King Theodore's Corsica

Carp, the attitude "whoever is born after the PoD will be butterfied away" in my hopinion is crippling for you, I suggest to avoid it; If there is not a direct logical reason to butterfly someone off, then that person should exist; It may do different things (maybe not in this case, as independent Corsica's existence can't have changed things in Britain this deeply) but there is no reason to say that person do not exist.

I have to respectfully disagree. I keep to the same rule in my own timelines and find it fully realistic - the chance of a certain sperm fertilizing an egg at a certain time is so astronomical, and that even a small change is going to result in very different people being born. And, yes, although many of those people will be ATL siblings of people who were born in OTL, siblings can be very different people). Although some may shy away from this for purposes of their narrative - and more power to them for doing so - it seems that Carp is stringent on this issue; and it's his story to tell.
I still mantain that a person born at the same time having very similar DNA, the same upbringing and in the same environment can be played as the same person with good approximation as upbringing and environement are way more important that genetics , but yes, this is Carp story, and he is wellcomed to continue as he sees fit, as it is a very good story, so far; I only argued that he should not cripple himsef on this kind of rule, and let himself free to do whatever fit with his narrative; however, in my hopinion, I can't see what has happened until now impacting on the birth of that specific person. I hope I have been clear, this is only a suggestion, not a criticism.
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Finally caught back up with this tl again and man is it such a pleasure to read. I have one question though, what was the pod of this timeline? I never quite figured out what was the main pod from otl that led to Corsica going independent.
Finally caught back up with this tl again and man is it such a pleasure to read. I have one question though, what was the pod of this timeline? I never quite figured out what was the main pod from otl that led to Corsica going independent.
Tread Mark The new King. footnote A.

In May of 1764, King Theodore struck at the economic foundations of the Church in Corsica with a series of edicts. Firstly, all the revenues of vacant sees and benefices would hereby accrue to the crown; secondly, ecclesiastical mortmain was drastically reformed and gifts of land to the Church were restricted; thirdly, the tithe was definitively declared to be a royal prerogative; finally, the last of these edicts ordered the closure of dozens of monasteries which were deemed too small to be viable and the expropriation of their lands and properties. Theodore argued that these measures were necessary to protect the kingdom’s finances and ensure the good stewardship of its agricultural land, which was of particular importance at this time given the great Italian famine of 1764.[1] Nevertheless, many guessed that these acts were really intended to punish the Church after their “interference” in the Borgu Riot arrests of the previous autumn, and interpreted the May Edicts as the king’s vengeance.

These edicts were much less consequential than they appeared. The financial implications were fairly minor: Theodore was already in control of most of the Church’s landed revenues thanks to his occupation of ecclesiastical property, significant gifts of land to the Church were rare, the tithe was already in de facto royal hands since the Revolution, and monastic holdings made up a vanishingly small sliver of Corsican arable land. Nor did the decrees stir up great domestic controversy, even among the clergy. Most of the monasteries targeted for closure really were tiny, with the vast majority having fewer than half a dozen monks. Such communities depended on local charity and their holdings were often little more than a communal garden. The measure was welcomed by many in the ecclesiastical hierarchy of Corsica as a step towards reform, as it was thought that the consolidation of monastic houses would make it easier to restore discipline and regularity to the island’s often wayward monks.

In Rome, however, Theodore’s decrees were seen as part of a broader context of regalist attacks upon the Church across Europe. In many Catholic countries this aggression was particularly focused on the Society of Jesus, which was perceived as holding too much wealth and influence and suspected of being more loyal to Rome than to their national kings. The Jesuits were expelled from Portugal in 1759, and France eventually followed suit in 1763. In the minor Bourbon court of Parma, the fiercely anticlerical prime minister Guillaume du Tillot had recently imposed new taxes on Church property and restrictions upon ecclesiastical mortmain, which were especially galling to Rome because the Papacy still claimed Parma as its own fief.[2] It did not go unnoticed that Theodore’s edict against mortmain appeared to be directly cribbed from Tillot’s policy in Parma. Theodore’s impudence thus represented not merely the greed of one eccentric kinglet, but the newest salvo against a Papacy under siege.

Consequently, the policy of Pope Clement XIII towards Corsica was not primarily about Corsica. Every new usurpation of ecclesiastical rights further exposed Rome’s weakness, and inspired monarchs to take ever bolder moves against Church authority and prerogatives. Some within the Curia believed that the Pope needed to make an example of someone, and the parvenu King of Corsica seemed like the perfect candidate. Despite his grudging recognition by the European powers he was still seen in many courts as something of a joke or curiosity, and having been alienated from France in the recent war it seemed unlikely that the Bourbons would rush to his defense.

On July 3rd - just a week after Eleanora’s death - Cardinal Neri Maria Corsini, the head of the Roman Inquisition, published a condemnation of Theodore’s various infringements on ecclesiastical lands and monastic establishments. The Corsican clergy were instructed to disregard the king’s new edicts as illegal and to preach against his usurpations. Here, however, Rome committed a serious blunder. Faithful to the principles of ecclesiastical hierarchy, the Curia did not transmit its orders directly to Corsica’s curates or bishops, but to the responsible archbishops. For the Diocese of Mariana in the north this was Giuseppe Saporiti, the Archbishop of Genoa, as despite the concessions Theodore had won in 1753 the establishment of a native archbishop for Corsica was not among them.


Giuseppe Saporiti, Archbishop of Genoa

Theodore could not have asked for a better enemy. A Genoese native, Saporiti had been archbishop since 1745, and like all Genoese archbishops during the rebellion he had been an overt partisan of the Republic and enemy of the naziunali. Saporiti enthusiastically embraced this opportunity to undermine Theodore, and gave instructions to the Bishop of Mariana on how to proceed. As it happened, however, the chancellor of the Diocese of Mariana was Luigi Angelo Zerbi, who was not only a fierce naziunale but one of the founding members of the devoti. When Saporiti’s instructions passed through his hands, he immediately handed the letter over to the foreign minister, Don Pasquale Paoli.

Don Pasquale had been working diligently since the end of the French occupation to reenter national politics. After returning to Corsica in the care of the British Navy, he was shunned by his old ally Prime Minister Gianpietro Gaffori and his ministry. But Gaffori could not control the pieve elections, and thanks to the support of his own influential clan Don Pasquale was elected as a procuratore for Rostino in 1759. He failed in a bid to be elected to the Diet in that year, but eventually succeeded in 1761. This achievement was a testament to his own charisma and clan network, but also a symptom of Corsica’s postwar political fragmentation and Gaffori’s increasingly tenuous hold on power.

Although the French and British armies had sailed away, their presence had seriously degraded the unity of the Corsican state. The power of the central government had never been strong, but foreign occupation had discredited and weakened Gaffori’s authority. As was typical in Corsican history, the weakening of formal authority encouraged a return to local and familial politics. The royal luogotenenti were becoming difficult to control, and often abused their authority to steadily turn the provinces into their own private fiefdoms. Vendetta killings, which seem to have declined in the immediate post-independence era, were back on the rise. The broad coalition of interior, northern naziunali which had made up Gaffori’s vague “faction” in the late 1740s and early 1750s was splintering into smaller regional and clan alliances. Simultaneously, the prime minister was subjected to increasing criticism from both the aristocratic gigliati and a small but outspoken cadre of educated “liberals.” Although his actual position was unchallenged, Gaffori relied on an ever-narrower base of support in the consulta and no longer had the ability to shape the Diet - or carry out national policy - as he wished.

Gaffori’s weakness allowed Paoli to advance his political career despite the prime minister’s hostility, mainly by flattering the king. Despite being elected to a body whose principal duty was to restrain royal power, Paoli ingratiated himself to Theodore by his staunch support of the king’s policies, particularly when it came to religion and economics. Both an Anglophile and an Asphodelian, Paoli was a vocal promoter of commerce and free trade and an outspoken defender of immigration and religious liberty. Along with his considerable personal charisma, this adherence ensured his swift rise. None missed the fact that Paoli’s election to the dieta was strongly supported by - and would have been impossible without - the “royal electors,” those procuratori appointed directly by Theodore.

Still, frustrated by the relative powerlessness of the Diet, Paoli yearned for a post in the royal ministry. The opportunity came sooner than he expected with the resignation of Foreign Minister Giovan Vincente Garelli in 1762, who ostensibly bowed out due to infirmity but was probably a casualty of British diplomatic pressure. The British could not bring themselves to trust the man who had signed the Convention of Ajaccio with the French, and suspected Garelli of Francophile leanings. The British consul wrote acidly to his superiors that Garelli was not only a “slavish” follower of the Bourbon envoys, but “just as arrogant as he is incompetent.” To the delight of the British - and the chagrin of Gaffori - Theodore appointed Paoli as Garelli’s replacement over the strong objections of the prime minister.


Pasquale Paoli in the 1760s

Despite fears that Paoli would show himself to be a dangerous radical, his appointment was not followed by any ministerial purge or sudden pivot in Corsican foreign affairs. His only controversial appointment was to tap the old revolutionary Father Gregorio Salvini of Nessa as the kingdom’s envoy to Rome. Salvini was certainly qualified for the job; he had acquired his doctorate in civil and canon law in the Roman academy and knew Roman politics well. But although Salvini was a clergyman trained in the heart of the Catholic world, he was also a firebrand naziunale who had been one of the earliest propagandists of the revolt. No mere armchair revolutionary, Salvini had also famously smuggled gunpowder to the insurgents and made his way onto the Republic’s “no amnesty” list of the most notorious rebels. Although now approaching 70 years of age, Salvini was still sharp and declared himself up to the task.

Paoli acquired the “Saporiti letters” in July 1764, just weeks before the consulta generale, and was set upon using them. Taking the rostrum during the general session, Don Pasquale produced the letters from his waistcoat and claimed to have uncovered a “conspiracy” between Genoa and the Curia to undermine the kingdom. It is generally agreed that Paoli probably hoped to frame further regalist acts - for Theodore was already planning his next moves - as a defense against Genoa rather than an attack upon Rome. But Paoli was too successful, as sympathetic delegates turned their fury squarely on the Republic and began calling for war with Genoa. Tensions between Corsica and her former colonial master had been growing since the late 1750s, aggravated mainly by disputes over maritime rights, a subject which the Treaty of Monaco had not addressed. The Corsicans accused the Genoese of harvesting fish and coral in their waters and allowing foreigners to use Bonifacio as a base for this exploitation. Economic rivalry, however, was not the only incentive to belligerence. Certainly some of those who advocated war stood to benefit materially from securing Corsican waters, but many others saw a victorious nationalist war as a cure for the nation’s political disunity and malaise.

Despite this outcry, no war was constitutionally possible without the support of the king, and Theodore was dead set against it. His public position was that while he would defend Corsican interests, he was loathe to breach the dearly-bought peace with Corsicans now enjoyed, and did not intend to impugn the honor of the crown by breaching the Treaty of Monaco. More pragmatically, the king also knew that the kingdom was manifestly unready for war, and suspected that even if victory was possible the great powers would not let him get away with it. In particular, a new Corso-Genoese war would certainly trigger a crisis with Austria, which was generally friendly towards the Corsican government but had also been positioning itself as the Republic’s protector since the Genoese Revolution.

In the end the belligerent flame burned itself out. The incident merely provided a further demonstration that the consulta, an impermanent body of amateurs which required a two-thirds supermajority to do anything of consequence, was not a legislature worthy of the name. It also provided a further demonstration to Gaffori, who was convinced that stirring up war had been Paoli’s aim all along, that the upstart foreign minister was a dangerous liability who would drag the country into disaster.

This debacle notwithstanding, Theodore evidently considered the “Saporiti conspiracy” to be sufficient grounds for further action. A list of new decrees was drawn up, no longer confined to ecclesiastical lands but aiming at the fundamental relationship between church and state. It proved to be too much for Gaffori, who as prime minister was charged with enforcing the king’s decrees. Although he was no zealous defender of Rome, Gaffori disagreed with what he saw as needless provocation and was uncomfortable being the Church’s antagonist. He had swallowed the May edicts, but he was unwilling to continue in the direction Theodore was now leading.

Gaffori declared his intent to resign rather than promulgate the new edicts. It was a tactic that the count had used several times before, and had always been successful. Theodore, however, apparently understood what Gaffori did not - that the count was no longer the “indispensable man” he had once been. His political dominance was waning, and the host of notabili who would welcome his downfall was larger than ever. Rather than being cowed by Gaffori’s threat, the king accepted his resignation.


Statue of Gianpietro Gaffori in Corti

The fall of Gaffori ministry caught even his enemies by surprise. Fearing to alienate powerful families that might take dismissal as a mortal insult, Theodore rarely sacked his officials. Giafferi had served as prime minister - eventually in name only - until he dropped dead, and many assumed that Gaffori would follow his example. It was not beyond the realm of possibility that Don Gianpietro would accept his “resignation” with ill grace and turn against the king, perhaps even rising in revolt. In the event, however, Thedore was wise enough to handle Gaffori’s resignation with tact. In recognition of his long and faithful service, the king elevated the outgoing prime minister to the rank of marquis and awarded him a life pension. Gaffori went quietly; at the moment he probably did not have the support to do otherwise. At 60 years of age he was not quite ready for retirement, but his decades of political dominance were finished.

Paoli seemed to be the most dynamic force in the ministry and enjoyed the favor of the king, but would not be Gaffori’s successor. The king may have suspected that appointing Gaffori’s rival to succeed him would provoke Don Gianpietro and would not be healthy for national political unity. The king instead settled upon Count Simone Pietro Frediani, a 65 year old nobleman from the village of Penta in Casinca. Frediani was chosen more for his loyalty and agreeability than any particular political skills: He had been an unwavering royalist since 1736, had a respectable (if not particularly notable) revolutionary career, and was on good terms with Gaffori. Paoli, however, was hardly frozen out. He was appointed as Secretary of State, a move which suggested where real influence lay - Gaffori himself had served in this capacity during the prime ministry of the senescent Don Luigi Giafferi, and had been the real power within the government. Contrary to some expectations, however, Frediani was not a mere cipher. Although not blessed with great gifts as a statesman, he sensibly tried to position himself as a moderating, uniting force between disparate factions.

Now the king could proceed with his plans. To address the immediate “threat” the king issued the Rescritto alla consulta generale del 1764, an official reply to the concerns raised in the assembly. This document declared that, to defend the country from foreign clerical “subversion,” formal communication between the Corsican clergy and Rome was illicit unless authorized by the crown. Appeals to Rome were prohibited. The rescript also claimed that the king possessed the inherent privilege of the regium exequatur, the right to delay the promulgation or publishing of papal decrees until they were given royal approval.[3] This latter assertion was particularly bold; no less a king than Carlos III of Spain had himself claimed the regium exequatur in 1762, only to quietly rescind the decree less than a year later under ecclesiastical pressure.

This time the Papacy did not settle for half-measures. A heated debate between Father Salvini and papal representatives in Rome failed to lead anywhere, with Salvini playing the role that Paoli had intended and insisting that every decree thus far was the legitimate exercise of sovereign power. Following this abortive attempt at negotiation, the papacy unleashed its ultimate sanction. Citing the annual bull In Coena Domini, which imposed latae sententiae excommunication upon those who committed “the usurpation of church goods, or their sequestration without leave of the proper ecclesiastical authorities” and “the subjection of ecclesiastics to lay courts,” Pope Clement handed down the Monitorio di Corsica in November of 1764, a papal brief which declared Theodore “and all his accomplices” to be under anathema.[A]

Theodore and his ministers had expected some pushback, but they seem to have been legitimately caught off guard by the strength of Rome’s response. Although Theodore was admittedly claiming privileges by sudden fiat which other (and far more powerful) kings had accumulated over centuries, technically nothing in the Rescritto was novel. Certainly they had not expected such a draconian punishment as excommunication, which had not been levied against a head of state for more than a hundred years.[4]

Frediani advised the king that they should consider negotiating a de-escalation, but Rome had inadvertently ensured that this was impossible. To the king’s indignant fury, he discovered that the Monitorio contained language which implied that Rome still maintained its ancient claim to Corsica as part of the papal patrimony. This convinced him that backing down would not merely be a retreat from regalist policy, but an admission that the King of Corsica was no longer truly sovereign over his own island. Citing the Rescritto, the king refused to grant the exequatur to In Coena Domini or the Monitorio di Corsica, declaring that they were not valid in the kingdom and that any person publishing, circulating, or even possessing them was guilty of treason. On November 26th the king suspended diplomatic relations with the Holy See, ordering the recall of Father Salvini and the immediate expulsion of Rome’s representatives from the country. With all communication between Corsica and Rome terminated, the diplomatic spat between Theodore and Clement had become a de facto schism.

[1] An unusually dry winter followed by a cold and wet spring led to widespread crop failures in 1764, beginning a cycle of famine and disease that continued through 1767. The epicenter of the famine was the Kingdom of Naples, where up to 5% of the entire population perished. Although the direct effects of the famine were mostly limited to southern and central Italy, the effects of the catastrophe in Naples were felt as far away as Piedmont, causing high bread prices and considerable anxiety. There was no mass death in Corsica in 1764, but the island was not completely isolated from the Italian market and these were years of belt-tightening for the Corsican poor.
[2] The first Duke of Parma, Pier Luigi Farnese, was granted the duchy as a fief by his (illegitimate) father, Pope Paul III. Because of its original status as a papal fief, Rome’s official position was that after the death of Antonio Farnese in 1731, the last male line Farnese duke, Parma ought to have reverted to the papacy. The European powers ignored this claim and allowed the duchy to pass to the infante Carlos (later Carlos II of Spain), then to Austria, and finally to Carlos’s brother Felipe, all in the face of the Pope’s strong objections.
[3] The exequatur (meaning “let it be executed”) originated during the Western Schism when there were multiple papal claimants. Concerned that his faithful followers might be deceived by false decrees from his rivals, Pope Urban VI authorized certain ecclesiastics to confirm the authenticity of papal bulls before they were allowed to go into legal force, and certain lay princes eventually gained this authority as well. It was soon realized, however, that a monarch with this power might withhold a bull’s confirmation indefinitely, not because he doubted a decree’s authenticity but simply because he disliked it. In time, certain kings claimed that the right to grant or withhold this authorization was an inherent power of the crown rather than a privilege given to them by Rome, and the regium exequatur was born. Despite attempts by the Church to quash the practice, it was too useful for kings to give up and eventually became widespread.
[4] The last sovereign to suffer this sanction was the Duke of Parma in 1641, who launched an invasion of the Papal States in a dispute over the lordship of Castro.

Timeline Notes
[A] This update is easier to read if you know a little bit of ecclesiastical Latin. A latae sententiae (“sentence passed”) excommunication, sometimes known as an “automatic excommunication,” occurs without a legal process or anyone having to officially declare it so. Certain sins - apostasy, for instance - make one automatically excommunicated whether or not anyone else knows of the sin; the very act of sinning makes one ipso facto an excommunicate. In this case, according to In Coena Domini usurping church goods incurs just such an excommunication. By publishing the “Monitorio di Corsica” Clement is technically not "excommunicating" Theodore, but rather informing him that he is presently in a state of anathema for his sins, which is why it’s a monitorio (a warning, from the Latin monēre, “to warn”). The distinction, however, is probably lost on most non-theologians of the time.
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Been waiting for this one for a long time. The reasoning behind the Papal actions (make an example out of the pipsqueak king of questionable legitimacy) makes sense.
Been waiting for this one for a long time. The reasoning behind the Papal actions (make an example out of the pipsqueak king of questionable legitimacy) makes sense.
both the Papacy and Theodore can win from this. The Pope will have made an example of him outside of Corsica, but Theodore could gain further popular support as well from his own people.
Not to mention support or at least wellwishers from dozens of monarchies that normally wouldn't care about Corsica one way or the other are going to suddenly be rooting for Theodore to get away with it as a precedent for getting Romes meddling out of their own kingdoms.
both the Papacy and Theodore can win from this. The Pope will have made an example of him outside of Corsica, but Theodore could gain further popular support as well from his own people.

Don't think so, he seems to have bitten off more than he can chew this time, especially without his wife and PM to back him you could see a big backlash. Would've been smarter to keep the conflict focused on the Archbishop rather than eacalating it.
I consider the Papacy's response credible in large part because it actually happened, albeit not to Corsica. The reforms under du Tillot in Parma - mentioned in the update - eventually infuriated Rome so much that the duke and Tillot were both excommunicated in 1768. Parma was probably chosen in part because it seemed weak, and because the Papacy still maintained a claim to it, reasons which apply equally well to Corsica. Sanctioning Parma, however, turned out to be a horrible miscalculation, for while the Duke of Parma was nothing special on his own, he was still a member of the Bourbon family. The Bourbon powers immediately closed ranks and responded by seizing Papal territory. King Louis invaded Avignon and occupied it until 1774, while the Neapolitans occupied Benevento. In fact, they considered going much further - realizing that the Pope was militarily helpless and diplomatically isolated, an idea was floated between the courts of Parma, Naples, and (IIRC) Modena to launch a joint invasion of the Papal States and slice off some choice bits to be annexed by the victors. This plan might have gone ahead but for the opposition of the pious Maria Theresa, for the Italian Bourbons decided that tag-teaming the Pope wasn't politically feasible without at least tacit Austrian approval.

Theodore has gone ahead and triggered this crisis a few years ahead of schedule, and the Pope is likely to find that his ultimate sanction isn't quite as powerful as it used to be. Critically, however, Theodore isn't a Bourbon - other monarchs may hope that he succeeds and might even support him diplomatically, but would Louis march troops into Avignon for the sake of Theodore's honor? Probably not. Nevertheless, the fiercely regalist courts of Naples and Parma are definitely interested in how this all plays out, and may not stay on the sidelines indefinitely.

Finally caught back up with this tl again and man is it such a pleasure to read. I have one question though, what was the pod of this timeline? I never quite figured out what was the main pod from otl that led to Corsica going independent.

The POD is that Giacinto Paoli, the father of Pasquale Paoli, is killed during the failed siege of San Pellegrino in early 1736, prior to Theodore’s arrival on Corsica. IOTL, Paoli and the other rebels were driven off by bombardment from Genoese ships; the only difference ITTL is that one of the cannonballs blows off Paoli’s leg, mortally wounding him. Giacinto Paoli was one of the major rebel leaders at that time and initially joined Theodore, but quickly proved himself to be Theodore’s most self-serving, incompetent, and treacherous follower. IOTL Paoli abandoned the siege of Bastia just as the city seemed ready to fall, and was so envious of the honors given to men like Fabiani that he plotted to assassinate his rival ministers (and Theodore himself). It is quite possible that he was involved in Fabiani's murder. Because Paoli was so influential, however, Theodore could never afford to just get rid of him, and felt he had no choice but to continue giving him important offices and commands despite knowing that Paoli was a traitor and was actively working to undermine him.

Paoli’s death results in Theodore actually taking Bastia in 1736, which is really the turning point of the TL. A lot of materiel is seized, and the rebels acquire a port to facilitate smuggling with Livorno. The real value, however, is psychological. The rebels had tried and failed to take Bastia several times since 1730, and then Theodore abruptly captures the city scarcely a month after his arrival, and with only minor losses. It’s the big, resounding victory that Theodore never quite got ITTL, it’s a huge shot in the arm for rebel morale (and a terrible shock for the Genoese), and it creates the myth of Theodore’s “military genius” that convinces the rebels to keep following him and taking him seriously.

I chose the POD because it seemed the most “elegant” way to improve Theodore’s chances with a single, instantaneous event. It gives Theodore a crucial early victory, removes a key rival, occurs just prior to Theodore's arrival, and is a local Corsican event that has no immediate influence on the rest of the world. It doesn’t even get rid of Pasquale Paoli, since he was born back in 1725.
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So, in the short term, this is likely to be a resurgence of the papacy's apparent power and Corsica losing diplomatic relations with it's most pious affiliates. But in the long term, the more royalist Catholic powers want Theodore to win this and the Bourbon family might well lean on the scales a bit, while not doing anything so crass as going to war with the pope, to make sure they could push their independence from the 'holy mother church' even further.
In fact, they considered going much further - realizing that the Pope was militarily helpless and diplomatically isolated, an idea was floated between the courts of Parma, Naples, and (IIRC) Modena to launch a joint invasion of the Papal States and slice off some choice bits to be annexed by the victors. This plan might have gone ahead but for the opposition of the pious Maria Theresa, for the Italian Bourbons decided that tag-teaming the Pope wasn't politically feasible without at least tacit Austrian approval.

Theodore has gone ahead and triggered this crisis a few years ahead of schedule, and the Pope is likely to find that his ultimate sanction isn't quite as powerful as it used to be. Critically, however, Theodore isn't a Bourbon - other monarchs may hope that he succeeds and might even support him diplomatically, but would Louis march troops into Avignon for the sake of Theodore's honor? Probably not. Nevertheless, the fiercely regalist courts of Naples and Parma are definitely interested in how this all plays out, and may not stay on the sidelines indefinitely.
Plus, while Theodore may not be a Bourbon, his wife (IIRC) does still have connections in the Austrian court.
Plus, while Theodore may not be a Bourbon, his wife (IIRC) does still have connections in the Austrian court.
I think you mean the wife of his heir (Theodore's wife is dead). But IOTL both the Duke of Parma and the king of Naples were married to daughters of Maria Theresa, and it didn't convince Austria of supporting them in their conflict with the Pope. If being "in laws" of the Habsburgs didn't help them, having a relation with a branch of the House of Lorraine would be even weaker.
I think you mean the wife of his heir (Theodore's wife is dead). But IOTL both the Duke of Parma and the king of Naples were married to daughters of Maria Theresa, and it didn't convince Austria of supporting them in their conflict with the Pope.

They did support them, at least initially. Kaunitz was already moving gradually towards a more regalist policy in the 1760s and was increasingly frustrated by the stubbornness of the new pope. The excommunication of the Duke of Parma was seen in Vienna as shocking, retrograde, and quite unacceptable. Kaunitz initially recommended solidarity with Parma and the Bourbons, and he and the empress were perfectly willing to tighten the diplomatic and financial screws on the papacy to punish them for meddling in the affairs of princes. The Bourbons, however, went too far. Invading Papal territory was not what the Austrians had in mind. Once the French stormed into Avignon and the Neapolitans took Benevento, the Austrians pumped the brakes and distanced themselves from the Romano-Bourbon feud. This was a clear signal to the Italian princes that further belligerence would be a bad idea, and they went no further with their plans to carve up the papal goose.

Theodore is not a Bourbon, so his excommunication is unlikely to meet with a Bourbon military response. Without that response, Austria doesn’t get spooked, and may be more comfortable exerting its own (non-military) pressure on the Papacy.
The Pariahs
The Pariahs


Expulsion of the Jesuits from Spain

If Pope Clement XIII believed that placing Theodore under anathema would bring the wayward monarch to heel, he was quite mistaken. The King of Corsica would not be making any barefoot walks to Canossa. Theodore was not personally troubled by the Monitorio, and the immediate domestic effects of the brief were minimal. The ban on its dissemination, coupled with the general illiteracy and isolation of the Corsican population, meant that the news spread slowly and was muddled by rumors and half-truths. Corsica only had one real newspaper, the Ragguagli della Corsica (“Accounts of Corsica”), which did not circulate widely outside of Bastia and was a solidly pro-government paper.[1]

Rather than being placed on the defensive, Theodore quickly decided that Clement, having used his ultimate sanction to little apparent effect, had nothing left in the quiver. He forged on with his planned “reorganization” of the Corsican church, now completely unhindered by the fear of any further response. Although it is generally agreed that the post-Monitorio reforms were drawn up principally by Theodore himself, they fell to Secretary of State Pasquale Paoli to promulgate, as apparently Prime Minister Simone Pietro Frediani preferred to let his subordinate handle this business. For this reason they are known in Corsican history as the Grida Paolina, or “Paoline Edicts.”

The Grida Paolina continued Theodore’s regalist agenda of ecclesiastical subordination to the crown, reiterating the prohibition on appeals to Rome and subjecting clergymen to secular courts. The new edicts, however, went much further than merely restating old policies. Seminaries were now to be state institutions, entirely subject to the ministry. Marriage was declared to be a civil contract which, though it might be marked by a religious ceremony, was not within the legal competence of the Church. Claiming that the “excess” of clergy on Corsica “retarded the natural increase of the population,” the edicts placed a cap on the number of priests and monks in the kingdom, forbade men from taking religious vows in excess of that amount, and forbade all women from taking religious vows before the age of forty.

Just as inflammatory as the provisions of the Grida Paolina was the language used to justify it. Most infamously, the preamble to the edicts included this statement:

...all matters concerning the nation which have not been divinely granted to the Church by Christ and his Apostles are subject to the supreme command and authority of the Sovereign as provided in the Constitution of Corsica.

This language suggested a very narrow view of the Church’s remit and an expansive commitment to regalism. The Curia also observed that it appeared to question the doctrine of apostolic succession, for by claiming that the Church could only concern itself with those matters which “Christ and his Apostles” had placed within its jurisdiction - as opposed to, say, those matters which Clement considered to be within its jurisdiction - the text implied that the Pope was an inferior substitute to the Apostles, rather than wielding their full authority as delegated to him by Saint Peter.

Yet while the Paoline Edicts caused a great stir in Rome, Theodore’s estimation proved essentially correct. Having already placed the king under anathema, Clement had no further remedies at his disposal. The pope could only hope for a strong popular reaction against Theodore’s regalism, but the provisions of the Grida Paolina were not as provocative domestically as they were in Rome. Marriage, for instance, was already a civil contract in much of rural Corsica. Couples were usually wed in a secular ceremony (symbolizing the joining of two clans) without the presence of a priest; a “church wedding” was often delayed until the wife’s first childbirth, and sometimes skipped entirely. The cap on the number of priests was the only provision which had a significant impact on traditional life, but because this merely limited the number of future priests - nobody was actually defrocked or deprived of a curate because of the Paoline Edicts - a popular outcry did not immediately materialize.

Within Corsica, the most strenuous objection to the reforms came not from the bottom of society, but those at the top. The promulgation of the Grida Paolina in 1765 was the catalyst for the consolidation of the gigliati and asfodelati as distinct court factions, who coalesced around opposition to or support for the new edicts (respectively). As it was not politically tenable to oppose the king directly, the gigliati focused instead on Don Pasquale, who was not technically the author of his eponymous edicts but was certainly the leading advocate for regalism within the ministry. Paoli’s position, however, was unshakable; he served at the pleasure of the king, and the king could not be persuaded to dismiss him.

The “anti-Paolists” at court had to content themselves with the knowledge that Theodore would probably not be king for much longer. By the time the king celebrated his 70th birthday in 1764, it was clear that his years were finally catching up with him. Once a barrel-chested, broad-shouldered picture of physical vigor, Theodore had grown stooped with age and flabby from a lack of activity. His regular walks and rides, which Theodore himself credited for his robust health, had been curtailed by arthritis. His demeanour, too, had changed; particularly after his wife’s illness and death, he had grown noticeably more distant and reserved. His old affable and gregarious nature was still evident, but his temper was shorter, and his interest in court life declined precipitously. So precipitously, in fact, that in 1765 the king abandoned the royal court altogether.

Eleanora had preferred to reside in Bastia, but Theodore had always preferred Ajaccio and visited the city often. In the summer of 1765, the king abruptly decamped to Ajaccio and made it his permanent residence. He established himself at the Palazzo Agostiniano, the former seminary which Eleanora had renovated into a seasonal royal residence. It was a modest residence by royal standards - the grounds covered only two acres - but the four-story palazzo by the sea was quite sufficient for Theodore’s purposes. The king was by no means a hermit; his palace was directly adjacent to the upper town and he frequently entertained local noblemen, civic leaders, poets, intellectuals, consuls, and foreign travelers. Word spread among the foreign contingent that getting a dinner invitation at the Palazzo Agostiniano was remarkably easy, as Theodore was always keen to interrogate his foreign guests about news and politics. The king’s time was increasingly devoted to these social events at his palazzo, alongside personal correspondence, drawing up plans for public works, and plumbing the mysteries of the universe.

In his old age, the king who had once been known as “the Alchemist of Magdeburg” rediscovered his old passion for mysticism and the esoteric “sciences.” With the assistance of his personal doctor Emanuel Calvo,[2] the king made extensive studies of the kabbalah and experimented with magical healing and divination. He collected curious and esoteric texts, from supposed “ancient texts” to modern works like the Arcana Cœlestia of the visionary mystic Emanuel Swedenborg. Most famously, the king struck up a regular correspondence with the mysterious Neapolitan nobleman and alleged dark sorcerer Raimondo di Sangro, principe di San Severo. Raimondo and Theodore had much in common: They were both accomplished polyglots (Raimondo spoke Hebrew and Arabic, among more common tongues), were deeply intrigued by esoteric mysteries, were associated with Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism, and were practicing alchemists.[3] The contents of this correspondence have been the source of much speculation over the years, but their letters unfortunately do not survive today.[4]


Kabbalistic divinity map, Amsterdam, 18th century

The exact nature of Theodore’s religious beliefs remain the subject of speculation. Certainly by the 1760s he was not a Catholic in any meaningful sense, which explains why his personal break with the Church made no impression on him whatsoever. Yet although Theodore was clearly a “freethinker,” there is no evidence that the king ever embraced the atheism or vague deism that was then in fashion among continental intellectuals. He was sincerely spiritual, and was fascinated by mystical arts which contemporary philosophes mocked as foolish superstitions.

For his part, Theodore always strenuously insisted that he was a Christian. Some have dismissed this as dissimulation, for the king readily concealed his unusual beliefs and practices from the Corsican people. Theodore, however, may not have seen any conflict between Christianity and esotericism. He is sometimes said to have been a universalist, adhering to the “perennial philosophy” that the world’s formal religions all shared a single basis of metaphysical truth. In the perennial esoteric mind, Kabbalism, alchemy, and the “primordial traditions” of the ancients were not rivals of Christianity, but alternate - and perhaps complementary - means of reaching the same metaphysical epiphany.

While the king explored metaphysics in Ajaccio, the business of the court and the government continued at Bastia, where the crown prince Don Federico and his wife Donna Elisabetta now presided in Theodore’s stead. This may have given the crown prince some useful experience, but although he held court he did not rule; all major decisions still had to pass Theodore’s desk, and the government ministers still served at the king’s pleasure. This proved awkward, for while Theodore gave his government a rather long leash it was still necessary for Frediani, Paoli, and even the crown prince to occasionally travel back and forth between Bastia and Ajaccio to discuss and implement policy. This was not a sustainable way to rule a country, and it caused considerable aggravation to Paoli and the asphodelati. They saw very clearly that the king’s absence weakened their position at court, and watched with unease as their enemies sought to ingratiate themselves with the prince and princess in preparation for the inevitable succession.

Theodore’s excommunication did not pass without notice on the continent. Although the state of Theodore himself did not elicit much sympathy in foreign courts, many statesmen were sincerely surprised and dismayed by Rome’s heavy-handed and retrograde response. Catholic governments from Lisbon to Vienna were either mulling over similar reforms or had already begun implementing them, and had optimistically assumed that in this modern age the Church simply knew better than to stand in the way of enlightened governance. Certainly Rome could not be allowed to treat other monarchs in the same way it had treated Theodore. “The Roman Curia,” remarked the Austrian state chancellor Wenzel Anton Kaunitz, “has to be made aware that it can no longer dictate to rulers in matters other than church doctrine.” Mindful of his deeply pious empress, Kaunitz was always cautious when it came to ecclesiastical matters, but even he was convinced that Rome needed to be taught that royal sovereignty could suffer no infringement.

Vienna, however, would not take the lead in the next round of regalist action. That honor would go to Spain, where a confluence of events in 1766 led to a coordinated expulsion of the Society of Jesus from all Spanish domains around the globe. In that year, Spain finally felt the effects of the general southern European famine which had first struck Naples two years earlier, causing unrest and rioting which was conveniently blamed on Jesuit instigators. This same year saw the death of the queen mother Elisabeth Farnese, one of the political protagonists of the War of Austrian Succession and the most influential pro-Jesuit voice at the court of her son King Carlos III. Freed of this restraint, Carlos and his government struck a swift and mortal blow against the Jesuits, who were rounded up without warning and placed on ships. The king’s officials were sternly informed that if even one Jesuit remained in their jurisdictions for any reason - even an old priest on his deathbed - their lives would be forfeit.

The intended destination of the Spanish Jesuits was naturally Rome, but throwing them upon the pope’s doorstep proved more difficult than expected. Clement refused to accept them, believing that doing so would be tantamount to recognizing the validity of their expulsion. This placed the Spanish captains in a bind. They could not land at Civitavecchia, but neither could they return to Spain - at least, not if they valued their lives. The Spanish ships spent weeks hovering indecisively off the coast of Lazio, hoping in vain for some diplomatic resolution, but were eventually forced to deal with a more pressing matter: their dwindling supplies of food and water. The captains consulted their charts for a nearby, non-Bourbon port where supplies might be obtained, and the port they chose was Bastia.

The Spanish might have feared a chilly reception given Corsica’s present relations with Rome, but they were pleasantly surprised. Although the port of Bastia itself could not accommodate the flotilla, the Corsican authorities were perfectly willing to allow the Spanish to purchase supplies at Bastia and ferry water and provisions to their ships anchored off the coast. The captains spread the word to their fellows, and soon most of the “Jesuit fleet” had converged on the city. Yet while this resolved the fleet’s immediate needs, the underlying problem remained - what were they going to do with all these Jesuits?

Unlike the Bourbon monarchs, Theodore had never made anti-Jesuitism part of his regalist program. On the continent, statesmen and kings envied the Society’s vast wealth and properties and looked with suspicion at their control over education across much of the Catholic world. The Society was perceived as the covert enemy of the new enlightened monarchism, seeding unrest and indoctrinating new generations to obey the Pope and despise kings. In Corsica, however, Jesuits had virtually no power or influence of any kind. Corsica was home to only a very small number of Jesuits, who possessed no significant property and had no role in secular education. Expelling this handful of powerless priests never even occurred to Theodore and his regalist accomplices. On the contrary, the king himself was personally sympathetic to the Society, perhaps because he himself was the product of an excellent Jesuit education.

With the captains begging him for help, the Spanish vice-consul at Bastia approached the government about the possibility of landing their “cargo” on Corsican soil. He was rebuffed by Paoli, who insisted that the kingdom could not possibly provide for the exiles and privately feared that a large number of Jesuits would inflame religious tensions. Paoli, however, was not the only influential man in the kingdom. Seeking a more cooperative official, the vice-consul turned to Don Santo Antonmattei, Minister of Commerce and the Navy and Corsica’s staunchest Hispanophile.

Although new to Corsican politics, Santo Antonmattei was one of Corsica’s most successful sons. Born in the Capo Corso village of Morsiglia in 1710, he had made a fortune in the New World as a merchant captain carrying goods between Peru, Panama, and Spain.[5] In 1753 the Spanish crown commissioned him as an inspector of fortresses and port facilities in the Viceroyalty of Peru, and for his services in this capacity he was ennobled by King Ferdinand VI. By the late 1750s he owned a factory in Cadiz and was certainly one of the richest Corsicans alive. Rather than settling in Spain for a comfortable retirement, however, Don Santo returned to his hometown in 1760 and assumed the role of the local patron and philanthropist, funding public works and aiding post-occupation recovery efforts. As it happened, the king was seeking someone to head a new amalgamated ministry of “commerce and the navy,” and decided that Antonmattei was the ideal candidate: He was an experienced captain, a successful businessman, and an expert in maritime trade. He was also rich, a very useful trait for a minister given the government’s limited ability to fund its own departments.


View of the village of Morsiglia

Politically, Don Santo was something of a wildcard. His wealth, nobility, and Bourbon sympathies seemed to make him a natural ally of the conservatives. Yet Don Santo was also a supporter of liberal trade policies, and as a self-made businessman from a northern fishing village he was not a good cultural fit with the old southern landed aristocracy who comprised the gigliati. Paoli and Antonmattei usually agreed on economic policy, but their relationship was nevertheless stormy; Don Pasquale was suspicious of Don Santo’s Spanish loyalties, and resented the fact that a man who had been absent for the entire Corsican Revolution had been rewarded with a ministerial post.

Favorable to both Spain and the Society of Jesus, Don Santo bypassed Paoli and Frediani and went to the king directly. He argued that the Jesuits - many of whom were from the Americas - had agricultural and educational expertise that Corsica desperately needed. This piqued Theodore’s interest, but he shared Paoli’s concern that the kingdom simply could not support so many needy foreigners. The vice-consul, however, proposed a possible solution. King Carlos had already pledged to pay an annual pension of 100 pesetas to each Jesuit so long as they remained within the Papal States, as a way to encourage these “troublemakers” to stay put. If the king was willing to broaden this offer to include Corsica, it would reduce the dependence of the exiles upon state charity. After exchanging messages with his superiors, the vice-consul procured Madrid’s consent to this arrangement and a royal guarantee for the pensions of any Jesuits landed in Corsica.

Not all the Spanish Jesuits ended up in Corsica. In total, more than five thousand Jesuits were expelled from the Spanish Empire, more than half of whom were from the American colonies. Even with the promised subsidy, the Corsican government was not prepared to accept so many refugees. Even those that were allowed to land did not all stay; many preferred to make their way to Rome or seek opportunities on the continent even if this meant forfeiting their pensions. Corsica, after all, was not the most attractive place of exile. Padre Antonio López de Priego, a native of Puebla, was singularly unimpressed; “The Corsicans are baptized Christians,” he wrote in a letter to his sister, “but they are so illiterate that in comparing them to the most barbarous Indian tribes I do them no injustice whatever.” Yet more than a thousand Jesuits - mostly Americans - did choose to stay, and would end up playing an important role in the history of the young kingdom.

Pope Clement fell ill and died in early 1768. His successor was Carlo Alberto Guidobono Cavalchini, the very same Cardinal Cavalchini who had served as Apostolic Visitor to Corsica in the 1750s. Cavalchini - now Pope Benedict XV - was no Corsican partisan, but he was a pragmatist. Benedict quickly backed away from Clement’s stubborn and ruinous hostility towards the Catholic monarchies. Bowing to foreign pressure, the pope ordered the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1770, dissolving the order entirely. Yet as Rome and Corsica were still at diplomatic loggerheads, Theodore’s government refused to grant this bull the regium exequatur, and it was never officially promulgated in the kingdom. In a twist of fate, Corsica became the only Catholic country in which the Society of Jesus was not proscribed.[A]

[1] Bonfiglio Guelfucci, the editor of the Ragguagli, was a staunchly royalist Servite friar and revolutionary propagandist who would later achieve fame as one of Corsica’s foremost 18th century historians. The Ragguagli aspired to be a both a political and literary gazette, with news of domestic and foreign affairs alongside native poetry. Technically his publication was preceded by the Magazzino di Ajaccio, but the Magazzino was a trade publication containing ship arrivals, exchange rates, and snippets of foreign news for a small audience of Ajaccini traders and shipowners, with no domestic political content.
[2] Although only an enthusiast himself, Calvo had been an associate of the late Rabbi Moshe Luzzatto, a prominent Jewish theologian and mystic who claimed to have received angelic inspiration.
[3] Raimondo di San Severo is best known for his marvelous and rather dubious inventions, including an ever-burning lamp, a printing press which could print in multiple colors, a self-driving carriage drawn by “wooden horses” which could traverse both land and water, and a means of producing artificial gemstones. He was also the subject of fearful rumors that he was a diabolical magician who performed human sacrifice and subjected his animals and servants to deranged experiments. The prince possessed two "anatomical machines" which still exist today, full-scale models of a human circulatory system made of metal wire built around a human skeleton, which were said to have been created by injecting an alchemical quicksilver solution which turned the subject's blood into solid iron. A statue of a “veiled Christ,” which resides in the Sansevero chapel, was so arrestingly lifelike that some believed the prince had used black magic to transmute a living person into cold marble.
[4] Very few of Theodore’s papers survive from this period, which is why we can only venture a guess at Theodore’s beliefs and specific interests. It is generally believed that Prince Federico thoroughly destroyed Theodore’s library and papers upon his accession to the throne, as he considered Theodore's "hobbies" to be a potential embarrassment to the monarchy. Naturally, this alleged cover-up provided plenty of fodder for conspiracy theorists. Some later claimed that the alchemist-king’s “secrets” were actually safeguarded by the Asphodelians, spirited away to the Prince of San Severo, or hidden by some shadowy agents of the Freemasons or the Knights Templar.
[5] Details of Antonmattei's mercantile career are scarce, but in 1750 he is recorded as the captain of the 30-gun El Toscana carrying a cargo of wax and cinnamon worth a million piastres.

Timeline Notes
[A] The arrival of the Jesuits in Corsica is based on real events. When Spain expelled the Jesuits from her empire in 1767, the Pope really did turn them away at Civitavecchia, and many of the ships went to Corsica and landed the exiles there. Without support from either Paoli's national government or the Genoese, hundreds of Jesuits organized their own community and survived on contributions from foreign sympathizers. Within two years of their arrival, however, Corsica was invaded by the French. As the Jesuits had already been banned from France, they were forced out once more, with most of them heading to mainland Italy.
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