The Campanile of the Franciscan Convent of Corti
The first consulta generale
of the Kingdom of Corsica was a highly-anticipated event, but it was in some sense an anticlimax. Some of the most consequential political decisions of 1750 were made not on the floor of the assembly in October, but in late spring when King Theodore, his ministers, and the advisors on the Dieta
tackled the problem of who exactly ought to have a seat at the consulta
. All understood that the ultimate form of the body would have considerable and long-lasting effects on the governance of the kingdom.
It was agreed early on that the most of the delegates would be the so-called procuratori ordinari
(ordinary electors), men elected by the pievi
to represent the voting households of their district. Each pieve
would dispatch two such electors. The fact that the pievi
varied considerably in population was of little consequence; equal representation was traditional, there was no reliable census data to calculate electors based on population, and in any case the notabili
of some of the more lightly populated pievi
would have objected strongly to having their power diminished. The real question was how many procuratori straordinari
(extraordinary electors) - that is, electors other than the pieve
representatives - would be invited.
The most obvious omission in this approach was the presidi
, which being Genoese colonies had never been part of the Corsican electoral system. Many of the men in the Dieta
and the ministry would undoubtedly have been happy to keep things that way, as the government was overwhelmingly dominated by inland naziunali
with little love for the presidi
and their questionably patriotic residents. Theodore, however, was a strong proponent of presidial representation, having made it his policy to reconcile the Corso-Genoese urbanites to his rule. To achieve this end over the hostility of the naziunale
leaders, Theodore cannily proposed that all
the cities receive additional procuratori
, including the inland “cities” of Corti and Sartena. This brought Count Gianpietro Gaffori
to his side, as it would magnify the importance of his own home city of Corti, as well as a few key members of the Dieta
from the south.
The island of Capraia was also given representation as though it were a city, as it too had never been part of the Corsican electoral system.
The next issue was that of the other “estates” - the nobility and the clergy. The nobility, who made up the entirety of the present Dieta
, wanted their own representation as a corporate body both to increase their own political influence and to ensure that they would always have a substantial say in the consulta
even if the pieve
elections returned a batch of commoners. This was amenable to Theodore, on the condition that he also receive a certain number of “royal electors,” defined as “persons of quality” whom Theodore could personally nominate (although they had to be Corsican citizens), which would not only give him a few reliable votes but would ensure he had proxies in the consulta
who could introduce motions on his behalf. The number of noble electors was set at 48, with the stipulations that no noble family could provide more than one elector and that the electors had to be chosen from the Dila
and the Diqua
at the same 2:1 ratio as in the Dieta
(yielding 32 northern noble procuratori
and 16 southern procuratori
The Church was given a substantial delegation of its own. One seat would be given to each of Corsica’s five bishops or his representative, although since only one bishop was actually on the island at the time there was only one such procuratore
at the consulta
of 1750 (Bishop Paulo Maria Mariotti
of Sagone acting as his own elector). The clergy of each diocese would elect ten procuratori
from among their own ranks. Finally, one elector was also granted to each of the five monastic orders present on Corsica (Franciscans, Capuchins, Jesuits, Dominicans, and Servites). Crucially - and with Theodore’s backing - these 60 procuratori religiosi
were restricted to voting only religious and procedural matters. For all civil matters and legislation which did not concern religion - including the election of the Dieta
- the religious electors received only a “consultive vote” (voto consultivo
), meaning that they could participate in debate and voice their opinions on a motion but that their votes would be excluded in the final tally.
Consulta Generale of 1750
130 Procuratori Ordinari
(2 from each pieve)
140 Procuratori Straordinari
16 Procuratori Presidiali (4 each from Bastia and Ajaccio, 2 each from Calvi, Corti, Sartena, and Capraia)
48 Procuratori Nobili (32 from the Diqua, 16 from the Dila)
16 Procuratori Reali
60 Procuratori Religiosi (5 episcopal, 50 clerical, and 5 monastic)
would thus be composed of 270 delegates, although only 210 would vote on the civil matters which would constitute most of the assembly’s business. Despite the concessions made to the nobility and the king, the procuratori ordinari
elected by ordinary voting Corsicans appeared to make up a decisive majority - nearly 62% - of the non-religious electors, and combined with the procuratori presidiali
from the cities this reached 69.5%. Yet while any resolution could be passed with a simple majority, no act of the consulta
would have legal force unless it received a two-thirds majority. The result of this was that while “the people” could set the agenda of the consulta
and pass resolutions to their heart's content, it was almost impossible for them to legislate
on their own. Theoretically the ordinari
could reach the two-thirds threshold together, but that would require astonishing discipline (with no more than six defectors out of 146), which seemed unlikely given the influence of the nobility in the pievi
In the days before the official start of the first consulta generale
on the 14th, the procuratori
began arriving at Corti and presenting notarized declarations of their election to Grand Chancellor Giulio Natali
. It was the largest and most eclectic consulta
yet convened; never before had the naziunali
of the interior, who had long made up the bulk of the assemblies, mingled with men of the presidi
and Capraia. Practically every spare room in the town and the citadel was occupied, as more than five hundred guests was not an inconsiderable addition to a city with only 1,400 residents.
Accomodations and logistical concerns were the province of Count Gaffori, who was both the secretary of state and the podesta
of Corti, and by all accounts he handed them ably.
was opened on the morning of the 14th with a ceremony in front of the Franciscan convent of Corte, located on the edge of town. In an address to the assembled procuratori
, non-voting observers, and various citizens of Corti, the king proclaimed that the time had come for the Corsicans to secure in peace what they had won in war. He declared that with “prudence and industry” (a particular Theodoran catchphrase), equity towards all, and the grace of Almighty God, Corsica would ever remain prosperous and free. After a great cheer and peal of musketry, the assembled procuratori
took an oath to obey the Constitution of Corsica and affirmed their loyalty to the king and the nation. Then the king physically handed the royal seals to the Grand Chancellor, who remained with the consulta
while the king took his leave, symbolizing the (temporary) transfer of legislative power from the crown to the people.
With this ceremony concluded, the first order of business was for the entire body (the procuratori religiosi
included) to elect the presidente della consulta
, who would act as the assembly’s presiding officer and procedural authority. The electors settled upon Domenico Arrighi
, a 36 year old lawyer from Speluncato in the Balagna.
After President Arrighi took the dais (actually the front portico of the convent church), the electors discussed and voted upon various procedural rules which would guide the session. These questions of procedure concluded the day’s business, with actual matters of governance to be taken up on the 15th.
The second day’s session began with a few minor topics, including an official expression of congratulations to the king regarding his recent wedding (which received unanimous approval by voice vote). That afternoon, the consulta
took up the weightier matter of the structure of the new government. As Theodore had expected, there was overwhelming support for the election of the Dieta
. Theodore had erred, however, in presuming that his popularity meant that the electors would be willing to grant him the same broad powers as his Genoese predecessors. Theodore had expected he would be able to choose the members of the Dieta
from a group of candidates as the commissioner-general had done with the dodici
, but in the session this notion was fiercely attacked as a manifestation of the arbitrary power of the Genoese tyrants. The Dieta
would be the Dieta
- the consulta
would choose its members, and the king would accept them.
This was a serious and unexpected defeat for Theodore, but the king soon rallied for the next major contest. The complex system of nominations and elections to actually choose
the members of the Dieta
lasted took two whole days, by which point Theodore had conferred with his procuratori
and key supporters and hastily put together a plan of action. When the consulta
resumed regular business on the 18th - now packed inside the clammy chambers of the convent, as it had begun raining - Theodore managed a victory, with the consulta
voting to approve Theodore’s appointment of the regional luogotenenti
with the proviso that they did not usurp the powers of local elected magistrates.
The king was likewise triumphant on the following day, when an attempt to demand that Theodore name an heir fizzled out. It was really the fault of the royal wedding, which perhaps had been Theodore’s plan all along. Although clearly the chance of Theodore dying without an heir of his body remained very real, it seemed insulting and imprudent to pass legislation implicitly assuming the barrenness of Queen Eleonora
when she had not even been married for a month. When it became clear in preliminary discussions that those who pressed for a royal declaration on the succession could not muster anything close to a majority, Arrighi signalled that he would not bring any motion on the succession to a vote, effectively quashing further debate. On the 20th, with all major business concluded and the weather getting worse by the hour, the king returned to the assembly to formally adjourn the consulta generale,
reclaim his royal seals, and give his oath to the consulta
that he would faithfully observe their legal acts given on behalf of the nation.
The first consulta generale
had clarified the constitutional governance of the kingdom.
The denial of the king’s right to select the Dieta
is often regarded by historians as a major step forward in the history of Corsican democracy, but the immediate import of the decision should not be overestimated. While Theodore was stripped of any ability to choose the members of the Dieta
, the body’s constitutional authority was still extremely limited. The Dieta
was not a legislature, but an advisory council, whose approval the king only required on matters of taxation and war. How the state’s money was actually spent
remained entirely within royal discretion except for the one week (or so) every year when the consulta
convened and exercised legislative power. Theodore retained the ability to appoint his cabinet ministers, army officers, ambassadors, and provincial lieutenants. Corsica had been firmly established as a constitutional monarchy, but Theodore’s powers remained far greater than those which King George II
exercised in Britain.
Within a week of the consulta
’s end, the king had not only selected his luogotenenti
but Corsica’s first post-independence prime minister. To the great regret of Theodore and Corsican patriots everywhere, the Grand Old Man of the Revolution, Marquis Luigi Giafferi
, had not lived quite long enough to see his nation’s final victory. He had died in August of 1749 year at the age of 81. Giafferi had been among the first and most important leaders of the Revolution. He had been a leading member of the dodici
for decades before the Revolution, even serving as orator
, but had become disillusioned with Genoese rule after the Senate’s refusal to listen to his advice or heed his warnings about the deteriorating situation on the island in the late 1720s. In 1730 he resigned from the dodici
and defected to the rebel cause, and was soon spearheading the transformation of a disorganized tax revolt into a political and military movement for Corsican autonomy (and, eventually, independence). He had served his country as a general, statesman, and diplomat, and although his effectiveness in later years had been diminished by advancing age, no Corsican could boast of having contributed more to the cause than Don Luigi.
Giafferi’s death created a vacancy that proved difficult to fill. Don Luigi’s great advantage as prime minister was that he was that extraordinarily rare specimen of a Corsican leader with few enemies. He was widely respected throughout the national movement, a consequence of his long efforts to reconcile the Corsican chiefs with one another to get them to cooperate for the good of the nation. There were certainly very capable men who could replace him, but none who would be so uncontroversial.
The most obvious choice was the 46 year old Count Gianpietro Gaffori, who had been a protege of Giafferi. Although not a great landowner, Gaffori was born to the notabili
; his father had been the podesta
of Corti and a member of the dodici
, and his family’s four-story house stood proudly over the Corso
, the main street of the city. His in-laws were equally prominent, as he had wed Faustina Matra
of the influential Matra clan of Serra. Gianpietro had studied medicine and surgery at Genoa and returned home to practice as a physician, but he was soon caught up in the Revolution, first appearing in history in 1734 as the chosen emissary of Giafferi and Giacinto Paoli to the Genoese commissioners.
Bronze statue of Count Gianpietro Gaffori in Corti
That Gaffori would find his way into a position of leadership was almost inevitable, as he was an extraordinary political talent. His oratory was the stuff of legends; it was said that an assassin had once gotten the drop on Gaffori while he was out on the roads, and the doctor had not only talked the man out of killing him but ended up with his would-be assassin on his knees begging Gaffori's forgiveness. Gaffori’s speeches were always highlights of the consulte
whenever he was in attendance, which he almost always was. But the count was not just a good orator: He possessed an astounding work ethic, great ambition, and unwavering determination - sometimes to the point of stubborn inflexibility. Father Carlo Rostini
, an admirer, memorably described him as having “a heart of iron and a mouth of gold.” Queen Eleonora, whose feelings towards the count were more mixed, referred to the hard-nosed Gaffori as l'homme de pierre
(not only a description but a play on Gaffori's name in French, Jean-Pierre
) and liked to joke that he been “carved from the rock of Corti.” This determination was both a strength and a weakness, for despite his charisma Gaffori was not quite as able a mediator and consensus-builder as Giafferi. Gianpietro was a man who decided what he wanted and pursued it assiduously, and while he preferred to make allies - which he was quite good at - he was not afraid of making enemies. This naturally tended to put him at odds with equally determined men set upon a different course, including rather important persons like Marquis Luca d’Ornano
and Don Giovan, Principe di Morosaglia
. Both strongly opposed his appointment.
Since 1749, Theodore had found it expedient to simply leave the position of prime minister vacant; that was his prerogative, and since Gaffori already held the position in all but name it seemed like a painless solution. But the empty office undermined Gaffori’s position and caused constant intriguing between Gaffori’s supporters and detractors, who all assumed that Theodore was constantly on the verge of filling the position. The conclusion to this drama had unfolded during the consulta generale
, which Marquis Luca d’Ornano was attending as one of the noble procuratori
. While the consulta
was in recess, Don Luca was approached by Don Matteo, Principe di Porto Vecchio
, who extended him an offer from the king. If the marquis would give his support in the consulta
to the royal appointment of the luogotenenti
and accept the appointment of Gaffori as prime minister, Theodore would appoint him as luogotenente
of Ajaccio. Don Luca was willing to be bought; he knew as well as any that Gaffori was already the de facto
prime minister, and if he had to accept reality it was just as well to get a governorship out of the deal. In the end Theodore got his way in the consulta
, d’Ornano got his lieutenancy, and Gaffori became the prime minister of Corsica.[A]
 Although there were only 270 procuratori
- less than this, actually, as a few seats were unfilled - the procuratori
did not come alone. Many traveled with their sons or brothers, either so they could witness the event or just to accompany them on what was for some electors a long and strenuous journey. There were also non-voting nobles, servants and followers of the king and queen, a complement of soldiers, and several foreign observers including the Marquis de Crussol.
 No relation to Ignazio Arrighi of Corti, attainted traitor and leader of the indifferenti
 The assembly of October 1750 is typically considered to be the “first” consulta generale
, because it was the first consulta
which was convened from all Corsica (save Bonifacio, of course) rather than merely the portion under revolutionary control. Nevertheless, the decisions of previous assemblies were considered legally valid. It could not be otherwise, given that the monarchy itself had been established by one such consulta
[A] Gaffori is one of my favorite "what if" characters of Corsica. He was clearly an extraordinarily gifted statesman who was renowned for both his oratory and his courage, and was the first person (with the dubious and brief exception of Theodore) to unify the Corsican national movement under the leadership of one man. But his potential was never realized, as his role in Corsican history was cut short by his assassination just a few months after rising to power. Gaffori's legacy was taken up by one of his principal lieutenants, Clemente Paoli, who thought his little brother Pasquale would be more suitable for leadership - and the rest is history. Given his obvious talents and the fact that he was a key player in Theodore's government IOTL, his rise to power ITTL seems not only plausible but likely.