King Theodore's Corsica

(I need to actually go to Corsica for a vacation someday, the pictures you attach to your posts always show very pictoresque landscapes)

To be honest, I don't even know how someone would write a TL without Google Earth. Between getting photos, measuring distances, and getting a feel for terrain, it's indispensable.
That move is awesome. I love how you unearth all these gorgeous details.

Btw, your TL is bringing back very fond memories of my school excursion to the island nineteen years ago...
L'Affaire Trévou
L'Affaire Trévou


Arms of the Counts of Trévou

Your Excellency would oblige me infinitely to try to inquire his Majesty and the Minister if it is agreeable that I send a qualified person of this country who is accredited to solicit in public this grace and support of the King, and to inform me of the Royal Resolution. I recommend to my dear nephew the Count of Trevoux, if he may procure the consent of his Majesty, that he may come without losing time to join me, both for my consolation and for that of these faithful inhabitants, who look for my successor.

- King Theodore to Count Louis Pierre de la Marck, April 1736

In mid-October, before Colonel Giovan Luca Poggi's marine raid on Tettola, a tartane brought a distinguished visitor to Theodore by way of Isola Rossa. It was a Frenchman who asked to see "King Theodore," and was soon taken to him. He was none other than Charles Philippe de Bellefeulac, Comte du Trévou, Theodore's nephew.[1]

Charles Philippe was the son of Theodore's beloved sister Elizabeth Charlotte[2] and the previous Comte du Trévou, Andre de Bellefeulac. Theodore had not been on good terms with his brother-in-law, whom he had struck and injured over an argument about money in his younger days. Charles Philippe, however, was only a few months old when Count Andre was killed in battle in 1719, too young to inherit a grudge. Theodore's sister had died in 1725, and the orphaned Charles Philippe had later obtained a junior officer's position in the Gardes Françaises, one of the elite regiments of the French king's household guard. For unknown reasons, he appears to have quit his commission in early 1736, and the tales of his uncle's exploits in Corsica convinced him to travel there with a modest amount of smuggled muskets and ammunition. The teenage count seems to have had more than a bit of Theodore's adventurous and at times reckless character.

Theodore greeted his young nephew cordially, but his advice was not what Charles Philippe had expected. The count had no doubt hoped that he would be given some position of high command and may have even anticipated being named as Theodore's heir; all the continent knew that the so-called King of Corsica had no legitimate children. Back in April Theodore had written one of his most powerful friends and an old wartime associate of his, Louis Pierre Engelbert, Comte de la Marck, to convince the Versailles government to allow Charles Philippe to come to Corsica, but he had never received a response. In fact Louis Pierre had forwarded the letter to the French foreign secretary Marquis Germain-Louis Chauvelin, explaining:

I was very surprised this morning when I received from Signeur Bigani by way of Livorno a letter from the pretended new king of Corsica, the family of which is a good and noble house of Westphalia. He was a page of the late Madame, who wished that I should give him a post in a regiment of cavalry which I had the honor to command. At about forty years of age, after having served there a few years, he went to foreign countries, and after some time I learned that he was attached to the service of Spain, where he had a colonel's commission. After marrying a court lady, for whom the queen had a great friendship, he went from there to the Emperor's service, after which I had for many years lost sight of him. I have thought it my duty to send you all, if you are curious enough to be informed of the consequences of this event, which is in any case a bizarre one...

Theodore did not know that La Marck had sent his letter to the French government, but he clearly realized that Charles Philippe was not on Corsica with the blessings of the king as he had hoped for in his letter to La Marck. Theodore also realized that given the pivotal role of France in the diplomatic game of Corsican independence, a seventeen year old (former) lieutenant of the Gardes Françaises in Corsica was much less useful to him than a French nobleman at Versailles. Theodore urged his nephew to return to France, make no mention of his Corsican excursion, and try to get his commission back; perhaps then he could use his position and influence to gain the ear of the king and his ministers on his uncle's behalf. It was an eminently sensible suggestion, but a letdown for the count, who had been hoping for more glory and less politicking.

Charles Philippe grudgingly took his uncle's advice and set sail for France after only a brief stay on the island. The rough weather which caused so much difficulty for the Genoese, however, also proved troublesome to the count, whose ship was captured by a Genoese armed felucca patrolling off Isola Rossa. Initially the count concealed his identity, but the Genoese clearly suspected something, and he was taken into custody and was at length forced to reveal his identity in order to avoid prison.


Cardinal Fleury, chief minister of King Louis XV

Thoedore had from the earliest days of his reign reached out to the French government for support or at least recognition without success. The position of foreign minister Chauvelin and the king's chief minister Cardinal André Hercule de Fleury was that Theodore was a probable foreign agent and that Corsica should remain Genoese (at least, in the opinion of some ministers, unless and until an opportunity could be leveraged to make it French). Chauvelin, however, had been very careful to conceal that Versailles had ever been in communication with Theodore, even if the communication was one-way. In his reply to La Marck's letter containing Theodore's missive, he added that "it is fitting that it should not be known that you have informed me of this letter or those of which you will later inform me." The count's capture and release, however, blew this attempt at secrecy wide open. "Reliable" reports of Trévou's identity were forwarded to the British government by their consul in Genoa John Bagshaw. It was now known, in diplomatic circles if not the newspaper-reading public at large, that the count had gone secretly to the island and had met with King Theodore.

The British were attentive; the Sardinian ministry went through the roof. Turin's envoy to Genoa, Count Balbo Simeone de Rivera, was seemingly inclined to alarmism anyway. Earlier that year he had uncovered "proof" that the Genoese had submitted a plan to the court of Madrid offering to sell the island to Spain. That had been a false alarm—he seems to have either misinterpreted or mistranslated the proposal of the rebels back in 1734 to offer their island to the infante Charles, and may have also been the victim of a forgery. Now, however, he presented Marquis Carlo Vincenzo Ferrero d'Ormea, secretary of state and foreign minister of the Savoyard monarchy, with evidence of the "Trévou Affair." France, of course, was entirely innocent, but from Turin it looked damning. Could Versailles really have been ignorant of a French count, who just happened to be both a close relation of Theodore and an officer in the king's household guard, going in secret to Corsica? Being his nephew, perhaps the intent was that a French aristocrat should succeed the adventurer. Was this the plan all along, the secret device by which Theodore's patron would use the adventurer-king to annex the island—to have Theodore attain supreme power and then hand it over, by way of his nephew, to Versailles?


Marquis d'Ormea, Secretary of State and later Grand Chancellor of the Kingdom of Sicily

The affair did more than merely alarm the Sardinians, however. Although the Genoese government had been attempting to keep France on its side, relations were nevertheless strained, as the Republic's ministers were well aware that there were some in the French government who wanted a much greater French presence in Corsica than the Genoese could ever be comfortable with. They could not have been entirely ignorant of the schemes of minister Jacques de Campredon, who at one point had recommended that the French simply sweep in and take the island by force, nor his attempts to quietly build sympathy for French dominion among the rebel leaders before Theodore's arrival. Moreover, they resented the request, however reasonable it had been, that Trévou be immediately released. As a French nobleman, the Genoese obviously could not throw him in irons, and since there had been no contraband on his ship there was no hard evidence with which to accuse him of supporting the rebels or breaking the law either of the Republic or of France.

A furious exchange of letters followed between the concerned capitals, and in particular between Turin and London. Sardinia and Britain were not allies, least of all against France—in fact Sardinia was an ally of France, having fought alongside them in the recent (technically ongoing, although not "hot" since the preliminary armistice in late 1735) War of Polish Succession. Turin, however, was well aware that they were in no position to oppose France militarily and had no navy worthy of the name. France had been stepping very carefully in the recent war to avoid Britain joining the conflict against it, and the Sardinians believed that only strong British opposition stood a reasonable chance of convincing the French abort the schemes they imagined that Versailles might be hatching.


Sir Robert Walpole, Prime Minister of Great Britain

Turin was to be disappointed by the response of the British government. The British did summon the Genoese ambassador in London, Giovan Battista Gastaldi, and remind him in no uncertain terms that they would not abide the sale or cession of Corsica to another power, but this had already been the position of the government of Sir Robert Walpole, albeit now more forcefully stated. It differed only from the French position in that it merely opposed the cession of the island without explicitly endorsing the sovereignty of the Genoese, but as the British government continued to enforce the Genoese-requested ban on commerce with the "malcontents" this can hardly be seen as a statement in favor of Theodore or the rebels. Although their newspapers spun wild-eyed speculation and conspiracy theories, the rather more sober British government seems to have been inclined to be skeptical of the importance of the "Trévou Affair," considering it something of a tempest in a teacup, and were apparently far less concerned about French ties to Theodore than the French were of his supposed British ties.

Charles Philippe himself was not long inconvenienced by the scandal. After his release, he made a fulsome apology to his government; he admitted that he had committed an indiscretion out of concern for the safety of his uncle, but insisted that at no point had he supported or taken any part in the rebellion. He was even reinstated in his regiment, perhaps by the mercy of the king or just as a means to keep the impulsive young count out of idleness. The wedge which his stunt had driven between the French and the Sardinians, however, to say nothing of the Genoese themselves, showed signs that the effects of his island jaunt might outlast the count's momentary humiliation.[A]

[1] Trévou (today Trévou-Tréguignec) is a village on the northern coast of Brittany. It is not to be confused with Trévoux, a city near Lyon in southern France. Confusingly, Theodore's nephew is often referred to as the "Count of Trévoux" (including by Theodore himself), a result of inconsistent 18th century spelling.
[2] Her birth name was Marie Anne Leopoldine, but after becoming a maid to Elisabeth Charlotte, the Duchess of Orleans, she had taken her mistress's name(s) in her honor.

Timeline Notes
[A] Charles Philippe did actually visit his uncle Theodore secretly in late 1736. Theodore, as ITTL, urged him to return to France, which he shortly did. The difference is that IOTL he was not captured, and the matter remained largely a secret. Allegedly, while hunting with King Louis XV in November, the king asked the Comte du Trévou "so when are you going to visit your royal uncle?" The count, wisely interpreting this as a joke, cautiously responded "I am willing to go as soon as Your Majesty will appoint me French ambassador." The matter ended there, and Louis may have never been aware that the count actually had visited his "royal uncle" mere weeks before. This update is not yet a substantial departure from history, diplomatically speaking; in particular, I think British policy regarding Theodore and Corsica is unlikely to change much before the WoAS, as the Walpole government showed little sign of even entertaining the notion of supporting the rebels. ITTL, however, Charles Philippe's butterflied capture serves to further erode the Franco-Genoese relationship (which was already quite anxious and hostile despite France's stated commitment to supporting Genoese sovereignty) and may nudge Sardinia slightly further towards a suspicion of French motives. Charles Philippe is, by the way, the first candidate we have met for Theodore's succession, the only one of Theodore's "nephews" who actually was his nephew (as opposed to his cousin), and the only person we know of who Theodore ever suggested he might designate as his heir. This, however, is only 1736, and it will be many years yet before Theodore actually has to make that decision. By no means is this choice final ITTL.
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Well that certainly became quite the scandal, I wonder what long term effects this will have on France and Sardinia Piedmont. Might we see them come to blows over Corsica because of this?
Why was Charles Philippe captured in this ATL when he wasn't OTL?

Theodore's situation ITTL is quite different by now than his historical situation. By this time IOTL, Theodore had gone into the Dila as his fortune seemed to wane in the north, and in November he would leave the island entirely. While it's difficult to find out much about the specifics of when Louis Philippe arrived or where exactly he went, clearly his itinerary and probably his timing ITTL would be entirely different than the same IOTL. Furthermore, ITTL Theodore (more specifically Fabiani, who by this time IOTL was assassinated) controls most of the Balagna, which was not true IOTL. This means more of the Balagna's resources are in rebel hands, which in turn means that Isola Rossa, the main rebel port in the Balagna, is a much busier smuggling hub and correspondingly given more emphasis by the Genoese navy. IOTL, Isola Rossa was of some consequence under Theodore but it really only became important in Paoli's time, and most smuggling (and thus most interdiction) seems to have been directed at the eastern coast via Livorno.

Well that certainly became quite the scandal, I wonder what long term effects this will have on France and Sardinia Piedmont. Might we see them come to blows over Corsica because of this?

Unlikely - Sardinia was not only a French wartime ally at this moment but much weaker than France. Charles Emmanuel III knew that his state was not a great power and was far too sensible a man to take on France without the significant backing of other great powers. The Corsican situation troubles the Sardinians but they're not going to start a war over it, and certainly not against France (if it was just against Genoa, they very well might, but they know that France would never, ever let them simply attack Genoa without intervention). Nor is Sardinia going to offer covert support, at least not yet - after all, the "scandal" suggests that Theodore might be a French stooge, which is a good reason for the Sardinians not to support him. For now there are probably going to be no consequences regarding Sardinia, but as we'll see, the diplomatic situation will not remain static.
The question are whether the French begins to believe that it's internal French fraction which support Theodore, it could lead to the French deciding it's safer to support him, to avoid the different Feench political actors tripping over each other's legs.
I just discovered this TL and binge-read it. This is awesome work Carp, bravo! What I find particularly amusing is that some of these noble families of Corsica are right now among the most important families in France (most of them in right-wing “political dynasties”): among them the d'Ornano, Ceccaldi and Pozzo di Borgo.

A question however. You are obviously massively documented on the subject. A quick look at the Internet reveals a higher-than-expected number of books on Neuhoff (mostly in French, which is my main language, but also a few in English). Are there any of them that you read and would recommend?
The question are whether the French begins to believe that it's internal French fraction which support Theodore, it could lead to the French deciding it's safer to support him, to avoid the different Feench political actors tripping over each other's legs.

French policy on Corsica in the 1730s-40s was quite consistent: Genoese sovereignty should be maintained to avoid Corsica coming into the hands of any foreign power, particularly Britain. Fleury (the chief minister), Chauvelin (the foreign minister), and Maurepas (the minister of the navy/overseas) were all basically on the same page. The only real "alternate strategy" to be articulated was that of Campredon, who as we have seen advocated a forceful annexation, but Campredon was merely a diplomat; as the French "man on the scene" in Genoa, he provided information and made recommendations, but did not craft policy. I tend to doubt that Trevou's excursion, if it had been discovered, would have left anybody inside the French ministry wondering whether some other part of the government was at work; there's not really anyone else it could be. Foreigners might suspect France of duplicity, but the French ministers themselves don't have any good reasons to think there's some pro-Theodore faction within their own government. The only person of rank who came under some suspicion IOTL for assisting Theodore was his maternal uncle, the Baron von Neyssen, who was an officer in La Marck's regiment, but although Neyssen seems to have been sympathetic to Theodore and made an attempt to argue his case (Theodore, he said, would gladly put himself under the protection of the French king), he strenuously maintained that his first loyalty was to the King of France, and there's no reason to believe that the French government suspected him of anything more. Chauvelin assured the suspicious Genoese that Neyssen was not a problem, but notably he avoided mentioning the bit about Theodore asking for French protection.

One does wonder whether there could have been any condition under which the French would have accepted that request for protection. It's not clear what it would mean, exactly, because Theodore didn't really specify - did he envision a mostly-independent Kingdom of Corsica as a French protectorate, or was his notion that he might abdicate the throne and become a viceroy or governor as he had been perfectly willing to do in his proposals for a Stuart or Sardinian Corsica years later? In an offer to Britain, Theodore was quite willing to sign over one of Corsica's port cities to them and give them broad extraterritorial concessions, including the right to garrison troops there, which the French might see as a sufficiently acceptable way to ensure the British didn't come marching in. The main problem remains, however, which is that to take Theodore up on his offer would mean a complete betrayal of the Genoese. Given how Campredon's plan got thoroughly quashed by King Louis, I have my doubts that such a move would ever happen. That said, however, while the Genoese were not ready to give up on Corsica in 1736, Theodore IOTL did not do nearly as well as Theodore ITTL, and it's possible to envision Genoese defeatism ITTL starting earlier than the 1760s.

The million dollar question as to French policy on Corsica in the 1730s is this: Did they anticipate annexation? Obviously France did annex Corsica, but only decades later, when France was under a different government (Choiseul's ministry) and in a different geopolitical environment (in the wake of the humiliation of the Seven Years War). Some writers see the cession and conquest of Corsica in 1768-9 as a culmination of French policy since the 1730s, suggesting that annexation was something which Fleury, Chauvelin, and/or others had in mind all along, presumably not acting on it only because the time was not yet ripe.

I think that's possible, but the simplest explanation is that Chauvelin, Maurepas, etc. meant what they said - they feared a foreign takeover in Corsica (which, in fairness, was what pretty much everyone thought Theodore was up to) and wanted to keep that from happening. Certainly France, more than any other power, seems to have wanted to make itself the privileged intermediary between Genoa and the Corsicans, and insisted not only that Corsica not be sold to any other power but that only they themselves should contribute troops (if foreign troops were requested). When the French occupied Corsica from 1738 to 1741, they certainly did their best to gain advantage from it, including by raising a regiment of troops (the Royal Corse) from ex-revolutionaries who decided they were better off fighting for France than remaining subjects of Genoa, but they took great pains to insist that they were there to enforce Genoese rule. Many of the Corsicans in 1738 were practically begging for France to annex the island, and some prominent rebel leaders welcomed news of French intervention when they thought it would be a prelude to French rule. When they found out that the French had no such intention, however, most resolved to resist. Maillebois, the general who conquered Corsica and basically ruled it until his recall back to France, did try to moderate Genoese demands (as he very correctly realized that the rebellion would just pop back up again if the Genoese offered no serious concessions, which is exactly what happened) but he made it clear from the start that it was the Genoese, not the French, who ruled Corsica. That seems to me to be more consistent with a policy of "privilege and denial" - deny Corsica to other powers, maintain France as the privileged power in Genoese-Corsican affairs - than one of creeping annexation.

It's interesting to note, by the way, that Campredon's plan could have been accomplished with extreme ease in 1740. The French had pacified the island, their troops on Corsica massively outnumbered the Genoese, and if they at that moment had abruptly declared that the island was now French they would have been, to use a now-famous phrase, "greeted as liberators." Instead, their invasion came only decades later, after the Corsicans had erected their own republic and begun to govern themselves, and so instead of liberators they went down in (Corsican) history as invaders and conquerors.

I just discovered this TL and binge-read it. This is awesome work Carp, bravo! What I find particularly amusing is that some of these noble families of Corsica are right now among the most important families in France (most of them in right-wing “political dynasties”): among them the d'Ornano, Ceccaldi and Pozzo di Borgo.

Thanks! As for the prominence of those families in modern politics, I certainly did not know that - it makes me wonder if there's anybody today who actually claims a "Theodoran" noble title, as he made the heads of those families and many others counts and marquesses.

A question however. You are obviously massively documented on the subject. A quick look at the Internet reveals a higher-than-expected number of books on Neuhoff (mostly in French, which is my main language, but also a few in English). Are there any of them that you read and would recommend?

I have no special resources which are not online and publicly available. I use a number of French and Italian sources, which I run through a translator (and try to corroborate against other sources, to make sure I'm not committing an error because of a Google Translate flub). If it's about Theodore, online, and translatable, I've probably read or at least skimmed it at some point.

I don't feel completely comfortable recommending something in a language I don't read, but if you want something recent, detailed, and in French, you might try Théodore de Neuhoff, roi de Corse by Antoine-Laurent Serpentini. Alternately, Le Roi Théodore by Antoine-Marie Graziani is also recent, widely cited, and comes from a respected Corsica scholar, but as I've been unable to find much of its contents online I can't personally vouch for it.

Unfortunately, English speakers don't have all that much to choose from in terms of modern texts on Theodore. The most recent and detailed English-language text is probably Theodore von Neuhoff, King of Corsica: The Man Behind the Legend by Julia Gasper; it's certainly a good read although I find it a little bit hyper-revisionist in the sense that it exchanges the old "he was a crazy swindler" view of Theodore for "he was an arch-Enlightenment genius." (Also, I have trouble recommending the book because I find Gasper's personal politics to be extremely odious; as to not get too off-track, I'll just say her views on LGBT people make Rick Santorum look like Dan Savage.)
With a Whimper
With a Whimper


The Plain of the Aliso, the focal point of the Battle of San Fiorenzo

Thus far in their Nebbio campaign, time had been on the side of the Corsicans. Their slow strangulation of San Fiorenzo had sunk Genoese morale to rock-bottom and caused conditions in the besieged town to deteriorate to abominable levels. In addition to the bouts of malaria which struck the garrison (especially, it was said, the Germans and Swiss), the unhygienic conditions had led to epidemics of scabies and typhus. Yet Theodore was now beginning to come to the end of his means. Powder and ammunition were running low—his tricks to smuggle powder out of San Fiorenzo itself only got him so far—and cash with which to keep his army in the field was likewise being quickly drained away.

Other grave issues, too, pressed upon him. Late October brought the news of the assassination of Count Anton-Francesco Giappiconi, Theodore's minister of war and one of his most prominent supporters, who was ambushed and slain in the Castagniccia while attempting to raise troops. The assassins were claimed by some to have been motivated by vendetta against Theodore's regime, perhaps regarding the execution of the traitor Luccioni early in the war, but the Corsicans universally believed that Genoese money had paid for his death. Coming close one the heels of this misfortune was a major incursion led by Genoese troops gathered at Porto Vecchio, who had devastated Fiumorbo and now advanced towards Aleria on the eastern coast.

Both events demonstrated the strategy of the new Genoese commissioner Giovanni-Battista de Mari. Mari, a well-respected diplomat who had been brought out of retirement to take over the administration of Corsica, had no military experience but considerable cunning and political savvy. Given the difficulties of Colonel Marchelli at San Fiorenzo and the poor state of the Genoese military in Corsica generally, Mari concentrated his funds on assassinating or suborning rebel leaders and concentrated his forces on the "soft underbelly" of the eastern Diqua, hoping to cause enough disunion and panic as to compel Theodore to abandon his siege or at least bleed away his troops until the siege was no longer practicable.

It was a good strategy, as Theodore could not easily respond. He needed San Fiorenzo: with it, the productive Nebbio could be secured, a new major port could be added to Bastia and Isola Rossa, and the whole northeast quadrant of the island would be free of easy staging areas for Genoese invasions.[1] Without it, his political position might well crumble, and his reign could be at an end. Theodore dispatched Colonel Antonio Colonna, one of his most trusted commanders, to organize a defense, but he could not afford to send more than a token bodyguard with him; the rebels in the south would have to rely on themselves and their own resources.

By this point the Genoese garrison of San Fiorenzo under Marchelli numbered between one thousand and 1,200 men. This was a considerable drop from a high of more than three thousand shortly after his disembarkation on Corsica, caused by the loss at Rutali (in which some estimated nearly a thousand Genoese and auxiliaries were lost) as well as desertion, death, and medical evacuation due to the abysmal conditions in the Genoese camp. Theodore's force did not vastly outnumber them, if indeed it outnumbered them at all—modern estimates range from a thousand to 1,500 men, which by rebel standards was a very large army, surpassed only by the two thousand or so Theodore had led against the Genoese at Furiani at the outset of his reign. As Marchelli continually complained in his letters to the Senate that even some of the soldiers who remained suffered from ailments which made them unable to fight, however, raw numbers may not give a full account of the Corsican advantage.

Theodore could wait no longer, and on the 2nd of November the Corsicans under Lieutenant-General Count Andrea Ceccaldi surged forward across the Aliso valley. Theodore had hoped for surprise, but he did not get it—Costa blamed traitors within the royalist camp. What followed was a stinging rebel defeat. The marshy terrain around the Aliso slowed and disordered the rebel advance. Theodore had ordered several cannon moved to Buttogio to cover their advance, but their fire was innacurate and made little impression. The Genoese, formed up on the slope of the Silla Morta, laid down fire into the milling crowds of slowly-advancing rebel infantry, and two Genoese guns joined their volleys with grapeshot. The Corsicans stuck with the attack longer than expected considering how many were irregulars; it was the terrain and their tactics which were in doubt, not their bravery. Nevertheless, after three hours of fighting the Corsicans pulled back, having suffered much worse than the Genoese defenders.

On their far left flank the Genoese had posted a Swiss company under Captain Jost, a mercenary officer from Grisons. Theodore and Ceccaldi had not placed much emphasis on this flank, staffing it only with irregulars, but Jost's position had a wooded creek-bed immediately below it. The irregulars, having advanced as far as this wood, took cover among the trees and shot at the Swiss. This shoot-out ended when Jost ordered an advance with the bayonet, at which point the irregulars fled. Jost, preparing for a second assault and wishing to deny the enemy their cover, decided to keep his newly-taken position on the other side of the wood. This made another such rebel advance under cover impossible, but it also put him out of position, much further forward than the main line and with his own flank unprotected.

The Corsican command soon realized the error. Theodore ordered Captain Silvestre Colombani and his foreign company to reinforce the right flank, and sent a horse messenger for Colonel Giovan Natali, whose position was east of San Fiorenzo. During that morning's attack, Natali had made a foray down the defile of the Poggio which had been easily repulsed; it may have been a feint anyway. This time, Natali took most of his men south, leaving only a token force at the Poggio gap. During these maneuvers, Theodore ordered the bombardment of the Genoese lines to resume, while Ceccaldi organized a demonstration in the center to occupy the attention of the Genoese. Obscured by the cliffs of the Silla Morta, Natali's movement was unobserved.

The second major assault began around an hour after noon. Natali's attack was observed by the Genoese Major Morati, who detached forces to reinforce Jost, but it was too late; Jost's exposed flank was hit by Natali's militia and the battle in the woods behind his forward position turned into a melee, and the Swiss and Corsicans were said to have clashed with bayonets and cutlasses. Professionals though they were, the Swiss were both outnumbered and enveloped and did not stand for long.

The main rebel attack had been no more successful than the first; less so, in fact, since the troops were shy after the early morning butchery and Colonel Carlo Felice Giuseppe on the rebel left had outright refused to make another attack through the marshes. The forces of Natali and Colombani were so disorganized from the melee in the woods that they were incapable of following up with an immediate attack against the Genoese center. A counterattack might have restored the Genoese position, or a new line might have been formed on the north ridge of the Silla Morta. Instead, however, and much to the bafflement of the Corsicans, the Genoese withdrew; the Genoese center abandoned its position and retreated past the Poggio into San Fiorenzo proper, and the rest of the force followed. In effect, Jost's withdrawal sent the entire army into retreat.

Marchelli, who came under harsh criticism for his actions, was accused by some of cowardice and incompetence. Marchelli himself would later turn the blame on Morati, who was at the front and (he claimed) ordered the withdrawal. If so, perhaps Morati, seeing Jost collapse on his left, simply lost his nerve and started a retreat to avoid being outflanked; in fairness to him, he was not fully aware of the situation on the left, where the field was partially forested and an unexpected force had just come out of nowhere. It is possible he believed that the attack on his left was a far more serious affair than what it actually was, and after seeing Jost's retreat ordered a tactical withdrawal that could not be undone without tremendous confusion.

The Genoese troops retreated in good order, but as a result they abandoned not only their two field guns but their best defensive position. The Corsicans crossed the killing field of the marshy Aliso valley almost without opposition. Marchelli did his best to organize his forces for a counterattack, but by the time he was ready it was already well into the afternoon and the rebels had crested the Silla Morta. His attack, the final major action of the day, was halfhearted and failed to dislodge the rebels. The only real creditable action by a Genoese commander was in the north, where Captain Franchi repulsed an attack by Captain Poggi and held the bridge over the Natio. Bloodied and tired, the Corsicans could give no more, and the day's battle ended. The Genoese still held the town and the Poggio river, but their position was now hopeless. On the day after the battle, Major Antone Nobile Battisti was called forward to assemble most of the field guns and a few of the Ochinese battery guns into a "grand battery" of seven cannon to the north of Buttogio, where they could bombard the defenders and the town center at no more than a thousand yards. The Corsican gunners, inexperienced though they were, could easily range their guns on these stationary targets.

At last the Genoese had a stroke of luck; the arrival of a flotilla of eight ships bearing food and ammunition which had threaded the needle down the Bay of San Fiorenzo thanks to congenial weather. They did not bring many reinforcements, however, and at this point food and ammunition were of limited tactical value when Marchelli's own headquarters was being struck by cannonballs, although the rebel battery fire had slowed somewhat in an effort to conserve dwindling powder.

Marchelli, believing himself to be heavily outnumbered and probably unaware of the rebels' difficulties with powder, decided the cause was hopeless. Commissioner-General Mari, however, had instructed him to hold the port at all costs and had forbidden him to enter into any negotiations with the rebels. He found a solution: taking three of the recently-arrived ships, he loaded the wounded and sick on board and announced that he would be personally returning to Genoa to demand reinforcements from the Senate. He ordered Morati to supervise the defense until he returned, and conveyed to him Mari's warning not to surrender.

It seems unlikely that he actually imagined that this plan was likely to succeed given the grave situation of the Genoese at San Fiorenzo. He had, in effect, stitched up Morati, who he disliked and blamed for the earlier withdrawal; if the garrison really was doomed to fall, then it would fall on Morati's watch, and Marchelli could disavow any surrender as contrary to his direct orders. When the colonel sailed away, Morati was left with no more than 600 troops, and while his food situation had been improved his tactical situation was grim. The rebels outnumbered him and outgunned him, and he held a largely unfortified position surrounded by enemies.

It was only a matter of days before he decided that he was not going to preside over the wholesale loss of the garrison as Marquis Rivarola had when Bastia fell, and elected to use the remaining ships anchored off Tettola beach to evacuate with all the men they could carry. That this withdrawal was accomplished largely unmolested suggested to some that Morati had come to some agreement with the rebels; he strenuously denied it, and it is also possible that the rebels, having taken serious casualties of their own and critically low on gunpowder, simply lacked the means to oppose his flight. On November 13th, King Theodore and his army entered the battered town of San Fiorenzo, and the Moor's Head was raised above the pockmarked citadel.[2]

For Theodore, the victory was a vital one, the culmination of a campaign in the northeast fought since that spring. Yet unlike his victory at Bastia, which had fueled his later campaigns with arms, money, and munitions, San Fiorenzo did not provide him with much of a boost. Unlike Rivarola, who had been forced to capitulate, Morati had withdrawn with most of the militarily useful stores. As for money, San Fiorenzo was a tiny village compared to Bastia, and the surrounding countryside had long since been looted or ruined by months of conflict between the rebels and the filogenovesi. An addition of a port, particularly one as good as San Fiorenzo, was a potential boon to the rebels, but it did not immediately fill his pockets or his magazines.

He had little choice but to disband his army to conserve his dwindling money and munitions. All that remained was the "royal guard" and the foreign company, together amounting to no more than 400 men, and some of these were needed to assist Colonel Natali, the newly-appointed military governor of the Nebbio, in keeping control of a province that was still in large part pro-Genoese. When he returned to Vescovato in the following week, it was with fewer than 250 men. Colonna had not encountered much success raising volunteers in the south, but the situation in Fiumorbo was stabilized somewhat by the actions of the rebel zealots of Zicavo,[A] who under the Lusinchi brothers, Milanino and Carlo, contested Fiumorbo with the Genoese in the traditional manner of ambuscades and guerrilla actions. This opposition, the fall of San Fiorenzo, and raids by General Michele Durazzo against the environs of Porto Vecchio would eventually convince the Genoese to halt their advance and return to winter quarters.

Map of Corsica, Mid-November 1736
(Click for Large)

[1] Although the Genoese did occupy the northern end of the Capo Corso, that position was at the end of a long, narrow, and mountainous peninsula. To sustain a serious offensive down the length of the Cape was a logistical near-impossibility for the Genoese.
[2] As a postscript, Morati was arrested along with Marchelli upon his return to Genoa on suspicion of cowardice. Marchelli's argument that he had merely taken a brief and necessary leave to gather reinforcements was scarcely believable, and yet no prosecution followed. The likely explanation is that Genoa feared the consequences of such an action. The Genoese blockade of Corsica was not only of goods and materiel, but information; diplomats remarked that one could always tell when the Genoese were doing poorly because there would be a prolonged dearth of any news at all about Corsica. To subject either Marchelli or Morati to a public court-martial would involve divulging details about just how poor the Genoese situation was and how badly they had performed. The Senate, or perhaps the War Office, probably decided it would be far better to sweep it all under the rug. Both men were soon freed and retained their ranks, although Morati languished on indefinite half-pay and eventually resigned from the army. Marchelli seems to have remained active, probably thanks to his influential family, but he was never again posted to Corsica.

Timeline Notes
[A] "Zealots" is an appropriate word. Theodore was very popular in Zicavo, which IOTL constituted the last refuge of the rebel movement during the French occupation of 1738-41. This popularity was in part due to the efforts of a charismatic local priest who preached that the rebellion was a holy war and that killing a Genoese soldier would immediately absolve one of all sin. While the mountain shepherds of Niolo enjoyed a reputation as the hardiest and most warlike of the rebels, nobody surpassed the Zicavesi in devotion to the King.
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I've found it, the best contemporary picture of a Corsican rebel ever

Nothing says "fearsome" like a no-necked hunchback in a hoodie. Also how did this guy get three guns, that's hardly fair.

(The garment looks like it's supposed to be a pilone, a traditional Corsican voluminous hooded cloak made of thick felted wool to be weather-resistant, although my understanding is that a pilone doesn't generally have sleeves.)

The cause of the Corsicans advances. A victory, not a resounding one with so few supplies gained and such cost to attain, but still a victory. And now King Theodore holds control over the Northwest, strengthening his positoin against both rivals and the Genoese.

But it seems events on the Continent will be key to the kingdom being able to rise from this crucible as a nation in its own right.
I've found it, the best contemporary picture of a Corsican rebel ever

Nothing says "fearsome" like a no-necked hunchback in a hoodie. Also how did this guy get three guns, that's hardly fair.

(The garment looks like it's supposed to be a pilone, a traditional Corsican voluminous hooded cloak made of thick felted wool to be weather-resistant, although my understanding is that a pilone doesn't generally have sleeves.)

Clearly you should have the invention of the Hoodie be something that Theodore introduces. The picture commands it.
The Farewell
The Farewell


Engraving of King Theodore, flanked by Marquis Luigi Giafferi and Count Sebastiano Costa

Although the Genoese had at first scoffed at him, the soi-disant King of Corsica had led the nationals to the height of their seven-year rebellion. Genoese presence in the whole of the Diqua had been effectively reduced to Calvi, Algajola, and a few minor outposts in Capo Corso; while their hold in the Dila was marginally better, the rebels still held Ajaccio in a vise and the Genoese offensive from Porto Vecchio had run out of steam in Fiumorbo. Having tried every trick imaginable to drum up more soldiers, the Genoese were now facing a manpower crisis. Even the Swiss, who were normally quite happy to accept Genoese sequins—particularly in the wake of the War of Polish Succession, in which many now found themselves unemployed—were harder to come by and demanding more money given how their comrades already on Corsica had been faring.

Yet the rebels had a manpower crisis of their own. The localized organization of the rebel movement meant that offensives were very often opportunistic and situational; they did not happen when the rebel generals decreed it so, but when sufficient numbers of local Corsican caporales and their followers deemed it worthwhile. When there was a clear threat, like the Genoese occupation of the Nebbio, it was relatively easy to muster men who only had to walk a few miles to fight the enemy. Now, however, the Diqua was largely free of Genoese influence, and it was difficult to get the men of the Castagniccia, the heart of the rebel movement and the source of most of its soldiers since 1730, to go out and fight in the Dila or Balagna. Even if they had been willing, Theodore was wary of his dwindling funds and was even harder up for ammunition and gunpowder. Supplies had continued to trickle in all year, but while the capture of San Fiorenzo had opened up a new port, the Corsican seas were now in their winter unease, when gales and shipwrecks were a very real danger—particularly for little feluccas sailing from Livorno or Naples.

In retrospect, it is clear that neither side of the Corsican revolution was capable of victory on its own. Neither the Corsicans nor the Genoese could overthrow the other. The venal and uncompromising Genoese government and its small and deficient army could neither reconcile the Corsicans nor reclaim the rugged island from its defenders, while the Corsicans could not procure enough resources, strained as they were through the Genoese blockade, to pry the Genoese out of their last citadels. It was a stalemate, and only foreign power could prevent the struggle from dragging on for many years to come.

Genoa was now seeking alternatives, in particular foreign powers who might lend it assistance. The most eager to participate were the French, whose government was increasingly concerned about the failure of Genoese arms and the consequences for its own interests. Despite the total and evident lack of British interest in Corsica, fear of just such a takeover fuelled French concern, as demonstrated in a letter from the French secretary of the navy Comte Jean-Frédéric de Maurepas to the French minister in Genoa Jaques Campredon in the summer of 1736:

It is true that if one could believe that some Power had a share in what is happening in Corsica, suspicions should mainly fall on the English. Take all possible care to discover the truth. We feel that it would be injurious to our commerce, and even to that of all the rest of Europe, that this Isle should be in the hands of the English. We ought to be as attentive as the Genoese may be on their side anxious about the denouement of this adventure, which may be of great interest to us if it were facilitated by the English or some other power.

By December, this view had not greatly changed. Even as the Genoese situation grew more grave, however, the parties remained at an impasse. The French chief minister, Cardinal André-Hercule de Fleury, does not seem to have been covertly intriguing for an annexation of Corsica, but if France was to intervene he did want to gain some benefit from it. In a secret and informal proposal to the Genoese, his government insisted that if they were to "assist" the Republic, the Republic would have to foot the entire bill for the expeditionary force, which would remain entirely under French command. The Senate balked at the notion; if it could hardly pay for a few companies of Swiss, how would it afford whole regiments of Frenchmen? Even if it had the resources, however, Genoa was inclined to be suspicious of this offer. The problem with foreign intervention was that the powers most able and/or willing to help were also those who stood to gain the most from taking Corsica for themselves. The French were held under particular suspicion, both for the intrigues of Campredon and the recent Trévou affair. The General-Commissioner in Corsica, Giovanni-Battista de Mari, was mistrustful of the French and pressured his government to seek other options.

What the Genoese really wanted was the aid of the Empire. The Habsburgs were perhaps the least likely of the great powers to want Corsica for themselves, having no outposts at all in the western Mediterranean since the conquest of Naples by the Spanish Bourbon infante Charles. They had also assisted once before in 1731-33, in a campaign which got off to a rather rocky start but eventually subdued the whole island. Emperor Charles VI, however, was not in a good position to offer assistance. In May of 1736 the Russian Empire had embarked on a war against the Ottoman Empire, and the Russians expected their allies, the Austrians, to join them. So far, Charles had resisted the call; having just finished one war, he was not eager to finance another. His ministers were also concerned that a Russian victory might make them too powerful; the Austrians had a low opinion of Ottoman strength, and Russia had stubbornly refused to reveal their territorial ambitions for the war. Charles could not simply refuse, however, because Russia was Austria's only major ally on the continent, and he shared the concern of his ministers that if the Habsburgs were left friendless in Europe they would be easy pickings for their rivals. For the moment, Charles was delaying as long as possible with interminable offers for mediation and claims that the still-pending final resolution of the War of Polish Succession required his attention, but he was understandably reluctant to send thousands of troops to Corsica, an island of no strategic value to the empire whatsoever, when his obligation to the Russians was still hanging over his head.

Curiously, however, another Habsburg—albeit only one by marriage—was quite interested in the little island. Francis Stephen, the Duke of Lorraine, had married the emperor's daughter and heiress Maria Theresa in February of 1736. As part of the agreement made regarding the late war, Francis would relinquish Lorraine to Stanisław Leszczyński, the failed candidate for the Polish throne and father-in-law of King Louis XV, and in exchange would become the Grand Duke of Tuscany after the death of the childless Gian Gastone de Medici. In late 1736, Gian Gastone was still alive and Francis did not even have Tuscany, but he already had his eyes on loftier titles. What seems to have interested him about Corsica was not so much the island itself as its royal title, and thus the prospect of being king in his own right and not merely by dint of his marriage to Maria Theresa. With neither Tuscany nor an army of his own, however, Francis was not yet in any position to overtly involve himself in Corsican affairs, and instead devoted himself to intrigues, which we shall return to in time.


Francis Stephen, Duke of Lorraine and later Holy Roman Emperor, c. 1745

The Genoese had few other choices. The Spanish Bourbons, ruling in Madrid and Naples, were seen as too dangerous to invite in, and to do so would invite not only the disapproval of France but the determined opposition of Sardinia, Genoa's greatest enemy, whose ministers feared a Spanish/Neapolitan takeover even more than they feared a French conquest. Britain was not even considered given France's likely reaction. For the moment, then, no foreign help was forthcoming; the French proposals were too steep and too suspect and the Empire was too busy. So desperate was the Republic that there were growing rumors that the senators themselves were discussing the possibility of washing their hands of the island entirely, and selling it to some other country, but the French were quick to remind them that they would not tolerate such a sale, and they may have received a similar warning from the British. Had their situation not been largely self-inflicted, one might even feel sorry for the Republic, which seemed to be stuck with a bad asset which they could neither dispose of nor redeem.

Theodore also needed foreign assistance, and likewise had few places to turn. By this time virtually all of Europe had accepted Genoa's requests to ban contact with the "malcontents." The only exceptions were Tuscany, whose duke was not long for this world, and the Dutch Republic.[1] Theodore's contacts with the Dutch, particularly bankers and merchants, have already been detailed. Through these contacts, he did manage to procure some funding both for himself and his "purchasing agents" in Livorno who stocked the gun-running feluccas operating out of that port, but it was far less than Theodore needed. He had hoped to convince the States General, or at least private persons of means within the republic, to give him fuller support, but Theodore's charisma which had so much effect on those around him was not easily transmitted by post. For all his linguistic skill, his written communiques tended to be long-winded and grandiloquent, and were very often intercepted by his enemies.

Meanwhile, his situation on Corsica was growing tenuous. His victory had won him a little more time, but it could not be profitably used; organizing a large army seemed like an impossible task, and even if it could be managed the Genoese were unlikely to offer battle or send their diminished columns into the mountains to be picked apart by the maquisards. The continuation of the war required powder and shot for siege guns, and he had little of either. For a while, Theodore contented himself with governance, but this was not always well received; although well-meaning, he demonstrated himself to be a harsh disciplinarian, who at times had to be talked down by Costa (who was not always successful in this regard) from having men executed for petty crimes or disloyal words. Theodore, wrote Costa apologetically, considered the Corsicans his children and reprimanded them as a stern father, but such an attitude was not terribly endearing (to say nothing of the fact that fathers, as a general rule, do not execute their sons). As the weeks passed and the glory of the recent victory began to fade, Theodore found himself more and more isolated and with his influence slowly ebbing.

December, for the most part, passed quietly. In the interior of the country, Theodore put one of his young officers, Captain Giovan Luca Poggi, in command of the royal guard (the previous captain, the minister of war Giappiconi, having been assassinated), and charged him with conducting training that would develop the 400 or so "regulars" that still remained under arms into a more effective company. Poggi, who had been a captain in the Neapolitan army, was well versed in continental military drill and a decent enough man for the job. The rebels elsewhere were not totally inactive; Fabiani skirmished with the Genoese in the western Balagna, the Zicavesi raided the environs of Porto Vecchio, and a Genoese tartane was captured by "privateers" operating out of Isola Rossa. None of these efforts, however, seriously upset the stalemate that had developed, and as time went on Theodore's rule only seemed to be in greater danger. There was new fighting in Cinarca and Niolo between Ornano's men and the indifferenti, who had been quiescent of late but sensed that Theodore's hold might be slipping. Theodore attended a solemn Christmas mass at Alesani and was hailed by the people, yet it was but a tiny fraction of the crowd which had cheered his coronation there many months ago.

At length, Theodore resorted to drastic action. Summoning his ministers at Vescovato, the king announced that he would be taking his leave of the island. His foreign aid, he told them, could only have been delayed by the machinations of the perfidious Genoese. It was thus incumbent upon him to travel to the continent and discover what he obstacle was and see to its removal. This, of course, was not strictly accurate; while it was true that the Genoese blockade and the diplomatic isolation which they had encouraged was seriously damaging to the rebel cause, Theodore had no great power waiting in the wings to shower Corsica with aid. His ministers were alarmed, and asked him not to go, for while the absence of Theodore's promised support troubled them they feared a breakdown of the rebel movement in his absence. There was no denying that he had led the rebels to accomplish great things.

The king would not budge, and he drafted a proclamation as to the conduct of the governance of the kingdom in his absence. The sovereign power would be bestowed upon a regency council made up of three marquesses: his prime minister Luigi Giafferi and his two most prominent generals, Luca d'Ornano and Simone Fabiani.[A] His high chancellor, Sebastiano Costa, would accompany him, as would Costa's nephew Colonel Antonio Colonna and several other adherents and servants, mostly non-Corsicans. On January 15th, 1737, Theodore boarded a little felucca on the coast north of Aleria, not far from where he had first disembarked, and left his island kingdom.[B]

The Genoese, once they heard of his departure, rejoiced. They immediately published their own version of events, claiming that the "king" had lost the confidence of his subjects and had been driven from the island by the rebels. But the Genoese themselves clearly knew better, for as soon as they were made aware that Theodore was on the continent, they announced a bounty on his head of 2,000 crowns. Now a wanted fugitive with Genoese assassins on his tail, the king must surely have been thankful for the lessons he had presumably learned in his principal career prior to his election: espionage.

[1] The Kingdom of Naples complied with the Genoese requests to ban commerce with the Corsicans, but was apparently either unable or unwilling to put serious effort into enforcing it, as Naples continued to be a center of Corsican smuggling second only to Livorno. It may also be worth adding that the Genoese requests had no effect on (and do not seem to have been made to) the Muslim powers, but although Theodore had received some initial backing from Morocco and Tunis the Barbary states do not seem to have offered him much after his landing.

Timeline Notes
[A] Theodore's regency council was similar IOTL, except instead of Fabiani (who had been assassinated) he placed the treacherous Giacinto Paoli (whose death was the POD ITTL). The regency was not much of a success: Giafferi was respected, but he was also old and had little energy left, and proved to be an ineffective ruler. Ornano really only had influence in the south, and Paoli was out to sabotage Theodore from the start. The replacement of Paoli with Fabiani ITTL at least provides the government with a regent who is loyal, capable, and has substantial support in the north.
[B] This is two months behind schedule compared to OTL; historically Theodore left the island in November of 1736. The means of his departure, and his excuse for doing so, is otherwise the same, although his departure IOTL was rather more miserable, involving a flight through the island to the Dila where his little party had to brave thunderstorms in the mountains, sleep on the grass, and subsist on raw chestnuts. One could argue that Theodore would only leave the island if he was in similarly desperate straits, which would make my variant TL implausible. Since Theodore was clearly exchanging letters with his contacts in Amsterdam and traveled there IOTL after he left Corsica, however, I presume he must have at least had some idea that support could be arranged there and would have gone anyway even if by the end of 1736 his support had not dwindled quite so much. ITTL, his improved fortune in the campaigns of 1736 allows him to delay his departure by two months and still be in a better position by the time he decides to sail off. This improved position will also help his case in Amsterdam, as we shall see.
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Theodore definitely has an uphill battle ahead of him, enough that the War of the Austrian Succession really does seem the only opportunity (as otherwise he won't get great power backing as Corsica isn't worth a war).
Theodore definitely has an uphill battle ahead of him, enough that the War of the Austrian Succession really does seem the only opportunity (as otherwise he won't get great power backing as Corsica isn't worth a war).

Pretty much, yeah. While occasionally a power was willing to assist Genoa in Corsica (see: the Austrians and then the French dumping ~10,000 soldiers on the island) provided that Genoa was willing to pay, nobody was willing to risk a fight with another power over the island.

Furthermore, the WoAS involves Britain and Genoa being at war and a British fleet being stationed off the Italian coast for several years, which is an excellent recipe for Corsican independence. The British government in the 1730s really had no interest in Theodore whatsoever, but in the 1740s when their fleet is already there and they're already at war with the Genoese, assisting the rebels makes a lot more sense.

One thing I considered for this TL was simply delaying Theodore's arrival, with the assumption that if he had arrived in, say, 1738 or '39, there would be less time for the Genoese to call in the French and he wouldn't have had to hold out as long before the WoAS started. Given how badly the rebels were doing in 1735, however, there's a real chance that without Theodore they would actually have been crushed and the rebel movement reduced to scattered guerrilla operations, which would be a much harder situation from which to restart an island-wide rebellion even with Theodore's help. Also, by 1738 both Gian Gastone and Ripperda were dead, and the absence of their support and Gian Gastone's tolerance of rebel conspiracies in Livorno would make Theodore's job much, much harder.

Hmm... Might enough have changed for there to be no miracle of the house of Hohenzollern?

I have not given this much specific thought, but as I said earlier in the thread I don't think the WoAS or the 7YW are going to be changed much, if at all, by Theodore's rise (apart from Corsica being a sideshow in the WoAS). Furthermore, as this is intended to be a narrowly-focused timeline, I'm not jumping at the opportunity to make a lot of "butterfly" changes that aren't related in any way to the POD and its observable effects. I'm sure that there are much more qualified people around here to make a "what if Prussia was crushed" timeline.

That said, I don't really have a concrete plan as to where post-1748 Corsican history will go, so I can't categorically deny that there will be no changes at all that might impact Prussia.
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