King Theodore's Corsica

Thanks @Carp, truly the spirit of Meloria, Lepanto and countless battles had grown thin in the xviii century!

A side note: when you talked about the Dila, you wrote that their language is very close to Sardinian.

That is true when one speaks of northern dialects like Sassarese and especially Gallurese, much less when compared to Logudorese/Nuorese/Campidanese which is what one would normally imagine when thinking about Sardinian and that is quite further than Corso from the Italian peninsular language continuum.

Example of Logudorese (Pater Noster according to a 1898 cathechism):
"Babbu nostru chi ses in is Celus:
Santificau siat su nomini tuu.
Bengat a nosu su regnu tuu.
Siat fatta sa voluntadi tua comenti in su Celu aici in sa terra.
Donanosì oi su pani nostru de dogna dii
E perdonanosi is peccaus nostrus. Comenti nosaterus perdonaus a is depidoris nostrus.
E no si lessis arrui in tentazioni.
Ma liberanosi de mali. Aici siat."

One can quite easily see the difference with the Corse version (from the Ajaccio diocese website):

"Padre nostru chì sì in celu
Ch’ellu sìa santificatu u to nome ;
Ch’ellu venga u to regnu ;
Ch’ella sìa fatta a to vuluntà
In terra cume in celu.
Dacci oghje u nostru pane custidianu.
È rimèttici i nostri dèbbiti
Cume no i rimittemu à i nostri debbitori.
Ùn ci espone micca à a tentazione,
Ma fràncaci da u male. Amen."
 
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A side note: when you talked about the Dila, you wrote that their language is very close to Sardinian.

Well, to be fair to myself, I only said it was closer to Sardinian (than North Corsican is), not that it was "very close." Point taken, however, regarding the distinction between the northern Sardinian dialects and the southern with regards to their relative similarity to Corsican.

It would be interesting to read the equivalent of a "Tyrrhenian Rosetta Stone," with the same paragraph written in Standard (Tuscan) Italian, North Corsican, South Corsican, Gallurese, Sassarese, and southern Sardinian.

Thanks @Carp, truly the spirit of Meloria, Lepanto and countless battles had grown thin in the xviii century!

Most definitely. Venice, at least, had a true fighting navy, and had used it relatively recently in the two Morean wars (1694-1699,1714-1718). They also depended on galleys, but deployed ships of the line as well. Presumably this was because Venice was still on the "frontier of Christendom" and retained a colonial empire in the east which required the maintenance of a navy that could actually fight. In contrast, by this time the Genoese had ceased to have any overseas possessions save Corsica itself and one little island port off the Tunisian coast (Tabarka, lost in 1742). Their only enemies would have been Barbary corsairs, who weren't really interested in pitched naval battles.

The only Genoese ships of the line I've read of were two British ships, a second-rate and a fourth-rate, which were captured by the French early in the 18th century and made their way into Genoese service, but by 1720 both of these had been sold to Spain. I have come across occasional mentions of Genoese frigates, but none from this time period; the few that are mentioned are either pre-1700 or much later, like the 26-gun Liguria (captured by the British in 1798, technically after the fall of the Genoese Republic). While I can't promise you that the Genoese had no "tall ships" at all, I certainly haven't been able to find any, and none seem to have been used for blockading Corsica.

It's hard to find depictions of a Genoese-style armed felucca, in part because "felucca," in its original Arabic incarnation, usually means a small oar-less fishing boat. The Genoese "armed felucca" was evidently also open-decked and lateen-rigged but was presumably somewhat larger and equipped with sweeps, which suggests it was more like a galiot, as images like this one suggest:

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That seems like it would be on the large end of the "felucca" range to me, although as I said it's difficult to find good information on the precise makeup of the Genoese fleet at this time.

The short version of all this is that I have no reason to think that, any any time during the Corsican rebellion, the Genoese possessed an armed, multi-decked sailing ship which would have been capable of "cruising" in the manner of a frigate for an extended period, and thus enforcing a blockade on its own. Even if they did organize a blockade, perhaps by rotating out galleys constantly, they would sooner or later be foiled by the weather, and if really hard pressed the Corsicans could just do what they'd done before and launch their little boats from any creek or cove which was convenient, which would be much easier when much of the Genoese fleet is tied up keeping a vigil over a port.
 
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Well, to be fair to myself, I only said it was closer to Sardinian (than North Corsican is), not that it was "very close."

Sorry, I got carried away :)

It would be interesting to read the equivalent of a "Tyrrhenian Rosetta Stone," with the same paragraph written in Standard (Tuscan) Italian, North Corsican, South Corsican, Gallurese, Sassarese, and southern Sardinian.

Uhm, on wikipedia I found this, but I am afraid North Corsican is lacking: https://it.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lingua_gallurese#Esempio_di_testo_in_Gallurese
While this lacks South Sardinian, but has lots of local Corsican variants: https://it.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lingua_corsa#Esempi_nelle_principali_varianti

There is apparently significant debate about classification, given that some specualte about an "Island Romance" group lumping together all these dialects, while others (the majority I think) separate the Sardinia dialect continuum from the Corsican one, which, as you wrote, is closer to Tuscan and modern/standard Italian.

This is all a bit tangential to the TL
 
The Diplomatic Game
The Diplomatic Game

"The affairs of Corsica are now in a great crisis... it seems that it would be time to take advantage of it, if the thing is suited to the service of the King."

- Jacques de Campredon, French Minister to Genoa, February 1735

As the Corsicans were fighting a war against the Genoese with musket and ball, Theodore was waging a one-man war with the Republic with paper and pen. Even before his landing on the island, Theodore had known very well that his success would probably be contingent upon finding foreign support for his venture. His early inquiries had been promising: during his preparations between 1734 and 1736 he had realized that there were few governments, aside from the Genoese Senate itself, which really cared whether Genoa retained Corsica. What worried statesmen in Paris, London, Madrid, Naples, Turin, and even Vienna was whose hands Corsica would fall into once it had been wrested free from the Republic. It was commonly assumed that Theodore was a front for some other power; newspapers speculated on who his backer might be, while diplomats and ministers sent urgent letters back and forth debating the latest "evidence" as to who his benefactors were. Theodore's challenge was not to prove to foreign powers that he could win—for that seemed very possible—but to satisfy them that, having won, he would not reveal himself to have been a pawn of their enemies all along.

The great power which was most directly concerned with the fate of Corsica was France. The island itself was of no great value to the kingdom, but it could be very valuable to her enemies. If one wished to cause the most mayhem to the lucrative trade between the French ports of Marseilles and Toulon and the Ottoman ports of the eastern Mediterranean, one could not design a better base for such interdiction than Corsica. The London Daily Journal observed in June 1736 that “Anybody who holds Corsica can, with two frigates of twenty cannon each, stop France’s trade with the Levant.” That potential would be cause for concern even if the holder of the isle was the king of Spain or Naples, both fellow Bourbons, but if Corsica were held by the British it would be a true disaster. As a result of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, the British had gained a foothold in the Mediterranean with the acquisition of Gibraltar and Minorca. Corsica would make a fine addition to this string of bases, extending British naval power projection to the very coast of Italy and raising the prospect of a British stranglehold on the French Mediterranean.[1]

The first Frenchman to truly grasp the importance of the Corsican rebellion was Jacques de Campredon. Campredon was a diplomat with a long and distinguished career who had served as the French minister to Sweden and then to Russia before being dispatched to Genoa in 1728. From this position he had seen the rebellion from its very earliest days. He had established many contacts and sources in his years spent there and possessed a deep knowledge of the workings of the Genoese government; in both matters of Genoese elite society and the Corsican troubles, his knowledge was unrivaled among foreign observers.

By 1735, this knowledge had led Campredon to the conclusion that the war was unwinnable for the Genoese. In his opinion it was only a matter of time before the Republic completely lost control of the island, and thus the only question was which power would come subsequently to control it. Campredon wrote that the kings of Spain, Naples, and Sardinia were all very interested, and even claimed to have uncovered evidence of an imperial scheme to bequeath the island to Portugal. Campredon knew very well of the threat which a hostile fleet, or even a few privateers, could pose to French trade out of Toulon and Marseille, and concluded that the only way for France to safeguard her own interests in the Mediterranean was to take possession of Corsica for herself.

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King Louis XV in 1739

King Louis XV and his ministers thought the idea was at least worthy of study, and gave Campredon a royal blessing to move ahead with his plans. Campredon prudently observed that French control would be impossible without at least some base of support among the Corsicans themselves, and began establishing contacts with various Corsican chiefs in an attempt to build up a pro-French faction. Very quickly his "French party" came to include some very notable men indeed, including Luigi Giafferi and Luca d'Ornano. Convinced at the time that Spanish intervention was likely, Campredon sent letters back to Paris arguing that "we should propose to Genoa to cede Corsica to France." In late 1735, when the rebellion seemed to be in desperate straits, he obtained from some of the beleaguered rebel leaders a signed document inviting the King of France to take sovereignty of their island. It seems he purposefully attached no date to the document so it could be used at his government's leisure. Having thus built a favorable faction within Corsica and obtained an invitation to rule it, Campredon sent the document to Paris. By now, however, his views on how best to obtain the island had evolved based on his own appraisal of Genoese politics. He now believed that Genoese pride was probably too great to permit a negotiated cession, and the best solution was for France to invade Corsica without warning and present its occupation to the Genoese as a fait accompli. It was easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, and Genoese outrage could be mollified by compensation after the fact.

Campredon may have known the Genoese well, but he had badly misjudged his own king. Louis was scandalized by the very notion of such an unprovoked assault against the Genoese Republic, and Campredon's audacious plan was immediately rejected and suppressed. Rebuffed, Campredon returned to covertly expanding the pro-French faction on the island, but just a few months later his careful work was completely ruined by Theodore's arrival. Many of the Corsican leaders had a favorable opinion of France, but while Campredon offered only promises of future succor Theodore offered food, guns, and ammunition. It was no contest at all: the "French party" ceased to exist practically overnight. Giafferi, who had been Campredon's greatest catch, became Theodore's prime minister. Soon after, Campredon received instructions from his government to cease all contact with the rebels. Sternly commanded to turn his attentions elsewhere, he began working on a report on Genoese politics and the social lives of its elite which was published in 1737 as the Relation de l'État de Gênes.

Although Campredon's scheme had come to nothing, French concern with Corsica only intensified after it became known that Theodore had been first conveyed to Corsica by a British ship piloted by a British captain, Richard "Dick" Ortega. In fact the British government had already banned its citizens from having any business with the "malcontents" of Corsica, and Ortega was acting on his own volition under the mistaken impression that Theodore had some arrangement with the King of Britain. He and his ship, the Richard, were as mentioned the focus of a minor diplomatic crisis which was resolved by the capture of his ship by the Genoese, Ortega's suicide, and the repatriation of his crew to Britain.[A] After this point more supplies were coming to the island under the French flag than the British, but nevertheless the Republic dispatched Marquis Giovanni Francesco Brignole Sale, a future Doge and one of the foremost Genoese statesmen of the age, to London in May to lodge an official protest over the manner of Theodore's arrival. Although wary of British involvement, Campredon does not seem to have believed that Theodore was really a British agent. Most speculation by serious minds (as opposed to febrile gossip in the papers) centered around three possibilities: Spain, Naples, and Sardinia.

Much of the Spanish speculation centered not on King Felipe V but his wife Elisabetta Farnese. The queen had extraordinary influence over the government and a keen interest in foreign policy with a particular focus on Spanish power in Italy. She herself was the daughter of the Duke of Parma, and eventually became the heiress of that state which was passed to her son Carlos in 1731. By 1736 Carlos had exchanged that title for that of Naples,[2] but the queen still hoped to regain her patrimony for her younger son Felipe. Elisabetta had certainly met Theodore when he was in Spanish service, at least in the context of a royal audience, and it seems plausible that she knew who he was; he had, after all, married one of her maids of honor and had been a protege of Cardinal Alberoni, once her closest adviser. Nevertheless, there is little actual evidence to suggest that she had much interest in Corsica, and Theodore's association with the disgraced Johan Willem Ripperda (whose dukedom had since been officially stripped from him in absentia as a result of his service to the Moors) probably counted against him.

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The Infante Carlos in 1732 as Duke of Parma, who would be King of Naples and Sicily two years later.

Carlos, now King of Naples and Sicily, was himself a possible contender. He had already been offered the crown of Corsica once before; the rebel delegation of 1734 which had included Andrea Ceccaldi, who was either at that time or very soon to be a colonel in Carlos's army, had traveled to Madrid to propose that the infante become their king. As the Spanish Bourbons were quite busy with the conquest of Naples and the broader War of Polish Succession, this proposal came to nothing. By 1736, however, Carlos's position was more secure, and as a twenty year old conqueror full of ambition it was quite plausible that he might set his sights on further acquisitions. Carlos had presumably never met Theodore, but his secretary of state Joseph Joachim, marqués de Montallegre was not only a good friend of Theodore from their days together in Spain but also his marital relation, as Montallegre had married the sister of Theodore's wife Catalina.[3] Notably, Naples seems to have been a port of significance for illicit trade with the rebels second only to Livorno.

Finally there was Charles Emmanuel III, King of Sardinia. The Savoyard state had gone to war with Genoa twice in the 17th century, and tensions had been ratcheted up further by the bequest of the Marquisate of Finale to Genoa in 1713 as this territory was also claimed by the House of Savoy.[4] Around 1727, just before the outbreak of the rebellion, Sardinian and Genoese forces had clashed at the Ligurian border; it was not exactly a war, but shots were fired, and the Genoese added a thousand men to their standing army just to be on the safe side. Finale, not Corsica, remained Charles Emmanuel's principal object, but as the Genoese position deteriorated he had reason to be concerned. Everything that was true about the island posing a threat to French shipping was even more true for Sardinia, a two-part state whose only link between Piedmont and Sardinia proper consisted of the port of Nice and the waters around Corsica. Initially, Charles Emmanuel was quite content to passively observe the continuing woes of the Genoese, but after the fall of Bastia his government became increasingly anxious about the prospect of French intervention.

Theodore's diplomatic strategy, insofar as it could be called a strategy, was little more than to throw everything at the wall and hope that something stuck. Most of his letters were to friends, acquaintances, and family members asking for monetary support, but he also sought constantly to gain the ear of diplomats and royal ministers. He was not picky; the French, Spanish, British, Sardinians, and Austrians were all courted for their support or at least asked to reject Genoa's contrary overtures. Theodore knew his politics well, and needled at the fears and neuroses of each of these powers by implying that if they did not support him the island would surely be delivered into the hands of their enemies. To the British, for instance, he raised the specter of Stuart conspiracies with the backing of France and Spain; he was not ashamed at all to use the Old Pretender as a bogeyman despite having personally served his cause as a secret agent for years.

The Genoese diplomatic strategy was to secure pledges from other powers to bar their nationals from providing arms to or having any commerce with the rebels. France had done this in 1731 and Britain in 1732, while Sardinian authorities in Nice (but not the Court of Turin itself) had banned arms sales to the Corsicans in 1731. In July of 1736, Genoa succeeded in getting a similar pledge from the States General of the Netherlands, and Britain re-iterated her own ban on dealings with the "malcontents" after the Ortega affair. Attempts to gain the same promise from other powers, however—most notably Spain, Naples, and Tuscany—seem to have born little fruit.

Footnotes
[1] There was of course Livorno, just across the water from Corsica, which was to be the major British naval base in Italy during the coming War of Austrian Succession. Livorno, however, was not a British possession but part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and a free port; its use depended on the friendship of the Medici (and after the Grand Duke's death in 1737, the Habsburgs) and this might not always be guaranteed. Livorno was also a poor site—not an obvious place for a port, it had been essentially willed into existence by the Medici, and it suffered from both a comparatively shallow harbor and a lack of fresh water, which had to be carried from some distance inland. Geographically speaking, Porto Vecchio, San Fiorenzo, and Calvi were all clearly superior. Finally, since Livorno was on the continent it was potentially vulnerable to landward attack in a way that Corsica was obviously not, something which the British of all people could certainly appreciate.
[2] Technically the War of Polish Succession, when all of this was occurring, was still ongoing in 1736, although open hostilities had ended in October of 1735. A final treaty would not be signed until 1738.
[3] The fact that Montallegre and Theodore remained on good terms in 1736 is another reason to suspect that the tales of Theodore's supposed mistreatment of his wife were merely Genoese fabrications. If Theodore had really stolen all of Catalina's money, abandoned her in poverty, and bigamously married while she was still alive as Genoese "witnesses" attested, one suspects that the relationship between Theodore and Catalina's brother-in-law would have been less than amicable.
[4] The Savoyard dukes became Kings of Sardinia only in 1720.

Timeline Notes
[A] If you haven't already guessed, I've decided to retcon my little POD involving Ortega surviving; I initially thought I would do something with it, but I've decided it's not necessary and doesn't really change anything that's happened thus far. I have not yet edited my previous posts to reflect this decision, but I will soon.
 
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Is that part about King Lois XV the main POD? I imagine even if he was scandalized about and unprovoked occupation, the French ministry could try to fabricate a reason (merchants captured/killed?).
 
Coincidently, the best outcome for all the states involved might be for Corsica to become independent.

Also I didn't realize the strategic importance of Corsica when it came to trade for France, but it definitely makes sense after reading this.
 
Coincidently, the best outcome for all the states involved might be for Corsica to become independent.

Also I didn't realize the strategic importance of Corsica when it came to trade for France, but it definitely makes sense after reading this.

Well, except for Genoa.
 
Well, except for Genoa.
Honestly, giving up Corsica at this point is probably a better option for Genoa than spending the next 30 years trying to keep it like OTL. Losing Corsica would be a hit to their prestige and tax revenues but at this point Genoa is a low middling power at best that is spending resources it can't really afford to lose on a province that is extremely rebellious and relatively poor in comparison.

The best outcome for them would probably be something along the lines of OTL where they sell it to another power that can afford to secure it while Genoa washes their hands of Corsica.
 
Is that part about King Lois XV the main POD? I imagine even if he was scandalized about and unprovoked occupation, the French ministry could try to fabricate a reason (merchants captured/killed?).

Nope, that's OTL. Campredon's scheme, coming more than 30 years before France's OTL annexation of Corsica, was just too radical. Remember, this is the same Louis XV who, at the end of the War of Austrian Succession, returned his territorial gains in Europe because "I am the King of France, not a merchant." He had no intention of sucker-punching a friendly state and taking half their land because of an invitation from some rebels.

Also I didn't realize the strategic importance of Corsica when it came to trade for France, but it definitely makes sense after reading this.

The British newspaper quote about only needing two small frigates to disrupt French trade is a real quote from OTL. One need only consider the career of Fortunatus Wright, the British merchant-turned-privateer who seized dozens of French ships worth hundreds of thousands of pounds during the WoAS, and he was based out of Livorno. With Corsican ports in British hands, his job would presumably have been even easier.

This is why Choiseul (famously quoted by Napoleon) said that Corsica ought to be pushed into the sea. It's worth little to the French, but it has the potential to cause them great damage if it's controlled by an enemy. They'd be best off if the island simply vanished off the face of the earth.

Honestly, giving up Corsica at this point is probably a better option for Genoa than spending the next 30 years trying to keep it like OTL. Losing Corsica would be a hit to their prestige and tax revenues but at this point Genoa is a low middling power at best that is spending resources it can't really afford to lose on a province that is extremely rebellious and relatively poor in comparison.

What Campredon said was basically accurate: the Genoese were too proud to give the island up peacefully. For 40 years Corsica was a horrific money pit. They obtained virtually no tax revenue from it at all, and had to pay enormous sums to raise armies, hire Swiss companies, and pay for foreign occupation forces. Both the Emperor and the King of France, during their respective interventions, required that the Genoese pay all expenses for their soldiers while they were in Corsica, which was hideously expensive. There is no doubt that the best possible strategy was to cut the island loose as soon as possible. Genoa, however, just couldn't bring itself to surrender the last vestige of its once great colonial empire - an island they had held since the Middle Ages, lay only a hundred miles off their own coast, and made up half the territory of the state (albeit much less than half of its population and virtually none of its revenue). It took 40 years of hemorrhaging cash and military humiliation before the Republic finally accepted the inevitable, and even then the treaty by which they ceded Corsica to France was technically "temporary" (as it gave Genoa the option to redeem its sovereignty by buying the island back, a clause which realistically stood no chance of ever being exercised).

In other words, there is no chance of a voluntary peace with Theodore at this time. It took 40 years for Genoa to give up IOTL, they're not going to do it in 7 years ITTL even with the stunning fall of Bastia. Theodore can only "win" by getting some great power(s) to intervene and tell Genoa that it's over.
 
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If the Genovanes get rid of the island in the War of Austrian Succession, what will they use the resource on, which they wasted in OTL?
 
Nope, that's OTL. Campredon's scheme, coming more than 30 years before France's OTL annexation of Corsica, was just too radical. Remember, this is the same Louis XV who, at the end of the War of Austrian Succession, returned his territorial gains in Europe because "I am the King of France, not a merchant." He had no intention of sucker-punching a friendly state and taking half their land because of an invitation from some rebels.



The British newspaper quote about only needing two small frigates to disrupt French trade is a real quote from OTL. One need only consider the career of Fortunatus Wright, the British merchant-turned-privateer who seized dozens of French ships worth hundreds of thousands of pounds during the WoAS, and he was based out of Livorno. With Corsican ports in British hands, his job would presumably have been even easier.

This is why Choiseul (famously quoted by Napoleon) said that Corsica ought to be pushed into the sea. It's worth little to the French, but it has the potential to cause them great damage if it's controlled by an enemy. They'd be best off if the island simply vanished off the face of the earth.



What Campredon said was basically accurate: the Genoese were too proud to give the island up peacefully. For 40 years Corsica was a horrific money pit. They obtained virtually no tax revenue from it at all, and had to pay enormous sums to raise armies, hire Swiss companies, and pay for foreign occupation forces; both the Emperor and the King of France, during their respective interventions, required that the Genoese pay all expenses for their soldiers while they were in Corsica, which was hideously expensive. There is no doubt that the best possible strategy was to cut the island loose as soon as possible. Genoa, however, just couldn't bring itself to surrender the last vestige of its once great colonial empire, an island they had held since the Middle Ages, lay only a hundred miles off their own coast, and made up half the territory of the state (albeit much less than half of its population and revenue). It took 40 years of hemorrhaging cash and military humiliation before the Republic finally accepted the inevitable, and even then the treaty by which they ceded Corsica to France was technically "temporary" (as it gave Genoa the option to redeem its sovereignty by buying the island back, a clause which realistically stood no chance of ever being exercised).

The chance of a voluntary peace with Theodore at this time is nonexistent; it took 40 years for them to give up IOTL, they're not going to do it in 7 years ITTL even with the stunning fall of Bastia. Theodore can only "win" by getting some great power(s) to intervene and tell Genoa that it's over.

So a great example of the sunk-cost fallacy as well as the dangers of pride. It would hurt their pride to give up the last vestige of their trade empire and a territory they have held for centuries, but they have put in too much blood, sweat, and money to just let it go. Though, I'm wondering what foreign power will eventually recognize Theodore.
 
Most timelines are these huge macro-world building undertakings; and most are well done and I enjoy them.

But this micro-spotlight on Corsica is so novel and interesting I'm loving every part of this timeline (even if eventually the great powers get involved and it zooms out, up to hear its been great)
 
The Abettors
The Abettors

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The Port of Livorno, early 18th century

The debate over which state was backing Theodore was mostly idle; he had not attained his position with the direct assistance of any of the great powers. Still, there was one state, seldom discussed, which certainly was in his corner: the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

The Grand Duke of Tuscany Gian Gastone de Medici probably knew Theodore through mutual acquaintances for more than a decade. His sister, Anna Maria Luisa de Medici, had been married to the Elector-Palatine Johann Wilhelm von Wittelsbach (d. 1716) and moved back to Florence after her husband's death. Philipp von Stosch, the Prussian antiquarian who had been secretly spying on the Stuart court in Rome and who had been befriended by Theodore (unaware that he was a spy for the Pretender at the time), wrote that Neuhoff was well known at Anna's court in Florence in the early 1720s. When Theodore came to Tuscany in 1732 to begin crafting his plans for aiding the Corsicans, he was clearly already known to Gian Gastone, and indeed it is possible he was actually employed by the Grand Duke in some capacity during that time. They seem to have gotten along well, perhaps in part because of their shared philosophical views. Both were unusually progressive and religiously tolerant rulers for their time; Gian Gastone repealed his father's onerous legislation against the Jews, encouraged the teaching of the sciences, and commissioned a statue of Galileo Galilei in Florence.[1]

The most striking difference between them was that while Neuhoff was to be the first of a royal house, Gian Gastone was to be the last. He was the only son of the previous grand duke, Cosimo III, and his unhappy marriage with Anna Maria of Saxe-Lauenburg resulted in no children.[2] Depressive, boorish, alcoholic, and chronically ill, Gian Gastone had not made a public appearance since 1729 and was almost perpetually bedridden. As early as 1718, the infante Charles of Spain was proposed by the Bourbons as his successor (Charles was only two years old at the time), but this did not gain wide acceptance until the Treaty of Vienna in 1731, in which Charles received the Duchy of Parma through the inheritance of his mother Elisabeth Farnese, the Queen of Spain. As it happened, Gian Gastone quite liked the young Charles; he adopted him as his ward, named him his successor, and introduced him to court life in Florence, where the boy was well-received. In 1734, however, during the War of Polish Succession, Charles conquered Naples, and by the preliminary agreements made between the powers in 1735 Charles was compelled to give up both Parma and his position as Gian Gastone's heir in exchange for being recognized as King of Naples. The powers agreed that Tuscany should go to Duke Francis III of Lorraine, who wed the Habsburg heiress Maria Theresa in January of 1736 and would eventually become Holy Roman Emperor. Gian Gastone was furious and despondent; none of the powers had ever for a moment consulted him about his own desires for his duchy.

The Grand Duke was helpless—and, as it would soon become clear, dying. Yet his misfortune was to be Theodore's good fortune. Faced with the inevitable loss of his duchy and his own swiftly approaching mortality, destined to bequeath all he had built and maintained to rapacious foreigners, demeaned and ignored by the crowned heads of Europe, the Grand Duke was truly a man with nothing to lose—and despite his physical infirmity and the presence of Spanish troops in Livorno and Portoferraio, he still held the levers of power in his arthritic hands.

Tuscany, it must be said, was far weaker and poorer than even Genoa. The state's fiscal health was dire; Gian Gastone had ordered reforms which had improved the situation relative to that during his father's reign, but by the Grand Duke's death in 1737 the state debt still stood at 14 million scudi, compared to a gross annual revenue of around 8.6 million. Around 13% of that revenue was devoted to paying for the Spanish garrisons which were maintained in Tuscany against the will of the Grand Duke. Militarily, the state was a non-entity. The army was less than 3,000 strong and considered quite useless, little more than a drain on the treasury. The navy consisted of three galleys which spent much of their time acting as cargo transports for raw silk as a means to defray their expense. The Military Order of Saint Stephen, the Tuscan equivalent of the Knights of Malta which had at one point fielded its own naval flotilla and fought the Ottomans and Barbary corsairs, had been converted into an educational foundation.

This was not a state which was going to come to Theodore's rescue. Nevertheless, while Gian Gastone had no intention of bankrupting his country he knew very well that neither he nor his (non-existent) children would ever have to pay Tuscany's debts. (In fact all his debts would be "inherited" by Francis of Lorraine, though Francis tried unsuccessfully to get out of the obligations.) The Grand Duke had laid out some funds for Theodore's original venture to Corsica and may well have continued to send him funding afterwards. The Grand Duke's greatest contribution to Theodore's cause, however, was as a facilitator. He was more than willing to turn a blind eye to and even abet the schemes of agents, smugglers, and bankers involved in the Corsican cause, and the Genoese envoys found him entirely unresponsive to their demands that he crack down on these rebels and criminals. The Genoese complained to the great powers, too, of the "permissiveness" of the Grand Duke; but everyone could see the Grand Duke would not live much longer, and the Austrians simply did not care enough to make anything more than a token protest which Gian Gastone did not pay the slightest attention to.

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Grand Duke Gian Gastone de Medici, in the dress of a Knight of Saint Stephen

Livorno itself, as well as its lord, was friendly to Theodore's cause. That city had seen its fortunes fall significantly in recent years. This was partly due to the mismanagement of Cosimo and the falling demand for Florentine silk in the north, but it also had much to do with competition from Genoa. Livorno had gained much of its prosperity from its status as a free port in a neutral country, but Genoa had since also been designated as a free port, and Tuscany's neutral status was now in considerable doubt given the state's planned acquisition by the Lorrainers (and thus the Austrians) and the presence of foreign troops in its maritime posts, including Livorno itself. Traffic declined, profits fell, and the outlook for the future seemed grim.

Desperate for new financial opportunities, Livornesi merchants turned to a nearby emerging market: Corsica. Naturally, any trade with Corsica was smuggling (at least in the eyes of the Genoese) and carried considerable additional risk of loss at the hands of Genoese patrol ships. Yet even legitimate trade could be interdicted, as the Barbary corsairs demonstrated regularly, and there was significant profit to be made on Corsica. The Livornesi noted that Corsican olive oil was just as good as Neapolitan oil and could be acquired for much less. Furthermore, because Livorno was a free port and Theodore imposed only a nominal duty at Bastia, the trade was nearly tax-free. If profit could be made while confounding their Genoese rivals, so much the better.

Even illicit trade, however, required finance, and Theodore had a number of contacts in the world of banking. Most important were the two bankers Bertoletti and Huigens, who were based in Livorno and managed the payroll and budget of the Spanish garrison force in Tuscany to the tune of 1,120,827 scudi in 1737 alone (as mentioned, around 13% of the Grand Duchy's annual income). While their business with Theodore is not well documented, they may have been involved in financing smugglers and certainly acted as Theodore's bank in Livorno, by which means Theodore's agents could receive payments, access funds, and use them to buy munitions on the continent without actual specie traveling over Genoese waters. The Genoese consul also reported rumors that Bertoletti and Huigens had sent 30,000 silver piastres to Theodore, which if true suggests that they were not merely acting as merchant bankers but were effectively managing payroll for the Corsican rebels, as Theodore had little other need for coins on Corsica than to pay his soldiers. It would come as little surprise, as the bankers were already performing the same service for the several thousand Spanish troops in the Grand Duchy.

While Livorno was a thus vital to the supply and financing of the rebellion, neither the Livornesi nor the Grand Duke could furnish Theodore with all he required, not merely to win the war but to prove to his "subjects" that he had secured the support of a foreign power as he had promised. The pool of capital was relatively small, and the Livornesi did not have access to a ready or inexpensive supply of arms. There was one power, however, which had all this and more, and whose citizens had already been deeply involved in Theodore's venture beginning with Theodore's original co-conspirator, Johan Willem Ripperda. Ripperda was a Dutchman, and had stowed most of his fortune in Dutch banks before journeying to the Mediterranean to enter the service of Morocco. It was Ripperda who had coordinated the arms shipments which Theodore originally brought with him to Corsica, also Dutch in origin, and without his capital and connections the Corsican expedition could have never succeeded.

Ripperda's health was poor, and he was presently mired in Moroccan intrigues. His old master Moulay Abdallah, after being overthrown by his half-brother Ali in 1734, had returned to the throne in February of 1736 only to be overthrown again that August by another half-brother Mohammad II. The assistance of the Bey of Tunis, arranged by Ripperda and Theodore together, was also in doubt because of domestic turmoil there. Bey Hussein of Tunis had provided Theodore with gold and agreed to a 20-year truce with the new "Kingdom of Corsica" in exchange for good trading terms and assurances that Corsican trade would be good for Tunis.[3] Hussein, however, had been overthrown by his nephew Ali Pasha later that year, and while Hussein would withstand a siege at Kairouan for five years it would ultimately end in his defeat and death. For Theodore, it was a shame to lose him; Hussein had not only been a patron of Theodore's cause, but his two sons, whom he had been grooming as heirs until his overthrow, were half-Corsican on account of their mother, a Corsican concubine. One of these sons would one day rise to the throne, but not until years after the revolution had already been won.

Ripperda would contribute little more to the Corsican cause until his death little more than a year later, but Theodore had since established his own connections with Amsterdam and no longer needed Ripperda as a go-between. He exchanged letters with certain Dutch bankers by way of Thomas Blackwell, an English merchant who was a friend and business partner of the British consul in Tunis Richard Lawrence, father of the late Captain Ortega. Theodore's Jewish backers also had contacts there; one of his principal Jewish investors in Tunis, Mordecai Senega, had a brother, Nehemiah, who was a merchant in Amsterdam and was already involved in the Corsican venture.

Like the Livornesi, the merchants of Amsterdam were always out for new opportunities. Amsterdam, however, was a global financial hub and had a vastly deeper pool of private capital from which to draw. It was also a major manufacturing and export center of munitions: In the early 18th century Dutch merchants exported tens of thousands of muskets and 30,000 tons of gunpowder annually to West Africa alone as part of the slave trade, against which Theodore's 1,000 Dutch muskets in the hold of the Richard was practically a rounding error. Corsica, too, had something to offer Amsterdam. While the Dutch were not terrific connoisseurs of olive oil, olive oil soap was used in an industrial capacity by the Dutch textile industry for fulling wool and felt-making. Because of its utility to an important domestic industry, the import of olive oil into the United Provinces had been declared duty-free.

At the end of the summer of 1736, this relationship was still in its very early stages. Yet the Dutch had now been reading about Theodore's success in their newspapers for months, and their merchants were conversing with local bankers involved with the scheme and hearing rumors of the brisk (albeit illegal) trade between Corsica and Livorno. While the Livornesi could really only afford to concern themselves with today's profits, the deep-pocketed merchants and investors of Amsterdam were able to look further into the future. With high labor costs and high taxes at home, Dutch investors in the early 18th century found domestic investments less attractive than they once had been. The answer was to find investment opportunities abroad, and the Dutch became pioneers in the field of "foreign direct investment." To merely trade guns for oil in Corsica might be profitable, albeit risky; but the real profit lay in independence, for if an investor could get in on the ground floor and set up business relationship with the new regime, he might reap the rewards for years to come.

Footnotes
[1] Although Gian Gastone's persecution of Freemasonry may not have agreed with Theodore, who is often thought to have been a Mason and certainly had many close friends who were.
[2] It was not merely unhappy, but not much of a marriage at all. From the start, the newlyweds had utterly detested each other, and Anna Maria had refused to leave Bohemia. After departing for Tuscany in 1709, Gian Gastone never saw his wife again, although she was still quite alive in 1736.
[3] The Beylik of Tunis thus is often given the distinction of being the first state to formally recognize the Kingdom of Corsica. Whether it really "counts," however, is questionable; Hussein Bey granted his recognition about a year before Theodore's election and coronation, and by the time of Theodore's landing in Corsica Hussein had already been replaced in Tunis by Ali Pasha, who made no effort to grant recognition to the Kingdom of Corsica nor behaved as if it had already been granted.
 
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So a Dutch alliance? Did not see that coming.

Well, "alliance" involves state actors, and at present all I've implied is the interest of private business; Dutch investment is not the same thing as recognition or military support by the States General. That said, governments do tend to look after the economic interests of their citizens.

To an extent, this is OTL. Theodore did indeed have contacts with all the people mentioned (I still have yet to completely make up a character ITTL), and when he left Corsica in November of 1737 he went to Amsterdam and secured the backing of a merchant syndicate there. It was on a Dutch ship which he attempted to make his return to Corsica in August of 1737, although for various reasons he never landed and the mission was ultimately unsuccessful. The difference ITTL is that his improved position in Corsica in late 1736, relative to OTL, accelerates this Dutch interest by a few months.
 
How far will this TL go? Up until Theodore's death?

At present, the plan is for it go until somewhere around 1790, which means it will cover his immediate successor(s) as well. Historically, Theodore died in 1756 at the age of 62, but that was almost certainly because his health failed while in debtor's prison in London. My presumption is that his natural lifespan ITTL would be longer, as the health of kings is generally better than that of paupers languishing in prison.

If I find a satisfactory way to handle the French Revolutionary/Napoleonic period ITTL, then I may go further. The problem is that, as @SenatorErnesto just observed, this timeline is intended to be a "micro-spotlight" on Corsica, and I'm not really sure I want to put in the enormous amount of work it would take to make a plausible world without Napoleon, particularly since that era is not my strong point at all. (Hell, I hardly know much about the 18th century except the research I've done for this thread.)
 
At present, the plan is for it go until somewhere around 1790, which means it will cover his immediate successor(s) as well. Historically, Theodore died in 1756 at the age of 62, but that was almost certainly because his health failed while in debtor's prison in London. My presumption is that his natural lifespan ITTL would be longer, as the health of kings is generally better than that of paupers languishing in prison.

If I find a satisfactory way to handle the French Revolutionary/Napoleonic period ITTL, then I may go further. The problem is that, as @SenatorErnesto just observed, this timeline is intended to be a "micro-spotlight" on Corsica, and I'm not really sure I want to put in the enormous amount of work it would take to make a plausible world without Napoleon, particularly since that era is not my strong point at all. (Hell, I hardly know much about the 18th century except the research I've done for this thread.)

Need any help, I'm your man.
 
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