Courtyard of the Palace of Bastia
Once his father was interred in the cathedral crypt of Cervioni, Theo wasted no more time in making plans for his own coronation. He announced to the cabinet that he intended to hold this ceremony on April 15th, the anniversary of the coronation of Theodore I and the proclamation of the independent Kingdom of Corsica. This was rather short notice, but the more obvious problem involved the liturgical calendar. In 1736 Easter had fallen on April 1st, two weeks before the coronation, but in 1778 it fell on April 19th, four days after
coronation day. This would place Theo’s proposed coronation during Lent, hardly a time for celebration and feasting - and, rather inauspiciously, on Holy Wednesday, which commemorated the decision of Judas Iscariot to betray Christ. Confronted with these difficulties, Theo reluctantly agreed to move the event to White Sunday (the Sunday after Easter) on April 26th.
This still left very little time for preparation, particularly given Theo’s other stipulation - that he should be accompanied at the coronation by his bride. Theo, of course, was not actually married yet, and so the next order of business was to send a delegation back to Italy to try and wrap up the late king’s negotiations with Antonio II, Prince of Piombino and Duke of Sora. Despite the desire for haste, the sudden death of Federico may actually have given his son a stronger hand in this affair; Princess Laura would now be marrying not just a prince and heir apparent, but an actual ruling monarch. Fortunately for Theo, Prince Antonio did not drag out the process any further, and upon the signing of the contract a proxy marriage was conducted at Isola del Liri with Count Francesco Antonio Colonna-Portovecchio standing in for Theo.
Theo's desire to be crowned with his wife beside him may have been intended to present an image of domestic propriety and to silence rumors about the king and his Florentine opera singer, but getting his hands on the Boncompagni dowry as soon as possible was probably also a key consideration. Indeed, in his inaugural address to the Dieta
he had magnanimously (and somewhat optimistically) declared that he would pay for the coronation festivities himself, which was not actually possible with his current resources. The final terms of the marriage contract stipulated the payment of a staggering 180,000 scudi, which was well over twice the Corsican government’s gross annual revenue. With such a sum under his belt, bankrolling a single day’s festivities was a small matter.[A]
One can only imagine the trepidation which Laura Flaminia Boncompagni-Ludovisi felt when she first beheld Corsica from the deck of the Aurora
She was eighteen years old and had only briefly met Theo once before, during his visit to Rome three years earlier. Laura had grown up in opulence and luxury; her father was one of the richest men in Roman society, while her mother belonged to the venerable (and equally wealthy) Orsini family. Now she was to be queen of an island she had never visited, a country which was principally known for poverty, violence, and revolution.
In many ways, Laura and her new husband could not have been more different. He was gregarious and outgoing; she was quiet and reserved. Whereas Theo loved to be active and outdoors, Laura preferred reading, poetry, and music. She played the harp and the clavichord with skill, and is credited with introducing the first piano to Corsica. In public, she was unfailingly decorous and composed, which was sometimes interpreted by others as coldness or arrogance. In fact this serene placidity was a carefully cultivated affect; in private she displayed a sensitive and anxious temperament and fretted about how she was perceived by her new subjects - and, most of all, by her husband.
Their relationship had been rather one-sided from the outset. Upon meeting the princess for the first time in 1775, Theo had nothing more to say about her in a letter to his sister than that she seemed “pleasant enough.” The visit seems to have made much more of an impression on Laura, who had been a supporter of the marriage from the outset (despite some reservations about living in Corsica). After their marriage-by-proxy, Laura sent a fond letter to Theo in Bastia expressing her happiness with their union and how pleased she was that they would meet again soon, and included a poem of her own composition. What she got back was a rather stilted formal letter expressing Theo’s satisfaction with the marriage arrangements, which must have been rather disappointing. Theo came to appreciate her better qualities and by the standards of the time it was a successful aristocratic marriage, but the king never seems to have craved Laura’s approval as she did his.
The royal wedding was a relatively modest affair, consisting mainly of a banquet held at the Palace of Bastia with various ministers, noblemen, and foreign envoys in attendance. The attendees spoke approvingly of the “elegance” and “poise” of their new continental queen, although her sister-in-law was less impressed. Observing that the new queen said almost nothing, Princess Carina later remarked that, if not for the fact that the event was Laura’s own wedding, nobody would have remembered that she was there at all. Carina seems to have taken an instant dislike to Laura’s demure character and referred to her contemptuously as la caniche romain
(“the Roman poodle”).
The coronation proceedings were consciously modeled after the “original” Theodoran coronation of 1736, which was made easier by the fact that there were still plenty of living Corsicans who had witnessed that event firsthand. Martín de Valdés, the Spanish envoy, gave a rather generous estimate of the crowd at twenty thousand strong, ranging from Corsican signori
and foreign dignitaries to peasants and shepherds in their wool caps and hide shoes. Then came a cavalcade of Corsican grandees on horseback: Marquesses and counts, Knights of the Redemption in their green mantles,
and the young king himself leading the procession upon a black horse. In his attempts to imitate his grand-uncle he even went so far as to wear a long, crimson “Turkish” robe lined with fur over his gold-embroidered black coat. At the Convent of Alesani, where a wooden stage had been erected, he was joined by Queen Laura in a “splendid” robe à la française
of embroidered green silk, accompanied by the ladies of court. After a morning of speeches and a military review, the constitution was read aloud by the Grand Chancellor and the king publicly swore to uphold it. Theo and Laura then proceeded into the convent, where Theo was crowned with the traditional laurel wreath by the Bishop of Aleria.
Nave of the "Coronation Chapel" of the Convent of Alesani
Upon emerging from the convent, the Bishop of Aleria announced Theodorus secundus, Dei gratia rex Corsicae
to the crowd, who replied with a great cheer and a peal of muskets and cannon. Nervous about potentially thousands of people shooting wildly into the air as was the Corsican custom, the authorities had arranged for a proper military salute and attempted to prohibit people from bringing firearms to the assembly; the account of Valdés suggests this was only partially successful. The nobility then lined up to kiss the king’s hand and pledge their fealty, after which the crowd sang the Te Deum
and an outdoor mass was held. The day ended with feasting and music, while the king received the congratulations of foreign envoys and nodded approvingly at toasts offered by the nobles.
The event was widely considered to be a great success, and everyone agreed that Theo had looked the part. The coronation may have been laughably rustic by continental standards - not many European kings were crowned in a rural convent - but domestic expectations were met and exceeded, and even the foreign observers seemed to look favorably upon the bucolic charm of Alesani and the very evident enthusiasm of the Corsicans for their queer little monarchy. Theo’s obsession with emulating his namesake was occasionally in danger of veering into parody, but it was at least founded upon sincerity rather than cynicism.
The coronation honeymoon, however, did not put politics on hold. Federico’s death left the government’s future hanging in the air, and triggered an immediate falling out between the Prime Minister, Marquis Alerio Francesco Matra, and the Minister of Justice, Don Filippo Antonio Pasquale Paoli. Ever since the Balagna Crisis the two men had maintained an alliance of convenience - Matra could offer Paoli a path back into government, while Paoli could offer Matra political support in the Dieta
and the ear of the crown prince. Now that the crown prince was king
, however, Paoli’s influence with Theo made him a threat rather than an asset. Matra and Paoli began scheming against each other before Federico’s body was even cold. Paoli had the personal advantage, but Matra had a strong network of clan allies and clients which made him a very formidable foe.
This contest was further complicated by developments abroad. Carlos III of Spain had been waiting for a chance to humble Britain since the end of the Four Years’ War, and the hour for action finally seemed to be approaching. Versailles had become more favorable to the idea of revanche
since the death of Louis XV, and discontent in Britain’s American colonies had boiled over into open rebellion in 1777. When war came - and it was a matter of when
, not if
- possessing the allegiance of Corsica, or at least its favorable neutrality, would be critical. Even if Carlos managed to regain Minorca and Gibraltar for Spain, the victory would be incomplete if the British could simply fall back on Ajaccio and Calvi. Madrid and Versailles were in complete agreement that the British had to be driven completely from the Mediterranean, and that required securing Corsica.
Observing the disastrous French experience on Corsica in the 1750s, the Spanish had elected to bring the island into their influence more subtly and tactfully, and Carlos’s ministers had been confident that Federico would play the role that Spain needed him to play. But Theo was a mystery, and the new king’s relationship with Paoli - whose Anglophile reputation preceded him - was cause for very serious concern. Weeks before the coronation, Valdés warned his masters that the situation was “now very critical,” and that the outcome of the coming political struggles in Corti and Bastia could potentially hand London a key victory before the real war had even started.
 Francesco Antonio was the son of Matthias von Drost, Prince of Porto Vecchio, the eldest of Theodore’s “nephews,” who died in 1773. King Federico deemed Theodore’s “victory titles,” including “Prince of Porto Vecchio,” to be non-heritable, but he gave Matthias’s children special dispensation to inherit the comital rank of their mothers’ family (the Colonna-Bozzi). Count Francesco subsequently adopted Colonna-Portovecchio
as a family name.
 At this point Corsica did not have a true sailing warship in serviceable condition. The Cyrne
had been condemned in 1774, while the Capraia
, though technically still in service, was laid up for long-delayed repairs and was missing spars. It would eventually be broken up and sold for lumber in 1779. The navy’s only ships in working order were the two state galiots and a small assortment of armed feluccas, pinques, and tartanes, auxiliary vessels deemed too meager for the conveyance of a queen. The Grand Duke of Tuscany had offered Theo the use of the 20-gun corvette Aurora
to escort him back to Corsica, and he left the ship and its Tuscan crew at Theo’s disposal until April.
 The original mantle of the Order of the Redemption was said to have been “sky blue,” but this must have been changed to green by 1745, when Theodore wore a green sash of the order at the Siege of Calvi.
[A] Historical currency conversion is difficult and I've wavered quite a lot on what exactly a "proper" Neuhoff-Boncompagni dowry would be in concrete terms. Although the scudi of different Italian states were not exactly the same in value, generally speaking the exchange rate between most Italian scudi and English pounds sterling seems to have been between about 4 to 5 scudi to £1. That would make 180,000 scudi worth around £40,000, or just over 900,000 French livres. By way of comparison, Jacob Vanderlint wrote in the 1730s that £500 was the minimum annual income necessary to live as a “gentleman” in Britain. The annual episcopal revenue of the Bishop of Rennes was 60,000 livres (about £2,600); for the Bishop of Strasbourg, it was 400,000 livres (about £17,400). Of course, none of this was very impressive by the standards of other kings: From 1760 King George III received £800,000 from the Civil List each year
. But Theo does not have George’s expenses, and this sort of money probably goes a lot further on Corsica. ITTL, the kingdom’s annual revenue in 1769 was said to be just over 400,000 livres, while IOTL France’s tax receipts from Corsica by the 1780s were estimated at around 600,000 livres per annum.