King Theodore's Corsica

It lives!

Thanks for explaining how ATL circumstances lead to new, exciting things in the ever-complicated politics of the PLC, and how it could even have knock-on effects on Corsica.
(TBH, hearing about the "Saxon Rétablissement" as a historical term made me all excited that I might have discovered an ATL convention where historical terminology is more-French influenced, with implications for the world of the ATL present or something ...only to find that it's an OTL term-before I remembered that you're not planning to take it that far in general).
 
The Archipelago Expedition
The Archipelago Expedition

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The Russians engage the Ottoman fleet off Chios
As a consequence of the French occupation in 1758, Giorgio-Maria Stefanopoli had emerged the victor in his family’s long struggle for leadership over the Corsican Greek community. His main rivals, the Busacci family, had unwisely chosen to collaborate with the French and were forced off the island after the decisive Battle of Concador.[1] King Theodore, who had always hoped to reconcile the Greeks and Corsicans, recognized Giorgo-Maria’s loyalty to the state by granting him the rank of cavaliere, thus making him the first Greek to join the island’s nobility and giving him de facto recognition as the representative of his entire community.

The personal good fortune of “Kapetán Yiorgákis,” however, did not extend to the community he now led.[A] The Greeks had faced a difficult transition from the insular farming community of Paomia to an “urban” lifestyle in Ajaccio, where they were a minority community suffering from economic dislocation and ethno-religious prejudice. Initially the population of Ajaccio, generally pro-Genoese until its conquest by the royalists, had been much more welcoming of the Greek exiles than the rural naziunali who had driven them from Paomia and burned their homes, but the events of the French occupation perpetuated the reputation of the Greeks as national traitors. Despite Giorgio-Maria’s ennoblement, many Corsicans do not seem to have drawn much of a distinction between “loyal” Greeks and actual collaborators.

As a consequence, from a high point of over 800 at the dawn of the Corsican Revolution, the number of Corsican Greeks had declined by more than half by the time of Theodore’s death in 1770. Most of this loss was due to emigration, particularly to the British outpost of Minorca.[2] Even among those who remained, however, the community elders feared a more insidious destruction through the loss of their identity. The younger generation of Greeks, having grown up in a Corsican city, was proving to be far more open to assimilation than previous generations, with many adopting the Italian language and wearing “Latin” clothes.[3] This may have helped them escape prejudice, but it challenged the position of Giorgio-Maria, whose authority was based on the continuing distinctiveness of his community.

A steady decline into oblivion seemed to be the inevitable fate of the Corsican Greek community, destined to be no more than an odd demographic footnote in the long history of Corsica. The outbreak of the Russo-Turkish War, however, would give Giorgio-Maria one more chance to arrest this destiny. Through his contacts in the Greek communities of continental Italy Giorgio-Maria learned of the Russian search for Greek auxiliaries for their upcoming campaign and wasted no time in reaching out to Russia’s agents. Stefanopoli promised them not only the support of the Corsican Greeks, but boasted that he could procure a regiment of Corsicans as well. The Russians took him seriously enough to grant him the title of “Consul of the Russian Empire in Ajaccio,” which came with no salary and few duties but gave Giorgio-Maria some cachet as the honorary representative of a great power.

Giorgio-Maria’s promise of Corsican troops was premature, but he had reasons to believe that King Federico would be sympathetic. After all, the king was currently seeking employment for Corsican soldiers to subsidize his military and gain relevance on the international stage, thus far without success. Giorgio-Maria, however, found the king to be less enthusiastic than he had hoped. Supplying soldiers to Austria, Britain, or Spain might be politically useful, but what good was it to curry favor with Russia, which had no presence in the Mediterranean? The king was also being lobbied by the Danish consul, whose government was understandably hostile towards any sort of Russian naval adventurism. Though trade with the Danes made up only a small fraction of Corsican commerce, that was more than could be said for Russia, and Corsica and Denmark had very recently been military allies against Algiers.

Though his initial approaches went nowhere, Giorgio-Maria was not ready to give up. He needed an ally with influence at court, and found one in Count Giovan Paolo Quilici. The son of the revolutionary General Ambrogio Quilici who had commanded the siege of Calvi (under Theodore’s “supervision”), Count Quilici had taken advantage of the post-revolutionary land confiscations to amass extensive estates in his native Balagna and became one of the richest men in Corsica. Fancying himself a man of art and culture, the count had patronized the writers and poets of the revived Accademia dei Vagabondi (Corsica’s premier literary society) and became internationally famous as the man who hosted Jean-Jaques Rousseau at his chateau in Speloncato. Despite all this, however, Count Quilici still felt he was missing something: A military career that lived up to his father’s reputation. The count had participated in the Revolution as a young man, but only as an aide-de-camp to his father, and could not claim any real martial glory of his own.

Quilici’s ambitions made him an ideal ally for Giorgio-Maria, who suggested that the count might take command of the (still purely theoretical) Corsican regiment in Russian service. Quite liking this idea, Quilici petitioned the king in support of Giorgio-Maria’s plan and offered to raise the unit himself, on his own dime. This piqued the interest of the eternally cash-strapped Federico, who finally gave his blessing to the project in August of 1773. It would technically be a private enterprise, both to mitigate diplomatic fallout and to circumvent any objection from the Dieta (which claimed oversight over “all arrangements concerning war”). But this did not mean that Federico was wholly uninvolved: The king arranged loans and procurement for Quilici and “suggested” officers for his staff.

The Quilici-Stefanopoli regiment, subsequently known as the Korsikanskiy legion, assembled at Port Mahon (which the British had allowed the Russians to use as a staging base) and was taken into Russian service in February of 1774. The Russians recorded its strength at 523 Corsicans and 102 Greeks.[4] The unit was a mix of fresh recruits, barely-trained militiamen, foreign veterans, and soldiers on “leave” from the Corsican Army, motivated variously by the promise of adventure, the lure of plunder, an attractive signing bonus, and a natural antipathy towards “the Turk.”[5]

Although it was not exactly an elite unit, the Russians would come to appreciate the Corsican Legion. Unlike the Greek irregulars who made up most of their forces in the theater, the Corsicans actually had a military command structure, followed orders, and did not embarrass the Russian command with any particularly egregious brutality. As a military leader Count Quilici was quite useless, but fortunately for the Legion he was more interested in “presiding” over the legion than actually commanding it. He left most of the real work to Lieutenant-Colonel Gio Carlo Paganelli, a career soldier and mercenary who had fought Albanian rebels in Cattaro under the Venetian flag.

Officially Giorgio-Maria personally commanded the “Greek battalion” (actually a company) of Quilici’s legion, but the Russians soon found other uses for him. After achieving a decisive victory over the Ottoman fleet, the Russians extended their control over the Archipelago and its Greek inhabitants. They would continue to hold these isles until the end of the war, and although the population was generally cooperative some sort of administration had to be established in the interim. The Russian command even considered the idea that, at the end of the war, some permanent presence might be established here - perhaps even an insular “principality” under Russian control.

Long before their arrival on Corsica, the Stefanopoli clan of Mani had claimed descent from the Komnenoi emperors of Trebizond. Theodore and the Corsicans never showed much interest in this mythological pedigree, but it intrigued the Russian fleet commander, who mused about using Giorgio-Maria’s supposed imperial descent to give the Russian occupation legitimacy and build local support. From late 1775 “Gregorios Stephanopolous Komnenos” was detached from his unit and appointed as a sort of Russo-Greek intermediary official on Naxos, the main base of the Russian fleet, where he appears to have been treated respectfully by the local population.[B]

Despite naval victories, Russian attempts to link up with local Greek forces in the Morea and capture territory there were thwarted by an overwhelming Ottoman response. This was actually just what Pyotr and his advisors had hoped for: One of the main objectives of the expedition was to draw Turkish troops away from the more important theater of the war in the Danubian Principalities, and in this it succeeded spectacularly. Even with Greek auxiliaries, however, the Archipelago force proved unable to stand against tens of thousands of Ottoman troops and the Greek rebels were soon forced into the mountainous interior where they could expect no help from the Russians. Instead, the fleet command turned its attention to Crete, where a native revolt had also erupted under the leadership of the Sfakian mariner Ioannis Daskalogiannis. A Russo-Greek corps, including the Corsicans, was dispatched to wrest the island from the Turks.


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The plateau of Askifou (Askyphon/Aschifo)


The Corsican Legion had its “baptism of fire” in the Morea at Gythion in 1774, but its most distinguished service was on Crete. Their finest hour was at the Battle of Askyphon (Aschifo in Italian) in 1776, in which the Corsican Legion, a company of Russian marines, and a few hundred Greek rebels held a narrow valley in the Cretan highlands against repeated attacks by an Ottoman column claimed to have been 4,000 strong. Yet despite winning several battlefield victories and extending their control over most of western Crete, the Russo-Greek forces proved unable to capture the fortified capital of Chania, and the Russian blockade was spread too thin to prevent the Ottomans from landing more reinforcements. In 1777 all Russian forces, including the Corsicans, were evacuated from the island. Any rebels who did not flee with the Russian fleet were left to their own devices, while the Legion garrisoned Naxos and Hydra for the remainder of the war.

The peace which took effect in 1778 did not include any “Archipelago Principality.” It had always been a fanciful notion which had never enjoyed the enthusiastic support of Emperor Pyotr, and was opposed by practically all the other powers. The Straits still belonged to the Turks, and any Russian power projection in the Mediterranean was only at the pleasure of the British, who by now had already withdrawn their support. The British had backed the Archipelago expedition as a means to court Russia as an ally and to diminish France (which dominated trade with the Levant and had more influence with the Porte than any other power), but Russia’s crushing naval victories and the occupation of the Greek isles led London to fear that the Russians were becoming too successful and might offer unwelcome competition. They were certainly not going to help the Russians establish a vassal state in the heart of the Archipelago.

With his fleeting dreams of a Comnenid restoration denied, Giorgio-Maria returned to Corsica with the Legion. The Russians invited him to settle in their territory and offered him an officer’s commission, but he turned them down. Accepting would have meant abandoning his leadership over the Corsican Greeks, which mattered more to him than a Russian uniform. Giorgio-Maria still believed that his people might be preserved: The ultimate failure of the Greek uprising had resulted in a flood of refugees fleeing Ottoman reprisals, and while many followed the Russians into exile Giorgio-Maria hoped to entice enough of them westward to reverse his community’s demographic tailspin, or at least delay it. His success would far surpass his expectations, for much had changed in Corsica since he had left in 1773. The country he returned to was finally in need of his services.


Footnotes
[1] Virtually the entire Corsican Greek community, including the Busacci, belonged to the extended Stefanopoli clan, originally of Mani in the Peloponnese. Generally speaking, however, only a few leading families were entitled to bear the surname "Stefanopoli." After his return to Corsica Giorgio-Maria added “di Comneno” to his surname, but even if the claim of Comnenid descent is true (which is extremely doubtful), there is no reason to believe that he was any more related to the Comnenids than anyone else in the extended clan. Nevertheless, it was a privilege whose exclusivity Giorgio-Maria and his descendants jealously guarded.
[2] After conquering Minorca in 1708 (which was ratified by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713), the British sought to attract non-Catholic settlers to the island to counterbalance the potentially unreliable Spanish population. Most of these settlers, who numbered about three thousand by the late 1760s, were Greeks and North African Jews. Some were deported by the French during their brief occupation of Minorca during the Four Years’ War, but they were allowed to return once the island was restored to Britain. In the 1760s the ethnic balance of Minorcan settlers began shifting towards the Greeks, as Minorcan Jews migrated to Corsica and Corsican Greeks moved in the opposite direction. After Minorca, the second-most popular destination for emigrating Corsican Greeks was Sardinia.
[3] “Corsican Greek” is a modern term. At this time the Greeks of Corsica referred to themselves as romaíos (“Roman”). The native Corsicans referred to the Greeks as grechi or turchi in reference to their “oriental” clothes and customs. The Greeks typically referred to the native Corsicans as fránkoi, a catch-all term for “Latins” generally, but also - particularly when speaking of rural Corsicans rather than Ajaccini - called them vláchoi, “Vlachs,” which among the Maniots seems to have been a derisive term for pastoralists rather than an ethnonym.
[4] The records are somewhat misleading. The “Corsicans” were indeed mostly Corsicans, but Quilici also recruited some non-Corsican Italians to pad out the regiment. The “Greeks” were indeed Greeks, but they were not all Corsican Greeks; at least some of them were Minorcan Greeks recruited at Port Mahon.
[5] Among the Corsicans on the muster list was Giuseppe Carro, the son of a Jewish tailor who had emigrated from the Papal States soon after the Treaty of Monaco. Giuseppe belonged to the first generation of Jews to be born in Corsica. His motivation for joining the Legion is unknown, but he fought at Aschifo, survived the expedition, and even received a field promotion to corporal in 1776. Mr. Carro thus enjoys the distinction of being the first Jewish soldier in Corsican history.

Timeline Notes
[A] This was, in fact, the name Giorgio-Maria (“Georges-Marie” after the French conquest) was known by among his fellow Corsican Greeks IOTL. My understanding is that “Yiorgákis” is a (affectionate?) diminutive of “Yiórgos” (George), so his nickname presumably translates to something like “Captain Georgie.” No doubt he would have preferred "Lord Komnenos."
[B] The Komnenid descent of the Stefanopoli is impossible to prove and almost certainly spurious. Nevertheless, it was taken seriously enough at the time that Demetrio Stefanopoli, of the Busacci branch of the family, was officially recognized in 1782 as the rightful heir of the Trapezuntine emperors by King Louis XVI, and styled himself "the High and Mighty Sir Demetrius Count of Comnene, Lord of Trebizond, Elder of Lacedaemonia." Napoleon would later send Demetrio to Greece as his agent in 1797 and supposedly considered installing him as a client ruler of the Greeks, but this idea never amounted to anything. Someone really ought to write a TL about that.
 
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Excellent update as per usual Carp!

A single regiment of Corsicans wouldn't have made much of a difference in the War, but it should still have an interesting effect both in Greece and in Corsica down the road.
 
You know, I joked about Theodores descendants unifying Italy, but a Neuhoff getting the throne of Greece (or just a client state like Crete or something) would hardly be implausible.
 
If I wanted to, I could just leave the Russo-Turkish war at that; its narrative purpose was to create the Archipelago Expedition, and that's been accomplished. Whatever the end result might be for the larger Russo-Turkish conflict, the TL probably won't go on long enough for it to have any significant effects on Corsica. As this TL is meant to (sort of) be an alt-pop-history text about Corsica, there's not much of a reason for it to go into depth on a conflict that involves Corsica only in the most peripheral sense.

But that's super lame, so the next update will instead be a quasi-canonical wrap-up of the Russo-Turkish War of 1772-78, with no mention of Corsica at all. I might go in a weird direction with this one.

After that, we will return to our island and pick up the story where we left off in The Second Matra Ministry.

You know, I joked about Theodores descendants unifying Italy, but a Neuhoff getting the throne of Greece (or just a client state like Crete or something) would hardly be implausible.

It's the sort of thing that might well happen in the 19th century, presuming the rise of nationalism and the emergence of the Balkan "new nations" happens ITTL. Of course, one of the reasons to make [random German princeling] the king of [random Balkan country] was to establish familial ties with the powers, and at the moment the Neuhoffs don't really have any such ties (aside from a very distant - and illegitimate - relation to the Lorrainers). But that could certainly change by the later 19th century, depending on how successful their diplomatic and marriage policies are (and assuming, of course, that the monarchy is still around by then).
 
Of course, one of the reasons to make [random German princeling] the king of [random Balkan country] was to establish familial ties with the powers, and at the moment the Neuhoffs don't really have any such ties.
With example of Neuhoff and "Commeni", ambitious adventurer might have precedential advantage over royal relatives. Numerous very small "kingdoms" could rise over Ottoman or Italian weakness. There are lots of island in Med for wannabe royals.
 
So I was reading about the komnenos dynasty and apparently one of the Corsican Greeks claimed descent from the komnenos and even had it recognized by the king of France.

Don't know if you already knew this but it's a cool little thing to point out.

the Stefanopoli clan of Mani had claimed descent from the Komnenoi emperors of Trebizond
I just gotta know. Did you already have this planned or did the information I found lead to it? Cause if I helped to develop one of my favorite timelines by even a slight bit, that makes my day.
Anyway nice chapter, here's to hoping the Corsican Greeks find their niche in Corsica
 
I just gotta know. Did you already have this planned or did the information I found lead to it? Cause if I helped to develop one of my favorite timelines by even a slight bit, that makes my day.
Anyway nice chapter, here's to hoping the Corsican Greeks find their niche in Corsica

"Planned" is a strong word; the Archipelago arc was written relatively recently, it's not like I knew this was going to happen when I started this TL five years ago (!). But I have indeed known about the Stefanopoli and their Komnenid claims for a long time. I mentioned it in passing in my original post on the Corsican Greeks back in 2018.

My assumption for most of the TL was that the Corsican Greeks were essentially doomed. IOTL, the post-conquest French governor, the Comte de Marbeuf, took a special interest in the Corsican Greeks and resettled them at Cargese in 1775. This was a reasonably successful settlement but it still suffered from occasional attacks by the native Corsicans, including in 1796 (in the immediate aftermath of the British withdrawal from Corsica) in which Cargese was almost totally destroyed and the Greeks had to flee to Ajaccio again. The number of Greek-speakers continued to decline from emigration and assimilation, and the last native Greek-speaking person on Corsica died in 1976. That's actually a pretty impressive run - 300 years of cultural survival for a colony of a few hundred Greeks - and without Marbeuf's efforts to re-establish the Greeks at Cargese (as in this TL), it might have been quite a bit shorter.

But I've had an idea recently, and we're going in a slightly different direction for the remainder of this TL.
 
"Planned" is a strong word; the Archipelago arc was written relatively recently, it's not like I knew this was going to happen when I started this TL five years ago (!). But I have indeed known about the Stefanopoli and their Komnenid claims for a long time. I mentioned it in passing in my original post on the Corsican Greeks back in 2018.

My assumption for most of the TL was that the Corsican Greeks were essentially doomed. IOTL, the post-conquest French governor, the Comte de Marbeuf, took a special interest in the Corsican Greeks and resettled them at Cargese in 1775. This was a reasonably successful settlement but it still suffered from occasional attacks by the native Corsicans, including in 1796 (in the immediate aftermath of the British withdrawal from Corsica) in which Cargese was almost totally destroyed and the Greeks had to flee to Ajaccio again. The number of Greek-speakers continued to decline from emigration and assimilation, and the last native Greek-speaking person on Corsica died in 1976. That's actually a pretty impressive run - 300 years of cultural survival for a colony of a few hundred Greeks - and without Marbeuf's efforts to re-establish the Greeks at Cargese (as in this TL), it might have been quite a bit shorter.

But I've had an idea recently, and we're going in a slightly different direction for the remainder of this TL.
I see, I quite like it. The idea of Corsican being a sort of multicultural island with Corsicans, Corsican Greeks, and Corsican Jews all living together and having their own niches in the kingdom is fascinating. It'd be interesting to see what the Corsican Greeks and Jews take to calling themselves.
 
The Victor of Targoviste

The Victor of Targoviste


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Contemporary allegorical print alluding to the "amputation" of territories from the Ottoman Empire in the Treaty of Targoviste


The view from Vienna in early 1775 was extremely distressing. Having helped goad the Turks into war to check Russian ambitions expecting that they would bleed each other white, the Austrians were shocked to witness the apparent collapse of Ottoman military power. Not long ago the Austrians had conceived of Russia as a junior partner, a potentially strong but backwards state which could be used to achieve their own objectives in Europe. In only a few years, however, Russia had clearly shown it was nobody’s junior partner. Emperor Pyotr's embarrassment at the hands of the Danes had been only a temporary setback. With the Ottomans collapsing, the Poles brought to heel, and Brandenburg as his loyal ally, Pyotr’s influence looked vast and threatening.

Two strategies recommended themselves. One was the path of confrontation with Russia. Austrian arms, victorious in the last war, were still to be feared. The Austrian leadership dreaded the idea of war with Russia, but some made the argument that if war was inevitable, then there was no better time for it than now. Should the empire wait until after the Ottomans were vanquished, and Pyotr’s Hohenzollern allies had even more time to build their armies and finances? If Austria did not act now, would it ever be in a position to act again?

The other path, of course, was cooperation with Russia. War with Russia almost certainly meant simultaneous war with Brandenburg, a contest which the Austrians feared they could not win. Their own list of allies in such a struggle did not include any state more formidable than Saxony. Was it not better to instead join Pyotr in plundering the Ottoman Empire? After all, weren’t the Turks the oldest and truest enemy of the Austrian house? Why should the empire’s blood and treasure be risked to prop up an edifice which had proven itself to be thoroughly rotten? Instead of attempting to minimize Russia’s absolute gains, Austria could instead focus on limiting their relative gains by seizing Ottoman possessions in equal measure.

Minister Wenzel Anton von Kaunitz saw no reason he could not pursue both strategies at once. Indeed, if Austria demonstrated that it was willing to use the proverbial stick, it might cause Pyotr to look upon the carrot more favorably. Kaunitz declared that the Danube was a red line for Austria, and that Russian advances past this point could not be countenanced. To back up this warning, Austrian troops were massed on the empire’s eastern borders. Pyotr and his advisors were taken aback by this threat; they had not anticipated that Austria of all states would rise in defense of the Turks, and had fully expected that if Maria Theresa became involved it would be as Russia’s ally, not her enemy. In fact Kaunitz was bluffing, for the Empress-Queen was firmly against war with Russia, but the Russians failed to call his bluff.

Kaunitz’s attempt to pivot to cooperation, however, stumbled upon his own deviousness. Operating on the maxim that one should never do anything for free, even as Kaunitz threatened Russia he was simultaneously extorting the Sultan for Austria’s “help.” The Ottoman government was so desperate to stop the Russians that they were willing to countenance territorial concessions to Austria, and Kaunitz had an agreement in hand which ceded Oltenia to Habsburg rule in exchange for a pledge to support Ottoman territorial integrity (although this “support” stopped just short of an actual military alliance). But Kaunitz’s duplicity was too much for Maria Theresa, who declared that, having made an agreement with the Porte and promised to uphold their integrity, the “honor of her house” would be compromised if she were to turn on them and join Pyotr in his spoliation of the Ottomans.

In fact the Russo-Turkish war was all but over by mid-1776. Having driven the last major Ottoman army over the Danube in May, the Russian command decided that - even leaving aside Kaunitz’s ultimatum - it was not feasible to give chase. An outbreak of plague was wreaking havoc on the Russian army (and would soon be doing the same to Russian cities), and the army’s supply lines were already stretched to the breaking point. In the Aegean the Russians maintained naval dominance and were enforcing a blockade of the Dardanelles, but the Ottomans had contained the Greek rebellion in the Morea and were steadily reasserting control. The Battle of Askyphon proved to be Russia’s high-water mark in Crete, the conquest of which had never really rested on sound military logic, and from this point the invaders steadily fell back until finally evacuating the last of their forces from Hóra Sfakíon at the beginning of 1777. The Porte’s situation could hardly be called good - their armies were in tatters, practically everything north of the Danube was under enemy occupation, and the Russian blockade was taking a tremendous toll - but it was at least stable.


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Russians and Turks arrayed in battle


Just as the fighting between the Russians and the Turks was winding down, however, Russo-Austrian tensions reached a new height. Alarmed by Russian advances into Wallachia and the flight of Ottoman armies over the Danube, the Austrians made their own move over the frontier in July of 1776. Making good on their “secret” agreement with the Porte, the Austrians took possession of Oltenia, while other Austrian armies simultaneously entered western Moldavia and advanced into Poland to establish a “security cordon.” Yet even as the empires were seemingly poised at the brink of war, both Pyotr and Maria Theresa were insisting to their ministers that war was entirely unacceptable. Some compromise had to be reached.

Russia’s opening bid was the annexation of everything up to the Dniester, which Pyotr thought exceedingly fair; generous, even, compared to a potential border on the Danube which the emperor (somewhat implausibly) claimed was easily within his grasp. The advantage which the Russians would gain by taking this vast swath of the Black Sea littoral was immediately obvious to the Austrians. Up to this point the Russians had always been forced to wage overland campaigns against the Turks along the same predictable lines of attack, but with naval access a whole new strategic dimension would be open to them. They would be able to move forces where they chose, with or without Austrian support, and it was possible to imagine that one day Russian battalions would be disembarking upon the Golden Horn.

As if this situation was not already complicated enough, King Friedrich Christian added to the confusion by dying in March of 1777 at the age of 54. With the stakes now higher than ever, many assumed that a larger war - a new War of the Polish Succession - was practically inevitable. Alarmed by this news, the Russians quickly arranged for an armistice with the Turks, although as noted by this time there had been no significant engagements for months.

The Austrians reflexively supported a Wettin continuation, but the new Saxon elector was less than enthusiastic. Friedrich August, now 25 years old, had witnessed his father’s frustrated abandonment of the kingdom and feared that Poland had become little more than a millstone around the familial neck. He also hoped to continue his father’s program of economic development rather than plunging Saxony into another war - which, if the last war was anything to go by, was likely to result in the electorate being reduced to a smoking ruin regardless of who ended up “winning.” His uncle Franz Xaver was happy to take this burden from him, but the archduke’s candidacy was unlikely to pass muster with Pyotr, who had his own ideas.

Pyotr’s first pick was again Prince Heinrich of Brandenburg, who was just as unacceptable to Vienna as he had been in the last election. This time, however, Pyotr hinted that he might be open to other solutions. Polish elections were expensive, particularly if they had to be decided by war, and after five years of war with the Porte the Russian treasury was not in good shape. Pyotr had asked the British for financial support, but London had airily dismissed his ambassadors, claiming that no British interest was at stake in Poland. Pyotr was confident that he could win a confrontation with the Austrians over the Polish throne, but was it really worth bankrupting the state? A “Piast” candidate (that is, a native Polish prince; the actual Piast dynasty was long dead) might be more tractable to Russian influence and more agreeable to Vienna.

With only lukewarm support for a Wettin candidacy in both Poland and Saxony, Kaunitz wondered whether the end of Wettin rule might not be a blessing in disguise. It had already occurred to him that Pyotr might be convinced to forgo expansion at the expense of the Ottomans in exchange for Polish territory, but robbing her allies the Wettins had not been palatable to the empress. If the Wettins did not rule, the Commonwealth could be carved up for everyone’s mutual benefit. Brandenburg also favored this idea, hoping to recover their Prussian province and crown. But Pyotr heeded the advice of Chancellor Panin, who believed that carving up Poland would weaken Russian power, not strengthen it. Poland was already effectively in Russian hands, even more so if a pliant native king was elected. Why should he share his protectorate with others?

Of course, this did not mean that Polish territory was entirely sacrosanct. The Russian armies which had occupied Right-Bank Ukraine at the behest of King Friedrich Christian just before the war had never left, and Pyotr clearly intended to turn this occupation into ownership. After all, if the Poles could not maintain control of their province, someone had to take responsibility for keeping order. Russian management would bring peace and stability, and it would also be a useful strategic acquisition to ensure future access to the Danubian states without having to meddle in Poland.

With the understanding that it was better to compromise the Danubian states and make a few territorial adjustments than to open up Poland to a full-scale partition, the Russians offered to accept the Austrian annexation of Oltenia and the Polish territories of Spisz and Nowy Targ, which Austria had quietly occupied at the start of the war in 1772. (The Russians had not seen fit to make a fuss out of it as long as they were fully occupied with the Turks.) The Austrians thought this too meager a counterpart to Russian acquisitions and pressed for more, but it was unclear where this would come from; Pyotr did not wish to further despoil the Poles, and Maria Theresa did not wish to further despoil the Turks.

The focus of negotiations now shifted to the Danubian Principalities, the voivodeships of Wallachia and Moldavia. These were Ottoman vassal states, ruled by Greek princes appointed by the Porte since the 1710s. The Russian leadership perceived these states as rightfully belonging in Russia’s sphere - the people were, after all, largely Orthodox - and did not wish to compromise them further. But Austria too wished to preserve the Principalities, because Kaunitz firmly believed that under no circumstances should Austria and Russia share a border. If they were under a friendly government, so much the better, but he had no desire to annex them in full.

Emperor Joseph II, who had donned the imperial mantle after the death of his father in 1773, proposed that the role of “friendly buffer state” could be played by a new “Kingdom of Dacia,” an amalgamation of the two principalities, and he had just the man in mind to rule it: His brother-in-law Franz Xaver.[1] This would not only ensure the installation of a friendly ruler between the empire, but would offer the Wettins some consolation for losing the Polish crown. Critics in the government pointed out that this whole idea was a betrayal of the agreement made with the Ottomans which Maria Theresa had been so loath to breach. But Kaunitz could justify anything if he put his mind to it: If this “Dacia” were to remain a vassal of the Ottoman Empire, however nominally, then it did not really represent a loss of Ottoman territorial integrity, just a reorganization.

Emperor Pyotr was less than enthusiastic about this plan. His advisors understood very well that the objective of such a state was to obstruct any further Russian expansion into the Danubian region, and even if such a kingdom was erected Franz Xaver was hardly his first choice. But Pyotr was not very interested in further acquisitions in this direction, and his commitment to the project of Russian pan-Orthodox hegemony was highly dubious. (This was, after all, the sam Pyotr who had imposed religious liberty upon the empire.) If placing a Wettin in the Danubian voivodeships was the price of dissolving Austria’s opposition to an Ottoman peace deal and a Piast election in Poland - to say nothing of avoiding an Austrian war - perhaps that was worth the price. Besides, a Wettin king in Poland had proved no real obstacle to the exertion of Russian influence there; why should it be different in Wallachia and Moldavia?

The major remaining issue concerned Brandenburg, as Elector Friedrich Wilhelm was insistent that he should not come away from this affair empty-handed. Above all, he wanted the retrocession of East Prussia and the royal crown that came with it. Pyotr had supported this for many years and had raised the prospect of a redeemed Prussia on several occasions. When the moment came, however, the emperor suddenly hesitated. Even if East Prussia was “rightfully” Hohenzollern, which Pyotr may still have believed, putting that province on the table would destroy the present negotiations with Vienna. At the very least the Austrians would insist upon major territorial concessions in Poland to match; at most, they might go to war to prevent Prussia’s restoration.

Moreover, even if it had been diplomatically possible, Pyotr was no longer certain that reconstituting the Kingdom of Prussia was really in his interest. As he had grown older, his burning ardor for Friedrich’s Prussian state had cooled somewhat. His advisors questioned whether it was wise to aggrandize Russia’s Hohenzollern allies too much, lest they should think themselves his equals rather than his clients. There were also objections from his council that such a move would put the legitimacy of recent Russian annexations in doubt, as Courland and the other border provinces had been notionally traded for the cession of East Prussia to Poland. The importance of legitimacy may be overstated here; after all, it wasn’t as if Poland was in a position to wrest those territories back from the empire. But Pyotr was certainly sensitive to his domestic legitimacy, having been threatened by several revolts and attempted coups since his accession, and among the ruling elites there were murmurs that it would be downright shameful to simply return a province which the Russians had only very recently wrested away at the cost of considerable Russian blood and treasure. Ultimately Pyotr allowed a revision of the Polish border in the elector’s favor, but it was a mere pittance compared to what Friedrich Wilhelm aspired to.[2] He would remain, for the time being, “just” an elector.


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Kazimierz V Czartoryski, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, King of Prussia, etc.


In Poland, Russia and Austria abandoned their respective candidates and accepted the election of the 43 year old Prince Adam Kazimierz Czartoryski, who took the regnal name of Casimir V. One of the wealthiest and most powerful men in Poland, Czartoryski had carefully cultivated connections to both Russia and Saxony and was seen as the most credible man to become Poland’s first “native” king since the deposition of Stanislaus. King Casimir hoped that these close relations would allow him to obtain the permission of neighbors to allow sensible reforms to the dysfunctional Polish political system, but the recent experiences of the Wettins were not reassuring. Most outsiders assumed that Poland would continue in its course as Russia’s helpless satellite.

When he entered Wallachia in 1778 following the signing of a formal peace treaty at Targoviste, Franz Xaver was required to revise both his religion and his title. The Russians, concerned that Franz Xaver would try to convert the locals to Catholicism as the Austrians had done when they last ruled Oltenia, had demanded that he convert to Orthodoxy, while the Ottomans insisted that the title of “king” was off the table. Kings, after all, were sovereign, and the royal dignity was thus inconsistent with the idea that “Dacia” would remain an Ottoman vassal. Franz Xaver seems to have objected more to the change in title than the change in religion: Compensating the Wettin loss of one crown with another of nominally equal rank was a fundamental part of Joseph’s original plan. But Kaunitz felt this demotion was necessary to preserve the facade of upholding Ottoman integrity, and so Franz Xaver was forced to accept the dignity of a mere prince of Dacia - for now, at least.

The Treaty of Targoviste and its attendant agreements constituted a clear success for Pyotr, the crowning triumph of his reign thus far. Yet his success had less to do with Russian finesse than the mere fact that Austria was not in a position to stop him. Kaunitz had played a weak hand as best as he could: He knew from the start that his sovereign would never voluntarily choose war with Russia, and without a real threat of force all he could do was posture, browbeat, and cajole. If Pyotr really wanted the northern Black Sea littoral there was not anything Austria could do to stop him, and Kaunitz knew it. It may be that Vienna would have been best served by joining Pyotr in carving up the Turks, and Pyotr had urged them to do exactly that; but Maria Theresa did not want it, and so Kaunitz’s hands were tied. Oltenia, a few towns in Poland, and a backwards pseudo-client state on the lower Danube were not much to brag about when compared to Pyotr’s own acquisitions.[A]

Yet this glorious Russian triumph came at the cost of a very serious erosion of Russia’s diplomatic position. The powers friendliest to Russia at the outset of the war were Britain and Brandenburg; by the end of the war, Pyotr had alienated both of them. The British had supported the Archipelago expedition because they fancied that it might undermine the French position in the Mediterranean, and because they still hoped to court Pyotr as an ally. But unexpected Russian success and the possibility of actual Russian conquests in the isles (though these never materialized) spooked London, and the British withdrew their support for the Russian naval expedition even before the war was over. It gradually began to dawn on British policymakers that Pyotr was only stringing them along, and would never submit himself to be Britain’s continental proxy as Austria had once been.

As Austria had once regarded Russia, so Russia now regarded Brandenburg: as a junior partner, a tool to be used to further Russia’s own interests. In pursuing those interests, however, Pyotr had frustrated the elector’s foremost aim. However justifiable his decisions may have been, the message received in Berlin was that Pyotr was a devious hypocrite and that a slavish devotion to St. Petersburg was not the golden path to a Hohenzollern restoration. A faction began to arise within the Hohenzollern court advocating for a rapprochement with Austria; after all, despite recent bad blood, Vienna and Berlin shared a common interest in the acquisition of Polish territory, an ambition which Pyotr resolutely opposed (except, of course, when he was the one acquiring it). A true confluence of interest was not possible as long as Maria Theresa ruled in Vienna; her memories of the ruin and humiliation inflicted upon her by Friedrich the Bold were still too bitter. But she would not be on the throne forever.



Europe after the Treaty of Targoviste in 1778 (Click to expand)


Footnotes
[1] Defending his idea in a memorandum to the government ministers, Joseph drew a parallel to Theodore von Neuhoff: if a mere adventurer, with no royal pedigree and no support, could revive an ancient (or at least medieval) kingdom and recover it from oppression and degradation, there was no reason why a Saxon prince with the joint backing of Vienna and Saint Petersburg could not do the same.
[2] Hohenzollern acquisitions amounted to the Starostei Draheim, which had been pawned to Brandenburg in 1657 but not formally annexed until this point, and the Wałcz district consisting of the towns of Deutsch Krone (Wałcz), Tütz (Tuczno), and Märkisch Friedland (Miroslawiec). This district was mostly Protestant and German-speaking, but had not been ruled by Brandenburg since 1368.

Timeline Notes
[A] The outcome of this war is worse for the Ottomans than OTL, mainly because the First Partition of Poland failed to (fully) materialize. OTL's partition was substantially influenced by Frederick of Prussia, who isn’t around ITTL, and his nephew has neither the same position nor the same political talents. Pyotr, meanwhile, has a different view Polish affairs than Catherine had IOTL. The Ottomans haven’t really done any worse on the battlefield (the war went disastrously for them IOTL as well), but without the distraction of carving up Poland, the Russians and Austrians end up taking a little more at the Sultan’s expense. The result is that, in addition to losing control of the Crimean Khanate as they did IOTL, the Ottomans have also lost Yedisan (which historically they would not cede to Russia until the 1792 Treaty of Jassy), and have lost effective control of the Danubian Principalities, which have been unified (well, sort of - Oltenia is Austrian now) far in advance of OTL’s events. Still, I said this TL wasn’t an “Ottoman screw,” and I don’t think it is. The imperial core is intact; Wallachia, Moldavia, and Yedisan are peripheral territories which the empire can do without. The question is whether they can build a political, economic, and military system capable of matching the European powers, and that's a question I'm not equipped to answer.

A “Dacian” kingdom was indeed proposed by Emperor Joseph II during the Russo-Turkish War of 1768, although he seems to have been interested in giving it to Prince Henry of Prussia, whom he may have seen as an amenable compromise between Habsburg and Russian candidates. (This is less palatable ITTL given Henry's status as Pyotr's favorite and "the general who saved Brandenburg from the Austrians"). Prince Henry was also at one point discussed as a possible candidate for the Polish crown, and there was even a plan to make him King of the United States (the so-called “Prussian Scheme”). Henry might hold the world record for “candidate for the most thrones without ever actually getting one.” Later, Catherine took up the idea of a client Dacia with Grigory Potemkin as its king, part of the fantastical “Greek Plan."

On a “meta” note, I will repeat what I said earlier that this update is not strictly necessary. KTC is probably going to conclude before the consequences of this chapter really have any impact on Corsica, which means I don’t really have to worry about the repercussions of these events. Thus far in the story I feel like I’ve been pretty conservative with continental butterflies, so this time I've decided to just go for it and give you some alt-historical shenanigans (and a shiny new Dacia). If you think that’s too unrealistic, then I have great news for you: This is basically a bonus chapter and you could dismiss it as entirely non-canonical without really changing anything in the rest of the story. Go ahead, make up your own ending for KTC’s Russo-Turkish War of 1772. I will probably never mention Dacia in this TL ever again.
 
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I’ll admit, when the TL said “Kaunitz saw no reason he could not pursue both strategies] at once”, I thought “oh no way this ends well”; but it actually worked out ok for him, all things considered.
 
I’ll admit, when the TL said “Kaunitz saw no reason he could not pursue both strategies] at once”, I thought “oh no way this ends well”; but it actually worked out ok for him, all things considered.
It worked out less well than OTL. IOTL, Austria managed to get Galicia and Bukovina for doing basically nothing. Kaunitz was able to bluff the Russians despite being constrained and undermined by his sovereign (Maria Theresa was far less able as a diplomat than Kaunitz), but just as importantly, Frederick of Prussia was also pushing hard for a division of Poland. ITTL, Brandenburg isn't in that same position - the elector can't exert the same sort of pressure on Russia and doesn't have the temperament or reputation to pull off the same sort of bluff. Pyotr, meanwhile, is more persuaded by the opinion that Poland - all of Poland - is rightfully in his sphere of influence, and thus it makes no sense to give huge swaths of it away just so he can formally annex one part of it. Kaunitz does the best with what he's got, but despite the fact that Austria itself is militarily and economically stronger ITTL, their diplomatic position here is weaker. Kaunitz manages to get Oltenia and Spisz for his empress, but Oltenia is not really a fair trade for all of Galicia. Pyotr allowed the Dacian plan to happen to satisfy Austria, and because he's not actually all that interested in the whole "Orthodox unity" thing, but despite being ruled by the empress's son-in-law there's not really any guarantee that the state will be an Austrian client; the pro-Russian party has a lot of influence among the boyars.

Very interesting stuff. I don't know how "realistic" this happening is, but I'm okay with it.

There are a number of things here I'm not entirely sure of. Would Peter III have really sent a fleet to the Mediterranean? On the one hand, OTL's Archipelago Expedition was (as I understand it) the brainchild of Orlov, who would not have been prominent without Catherine, and Peter (at least how I've imagined him) doesn't care about the "Greek Plan." On the other hand, there is some military value in blockading the Dardanelles, and even if Peter has no interest in the Greeks there's no harm (to him, at least) in stirring them up in his enemy's rear and distracting the enemy. Moreover, after his defeat against Denmark he's very concerned with rebuilding his navy and this seems like a way to exercise his sailors and restore pride in the service.

As for Dacia/Oltenia, the question is to what extent Peter would have really been willing to compromise his interests in the Danubian states. The Ottomans were willing to cede Oltenia but Catherine was opposed; her policy was to preserve their integrity. Perhaps it was because the Romanians were fellow Orthodox, or she foresaw future expansion in this direction and didn't want to be constrained by Austrian gains here. Peter doesn't really care about the religious angle - this is, after all, the guy who brought religious liberty to Russia, and being the rightful emperor and not a usurper he doesn't need to burnish his image as some sort of ultra-Orthodox hero - and in terms of foreign policy he's much more interested in the Baltic than in the Balkans. As such, I thought it was reasonable that he might allow the Danubian states to be compromised rather than Poland, a much larger and more significant protectorate with real relevance to his Baltic ambitions. Having set his border on the Dniester and secured Right-Bank Ukraine, my sense is that he's pretty much done with his southern flank for the forseeable future (although Russian expansion to the southeast, into Circassia and the Caucasus, will probably continue).
 
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Even if you consider this chapter not necessary for the overall timeline, it is well-written and logical as all others. I still find the notion of a competent russian navy hard to fathom, but I suppose that the Ottomans have really fallen behind in technology and in how much they can afford to train their forces. One supposes one can hope that with a far weaker Prussia, more nations would be eventually arraying themselves against the tsar, with Poland perhaps becoming a real power again with a native king who can reform the Sejm into something other than the tar pit it had become by this point.
 
I still find the notion of a competent russian navy hard to fathom, but I suppose that the Ottomans have really fallen behind in technology and in how much they can afford to train their forces.
You only have to be better than the navy you're fighting. There is an apocryphal story that after the victory at Chesma, Orlov wrote to Catherine II: "A miracle! We have found a squadron worse than our own!"
 
The Prince in Exile

The Prince in Exile


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Celebration in honor of Saint John the Baptist, Piazza della Signoria, Florence, c. 1740


In 1775, the recently elected Pope Innocent XIV opened the Holy Door of the Vatican Basilica with a golden chisel and formally inaugurated the nineteenth Holy Year of the Catholic Church.[1] The Jubilee of 1775 came at a tense time in the relationship between Church and State, and not everyone welcomed the occasion. Fearing its destabilizing influence, the King of Naples went so far as to forbid any of his subjects from attending, a remarkable declaration from a Catholic monarch. Yet the pilgrims could not be kept away, and over 300,000 penitents flocked to the city over the course of the Holy Year. Voltaire himself admitted the event’s success: “Another such Jubilee,” he observed ruefully, “and it will be all over with philosophy.”

Among the attendees was Teodoro Francesco, Prince of Corti. Ostensibly his visit was diplomatic rather than spiritual, but the exact motivations for his journey are not entirely clear. After arriving at Civitavecchia in September on a Corsican vessel, Prince Theo was once more hosted in Rome by Sigismondo Chigi della Rovere, the Prince of Farnese. This time, however, the Prince of Corti was not Chigi’s most distinguished guest. That honor belonged to Archduke Karl Josef, second son of the Empress-Queen, who had succeeded his late father (and Theo’s godfather) Emperor Franz Stefan as Grand Duke of Tuscany after the emperor’s death in 1773. Though Karl was nine years older than Theo, the two “godbrothers'' possessed similarly outgoing personalities and quickly became friends.

Theo did indeed find an audience with the pope - the visit seems to have been wholly unremarkable - but the chief object of Theo’s attention was Antonio II Boncompagni-Ludovisi, the Prince of Piombino. King Federico had broached the subject of marrying his eldest son to Antonio’s daughter in 1771, but his hopes had been quashed by Antonio’s father Prince Gaetano, a pious and old-fashioned aristocrat who held the Neuhoffs in contempt. Gaetano, however, had died in 1774, and while Antonio was still rather skeptical of the parvenu royal family of Corsica he was not quite so reflexively hostile to the idea of a union as his father had been.

That Theo would pursue his father’s marital schemes for him may seem surprising. Their relationship was not exactly at its highest point, and Theo does not appear to have been a particularly eager groom. But even as it threatened to tie him down, marriage offered Theo another kind of independence - financial independence. Theo’s efforts to carve out a place for himself since his return to Corsica had been frustrated by his own lack of means. Having no lands or income of his own, he was entirely dependent on a stipend from his father, who had no interest in bankrolling his son’s frivolities. True to his namesake, by age twenty Prince Theodore was already in debt.

The events of the “Balagnese Crisis” of 1775-76 only made matters worse. While it may be argued that the prince was merely a pawn of more sophisticated politicians like Marquis Alerio Matra and Don Pasquale Paoli, his role in Matra’s “soft coup” and the installation of the Second Matra Ministry opened a serious breach between Theo and his father. Although Federico had accepted the agreement made by Theo and Matra, he immediately started trying to undermine it and punished his son for his role in forcing it upon him. No longer would the king tolerate his son staying at the Augustinian Palace in Ajaccio with his own little court of malcontents; it was time to bring the crown prince to heel.

Federico drastically cut his son’s allowance and forbade any loans to the royal family that did not have his personal approval. Completely ruined, Theo was forced to return permanently to the Palace of Bastia. Despite forcing his son back under his roof and denying him the resources to pursue his hobbies, Federico did not offer him any serious governmental responsibilities, leaving him with little to do and plenty of resentment. Despite Queen Elisabetta’s attempts to get them to at least observe common courtesy, they often spent dinner sniping at one another. Worse still, Theo did not restrict his defiance to private quarters, and began displaying such open disrespect for his father at court that Federico excused him from most official functions.

A reprieve came in March of 1777, when the Prince of Corti received a letter from Archduke Karl inviting him to attend celebrations in Florence on the occasion of the archduke’s 30th birthday. Federico had kept his son on a tight leash for the previous year, but he was not going to deny a personal request of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. The king undoubtedly assumed this would be a cursory diplomatic visit, as royal birthdays were usually stuffy, formal affairs. Theo’s sojourn, however, would end up lasting much longer than anyone anticipated.

The Prince of Corti was welcomed in a manner befitting his rank, and duly attended the various concerts, operas, and ballets organized for the archduke’s birthday. Theo, whose traveling experience was quite limited, was deeply impressed by the country and asked for Karl’s permission to remain a while longer and take in the scenery and culture that Florence had to offer. It was far more interesting than his dreary “captivity” at Bastia, and his extended stay did not trouble the archduke. On the contrary, Karl was more than happy to host his friend, who traveled with only a handful of valets and guards and was extremely low-maintenance by princely standards.

As the weeks went by, it gradually became clear that the Prince of Corti might not be returning to Bastia anytime soon. Enabled by the grand duke, he indulged himself fully in everything Tuscany had to offer. That included Lucrezia Rizzi, a vivacious Sienese soprano and rising star of the Florentine opera scene who had performed at the grand duke’s birthday celebrations. The attraction was apparently mutual; certainly she was not with him for his money, as Theo had none. Florentine society did not bat an eye at this relationship, which was carried on quite openly - the two shared a box at the opera - but the reaction of Theo’s own family was less enthusiastic. Rumors of the prince’s behavior only deepened Federico’s misgivings about his dissolute and disobedient son.

In the prince’s defense, his stay in Tuscany was not pure debauchery. After a few months in Florence, he toured Tuscany “incognito” (that is, under his paper-thin alias of “Théodore François, Comte de Cinarca”), viewing landscapes, cityscapes, and antiquities. He visited the Florentine botanical gardens and met the naturalist Giovanni Tozzetti, who apparently lectured Theo on the benefits of the potato. At Livorno, Corsica’s most important foreign port, he visited the city’s famous coral fair and attended a reception organized by the leaders of the city’s Jewish “nation.”


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Maria Anna Caterina, Princess of Corsica, c. 1780 [2]


Meanwhile, Federico was finding his daughters only marginally less difficult to manage than his son. By 1777 he seems to have given up on marriage prospects for his eldest, Maria Anna Caterina (“Carina”), who turned 25 that year. Apart from her somewhat advanced age - at least, by the standards of unwed princesses - her obstinate character and “unladylike” behavior was now sufficiently well known to dissuade most suitors. The Spanish envoy Martín de Valdés, who made detailed reports on the Neuhoffs and Corsican politics during these years, gave a memorable description of coming across the “Corsican Diana” returning from a ride “dressed like a hussar,” riding astride in breeches and smoking a pipe.

Her younger sister, Elisabetta Teodora Amalia (nicknamed “Lisa” or “Lisadora,” born 1761), was Carina’s complete opposite. Compared to her sister she was thoroughly conventional, with a stern and fastidious character that reminded people of her father. Unlike her father, however, she became deeply religious in her adolescence, a rare trait in the Neuhoff clan (which Carina blamed on her sister’s Jesuit tutors). While Federico had tried unsuccessfully for years to persuade Carina to choose the religious life, Lisa had to be persuaded not to enter a convent. Ultimately duty won out over piety, but it was a near thing.

In previous years Federico had sought a Savoyard match for his children, only to be foiled by the indifference of Carlo Emmanuele and the active opposition of Louis XV. By now, however, both of those kings were dead. The Neuhoffs were better known to the court of Turin thanks to Theo’s study abroad, while French policy had shifted course entirely. The new king, Louis XVI, had no personal grudge against the Neuhoffs, and his ministry came to the conclusion that the best policy towards Corsica was to follow the Spanish model and maintain good relations to keep Federico in the Bourbon orbit and out of British hands.

In July of 1777, as Theo was settling into his extended stay in Tuscany, a marriage contract was signed on behalf of Princess Lisa and Filippo Luigi Ilarione, Count of Villafranca and second son of the Prince of Savoy-Carignano, a cadet branch of the Savoyard royal house. The Savoy-Carignano branch was not particularly wealthy (thanks in part to the crippling gambling addiction of Filippo’s grandfather), but their royal blood afforded them status beyond their means. With no great prospects at home, Filippo had chosen to pursue a career in the French army and became the colonel-proprietor of an infantry regiment at the age of twenty. The marriage was thus seen by both Federico and the French as an indirect way of warming Franco-Corsican relations which would not require the Bourbons to demean themselves by a mésalliance with the Corsican upstarts. The main obstacle was the question of the dowry, but Filippo’s material concerns were addressed by King Louis, who gave a generous bequest to the new couple as a “marriage gift.” They were married in Turin, after which Lisa accompanied her new husband to Paris.

King Federico may have hoped that his daughter would be an asset to him in Versailles, but Princess Lisa was not ideally suited to French court life. She found the court’s great extravagance and baroque ceremony to be bewildering and distasteful, and her staid and pious character did not win her many friends among the libertine French aristocracy. The court ladies sneered at her prim religiosity and Corsican rusticity, nicknaming her “Madame Châtaigne” (“Lady Chestnut”). But while Lisa was neither a great political asset for her father nor a great social asset to her husband, she was a loyal and morally irreproachable wife who ably fulfilled her most fundamental aristocratic duty by bearing Filippo eight children. Unlike her elder siblings she was never a source of scandal, for which the rest of the family was always thankful.


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Antonio II Boncompagni-Ludovisi, Prince of Piombino, Duke of Sora and Arce


Negotiations with the Prince of Piombino seem to have slackened after Theo’s return from Rome in 1776, perhaps in part because Federico, despite having originated the idea, was not entirely sure whether making his son independently wealthy was a good idea, and while the latest talks had been conducted by Theo any decision on marriage ultimately rested with the family head. Theo’s behavior in Tuscany, however, suggested that allowing the prince to remain a bachelor might embarrass the royal house, and Queen Elisabetta was confident that matrimony would “tame” her spirited son. Prince Antonio may have had some concerns that the marriage would be a source of scandal, and there were rumors in the summer of 1777 that he was considering another Roman prince for Laura’s hand, but the marriage of Filippo and Lisa may have been a reassuring development. If a Neuhoff was good enough for the House of Savoy (albeit for a second son of a cadet branch thereof), he was probably good enough for the House of Boncompagni.

Actually negotiating the marriage contract took some time, in large part because Federico was determined to get as much as he could out of the massively wealthy Roman family. He was, perhaps, playing to type; Federico’s historical reputation has long been that of a miser. But it was also vital for the state, which remained on very difficult financial footing, and it was not an unreasonable position - Prince Antonio’s own fortune was described as “nearly royal,” and the dowry Antonio had received from the Orisini family at his own wedding was so great that it required a papal dispensation to circumvent a long-standing ban on “excessive gifts.” Corsica might be the newest and least reputable kingdom in Europe, but it was still at least notionally a kingdom, and it was not absurd to demand a dowry of at least vaguely royal magnitude.

The completion of this long negotiation, however, would fall to another. On the morning of January 18th, King Federico suddenly collapsed in his dressing room in the Palace of Bastia. Thereafter he drifted in and out of consciousness, and even when awake he could not sit up or speak. His doctors diagnosed apoplexy, but were unable to do anything for him. Early in the morning on the 21st he suffered another fit and died, attended by his wife and present children (Princess Carina and young Prince Carlo). The king was 52 years old, and had ruled Corsica for just shy of eight years.

He would not know it for several days, but at only 22 years of age, Teodoro Francesco was now Theodore II, King of Corsica.[3]


Footnotes
[1] Innocent - formerly Antonio Visconti - had only recently been elected in November of 1774 after the death of his predecessor, Benedict XV.
[2] Aside from a single equestrian portrait in which she wears a riding habit with breeches, all of the official portraiture of Princess Carina portrays her in a dress. Despite the reputation of the "Corsican Diana" for liking "masculine" (and particularly military) fashion, she did not spurn women's fashion and was always "correctly" attired at court and for any sort of official function. This portrait in particular portrays a hunting scene, however - complete with musket - and all accounts suggest that she did not wear dresses on those occasions.
[3] Theo’s regnal name was simply “Teodoro II” (Theodorus secundus), and he is generally known by this name (or Re Teo, informally) in Corsican historiography. In continental texts he is sometimes called Theodore Francis to distinguish him from his great uncle; this is particularly common in German works where he is often referred to as Theodor II. Franz (or just Theodor Franz), perhaps because of the relative popularity of compound royal names in the German sphere.
 
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