Sartena, among the last loyalist holdouts
The failure of the Bonifacio expedition compelled King Theodore
and his cabinet to take a sober look at their position and that of the national movement as a whole. Until recently, the Corsican Revolution had been defined by hostility to the Genoese and the revolutionaries united by the desire to expel them from the island. Now that their expulsion was all but effected, however, it was unclear whether the naziunali
were capable of holding together in the absence of their common foe. No longer an insurgency, the “malcontents” were now - or at least aspired to be - a governing authority. Outside of Ajaccio, however, the royalist government was largely ignored in the Dila
, a fact which had been starkly demonstrated by the failure of Matthias von Drost
to drum up any significant support for his action against Bonifacio. The Diqua
was more congenial to the national cause in principle, but in practice the pieves of the north were largely autonomous fiefdoms of royalist notabili
- lieutenant-generals, noblemen, and caporali
- who offered their allegiance to the king and the Corti government but admitted royal authority in their domains only as it pleased them.
There was not much to be done about this situation in the north save through political means, which will be discussed in more detail later, but the problems further south were susceptible to more direct solutions. In the east, the king directed his subordinates to the destruction of Giacomo Filippo Martinetti
, the arch-filogenovese
of Fiumorbo. Despite Genoa’s rapid decline, reconciliation with Martinetti was not possible. He was one of the more notorious lackeys of the Republic, and in 1734 he had personally murdered Giovan Francesco Lusinchi, general della nazione
and one of the leading commanders of the pre-Theodoran revolutionary movement, on the instigation of the Genoese commissioner of Ajaccio (and, it was rumored, for a hefty payout). The late General Lusinchi’s sons, Milanino
, were now among Theodore’s most fervent supporters, and Milanino was the lieutenant-colonel of the national regiment. In 1745 the Marcia
had tried Martinetti in absentia
, convicted him of murder and treason, and sentenced him to death. In the summer of 1746, Theodore ordered Lieutenant-General Alerio Francesco Matra
to carry out this sentence upon “the notorious criminal and traitor Martinetti.” Matra was happy to oblige, and had in fact campaigned for the assignment; Martinetti’s men had threatened him in the past, and he was eager to redeem his military reputation after a lacklustre appearance at the Siege of Bastia. He soon assembled a formidable coalition, backed by the resources and men of his brother-in-law Gianpietro Gaffori
as well as the Zicavese militia of Carlo Lusinchi, who was eager for vengeance.
The conquest of Fiumorbo proved easier than expected. Martinetti had been a powerful caporale
in his time, but then he had been amply supported with Genoese money and munitions. As his patronage dried up so did his base of support and his means of resistance. The Marcia
had ordered that those who defended Martinetti should die with him and those who sheltered him should have their houses burned, and the royalist commanders were happy to oblige. A sizable bounty was also placed on his head. Bereft of resources and fearing betrayal, Martinetti fled after a surprisingly brief resistance. He took to the macchia
and hid for some weeks, planning on eventually making his way south to Bonifacio. Nevertheless, he was eventually spotted while making a covert trip down the mountainside to acquire food, allegedly by a villager seeking to claim the posted reward. He was ambushed by Carlo Lusinchi’s militiamen and shot in the leg while trying to escape. In theory, as a convicted criminal Martinetti was to be returned to the Marcia
for execution; instead he was brutally beaten and then publicly lynched, as the royalist militia claimed shooting was too good for him. Matra, who was in overall command but not present at Martinetti's arrest and execution, privately regretted the brutality of the killing but insisted that justice had been done. “It is entirely just,” he quipped in a letter to the king, “that a man who killed for money should die for money.”
This exercise was a prelude to a longer and more strenuous campaign of pacification in the true south. In what would become known in Corsican history as the “War of La Rocca,” Theodore commissioned his cousin Johann Friedrich von Neuhoff zu Rauschenburg
and Count Michele Durazzo
of Alta Rocca to bring the south into the national fold. Their instructions were to procure pledges of allegiance from the local notabili
and village caporali
, to collect the hearth tax, to establish justice and public order, and to come against any filogenovesi
with fire and steel. They received funds and arms from Theodore, but their forces were made up of militiamen from the Dila
and southernmost Diqua
, excepting only a single company of regular troops placed under Rauschenburg’s command.
Although ostensibly a foray against filogenovesi
like the Fiumorbo expedition, the fact that tax collection
was also a stated goal of the campaign betrays its true aim, which was to establish the royalist government’s control over a region that had long remained outside its orbit. Though the government attempted to portray the campaign as a straightforward struggle between patriots and traitors, things were seldom so simple. By 1746 few residents of the Dila
had much of a connection to Genoa at all, yet many perceived the royalist forces who marched in demanding allegiance and money as intruders, not liberators. Their demands often met with resistance, and resistance was met with force and reprisals. There were murders, arsons, skirmishers, and expulsions committed by all sides - royalist forces, their enemies, and local militia bands of ambiguous loyalty engaged in local feuds or acting notionally as royalist or anti-royalist auxiliaries. Rival families traded accusations of filogenovese
to use the conflict to their advantage and curry favor with the royalists. The war turned some men into bandits, who took to the macchia
with their muskets and hid from the royalists, occasionally sneaking down into the valleys to steal bread. Some remained bandits for years to come.
The conflict was also colored by class. While the nature of Corsican land ownership will be covered more thoroughly in later chapters, it is sufficient to say for now that the Diqua
had a less self-sufficient peasantry and a more powerful class of land-owning notabili
than the interior north. This was in part a legacy of the Middle Ages when the south was the Terra di Signori
, the “land of the lords” in contrast to the more egalitarian and less feudalized Terra di Commune
in the north, but consolidation by the notabili
was also encouraged by the Genoese in order to co-opt the southern elites and dominate the restive Corsican peasantry. Of course most interactions between the farmers and the “dons” (as the southern notabili
were often titled in the Spanish style) were not hostile, and indeed visitors often remarked at how level the class relations were in Corsica, including anecdotes about sharecroppers and landowners taking meals together, having their children play together, and calling each other by their Christian names. But the royalist hunt for “filogenovesi
” sometimes inspired small farmers and sharecroppers to accuse their landlords of collaboration, the most common accusation being that they had used corrupt Genoese courts and officials to expropriate common land.
The royalists had a complicated relationship with these agitating peasants, whose grievances even divided the royalist leaders themselves. Rauschenburg, a poor baron who had commanded a band of shepherd-bandits in the mountains, was not a social revolutionary but certainly had his sympathies with the “loyal” peasantry. In contrast, Durazzo - a southern notabile
of Alta Rocca who was said to be the richest man in the Dila
- was exactly the sort of person the sharecroppers railed against, and “Don Michele
” predictably sided with his fellow landowners. Because Durazzo’s support was critical, Rauschenburg was usually forced to treat the notabili
gently so long as they gave their oaths of allegiance. The farmers, however, did not always wait for the judgment of Theodore’s generals to take matters into their own hands, seizing allegedly “expropriated” land and attacking the estates of “filogenovese
” landowners. These were skirmishes in a wider battle over the fate of the commons that would become one of the dominant political and economic issues of Theodore’s reign.
The most stubborn resistance was in the far south in the region known as La Rocca (thus the name of the conflict), centered around Sartene, Propriano, Olmeto, and the villages of the lower Rizzanese. The loyalists here were encouraged by the Commissioner of Bonifacio Giovanni Cesare Mambilla
, but despite his promises of coming Genoese assistance he could offer only moral support; he had no men, money, or supplies to spare. Mambilla now found himself in the position Theodore had once been in of trying to keep resistance alive with vague promises of some future foreign intervention. Yet despite this lack of support, the distance and terrain of the Dila
still counted for something, and the “War of La Rocca” was not was not to end as quickly as the Fiumorbo expedition. With Sartena in loyalist hands an attack against Bonifacio was impractical, although with their foothold in Porto Vecchio the royalist fighters were able to place a lightly-held but reasonably effective land blockade on the last Genoese citadel. This was of small import initially as very little traffic went overland to Bonifacio, but it grew more significant after the fall of Capraia as sea transport to the city grew much more difficult.
Above it all, Theodore attempted to project an image of serenity and control at home by tackling domestic agenda. The king promulgated an act formally creating a national university, setting aside a government building in Corti for this purpose and appointing as its first rector Father Angelo Galeazzi
, a 38 year old doctor utriusque juris
(that is, holding doctorates in both civil and canon law) who had studied and practiced in Rome. For some time, virtually all of the university’s faculty would be canons; there were not very many educated Corsicans outside the priesthood, and it provided a convenient excuse for Theodore to plunder the tithe for the university’s upkeep rather than providing for it out of his “regular” tax and foreign revenues. Theodore also appointed Salvadore Ginestra
, the son of minister of justice Pietro Simone Ginestra
, as his first “minister of agriculture” with a commission to improve Corsican farming methods and explore new crops that might benefit the nation. Salvadore did have some qualification for the role aside from merely being a government minister’s son; he had studied at the Sapienza in Rome and had taught natural science and botany at the University of Pisa. Theodore unloaded his various ideas on the new minister, suggesting that Corsica might be the “Indies of the Mediterranean” (without slavery, one presumes) and prosper through the export of cash crops like tobacco, sugar cane, and indigo, or grow mulberry trees and produce silk like Piedmont.
The king’s efforts in foreign policy were more substantive than his dabbling in education and agriculture. Anticipating that the war was nearing an end, Theodore reversed his stance on his contract with Sardinia. Up to now he had resisted sending men to the continent aside from a single battalion to keep up appearances, but the danger on Corsica from the Genoese and their allies now seemed low. Although a few hundred more regulars would doubtless have been useful in subduing the south - or even moving against Bonifacio - Theodore determined that it was more important to demonstrate Corsica’s commitment to its “allies” than to retain forces on the island, and began significantly strengthening the Corsican contingent on the mainland. (This move also saved him money.) By the time of the Battle of Draguignan, the number of Corsican soldiers active in the Sardinian army had risen from a low of around 400 to at least 800, and in late 1747 the regiment’s strength on the continent peaked at about 1,100. This still fell well short of the approximately two thousand men which Theodore had promised King Carlo Emanuele
back in 1744, but finding another thousand volunteers to go fight in Provence proved too great of a challenge to overcome. There was one volunteer who went easily, however - after the death of Major Battaglini at Draguignan, Friedrich Wilhelm von Neuhoff zu Pungelscheid
, Theodore's young cousin, begged Theodore to send him to the continent to fulfill his desire for martial glories which had not been fulfilled on Capraia. Somewhat reluctantly, Theodore allowed him to go; he clearly feared that Pungelscheid would share the fate of Battaglini, but the king did
need a new commander on site, Pungelscheid had some experience leading the national troops, and Theodore considered it possible that a dynastic
contribution to the war effort might further raise his profile. Pungelscheid, enjoying the meteoric rise in military ranks common to royalty everywhere, was commissioned a major and sent to Antibes in early August.
Theodore was now also receiving cash, supplies, and provisions from the Tuscan Regency with the approval of Emperor Franz Stefan
- and presumably his wife, the Empress-Queen Maria Theresa
- to the tune of about 500 sequins in value annually (6,750 lire or around 6,300 French livres). Vienna made no concrete demands; they sought no regimental capitulation as the Sardinians had required. Along with the empress’s declaration of Corsica’s severance from the Genoese, this generosity was presumably intended to peaceably bring the island (and Theodore) into the Austrian sphere. While the emperor was politically clueless, however, he did have some shrewdness when it came to money, and dispatched Colonel James Mills
, an English-born Austrian officer living in Tuscany, to serve as his agent in Corsica and report upon the activities of the rebels and the dividends his investment was yielding. He was probably not the most impartial choice; Mills had already met Theodore and the two were on very friendly terms. Upon his arrival in April of 1747, Theodore invited Mills to Corti and fêted him graciously, studiously beginning every dinner with toasts to the health of the emperor and empress. Theodore made every effort to work the colonel over and keep him busy in Corti, and even offered him command of his foreign regiment. Whether Mills took this offer seriously is unclear, but after suffering a spell of illness in July Mills decided to return to Tuscany and his comfortable villa at Pistoia. His absence was unscheduled, but his favorable reports were nevertheless well-received.
In one specific area of foreign policy the king found himself forced by circumstance into yielding to his court. In December of 1746, Theodore came down with a some kind of pneumonia or respiratory illness; it was evidently serious and his cabinet ministers feared he might die. A priest was called into give him a precautionary anointing, and Count Gaffori ministered to him personally (before his career as a politician and a revolutionary, Dr. Gaffori had been a physician). His “nephews” Johann Friedrich von Neuhoff zu Rauschenburg
and Matthias von Drost
rushed back to Corti upon hearing of his illness (putting the southern campaign on hold in Rauschenburg's absence), and several members of the Diet met to discuss what would be done if the king did not survive. Theodore put an end to these fears by recovering, but the illness had starkly demonstrated the uncertainty of the king’s succession. Even as he was still in bed and regaining his strength, Prime Minister Luigi Giafferi
presented the king with a written petition from the Diet: For the good of the kingdom and the Corsican people, they urged him to either take a wife or exercise his constitutional authority to name an heir.
This was not the first time Theodore’s ministers had considered the question of succession. From the very year of his arrival, he had been put in danger repeatedly in battle or by assassination plots, and his supporters had fretted about his safety. He had always dismissed such talk, insisting that he was the very picture of health and that any questions of succession would be amply dealt with once the war was won. His ministers did not press him further, in part because - particularly earlier in his reign - Theodore’s possible death was seen as unfortunate but not terminal. The naziunali
had existed as a movement for years before his arrival and the movement would presumably survive him. After a decade of rule, however, nationalism and royalism had become closely intertwined, and many feared that the unprecedented unity of the naziunali
under Theodore’s rule would be shattered by a succession dispute just as the Revolution seemed to be nearing victory.
The reasons for Theodore’s reluctance to name an heir are not clearly known, but several explanations are plausible. His diplomacy with the Sardinians and Austrians might be endangered by it; both countries presumed that Theodore might yet be persuaded to abdicate his “crown” and deliver it into their hands, a hope which would be undermined by Theodore naming one of his “nephews” as his royal successor. Theodore may have desired to maintain a competitive relationship between his relatives, as the prospect of succession was a very useful motivator, and to pick any one of them would discourage the others and might even stoke conflict. Perhaps the most intriguing argument is that Theodore’s preferred successor was his actual
nephew Charles Philippe de Bellefeulac, Comte du Trévou
, the son of his beloved sister Elisabeth Charlotte. Charles Philippe is the only one of Theodore’s relations who he ever actually referred to as his “heir” during the Revolution, in a letter to King Louis XV
requesting that the Comte du Trévou be permitted to visit him in Corsica so that he might show the people that he had an heir. Given the present situation, however, naming the Comte du Trévou as his successor would be politically untenable. It would have astonished the Corsicans, as King Louis opposed Corsican independence and Corsican forces were even then fighting against the French on the continent - and Theodore’s foreign allies would like it even less. Certainly the British, at that very moment occupying Calvi and San Fiorenzo, would not respond well to news that Theodore proposed to will his kingdom to a French count who was presently serving as an officer in Louis's royal guard.
Marriage, too, was a topic which Theodore had avoided. Although occasionally flirtatious, he had prudently avoided any sort of entanglement with a Corsican lady, which was probably for the best given the island’s social mores regarding courtship and marriage. His romantic engagements during his kingship had been limited to an exchange of letters with his old flame Madame de Champigny
and an alleged romance with Lady Lucy Stanhope
in England. Neither, however, were suitable; Lady Stanhope was a Protestant, and Madame de Champigny already had a husband. As long as the war was ongoing, he argued, he was simply too busy to go bride-shopping, and in any case he doubted that any suitable match was possible as long as he remained an unrecognized king considered abroad to be no more than an adventurer.
Despite these dim prospects for marriage, there was pressure on Theodore from within his own government to marry rather than designate one of his “nephews” as his heir. Rauschenburg was considered to be the most likely choice and had significant support, particularly among the common Corsicans, but he was a somewhat polarizing figure among the elite; Count Gaffori in particular did not much care for him, and since the feeling was mutual the count expected that his high political position would not survive such a succession. Drost was more palatable to some and even had a successor of his own, as his wife Maria Rosa Colonna-Bozzi
had borne him a son, Francesco Antonio
, in 1745.[A]
Rather than improving his chances, however, his family proved an impediment. His brother-in-law Antonio Colonna-Bozzi
was generally a respected figure, but jealousy was a powerful force, and even those who were reasonably well-disposed towards him and his clan were not enthusiastic about the elevation of a notabile
of the Dila
to near-royalty. Pungelscheid had no support; he was a mere boy and had only been on Corsica for a few months at that time. The nearly forgotten Comte du Trévou, who had visited Corsica briefly in 1736, presumably merited no consideration. A natural
heir of the king would avoid all of these problematic choices.
Theodore at first laughed off the Diet’s demands, much to the annoyance of some of his ministers who felt that he was placing the country at risk. They continued to press him, and either because of the weight of their insistence or his own lingering infirmity the king reluctantly agreed to consider taking a wife. The Diet would not presume to tell the king whom he had to marry, but as they suspected Theodore would not make serious inquiries on his own they compelled the king to to give Father Erasmo Orticoni
, his foreign minister, royal license to explore matrimonial options abroad. As Pungelscheid’s siege of Capraia grabbed international attention, Orticoni made his way to the continent in the rather unlikely role of royal matchmaker. His preference was undoubtedly for a Bourbon queen; Orticoni had been a prominent member of the “Spanish party” of the naziunali
in the years before Theodore’s arrival, and had led the delegation to Madrid which offered the Corsican crown to King Felipe V
. As any sort of Bourbon association seemed unlikely, however, he proceeded first to Rome and began a search for an Italian lady who was both high enough in status to marry a king and low enough to marry Theodore
 If one is inclined to be cynical, it is also possible that Gaffori and his fellow “marriage party” ministers did the math and realized that a natural succession was likely to place the kingdom in the hands of a native regency. Already 53 years old, Theodore would probably have to survive well into his 70s to marry, sire an heir, and
see him (or her) reach majority - possible, but as his recent illness had illustrated, far from certain.
[A] I believe this is the first non-historical character thus far in the timeline. Drost did indeed have a son named Francesco, but as far as I know he was not born in 1745.