Seems to me this timeline is leading up to separate Anglo-French and Austro-Prussian wars occurring at around the same time? Certainly a more sensible approach than a full 'diplomatic revolution'. Austria certainly does not want to worry about another major foe to distract them from righteous revanchism, but would probably not be keen on France annexing Corsica out of the blue given the recent good relations Austria has had with them. Britain will want a continental ally to deal with France's huge manpower edge, but without the Austrians giving the French access through the Hapsburg Netherlands, France will have no legal land route to Hanover and could probably be fought on the seas, where Britain has an edge. Prussia has no power projection, they are a clear and obvious threat to neighbours, but not really able to affect anything outside their immediate vicinity.

Unless someone allies the Ottomans, I can see this timeline have plenty of smaller separate wars in the 1750s and onwards.
Shame he couldn't get the Farinole iron mine and foundry up and running, that would have done Corsica's some good.

The Farinole mine did not amount to much of anything IOTL. The mine appears to have been opened by the Genoese in the 16th century, but was abandoned well before the 18th century because it was deemed uneconomical. The British considered reopening the Farinole mine during their brief occupation (because economy be damned, we're at war and we need cannonballs), but they lacked the time and resources as the foundry and other facilities were in ruins and needed to be completely rebuilt.

A real attempt at reviving the mine was not made until two Bastiesi bought the concession in 1849. The mine was operational by 1853 and produced around 3-4 hundred tons of magnetite ore per year, samples of which were displayed at the 1855 Exposition Universelle in Paris. At its peak the mine employed 300-450 people. By 1862, however, the mine had closed down again. The Toga Ironworks (located just north of Bastia) considered purchasing the concession in 1871 but decided that operational costs were too high. Two other surveys by interested parties were conducted in 1903-04 and around 1920, but neither led to a reactivation of the mine.

Sources seem to be divided as to whether Farinole was ever any good. A 1898 text dismissed the Farinole deposit, saying that it had "no industrial value" and "has never been the subject of serious mining work," but in 1820 a French engineer had described the ore as having "surpassed all expectations" and being "richer than that of Elba," noting only that the low productivity was due to the iron needing additional steps to refine compared to that of Elba. It may be that the larger issue was that there was never much reason to mine at Farinole; France could get cheaper iron elsewhere, either from its own production on the continent or from trade with other countries.

The mine might be more likely to succeed under an independent Corsica, which has no other domestic iron source and could always wave the magic tariff wand to make local production competitive. That may well happen at some point, but it won't happen in the 1750s - there's just not enough money and too much else going on.

Seems to me this timeline is leading up to separate Anglo-French and Austro-Prussian wars occurring at around the same time?

That's basically OTL; the SYW can be pretty well characterized as an Anglo-French war and an Austro-Prussian war which existed in parallel and only had occasional crossovers. But since you mention it, as we approach the war it might be helpful to give a brief historical recap.

As war loomed with France, the Duke of Newcastle assumed that Austria would play its traditional role as Britain's continental ally, but Maria Theresa had no interest in this; she wanted to fight Prussia, not France. Kaunitz, the architect of her foreign policy by this time, approached the French about an alliance in late 1755. Britain's ally offering to defect was certainly interesting, but the French were leery about such an arrangement. They were still allies with Prussia, and France wasn't going to just betray Frederick like that (even though Frederick had betrayed them several times already). Prussia, after all, might be useful in an attack on Hanover.

Hanover was a big problem for the British. They'd love to fight a colonial war, but George feared for his electorate. To forestall a Franco-Prussian attack on Hanover, the British attempted to reactivate their old allies from the last war, Austria and Russia. The Russians were willing to sign on for a nice subsidy and put an army on their frontier to discourage Prussia from doing anything rash. But the Austrians balked, as they had little to gain from a war with France and did not want to be burdened with the obligation of defending the Netherlands (which Maria Theresa didn't really care about).

Thus, concerned that the Russian subsidy treaty on its own was not enough, the British approached Prussia directly to divide them from France. Frederick was receptive; he valued the French alliance, but he feared Russia and did not want to be dragged into a French invasion of Hanover. The result was the Treaty of Westminster in early 1756, in which Frederick recognized the neutrality of Hanover and agreed to keep his ally (the French) out of Germany, while George recognized the Prussian ownership of Silesia and agreed to keep his ally (Russia) out of Germany as well.

The British thought that by this means they were preventing war in Europe, but they were actually igniting it. The Austrians saw, as they already suspected, that the British would never help them regain Silesia. The French considered the "neutrality" of Hanover to be an unacceptable reduction of their strategic freedom, and felt themselves betrayed once more by Frederick. Even the Russians were upset; they agreed to the subsidy agreement presuming that their army was eventually to be used against Prussia, and they grumbled that Britain had not even consulted its allies before signing this treaty.

Thus the Austrian and French diplomats got together and said "hey, we'll ditch our bad ally if you ditch yours." This was the First Treaty of Versailles (May 1756). The Austrians pledged not to interfere in the Anglo-French war, which would allow the French access to Hanover without Austrian interference, while the French pledged not to attack Austrian territory (including the Austrian Netherlands). There were also secret articles which essentially amounted to a defensive alliance: if either power was attacked (excepting the already ongoing Anglo-French war), the other power would be obligated to assist in its defense. In theory both Westminster and Versailles were purely defensive agreements, but as with the Great War, such alliances stoked tensions rather than diminishing them.

Because of the Anglo-Russian subsidy agreement, Frederick initially assumed that Russia would be on his side (or at least not an enemy), and looked forward to the fight - with France busy with Britain (they had only promised 24,000 troops to Austria in the Treaty of Versailles), he imagined he would be able to focus on Austria. Russia's subsequent shift into the Austrian camp alarmed him, but he believed that Russia would be helpless without British subsidies and would be unable to do much; this was true, but the British subsidies ended up being replaced with French subsidies. Facing a large but ill-prepared and poorly-coordinated coalition against him and confident that Austria's new allies would be ineffective, Frederick decided to strike first before his enemies could further prepare. In August of 1756 he abruptly invaded Saxony, a small but strategically placed Austrian ally, seizing the country and its treasury and folding their soldiers into his army. Thus the European war began.

So what about TTL? Well, all the basic OTL motivations for war are still there. Barring some unexpected major death (Kaunitz falls off his horse or something), Austria will presumably still decline to pledge itself to Britain's defense of Hanover, and George will still seek to shore up Hanover by making a deal with Prussia, something his government and his people want to do anyway. For the "two wars" to remain totally separate, you would need to have France stay out of Germany, but this can only be accomplished by maintaining the Anglo-Austrian alliance which clearly did not have much life left in it (and none at all after Westminster).

Corsica and Genoa have caused some small disagreement between Vienna and Versailles, but I'm not sure it's enough to make huge waves. The Emperor might be fond of Corsica, particularly given that his new godson and distant cousin has a reasonable (but hardly certain) chance of gaining the throne there, but he's not the one who calls the shots - his wife is, and I don't know if anything that happens to Corsica could shake her laser-like focus on Silesia. Kaunitz, who's basically running her diplomacy at this point, believed that Italy was essentially a useless distraction for Austria, and that the Habsburg monarchy needed to be focused on gaining power in the German lands. I'm sure he couldn't care less about what Louis is up to in Corsica.

In case it's not clear, even though I've sketched out a plan for the Mediterranean theater I'm still not sure exactly how I'll play the war on the continent. Certainly there will be a war, as Frederick wanted a war too badly to allow the chance to pass him by, and I think it would be very difficult to keep the old alliances together in 1756 without some very high-profile early deaths. But as for the rest of it...?
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The Siege of Fort St. Philip

The opening months of the Anglo-French war in the Atlantic clearly demonstrated the dominance of the British Navy over their French rivals. The British had gotten the better of the French in the minor naval engagements thus far, and in late 1755 British cruisers snapped up hundreds of French ships in the Atlantic, most of them merchant vessels. Yet this success was arguably in spite of the leadership of the British prime minister Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle, who despite being chiefly responsible for the policy of escalation and provocation that had led to war had done little to prepare for it. The Royal Navy still suffered from cutbacks under the tenure of his late brother Henry Pelham, and as events in the Mediterranean would soon show, he had left key British positions dangerously vulnerable.

From late 1755, Newcastle was convinced that the French were set upon an invasion of England - so convinced, indeed, that for months he ignored or dismissed reliable reports that the French were preparing for action in the Mediterranean. Even when the buildup at Toulon was acknowledged, Newcastle believed that it was most likely bound for Corsica, as the approach the French had made to the Corsicans in January (to be discussed below) was known to him. As a consequence, at the beginning of 1756 the British Navy had only four ships of the line in the entire Mediterranean theater and woefully inadequate garrisons at Gibraltar and Menorca. Newcastle deigned to send reinforcements only because of strong public and parliamentary outcry, and by the time he did the French were already on the move. Their target was Menorca and the naval base at Port Mahon, a position second only to Gibraltar in importance. The port was commanded by Fort St. Philip, an extremely formidable fortress but furnished with a garrison that was too small to fully man its defenses.

From the start, the relief fleet under Vice-Admiral Temple West was plagued with difficulties. Their launch was considerably delayed by a dearth of sailors and bad weather. Upon reaching Gibraltar, West found that the garrison there was so thin that the Governor refused to give West more troops, fearing for the safety of his own position. West’s crew shortage was such a problem that in order to make his fleet combat-capable he had to strip sailors from his frigates to man his ships of the line and even use ordinary army soldiers as crewmen. Worse still, the Admiralty had assumed that West would be able to rendezvous with the ships already in the Mediterranean, but two ships of the line and two frigates were blockaded at Port Mahon. When Vice-Admiral West finally met his French opponents in June of 1756 he would find himself outmatched.

The result was a crushing defeat. West succeeded in making contact with the Menorca garrison and began landing troops, but the untimely arrival of the French fleet under Admiral Roland-Michel de la Galissonière forced him to call off the operation and prepare for action. Galissonière, by no means a hot-headed captain, knew that he was under strict orders to defend the land operation and initially kept his distance, but he soon realized that his ships were larger and more numerous (13 French ships of the line to 11 British) and that the wind had turned in his favor. He pressed the attack, and although West fought bravely he was outnumbered, outmanned, outgunned, and outmaneuvered. The French captured two ships, the 64-gun Trident and the 50-gun Isis, and damaged the 60-gun Kingston so badly its crew had to scuttle it to avoid capture.[1] Three British captains were lost, two killed and one captured. The rest of the British fleet was heavily damaged and escaped a much greater disaster only because Galissonière, faithful to his orders, did not abandon his transports to pursue them. “None of their ships long withstood the fire of ours,” Galissonière wrote in his report, “and our vessels suffered but little.” The battle had proved enough of a distraction for the British ships blockaded at Port Mahon to slip away, but this was a small comfort.[A]

With his fleet battered and his men thoroughly demoralized, there was no chance that West could challenge Galissonière again. He resolved to do what he could to aid the besieged garrison by using his frigates and lighter ships to disrupt French supplies, but such mischief could only delay the garrison’s fall, not prevent it. Galissonière became a national hero and was given a marshal’s baton by a grateful King Louis XV; West was scapegoated by Newcastle and dismissed from the service. The defeat so stunned Newcastle and his ministers that they gave serious thought to suing for peace, perhaps offering a favorable boundary settlement in the Americas for the return of Minorca, but the disaster caused such public indignation that Newcastle dared not attempt it. Within a few months Newcastle too was to become a casualty of Menorca, falling from power in October as a consequence of his failures.

Since the beginning of serious hostilities at sea in 1755, King Theodore and his prime minister, Count Gianpietro Gaffori, were in complete agreement that the best course for Corsica was neutrality. To side against France would be suicidal, but to side clearly against Britain would endanger Corsican access to the Tabarka concession.[2] Corsica would allow the ships of the belligerent ports into its harbors - which were, after all, free ports - but following the example of Livorno, strict rules of neutrality would be observed to avoid any accusation of partiality. Confident that Corsica’s neutrality would be respected, Theodore saw no need to expand the army or take any defensive precautions, things which the state did not really have the money for anyway.

The first sign that this policy might not be tenable for Corsica came in January of 1756, when the French government proposed to assist the island’s defense by stationing two infantry battalions in Corsica and requested that the Corsicans terminate their trade with the British, whose officers at Tabarka and Port Mahon purchased some of their foodstuffs and naval stores from Corsica. Gaffori politely declined the offer of troops and demurred on the proposed embargo, pointing out that such an action would be provocative and unwarranted given that Britain and France were not actually at war. Theodore conveyed his own regrets to the French envoy, claiming that he had sympathy for the French position but could not go against his government. The French did not immediately force the issue, but the matter was not forgotten.

Following the Battle of Menorca and the fall of Fort St. Philip, the French turned once again to Corsica. They had installed a strong garrison at Menorca to prevent its recapture, but no such force was guarding Corsica. The French feared that Theodore might come to some arrangement with the British, a fear that was stoked by reports that the Anglophile Corsican ambassador to Britain, Pasquale Paoli, had held private meetings with the Duke of Newcastle. Even if Theodore’s pledge of neutrality was serious, the British could always strongarm him into cooperation. Don Carlos of Naples had folded like a wet rag and backed out of the war when the British had menaced Naples with the guns of the Royal Navy in 1742; how could weak little Corsica be expected to show any more backbone?

The Corsicans had refused France’s protection in January, but after the fall of Menorca their compliance was no longer optional. On June 8th, Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, Duc de Richelieu, the commander of the siege of Port Mahon - and Princess Elisabeth’s brother-in-law - arrived without warning at Ajaccio with 44 sail, including eight ships of the line. The highest ranking Corsican official present at that time was the provincial luogotenente, Marquis Luca d’Ornano, who thus received Richelieu and his demands. Noting that a state of war now existed between France and Britain (the British had declared in May), the duke informed d’Ornano that “for the protection of the Corsican people” it was necessary for the Corsican government to agree to His Most Christian Majesty’s terms. They included the occupation of Ajaccio, Calvi, and San Fiorenzo by French troops, the cessation of all trade with Britain and her allies, and other measures intended to bring Corsican policy into line with French aims, including the recall of Ambassador Paoli from London.

D’Ornano complained that this was not proper behavior for an ally and asked for more time, as he could hardly make these concessions on behalf of the entire Corsican government. Richelieu would allow this, but demanded to be able to bring his ships into the harbor and land his forces. Controversially, d’Ornano complied, claiming later that resistance was pointless. Although the citadel of Ajaccio was a reasonably strong fortification, the city was completely unprepared for attack - there were no gunners, no troops except the part-time presidial dragoons, and hardly any powder in the citadel’s magazine.

When the Corsican foreign minister Giovanni Vincente Garelli arrived four days later to negotiate with Richelieu, he found that the city was already effectively under French control. With the French occupation now a fait accompli, Garelli signed the “Convention of Ajaccio” on June 13th, accepting virtually all the French demands. He managed to make only a few modifications to the terms, of which the only one of importance was that the French agreed to compensate the Corsican government for provisioning the French forces. Richelieu remained only long enough to supervise the occupation of Calvi and San Fiorenzo. In total, the French occupation forces amounted to around 3,500 men - seven battalions of infantry and a small detachment of engineers and artillerymen - under the command of Maréchal de Camp Guy-André-Pierre de Montmorency, Marquis de Laval, who established his headquarters at Calvi.

Mere days after the signing of the convention, West was relieved by Vice-Admiral Edward Hawke, who arrived at Gibraltar with six more ships of the line. Unfortunately for Hawke, there was nothing to be done to salvage the situation. Menorca had surrendered, Corsica was occupied, and Galissonière had returned to Toulon with his fleet. All Hawke could do until the end of the year was to cruise the Western Mediterranean, protecting British merchants and attacking French shipping as he was able.

The French occupation of Corsica did not lead immediately to violence between the Corsicans and their French “allies.” Corsica’s neutrality had been violated, but the French aim appeared to be to secure the island rather than topple the government. Although he was privately outraged by the complete lack of consideration or courtesy shown him by the French, Theodore publicly preached calm and cooperation. When the consulta of 1756 met at Corti in August, the Marquis de Laval came personally to assure the delegates of France’s good will, and neither Theodore nor Prime Minister Gianpietro Gaffori uttered a word against him. This was not to say that everyone was happy to see the French return to Corsica; the “French Invasion” of 1738-41 was still a recent memory, and the controversial reforms and exactions of Henri Léonard Bertin had not endeared the French to the Corsican people. But because the French forces were confined to three coastal towns, most Corsicans did not have to suffer their presence, and the assurances by both Laval and their own leaders that this was a temporary state of affairs mollified them. The occupation might be an indignity, but it remained preferable to war. In fact only one Corsican official preached war, and he was not even on Corsica.


Pasquale Paoli, Ambassador to Great Britain

Cavaliere Pasquale Paoli had arrived in London in 1753 as the Kingdom of Corsica’s first ambassador to the Court of St. James’s. Although he had been chosen chiefly because he was one of the few Corsicans who could speak English, he turned out to be the perfect man for the job. As an ambassador from the wild land of Corsica he was at first a mere curiosity, but Paoli was no backwoods rustic. Schooled in the academy at Naples, fluent in multiple languages, and possessed of an extraordinary memory, he was a cultured, charismatic, and highly literate man who could easily hold a conversation with the British luminaries of his day. Although Paoli was a pauper as ambassadors went - his stipend from Corsica was rather slim - he was given lodging by the Dutch ambassador and his austere lifestyle became a core part of his image. Brilliant yet humble, erudite yet unassuming, Paoli cultivated a reputation as a “man of virtue,” the ideal combination of polished Enlightenment education and simple rural rectitude. He was not himself a warrior and had never been in battle, but he could certainly point to his family’s brave deeds in defense of liberty; his brother had lost an eye at Ponte Novu, and his father had lost his life fighting the Genoese. Paoli was not the captivating social butterfly and unparalleled raconteur that Theodore had been during his stay in London, but he nevertheless became a popular and much admired figure.

The French were correct to call Paoli an Anglophile; he was an admirer of Britain’s success and came to regard Britain to be a model for Corsica in many respects. Still, when war arrived he dutifully followed his instructions to preserve Corsican neutrality. Following the Convention of Ajaccio, however, Paoli went rogue. Instead of resigning his post and returning to Corsica as Foreign Minister Garelli had ordered, Paoli simply ignored Garelli’s instructions. The Convention, he maintained, amounted to nothing more than extortion, a worthless treaty extracted from the Corsicans at the point of French bayonets. Paoli’s stipend was cut off, but this was of no importance; he had plenty of well-wishers in London who provided for his needs. From this point on, “Ambassador” Paoli became a one-man government-in-exile who crafted his own foreign policy as he saw fit, and the sole objective of this policy was to convince the British to invade Corsica.

Paoli’s case was strategic. With the loss of Menorca, the British position in the Mediterranean was hobbled. Corsican ports would provide the British navy with ample provisions as well as bases scarcely a hundred miles from the French coast from which British privateers could wreak havoc on French trade. Diplomatically, it would be a chip at the negotiating table; the British could refuse to withdraw their forces unless the French withdrew theirs (from Menorca, for instance). Paoli also reminded the British of his peoples' valiant struggle against the French and their record of service on the continent, assuring anyone who would listen that several regiments of loyal auxiliaries could be raised from the population.

Best of all, all this could be achieved with only minor exertion on the part of Britain. As Paoli portrayed it, occupied Corsica was a roiling cauldron seething with hatred for the French occupiers. A mere token effort - a handful of warships, a few battalions of troops, and some shiploads of guns and munitions - would be sufficient to raise the Corsicans in rebellion once more. Surrounded by the Corsicans on land and the British at sea, the French garrisons would have no choice but to surrender, handing the British a new base of operations and a much-needed morale boost after their disastrous defeat at Menorca.


Sketch of William Pitt

The invasion Paoli urged would not materialize in 1756, but his argument caught the attention of a rising figure on the British political scene, William Pitt. A voice of belligerence in Parliament since the beginning of his political career, Pitt was a vituperative critic of Newcastle and was despised by King George II for his opposition to subsidies for Hanover during the War of the Austrian Succession. Initially, Paoli was chiefly of interest to Pitt because the “fall” of Corsica was yet another means to discredit Newcastle, but Paoli’s proposed scheme was right up Pitt’s alley. Firmly against a “Hanoverian policy” and continental commitments, Pitt believed that Britain’s strategy ought to be to use its naval power to protect its trade, disrupt the trade of its enemies, and dismantle the overseas empires of its rivals. A naval “descent” on Corsica would certainly aid in protecting and interdicting trade, and it would be a highly visible and popular victory (as what patriotic Englishman would not applaud the “liberation” of Corsica from French tyranny?).

The problem, of course, was that Paoli’s characterization of the situation in Corsica was nowhere near the truth. He had no idea what the popular response to the occupation was, and the population he described as teetering on the verge of insurrection was, for the moment, completely quiescent. Although he intimated to the British ministers that he had the support of his king, there is absolutely no reason to believe that Theodore or his government supported or were even aware of his lobbying on their behalf. Because the French had expelled Britain’s envoy in Corsica, however, the British knew little more than Paoli did, and Paoli’s description of Corsican fury was exactly what the British expected from the “malcontents” who had waged war for twenty years against the Genoese, French, and Austrians to secure their freedom.[B]

[1] For the Isis, this was a homecoming. The ship was originally French, but was captured during the War of the Austrian Succession. After returning to Toulon, the place of its construction, it was given its original name back - the Diamant.
[2] This was working exactly as intended, for securing Corsican neutrality was one of the reasons Britain had bought Tabarka and opened the concession to the Corsicans in the first place.

Timeline Notes
[A] The Menorca campaign ITTL occurs around the same time as the OTL Menorca campaign, but with some different people and a different outcome. IOTL, the relief force was led by Admiral Byng, who was more evenly matched with the French (in part because the British ships at Port Mahon were able to slip away just before the French blockaded them) but nevertheless fought an inconclusive battle in which no ships were lost before withdrawing and leaving Menorca to its fate. As a consequence, he was accused of cowardice, court martialed, and executed by firing squad. His execution was the source of Voltaire’s famous quip in Candide ("In this country, it is wise to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others"). ITTL, West gets caught at a disadvantage, fights, and loses three ships in the process. Although this is a worse outcome for Britain, it’s a marginally better outcome for the fleet’s commander - West gets cashiered, but nobody can accuse him of being a coward, so at least he doesn’t get shot. It is possible this will have some long-term effects on Britain - some writers and historians have claimed that Byng’s death, while a gross injustice, probably did “encourage the others” by teaching Britain’s naval officers that aggression and risk-taking were preferable to a slavish adherence to the Admiralty’s rules of engagement. It’s also a better outcome for Galissonière. It is believed that Louis planned to make him a Marshal of France IOTL, but he fell sick and died on his way back to Paris and never received it.
[B] I did tell you Paoli was going to play a part eventually, didn’t I? He’s been mentioned before, but this is his entrance into the story as a major character.
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Has Tabarka been captured as well then, given the French seemed to think it would be vulnerable without Minorca or Corsica? Or did the British reinforcements to Gibraltar arrive in time to save it?
It went rather well - for now. Is not the Corsicans could do something against the French in full swing in the Mediterranean. But hopefully it would end for the best for Corsica...
So I notice we’re pretty far into 1756, talking about the Anglo-French War and even the fall of Newcastle, with no mention of those two game changing treaties from OTL; are we to take it, then, that the Diplomatic Revolution has been averted TTL? If so, could that mean we end up seeing the Anglo-French and Austro-Prussian conflicts remaining separate for their durations?
How has the Austrian army developed after TTL's War of Austrian Succession? More or less the same as OTL or has their somewhat better performance ITTL gone to their heads?
While researching for this update I came across an interesting take on the Battle of Menorca from Alfred Mahan in his highly influential The Influence of Sea Power Upon History:

“It is quite conceivable that had the French admiral [Galissonière] thought less of Mahon and used the great advantage luck had given him to take, or sink, four or five of the enemy, the French people would have anticipated the outbreak of naval enthusiasm which appeared too late, in 1760. During the remainder of this war the French fleets, except in the East Indies, appear only as the pursued in a general chase.”

Mahan is quite dated and I certainly wouldn’t take his interpretation as gospel, but it does make one wonder if a more resounding French victory at Menorca - like the one ITTL - would inspire the French and their government to place more resources at the disposal of the navy in the SYW. Whether that would actually make a difference is another matter altogether...

Has Tabarka been captured as well then, given the French seemed to think it would be vulnerable without Minorca or Corsica? Or did the British reinforcements to Gibraltar arrive in time to save it?

Although they considered it, the French ultimately made no attempt on Tabarka. Their operational window was narrow and Tabarka is far away. They also realized that Tabarka would be impossible to hold against the British given its distance from France and how weak its defenses are. The best they could do is raze it and leave, which would not accomplish much since there’s not a lot there in the first place; Tabarka is not much more than a trading post. (That’s actually what the French originally planned to do with Port Mahon and Fort St. Philip - tear down the place and evacuate - but the weakness of the garrison allowed them to force the British to surrender while most of the fortress and its guns were still intact, causing the French to change their minds and occupy it instead.) As we’ll see soon, however, Tabarka may be in danger anyway, because Tunisia is imploding.

I wonder how much of was Pasquale is saying is his own earnest belief and how much is exaggeration or outright fabrication.

This is probably going to be a question debated by historians ITTL: Was Paoli convinced that the Corsicans really were on the verge of rising up against the French, or did he know better and exaggerate the depth of Corsican resentment in order to convince the British to invade?

So I notice we’re pretty far into 1756, talking about the Anglo-French War and even the fall of Newcastle, with no mention of those two game changing treaties from OTL; are we to take it, then, that the Diplomatic Revolution has been averted TTL? If so, could that mean we end up seeing the Anglo-French and Austro-Prussian conflicts remaining separate for their durations?

Silence, in this case, should not necessarily be interpreted as nonexistence. We’ll get to the continent when we get to it, but for now I am leaving you in suspense regarding the rest of Europe.

How has the Austrian army developed after TTL's War of Austrian Succession? More or less the same as OTL or has their somewhat better performance ITTL gone to their heads?

I am not an expert on this, but my assumption is that Browne's back-and-forth in Provence was probably not enough to give the Austrians a sense of complacency given their as-OTL thrashing by Prussia. They proved that they're as good as the Bourbons, but it's not the Bourbons they're trying to reclaim territory from this time. I suspect their military situation by 1756 is more or less the same as OTL.
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I am not an expert on this, but my assumption is that Browne's back-and-forth in Provence was probably not enough to give the Austrians a sense of complacency given their as-OTL thrashing by Prussia. They proved that they're as good as the Bourbons, but it's not the Bourbons they're trying to reclaim territory from this time. I suspect their military situation by 1756 is more or less the same as OTL.
Will Charles of Lorraine still be at the reins?
The Turbulent Isle
The Turbulent Isle


Maréchal de Camp the Marquis de Laval

The commanding officer of the French forces in Corsica, Guy-André-Pierre de Montmorency, Marquis de Laval, reported soon after his arrival that the response of the islanders to French occupation was that of peaceful, even eager acceptance. Urged by their leaders to submit peacefully, the Corsicans did not resist, and not a shot was fired despite the sudden and not entirely cordial manner in which the French had arrived. Laval’s impression of the situation, however, was colored by his decision to make his headquarters at Calvi. From a military point of view, this was sensible: Calvi boasted the strongest fortress on the island and it lay the closest to France. Yet Calvi was also not very representative of the rest of Corsica. Its population remained largely Corso-Genoese, mostly pre-Revolutionary residents who had swallowed their filogenovesi pride and opted to stay put, along with a minority of Genoese emigres who had fled the crackdown on the Assembly government in 1750. The old residents had never really warmed to the new regime and saw the French as their friends and protectors; in the siege of 1745, after all, it had been the French who defended their city while the British and naziunali reduced their homes to rubble. It was no wonder that they welcomed Laval and his Frenchmen with open arms.

The case of Ajaccio was altogether different. Here, too, the initial French occupation had gone smoothly, helped by the ready cooperation (too ready, some said) of the regional luogotenente Marquis Luca d’Ornano. Although the Ajaccini were in the main more “Corsican” and more sympathetic to the Theodoran state than the Calvesi, they were not necessarily die-hard naziunali and did strenuously object to a few battalions of Frenchmen taking up residence in the citadel. It did not take long, however, for the French to seriously alienate one of the city’s most important groups - its coral fishermen.

Ajaccio’s coral fishermen did not exclusively work in Tunisian waters, but the Tabarka concession was nevertheless valuable. This outpost off the Tunisian coast, acquired by the British just a few years before, was the lone survivor of the French Mediterranean offensive of 1756; the French considered it to be a low priority and simply did not have the time or resources to pursue it before British reinforcements arrived in the theater. The French had placed their hopes in a proxy, Muhammad Rashid, who sought to overthrow his reigning cousin Ali Pasha, the Bey of Tunis, who had himself usurped the crown from Muhammad’s late father. Muhammad Rashid finally struck in the autumn of 1756, backed with French funds and the forces of the Dey of Algiers. This operation, however, quickly turned into a shockingly brutal and destructive civil war in which Muhammad Rashid, Ali Pasha, and the French consul in Tunis all ended up getting murdered. The implosion of the Tunisian state was not exactly good for the British, but at least it meant that no native power would be working with the French to eject them from Tabarka in the immediate future. It also meant that, since Tabarka remained an active British base, the French authorities in Corsica prohibited the Ajaccini from having any contact with the outpost.

This was a particularly foolish act because it incensed the Corsicans without actually accomplishing anything. With the French navy having withdrawn to Toulon, Laval and his officers in Ajaccio could not possibly enforce their prohibition directly, and thus took to interrogating fishermen and brokers returning from their voyages. Those who were suspected of breaking the ban had their cargoes impounded and sometimes their boats as well. The accused took their grievances to the local courts, but this was usually a futile effort as the French did not feel themselves bound by the rulings of Corsican judges. It was widely suspected by the fishermen that, just as with Bertin’s coral taxes, Laval’s ban was really just a means to spare French coral fishermen from competition (which was not actually true, as the Compagnie Royale D’Afrique had suspended all operations in Tunisia as a consequence of the civil war and the patrols of the British Navy).

Tensions in the city were further exacerbated by French efforts to raise military forces in Corsica, and in particular the involvement of the Greeks in this affair. Since the fall of the city to the naziunali, the Corsican Greeks had remained a distrusted minority. Although Theodore had treated them favorably, he had lacked the resources to resettle them elsewhere, and bowing to the demands of the Corsicans he had declared that the Greek community should remain disarmed. In early 1757, the Busacci brothers - the very same Greek brothers who had led the failed “uprising” against the naziunali following the surrender of Ajaccio - received approval from the French commandant in Ajaccio, Colonel Jean Baptiste Calixte, Marquis de Montmorin, to begin forming a volunteer cavalry unit under French sponsorship. This not only contradicted the government’s prohibition on the Greeks carrying arms, but infuriated the Corsicans of Ajaccio, who saw the Greeks in general and the Busacci brothers in particular as traitors and resented being policed by armed Greeks as in Genoese times.

Ajaccio’s other notable minority, the Jewish community, was pushed in the opposite direction. Most Jewish families in Ajaccio were involved in the coral industry in some fashion and perceived the French restrictions on the coral fishermen as an attack on their own livelihood as well. The situation was not helped by the fact that Laval suspected from the start that the Jews were inclined to be hostile foreign agents, as he was aware that the Jews which had settled in Menorca under British rule had supported the garrison against the French invasion. The situation was further strained by the arrival of a new wave of Jewish immigration in 1757, a consequence of the Tunisian civil war and the “terror regime” in Tunis led by Ali Pasha’s vicious and tyrannical son Younis. Alarmed by the influx of Jews into the city, in February of 1757 Montmorin banned the Jews from residing in the upper town and ordered them to be moved to the Borgu (the suburbs), considering them to be a threat to security.

Until mid-1757, discontent with the French occupation remained largely contained within Ajaccio. It was perhaps inevitable, however, that the French “mission” in Corsica would evolve from mere port protection to exploitation. As the French attempted to capitalize on their victory at Menorca with a naval building program to contest the sea with the British, they soon found themselves facing shortages of all kinds of naval stores. There were not enough guns to arm the ships coming off the blocks, forcing the French to substitute smaller caliber guns and strip coastal batteries of their cannon. Masts, timbers, and all other naval stores were in equally short supply. Corsica, an island rich in timber and pine resin, was an obvious source for some of these much-needed goods.


A dense grove of Corsican Pine in the Restonica Valley

In principle, at least, the French had promised in the Convention of Ajaccio that all exactions from Corsica would be compensated fairly. Because cash was in short supply, however, and because Corsica already owed France a considerable debt, Laval began “compensating” the Corsican government by giving them credit towards that debt. This was all well and good but it did not put any real money in Corsican government coffers, which meant that despite being “compensated” on paper the Corsican government did not actually have the hard currency necessary to pay workers and farmers whose product was appropriated by the French garrison. The government resorted to increasingly dubious schemes to remain solvent, including taking on more debt, assessing “advance taxes” on the promise of lower taxes in the future, and demanding cash payments on taxes and fees that could ordinarily be paid in kind.

The Corsicans also bore more direct effects of French demands. Since 1756 Laval’s men had conscripted local labor to help repair and modernize the defenses of the presidi. This was not popular, but it was paid (albeit not very well) and it appeared to be for the benefit of the occupied towns. French demand for naval stores, however, convinced Laval to order the implementation of Bertin’s abandoned corvée scheme in order to build roads into the wooded valleys of upper Corsica, as military labor proved to be insufficient to the task. This was bitterly - and sometimes violently - resisted by the locals, who aside from a rather meager wage saw no benefit to the French trying to haul away their forests. By 1757 the French had also begun directly seizing ships for the war effort, necessary to replace the enormous volume of merchant shipping which had been lost to British privateers and cruisers. Rarely were these seizures compensated at anywhere near the actual value of the ships. Not even the Corsican Navy was spared, and Salvatore Viale, the Secretary of the Navy, quietly ordered the “frigate” Cyrne and several smaller ships to relocate to Malta to avoid possible seizure.

Laval’s efforts to secure Corsica and use its resources for the benefit of the war effort also conflicted with the interests of the other major foreign party in Corsica, the Dutch traders of the Nederlands-Corsicaanse Compagnie. Although the States General carefully maintained the neutrality of the Dutch Republic in the present war, Laval suspected that the NCC’s sympathies were with the British and considered their privileged position to be both a strategic and commercial threat to France. Laval could not actually terminate the company’s agreement with the Corsican government, but he could seize the timber and naval stores the NCC required to repair and maintain their ships (arguing that these were strategic resources needed for the French war effort) and dispatched soldiers to the NCC’s “factory town” of Isola Rossa to inspect their warehouses and cargoes. The Dutch found themselves between two fires, harassed both by the French in Corsica and by English privateers at sea who did not always strenuously observe the rights of neutral ships.

These mounting pressures were aired publicly at the consulta generale of August 1757. Every consulta generale thus far had been rather politically diffuse and disorganized; each delegate came with his own ideas and his own concerns, and there were no real political parties or other coherent attempts to define or advance a platform aside from narrow shared interests among delegates from the same pieve or presidio. This remained largely true in 1757, but the events of the past year resulted in a few outspoken dissenters making the “French situation” a topic of general debate. The procuratori unexpectedly turned their ire towards the Marquis de Laval himself, who was once more in attendance but swiftly came to regret it as the delegates subjected him to withering verbal attacks. Rather than taking this on the chin, Laval left the consulta later that morning. The attacks continued in his absence, but soon the procuratori turned on Gaffori and d’Ornano, who were accused of being French doormats.

The controversy at the consulta of 1757 did not actually result in any concrete action; it was a public airing of grievances by a vocal minority. Nor did it indicate a real revolutionary spirit, as just because the procuratori felt brave enough to denounce Laval to his face did not mean that they were ready to take up arms. Theodore himself suffered no criticism, for his reputation remained unassailable, and although Gaffori was made into the general whipping-boy at Corti he still enjoyed the confidence of the king, which was the only thing he needed to remain in power. Nevertheless, the consulta was not without consequence. The events of the consulta disseminated stories of French abuses, which had been fairly localized, across the island. Gaffori resolved to press the French for better terms, but Laval had taken his treatment at Corti as a personal humiliation and was no longer interested in compromise.

The man most determined to inflame this crack into an open breach was Don Giovan, Principe di Morosaglia, who had long been at odds with Count Gaffori and was delighted to watch him squirm in front of the procuratori. Don Giovan was not a master of politics, but the opportunity this presented to him was too obvious to miss. Opposition to the French occupation was not only a means to strike at Gaffori, but a way to diminish the popular standing of Don Federico, Principe di Capraia by way of his conspicuously French wife Elisabeth d’Harcourt, and given his own reputation as a indomitable anti-French machiaro Don Giovan was a perfect fit for the role of an agitator against the “unjust” occupation. He did not call publicly for war - not yet, anyway - but became a harsh critic of French “confiscations,” forced labor, and exemptions from Corsican law. While the prince neither wrote editorials nor started up a speaking tour, he still had a great deal of respect among the interior Corsicans and privately encouraged their leaders to resist not only French demands but the government’s own policies which served the French.

While Don Giovan’s agitation was targeted mainly at inland Corsicans and their sense of national honor, resistance was also growing in Ajaccio. In the autumn of 1757, pamphlets written by a certain “Giovanni Verde”[1] began to appear in the city decrying French abuses and claiming that the ultimate plan of King Louis XV was to conquer the island and sell it back to the Genoese. It was immediately declared to be contraband by Montmorin, but the city council objected, insisting that the French - who were, after all, only there for their protection - had no right to ban literature or arrest Corsicans for reading it. In an attempt to mollify them, Montmorin demanded that d’Ornano deal with the matter. D’Ornano complied, ordering the presidial dragoons to arrest anyone in possession of the pamphlets, but this was somewhat less than successful; in one instance the dragoons tried to arrest a man in the middle of the day who was reading a pamphlet only to find themselves pelted with trash and stones by the angry residents, forcing them to retreat without their perpetrator.

The origin of the “Verde Pamphlets” was especially mysterious because there was at the time no printing press in Ajaccio. Montmorin came shortly to suspect the Jews were behind it, and not entirely without reason; a stack of them was discovered on board a Livornesi ship partly owned by a Jewish merchant, and Livorno was the site of several Jewish-owned printing houses with close connections to certain Ajaccio Jewish families. This evidence was circumstantial but it was sufficient for Montmorin to order invasive searches of Jewish homes and cargoes, night raids of their properties, and the shuttering of the small house which was serving as the community’s synagogue (which the colonel referred to in a letter as a “den of vile conspiracies”). If Montmorin expected that his actions would only upset the helpless Jews, however, he was sorely mistaken. It was not much of a stretch for the Corsicans to imagine that they too might have their homes raided by Frenchmen in the night, particularly since the Jews were hardly the only ones reading “Verde’s” missives. The city council, which had not opposed the banishment of the Jews from the upper town and had complained to Theodore about the new influx of Jews from Tunis, suddenly rallied to their defense and demanded that French troops not be used for what was clearly a Corsican law enforcement matter. Montmorin, pointing out that the Convention said the French were there in part to preserve the “peace and order” of the Corsican presidi, brushed this demand aside.

Despite the agitation of Don Giovan and “Verde,” even as the winter of 1757 approached Corsica was not the roiling cauldron of insurrection which Ambassador Pasquale Paoli was describing to statesmen in London. Arguably only Ajaccio met that criteria, and even there popular anger against the French did not necessarily mean that the citizens were ready to take up arms in revolt. As luck would have it, however, when Rear Admiral Charles Saunders received orders in October of 1757 to collect intelligence on the situation in Corsica, his main sources of information were British Livornesi merchants whose information came mainly from Livornesi traders (including many Jews) who did business mainly in Ajaccio. Saunders was thus led to believe that Ajaccio was representative of the general situation in Corsica as opposed to being a local hotbed of sedition.

Saunders’s orders had come about as a consequence of the fall of Newcastle and the rise of William Pitt, who was now Secretary of State for the Southern Department and, though not prime minister, the most prominent man in government. Although Pitt was a critic of Hanoverian policy and an advocate of pursuing the war in the colonies, it was not possible to ignore Hanover altogether so long as he served as the king’s minister, particularly now that the electorate had been left vulnerable by the desertion of the Empress-Queen Maria Theresa from her old alliance with Britain. Pitt still opposed British “boots on the ground” in Germany but it was necessary for the British to do something besides bankrolling the Hanoverian “army of observation” (a mostly German force).[A] The solution, to Pitt, was a policy of “naval descents” - that is, amphibious raids - which were intended not only to damage France directly by “disturbing and shaking the Credit of their Public Loans” and “impairing the Strength and Resources of their Navy,” but to “compel the enemy to employ in their own Defence a considerable Part of their forces designed to invade [Hanover].”


Places of Note in the Mediterranean Theater

An intervention in Corsica offered only a partial fulfillment of these goals. Certainly it seemed plausible that taking the island would impair French naval efforts, as well as causing economic damage to France (and sparing the same to Britain) by its utility as a base for privateers. It could not, however, compel the French to shift their forces from Germany; control of the sea around Corsica was necessary for such an operation, and if Britain could achieve this control the French would be hard pressed to reinforce their Corsican garrisons even if they thought it desirable. But just as important as any strategic goal was the anticipated effect of a successful invasion on British morale, which was flagging after the disaster at Menorca and other setbacks. Corsica was possibly an even greater prize than Menorca, and if as Paoli claimed its “liberation” could be accomplished with forces already on hand it would also be more cheaply bought than Menorca, an exceedingly strong fortress with a prodigious garrison.

Unlike Menorca, however, the conquest of Corsica presented several possible approaches. Although the British hoped, as Paoli assured them, that the Corsicans would rise up with a mere demonstration, Pitt and his advisors agreed that the British landing should take the form of an attack against one of the three French garrisons so as not to waste the element of surprise and to ensure that the “demonstration” was as effective as possible. Calvi was quickly discounted; the British had taken it once before, but only with significant “native” assistance and the exploitation of an undefended cove which the French, if they had learned their lesson, would not be leaving undefended a second time. San Fiorenzo was more feasible, but the bay was considered to be very well defended, suggesting that a British attack would have to be made via a landing at Bastia and a march overland into the Nebbio. This would be logistically challenging, give the French advance warning, and deny the British the use of their naval artillery.

This left Ajaccio. The city’s key weakness which had allowed the rebels to capture it in 1743, the position of the heights of Aspretto overlooking the harbor, still remained. The British were unsure whether “Fort Costa,” the position which the rebels had constructed on this hill, still existed - and, if so, whether it was garrisoned by the French - but if it could be taken, the French garrison would be at the mercy of the British. Surely if the ragtag Corsican rebels had managed to subdue the city in this manner, the armed forces of Great Britain could manage it with ease. It was thus decided that the primary blow would fall here, at Ajaccio. This would be followed by an expedition against Bastia which would force Theodore’s government to fall in line (if Ajaccio alone was not sufficient), allow the British to deliver arms and munitions to the patriotic farmers of the Diqua who were ready to throw off the Bourbon yoke (or so claimed Paoli), and potentially set up an attack on San Fiorenzo. Calvi, as ever the toughest nut to crack, would be left for last, once the full support of the Corsicans had been secured.

[1] Or “John Green.” It is generally assumed that Verde was a reference to the color of the royalist cockade during the Revolution.

Timeline Notes
[A] As you can see, by 1757 this timeline's "diplomatic revolution" has indeed happened to the extent that Austria has abandoned Britain and Britain has turned to Prussia. I think the switching of alliances would be hard to avoid; even if Frederick had not acted first in OTL, it appears that Austria was planning their own offensive in the following year, and they had no intention of going to war with France at the same time. How exactly this all unfolds ITTL is, for now, a mystery, but it will not be following the exact same course of events as OTL.
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Is 'John Green' a made up character, or is there possibly an easteregg in there? Sad to see the Dutch and Jewish merchants losing their very tenuous trust in Corsica.
Sad to see the Dutch and Jewish merchants losing their very tenuous trust in Corsica.

I don't know about the Jews. It's quite clear that after those night raids, and seeing that it could happen to them, the people have kind of started treating them better. All it takes is a bigger enemy for people to rally against.