I suspect that as interesting as Theodore himself may be to intellectuals of the time - and, perhaps, the Corsican government as a concept - actually living on Corsica will not hold much attraction. The isle has no (real) universities, no libraries, no printing presses, no operas, no theaters... it's not exactly a thriving intellectual and cultural center. Moreover, Theodore doesn't really have the cash to offer anyone patronage. It seems more likely to me that Theodore's interaction with the European intellectual world, insofar as it occurs, will mostly be through letters, as Theodore was a rather prolific letter-writer and can converse with essentially any of the intellectuals of his time in their own language. We may see some OTL famous people pay a visit, but the only learned persons who are likely to take refuge on Corsica at this point in time are probably Jews, who have a very good reason to come to Corsica despite its intellectual backwardness.

One of the upcoming chapters will be on the first Jews of Corsica. I say "one of" because the next few planned chapters take place at more or less the same time (about 1750-1755 or so), so I don't really have a precise order for them yet.

Yes, Voltaire might take umbrage at the lack of luxury. One who might not would be Diderot who never had much of it. Despite its rusticity, it would likely be a lot easier to compile Encyclopédie in Corsica, when in France he had to endure a decade of constant police raids, penury and the destruction of the proofs of his more controversial entries by his own publisher, leading to the working taking until 1772 to finish.
No printing press really stood out. So the closest thing that Theodore has to a propaganda network is local parish priests coming out in his favor.

Think a basic printing press would be cheap enough for broadsheets at least.
Previously with the discussion focused on how there was little unifying community/society on Corsica at the moment. 'No Newspapers' Is this something that would occur to King Theodore? That a newspaper would be a good idea? how widespread are newspapers in this time period?

Sure. Theodore knows all about the press; he's a celebrity. And newspapers are very common, even close at hand: In the 1750s, Livorno had at least two popular periodicals that I know of. Even Paoli, whose government never controlled the presidi, managed to obtain a printing press for the Corsican Republic. I don't think Theodore would publish a paper himself - that's not really what kings do - but Corsica will probably get a printing press in the near future and some intellectual who fancies himself a journalist (probably in Ajaccio or Bastia) will undoubtedly start up a paper sooner or later. Whether anyone outside the cities actually reads it is another question entirely. One would hate to be a paper boy in interior Corsica.
Yes, Voltaire might take umbrage at the lack of luxury. One who might not would be Diderot who never had much of it. Despite its rusticity, it would likely be a lot easier to compile Encyclopédie in Corsica, when in France he had to endure a decade of constant police raids, penury and the destruction of the proofs of his more controversial entries by his own publisher, leading to the working taking until 1772 to finish.
Now that you mention Diderot, I also wonder if Rousseau might find himself drawn to Corsica, assuming the professed social ideals in his writings had even an ounce of sincerity in them.
The problem with most such French authors is that if the French government weighs too heavily upon them, they have other, more attractive places of exile closer at hand. Amsterdam, Geneva, and Neuchatel (for example) were all places of refuge for French writers which had the advantage of being well-developed cities with printing presses and literary cultures, and all of them are just as safe from French authorities as Corsica. A flight to Corsica only makes sense if the author has some particular interest in the place. Rousseau seems like a possibility to me: Corsica's "free" and pastoral society appealed to his political notions, and IOTL he was persuaded to write a constitution for the Corsican Republic (although he did not finish the work by the time Paoli was overthrown by the French, and abandoned it as a consequence). But presumably Rousseau wouldn't really contemplate this until the 1760s, when his writings got him in hot water, and that's assuming his life up to that point is essentially unaltered by butterflies since 1736.
No printing press really stood out. So the closest thing that Theodore has to a propaganda network is local parish priests coming out in his favor.

Think a basic printing press would be cheap enough for broadsheets at least.
The press itself is probably simple if expensive, it's the people and the paper that are going to take some creativity.
Dance of the Diplomats
Dance of the Diplomats


View of Tabarka under the Genoese, c. 1700

Despite gaining recognition from France as a consequence of the Treaty of Monaco, the Kingdom of Corsica did not immediately enter into full diplomatic relations with other other European states. For some, Corsica was simply not relevant; others wondered whether the “kingdom” was merely an ephemeral state, serving only as a stepping stone to French annexation or the abdication of King Theodore in favor of some other, more established sovereign. Even the British, who had done more than anyone to support the Corsican Revolution, withheld recognition chiefly as a means to protest the underhanded way in which France had conducted and concluded the Monaco negotiations.

Initially the handful of powers which sent representatives to Corsica restricted their presence to consuls rather than diplomats.The presence of a consul allowed a government to have some diplomatic presence in Corsica and look after its commercial affairs without making too bold of a statement regarding Corsican independence.[1] The Dutch were the first, with their consul Joseph Valembergh arriving in March of 1750. Valembergh, formerly consul to Naples, had close ties to the leaders of the Syndicate (now the NCC) and had protected Corsican exiles in Naples, but the Dutch had been forced to recall him after his zeal on behalf of the Corsicans and the Syndicate raised the ire of the French and Genoese legations in Naples. With the support of the Company he was rehabilitated and sent to Corsica, and was for all intents and purposes the mouthpiece of the NCC in the Corsican court. The Dutch were followed by the Sardinians in late 1750. With his acquisition of a port at Finale as a consequence of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, King Carlo Emanuele III was looking forward to expanding his state’s role in Mediterranean trade and had a vested interest in keeping tabs on the French presence in Corsica. The Maltese and Tuscan governments followed suit a few months later, with the Tuscany’s consul also handling the affairs of Austrian citizens.

This limited recognition did not prevent Theodore from sending diplomats of his own. As sending and maintaining an embassy was expensive business, however, the Corsican government had to choose carefully where ambassadors were needed. By 1751 the Corsican government had ambassadors in Paris, Turin, and Rome, as well as a minister-resident in Florence. Corsican consuls were stationed at Livorno, Tunis, Finale, and Valletta (Malta). Notably absent from this list was Genoa. Notwithstanding the establishment of peace and normal trade relations between Genoa and Corsica in the Treaty of Monaco, the Genoese refused to send representative, ostensibly because Corsica had supported and sheltered Genoese revolutionaries (although they had not sent any representative before the Genoese Revolution either). Theodore, in turn, felt it would be undignified to send a consul to Genoa if the Genoese would not do the same.

Theodore’s ambassadors were all familiar names from the Revolution. The all-important post of ambassador to France was first filled by Count Antonio Colonna-Bozzi, who as the brother-in-law of Don Matteo, Principe di Porto Vecchio was one of the few Corsicans with ties to the “royal family.” Theodore’s first (official) representative at Turin was Count Antonio Simone Rivarola, the son of the late Domenico Rivarola who had served in the same capacity during the Revolution. Father Erasmo Orticoni was moved from the post of foreign minister to become Theodore’s permanent ambassador in Rome. The Florentine merchant Francesco dell’Agata was appointed minister resident in Florence; despite the fact that he was not Corsican, his long and faithful service as Theodore’s agent in Tuscany was proof enough of his fidelity.

Theodore’s relations with the Knights of Malta was especially productive. Manuel Pinto da Fonseca, the Grandmaster of the Order, had at one point mused about gaining Corsica for himself and had even sent a representative to the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle to float the suggestion that the troublesome island be granted to a “neutral prince” (read: Fonseca himself), but the failure of this poorly conceived scheme did not sour him against Theodore. The naval operations of the Order, having largely ceased by 1700 owing to the decline of the Barbary corsairs and the opposition of Christian states, enjoyed a modest renaissance around the middle 18th century. Corsica occupied a strategic position in the western Mediterranean and its ports were essential to these operations. Theodore, for his part, professed to be an admirer of the Order; the king had always liked the dash and prestige of chivalric organizations, but he also saw the Order’s policy of strict neutrality as an example for Corsica to emulate.


Manuel Pinto da Fonseca, Grandmaster of the Order of St. John

In 1751 the Kingdom of Corsica and the Knights of Malta signed a treaty of cooperation, allowing Maltese warships to dock at Corsican ports and take on water and provisions without having to pay taxes or wharfage fees. Maltese ships were permitted to use the Corsican flag as a “flag of convenience,” which had become a common practice to evade various legal attempts by Christian states to limit the Order’s piratical activities; in short order the “Moor’s Head” became one of the favorite flags of the Order’s corsairs, rivaled only by the flag of Monaco and the grandmaster’s own pennant.[2] The Order, in return, exempted Corsican ships from searches and promised close cooperation with the Corsican navy. Theodore lacked the money to sustain a permanent fleet, but he could defray some expenses by “loaning” a few of his ships to the Order to join their anti-corsair patrols and letting the Order shoulder the burden of provisioning their crews. He also encouraged his seamen to serve as Maltese corsairs during peacetime while remaining on the navy rolls, which allowed Corsican sailors, gunners, and officers to gain experience and training. Maltese service was nothing new for the Corsicans; Giovanni Francesco Natale, the most famous of the Corsican Revolutionary privateers, had sailed as a corsair out of Malta in the 1730s.[3]

Domestically, Theodore made much of his “alliance” with the Knights of Malta, eventually securing his own membership in the Order as a “Knight of Devotion” (a sort of honorary knighthood for which married men were eligible) and even commissioning a portrait of himself wearing the robes of the Order.[4] As the Catholic monarch of a Catholic people who had long been subjected to the depredations of Muslim pirates and slavers, associating himself with the sworn enemies of the Barbary corsairs could only burnish his image. Yet despite dressing up as one, Theodore was no crusader at heart, and his relationship with the Barbary states was always ambiguous. Even as his ships cruised with the Maltese he maintained a cordial relationship with Bey Ali Pasha of Tunis, with whom he had signed a treaty of friendship and trade.

The most important and politically fraught issue involving Corsica and Tunis in the 1750s was not piracy, slavery, or commerce, but coral. Corsican coral fishermen had long exploited the rich reefs of the Tunisian coast from the Genoese outpost at Tabarka. In 1741, however, Ali Pasha had seized Tabarka and enslaved its residents, denying the Corsican coral fishermen their base of operations and putting their activity in Tunisian waters in doubt. The impetus for this action had been an attempt by France to purchase the island from Genoa, as the French - represented by the Compagnie Royale D’Afrique - were keenly interested in establishing a monopoly on Tunisian coral and other exports. The fall of Tabarka, followed by the seizure of the French outpost at Cape Nègre, led to a war between Tunis and France, but at that time the French had more pressing matters to attend to than a spat with the Bey of Tunis. They signed a conciliatory peace treaty with Ali Pasha in 1742, by which France retrieved Cape Nègre in exchange for paying the Bey an annual tribute and renounced their claims to Tabarka.

The aggressive and monopolistic tactics of the Compagnie in Tunisia were a source of great consternation to Theodore. Even as Paris instructed Envoy Extraordinary Pierre Emmanuel, Marquis de Crussol-Florensac to win the goodwill of the Corsicans and their king, the Compagnie insisted upon their exclusive rights and drove Corsican coral fishermen from waters which they had fished in for centuries prior to 1741. Theodore complained to Crussol that it was not realistic for him to service the kingdom’s debt to France if the French insisted upon hobbling one of Corsica’s few lucrative industries. Crussol was sympathetic, but his reports to Versailles fell on deaf ears; the Compagnie had wealthy and influential supporters and was called “royal” for a reason, being managed by agents of the crown. Crussol’s communiques and the protests of Count Antonio simply could not compete.

Despite his good relations with Theodore, Ali Pasha was a man chiefly motivated by material interests. Theodore attempted to appeal to the bey directly, but the fact was that France could pay him for the coral concession and Corsica could not. Yet since the bey still disliked and distrusted the French, he devised a plan to counterbalance their influence by proposing to sell Tabarka to the British crown. Intrigued, the British government directed Commodore Augustus Keppel, the British commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, to gather more information. A certain Mr. Franco, an English merchant captain who did business in Tunis, reported to Commodore Keppel that the Tabarka coral fishery under Genoese management had yielded profits of up to £30,000 per year. The Board of Trade saw both profit and danger in the idea:

“...as to the utility of the proposal, if the Crown of Great Britain was in possession of Tabarka, they might sell the liberty of fishing for coral to the Genoese, Corsicans, or any other persons, until the English should have acquired the art of fishing it for themselves; that it would likewise be attended with advantages on account of the trade which might be carried on with the Main for oil, wax, hides, corn, and cattle... it is also worthwhile to consider the great importance of the English being in possession of this island, in case the Government of Corsica should fall completely into the hands of our rivals in trade, which from the situation and circumstances of that island must be such an incident that would greatly affect our trade in the Mediterranean… [However] it might give rise to disputes betwixt the Crowns of Great Britain and France concerning the limits of the coral fishery belonging to each crown.”

British Prime Minister Henry Pelham was not especially eager to provoke the French, as his country was still recovering from a very expensive war and focusing on cutting military expenditures and paying down the debt. But in foreign policy he was at odds with his own brother, Secretary Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle, who had not spared one moment after the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle before embarking on a campaign to diminish French influence across Europe and beyond. While he was committed to maintaining the “Old System” of the Anglo-Austro-Dutch alliance, Newcastle also courted Prussia and Russia as allies in an attempt to diplomatically isolate France. Every French maneuver had to be met and countered, no less in the Mediterranean than in Germany, India, or the Caribbean.

Newcastle saw the Treaty of Monaco as a worrying sign of French expansionism towards Italy and a clear threat to British trade interests in the Mediterranean generally and Livorno specifically. Acquiring a presence at Tabarka seemed like a reasonable countermove. As a naval base it was not very useful - it had no harbor to accomodate large warships, forcing them to anchor in the roads offshore in a vulnerable position - but it was perfectly suitable as a logistical base for resupplying and victualling the fleet, particularly since grain, cattle, and other provisions could be purchased from Tunisia and stockpiled there. Its acquisition could even be spun to the Prime Minister and the rest of the country as an economic benefit given its potential as an export hub for Tunisian trade goods.


Commodore Augustus Keppel

Taking Tabarka was also a means to engage with Corsica. Despite Theodore’s “betrayal” at Monaco, the British had taken the same lesson from Theodore’s marriage as the French: that the king was attempting to assert some independence from Versailles. As there were no British coral fishermen, some foreigners would be needed to exploit the Tabarka concession if Britain were to recoup their investment, and by turning to the Corsicans the British government would gain leverage on the Corsican monarchy. Even if war came and Theodore remained in the French diplomatic orbit, he might be reluctant to allow the French access to his ports and his island’s strategic naval resources (particularly timber and pitch) if he knew that it would mean the loss of his country’s rights in Tabarka.

Negotiating the cession was difficult and involved many moving parts. Commodore Keppel found that although the cession had been the bey’s idea, he was a master of feigning disinterest in the outcome of negotiations while trying to gain every treaty advantage he could. To sound out Corsican willingness to participate in this scheme, the British consul in Tunis Charles Gordon approached his Corsican counterpart Christoforo Buongiorno, Theodore’s former aide-de-camp.[5] The conversations between Buongiorno and Gordon were relayed to Theodore through his longtime associate Hamet, acting as the king’s courier. Theodore approved, and in December of 1751 the British signed a treaty with the Bey of Tunis which provided for the cession of Tabarka in exchange for a fixed annual tribute. The commercial terms the British secured were favorable, and sure to irk the French: Ali Pasha promised Britain that regardless of the tariff rate the French paid for Tunisian goods, the British would pay 2% less.[A]

Subsequent to this, an agreement was reached between the British and the Corsican government granting a set number of Corsican boats access to Tabarka and its nearby reefs in exchange for a fee paid by the fishermen. Had Theodore been wiser, he might have thought twice about this entire scheme. It is clear in retrospect, and ought to have been clear at the time, that any cooperation with Britain in this obvious move contrary to French interests would imperil his relations with France. But Theodore does not seem to have been fully aware of just how suspicious the French ministry was of him, for his personal relations with Crussol were very cordial. Theodore felt justified in the fact that he had acted in the best interests of his people, but self-interested neutrality was not what France was looking for in its Corsican client.

Elsewhere, energetic British diplomacy helped secure the peace of Italy. For some time the monarchs of Spain and Austria had been moving towards a signal and unprecedented territorial settlement. The late King Felipe had waged a series of wars over nearly half a century to gain the Italian patrimony which he believed was rightfully his, but his son and successor Fernando VI had no interest in such adventures. As soon as the throne was his he had sidelined his Italian stepmother Elisabetta Farnese, and had remained in the War of Austrian Succession only to salvage some face-saving peace from the ruin of his father’s dreams. Fernando was open to burying the hatchet with Vienna, and fortunately for him, Empress Maria Theresa felt the same way. Although she had tried to regain Naples in the previous war, the theft of Silesia had redirected her focus permanently towards Central Europe, and she was eager to put Italian issues to rest.

This newfound willingness for a permanent peace in Italy was music to Newcastle’s ears, as he saw a chance to complete the isolation of France by dividing her even from Bourbon Spain. Italy had been the main point of contention between Madrid and Vienna, and if it were removed from the table the Spanish would have little cause to join another continental war. Better still, once freed from the obligation to defend Italy from a Spanish invasion, the Austrians would be able to turn their full strength against France so as to better fulfill their ancient role as France’s great continental nemesis.

These considerations led ultimately to the Treaty of Aranjuez of 1752, also known by contemporaries as the “Treaty of Italy,” which created a defensive alliance between Spain, Austria, and Sardinia and their dependent states (Tuscany, Naples, and Parma). The powers confirmed their existing titles, renounced any claims on each others’ territories in Italy, and pledged to support each other with armed force if any of these territories were attacked. There was some reluctance on the part of Carlo Emanuele, whose expansionist schemes were curtailed by this general peace, but he was convinced to join for fear of isolation, because of British pressure, and because the treaty would at least confirm him in the possession of his gains from the last war which Maria Theresa had been eager to annul. Britain was not a signatory of the treaty, nor even a formal participant in the negotiations, but British diplomats had played a vital role in getting Vienna and Turin on the same page. France was well aware of the negotiations, but proved unable to stop them from reaching fruition.

The “non-aligned” states of Italy - Modena, Venice, Genoa, Lucca, the Papal States, and Corsica - were not mentioned. Nevertheless, the treaty affected them all, as it appeared to mark an end to the Bourbon-Habsburg dynastic wars for Italy which had wracked the peninsula throughout all of the 18th century thus far. For some, this was a disappointment; not satisfied with his humiliation in the last war, Duke Francesco III of Modena had been rebuilding his army with Spanish subsidies in the hope of making gains in the next great Italian war, a war that now seemed unlikely to materialize. Others welcomed it cautiously as a reprieve from violence and uncertainty. Either way, a new age in Italy seemed to be dawning.

[1] This was not entirely dissimilar to how the European courts handled the Barbary states. Although Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli functioned in most respects as independent states, they were technically Ottoman vassals. Since the Ottoman government had no real power over the Barbary States it was necessary for European governments to deal with their leaders directly, but to dispatch ambassadors to these “regencies” - a gesture which was proper only between sovereign states - risked the ire of the Sublime Porte. Thus, European governments did their business with Tunis, Algiers, and Tripoli through consuls exclusively.
[2] An unfortunate consequence of this use of the Corsican flag was a growing association of the flag with piracy. The Moor's Head had already acquired a somewhat unsavory maritime reputation thanks to its usage by Corsican corsairs during the Revolution and "King Theodore's War," and this reputation was not improved by Maltese rogues and adventurers using it as a flag of convenience to raid under the dubious cover of law. The Moor's Head came to be especially reviled in the Barbary states, where it was not only seen as the emblem of the piratical Maltese "crusaders" but assumed to be a depiction of a decapitated Muslim. Greek sailors under Ottoman rule, whose ships were frequent targets of Maltese corsairs despite their religion, also considered the "Black Head" to be a pirate's banner.
[3] The fact that Malta was among the greatest slaving marketplaces of Europe does not appear to have troubled Theodore’s relations with the Order. Theodore maintained that Muslim captives ought to be ransomed or traded to the Barbary states for the liberation of enslaved Christians, which was often done, but nevertheless his warships cruised alongside Maltese galleys rowed by Muslim slaves and it seems likely that slaves were taken by corsairs flying under a Corsican flag. As the Maltese “alliance” was politically useful Theodore turned a blind eye to his own complicity in slavery, something which he otherwise detested and railed against.
[4] Presumably Theodore is one of the few people in history to have been both a Teutonic and Hospitaller knight.
[5] Theodore had originally met Buongiorno in Tunis while preparing for his journey to Corsica. His father was a doctor from Livorno who had settled in Tunis after being sent there by the Grand Duke Gian Gastone, ostensibly to buy back Christian slaves but possibly as a commercial or diplomatic agent.

Timeline Notes
[A] Ali Pasha’s offer to sell Tabarka to the British is historical, but IOTL the negotiations ultimately ended inconclusively; Britain and Tunis signed a treaty but the Tabarka cession was dropped. ITTL, Britain’s more confident position after their marginally better outcome in 1748 coupled with concerns over French influence in Corsica leads to Britain and Tunis closing the Tabarka deal. Britain has a little piece of North Africa now...
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I just wonder why Theodore didn't open an embassy in Wien at least. While fully agreeing Corsica couldn't open embassies all across Europe, Austria shouldn't have been so snubbed so easily, besides being a friendly state, plus the seat of the Holy Roman Emperors...
Indeed. It sounds like that was a practical consideration due to expenses and distance, but it will likely not be seen as such by Maria Theresa.
I just wonder why Theodore didn't open an embassy in Wien at least. While fully agreeing Corsica couldn't open embassies all across Europe, Austria shouldn't have been so snubbed so easily, besides being a friendly state, plus the seat of the Holy Roman Emperors...
Indeed. It sounds like that was a practical consideration due to expenses and distance, but it will likely not be seen as such by Maria Theresa.
In the other hand, he has representatives in Florence and Livorno, both ruled by Maria Theresa's husband. Sending someone to Vienna would probably appear as giving too much importance to the Habsburgs.
I could certainly be wrong, but my impression is that it would not have been a big deal. Because of the expense of sustaining permanent diplomatic missions, it was not unusual for minor powers to restrict their normal diplomatic sphere to their most important neighbors. Genoa kept an ambassador to Vienna, but then Genoa was notionally an imperial subject (which Corsica is not) and often relied on Austrian favor as a counterbalance to Sardinia.

Corsica’s need for a permanent mission in Vienna is not very acute. Austria has no navy and not much of a commercial presence in the Mediterranean. If an Austrian citizen does have business in Corsica, the Tuscan consul in Bastia (being a representative of the emperor) is perfectly capable of assisting them, and Corsica does have official relations with the emperor (or at least his deputies) through their minister in Florence. If a diplomatic issue comes up which requires serious talks in Vienna, Corsica can always send an “envoy extraordinary” to handle it, as when Theodore sent the Prince of Capraia to Vienna to gain imperial approval for the king’s marriage. That was quite normal even for major states; Britain, I believe, had no minister to Bavaria for years before sending a special envoy there in 1745. I think the eventual establishment of a permanent Corsican mission in Vienna is likely, but it’s not a matter of extreme urgency.
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If he can afford it, it might be worthwhile just to provide several important/prestigious posts he can reward his supporters with since lack of that kind of recognition was such a bitter pill for the Corsican nobles under the Genoans. But for Vienna its probably best to have no representatives in the court rather than a poor one.
Theodore and the Pope
Theodore and the Pope

Corsican Dioceses before 1753. Cathedral sites are indicated. The purple dotted line indicates the old border between the Diocese of Mariana and the tiny Diocese of Accia, which was merged with Mariana in the 16th century.

Among the earliest foreign policy challenges of the new Corsican state was its relationship with Rome. Despite the thoroughly Catholic convictions of the Corsican people, the twenty year Revolution had seriously disrupted the Corsican church. While Theodore desired the domestic legitimacy that good relations with the Supreme Pontiff could bring, he also desired to keep the Corsican church on a tight leash, which would inevitably stir up conflict with the Roman court and its ruler, Pope Benedict XIV.

The island of Corsica was divided into five dioceses: Mariana and Accia, with its seat at Bastia; Nebbio, with its seat at San Fiorenzo; Sagone, with its seat at Sagone; Ajaccio, with its seat at Ajaccio; and Aleria, with its seat at Cervioni. As a consequence of its medieval history as a bone of contention between Pisa and Genoa, the island was split between two ecclesiastical provinces: The dioceses of Nebbio and Mariana-Accia were suffragans of the Archbishop of Genoa, while the dioceses of Sagone, Aleria, and Ajaccio were suffragans of the Archbishop of Pisa. Nevertheless, as the Republic of Genoa had controlled the whole island since the late Middle Ages, by common agreement with Rome the Pope selected bishops for all five sees based on recommendations from the Genoese government.

Up to the 1740s, Corsica’s bishops had invariably been Genoese citizens, often of powerful families. While some tried to act as mediators between the “malcontents” and the state during the Revolution, all were loyal to the Republic and considered their duty to be quelling dissent as much as caring for souls. Not surprisingly, this made the bishops the enemies of the naziunali as well as much of the Corsican clergy, which was drawn from the local population and tended to sympathize with the national movement. In 1741, the Genoese attempted to placate the Corsicans by reversing this long-standing policy of exclusion and appointing two Corsican natives, Romualdo Massei and Paulo Maria Mariotti, to the sees of Nebbio and Sagone. Although applauded by the locals, the change was too little and too late to make much of a difference. Both men fled their dioceses as rebel forces advanced. The last prelate remaining on Corsica, Bishop Agostino Saluzzo of Mariana and Accia, was expelled from the country after Bastia’s fall along with commissioner-general Pier Maria Giustiniani, the former bishop of Sagone.

The Treaty of Monaco had not brought these prelates back to their sees, for Theodore flatly refused to admit them. As Genoese citizens, he pointed out, they were constitutionally ineligible to reside in the kingdom (with the possible exception of Massei and Mariotti), and to accept “hostile agents” of a foreign power back into positions of authority would be intolerable and deleterious to both civil government and religion. But the king also held the rather more radical position that all five of them were inherently illegitimate. Theodore considered the Kingdom of Corsica to have existed de jure since 1736, the year of his election and coronation, and since all the bishops had been appointed after that date without his consent, none could be considered lawfully appointed.

The appointment of bishops was not the only point of contention between Theodore and Rome. While the percentage of ecclesiastical land on Corsica was fairly low, given the perception of the bishops as agents of colonial oppression there were few who stood up to defend their property rights.[1] As a consequence, Theodore had confiscated all their lands. Worse than this, the king had even presumed to steal the tithe, thus stripping the Church of its major source of income. Although he had promised to divert one third of the tithe money to the upkeep of churches and monasteries and another third to charity,[2] he refused to relinquish control of the tithe and simply pocketed the last third (originally the bishops’ take).

A further issue, though long dormant, regarded the papal claim to Corsica itself. The Church had long claimed suzerainty over the islands of Italy, Corsica included, through the forged “Donation of Constantine.” This document was by the 18th century largely known to be fraudulent, but it had been supported in the 11th century by the Corsicans and their clergy, who had welcomed Rome’s claim as a means to protect the island from feudal anarchy. Genoa and Pisa had both recognized the island as a Papal fief. Rome’s rights, however, were badly eroded when Pope Boniface VIII had awarded the island to the King of Aragon in 1298 as part of the newly-made “Kingdom of Sardinia and Corsica.” The Aragonese never succeeded in making good on this claim, and the Corsican people supported Genoese suzerainty in opposition to the Papal-Aragonese claim. Since that time Rome’s claim had lay dormant, but the Papacy was now especially sensitive to abrogations of its territorial rights in Italy. The 18th century thus far had seen the transfer of various lands the Pope claimed as his own - Sicily, Naples, Sardinia, Parma, and Mantua - with no consideration being given to Rome. The Treaty of Monaco, too, had been negotiated and signed without the slightest attention being paid to papal claims.[3]

In July of 1750, matters came to a head on account of the death of Girolamo Curlo, the exiled Bishop of Aleria. The Genoese, pursuant to their established right, sent instructions to their envoy at Rome regarding the appointment of a new (Genoese) candidate. The Corsican envoy, Erasmo Orticoni, informed the Curia that under no circumstances would His Serene Majesty accept a Genoese appointee for the post. It was the position of the Corsican government, he declared, that Corsica had “inherited” the Genoese right to recommend bishops to Corsican sees, and any bishop who lacked such a recommendation would never set foot on Corsican soil. Orticoni already had a counter-recommendation of his own: Giovan Paolo Gaffori, the cousin of Marquis Gianpietro Gaffori, who currently served as the chapter vicar of Aleria.

Pope Benedict conceded privately that the Corsicans had justice and common sense on their side. Centuries-old custom notwithstanding, as of 1750 Genoa had neither civil nor ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the see of Aleria (as technically it was a Pisan diocese). Nevertheless, he hesitated to confirm Gaffori. Some blamed the influence of the “Genoese party” in the Curia, but Benedict had plenty of his own reasons to take issue with Theodore. The king had angered the Pope by his unceremonious expulsion of Leonardo da Porto Maurizio, one of Benedict’s favorites, after Leonardo had refused to cease his sermons urging submission to the Genoese government. Theodore was said to be a Freemason, was rumored to have been the same man as the notorious Baron von Syberg who had been on the run from the Inquisition in Bavaria, and had declared absolute religious tolerance in Corsica contrary to Catholic teaching.


Pope Benedict XIV

Benedict expressed his willingness to accept the king’s right to nominate bishops, but wanted the reinstatement of the exiled bishops as well as the return of ecclesiastical land and tithe money. Theodore “conceded” in a way that really conceded nothing at all: He declared that the bishops were now welcome to return, but so as to comply with the constitution demanded that they first renounce their Genoese citizenship and liquidate all their estates and properties within the republic. Certainly he knew that this was a dealbreaker. Only one, the Corsican native Paolo Maria Marotti, returned to his see, but he died less than a year after his return.[4] Once again without bishops after Marotti’s death and frustrated at Benedict’s delays in consecrating Gaffori, Theodore convened an “ecclesiastical council” of the Corsican clergy in April of 1751. The clergy, obedient to the king, effectively revolted against their prelates, declaring that since the bishops had failed to return they had abdicated their sees and thus were no longer owed any obedience. Benedict denounced this “council” as canonically illegitimate.

Benedict was concerned by this deteriorating situation and not averse to finding some compromise. He was an advocate of reconciliation with secular princes, and was also pressed by Louis-Jules Mancini-Mazarin, duc de Nevers, the French ambassador in Rome, to end the dispute. In August 1751, Benedict appointed Cardinal Carlo Alberto Cavalchini as an “apostolic visitor” to Corsica. His task would be to evaluate the state of the Church in Corsica, restore the clergy to obedience, negotiate directly with King Theodore, and - until the situation was normalized - function as an interim administrator for the vacant Corsican sees.

To his dismay, Cavalchini soon found that the religious life of the people had slipped into, as he put it, “absolute depravity.” It was not a new observation, for Genoese ecclesiastics had long bemoaned the moral state of the islanders. In 1652, a monk dispatched by Pope Clement XII to write a report on religion in Corsica observed that many inland communities practiced none of the sacraments and observed a particularly degraded “Christianity” which was adulterated with divination,[5] a belief in the Evil Eye, and various other superstitions. Not much help could be expected from the Corsican clergy, which was of shockingly poor quality. In 1711, Bishop Ambrogio Spinola observed that Corsican priests did not teach the catechism, lived openly with concubines, and baptized children despite the fact that “the godfathers and godmothers ignored all the mysteries of the faith and knew not the Pater, nor the Creed, nor the Commandments.” Cavalchini could hardly differ, and in a letter to the Pope he painted a distressing picture of the Corsican clergy as a morally scandalous horde of illiterate cretins who had never set foot in a seminary (for Corsica had none), scarcely knew the tenets of their own faith, and understood clerical celibacy to mean that they simply could not marry the women they slept with.


Cardinal Carlo Alberto Cavalchini, Apostolic Visitor to Corsica

Insofar as the Church cared about the cure of souls, Corsica presented an urgent problem: a Catholic country which lay but a short distance from Rome which had no bishops, no seminaries, a degenerate priesthood, and a half-pagan population. Addressing this problem required Theodore’s cooperation, which gave Benedict an incentive to offer him some concessions. Moreover, reconciliation with secular princes was a hallmark of Benedict’s overall foreign policy. In a departure from the policy of his predecessors, Benedict believed firmly that the Church needed to end old feuds and concede worldly matters to secular rulers so as to gain a stronger hand in spiritual matters. Benedict’s willingness to compromise bore immediate fruit, as Theodore also seemed amenable to a solution; the king supported Cavalchini’s efforts to found a seminary at Bastia and secured a plot of land for its construction, gave his assent to efforts to strengthen discipline among the clergy, and signaled his willingness to compromise on ecclesiastical property. In turn, Benedict consecrated Gaffori as Bishop of Aleria and opened negotiations with Theodore’s government.

The Concordat of 1753, the result of these negotiations, was quite favorable to Theodore. His right to nominate bishops was confirmed and ecclesiastical territories were agreed to be fully liable to taxation. In keeping with Theodore’s belief that the island simply had too many bishops, Benedict reworked the ecclesiastical map: The old territory of Accia was split from Mariana and combined with Aleria, the Diocese of Nebbio was merged with Mariana, and the territory of Sagone was split between Ajaccio and Mariana, reducing the overall number of bishops from five to three.[A] Theodore accepted the Genoese bishops as legitimate, but was spared from having to welcome them to Corsica, as the pope laterally “promoted” them to other dioceses to free their positions for Corsican appointees. Benedict even gave his approval to the Order of Redemption after receiving assurances that it had nothing whatsoever to do with Freemasonry, which was officially prohibited. In return, Theodore promised to return most (but not all) ecclesiastical lands and committed to supporting Cavalchini's reforms and the Bastia seminary. Cavalchini's mission continued until 1755, and while he did not revolutionize the Corsican church he was credited with restoring some level of regularity to the diocesan institutions, reigning in some of the most egregious breaches of canon law within the priesthood, and putting the Bastiese seminary on a firm footing.

Although the Concordat of 1753 appeared to resolve matters, it proved to be only a temporary truce. Benedict was criticized even within his own Curia for being too lenient, a response which his policy of reconciliation often evoked. Theodore seemed to be the "winner," but he too was dissatisfied with the results. The king wanted Corsica to be given its own archdiocese; it was intolerable, he argued, that Corsica should be subject to foreign archbishops while the neighboring isle of Sardinia boasted three archbishops of its own. But this proposal foundered in the Curia on the opposition of the Genoese and Tuscans, who stood to lose by such an arrangement. Feeling that he had been wronged by Rome’s failure to grant him an archbishop, the king would eventually renege on the territorial provisions in the concordat and returned only a fraction of the properties he had promised. Other key matters were unresolved and left to fester. The question of Papal suzerainty over Corsica was dropped under pressure from the French, but Benedict did not renounce his claim. Nor was the “Jewish matter” addressed, for despite Theodore’s policy of tolerance the country’s Jewish population in 1753 was still very small.

In the years ahead Theodore would make ever bolder assertions of “regalism.” Challenges to the Church’s power abroad encouraged him to take strong action at home. When the Republic of Venice declared that government permission was required for the promulgation and execution of papal bulls in its territory in 1754, Theodore quickly followed suit. Although he was forced to put off further reforms in the late 1750s by tensions with France and the outbreak of war, he would return to religious matters by the end of the decade. By the mid-1760s he had claimed the revenues of all vacant sees and offices for the crown; forcibly closed monasteries which he deemed to have too few monks to be viable; declared marriage to be a civil contract; banned all communication between the Corsican clergy and Rome without royal approval; defied the papal ban on Freemasonry; and, declaring that the “excess” of clergy on Corsica “retarded the natural increase of the population,” placed a cap on the number of priests and monks in the kingdom and forbade women from taking the vows before the age of forty.

Theodore’s escalating attacks on the Church and his uncompromising support for religious liberty would make him a hero of the secularist and anticlerical Enlightenment, and would even esteem him in the eyes of some fellow Catholic monarchs who favored similar regalist and “absolutist” approaches to reigning in the religious establishment. It would also, under a new pontificate, lead inexorably to an open breach with Rome and Theodore’s own excommunication.

Corsican Dioceses after the Concordat of 1753

[1] Monastic properties were even less significant. Corsica had no wealthy monasteries, and most possessed little more than a garden and a private vineyard. Corsica’s monks also tended to be pro-naziunali, especially the Franciscans. There was no popular desire to confiscate the meager properties of these humble and generally well-regarded establishments, and Theodore had not attempted it.
[2] “Promised” being the key word. It seems highly unlikely that Theodore actually used two-thirds of the tithe money collected during the Revolution to repair churches and give alms to the poor.
[3] Theodore was well aware of this history, and early in his rule he had urged the Papacy to exercise its ancient claim. He had written the pope personally and proposed to serve as his vassal if the pontiff would only recognize his rule. Rome never sent a response, however, and had generally sided with Genoa over the course of the Revolution. By the 1750s, papal recognition was no longer of much value to Theodore, and he declared that his crown was owed only to God and the Corsican nation - not to the Roman pontiff, who by his inaction during the Revolution had abdicated any faint claim to Corsica he might once have enjoyed.
[4] Marotti was one of the Genoese-appointed “Corsican bishops” of 1741. Although he had fled to Genoa after the collapse of Genoese authority in the interior, Mariotti had subsequently been scapegoated and imprisoned by the Genoese government on the charge that he had conspired with the rebels.
[5] It was, for instance, the habit of Corsican shepherds to predict the future by use of a goat’s scapula which they would hold up to the sun. Omens could be read in the patterns of the light shining through the translucent, freshly-removed bone.

Timeline Notes
[A] IOTL, all the dioceses of Corsica were suppressed during the French Revolution and replaced with a single "Diocese of Corsica," headquartered at Bastia. The Concordat of 1801 abolished this revolutionary diocese and replaced it with the revived Diocese of Ajaccio, but did not revive the other dioceses; Ajaccio would cover the whole island, as it still does to this day. The other Corsican dioceses still exist today, but only as "titular sees" which comprise no territory.
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Most pontiffs would be crawling on the walls and ceilings of St. Peter’s in rage at Theodore’s flagrant disrespect and the state of the Corsican church. Kudos to Pope Benedict for actually possessing something approaching Christ-like patience and mercy here.

Isaac Beach

I laughed at Corsican priests thinking that sleeping around was a-ok so long as they didn’t marry anyone. What a convenient interpretation ;).