Despite taking no part in the war, the Kingdom of Sardinia was notionally an ally of the Bourbons and Habsburgs at this time. Nevertheless, Carlo Emanuele feared French encroachment in Corsica. He had disapproved of the circumstances of the Treaty of Monaco and was further dismayed by the Convention of Ajaccio, which he interpreted as part of a slow-moving plot to dominate Corsica - perhaps even annex it to France - the result of which could only be to further encircle and constrain the Savoyard state. Although he offered no overt support to the British or Corsicans, it is clear that Carlo Emanuele was aware of the Anglo-Corsican talks going on in his capital and knowingly provided his good offices. His officials at the port of Finale also seem to have been less than diligent in preventing the smuggling of weapons and gunpowder into Corsica for the use of the devoti.
[2] Laval had come to profoundly hate his assignment and the Corsicans in general. Of all the various French senior officers who presided over French occupations of Corsica in the 18th century, none - not even the defeated Boissieux - came do detest them quite as openly as the Marquis de Laval.
Last edited:
Theodore's approach to diplomacy is a long list of what not to do when in charge of a small kingdom, but so far it seems like his gambles are paying off.