The Beggar King
"The Negotiator's," British satirical print, March 1741, showing figures of the European political scene. King Frederick is in the center, standing upon "Silesia." To the right, sitting on the ground and holding his hat out like a beggar, is "Abdicated Theodore." Further to the right of Theodore is Elisabeth Farnese, the Queen of Spain, notable as her son Carlos (the King of Naples) is uttering "Corsica," a reference to widespread rumors at the time that he was attempting to purchase or otherwise acquire it from the Genoese. Walpole stands towards the left of the frame, one foot over an open grave, demonstrating that his (political) time is almost up. (Click to enlarge)
News of the emperor's death on the 20th of October, 1740 reached London eight days later. It was a serious derailment of the continental foreign policy of King George II
of Great Britain, and his uncertainty regarding the future was evident when the king addressed Parliament on the 18th of November:
The great and unhappy event of the death of the late Emperor opens a new scene in the affairs of Europe, in which all the principal Powers may be immediately or consequentially concerned. It is impossible to determine what turn the policy, interest or ambition of the several courts may lead them to take in this critical conjuncture. It shall be my care strictly to observe and attend to their motions, and to adhere to the engagements I am under to the maintaining of the balance of power and the liberties of Europe.
For the moment, however, British attention remained primarily on the actual war with Spain on the high seas rather than the mere prospect of war on the continent. The king’s concern with continental politics was considered by some among the public to be evidence of his partiality for his native Hanover over Britain, a notion that had been reinforced by the king’s decision to summer in Hanover when Britain was at war. At this time Robert Walpole
, who had served as the kingdom’s prime minister since 1721 (and is often identified as the first true holder of that office), still held the reigns of power, but his position was increasingly unsteady. He had been forced to bow to the simultaneous pressure of the merchant classes, the king, and the pro-war “Patriot Whigs” in 1739 and accept a declaration of war against Spain which he was personally opposed to. Feeling emboldened, his enemies stepped up their attacks against him, criticizing his conduct of the war and raising allegations about his personal corruption.
Theodore probably arrived in London in the second week of December; the precise date is unknown, as he was attempting to keep a low profile. His immediate goal was to attempt to gain a royal audience after having been rebuffed at Hanover, and the death of the emperor seemed as though it had the potential to upend the political order in a way that Theodore might take advantage of. Nobody, not even Theodore, could tell what the future held in such uncertain times, but the moment seemed pregnant with possibility. Theodore, however, had misunderstood the nature of his earlier rejection; King George had not refused to meet with him because of political triangulation, grand strategy, or anything to do with the Corsican cause, but because of Theodore’s own reputation, as the Genoese had proved themselves to be far more adept at character assassination than actual assassination. Although the Northern Secretary William Stanhope, Lord Harrington
remained sympathetic, he knew very well that the king’s mind had not changed regarding Theodore, and denied his requests.
Nevertheless, Theodore hardly despaired, and found considerable interest in himself and his project among the English. Once word got out that King Theodore of Corsica was in London, it was an immediate sensation. Theodore was not entirely a stranger to celebrity; during his sojourn to Amsterdam in 1737, his name and exploits had been in many newspapers, a few books had been published about him, and a brand of gin was named after him in London. But his fame in that year had been one of novelty - he was a curious specimen, notable mainly for the unlikely quality of his rise than any widespread admiration for his character or accomplishments as such. He was a storybook character, a Westphalian Quixote, but such men were marveled at, not lauded or admired. But three years later, he was not just a character in a fairy tale or a parable of Fortune’s wheel come to life; he was King Theodore, vanquisher of France, defier of tyranny, whose astonishing exploits at the head of the Corsican nationals had gripped the papers and the parlors of Europe. Particularly in Britain, whose people boasted of the liberty of their government and appreciated anyone who managed to embarrass the French, he was something more than a celebrity - he was a hero.
Once his presence was detected, he found it impossible to maintain his low profile. The gazettes reported the latest sightings of him and speculated as to his business in England, and he was constantly pursued by gawkers; on at least one occasion he managed to gather such a large crowd during a walk through the New Spring Gardens (later Vauxhall Gardens in Kennington) that some overly excitable onlookers thought it was the start of a riot. Being before a crowd never troubled Theodore, but he was not a carnival barker; he had a concept of royal dignity, or at least what the common man imagined to be royal dignity, and was judicious in his public appearances. He spoke little and was always enigmatic, which only fueled the media’s interest. It was no coincidence that ambassador Horace Mann
, who always used pseudonyms in his diplomatic correspondence, gave Theodore the code name of “Mystery.”
No doubt while strolling through the gardens he reflected on the fact that just ten years before he had been living in miserable secrecy not far from where a crowd now dogged his steps, a failed spy hiding in a coffeehouse for fear of his creditors, drinking with rogues and forgers, reading books on famous highwaymen, and considering whether he might be able to make a living as a language teacher. Fortune’s wheel had indeed turned.
Theodore was less interested in the mob than in high society, and found breaking into London’s fashionable elite not much more difficult. As always, he had friends in high places. His first notable social engagement seems to have been in January of 1741, where he attended a party hosted by Lady Schaub, the wife of Luke Schaub
, the British ambassador to the Swiss Cantons who had been instructed by the Venetian general Schulemburg
to aid and protect Theodore on his way through that territory. He was an immediate hit - handsome, witty, cultured, and speaking English (and every other language) with perfect ease, he dazzled the London elite. He was reported to be a fine raconteur who delighted guests with stories of his Corsican adventures, but was just as comfortable discussing politics, poetry, or the Classics. One commentator noted that he quoted Virgil’s Aeneid
so easily that it seemed as if he had the whole work committed to memory. His schedule was soon full of dinner parties and engagements with the city’s upper crust, as it was not every day that a London aristocrat or socialite could boast that the King of Corsica - or any king, for that matter - would be coming to their parlor.
Amalie Sophie von Wallmoden, Countess of Yarmouth, in "Turkish" dress for a ball
He benefited, too, from a relation of his who had risen quite high. For several years, King George had a relationship with Amalie Sophie von Wallmoden
(née von Wendt
), the daughter of a Hanoverian general. In 1739, Amalie was divorced from her husband, who presumably objected to her intimacy with the king whenever George visited Hanover. Thereafter George summoned her to his side, taking her with him back to England, and in 1740 created her Countess of Yarmouth. Theodore had a von Wendt in his family tree; the king’s mistress was his third cousin (once removed). Although the Countess Yarmouth was not a political figure and was apparently never tempted to meddle in such matters (as some royal mistresses were inclined to do), her natural etiquette and grace, combined with her close proximity to the king, made her a fixture in high society. Even had she possessed some political interest, she was not such a close relation or dear friend of Theodore as to intercede with the king on his behalf. Nevertheless, the countess was evidently friendly towards him and her approval allowed the exiled king to gain access to ever more exalted levels of London society.
His social connections inevitably became political ones. Ambassador Schaub was a friend of Lord John Carteret
, a strenuous opponent of Walpole and a leader of the Whig opposition in the House of Lords. Carteret met Theodore at a social affair and was immediately impressed with him. On several occasions Carteret invited Theodore to his house, where they spoke of politics and Corsica. Like many prominent figures of the opposition, Carteret was frequently associated with the “opposition court” of Frederick
, the Prince of Wales, who had a difficult relationship with his royal father and despised Walpole. Prince Frederick’s main animus towards the prime minister concerned Walpole’s refusal to increase the allowance granted him by the civil list, which was considerably less than what his father had enjoyed when he was Prince of Wales, but as a means to oppose Walpole he gathered around himself with the minister’s political opponents. These were chiefly “Patriot Whigs” who criticized Walpole’s foreign policy, failure to join the last war (that of the Polish Succession), and mismanagement of the present conflict.
Lord John Carteret, later the Earl of Granville
Theodore was a great favorite of the “Patriots,” not so much because the opposition figures were interested in Corsica, but rather because of what Theodore symbolized. His exploits in fighting the French had been must-read news in Britain, and his doomed campaign was followed closely by the public. The struggle of the Corsicans for their liberty from Genoa was compared favorably with Britain’s war against Spain, also framed by its advocates in terms of a struggle between liberty (specifically, the liberty of British merchants) and the injustice and cruelty of the Spaniards. He thus became a convenient symbol for those who advocated a more confrontational attitude with the Bourbons. The London Evening Post had summed up the attitude of the “Patriots” towards Theodore back in 1738:
If a handful of undisciplined oppressed Corsicans have bravely demonstrated in the face of the Sun, that the haughty gasconnading troops of France are far from being invincible, when attacked with that spirit of bravery which oppression and injuries naturally inspire in the mind of man, what might not Britons have done for the service of their country and of Europe in general, had they exerted themselves in the late war between the Houses of Austria and Bourbon? And what might they not still do, would but some people shake off their drowsiness, or unslave themselves from their servile terror of the power of France?
Theodore’s arrival was followed by a rash of similar editorials, mainly in pro-opposition newspapers, praising him as a genuine hero of justice and liberty against Bourbon tyranny. By definition, however, the opposition was not in power, and there were dangers in being too closely identified with them. Despite some disagreements over foreign policy, Walpole still had the confidence of the king, and Prince Frederick was a troublesome ally to have. The bad blood between him and his father, the king, meant that any politician who spent too much time in the prince’s company was soon in disfavor at the royal court. As the king still exerted great power in foreign policy, such disfavor was best avoided.
When the Genoese ambassador Giambattista Gastaldi
returned to London and discovered that Theodore was living there quite openly, he demanded his arrest. Yet although Walpole was no great friend of Theodore, he did nothing; the “Baron de Newhoff” (as the British often spelled his title when not dignifying him as King of Corsica) had committed no crime and was not a Genoese citizen over which Gastaldi’s government might claim jurisdiction. While assassins in Genoese pay could reach London, the republic’s power here was significantly weaker than it was in Tuscany or even Venice.
As always, the greater threat to Theodore was posed by his creditors, who could hardly help but be attracted by his grand reappearance. Some of them recalled that Theodore, or a man very much like him, had defrauded them during his stay in London a decade past; the London Daily Journal
had written back in 1736 that Theodore “is said to have cheated several worthy Merchants of Money and Goods.” While such allegations were easily brushed aside as misunderstandings in the polite company of his social gatherings - after all, he was hardly the first aristocrat to have a bit of trouble with debt - his wit and charm was less likely to succeed in the British courts, where creditors were taken rather more seriously than the empty demands of Genoese diplomats. Pursuing Theodore for his outstanding debts seemed to be a particularly good idea as he appeared to finally be good for it: Had he not been sighted in Cologne with four carriages and servants in livery? Did he not presently dine with the British aristocracy? Even if he did not have the money to hand, surely his fashionable new friends would pay up. In fact Theodore had no money, or at least not very much; he was seemingly always able to find relations, old friends, and well-wishers who provided him with lodging and board, but his pockets were not deep, and the good will of politicians, socialites, and gazetteers did not necessarily mean they were willing to bail him out.
With his problems with creditors increasing and finding no success in petitioning the king or the government despite his very fashionable new life, Theodore was eventually obliged to leave London. An excuse was not really needed; by now everyone expected him to be utterly inscrutable. In May of 1741 he took a ship to Amsterdam, where another attempt on his life was made by a Dutchman in Genoese pay. The local papers picked up the story and only mentioned that he had been “attacked” in his carriage; Theodore’s own account, published later, was that the man had shot a pistol at him only to be foiled by a misfire. The king’s accounts of his own life are often unreliable, but if so, it only further proved what a Genoese commissioner would later observe with exasperation - “the Baron Theodore has the Devil’s own luck.”
Theodore needed somewhere to lay low for a bit as he planned his next move. His exact movements are difficult to trace, but by June he appeared in Holstein at the castle of Alexander Leopold Anton, Reichsgraf von Rantzau
. Count Alexander was an alchemy enthusiast who Theodore may have known from his days as the famous “Baron von Syberg,” and Theodore was a good friend of Alexander’s son Georg Ludwig Albrecht
(most commonly called “Albrecht”). We owe some of the most intimate portrayals of Theodore and his character to Albrecht, who published a book of memoirs in 1741 which recounts some of his conversations with Theodore over the years. Albrecht, who clearly admired Theodore, described him as a marvellous conversationalist and irrepressible optimist who was motivated by a deep desire to have his name echo forever in history.
Schloss Rantzau in Barmstedt
Despite Theodore’s setbacks over the past year, Albrecht recounted that Theodore had lost none of his optimism or cheerfulness. Certainly he was not idle. He spent the summer at the Rantzau manor, shielded from the prying eyes of public interest but still busily writing letters to his family in Cologne, his followers in Livorno and Corsica, various British politicians, and his friends across Europe. He followed current events with interest, particularly the alliance of France with Prussia in the Treaty of Breslau, which became public knowledge in July. He also remained in communication with Corsica, or at least with Corsicans in Livorno, who reported the beginning of the French withdrawal and the subsequent - and much faster - withdrawal of the Austrian forces. This was an improvement, but many questions remained unanswered. Would the Corsicans wish to rise again, after more than a decade of war and stinging defeats? Would they welcome Theodore back? Would the withdrawal encourage Britain to lend him support? Most likely, Matthias von Drost’s
return to Corsica in September was directly prompted by Theodore’s desire to find answers to these questions and to test the waters for the feasibility of his return.
Theodore also reached out to his most effective backers thus far, the Dutch merchants of the syndicate, whom he hoped to convince to provide him with another shipment of arms and supplies. He had, he argued, been winning the war before the intervention of the French, and could otherwise have driven the Genoese from all their citadels with the syndicate’s artillery. Now that the French were in the process of withdrawal and caught up in a war with Austria, they would be unable to oppose a new rebellion and Theodore’s restoration, and Theodore and the syndicate had an opportunity to achieve their mutual goal.
The investors, however, were reluctant. The Netherlands was hardly a disinterested party in the current conflict. The States General was aligned by treaty with Austria but so far had maintained its neutrality, fearing an attack by France. The British were keeping pressure on the Dutch to maintain a united front with them, but the Dutch knew very well that they had more to lose from a war with France than the British did, and the apparent neutrality of King George did not engender confidence. Under such circumstances, the government of the States General was not in the mood to passively condone smuggling which might give offense to France. Nor was it inconsequential that in wartime the government would undoubtedly place greater scrutiny on large arms purchases. After some equivocation, the syndicate refused him, explaining that unless the British officially
backed the project they felt it was too risky to support him. Such backing was not yet forthcoming, but Theodore’s prospects in Britain were starting to look up.
By the summer of 1741, the outlook for Walpole was grim. The revelation in June of Britain’s catastrophic defeat at Cartagena de Indias was a crippling blow to Walpole’s ministry. The parliamentary elections of that year, lasting from April to June, returned a majority for Walpole’s Whigs, but it was far slimmer than before, a consequence of concerns about Walpole’s handling of the war as well as a tenacious effort by Prince Frederick to undermine him in vulnerable constituencies. Walpole felt sufficiently threatened as to finally offer Frederick his support for increasing his allowance, but the prince was smelling blood; he was no longer willing to settle for anything but Walpole’s destruction. Walpole’s chief opposition, the “Patriot Whigs,” had seen their share in parliament jump by more than 50%. Walpole retained the confidence of the king, and so hobbled on for a few months, but he was a dead man walking. In December, the opposition won their first majority vote in the House of Commons in the last two decades.
In November, Theodore returned to Britain. He appears to have left Holstein in September, and may have spent the intervening weeks in the Netherlands. In London, he found lodging in the home of Hendrik Hop
, the Dutch ambassador to Britain, which was especially advantageous as Theodore could derive some benefit from Hop’s diplomatic immunity. Although he had become a bit more careful since his earlier stay in London, Theodore remained socially active. Notably, Horace Walpole
had returned from Italy in September, and despite the indifference of his father to Theodore the young socialite was more than willing to help him make connections and even raise some money for his upkeep. The Patriot Whigs were sensing an impending victory and were no less receptive to Theodore than they had been in the spring.
Tobias Smollett, surgeon, journalist, translator, and novelist
The purpose of Theodore’s return, however, was also literary. Intent on fighting back against his Genoese detractors, he had been working on an autobiography which would eventually be published under the title The History of Theodore I
, King of Corsica
, and needed some British assistance either for ghostwriting or translation (for although Theodore was the only credited author, it remains unclear how much of the text he actually wrote himself). His collaborator is generally believed to have been Tobias Smollett
, a twenty year old Scotsman who had begun his career as a surgeon but whose true interest was writing. He had been a naval surgeon with the fleet during the disastrous siege of Cartagena de Indias, and as the only man with any writing talent who had returned on the ship bearing the bad news he was able for a moment to have the honor of being Britain’s foremost war correspondent. He was introduced to Theodore shortly after the latter’s return from the continent and took an immediate liking to him. That he would be interested in Theodore’s story should not be surprising given his later work - while in 1741 Smollett was a journalist and pamphleteer, he would become best known for his English translation of Don Quixote
and a series of popular picaresque novels involving the adventures of scoundrels and unlikely heroes.[B]
, which would eventually be published in late 1742, was essentially a hagiography. While it does not shy away from detailing some of his misfortunes, they are utilized only to underline the magnitude of the accomplishment of his rise, and there is no trace of the more sordid or politically troublesome episodes in his life - no Jacobite spycraft, no mistresses broken out of convents, and not a word about his true occupation during the “Syburg years.” As a literary work it is readable but forgettable, and as a historical record mostly useless, but as a piece of propaganda it served its purpose well.
Theodore, it seems, even found time for romance. It appears that it was after his second arrival in London that he made the acquaintance of Lady Lucy Stanhope
, the twin sister of the Earl Philip Stanhope
and daughter of James Stanhope, who had been Walpole’s predecessor as the king’s foremost minister until his death in 1721. By her mother, Lucy Pitt, she was also the first cousin of William Pitt
, a young and outspoken Patriot Whig MP. Twenty six years old and unmarried, she was twenty years Theodore’s junior. The exact relationship between them remains unclear; some sources claimed that Theodore “seduced” Lady Stanhope, but in his private correspondence Horace Walpole wrote that Theodore had “fallen in love” with her. In any case it was apparently serious enough that there were rumors in early 1742 that Theodore had proposed marriage. If so, that was obviously not in the cards yet; the indebted and exiled king was, at the moment, not the most inspiring marriage prospect.[A]
In early February of 1742, bowing to the inevitable, Robert Walpole accepted an earldom from the king and subsequently resigned. “Patriots” like Pitt who anticipated that their party would seize control of government, however, were to be disappointed. Walpole was out, but his faction remained in power, bolstered by MPs loyal to Prince Frederick and others whose ire had been chiefly focused on the prime minister rather than his party in general. Walpole’s demise, however, was still good news for Theodore. His friend Lord Carteret left the opposition to become Secretary of State for the Northern Department, and was so dominant in the administration - nominally led by Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington
- that the ministry is typically called the “Carteret Ministry.” Harrington, another man sympathetic to Theodore, remained in the cabinet (but as Lord President of the Council, his spot as Northern Secretary having been taken by Carteret).
Carteret was a staunch advocate of Britain’s role in preserving the European balance of power, and unlike the reluctant Walpole saw his role as that of a war minister. He proposed to support Austria against her enemies and to build a grand alliance to crush Bourbon ambitions in Europe. He convinced Parliament to grant another £300,000 subsidy to Austria and add £200,000 more for Sardinia, he persuaded George to renounce his Hanoverian neutrality, and he proposed the creation of an Anglo-Dutch-Hanoverian “Pragmatic Army” to support the Queen of Hungary and dispute the ascendancy of France and Bavaria in Germany. “Pragmatic” though the army might be, however, its name was not strictly accurate, for Carteret was not a defender of the Pragmatic Sanction as such. Like George, he saw Prussia as a candidate for joining a grand anti-Bourbon alliance despite its present alignment with France. To that end, he was quite willing to accept that the Habsburg inheritance was not inviolable and recognize the Prussian conquest of Silesia, as he believed that the Austrians could be made to accept its loss with the promise of compensation elsewhere.
The Spanish, who saw their chance in Maria Theresa's succession to conquer Austrian lands in Lombardy, had opened the war in Italy by landing forces at Orbetello in November and at La Spezia in January. This had the effect of pulling the Kingdom of Sardinia into the fight on Austria’s side as well as provoking the British, who were already at war with Spain and had no desire to see the Spanish Bourbons dominate the peninsula. Carteret, however, was not interested merely in protecting what Austria already held, but in driving the Bourbons from Italy altogether, which was attractive not only because it was (for Carteret) a good in itself but because the reconquest of Naples for the Habsburgs would in theory make the loss of Silesia an easier pill to swallow. Sicily itself, Carteret imagined, could go as a reward to the Savoyards, who had been forced to renounce it in 1720 in favor of Sardinia. Italy was thus a cornerstone of Carteret's entire anti-Bourbon policy.
In this context, Corsica was a subject of renewed interest. It favorable position off the Italian coast made it attractive as a base, both for naval forces and privateers. Such was the argument of Theodore, who once again found himself a guest at Carteret’s home and in regular consultations with Carteret’s closest allies in the cabinet. Pointing to recent developments on Corsica, Theodore argued that his support there was still strong and that with British support he could “liberate” the island, simultaneously preventing the French and Spanish from making use of it and providing the Royal Navy with bases for fleet operations and privateering. Theodore added that when the Genoese had been driven from the island, he could raise a regiment of Corsicans for British service.
The problem was that despite its obvious partiality for the Bourbon states, the Republic of Genoa was a neutral country. The last thing that the pro-Austrian allied states wanted was for the Genoese to become a belligerent. Their neutrality, however, was already highly suspect; Genoese privateers sailed under the Spanish flag, the Spanish army had disembarked thousands of troops at the Genoese port of La Spezia, and Corsican ports were open to Spanish ships taking on water and supplies. Britain could not attack Genoa directly, and thus could not give Theodore open support, but dubious neutrality was a game two could play. If Theodore were, as a private citizen, to board a British ship and just happen
to make his way back to Corsica, would Genoa really risk her commerce and livelihood by declaring war on Britain, the foremost naval power on earth? Carteret thought not.
Rear Admiral Thomas Mathews
It undoubtedly helped that Theodore had made friends with the man who was to take up command of the new, reinforced Mediterranean squadron, Rear-Admiral Thomas Mathews
. A 65 year old veteran of the service, Mathews was a strict but gallant officer who took an immediate liking to the exiled king. It was not so much that Mathews had been taken in by the king’s charisma; he simply had a patriotic disdain for France, a particular dislike for the cowardly and dishonorable Genoese, and an appreciation for any man who had trounced both. Carteret and his Southern Secretary, Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle
, agreed that the delivery of Theodore to his “kingdom” could be of some advantage to Britain and would carry little risk so long as there were no direct hostilities between British forces and the Genoese. Mathews spoke up in Theodore’s support and was more than willing to have him along. To preserve some plausible deniability, Carteret gave Theodore a passport which was good only as far as Lisbon, knowing full well that he would easily obtain further documents from the consul there.
There was one final piece of the puzzle. Theodore knew that his arrival was likely to be underwhelming; being deposited on Corsica by a British ship was not exactly the same thing as British military aid, and at the moment the British were not actually providing him with anything other than transportation (although Newcastle noted that it was said Theodore had managed to borrow 600 guineas from several naval officers and politicians). He raced back to Amsterdam and produced Carteret’s passport and various other letters of introduction he had obtained from Harrington, Newcastle, and Mathews, offering them to the syndicate partners as evidence of his support. The syndicate was still unwilling to send a ship, and in any case there was no time to organize it before Mathews’ departure. The partners were impressed at the support Theodore appeared to have from the highest echelons of the British government, however, and agreed to guarantee 100,000 florins (approximately £7,580) to their business associates in Livorno which Theodore would be able to access in exchange for Corsican goods, chiefly oil. As Theodore needed ready cash as well, they agreed to advance him the first 5,000 florins prior to compensation.
It was not exactly the triumphant return that Theodore had hoped for, with British cannons roaring and a ship's hold full of muskets and cannon; but it was something, and it was more than had seemed possible a mere six months before. On the 16th of April, Admiral Mathews’ flagship, the 90-gun Namur
, set sail for the Mediterranean along with the 80-gun Princess Caroline,
the 80-gun Norfolk
, and the 70-gun Bedford
, with the King of Corsica aboard in the guise of a Hanoverian baron.
 Or occasionally “ghost.”
 Notably, his first novel, The Adventures of Roderick Random
(1748), has as its protagonist a gentleman with a noble father but a common mother who has a gift for languages and good character but is shunned by his family and perpetually broke. He wanders around the world getting into various adventures and scrapes, sometimes posing as a nobleman. Although the novel is chiefly inspired by Smollett’s naval service, the life of Smollett’s friend Theodore is often assumed to have been an influence as well.
[A] This relationship, Horace Walpole’s claim that Theodore had fallen in love with Lady Stanhope, and the rumors of a proposed marriage are all OTL. Unfortunately Lucy Stanhope is a very obscure figure; she lived to the ripe old age of 71, but never married. To my knowledge there is no surviving portrait of her, and she is mentioned only briefly in a handful of letters by Horace Walpole and others. In the 1750s she evidently had a fashionable apartment in the Circus at Bath, where she was visited by her friend and cousin Anne Pitt, William Pitt’s sister and a fellow spinster. It remains unclear whether Theodore was actually “in love” with her as Horace Walpole suggested or whether his courtship of her was some kind of political move. Did he actually propose marriage, or was it just a rumor? Was his “love,” genuine or not, reciprocated by Lady Stanhope, as implied by those who claimed Theodore had “seduced” her? We do not know - although even if the marriage proposal was real, it was clearly not accepted, which should not be surprising given her social status and Theodore’s poverty. If she did love him, it clearly wasn’t so ardent a passion as to induce her to marry a man in debtor’s prison. That won’t be an problem ITTL, but there are still a lot of obstacles to Lucy being Queen of Corsica. She’s a pretty lowly bride for a king, being merely the daughter of an earl, and doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of a political alliance aside from the general good will of the English (and, perhaps, the sympathy of William Pitt the Elder, who became Prime Minister IOTL). The Corsicans don’t really care about morganatic marriages, but they do care about religion; Lucy would have to convert to Catholicism, and even then her previous “heresy” might make her unpopular.
[B] George Orwell called Smollett "Scotland's best novelist." IOTL, Smollett was a friend of Theodore in the 1750s when he was in London. His collaboration on The History of Theodore I
is conjecture; Theodore collaborated with someone
, but it's not clear who. One book I've read proposes that it might have been Smollett, and since he was a friend of Theodore's anyway I chose to make that a fact ITTL.