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    King Theodore's Corsica

    From March to November of 1736, Theodore von Neuhoff, a Westphalian baron, ruled Corsica as its king.

    Theodore's kingdom is obscure today—and perhaps understandably so, as it existed so briefly. Later writers often dismiss the "Kingdom of Corsica" as farcical and Theodore himself as delusional, a sort of real-life Don Quixote with ambitions unmoored from reality.

    I disagree. Theodore von Neuhoff was certainly an unorthodox character, but he was neither a fool nor a charlatan. He was a man of intelligence, courage, political skill, and extraordinary charisma. The allegation that he acted out of naked self-interest is refuted easily enough by the fact that, despite repeatedly talking investors into giving him loan after loan and providing him with (literal) boatloads of guns and supplies, he was essentially broke all his life and died a pauper. Theodore was genuinely committed to the cause of Corsican freedom, and even after leaving the island for the last time he was constantly writing letters to ambassadors and ministers, calling in old favors, and cajoling merchants and investors, all for the benefit of a country he spent less than a year in.

    Although he left the country, Theodore wasn't really deposed in 1736. His departure was ostensibly to drum up the foreign support he had promised his followers. He remained in close contact with the rebel leaders for years, and as late as 1744 the Corsican rebels were still drafting proclamations which recognized Theodore as king. Although often dismissed as a mere adventurer playing at royalty, he was by any reasonable standard a legitimate monarch. Elected by the preeminent men of Corsican society by means of a constitution unanimously ratified by the consulta (the national assembly of the rebel movement), his claim to leadership is no worse than that of Pasquale Paoli, who was similarly chosen by the consulta 19 years later to be the supreme general of the Corsican nation.

    The Corsican rebellion, which lasted intermittently from 1729 until the conquest of Paoli's republic in 1769 and its subsequent annexation to France, could have succeeded. The singular most important condition for its success, I believe, was that it happen within the context of a greater European war, a war in which Genoa would be unable to call upon a great power (read: France) to intervene and save their crumbling hold on the island. The best and most obvious choice is the War of Austrian Succession, over the course of which Genoa itself was occupied by Austrian troops. Indeed, the British and Sicilians supported an attempt to drive Genoa entirely from the island during that war, but it failed because of the fractiousness of the rebels and the incompetence of the leaders of the expedition. Theodore had done far better in 1736 even without the British Navy supporting him.

    I suspect that if Theodore had been able to hang on to his throne until 1741, when the war began in earnest, the chances for a successful Corsican revolution would have increased dramatically. That may seem like a tall order given that his actual reign didn't even last a year, but it's worth noting that although Theodore himself left in 1736 some of his own German kinsmen actually held out as guerrilla leaders against the French occupation forces until the summer of 1740, less than a year before the French withdrew from the island. With a bit of luck, I don't think it's impossible—or too implausible—that Theodore could have weathered the forces arrayed against him long enough for him to become an asset to the Pragmatic Allies and fully exploit the general European war to gain Corsica its independence.

    And that is what will happen in this timeline.

    The Plan

    My intent is that this timeline will unfold in two "stages." The first, covering approximately the years from 1736 to 1748, will be a "wartime" timeline which will detail the alternate Corsican rebellion and how it attained victory; it will focus on personalities, strategies, diplomacy, and the occasional battlefield narrative. The second stage will be less about war and more about government, economics, and culture, as a small, poverty-stricken island kingdom under the upstart House of Neuhoff attempts to make a success of itself over the latter half of the 18th century and steer a course through the dangerous waters of European diplomacy.

    While I consider myself pretty well-read about Theodore and the Corsican rebellion, my knowledge of 18th century Europe more generally is quite shallow. Thus, while the first stage is relatively well thought-out, the second stage is (mostly) wide open, and I will certainly be soliciting your help to paint a historically plausible picture of Corsica's fate.

    As the life of Theodore and the history of the Corsican rebellion are probably not well-known to many people, the first few posts will be a pre-POD digest of relevant Corsican history, the early life of the Baron von Neuhoff, and how those two things came to intersect.

    The style of this timeline will be similar to that used in Sons of the Harlot Empress—that is, like a work of popular history—but I'm a little more open to experimentation here, and historical vignettes, book excerpts, and other such things may make an appearance. (This is something of a "side project" for me, by the way, and doesn't mean that SotHE won't continue.)

    The Rule

    There is but one commandment which I must insist upon in this thread: Thou Shalt Not Mention Napoleon.

    I've noticed that whenever Corsica is mentioned in the context of the 18th century on this board, discussion inevitably turns to the fate of the World's Most Famous Corsican. It's no surprise—Napoleon is probably the best argument ever made for the Great Man Theory of history. He had such an outsize effect on the history of the world that any timeline which substantially changes or omits him must inevitably become a global affair, which in my case risks exploding a little story about a strange man and his island kingdom into a something much, much larger. Considering that the POD of this timeline occurs not only before Napoleon was born, but before his parents were born, I consider his mere existence ITTL to be impossible without some extreme butterfly gymnastics.

    How I intend to approach this problem—or indeed whether, for I may simply decide to end the timeline near the close of the 18th century—is a bridge I shall cross when I come to it, and not before. Until then, I must humbly request that you make no posts mentioning him, by name or otherwise, lest the thread be dragged into Napoleonic speculation.
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    The Cause of Liberty
  • The Cause of Liberty
    Or: How Not to Run a Colony

    Choiseul once said that if Corsica could be pushed under the sea with a trident, it should be done. He was quite right; it’s nothing but a nuisance.” - Napoleon Bonaparte

    It may be uncharitable to the Genoese to characterize the whole history of their rule over Corsica as “a long exercise of oppression and misgovernance,” in the words of one 18th century British commentator. Under Genoese rule, the ports of Corsica grew into modest yet prosperous urban centers. These port settlements, however, were initially intended as Genoese enclaves in which native Corsicans were not permitted to reside. This ban was eventually lifted and some Corsicans were able to gain the full benefits of citizenship and assimilate into Genoese society, but that path was generally only available to the highest echelon of Corsican society.

    Genoa's rule was not totally without positive contributions, most notably the introduction of Corsica's famous chestnut trees, which the Republic compelled the natives to grow in order to provide an alternative to poorly-performing cereal crops. As a rule, however, the Genoese administration of Corsica was exploitative by design, with little thought for long-term development or integration of the "highland" Corsicans into the Genoese state. As official posts in Corsica were not considered very desirable or prestigious, the administrators of the island were usually drawn from the lesser nobility. For such men Corsica was of interest only insofar as its tax base might be tapped to fund their subsequent careers. By 1729, after nearly four centuries of Genoese rule, there remained a vast economic and cultural gap between the Genoese-dominated port cities and the villages of the mountainous highlands where most Corsicans lived.

    In the second half of the 17th century and the opening decades of the 18th, the Republic of Genoa underwent an economic and political decline which would eventually seal its fate. As the fortunes of the Genoese Republic began to fail, the burden which the republic’s officials placed on Corsica became more and more onerous, even to the point of frustrating the ability of the people to make a living. Despite being heavily taxed for the benefit of the Bank of Saint George and providing the Republic with many of its soldiers, Corsicans were prohibited from hunting and fishing on their own island. It was said that before the arrival of Baron Neuhoff in 1736, the Corsicans had never tasted the oysters which grew abundantly in the eastern lagoons: they were exploited solely for the benefit of the Genoese. The more Genoa suffered – from plague, the gradual loss of their Mediterranean colonies, the decline of the Spanish Empire whose sovereigns they had bankrolled, and aggression from France and Savoy – the more it relied on the exploitation of Corsica and its people.

    Since the days of the Romans, Corsica was infamous for its contumacious natives, and in the early 18th century ever larger numbers of young Corsican men were turning to violence. Although the Genoese termed this activity "banditry," much of the violence was inter-familial and concerned honor rather than robbery. Corsica had arguably the highest per capita murder rate in Europe at the time, estimated in one recent study as 700 per 100,000 people in the early 18th century;[A] property crimes, in contrast, appear to have been very rare. The origins of Corsica's tradition of the vendetta are complex, but it certainly had much to do with the feckless and inept Genoese administration which offered the Corsicans of the interior no justice or any other means to resolve disputes. Increasing conditions of poverty and hunger undoubtedly only made these problems worse.

    The problem became serious enough that the Genoese senate passed an edict in 1715 providing for the forced disarmament of the Corsicans. Disarmament, however, would have financial consequences: Genoese merchants held a monopoly on weapons sold in Corsica and the Genoese government made money on arms licenses, so the cessation of arms sales would harm the republic’s own finances. Driven at least in part by the need to address this expected shortfall, the Genoese introduced in the same year a new hearth tax upon every Corsican household in addition to the significant taxes on salt and other goods already levied upon them.[1] Perhaps to assuage the anger of the Corsicans, the Genoese promised that this tax would be levied for no more than 10 years. When 1725 came around, however, the Genoese Senate found parting with their new revenue stream too painful to consider, and the “temporary” tax was extended indefinitely.

    In 1728, the island was beset by a very poor harvest. The Corsicans, facing the prospect of a famine, petitioned for a relief from the hearth tax. In an uncommon act of (partial) leniency, the Genoese Senate resolved that only half normal payment would be collected in 1729. This mercy, however, failed to trickle down through the venal and corrupt administration. Many tax collectors continued to demand the full amount, and the Senate was either uninterested in or incapable of reigning in the cupidity of their officials.

    According to local legend, the spark was provided by an old man named Cardone in the pieve (district) of Bozio. In October of 1729, he attempted to pay his tax, but the Genoese lieutenant of Corti deemed his payment insufficient, claiming that one of his gold pieces was under-weight. Cardone's payment was refused and the lieutenant threatened him with the confiscation of his property if he did not pay the full amount within one day. The old man told everyone he met of the injustice, and soon there were stirrings of rebellion everywhere. The Genoese sent a hundred soldiers to Bozio, but they were seized upon in the night and disarmed by the populace. With bills, axes, and captured muskets, the people then stormed the fort of Aleria, slaughtered the garrison, raided the armory, and attacked the administrative capital of the island, Bastia.

    The rebellion now became island-wide. A consulta (assembly) of rebel delegates at Furiani elected three Corsicans of prominence - Luigi Giafferi, Domenico Raffaelli, and Andrea Ceccaldi—to be the "generals" of the nation. For two years, the Genoese miserably failed to crush the upstarts, and in 1731 they appealed to the Holy Roman Emperor Karl VI for assistance. Four thousand German soldiers under Baron Karl Franz von Wachtendonck arrived to suppress the rebels, but the Corsicans were more formidable than expected. A rebel force under Ceccaldi delivered a stunning defeat to a force of German soldiers at Calenzana, necessitating the dispatch of a larger imperial force under the command of Friedrich Ludwig von Württemberg-Winnental.


    Imperial troops disembark on Corsica, 1731

    This time the rebels felt compelled to come to the bargaining table. A deal was negotiated under imperial auspices in which the Genoese would grant some liberties to the Corsicans and the Corsicans would send their generals as hostages to Genoa. The Genoese, however, acted in exceptionally bad faith; when the hostages reached Genoa the Senate decided to execute them. Only the intervention of imperial officials, who were scandalized by the dishonorable behavior of the Genoese—and, perhaps, pressure from another character whom we will soon mention—prevented these executions from actually being carried out. As soon as the imperial forces withdrew, the Genoese reneged on their earlier concessions. The Corsican rebellion immediately resumed, now under the leadership of Giafferi (who had returned to Corsica) and a new general, Giacinto Paoli.

    By this point the Corsican rebels had begun to realize that outside assistance might be necessary for their struggle. They first turned to King Felipe V of Spain, to whom they offered the crown of Corsica if he would rescue them from the Genoese. Felipe was good enough to reply to their appeal and promised the rebels that he would not support the Genoese with troops, but he declined to become their monarch and offered them no assistance. In 1735, the Corsican-born lawyer Sebastiano Costa drafted a constitution for the rebels which declared Corsica to be an independent commonwealth under the protection of the Immaculate Virgin, presumably since no other monarch would take them.[B]

    An earthy sovereign, however, was closer than they thought.

    [1] The tax was commonly known as the Due Seini, named after a 1/3 lira coin known as a seino.

    Timeline Notes
    [A] For comparison, this is a murder rate nearly seven times higher than the 2015 murder rate of El Salvador, at that time the highest in the world.
    [B] Or not. The idea that the Corsicans made the Virgin Mary their queen is a widely-circulated bit of trivia, but it's unclear whether it actually happened. The major source for the claim is Voltaire, but the memoirs of Costa - the man who actually wrote the constitution - mention no such dedication, and several other contemporary sources state that the rebels erected a republic with no mention of the Holy Virgin.
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    The Baron
  • The Baron


    Coat of Arms of the Neuhoff Family[1]
    "It is true that there are few Examples of so great and sudden a Rise as Lord Theodore's; yet if we go so far back as to the first Origin of Kingly Power, we shall find that the Men who were designed and elected to command their Fellow Creatures, had no greater or more just Prerogatives over the People, than Theodore has over the Corsicans... The Corsicans made desperate by the Genoese, have had Recourse to a private Person to deliver them from Tyranny. If he restores them to Liberty, and frees them from Slavery, what signifies it to them what Condition he was born in?"

    - The Jewish Letters, Jean-Baptiste de Boyer​

    To say that Theodor Heinrich Nicetius Steffan, Freiherr von Neuhoff zu Pungelscheid was "a German" is technically true, but woefully inadequate—he was a true international man even by the standards of the nationally fluid European nobility of the 18th century. Born in Germany and educated in France, he traveled over the course of his life from Sweden to Tunisia, from Turkey to Portugal, and nearly every country in between. He was a French lieutenant, a Bavarian captain, and a Spanish colonel. Language was always one of his intellectual strengths, and by the age of 40 he is known to have been conversant in German, French, Greek, Latin, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Dutch, and English. He gave his title as Freiherr von Neuhoff but always spelled his given name in the French manner, Theodore.

    The Neuhoff family, while not a house of great significance, was of a venerable baronial line. Its founder was Rotger, a "well-born squire" (wohlgeborner knape) who was endowed with the castle of Neuhoff, formerly referred to as Nienhave or Niggenhove, by Count Heinrich of Nassau in 1331. The family's fortunes rose under Rotger II "the Dove" (1378-1447), who despite his pacific nickname was an effective soldier in the service of Count Adolf of Mark and Cleves, the son-in-law of John the Fearless of Burgundy and uncle of the French king Louis XII. Rotger II managed to consolidate and greatly expand the family's holdings, which were mostly concentrated in the County of Mark, but they were permanently divided by his sons Johann and Hermann. Johann, the eldest, retained Castle Neuhoff itself[A] and his line was known as von und zu Neuhoff. Hermann received the lordship of Pungelscheid and his descendants were titled von Neuhoff zu Pungelscheid. Both sides of the family proved effective at conserving the overall patrimony, in large part through strategic cousin-marriages. Theodore's great-grandfather Wilhelm, for instance, married a daughter of the family of Neuhoff gennant Ley, a cadet branch of the von und zu Neuhoff line.

    Theodore was the oldest child of Leopold Wilhelm, himself the eldest son and presumed heir of Dietrich Stephan, Freiherr von Neuhoff zu Pungelscheid. Ordinarily the succession would have been straightforward, but there was no familial love between Baron Dietrich and his rebellious son Leopold. Leopold had, in express disregard for his father's wishes, married Maria Catharina von Neyssen. The problem was not just that he had married for love rather than family advantage, but that his wife was of dubious nobility, for although her father was a baron her mother was the child of burghers. Dietrich filed suit to have his son's marriage annulled on the basis that it was done without parental permission. Soon after, Leopold seems to have converted to Calvinism, possibly because marriages were more difficult to annul in the Calvinist faith but perhaps just to further enrage his staunchly Catholic father.

    Leopold pursued a career in the Prussian army but was killed in 1695 at the Siege of Namur.[2] His only son Theodore had been born only a year before, and his only daughter Maria-Anne Leopoldine was born posthumously at Namur, for Leopold had taken his wife with him on campaign. The widowed Maria Catharina had her children re-baptized as Catholics in the hope of reconciling with her father-in-law, but not even Leopold's death would stop Dietrich from pursuing his suit against his son. In 1700 the baron finally prevailed in having his son's marriage declared posthumously invalid and his children by it made legally illegitimate. Maria Catharina died in 1701, leaving Theodore and Maria-Anne as not only illegitimate but orphans too. Baron Dietrich died not long thereafter.

    Because of the annulment of his parents' marriage, young Theodore did not inherit the family holdings. They passed instead to Leopold's younger brother and Theodore's uncle Franz Bernhard Johann. Fortunately, not all relationships in the Neuhoff family were as poisonous as that of Dietrich and Leopold. After Leopold's death, Franz Bernhard took his late brother's family under his own roof and ensured that his niece and nephew received every opportunity. He paid for Theodore's instruction at a Jesuit school, where by all accounts Theodore was an excellent student; he showed a particular talent for language, mastering Latin and Greek at a young age.

    In 1709, at the age of fifteen, Theodore was sent along with his younger sister to the court of Elizabeth Charlotte, the Duchess of Orleans and mother of the future Regent of France, Duke Philippe II. Theodore became a page, while his sister became a lady-in-waiting of the duchess and would subsequently adopt the name Elizabeth-Charlotte in her honor. Only noble children could serve in such posts, but if the Duchess knew of their legal illegitimacy she did not care, and what was good enough for the Duchess of Orleans was good enough for everyone else who mattered. Theodore's sister married well, wedding Andre de Bellefeulac, Comte du Trévoux,[3] nephew of the king's confessor.

    [1] Usually blazoned Sable, a broken chain of three links in pale Argent. Occasionally the links are displayed as being whole, but Theodore exclusively used the "broken chain" version.
    [2] The Neuhoffs had lived under the dominion of the Hohenzollerns since the County of Mark had come into the possession of John Sigismund, the first Duke of Brandenburg-Prussia, in 1614.
    [3] Actually Trévou-Tréguignec in Brittany, not Trévoux in southern France. "Trévou" was sometimes written "Trévoux" at the time.

    Timeline Notes
    [A] Known today as Schloss Neuenhof. Although his family name derives from the site, it has nothing to do with Theodore's life, since he was of the junior line of the Neuhoff family which never possessed the castle. His own family's seat, Burg Pungelscheid near the town of Werdohl, was struck by lightning and ruined in 1797. Nothing remains of it today.
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    International Man of Mystery
  • International Man of Mystery


    "Tall, well-built, with plenty of wit, very likable, speaking every language perfectly. A man to whom nothing seemed difficult."

    - Ferdinand Charles Gobert, Comte d'Aspremont-Lynden, describing Theodore as a young man​

    As with many young men of the lesser nobility, Theodore's next step after service as a page was to enter the military. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the French cavalry regiment of Courcillon and saw action in the closing years of the War of Spanish Succession. After the war ended, Theodore dabbled in diplomacy and espionage, possibly selling information (or pretending to) about the Duke of Orleans for money. This was the first hint of a problem with finances which Theodore would struggle with all his life. As a nobleman whose whole inheritance had been stripped from him, he had little means of his own, and in his attempt to live a lifestyle befitting of his station he tended to rack up large personal debts. He was subsequently given a recommendation to the Bavarian army, where he served as captain in the infantry until 1716, when he absconded from both the regiment and the country to escape his creditors. Returning to France, he got in a heated argument with his brother-in-law over his own debts, which resulted in Theodore striking and injuring the count. It was serious enough that he was in danger of criminal charges.

    His rescue came from an unlikely source. The Swedish minister Baron Heinrich von Goertz was in Paris at the time on a diplomatic mission, but on the side he was engaging in some skulduggery with Jacobite sympathizers in France. He needed a discreet go-between, and soon found Theodore. Goertz sent Theodore as an undercover agent to England as part of a conspiracy to ship grain to Sweden purchased with Jacobite money in exchange for the promise of later Swedish support for the cause of the House of Stuart. When the conspiracy was broken up in 1717 Theodore escaped to the continent, but his creditors proved more able to sniff him out than the English, and he was imprisoned for debt. Goertz, however, secured his release and appears to have cleared his debts or at least secured him a reprieve. Theodore next went to Spain, which was now involving itself in Jacobite conspiracies as well.

    Theodore soon gained favor in Spain thanks to a friendship with the powerful Cardinal Giulio Alberoni and was made colonel of an infantry regiment. There he romanced and married one of the queen's maids, Catalina Sarsfield, who was the daughter of an exiled Irish Jacobite nobleman. Their only child, a daughter whose name is not known, died in infancy. He participated in the War of the Quadruple Alliance and appears to have been part of the failed attempt by the Spanish to invade Britain and restore the Stuarts in 1719. Alberoni fell from grace later that year, and was exiled. This was a bad omen for Neuhoff's own career in Spain, but fortunately he was able to return to France in 1720; his brother-in-law whom he had assaulted had been killed in the recent war, and Theodore was able to obtain a writ of protection from the French regent which protected him from action by his creditors.

    Unfortunately Theodore's financial difficulties only grew worse. Although payment on his debts was deferred due to royal action, they were not forgiven, and to make his fortune he sunk his money (and even his wife's jewels) into the Mississippi Company of John Law. Alas, he had gotten into an economic bubble shortly before it popped, and when it did so in late 1720 the collapse of the company left Theodore with nothing. He fled Paris again, and we find him in Holland, then back in Spain, then in prison, and shortly freed from prison with a new patron. This was the Dutch-born Spanish minister Johan Willem Ripperda, an adviser to the powerful Queen of Spain, Elisabeth Farnese. Ripperda dispatched Theodore once more on Jacobite intrigues, and for five years he was Ripperda's spy and undercover agent in Portugal, France, England, and Rome. He seems to have been a rather good spy: in Rome, traveling under the pseudonym of "Baron Romberg," he befriended Philipp von Stosch, who was in fact the British government's premier informant on the Jacobite court in Rome. Stosch only found out about the true identity of "Romberg" and his Jacobite allegiance years later. For the rest of his life, it was rumored - but never proved - that Theodore had been given some knighthood or title by the Old Pretender himself as a reward for his long service, and this may have been the basis for Theodore's occasional claims that he was an "English lord."


    Duke Johan Willem Ripperda, diplomat and minister of Spain,
    and later Theodore's co-conspirator in his Corsican scheme

    Good spy or not, in 1726 his career in espionage came to an end with the fall of Ripperda, who was disgraced and imprisoned on allegations of embezzlement and abuse of office. Serious Spanish interest in the Jacobite cause vanished with Ripperda's career, and Theodore himself came under suspicion for his checkered past and association with such men as Ripperda, Law, and Alberoni. The government pulled Theodore's funding—he was at the time under cover in England—and in 1727 he left England for Vienna. Drawing on some of his contacts, he managed to get an audience with Eugene of Savoy in order to gain his recommendation for a high official post, possibly military, but days before this was to go through Eugene received a letter from Spain which made some scandalous accusation about Neuhoff's past, and the recommendation was never made.

    Thus rebuffed, Theodore seems to have gotten into some rather disreputable activities in Austria, including running off with a 23 year old nun named Maria Rhein who for some years traveled with him as his apparent mistress under the pseudonym of "Fraulein von Friesbach." As a result, Theodore was arrested under suspicion of "intimacy with a nun" (a very serious crime), but he managed to escape from captivity. He changed his own name repeatedly, going by "Baron von Geyersburg" and "Baron Heinrich Sigismund von Welckacker" in Vienna, and after his prison break traveling in Prussia as "Baron Johann Hendrik von Syberg."[A] Maria traveled with him as his assistant, mistress, and possibly even his wife. Although some later claimed Theodore to be a bigamist, it was probably not true even if he did marry Maria, for poor Catalina seems to have died around 1724.[B] Theodore was later accused of abandoning his wife when he fled from Paris in the aftermath of the Mississippi Company disaster, but leaving her there may have been an act of mercy; in Paris, at least, she would be free of the creditors who were after him, and in any case he could not very well have brought his Irish-Jacobite wife along with him during his clandestine career.

    In Prussia, Theodore reinvented himself into a traveling physician, astrologer, and alchemist, claiming to be able to make love potions and panaceas.[1] He seems to have been quite learned in "modern" alchemical scholarship, was well read on the art, and corresponded with chemists, mystics, and Rosicrucians. He was rumored to be a Freemason, and may well have been considering the popularity of Freemasonry among the exiled Jacobites, many of whom he knew well. He briefly went to Sweden in 1731 along with Maria, and then to Bavaria, but after his return to the continent we hear nothing more of her. In Bavaria, Theodore became a quite well-known astrologer (under the name of "von Syberg") and claimed to be able to predict lottery numbers. His "sorcery," however, caught the unwelcome attention of the Inquisition, and he left for Holland, where he was put up in comfortable lodgings at the expense of the state by successfully impersonating a foreign diplomat.

    In late 1732, he traveled to Genoa, possibly on some imperial diplomatic commission, and it was here under the alias of "Baron Schmitberg" where his destiny and that of Corsica became intertwined. The alchemist Theodore would now attempt the greatest transmutation of them all, as great as any feat which the legendary Philosopher's Stone was said to be capable of: turning a penniless mountebank into a king.

    [1] A particular "favorite cure" of his seems to have been Hungarian wine mixed with gold dust.

    Timeline Notes
    [A] Nobody has better pseudonyms than Theodore.
    [B] We don't really know exactly when Catalina died. This is my best guess based on the fact that she's never mentioned again; it could well have been earlier or later. Certainly Theodore never mentioned a wife during his Corsican career, and despite extensive "research" done into his life by Genoese propagandists and European writers in 1736 and afterwards, nobody to my knowledge managed to find a living wife.
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  • Transmutation


    A Genoese pinque or "pink," a small, shallow-keeled cargo ship used in the Mediterranean.
    Richard, the ship which bore Theodore to Corsica, was the same type of vessel.

    "The Wizard by whom this adventurous Knight-Errant is protected, does not let him want for Money, and takes special Care of the Affairs of this new Monarch. All Europe is really as much perplexed to know who this notable Magician can be, as it was at first to know the true Origin of the Lord Theodore."

    - The Jewish Letters, Jean-Baptiste de Boyer

    Theodore arrived on the scene just as the Corsican rebellion appeared to be ending. After an initial and unexpected series of defeats at the hands of the rebels, the imperial troops which had occupied the country by Genoa's request (and on Genoa's tab) had brought reinforcements and compelled the "malcontents" to agree to a truce and enter negotiations. The rebels ultimately agreed to lay down their arms, submit to the Republic, and hand over several of their leaders to the imperial commanders as hostages in exchange for a general amnesty and consideration of Corsican demands.

    The hostages Luigi Giafferi, Andrea Ciaccaldi, Giovanni Aitelli, and Padre Carlo Raffaelli were initially held by the Austrians,[A] but the senior imperial commander Friedrich Ludwig von Württemberg-Winnental, having received orders recalling him from Corsica, decided on his own initiative to hand them over to the Genoese. Heedless of their promise of amnesty, the Senate imprisoned them at Savona and sentenced them to death. Outraged, the rebels back on Corsica threatened a new rebellion if their leaders were not freed. The emperor's representative, Wirich Philipp von Daun (then governor of Milan), castigated Württemberg for his actions, communicating to him the distinct displeasure of His Imperial Majesty Charles VI. Von Daun and Lieutenant-General Baron Karl Franz von Wachtendonck (who had preceded Württemberg as senior commander before his arrival, and regained that position after his recall) pressured the Genoese to release the prisoners. Hoping to go over their heads, the Genoese Senate sent "gifts" to Vienna in an attempt to bribe the imperial ministers into favoring their position. All waited on word from Vienna, and when it arrived in April of 1733 the emperor's order was clear: all the prisoners were to be freed at once. The Genoese reluctantly complied.

    It is not known exactly what inspired this imperial decision, but Theodore would later be widely credited with a leading part. He claimed he had written a letter to Vienna which had "clarified matters," and indeed several of the hostages, once they were freed, publicly gave Theodore credit for their release. Theodore did have friends in Vienna, and was in fact a relation of General Wachtendonck (albeit a somewhat distant one). Between his arrival in Genoa and the freeing of the prisoners, he had met secretively with rebel sympathizers in Genoa, traveled to Tuscany to meet exiled rebels there, and is rumored to have even traveled briefly to Corsica in the guise of an imperial hussar; certainly his former career as a spy was serving him well. He wrote letters to imperial officials, playing off their fear that other powers, particularly Spain, might use the rebellion as an excuse to take control of the island and further increase their power in Italy.[1]

    Regardless of exactly how great Theodore's role really was, it was this incident which first made his name known among the Corsicans. Taking advantage of his new notoriety, Theodore arranged meetings with Corsican leaders in Livorno. These included some of the recently freed "prisoners of Savona" as well as other Corsicans who would become key players in his reign, in particular the Genoese-educated lawyer Sebastiano Costa (the author of the 1735 Constitution), who would become Theodore's "Grand Chancellor," and the Balagnese nobleman Simone Fabiani, who would be among his finest generals.

    To these rebel leaders Theodore made a case for his usefulness to their cause. The Corsicans, he argued, did not have what was necessary to win. Firstly, they needed money and arms; the 150 muskets which Costa had spent all his money on before fleeing from Genoa was not going to cut it. Theodore told them he could raise vast amounts of capital and arrange arms shipments that would allow them to fight the Genoese on an even footing. But guns alone would not give them the victory; they also needed diplomacy, and here again Theodore recommended himself. He was an exceedingly well-traveled nobleman with friends (or at least acquaintances) and contacts in nearly every court on the continent, and he regaled them with (essentially true, if embellished) stories of being a favorite of the Duchess of Orleans, of meeting Eugene of Savoy and the King and Queen of Spain, and of all the various diplomats and ministers and high nobility who knew him. At the moment he was not yet offering himself as a king, but certainly as a benefactor, a man who could make everything possible for them. Having been turned away or ignored by every foreign power whom they had asked for help, the Corsican leaders were quite receptive to his offers. It probably helped that they knew absolutely nothing about his past save what they heard from his own mouth.

    Theodore has sometimes been called a trickster or con-man, but while he didn't always tell the truth and often left debts unpaid his Corsican scheme was certainly not a con. For the next three years, Theodore did exactly what he had told the Corsican leaders he would, and did it with extreme diligence and at substantial risk to his own life. One of his first and most important backers was the old and childless Gian Gastone de Medici, the last of the Medici Grand Dukes of Tuscany, who granted Theodore an audience and seems to have taken a liking to him immediately. The duke was allegedly a sympathizer with the Corsicans and had no love for Genoa, and was happy to divert some funds to the baron's venture. Theodore's old Jacobite friends in Rome were good for some money, too.


    Gian Gastone de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, looking younger
    and more vital than he probably did when Theodore met him.

    Theodore was a man of unusual religious tolerance for his time. As such, it was perhaps no surprise that he would look for financial support in unorthodox places. He received funding from the Jews of Livorno, whom he promised the opportunity to settle in Corsica—specifically at Aleria, which Neuhoff many not have realized was uninhabited because it was rendered largely uninhabitable by malaria. He then sailed to Tunis to solicit funds from the "Jews of Barbary." It was there that he was reunited with his old friend and patron, Duke Johan Willem Ripperda.

    Ripperda, a man whose life was nearly as incredible as Theodore's, had escaped from prison in Spain in 1727 and traveled to Britain, where he made himself modestly useful by giving information on the Spanish court to the British government. After the formal end of the Anglo-Spanish War in late 1729 he became surplus to requirements, and in 1731 he returned to his native Holland. He did not stay there long—perhaps even more than Theodore, he had a thirst for adventure. Later that year he traveled to Morocco to enter the service of Sultan Moulay Abdallah, who welcomed him warmly and made him a minister and a general. Some sources claim he converted to Islam, a charge which he personally denied. Unfortunately the number of fanciful tales told about him after his death makes it difficult to distinguish fact from fiction.

    Ripperda prospered in Morocco for a while, but was forced to leave the country after Abdallah was overthrown by his half-brother Ali in 1734.[2] He lived for a time in Tetouan and then came to Tunisia, where he fell ill and put himself into the care of Dr. Buongiorno, a Tuscan physician living in Tunis. As it happened, Theodore was already there, having received a letter of introduction to Buongiorno from the Grand Duke. It seems rather unlikely that this was a coincidence; Theodore and Ripperda were probably exchanging letters for some time before this "chance" meeting.

    That Corsica might accept not just a benefactor but a king appears to have been Ripperda's idea, and the original plan was for Ripperda to be that king. After all, he was a duke and Theodore was a baron; Ripperda also still had a considerable fortune, while Theodore was penniless save for the funds he had recently raised for the rebels. Theodore was to be his chief general and right-hand man. After hashing out the plan, they convinced the Bey of Tunis that an independent Corsica would be good for Tunisian trade and promised commercial concessions in exchange for monetary support. Ripperda then returned to Morocco, where he still maintained a relationship with he powerful Dowager Sultana, and contacted his friends in Holland to arrange purchases of supplies and munitions. Theodore, meanwhile, traveled to Constantinople, where he solicited recognition and aid from the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud and invited him to send Turkish and Albanian settlers. His time spent there is not well documented and the settlers never materialized, but he may have procured funding or some other aid there. On a return voyage to Tunis he was apparently captured and enslaved by Algerian pirates, but managed to gain his freedom by paying a ransom.[3]

    In the summer of 1735, Theodore returned to Tuscany and had more meetings with the Grand Duke and his ministers, and then visited bankers and foreign consuls in Livorno. There, however, he was briefly imprisoned when one such banker who had loaned him money discovered some rumor of his past and accused him of borrowing money under false pretenses. Certainly Theodore had done quite a bit under false pretenses—around that time he was going by the name of Syberg (again) and recruiting men whilst pretending to be raising soldiers for the Portuguese army—but as it happened, the specific accusation was that he had pretended to be a German nobleman, something he actually was. The matter was soon resolved and Theodore was released, but not before he caught typhoid in prison and nearly died. Despite securing significant funding for his venture with Ripperda, Theodore's own pockets were essentially empty, and he had to recover in a pauper's hospital. It was not until December of 1735 that he was able to resume his work.

    Ripperda had in the meantime amassed muskets, cannon, and money, but he was about to lose a crown. In a letter to one of his Dutch partners, he claimed that the Dowager Sultana of Morocco, who had granted him a large sum for the enterprise, had threatened to withdraw her support if Ripperda went in person to Corsica as "she suspected that I might be disloyal to her interests." That, at least, was Ripperda's face-saving way of explaining the switch, but it is possible that the Corsicans themselves demanded it. The Baron Neuhoff was much better known to the rebel leaders than Ripperda, who had never been near Corsica and does not seem to have met any of the rebel leaders in person. For his role in freeing the "Prisoners of Savona," Neuhoff already had a positive reputation among the Corsicans. It is also possible that Ripperda's failing health made him realize that he was not up to the task; he was, among other things, plagued by gout. In his letter, written after Theodore's departure for Corsica, he writes:

    So I had to rethink my plans. I realised that my old friend Theodore had all the qualities necessary for a King. So we drew up our Statutes, and he put them to the Corsicans. They agreed, and offered Theodore the crown, for which Heaven had evidently destined him... I am aware of the risks I am taking, and I am taking appropriate precautions. If I should fail, I will drop my African schemes, and retire to die in peace wherever I may.

    Theodore gathered his cadre of followers, which included two freed Turkish slaves given to him by the Grand Duke, several Corsicans which Theodore had freed from slavery in Tunis, and other men from various nations who served as his bodyguards, advisors, confessors, and valets. All were drawn to Theodore by the sheer power of his charisma and his grand promises of his own royal future. He had even attracted the service of the younger brother of Dr. Buongiorno, in whose house Theodore had first reunited with Ripperda. In February of 1736, Ripperda's consignments from Holland arrived, and Theodore's transportation was arranged as well—the merchant ship Richard, flying under a British flag since it was captained by the Englishman Richard "Dick" Ortega. Now the would-be king at last made sail for his kingdom.

    [1] An eminently reasonable fear, given that in the following year the Infante Charles of Parma invaded the Kingdom of Naples and snatched it from the Austrians.
    [2] It was Abdallah's first overthrow, but not his last; he would be deposed four more times and return to power each time thereafter. Part of the problem was that his father, Sultan Moulay Ismail, was and remains a top contender for the title of "the man with the most children in the history of the world," allegedly siring 867 children by nine wives and numerous concubines. The number of half-brothers who could conspire to seize Abdallah's throne was considerable.
    [3] It was speculated by some contemporaries that Theodore's royal coat of arms, featuring a broken chain and a Moor's head, was based on the incident of his capture and "escape" (actually ransom) from the Barbary corsairs. This is quite false; the broken chain was the traditional arms of the Neuhoff house, and the Moor's head was an old Aragonese symbol for Corsica which Theodore revived.

    Timeline Notes
    [A] As long as I'm rattling off some names of Corsicans, this seems like as good a moment as any to mention my policy on Corsican names. Corsican, of course, is a language (or perhaps a dialect of Italian depending on your viewpoint and the definition of "dialect"), and most Corsicans in the 18th century spoke Corsican. Because of the long history of Genoese rule, however, as well as the island's proximity to Italy, most educated, urban-dwelling, and upper-class Corsicans spoke Italian. Italian was the language of culture and class among the Corsicans, while Corsican was a peasant's language. Pasquale Paoli himself intended Italian, not Corsican, to be the island's official language, and seems to have considered Corsican a mere Italian dialect. As I consider the same preference for Italian in a governmental/courtly/cultured setting to be likely ITTL, I have chosen to render the names of most Corsicans in their Italian forms. Thus, when I speak of minister Gaffori, for instance (a character who has not yet appeared), I will call him Gianpietro rather than Ghjuvan Petru (and certainly not Jean-Pierre). I will usually do the same for place names, many of which are known by their French names today; thus we will speak of San Fiorenzo rather than either San Fiurenzu or Saint-Florent.
    Last edited:
    The New King
  • The New King


    Theodore disembarked upon Corsica, with the pinque Richard and ruins, possibly of Aleria, in the background.

    "He was dressed in a fantastical Manner, his Habit being a Medley of the various Modes of all Nations. His Robe was Turkish, the Sword by his Side was Spanish, his Peruke was English, his great Hat German, and his Cane was of the Halbert Fashion, like those used by the French Beaus... he assumes the Titles of a Grandee of Spain, a Lord of England, a Peer of France, Baron of the Holy Empire, and a Prince of the Roman Throne."

    - The Jewish Letters, Jean-Baptiste de Boyer

    Finally, on March 15th, 1736, Theodore reached on Corsican shores, borne by the ship Richard under the British flag of Richard "Dick" Ortega. His ship, along with a second vessel bearing cargo under a certain Captain Boyle, anchored off the coast north of Aleria. Theodore was too good a showman to make his entrance while nobody was watching, and so remained aboard his ship while messengers were sent ashore with a proclamation:

    Most Illustrious Lords,

    At last I have reached the shores of Corsica, summoned here by your repeated prayers. Your steadfast devotion during the last two years has urged me to overcome my dislike of the sea and my dread of the storms which are wont to rage at this season, but Heaven has blessed us, and granted us a prosperous voyage. I am here to fulfill my promise that I would bring aid to your oppressed country, to consecrate myself to her and liberate her, God willing, from slavery to Genoa. Fear not that I shall neglect my promise in any way if you are faithful to me.

    If you choose me for your king, I ask only that you give me power to grant liberty of conscience to those of other countries and other creeds who may come here to render the nation more populous. As for the other conditions, I leave them to you to determine. Come one and all of you to Aleria without delay, that we may confer together and resolve how to proceed.

    Your devoted,

    The messengers reached the rebel leaders then gathered at the village of Matra, including Luigi Giafferi, Sebastiano Costa, and Anton-Francesco Giappiconi (a friend of Costa and former Venetian officer). They, of course, were already well informed of the plan as they had all met Theodore in Livorno, and made preparations to receive him. Rumors spread through the region of a "famous person" from the continent who had arrived at Aleria to assist the Corsicans, and by the 18th a great crowd had gathered at Aleria. The moment was now right for his disembarkation, and the baron made an entrance fully equal to the crowd's expectations. Flanked by foreign officers and Saracen servants, he appeared before his "subjects" wearing a fur-trimmed brocaded crimson robe, a powdered wig, and a plumed tricorne, with a gold-handled cane in his hand, a sword on his hip, and a brace of engraved Turkish pistols in his belt. In the holds of his ships were ten cannon, 700 muskets,[1] barrels of gunpowder and shot, thousands of pairs of shoes, bolts of cloth, and strongboxes of gold and silver coin. The crowd cheered and fired muskets into the air.

    His timing was perfect, for the "second" Corsican rebellion—the uprising which had broken out after the imperial withdrawal—was near collapse. A rebel attack against San Pellegrino had been bloodily repulsed, and the island was threatened by famine, caused or at least exacerbated by a Genoese blockade and the destruction of fields and orchards by Genoese troops. Theodore had come prepared, for aside from arms and raiment his ships bore nearly a thousand sacks of flour. It had all the appearance of a heaven-sent miracle, and Theodore's landing and bestowal of his beneficence at Aleria would remain for generations to come a powerful image of both the liberty of the Corsicans and the right of the House of Neuhoff to rule them.

    Just as important for the Corsican cause at that moment, however, was Theodore himself. A Corsican state had been proclaimed in 1735, but Costa's pseudo-republican constitution, which involved four "generals," a general assembly, a six-member supreme ghjunta,[2] and various other ministers and officials, was too complex and does not ever seem to have been fully implemented. The insurgency continued to be in the hands of the generals or chief men of various regions, who pursued their own aims more or less independently and often bickered with one another. To make matters worse, one of these chief generals, Giancinto Paoli, had been killed that January in an ill-fated assault on the fortress of San Pellegrino when a Genoese galley had opened fire on the attackers. A cannonball had struck Paoli, dashing his leg to pieces; he died very quickly thereafter.[A] A German baron seemed to the rest of the world a decidedly bizarre choice to become king of the Corsicans, but a foreign monarch with no connection to the island's clan-based society seemed to the best possible antidote to the fractious rebel chieftains and the dysfunctional ghjunta.

    After a day of celebration and distribution of stores, the rebel leaders proceeded with Theodore to the home of Saviero Matra, one of the most prominent Corsican nobles (what the Corsicans called a caporale) in the east. Matra hosted the would-be sovereign for dinner, but the French wine and the silver plate was provided by Theodore. Toasts were made to Corsica and the destruction of the Genoese, and at last Theodore requested that his best bottle of Rhenish wine be opened. After his glass was poured, he made his own toast:

    "May Heaven be propitious to this kingdom; let it be that this day, for my people and for the Corsicans, be solemn and commemorated; and that our descendants equal or surpass us in joy. May the stars be favorable to you, and grant me to fulfill all that I have promised, to you, gentlemen, to realize all your desires, and to all happy success."

    Theodore then passed out chocolates and cordials. There was a desire by some of those present to acclaim Theodore as king immediately, but he asked them to wait; he wanted, he said, to await the arrival of other important men, particularly Simone Fabiani and Ignazio Arrighi. He was also hoping for the swift arrival of Captain Dick, who had returned to Livorno to take on more armaments. In the meantime, Theodore spent the following day "stretching his legs" after his sea voyage and remarking on the divine beauty of his new country and its marvelous climate. Costa remarks in his memoirs that they were quite surprised when Theodore lay down upon a grassy hill for a while, content to stare up at the sky in wonder and appreciation.

    Things were going less well for Captain Dick. Richard "Dick" Ortega was a British citizen, and more than that he was the natural son of Richard Lawrence, the British consul in Tunis, allegedly by a Greek slave woman. Not yet aware of the identity of the "stranger" who had disembarked at Aleria but quite aware of his shipment of arms to the rebels, the Genoese government lodged a protest with Viscount Charles Fane, the British consul in Tuscany, demanding action against Ortega and his crew. Since 1731, the British government had prohibited its citizens from having any doings with the "malcontents" of Corsica. Fane, in his reply to the Genoese, agreed that Ortega may have been in the wrong if he had indeed transported supplies to the rebels as alleged, but mindful of British sovereignty he maintained that this was an internal matter between His Brittanic Majesty and a subject thereof; he would write to the Admiralty and await their response. In any case, he added, perhaps the captain had merely been forced ashore on Corsica by a storm, common in that season.

    Dissatisfied with this, the Genoese went directly to the Tuscan officials at Livorno, who upon the orders of the Genoese consul Marquis Girolamo Gavi came aboard Ortega's ship and prevented it from leaving. Gavi, however, could only delay the inevitable; Fane objected to the impounding of a British ship, and the Grand Duke Gian Gastone de Medici, being a supporter of Theodore and an investor in his enterprise, ordered Ortega and the Richard to be released at once. Nevertheless, his arrival at Corsica would be a full two weeks later than anticipated.

    As Theodore toured around Aleria, other leaders had arrived at Cervioni, including Father Giovanni Aitelli (one of the prisoners of Savona), Gio Giacomo Ambrosi di Castinetta, and Angelo Luccioni. Unlike the group led by Giafferi and Costa, most of these men had been unaware of the plan to crown Theodore, and there was concern among many of the leaders and militiamen regarding Theodore's missive in which he demanded "liberty of conscience." To the Corsicans, who scarcely knew anyone of another faith, it seemed dangerous and potentially heretical. Father Aitelli was particularly critical, and warned that they might be attempting to "crown a heretic." It was decided to request the opinion of the learned canon Giuseppe Albertini. Albertini offered a stirring defense, claiming that religious freedom had been granted "to foreigners by the foremost cities of Italy, without any dishonor to them; English, Dutch, Greeks, Jews, and other schismatics live in the observance of their false rites without offense to the True Faith of the nationals." Going somewhat beyond the reason for his summons, he furthermore opined that:

    "...For in such a desperate situation as ours today, no one but Heaven could bring Corsica such a liberator. In short, I consider the arrival of Theodore in the present circumstances as a miracle from Heaven."

    This was quite enough to energize the Corsicans into enthusiastic agreement; it was not every day, after all, that a man could witness a real Heaven-sent miracle. They resolved to go to Aleria at once, and hailed Theodore with shouts of "Evviva Corsica, Evviva u Rè!" They lingered for a few days longer at Aleria that mules might be brought to the shore to move the cargo. There was a disreputable episode in which certain rebels quarreled over the new guns Theodore had brought and nearly came to blows, but the baron interposed himself between the parties and managed to calm their tempers. On the 28th they departed for Cervioni. After another jubilant reception there by the locals, Theodore declared that Cervioni would be his provisional capital and established his residence at the episcopal mansion there, which had been abandoned by the bishop.[3] He celebrated Easter there (April 1st), with the local Franciscans, all supporters of the rebellion, offering prayers and leading a procession through the town in his honor.

    All that remained was to effect his election as king, but Neuhoff contrived to seem regally aloof from such proceedings, leaving the planning to Costa and Giafferi while he returned to Matra for a few days of rest. A consulta was planned to take place at the village of Alesani, and all the pieves were requested to send representatives. Theodore returned to Cervoni by the 10th, at which point many Corsicans from all over the island were already gathering. Arrighi and Fabiani had also arrived, the latter accompanied by 100 Balagnese soldiers on caparisoned horses. A private meeting of only the chiefs and generals without the larger assembly was held on the 13th, and preliminary assent was given to the terms which Theodore had already accepted from his co-conspirators among the rebels. The consulta itself was held on the 15th, and the representatives were presented with a document which would create the Kingdom of Corsica as a constitutional monarchy.

    The Constitution of the Kingdom of Corsica (1736)

    In the name and glory of the Most Holy Trinity, of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, of the Immaculate Virgin, protector of this Kingdom and of Saint Devota[4] its advocate. Today, Sunday, April Fifteenth, of the year 1736. The Kingdom of Corsica having met in a general assembly, legitimately ordered by His Excellency Don Luigi Giafferi in the locality of Alesani.

    After a long and careful discussion with the principal patricians of the Kingdom, all the populations deliberately decided, just as they deliberately decided to choose a King and live under his authority, to proclaim and accept the Sir Theodore Free-Baron of Neuhoff to the following powers and conditions, which shall be accepted by the said Sir Baron, who shall neither be nor can claim to be King until he has accepted the said agreements and conditions and sworn to respect them by signing with his own hand and authenticating with his own seal the present writing which stipulates them in the form of a contract, so that it has full and timely stability and execution.

    Article 1. It is therefore agreed and established that the new Sovereign and King of this Kingdom is the named Most Excellent Sir Theodore Free-Baron of Neuhoff, and after him his male descendants, by the firstborn and, in default of males, his female descendants, provided that those who shall be admitted to the Crown and to the Authority thereof be Roman Catholics and shall always reside in the kingdom as shall be the residence of the aforesaid Baron.
    Article 2. That, in the absence of personal succession, the aforementioned Baron may, in his lifetime, designate a successor of his relation, man or woman, provided he is a Roman Catholic and resides in the kingdom.
    Article 3. That, in the event of an interruption of the male or female lineage of the said Sir Baron or his successor, named as above, the Kingdom remains free and the people have the possibility of choosing their sovereign of their own free will or to live freely as they please.
    Article 4. That the King, the Sir Baron, as well as his successors, should have and enjoy all royal authority and all sovereign rights, with the restriction and exclusion of what is provided for in the following articles.
    Article 5. That there shall be established and elected a Diet in the kingdom, composed of twenty-four persons of the most distinguished merit, sixteen for the di qua dei monti and eight for the di la dei monti,[5] and that three subjects of the same Assembly, two for the di qua dei monti and one for the di la dei monti, must always reside in the Court of the Sovereign, who shall not make any decision without the consent of the said Diet on the imposition of taxes or decisions of war.
    Article 6. That the power of the said Diet be to make with the King all the arrangements concerning war or the imposition of taxes, and, moreover, that it has the power of designating the places which it considers most suitable for the embarkation of goods and merchandise, and that it has the liberty of meeting in all circumstances in the places or places which appear to it the most suitable.
    Article 7. That all the dignities, offices, and honors to be attributed in the kingdom be reserved for Corsicans alone, to the perpetual exclusion of any foreigner.
    Article 8. That when the government is established, the Genoese are driven out, and the kingdom is at peace, all troops will have to be Corsican militia, except for the guard of the King who can engage Corsicans or foreigners according to his will.
    Article 9. That for the moment, and as long as the war with the Genoese lasts, the King may engage and use foreign troops and militia provided that they do not exceed the number of 1,200, which may nevertheless be increased by the King with the consent of the Diet of the Kingdom.
    Article 10. That in the Kingdom cannot dwell nor inhabit any Genoese of any rank or condition, and that the king cannot allow any Genoese to reside in the Kingdom.
    Article 11. That the products and goods of the nationals, to be exported or transported from one place to another or from one port to another of the Kingdom, shall not be subject to any tax or imposition.
    Article 12. That all the property of the Genoese and the rebels to the country of the Kingdom, including the Greeks,[6] be and remain confiscated and sequestered, except for reasons that would otherwise claim by proving the contrary by documents. It is understood that the property of a Corsican shall not be confiscated, provided that he does not pay any royalties or taxes to the Republic of Genoa or to the Genoese.
    Article 13. That the annual contribution or taxation paid by the Corsicans [the taglia] should not exceed three pounds per head of the family and that the half-taglia usually paid by widows and orphans up to 14 years of age should be abolished; above this age, they will have to be taxed like the others.
    Article 14. That the salt to be supplied by the King to the people may not exceed the price of 2 seini, or 13 solidi and 4 denari a bushel, which will be 22 pounds in weight in circulation in the kingdom.
    Article 15. That there be set up in the Kingdom, in a place to be chosen by the King and the Diet, a Public University of Sciences and Liberal Arts, and that the King, in concert with the Diet, shall maintain this University by the ways and means which they deem most appropriate, and that it is an obligation for the King to ensure that this university enjoys all the privileges enjoyed by other Universities of Europe.
    Article 16. That the King shall promptly institute an order of true nobility for the fame of the kingdom and honorable nationals, which shall promote the love of virtue and a proper spirit of emulation.
    Article 17. That Liberty of Conscience be granted to all nations whatever.[B]
    Article 18. These are the articles which were drafted and presented by the Kingdom to the King on April 15, 1736, who approved them under oath and signed, and was proclaimed and elected to the Crown of the Kingdom to which he solemnly swore fidelity and obedience.

    Although most were quite happy to proceed, there were some who remained dissatisfied. Aitelli was still grumbling about Theodore's religious views, while Ceccaldi professed his happiness at the arrival of Theodore but wondered whether they were not foreclosing other possibilities too hastily. Ceccaldi personally preferred another overture to the King of Spain, and said as much, but was immediately shut down by his own brother Sebastiano Ceccaldi, who responded that "the King of Spain thinks of Corsica as much as the Emperor of China. If he wanted us, we would not be in the miserable state in which we find ourselves." In the end, the representatives gave their unanimous approval to the constitution, and Theodore swore, signed, and affixed his seal as required.

    It was now time for the coronation. A throne was provided by a local cabinetmaker, who had crafted a velvet-cushioned and ornately carved armchair; it had been intended for the cathedral at Cervioni, but the bishop had never paid for it. It was decided that, in the absence of an actual crown, the king would be crowned with laurel branches in the "ancient manner." Speeches were made, and the text of the constitution was read aloud to the people, after which Theodore swore aloud to obey its provisions. He then proceeded with the crowd to the Franciscan monastery of Alesani, where he was crowned. The generals and caporali knelt before him, kissed his hand, and swore fealty and homage, and then the crowd sung the Te Deum and a coronation mass was held. The throng exploded with cheers and gunfire, and there was a grand feast. Costa claimed the crowd was 25,000 strong, which was probably an exaggeration as that would have amounted to around one out of every five persons on the island, but all sources claim the valley of Alesani was swarming with people and that the crowd was certainly one of thousands.


    Inside the Monastery of Alesani, where Theodore was crowned

    King Theodore returned from Alesani to his provisional capital at Cervioni and at once began to organize a government. First to gain a post was Costa, who was created "Grand Chancellor and Keeper of the Seals," and composed the royal writs by which his other officers and ministers were installed. Titles of nobility were handed out to those who pledged allegiance, and a new host of knights, counts, and marquesses popped up literally overnight. Men were made captains, colonels, and generals, and a council of war was constituted.

    Further legislation followed. Hunting and fishing, long forbidden to the natives by the Genoese, was legalized. Amnesty was offered to all Corsicans in Genoese service so long as they left the employ of Genoa within one week. Pronouncements were made on judicial matters, and the king arbitrated in a handful of family feuds. Some time later, troubled by the violence between families which at times imperiled his own administration, Theodore would officially ban the practice of vendetta, albeit with little immediate effect. Within a few days, however, it was necessary to turn to military matters, for there was still a war to win.

    Only two days after the coronation, the rebel commanders Luca d'Ornano and Michele Durazzo arrived at Cervioni with an escort. Unlike most of the notable rebels, they were men of the Dila, and had been leading the resistance to the Genoese in the south in a largely autonomous fashion. Ornano, an influential caporale and a member of the island's old nobility, seems to have been skeptical of the new king and may have been miffed that the election and coronation were held without him, but a personal conversation with Theodore seems to have smoothed his ruffled feathers. Ornano was made a marquis, his comrade Durazzo a count, and both of them lieutenant-generals.

    In the meantime Captain Dick and the Richard had returned to Aleria, where he unloaded more crates of muskets, barrels of powder, and sacks of musket-balls, as well as certain personal effects of Theodore's. The ammunition and weapons were a fairly modest addition to Theodore's arsenal; the more important cargo was Theodore's correspondence with foreign courts, which was at the moment conveyed solely by the Richard.

    The second landing of the Richard on Corsica made Fane's weak explanation that Ortega might have been accidentally forced to land there by a storm untenable. After a second Genoese protest, Fane asked the Tuscan government to impound the ship until a response from the Admiralty was forthcoming. The Grand Duke, however, seems to have simply ignored him, and his officials in Livorno did nothing. Fane addressed Ortega directly, commanding him to cease his assistance to the rebels, but Captain Dick ignored him too; evidently he had been convinced by Theodore that he possessed letters from His Britannic Majesty supporting his expedition, and in Dick's mind that superseded any complaint made by a mere consul. As correspondence continued to fly between Genoa, Livorno, Florence, and London, the Richard went about its business untroubled, save by the threat of the Genoese navy.[C]

    Appendix A: The Royal Government of 1736, a.k.a. the "Revolutionary Cabinet"

    Marquis Luigi Giafferi, Prime Minister and Secretary of State. A former captain in the Venetian army. One of the four "Prisoners of Savona." General of the rebellion before Theodore's arrival.
    Count Giampietro Gaffori, Secretary of State and President of the Currency. A physician who had studied medicine in Genoa. Saviero Matra's son-in-law.
    Count Sebastiano Costa, Grand Chancellor and Keeper of the Seals. A lawyer who had practiced in Genoa until the uprising. Author of the 1735 Constitution.
    Father Giulio Natali, Secretary to the Chancellery. A priest who had written publicly in support of the rebellion.
    Count Anton-Francesco Giappiconi, Secretary of War and Captain of the Royal Guard. Former lieutenant in the Venetian army. One of the four "Prisoners of Savona."
    Father Erasmo Orticoni, Foreign Minister and Almoner of the Realm. Related to Simone Fabiani.
    Father Giovanni Aitelli, Minister of Justice and Auditor-General. One of the four "Prisoners of Savona."
    Marquis Saviero Matra, Grand Marshal of the Court.[7] An important caporale of eastern Corsica.
    Appendix B: Notable Rebel Commanders, Spring of 1736

    Marquis Simone Fabiani, Captain-General, Vice President of the War Council, Governor of the Balagna.
    Marquis Luca d'Ornano, Lieutenant-General in the Dila.
    Count Michele Durazzo, Lieutenant-General in the Dila.
    Count Gio-Giacomo Ambrosi di Castinetta, Colonel.
    Count Andrea Ceccaldi, Colonel. Brother-in-law of Giafferi.
    Paolo-Maria Paoli, Colonel. Former physician. Not related to the late Giacinto Paoli.
    Antoine Dufour, Lieutenant-Colonel. Frenchman. Chief Engineer of the Royal Army.[D]
    Antonio Colonna
    , Captain. Nephew of Costa. Former captain in the Genoese army, defected to the rebels.
    Silvestre Colombani, Captain of the Foreign Company.​

    [1] A French report on the incident claims "over 1,000" muskets.
    [2] "Junta," used in its original sense of an administrative council. The ghjunta was in theory the supreme administrative body of the government created in the 1735 Constitution, but little is known about its operation, and it lasted less than a year before it was rendered void by the adoption of the 1736 monarchist constitution.
    [3] Often Genoese-born and always loyal agents of the Republic, the bishops of Corsica were widely despised by the Corsicans. The outbreak of rebellion caused most of them to flee their dioceses. The island's parish priests and monks, in contrast, were frequently rebel sympathizers, and some monks even carried weapons and joined the rebellion themselves.
    [4] "Saint Devota" is a likely fictional saint who was nevertheless considered a patroness of Corsica (and Monaco). Her name appears to be a misreading of a text regarding Saint Julia, the other patroness of Corsica, which described her as "Deo devota" ("devoted to God"); this was presumably taken to be a separate proper name instead of a description of Julia.
    [5] These are references to the two geographic halves of Corsica, as divided by the central "spine" of the mountains which runs roughly from northwest to southeast. The northern half, being closer to Genoa, was referred to as di qua dei monti - "this side of the mountains" - or Diqua for short. The southern half was accordingly referred to as di la dei monti - "that side of the mountains" - or Dila for short. The population of the Diqua was much higher than that of the Dila, which is why the constitution granted them twice the representatives.
    [6] In the late 17th century the Genoese allowed a number of Peloponnesian Greeks fleeing the Ottoman Empire to settle in Corsica, specifically in the village of Paomia and its environs on the western coast. The native Corsicans objected to the Genoese giving away their land to foreigners and occasionally clashed with them. When the rebellion broke out, the Greeks unsurprisingly sided with the Genoese.
    [7] A "Marshal of the Court," or in German Hofmarschall, was not a military leader but a high administrative official who oversaw the provisioning of the affairs of court and the royal household.

    Timeline Notes
    [A] Here, finally, we have our primary POD. This attack really occurred, really was led (in part) by Giancinto ("Hyacinth") Paoli, and was indeed thrown back by the bombardment of a Genoese galley, but IOTL Giancinto Paoli retreated from San Pellegrino quite unharmed. If Giancinto's last name sounds a bit familiar, it's because he's the father of Pasquale Paoli, the "father of the Corsican nation" and leader of the independent Corsican Republic IOTL. Pasquale himself is 11 years old in 1736, so he's not butterflied away; he'll be an important person when he's older. His father, however, was a disaster for Theodore's reign. He was terribly envious of both Theodore and Theodore's favorites, sabotaged the king's campaigns, and was implicated in plots to assassinate not only some of his rival rebel leaders but Theodore himself. He may very well have been part of the conspiracy to assassinate Simone Fabiani. Theodore gave him a high position and suffered his continued treachery and disobedience only because Paoli was so prominent and had a crucial following; years later, when Theodore was in exile and Paoli had fled the country, the baron denounced Paoli as a traitor and included him on a very small list of people who would never under any condition receive royal amnesty. The fact that he enjoys a good reputation today is based largely on the fact that he was Pasquale's father. ITTL, Theodore will not have this thorn in his side, and Giancinto will be revered as a heroic martyr for the cause of liberty.
    [B] This is a faithful translation of the Corsican constitution of 1736 with the exception of Article 17 regarding Freedom of Conscience. IOTL, Theodore made it his one condition for election, but while it was in a draft provided by Costa it didn't end up in the final constitution. There is some suggestion that one of the most prominent opponents of it was Giacinto Paoli. Since he's dead ITTL, his "conservative" party at the consulta is weakened, and Corsica gets religious freedom written into the constitution.
    [C] Our second, and fairly minor POD. IOTL the Richard was unluckily captured by the Genoese while unloading its cargo on its second trip to Corsica, resulting in the seizure of some supplies and much of Theodore's correspondence. Captain Dick, realizing that Theodore's claim of royal sanction had been false and facing the prospect of prison or worse, shot himself. His crew was imprisoned in Livorno for a while but were eventually released and repatriated back to Britain, as they successfully argued they had only been following their captain's commands.
    [D] Antoine Dufour is evidently a real person, although his name probably wasn't Antoine. A French military engineer, known only as "Dufour," was for some reason fighting alongside the rebels in Corsica in 1736. We don't know when he got there, but we know he didn't come with Theodore, as he was present at the failed attack on San Pellegrino in January of 1736. How did he end up in Corsica? Was he an engineer in the French army, or a Frenchman who had been an engineer in some other army? Nobody knows, or at least nobody I've read. Perhaps his life story would be nearly as interesting as Theodore's if it was only recorded. Since I figure he might be mildly more notable ITTL, I have picked a given name for him pretty much at random. That, so far, is the closest I have come to making up a character.
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    Opposing Forces
  • Opposing Forces
    Excerpts from Merganser Publishing's "Rebellion!" Series #24: The Corsican Revolution

    The Genoese Army


    Genoese infantry march along a dusty road, c. 1740s


    The army of the Republic of Genoa in the 18th century was intended as a defensive force. Surrounded by larger, more powerful neighbors, the Republic's very reasonable strategy was to employ its limited land forces in the garrisoning and defense of strong fortifications in Liguria that could hold back a superior opponent. The army performed this duty well enough, but when called on to fight a very different kind of war in Corsica its shortcomings quickly became evident.

    In 1727, just prior to the rebellion, the Genoese army amounted to about 5,000 men, up from a peacetime low of around 3,800 a few years before because of recent border skirmishes with the Sardinians. Of these, there were approximately 2,000 Ligurians, 1,600 Corsicans, and 1,400 Oltramontani (Germans and Swiss). All companies were "national," composed entirely of troops of a single national origin. Genoese and Corsican companies usually consisted of 80 to 100 soldiers, while the Oltramontani companies had 125 men with the exception of the Palace Guard (a German company) and the Swiss company of Friburg, which each had around 200 men.

    The Oltramontani were considered the Republic's most reliable troops and manned most key garrisons (including Genoa itself), although no major fortress or city garrison was held solely by troops of a single nation. The Corsican forces appear to have been considered the equal of the Oltramontani in a military sense, but even before the rebellion they were deemed politically unreliable and never given posts in Corsica itself. This remained true even after the rebellion, which is why there were no mass defections from the Genoese army to the rebels in the 1730s; most soldiers of Corsican origin were in Liguria. In wartime, the Republic tended to call up additional forces by hiring more Oltramontani and levying the Corsicans; the former was extremely expensive, and the latter became impossible after the widespread outbreak of rebellion.

    In August of 1730, around the time when the uprising first progressed from a violent tax protest into a true island-wide rebellion, the entire garrison of Corsica was only 1,350 men. Owing to the political and familial division of the Corsicans, these forces were soon bolstered by substantial numbers of Corsican irregulars. Some were partisans of Genoa, particularly those from northern regions like Calvi, Cap Corse, and the Nebbio, but many were not so much pro-Genoese as against the particular men who had been chosen as generals of the rebellion. A unit of around 200 Greek militia from Paomia also served the Genoese cause by reinforcing the garrison of Ajaccio.

    Despite the availability of such irregular forces, the rebellion was a serious blow to an army which had previously relied heavily on the recruitment of Corsicans. By 1734 the number of Corsican companies in the regular army had dropped from 22 to 12. The losses among these and other companies were made up for by the recruitment of deserters from the then-ongoing War of Polish Succession, but these were men of dubious loyalty who appear to have deserted (again) in large numbers to join the army of Naples, which was at that time just being formed after the Bourbon conquest of the kingdom in 1734. The presence of Spaniards, Frenchmen, and Austrians in ostensibly "Ligurian" companies noted by French and British sources in 1736 suggests that some of these castoffs from the recent war were nevertheless still in circulation in the regular army.

    With the renewal of the Corsican rebellion in 1734 and the arrival of Theodore early in 1736, the Republic was desperate for troops but was wary of spending much money on them. The emperor's "help" in the early 1730s was given only on the stipulation that Genoa pay the entire cost of the maintenance of the imperial troops, which at their height may have numbered as many as 10,000 men; the experience badly endangered the Republic's finances and the Senate was looking to cut costs. Captaincies were offered to anyone who could raise enough warm bodies to fill a company, with few considerations for the quality of either the captain or the men. So hard-up was the Republic for troops that following Theodore's arrival it raised the infamous "Compagnia dei Banditi," a unit formed entirely of outlaws and criminals offered pardon in exchange for enlistment.

    In battles against the rebels, the Genoese were again forced to rely increasingly on Corsican "loyalist" irregulars who were no better trained and sometimes even more poorly equipped than the rebel forces; the Genoese frequently had to distribute surplus arms to friendly militiamen who otherwise would have been no help at all. Thus, despite the shortcomings of the rebel militias, they were frequently up against forces of a similar caliber. Only the Swiss companies were up to the standards of continental line infantry, and they did not come cheaply.

    The Genoese army had an independent artillery arm, but field artillery was of no use in Corsica, a land of mountains and few roads wider than a mule track. There is no certain evidence of their presence on Corsica, but if they were stationed on the island they must have done little more than man the batteries of the citadels. The Genoese army maintained no mounted companies at all.


    Genoa had a notably complex military hierarchy with numerous autonomous organs. This owed less to strategic need than political caution, as the Republic feared the coalescing of military power in the hands of any one man. There was, of course, a War Office, but there were also separate offices for military finance and for ordnance, each of which was equal to and independent of the War Office. There was also a military "Corsican Office" which was independent of the other three. This system was politically useful and workable enough when it was called upon to supply the network of Ligurian fortresses by interior lines, but during the rebellion it meant that any offensive by the regular army in Corsica not only required coordinating separate and independent committees to provide personnel, ordnance, and payment, but required all this to be done in cooperation with the Navy as well.

    To complicate matters further, Genoese forces on the island were divided between the four commissari ("commissioners," usually rendered in English texts as "commandants") in Bastia, Calvi, Ajaccio, and Bonifacio. The commandant of Bastia was ex officio the Governor-General of Corsica and superior to the other commandants, but while he could give orders to the other commandants he could not take direct control of their forces. In practice, owing as much to logistics, terrain, and the inexperience and conservatism of the officers as to the command structure, the commandants rarely coordinated their forces.

    The Genoese army in the early phase of the Revolution was unusual in that it was organized solely at the company level with no regiments whatsoever. Company captains enjoyed the same position as colonels in other armies, in the sense that they had near total administrative and financial control over their unit. Attempts to create regiments or permanent battalions in the early 18th century were scuttled by opposition from the captains, who had no desire to lose this autonomy. As such, Genoese field officers—majors, lieutenant-colonels, and colonels—were not actually "regimental officers" but company commanders with superior rank. A proposal for reforming this system had been introduced in the Senate in 1732, but the reforms were not actually begun until 1738.

    Before and after the 1738 reforms, the army's tactical units, as opposed to administrative units, were the colonne ("columns"), consisting of several hundred men under a field officer, and the picchetti ("pickets"), which contained around 50 men led by a captain. In size, at least, these were roughly comparable with the battalions and companies of the rebels, respectively.


    Service in the Republic's army was not considered prestigious and the officer corps suffered as a result. Officers were drawn from the nobility, but the nobility gained no special privileges or any particular honor by doing so. There was far more status and wealth to be gained through trade or politics. Commissions tended as a consequence to be filled by minor gentry, who as a rule had virtually no military experience or training. In Corsica, which was considered a particularly unappealing posting for an army officer, commandants used their positions primarily for personal enrichment. In effect, the Corsican interior was always treated as "hostile territory" into which the commandants only dispatched men to enforce the periodic collection of taxes, which were unlikely to be paid without the present threat of physical force. Such duties were fobbed off on lieutenants and captains while the commandants themselves rarely left their bases of operations on the coast.

    The result was an officer corps which was thoroughly uninspiring throughout the whole of the Corsican Revolution. Genoese commanders lacked initiative and rarely took the offensive, preferring to do what the army had always done in Liguria and put their trust in fixed defenses. In Corsica, however, these defenses were in many cases centuries old and often not designed with landward attack in mind. At times this preference for defense resulted in Genoese forts and towns being "besieged" by a rebel army far smaller and less well equipped than the garrison itself, with the defending commanders making no attempt to sally or counterattack. At one point early in the rebellion, before Theodore's arrival, the 500-man garrison of Bastia was effectively paralyzed by fewer than 170 militiamen in the surrounding hills.

    The Genoese did make use of Corsican officers, but they seldom rose above the rank of lieutenant in the peacetime army. In wartime, particularly during moments of crisis, Corsican officers frequently were promoted to high grades, but it was common (and in the case of Corsican colonels, practically inevitable) that when the danger had passed these officers would be "retired," removed from active service and put permanently on half-pay.

    The Corsican Revolutionaries


    Modern Corsicans wearing the costume of revolutionary militiamen in a heritage parade. Note the conch shell, commonly used as a signal by the revolutionaries.


    The Corsicans had long been recognized as a "warlike" people of Europe, and the island had been a fertile recruiting ground for European states for centuries. The best known unit was the Corsican Guard of Rome, which served the Pope until it was forcibly disbanded under French pressure in 1662, but Corsicans had also served meritoriously in the armies of France, Venice, and various other Italian states. Relatively poor treatment of Corsican soldiers (and especially officers) in Genoese service encouraged many to find employment in other states. At the time of Theodore's arrival on the island, an estimated 4,000 Corsicans served abroad, less than half of those in the Genoese army. If these expatriate soldiers are counted, Corsica on the eve of the rebellion was on par with Prussia in terms of its ratio of soldiers to civilians.

    Estimating the number of rebel forces at any point in the rebellion is notoriously difficult. This is not only because of the decentralized nature of the rebel forces but the fact that virtually all soldiers were part-timers, farmers and herders who were motivated to fight by patriotism, the promise of a musket and pay, obligation to a family patriarch or caporale, or sometimes just to gain revenge for the ill-treatment of their village or a family member at Genoese hands. Desertion was common, but seldom permanent; a militiaman might serve for a few weeks, return home for the harvest or to take care of some family business, and come back to the unit. There was essentially no penalty for desertion, or at least none which was enforced, and thus rebel units were constantly fluctuating in size as men left and returned by their own volition. Historians have estimated the "maximum" number of rebel forces active at any one time in 1736 at anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 men.

    Only two "regular" units existed in Theodore's army in 1736. The first was the "royal guard," led personally by Count Anton-Francesco Giappiconi, who was also Theodore's minister of war. This was an all-Corsican unit which counted a substantial number of young men of status in its ranks, including Lieutenant Giuseppe Costa (the son of the chancellor Sebastiano Costa). The other was the "foreign company" led by Captain Silvestre Colombani. This unit was initially formed from the several dozen foreign adventurers and mercenaries who had followed Theodore to Corsica and probably numbered no more than 50 men at its inception, but it was soon reinforced by deserters from Genoese service (mostly Germans) and freed galley slaves of non-Corsican origin.

    The Royal Army did possess an artillery arm, which owing to the impracticality of field artillery was really a siege train, initially under the command of the mysterious Lieutenant-Colonel Antoine Dufour, a French military engineer. The quality of Corsican gunnery was generally poor, as one might expect from hastily-trained shepherds, but the Corsicans proved remarkably adept at artillery logistics, regularly pulling dozens of heavy guns over mountain ranges on muleback using shepherds' paths only wide enough for two men to walk abreast and doing so with with impressive speed.

    The rebels possessed no cavalry company as such, although because of the 100 or so mounted militia of Balagna under Fabiani's command the rebels could factually boast that they possessed more cavalry than the Genoese. There is no evidence, however, that these men ever fought from horseback.


    Owing to its geography of isolated mountain valleys, the Corsicans of the highlands had long been divided into small, autonomous clusters of villages, with their own customs and their own caporali, as well as longstanding rivalries with other communities and their leaders. The organization of the militia under Theodore was more political than it was military, which is to say it was designed not so much to achieve a military end as to build support for the new regime. It was necessary for every pieve, and sometimes individual parishes within a pieve, to have its own unit with its own leader, as the chiefs and caporali of one community would chafe at being denied a command which the chief on the other side of the mountain enjoyed.

    In Corsica's clan-based society, in which the prestige and strength of a family was judged chiefly by its numbers of kinsmen, militia bands sometimes resembled armed family reunions. This may have made for unit cohesion to a certain extent, but it also meant that most units had intense loyalty to their captains or colonels but very little to the rebel cause or its primary leaders. An officer who was offended would frequently abandon the army and take his entire company with him. Sometimes these units switched sides entirely, deciding that they had been wronged by either the Genoese or one of the rebel "generals" and turning their guns on their former compatriots. Frequently they did not see this as betrayal, as the demands of honor and the best interests of the clan had a superior claim on a man's duty than serving one particular faction.

    Theodore could not remake society overnight, but he did make an attempt at implementing a formal militia structure. Shortly after his coronation he appointed 24 company captains who were charged with raising 35 men each from their own villages (and thus 840 total soldiers). The number of captains expanded regularly thereafter. All companies within a pieve would be grouped into a battalion under the command of a colonel of that pieve. In theory the militiamen would be called in rotation, with men serving four-month terms before being deactivated such that one third of the militia was active at any one time. It was a sensible mode of organization, but Theodore possessed no method of enforcement, and there is little evidence that the system was strenuously observed. The rebel army continued to rely on ad hoc formations of militiamen, who joined the army for a particular purpose or to response to a particular threat, alongside its "semi-regular" companies.

    The rebels never possessed a formal logistical structure, but do not seem to have suffered much for it. The militia lived largely on what the men of Niolo called pane di legnu e vinu di petra – wooden bread (chestnuts) and stone wine (water) - and had plenty of both. Ammunition sometimes had difficulty circulating, but a French officer later complained that "nature itself conspires to arm them," noting that the rebels used pieces of rock crystal from the mountains for replacement gun flints and gathered a local stringy moss which could be used as wadding.


    Each 35-man company was to have two lieutenants and two ensigns. The small size of the companies and battalions meant that the number of officers among the royal forces was quite high; in theory, nearly 15% of all rebel soldiers were officers of commissioned rank. Whether this was militarily useful was besides the point, as the surfeit of captains, lieutenants, and ensigns allowed every rebel of prominence (and his sons and nephews) to have a military rank, for which they had the king to thank.

    What is most surprising about the Corsican rebels under Theodore was the comparatively large pool of experienced officers they possessed. The prejudice which the Genoese held against Corsican officers and their tendency to "retire" those who advanced beyond lieutenant created a substantial class of company-grade officers who naturally saw foreign service as preferable to poor career prospects and a future of unending half-pay at home. Many of them, having served in the Venetian, Neapolitan, Tuscan, or Spanish armies, came back to Corsica during the rebellion to serve the patriotic cause. Compared to the aristocratic officers of the Genoese army, most of whom lacked the barest modicum of military or command experience, these returning mercenary officers represented a distinct rebel advantage. Although Theodore saw the need to make politically motivated appointments, he was also a convinced meritocrat, and we find a shepherd (Linguacitutto) and a peasant (Cipriani) among the list of rebel captains in 1736.



    A Dutch/Liege musket c. 1706

    The muskets used by the Republic of Genoa came principally from France and Spain. While France had introduced a standardized musket in the form of the 1717 "Charleville" musket (updated in 1728), Spain would not adopt a similarly standardized model until 1752. Although there is little information about the specific weapons used by the Genoese army during the Corsican Revolution, it seems safe to assume that a variety of patterns were in use.

    Initially, the muskets used by the rebels came entirely from the Genoese themselves, as the Republic held a legal monopoly on arms sales on the island. At the start of the rebellion, however, the rebel arsenal was seriously out of date. The anti-banditry laws of 1715 failed to disarm the Corsicans but did end above-board arms sales to the islanders, and even those guns purchased before 1715 are unlikely to have been top of the line models. The older snaphance musket, which most countries had abandoned in the 17th century, was still in common use in the Corsican interior; it worked in a similar fashion to the "true" flintlock, but was generally less reliable and more difficult to repair. The rebels’ supply of guns was expanded and updated somewhat by the capture, throughout the rebellion, of weapons from defeated Genoese troops and captured Genoese arsenals, but the story of Costa smuggling 150 muskets to the rebels in 1734 demonstrates that even then the rebels lacked modern weapons in sufficient number.

    From the time of Theodore’s first arrival with 700 Amsterdam-made muskets in 1736, the flow of small arms to the rebels from the outside world was increasingly comprised of Dutch weapons. Amsterdam was a major weapons supplier, and Ripperda's consignment which traveled to Corsica with Theodore aboard the Richard was said to be of “modern” Dutch muskets, presumably of the type produced between roughly 1700 and 1730: pinned-barrel flintlocks with walnut stocks and iron fittings (or later, brass). The British Army purchased tens of thousands of such muskets in the early 18th century and clearly took inspiration from them in the design of the "Brown Bess" Long Land Pattern musket in the 1720s. Later Dutch shipments to the rebels were not always cutting-edge and drew more on older surplus, but even these were "modern" by the standards of the rebels and were highly prized. The only serious deficiency some of these older models possessed was a stock extending to the end of the muzzle which precluded the use of a ring/socket bayonet, but bayonets seem to have been infrequently used by the Corsicans, who notoriously preferred “[American] Indian” tactics of fighting in loose order behind cover and withdrawing in the face of an assault.

    There was little standardization in artillery at this time, and many accounts of rebel artillery describe them in only vague terms, like the six "heavy" and four "light" guns which Theodore brought with him to Corsica on the Richard. Later arrivals are sometimes more precisely described, and are usually 12 or 24 pounders. The Genoese also possessed artillery, but this was limited to the coastal citadels and the decks of their ships and was of no use in the interior. Although the rebels attempted to re-purpose these guns when they got the chance, they were often hampered by a lack of proper field/siege carriages for them.
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    Treachery and Triumph
  • Treachery and Triumph


    Bastia in the 1830s

    At the first meeting of the war council, days after his coronation, Theodore announced that a quick strike would first be made against Porto Vecchio with the forces then available. This was probably inspired by the objection of Ignazio Arrighi, one of those more skeptical rebel leaders who had rather grudgingly accepted his election as king. Arrighi had at one point argued that Theodore should not be made king until he had proven himself in some military enterprise. This argument made little headway at the consulta, and Arrighi seems to have been placated after the fact by being made a count, but Theodore doubtless wished to gain a swift victory to silence similar critics. Porto Vecchio was the best harbor on the island, and its acquisition would be a great boon to the rebels. The attack was led by Colonel Antonio Colonna, a nephew of Chancellor Sebastiano Costa and former captain in the Genoese army who had defected to the rebels. With virtually no preparation, Colonna managed to achieve complete surprise over the unsuspecting garrison. The the town was stormed on April 23rd and the garrison captain fled by boat to Bonifacio. Theodore had only been on the throne for eight days.

    Having established his reputation for quick and victorious action, Theodore now planned an offensive on all fronts to take advantage of his initiative. Marquis Luca Ornano would besiege Ajaccio on the west coast, while Captain Angelo Luccioni, having been made governor of the recently-captured Porto Vecchio, would lead a reconnaissance-in-force against Bonifacio in the south and capture it if practicable. Marquis Simone Fabiani would return to his native Balagna, the richest Corsican province, and move to besiege Calvi in the northwest. Theodore, in the meantime, would take personal command of the rest of the forces in the Diqua and lead them north with the ultimate objective of capturing Bastia, the Genoese capital. A detachment from this army, under Count Arrighi, would attack San Fiorenzo in the Nebbio, while another detachment under Count Anton-Francesco Giappiconi, the secretary of war, was sent to invest San Pellegrino on the eastern coast to secure his flank.

    At the time, some outside observers questioned the wisdom of subdividing his force to such an extent, but it seems to have been a political necessity. There had already been quarrels among his "generals" as to their precedence; Marquis Luigi Giafferi had bristled at the prospect of Fabiani, some three decades his junior, being chosen as vice-president of the war council, and had only been placated by Theodore making him a marquis. By giving each of his most prominent commanders their own command and their own task, the king hoped to satisfy the pride of all.

    On the 1st of May, the rebel host in the Diqua attacked Furiani, where the Genoese held a fortified position on the outskirts of Bastia. The Genoese, who had come to expect ambushing and skirmish warfare from the rebels, were quite surprised to find some 2,000 rebel militia and irregulars advancing across open ground less than ten miles from Bastia. Theodore led the attack in person, and despite taking artillery fire from the Genoese position and from an offshore galley, the rebels drove the Genoese from Furiani after a day-long battle. The garrison retreated into Bastia. The rebel army was close on their heels, and on the 3rd the rebels invested the city and set up Theodore's six heavy guns on the hills above it. The king gave the garrison an ultimatum, demanding their surrender within ten days.

    The Genoese commissioner-general, Count Paulo Battista Rivarola, rejected his demands. Theodore, however, had means other than assault at his disposal, for he knew Bastia's weakness. Situated on a rocky stretch of the eastern coast, Bastia had been chosen as the capital of Genoese Corsica solely for its proximity to Genoa and the coast of Italy, not because of any great geographical advantages. It had no natural harbor, but more importantly for Theodore it had no secure water source. All the city's water was diverted from springs and creeks in the nearby hills through a number of pipes and channels. Learning the location of these channels from local informers, Theodore ordered them all to be cut, hoping to thereby gain a bloodless victory. As waiting for the city to capitulate did not require his personal presence, he left Count Gio Giacomo Ambrosi di Castinetta there with the bulk of the force to maintain the blockade. The king himself would relocate to San Pellegrino and monitor the progress there.

    Besieged Bastia roiled with anxiety. There were rumors that the rebels would slaughter everyone if victorious, possibly stoked by the Genoese. Theodore, before his departure, had attempted to counter these rumors with declarations of his own, circulated within the city by his sympathizers, which invited them to join the cause and promised amnesty to all Corsicans. Rivarola did his best to organize a general defense, sending messages to the commandants of the other citadels demanding an inventory of their armed forces, but the initiative and morale to take any offensive action against the rebels was lacking. The commandant of Calvi, writing to a senator in Genoa, opined dejectedly that the loss of the whole island was only a matter of time.


    Nicolò Cattaneo Della Volta, 153rd Doge of Genoa

    The Doge of Genoa, Nicolò Cattaneo Della Volta, ordered the publication on May 9th of an extended screed against the "Baron Neuhoff." By this time his identity was known—initially the Genoese (and the rest of Europe) were uncertain as to who the mysterious king was, with some suggesting it was Ripperda himself. As soon as they learned his true identity, the Genoese had scrambled to find any sort of dirt they could on the adventurer who had unexpectedly turned up on the island and ruined their attempt to pacify the rebels.

    The publication gave an abbreviated and scurrilous account of his life containing a mix of truths, half-truths, and baseless rumors. The Doge claimed Theodore was a "mountebank" dressed in "oriental fashion," a "wandering vagabond devoid of fortune," as well as a "heretic," "magician," and "cabalist." The Doge derided the "few arms and supplies" which Theodore had brought and called his cause hopeless. He lamented the "evil influence" such a man might have over the Republic's loyal Corsican subjects and fretted that he would "disturb the repose of our people." He finally accused Theodore of breaching the peace, treason, and committing lese majeste, and promised that he would be dealt with like the common criminal he was. How seriously anyone took this document is hard to say; John Bagshaw, the English consul in Genoa, forwarded it to his government and noted that it did no credit to the Doge, who sounded "petulant" and "most desperate." In besieged Bastia, rebel sympathizers defaced a number of the posted copies by scrawling "Long Live Theodore" upon them.

    The king, however, did feel it necessary to pen his own response. He dismissed the account of his past as a cheap fabrication and mocked the charges laid against him. He could not have breached the peace, he wrote, as there had been no peace upon his arrival. Treason, he said, could only be committed against one's friends, and he had "never pretended nor desired" to be friends with the Genoese. As for lese majeste, he made a jest of the Doge and the mercantile origins of the Republic. "Did not an Englishman once address a letter to 'The Doge of Genoa and General Dealer?'" he wondered. "How can majesty possibly be possessed by a hardware merchant?" He ridiculed the tone of concern in the Doge's proclamation, claiming that the "repose" which Genoa wished for the Coriscans was that of the grave, and turned the accusation that he had "few arms and supplies" back on the Doge, saying that he had brought a modest amount because overcoming the feeble Genoese would not require any great exertion. He claimed the Genoese were cowards, men who had acquired everything they possessed through "cupidity and trading," and sarcastically praised their "courage" for hiding within their citadels rather than face him and the "ten thousand brave Corsicans" at his command. He offered a threat, as well: "Since the Genoese say I am a mountebank, I shall go and play from their stage at Bastia!"[1]

    The king was in the meantime at San Pellegrino. Not much could be done there for a dearth of artillery, as all of Theodore's heavy guns were at Bastia, but Theodore was at least able to inspire the men with his personal bravery. He allegedly toured the perimeter on horseback with serene calm even as cannonballs hurled from the fortress tore up the path before him. From there he retired to Venzolasca, five miles to the northwest of San Pellegrino, where he established a temporary headquarters and prepared his forces to attack in whichever direction the Genoese might appear as his lieutenants continued their endeavors.

    While at Venzolasca, a messenger arrived with the most dire of news. Captain Angelo Luccioni, whom the king had placed in command of Porto Vecchio and charged with attacking Bonifacio, had sold his city to the Genoese for 30 sequins and was presently on his way to convince Theodore to go south with him, where he would betray the king to the Genoese. Luccioni indeed arrived the next day, claiming that he had been forced to retreat from the city and asking for the king to join him in retaking it. There was no question of his guilt, and he was immediately arrested; the king, in a rage, told him that he would have access to a confessor and then be shot within the quarter-hour. Costa and Giafferi, concerned that an execution of a prominent man would make enemies, urged leniency, but Theodore insisted that no sovereign could stand for such treachery. He was duly executed by firing squad, only slightly later than Theodore had promised.

    Better news, however, was to come within days. The position of Rivarola at Bastia had grown hopeless. Although some succor could be had by supply ships from Genoa, it was impossible to supply a city of thousands with water by ship alone. On the 14th of May, Consul Bagshaw sent a report to his superiors claiming that, according to an informant he had within Bastia itself, the people of Bastia were pleading with Rivarola to capitulate and that there was a very real chance they would "revolt against the Garrison in favor of the Malcontents." There were rumors that the garrison was bleeding out of the city daily, defecting to the rebels to avoid reprisal or simply to get some water.

    Count Rivarola decided that it was necessary to escape his confinement by force, and he attempted it on the 16th of May. Despite the rather poor preparation of Castinetta, who does not seem to have been able to get his soldiers to do much defensive preparation in the two weeks during which they invested the city, the rebels were able to beat back Rivarola's attack. Costa remarked that the garrison soon ran out of steam, and engaged in desultory skirmishing with the rebels instead of pressing home an attack which might have caught the poorly prepared defenders off-guard. Part of the blame may be placed on the absentee leadership of Rivarola, a career bureaucrat who "led" the breakout from the safety of the citadel, but his forces were clearly demoralized. Bagshaw reported a "reliable" story that one Genoese group of foreign mercenaries threw down their weapons and surrendered "at the first crack of musket-fire."

    Theodore arrived two days later, having rushed north from Venzolasca to aid the besiegers, only to find that Castinetta had matters well in hand. Reinforced with another 500 or so men, Theodore ordered preparations for an assault. It did not came. Rivarola, without water, without reliable soldiers, and fearing a rebellion from within, capitulated.[A]

    [1] The joke is clearer if you know that the etymology of "mountebank" is the Italian montambanco, literally meaning one who "mounts the bench," i.e. leaps upon a stage. In context, of course, it usually means one who mounts a stage to hawk fraudulent medicines or goods.

    Timeline Notes
    [A] IOTL, Giacinto Paoli was placed in charge of the siege of Bastia. Theodore's strategy was the same as ITTL—he cut the water to the city and left matters in Paoli's hands. Bagshaw's reports are mostly quoted verbatim; the Genoese position was desperate. Just as the city was close to surrender, however, Paoli inexplicably departed with many of his men, and the defenders sallied forth and defeated the remainder. Theodore thus lost the best chance he ever got of taking Bastia. According to legend, Theodore was enraged and wanted to seize him as a traitor, but was convinced by his other commanders that Paoli had only left because he had to attend his father's funeral in accordance with custom. This seems rather dubious; Theodore probably spared him for the same reason he made him a general in the first place, because he was too powerful and important to leave out, and a bad friend was better than an enemy. ITTL, Paoli doesn't screw everything up because he's quite dead. Castinetta is not a military genius, but he is at least capable of staying in one place for two weeks. Much of Theodore's subsequent success ITTL will hinge on this crucial conquest.
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    Early Conquests
  • Early Conquests


    Calenzana, looking northeast.

    The Baron has laid heavy Contributions on the Lands belonging to several private Persons of Genoa, and left the Alternative to their Choice either to pay those Contributions or to have their Estates confiscated; by this Means he has brought in a considerable Sum, which he has employ'd in making new Levies.
    - The Ipswich Gazette, July 3rd 1736

    The fall of Bastia on May 19th was a moment of unparalleled triumph for the rebels. It was, in the first place, a great symbolic victory: the capital of Genoese Corsica had fallen and its governor had been captured. In his red robe and plumed hat, flanked by his Corsican guards and foreign servants, Theodore rode through the city streets, intent upon making the same impressive spectacle as he had made upon his arrival. The rebel soldiers and sympathizers were ecstatic. Those Genoese and republican Corsicans who remained were presumably less so, but the massacre they feared did not happen. French and English diplomats reported looting, but it is difficult to distinguish between disorganized looting by soldiers and the purposeful seizure of Genoese assets by Theodore to fund his war effort.

    Theodore badly needed money to pay his soldiers and officers, and Bastia was the perfect place to get it. Genoese citizens and Corsican filogenovesi[1] were more prevalent in Bastia and its surrounding territories than anywhere else, which gave Theodore and his officers the excuse to plunder them. Costa records that mandatory "war contributions" were collected from the people of the region to the tune of over 1.5 million livres, which Count Sebastiano Costa claimed could provide for Theodore's army for more than a year. Specific wealthy families in Bastia were targeted for extra taxation; a certain signore in the city was compelled to give up 4,000 livres on his own. Much of this payment was "in kind," and in particular the rebels took cattle, olive oil, flour, and wine from wherever it was found. A good deal was seized from "absentee" owners, Genoese citizens and well-off Corsican filogenovesi who had fled the advance of the rebel forces.

    The rebel gains in materiel were substantial. Not only was the garrison disarmed of its weapons, but Bastia was the largest Genoese arms depot on the island. The British consul in Genoa John Bagshaw, citing his secret contact in the city, claimed that the rebels had seized "two thousand muskets & much powder and shot" along with an unknown quantity of pistols, "large muskets" (presumably wall guns), swords, and even grenades. The citadel's battery also came into rebel hands; the defenders had spiked the guns but done little else, and local smiths soon restored most of them to working order. Costa also reported that the rebel militia stripped the Genoese soldiers of their boots, as despite Theodore's gifts of shoes many of the rebel soldiers seem to have remained barefoot or shod in the uncured boar-hide footwear worn by many of the natives.

    The Genoese soldiers were interned until ransom or exchange could be arranged. The officers seem to have been treated graciously, but their inferiors were held in warehouses and the dungeons the Genoese had previously used to keep galley-slaves. Foreigners were interned with the Genoese unless they volunteered to join the king's foreign company. As for the Corsicans of the garrison,[2] the deadline for the king's amnesty had long since passed, but nevertheless Theodore offered clemency to those who would join the rebellion and imprisoned those who refused along with the Genoese. The only Corsicans not given this chance were the few Corsican officers. They were lined up and summarily shot in the town square as vittoli, traitors to the nation.[A] According to Costa, some 300 men joined the rebel ranks, including both Corsicans and foreigners.

    The acquisition of a port, particularly after losing Porto Vecchio, was crucial to the rebel cause. Within days of Bastia's capture, a ship from Livorno arrived with a small cargo of munitions as well as a number of foreign volunteers and Corsicans returning to the motherland from foreign service. They included Giovan Luca Poggi, a Corsican captain in the Neapolitan army, and Antone Nobile Battisti, Count Giappiconi's brother-in-law and an engineer in the Venetian army. Within the next few weeks, two more ships full of "contraband" would arrive, this time from France, under captains Pierre-Paul Blanchier and Lorenzo Denas. Both delivered their cargoes safely, including 18 cannon, in part because the Genoese navy feared to fire on vessels bearing the French flag. Genoese complaints to the French government resulted in both captains being arrested upon their return to France, but that did not stop the trickle of cargo; a week later a French tartane called the St. Louis delivered muskets and ammunition to the rebels at Bastia. Were the shipments already arranged by Theodore, or by Ripperda (then in Morocco), or some greater power? Nobody seemed to know.

    After a few days at Bastia, Theodore's army descended into the Nebbio, the fertile region around the Bay of San Fiorenzo. The population here was largely unsympathetic to the rebel cause, although there were evidently enough locals to assemble a pro-monarchist militia battalion under a native of the village of Oletta, Giovan Natali, who was made a colonel. Natali was a tenacious solider but also had a serious axe to grind against his neighbors, with whom he had quarreled during the earlier years of the revolt. He was quite pleased to lead the "confiscation" of filogenovesi property in the region, and responded to resistance with arson. His score-settling in the Nebbio, however, was a sideshow to Theodore's primary goal, which was to capture the port of San Fiorenzo. Although fairly small in population thanks to the "poor air" from nearby wetlands, its squat, cylindrical citadel overlooked an excellent sheltered cove that rivaled that of Porto Vecchio. Unless it was taken, the threat of a Genoese landing there would continually endanger Bastia and the rest of Theodore's recent conquests in the northeast.

    The Genoese were also aware of San Fiorenzo's importance, and had reinforcements on the way. Actually the reinforcements had been intended for Bastia, but did not make it in time; Consul Bagshaw reported that their departure was delayed by panicked citizens fleeing from that city who erroneously claimed that it had already fallen. Instead, 600 Genoese regulars were diverted to San Fiorenzo under the command of Colonel Marchelli. That scuttled any hope of a quick assault on the town, and it lacked Bastia's vulnerable water supply, so there was nothing for it but to begin a siege. Guns were moved into position, although most of the artillery was moved southwards to San Pellegrino to assist in the thus far fruitless siege that was still going on there.

    Theodore was a capable military leader, but he suffered at times from inconstancy. On June 4th, he received word from General Simone Fabiani, the governor of the Balagna, that he had defeated a 500-strong Genoese force and laid siege to Algajola. Fabiani added that he had received word that the citizens of the key town of Calenzana, the site of the rebels' finest victory over the imperial troops several years before, wished to join the rebellion but were prevented by a Genoese garrison. Costa feared it might be a trap, and said as much to Theodore, but the king insisted on going. With 300 men (possibly his royal guard), Theodore relocated westwards, and on the 8th Fabiani and the king assaulted the town. After a bloody and close-fought battle, the Genoese retreated from the town and withdrew to Calvi.[B] The victory was tempered only by the action of an enterprising Genoese captain in Algajola, who took advantage of Fabiani's absence to surprise and rout the small observation force he had left behind. His boastful missive to the Senate that he had destroyed one rebel cannon and captured seven (!) muskets from the fleeing Corsicans did not give the Genoese much to celebrate.

    From the Balagna, Theodore rode to Vescovato, which he had established as a temporary headquarters in the northeast. There were matters of state he wished to discuss with Costa and Giafferi; men of good standing needed to be selected for the constitutionally-mandated Diet, which had never been formed, and Theodore wished to arrange the minting of currency. He also had numerous letters to write to foreign capitals, continental friends, and Ripperda. Strategically speaking, removing himself from the "front" at such a time to pursue matters of parliaments and coinage was not ideal, and he was criticized for it by some as being more interested in playing king than taking the responsibilities of one. Theodore, however, knew that gaining support from abroad was necessary to his purpose, and believed that the trappings of sovereignty—a currency, a Diet, foreign affairs, and so on—were preconditions to having one's sovereignty actually recognized, both in Corsica and abroad.

    Still, it was a bad time to leave. Colonel Marchelli was reinforced in early June by the Compagnia dei Banditi under Captain Domenico de Franceschi, an irregular unit raised from Liguria by promising amnesty to bandits and freedom to criminals and galley slaves in exchange for their armed service. He succeeded in sallying forth and defeating the rebel encirclement, led by colonels Felice Cervoni and Ignazio Arrighi, and captured six guns. The royalists retreated in confusion; Cervoni subsequently accused Arrighi of cowardice, saying he fled the battlefield without engaging, which created such a rift between the two men that Arrighi subsequently abandoned the Nebbio altogether and returned to the mountains with his whole battalion. Marchelli unleashed Franceschi and his irregulars upon the Nebbio to punish traitors, and handed out some 200 muskets to filogenovesi loyalists who had been alienated by Natali's cruelty. Cervoni and Natali, badly outnumbered, withdrew into the hills to the south, although Natali soon returned as a guerrilla, moving about the country with a small band of men to conduct retaliations against "traitors" (and their families) who had joined up with Marchelli.

    Having reconquered much of the Nebbio, Marchelli asked for further reinforcements to retake Bastia. The Senate, reeling over the loss of their island capital, had made the very (financially) painful decision to retain six additional companies of Swiss mercenaries. Two were diverted to Calvi to oppose any attempts by Fabiani to take that strong fortress, while the other four were dispatched to San Fiorenzo with four companies of Ligurians. By mid-June, Marchelli had amassed 1,500 regulars at San Fiorenzo (of whom 500 were Swiss), as well as around 600 native auxiliaries and at least 800 banditi.

    Against this host Colonel Cervoni was badly outmatched. He sent messengers requesting aid, both from Theodore and from Colonel Castinetta in Bastia. Castinetta, however, did little to assist him. Bastia was a large and restless city, with many disloyal elements, and Castinetta was also convinced that Marchelli's attack on Bastia would come over the Bocca di Teghime, the pass over the mountainous spine of the Capo Corso to the west of Bastia. Rising 536 meters above sea level by way of a steep, rocky, well-wooded slope above Patrimonio, Teghime would not be an easy avenue of attack (particularly with abysmal Genoese logistics and a near total lack of pack animals) but it was the most direct, and Castinetta hoped that with preparation he could make it too costly to take. That, however, precluded being of much help to Cervoni further south. Cervoni, having withdrawn to Oletta less than five miles from San Fiorenzo, now faced the prospect of facing three thousand men with no more than two or three hundred, a figure which included Natali's local militiamen.

    Map of Corsica (Click for Large)
    Dark Green: Rebel-controlled areas at Theodore's arrival
    Light Green: Rebel gains between April 1st and June 15th
    Red: Genoese-occupied areas as of June 15th
    White: Neutral, uncertain, or unoccupied areas

    [1] Supporters of Genoa.
    [2] The Genoese were not generally in the practice of stationing Corsican companies of the regular army on Corsica, so it's unclear who these pro-Genoese Corsican troops were. It's possible that the Genoese were simply so desperate for occupying forces that they bent their own rules, or perhaps these were loyalist irregulars or militia under their own officers.

    Timeline Notes
    [A] Vittolo was the name of the man who betrayed and assassinated Sampiero, the 16th century Corsican national hero. For centuries afterwards, Corsicans continued to use his name as a synonym for "traitor," in the same sense as "Quisling."
    [B] IOTL, Theodore narrowly lost this battle because his men ran out of ammunition. ITTL, having taken Bastia and raided its armory, there's enough powder and shot to go around, and it becomes a hard-fought victory instead.
    [C] For purposes of my sanity, only major towns and villages which have been mentioned so far in the TL are indicated. Other sites will be added for your reference as we go on. Some regions have also been added; except for Niolo, which is a single pieve, they all represent physical regions which cover multiple pieves.
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    The Battle of Rutali
  • The Battle of Rutali
    Excerpts from Merganser Publishing's "Rebellion!" Series #24: The Corsican Revolution


    The Bevinco River near Bigorno's Mill

    A lack of good intelligence was to prove critical for Colonel Marchelli, the commander of a nearly 3,000 strong Genoese force at San Fiorenzo. Although reasonably well-informed on the lay of the surrounding territory by way of the filogenovesi militia of the Nebbio, he possessed very little information as to the number and disposition of the rebel forces. To protect his supply lines from San Fiorenzo and secure the valuable province of the Nebbio, he first concentrated on liberating that district from the rebels, who possessed no more than a few hundred militia in the area under colonels Felice Cervoni and Giovan Natali. At the same time, he sent his second-in-command, Major Morati, to secure the village of Patrimonio which commanded the western approach to the Bocca di Teghime, the shortest path to Bastia.

    Cervoni and Natali were attacked at Oletta on the 18th of June by a force of filogenovesi militia. Marchelli dispatched these men first so as to preserve his regulars, but after a first attack was beaten back he deemed it necessary to dispatch two Ligurian companies as a stiffening element to eject the rebels from the village. Cervoni withdrew to the village of Murato, where he was joined by Captain Mari Antonio Bigorno and 150 men from Costera. Natali, meanwhile, bickered with Cervoni over strategy and decided to go his own way, continuing his tactics of resistance in the Nebbio.

    Major Morati, commanding around 500 men including a Swiss company, had easily taken Patrimonio, but the mountains were occupied by a detachment of Castinetta's men under Captain Giovan Luca Poggi, a recent arrival who had left the Neapolitan army to fight for his native country. With allegedly no more than 150 men Poggi harassed Morati's force, which in order to even gain a foothold on the mountainside had to climb up wooded and brush-covered slopes on paths only wide enough for two men to walk abreast. Unable to come to grips with the enemy, uncertain of Poggi's numbers, and constantly in danger of being enfiladed by skirmishers while on the mountain trails, Morati decided to cease his attempts to push past Patrimonio and reported to Marchelli that the rebels at Bastia must be holding the pass with their full forces. That convinced Marchelli to take a more southerly route through the Bocca di San Stefano, a gorge carved through the mountains from west to east by the Bevinco River.

    Meanwhile, the Genoese captain Domenico de Franceschi and his compagnia dei banditi fought several skirmishes with the rebels in the southern Nebbio. They did well enough at chasing out Natali, who in an encounter near Rapale lost many of his men and barely escaped with his life. Franceschi, however, proved incapable of controlling his jailbird regiment, which was accused of swarming across the Nebbio and plundering without much regard to whether their victims were rebels or loyalists. Still, they were more numerous than the rebels in the vicinity, and once the banditi occupied Murato virtually the entire Nebbio had been overrun.

    The turning point was the arrival shortly thereafter of Count Andrea Ceccaldi. Ceccaldi (b. 1690 or '92, also spelled "Ciaccaldi"), a nobleman from Vescovato in the Castagniccia, was already considered one of the rebels' foremost commanders. He had been elected as one of the first three "generals of the nation" in 1730 alongside his brother-in-law Marquis Luigi Giafferi, and in 1732 Ceccaldi achieved the greatest victory the rebels had attained prior to Theodore's arrival by crushingly defeating the imperial general Karl Franz von Wachtendonck and the Genoese commandant Camillo Doria at the First Battle of Calenzana. Ceccaldi had traveled to Spain in 1735 bringing the rebels' offer of the Corsican crown to King Philip V, and retained his pro-Spanish views at the consulta of Alesani where he opined that the rebels should consider reaching out to Spain again rather than crowning Theodore. Nevertheless, Ceccaldi was on good terms with the new king; as one of the "Prisoners of Savona," Ceccaldi credited Theodore with helping to save him from being broken on the wheel in Genoa, and some days after the coronation Ceccaldi had hosted him at his house in Vescovato.

    Ceccaldi had crossed the mountains from the Castagniccia through the Pass of Bigorno together with around 500 men of Casinca and Rostino on the afternoon of the 21nd. With Cervoni, he counter-attacked Murato and drove out the unsuspecting banditi, killing or capturing at least 50 men. The arrival of this famous leader and his forces gave a boost to the flagging confidence of the rebels, who had practically given up on the Nebbio as lost. Although Ceccaldi's battalion was still much inferior to Marchelli's army, he was set upon making as much of a nuisance of himself as possible so as to delay Marchelli from making a transit of the Bocca di San Stefano.

    Sitting on the wooded northern slope of the summit of Taffoni, the small village of Rutali to the east of Murato possessed a commanding view of the Bocca di San Stefano only a mile and a half away. Ceccaldi decided to dispatch Cervoni to occupy it, without realizing that he had been preempted by Marchelli, who had sent about a hundred local militia backed by a company of Ligurian infantry under Captain Franchi, a Corsican-born officer, to hold the position. Cervoni and Franchi ran into each other quite unexpectedly in the outskirts of town, resulting in a chaotic meeting engagement in the woods. Franchi, not knowing what he was up against, withdrew into the village proper.

    Aside from some skirmishing around Rutali, there was little combat of note the rest of the day. As evening fell, however, the main Genoese force—then encamped at Oletta—witnessed bonfires beginning to appear on the hills around Rutali and heard the braying of conch trumpets. The little skirmish between Franchi and Cervoni had kicked up a hornet's nest of rebels. Irregulars from Bigorno, Mariana, Rostino, and Casinca came streaming over the mountain by the light of the full moon, and skirmishing continued well after midnight. As dawn followed a sleepless night, Franchi discovered that he was entirely surrounded. Franchi was unable to send for help, but his distress was apparent to Marchelli (who was less than four miles away). The colonel decided to stage a rescue, and just after dawn marched with his full column southwards. By the time he arrived at the plateau above Pruneta, Franchi had with difficulty already fended off two assaults on Rutali. The swell of rebel irregulars had no real command structure and coordinated their attacks poorly, but they greatly outnumbered Franchi and could come at him from any direction.

    Although Marchelli undoubtedly knew that Murato was occupied by the rebels, he assumed the major force was at Rutali. Out of caution, he deployed a picket to the pasture above Pruneta to guard his flank against Murato, and then advanced southwards. When his vanguard descended into the ravine of the Bevinco river they were met by Cervoni's company at a stone bridge over the river. Although Cervoni had enemies on either side of him, being directly between Marchelli and Franchi, Franchi was pinned down in the village by the irregulars and could make no move to flank Cervoni's force.

    The opening phase of the engagement was at the stone bridge, where the Genoese infantry was bloodily repulsed by the concentrated musket-fire of rebels drawn up on the opposite side. As the river was shallow, this impasse was broken by the advance of a Swiss company under Captain Schmitter, who crossed on the Genoese left to outflank the rebels. A fierce firefight now concentrated on a water-mill near the crossing, which the rebels turned into an impromptu redoubt. The mill was held by the Costera militia and was later called "Bigorno's Mill," as their captain died in its defense after being shot three times, although not before exacting a heavy price from Schmitter's company. After Bigorno's death, the men of Costera fled. With their flank turned, Cervoni's battalion retreated upriver. The way was now clear for Marchelli to rescue Franchi, although throughout the entire operation they were under fire from rebels "sniping" at them from behind rocks and trees. Once Franchi's company was extricated, the combined Genoese army now turned back northwards.

    Ceccaldi, who thus far had done little but hold Murato, had been joined by Cervoni and the remnants of his company and decided to join the fight. Around noon, his battalion advanced down the plateau towards Pruneta where he encountered Marchelli's picket. This small force of militia held only briefly against a well-disciplined rebel advance before fleeing down into the ravine.

    Marchelli had rescued Franchi from encirclement only to bring it upon himself. Returning back down the hill towards the river, he now had rebels on the heights on either side. His own attempts to organize lines of battle were disrupted by the terrain, the narrow paths, and his own men. As Marchelli's Swiss were trying to form up by the stone bridge, they were swamped by the panicked Pruneta picket fleeing towards them and pressed from behind by Franchi's men and their rescuers who were pulling back from the harassment of the rebel irregulars. The result was a swirl of confusion in the ravine which prevented the Genoese from bringing much of their firepower to bear on the enemy.

    Now Ceccaldi attacked. He had no coordination or communication with the irregulars on the opposite slope, but they were already engaged and smelling blood. Holding the higher ground on the south, Ceccaldi's men advanced within 150 yards of the river and opened fire on the Genoese as Ceccaldi struggled to organize his forces. Fighting continued for more than an hour, during which an attempt by two Swiss companies to break out by advancing up the hill with fixed bayonets was turned back by the volleys of Ceccaldi's men and the death of Captain Schmitter, who was shot in the head. Between 1:00 and 2:00, under pressure from ahead and behind, the Genoese army collapsed; the flight of some filogenovesi militia turned into a general rout down the river. A complete disaster was averted only by the bravery of the Swiss, who fought a creditable rearguard action at Bigorno's Mill, as well as the failure of the rebel irregulars to cut off or chase the enemy, for once they saw the Genoese fleeing they were more inclined to celebration than dogged pursuit.

    In Genoa, where any news about Corsica was strictly censored and any word contrary to the official line was suppressed, the Battle of Rutali was spun as a victory. In the most dryly technical sense, perhaps it was—Marchelli had indeed rescued Franchi's company from probable annihilation. Yet nobody else saw it that way. Jacques de Campredon, the French minister to Genoa, quipped that the Genoese had saved a hundred men at the cost of a thousand. The British consul John Bagshaw reported similar figures, informing his government that the Genoese had suffered "at least a thousand" dead, wounded, or captured, while the rebels had suffered less than 200 casualties. While these figures might be somewhat exaggerated, if one includes desertions (particularly from the loyalist militia) they must certainly fall near the mark. Hundreds of muskets were taken by the rebels. Several dozen Swiss were among those captured, most of whom had fought in the rearguard, and a few subsequently ended up in Theodore's foreign company. Captain Schmitter was dead, and a Genoese captain, Graziani, was captured. This information was widely reported abroad, and within a few weeks even the Genoese had stopped trying to claim it as a victory.

    Marchelli's army, though diminished, was still considerable, and the rebels did not make any immediate attempt to follow up on their victory. Nevertheless, Rutali was the high-water mark of the Genoese summer campaign in the Nebbio. Henceforward, Marchelli concentrated only on maintaining his control of the province and made no further attempts to recapture Bastia. King Theodore duly rewarded the victors, making Count Ceccaldi a Lieutenant-General and ennobling Colonel Cervoni as a cavaliere. Nevertheless, the victory was not without controversy. Cervoni complained that Ceccaldi had been dilatory and blamed him for the high casualties of his men and the death of Captain Bigorno. Ceccaldi, he claimed, would not have joined the battle at all had he, Cervoni, not joined up with his command after the retreat from the stone bridge and personally urged Ceccaldi to come to the aid of the irregulars.

    Three modern interpretations exist: 1) that Ceccaldi deliberately waited for the right moment to cut off Marchelli's withdrawal; 2) that Ceccaldi intended only to make a demonstration against the Genoese to take pressure off the rebels at Rutali, which then turned into a major engagement after the flight of the picket at Pruneta left Marchelli vulnerable; or 3) that Ceccaldi intended to do nothing save defend Murato, believing his forces insufficient for an attack, until Cervoni cajoled him into marching. The first was the most popular at the time, and together with the First Battle of Calenzana cemented Ceccaldi's reputation as one of the finest of Theodore's generals, although Cervoni and his supporters tenaciously supported the third. The second is a more recent innovation, something of an attempt to split the difference by military scholars, but sound evidence for any one interpretation is lacking.

    If the quality of Ceccaldi's victory is still debated, the cause of Marchelli's defeat is generally not. Although his forces, aside from the Swiss, did not give an inspiring performance, it was ultimately Marchelli's failure to gather accurate information that lost him the battle. He was clearly operating on the assumption that the rebel attack on Rutali represented the main body of the opposing forces, an impression which had been given by the bonfires and conch trumpets of Cervoni and his forces summoning more men to the fight. It is possible that the largest rebel force was at Rutali; even the Corsicans were not quite sure how many irregulars, who were completely out of Ceccaldi's command, were present at the battle, and many went over the mountain and back home as soon as the day was won. Still, Marchelli plainly did not realize that Ceccaldi and around 600 militiamen, representing the best of the rebel infantry on the field, were still at Murato, and as a result failed to divert enough forces to the picket on his flank to prevent his own encirclement. The picket at Pruneta, which appears to have numbered little more than a hundred filogenovesi militia, did not even succeed at delaying Ceccaldi's advance and contributed only to the disarray of Marchelli's regulars as they fled into the ravine where the Swiss and Ligurians were attempting to organize.
    Governance and Indifference
  • Governance and Indifference


    Corsican "Revolutionary" 5-soldi copper coin

    "Tell me, in Heaven's name, whence you have obtained the dignity of monarchy and the title of royalty, when the fact is that your Republic has, in bygone times, been nothing but a corporation of rapacious pirates?"
    - King Theodore, in his published address to the Genoese​

    Theodore roused himself from administrative tasks to support his lieutenants in the Nebbio against Marchelli's expeditionary force. He needn't have bothered, as before the king could arrive on the scene the threat presented by Marchelli was abruptly curbed on June 22nd by his humiliating defeat at the Battle of Rutai, in which a poorly planned attempt to rescue a stranded garrison resulted in the Marchelli's army being encircled and shot to pieces by the rebels in the valley of the Bevinco. Marchelli escaped with his beaten force, but at the cost of hundreds of men dead, wounded, or captured. The victory was widely credited to Count Andrea Ceccaldi, the victory of the First Battle of Calenzana in 1732, but it would have been impossible without the nearly spontaneous mustering of rebel sympathizers throughout the northern Castagniccia. It was an impressive demonstration of Corsican determination to evict the invader, at least when he strayed too far into the interior, but whether Theodore and his generals could translate such ardor into the long and tedious work of siegecraft remained questionable. True to form, most of the irregulars who had given Ceccaldi his victory melted back into the mountains and returned home with their muskets as soon as the Genoese fled.

    This victory was followed a week later by the surrender of San Pellegrino after weeks of bombardment supervised by the minister of war, Count Anton-Francesco Giappiconi, and Lieutenant-Colonel of Artillery Antoine Dufour. With their surrender of the 80 or so surviving soldiers of the garrison, the entire eastern coast of Corsica from the Cape to Porto Vecchio was now vacated by the Genoese. That, in turn, freed up much of Theodore's artillery, which was badly needed elsewhere. A few pieces, principally of "light" artillery (presumably 12 and 8 pounders), were diverted northwards, perhaps with the hope that field artillery would be of some use in the generally flat and open plain of the Nebbio. The most dire need, however, was at Ajaccio, where Marquis Luca Ornano had abandoned the siege of the city after being embarrassed by a successful sally against his position by the garrison. Ornano complained that he had no support—too few muskets, not enough ammunition, no money to pay his troops, and no artillery. He was right, although not because of purposeful neglect; the mountains were a formidable obstacle to the transfer of supplies. Sea transport would have been ideal, but the presence of the Genoese fleet and the fact that the rebels in the Dila held no ports made this quite unthinkable. Dufour, whose background was military engineering, was charged with moving eight 24-pounder cannons with their carriages and ammunition, as well as various other munitions and supplies, on the backs of mules over the length and breadth of the country. To mollify Ornano personally, Theodore decided to travel to the Dila as well.

    Over the course of June, Theodore's administration was busily minting an official currency to give his reign some of the trappings of regal legitimacy. Corsica, of course, had no mint and no minters, but eventually a rather unlikely engraver was found to craft the dies—a priest from Orezzo known as "Settecervella" ("Seven-brains") who was locally renowned as a counterfeiter of Genoese currency (and, Costa adds, quite proud of his work, describing it as practically a service to his country). Theodore placed Count Giampietro Gaffori at the head of the effort, giving him the title of "President of the Currency." His followers roved through the rebel-held regions to find brass to melt down for copper. Several pro-rebel monasteries voluntarily contributed candlesticks, plate, and other metal implements for the purpose.

    The denominations were 2-soldi, 5-soldi, and 20-soldi (one lira). The lower denominations were ostensibly billon (silver and copper ally), but the silver content was vanishingly small. The Corsicans joked that the "TR" on the coins, which stood for Theodore Rex, actually stood for Tutto Rami ("all copper"). The 20-soldi coins were silver and reasonably fine, but rare in comparison to the "billon" pieces. Workmanship was poor, and there was an initial setback where the mint workers themselves refused to accept payments in the currency they had made. Very quickly, however, the money began circulating outside the island. Independent captains trading illicitly with the rebels at Bastia were at first reluctant to accept the pieces, but soon realized that despite having a negligible silver content and being of shoddy workmanship, the pieces commanded high prices as collectibles; the novelty of Theodore and his reign was such that there were numerous collectors on the continent who were willing to pay high prices for them. The pieces were in such high demand that a mint in Naples began churning out counterfeit Corsican solely for the purpose of selling them as curios. With just as much silver content (that is, practically none) and considerably better craftsmanship than Theodore's coins, there was really little reason for Theodore to object to them; his goal, after all, was to raise the profile and legitimacy of his state, and the Neapolitan counterfeiters were unwittingly aiding him in that task while turning a profit.[A]


    Corsican "Revolutionary" billon/copper coins, 2 and 5 soldi denominations. The circling inscription on the reverse is an abbreviation of "Pro Bono Publico Regni Corsicae" (For the public good of the Kingdom of Corsica).


    Corsican "Revolutionary" silver coin, 20 soldi or 1 lira. The symbol on the obverse is Neuhoff's arms as the King of Corsica with a crown above it, circled by the inscription "Theodorus Rex Corsice." The reverse has an image of the Virgin Mary with the inscription "Monstra Te Esse Matrem" (Show thyself to be a mother), a line from the Liturgy of the Hours.

    Despite the best efforts of the Genoese navy, supply ships continued to reach the rebels. A large consignment of muskets and ammunition which had been purchased in Livorno by Father Gregorio Salvini, a Corsican priest, managed to outrun a Genoese patrol ship in mid-July and reach Bastia intact. Although Bastia was a poor port, it did have a well-armed citadel, and while the gunnery of Castinetta's militia was presumably atrocious it was nevertheless enough to keep Genoese armed feluccas and galleys from attacking merchant shipping once it had reached the port. The Genoese, of course, intensified patrols in the area, but they could not get too close; in late July, some of Castinetta's men rowed out at night to a Genoese galley anchored just outside the range of the citadel's guns and stormed it, taking advantage of the fact that Genoese galleys (being rowed by galley slaves) had comparatively few fighting crewmen. The Corsicans captured the ship, but had no use for the galley itself and set it ablaze after beaching it. Theodore, who was a vocal abolitionist, had decreed that galley slaves were to be immediately freed when taken, and foreigners among them were either to be repatriated if possible or offered the chance to join the foreign company of the royal army. His position on slavery met with no opposition from the Corsicans, as the Genoese had long used the onerous penalty of galley slavery to punish Corsican dissidents and criminals and the practice was universally detested.

    As the French began cracking down more harshly on their nationals who did business with the Corsicans, Livorno became the primary transit point for trade with the Corsican rebels. It was certainly geographically appropriate, given its proximity to Bastia, and it was politically convenient as well. As mentioned, both the Grand Duke Gian Gastone de Medici and the imperial governor of Livorno Karl Franz von Wachtendonck (the very same man who had led imperial forces on Corsica and was defeated by Ceccaldi at Calezana two years earlier) were friendly to Theodore, and while the official line was that trade with the "malcontents" was illegal there was little done to actually enforce this. Theodore's most effective agent there was a Florentine merchant, Francesco dell'Agata, whom Theodore had met during his preparations between 1734 and 1736 and like many was immediately attracted to the baron's charisma and sense of purpose. Intensely loyal to Theodore, dell'Agata used his skills and contacts acquired during his mercantile career to operate what was essentially a major smuggling operation, concealing goods and laundering payments while strenuously denying that he had anything to do with the Corsicans.

    Although arms continued to flow into the island, the rebels were beginning to have issues with manpower. July meant harvest season, and many irregular and militia soldiers (and entire units at times) dissolved to return to their fields and orchards. Had the Genoese not recently been chastened at Rutali, it would have been an excellent time for a counterattack; as it stood, the Genoese did little of anything. Marquis Simone Fabiani, captain-general and governor of the Balagna, offered to raise men at Orezza, the country of his in-laws, but Theodore ordered him to remain in place; he did not want to lose Calenzana, and after the loss of much of the Nebbio it was olive oil from Balagna which was presently paying the bills of the merchants who came to Bastia selling arms.[B]

    Count Gaffori, after managing the mint, went to the interior of the country to raise troops in the vicinity of Corti. While there, however, he was stymied by Colonel Ignazio Arrighi, who had returned to Corti after falling out with Cavaliere Felice Cervoni, and Gaffori wrote back to Theodore complaining of Arrighi's interference. Theodore, who was planning on heading south to meet Ornano anyway, proceeded to Corti with his royal guard to investigate matters, only to find that Arrighi refused him entry to Corti. Despite patient negotiations, Arrighi still resisted, so Theodore's guard caught Arrighi entirely by surprise and took the town by storm. Arrighi fled to Vico, and disavowed Theodore's sovereignty. His party, which became known as the indifferenti ("Indifferents"), comprised those Corsicans who were opposed to Theodore but still defiant towards the Genoese, and it was soon joined by Marc-Antonio Raffaelli (a relative of Father Domenico Raffaelli, one of the Prisoners of Savona) and Theodore's own justice minister Father Giovanni Aitelli, who had long been upset with Theodore's religious policy. Their defection was a serious blow to Theodore and the rebellion, and although the indifferenti were supposedly hostile to the Genoese there was little fighting between those two factions and it was speculated that their leaders might be in the Republic's pay. Nevertheless, Theodore resolved to continue with his mission to the south, with Dufour's caravan of cannon crawling along behind.

    Map of Corsica around the end of July
    Green: Royalist control
    Yellow: "Indifferenti" control
    Red: Genoese occupation
    White: Neutral, uncertain, or unoccupied areas
    Dotted Green Line: Route of Dufour's caravan

    Timeline Notes
    [A] All this stuff about the currency is basically true. They really did find a counterfeiting priest named "Seven-brains" to design the coinage, and there really was a mint that opened in Naples to sell counterfeit Corsican currency to collectors. You can actually buy the Corsican coinage pictured above, but you'd better be loaded because the coins are extremely rare and the examples I've seen online sell for a few thousand dollars a piece.
    [B] IOTL, Fabiani did indeed return to Orezza to raise troops. On his way there, he was ambushed and assassinated. Who did it and why is still not exactly clear. It was claimed that the attack was a vendetta killing to avenge the death of Luccioni, the man who had betrayed Porto Vecchio to the Genoese and had been executed by Theodore, but as Fabiani was not at all involved in Luccioni's execution it's not clear why he specifically would be the target. It was also claimed that the murderers were in the pay of the Genoese, who were absolutely willing to pay assassins or at least put bounties on the heads of the rebel leaders and tried to have Theodore killed on several occasions. Also possible is the involvement of Giacinto Paoli, whose home territory in Rostino was very near Orezzo. Paoli's clan and Fabiani's clan were traditional enemies, and Paoli also hated Fabiani personally, being intensely jealous of the high position he had been given. Paoli had allegedly been spreading false rumors about Fabiani prior to his death and attempting to turn other rebel leaders against him. Since all I can do is speculate as to how it really went down OTL, my decision ITTL is that the absence of Paoli, the capture of Calenzana, and the improved situation of the rebels (which makes Fabiani's return to Orezza less necessary) butterflies away his assassination. That said, however, not everyone will be so lucky as to escape Genoese-paid gunmen. The butterflies go both ways, as it were.
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    Theodore in the South
  • Theodore in the South


    Looking up from the Pass of Vizzavona, which divides the Diqua from the Dila.

    Quandu tuttu u mondu cumanda, l’affari vanu male.
    (When everyone's in charge, business goes badly.)
    - Corsican proverb

    King Theodore, accompanied by his royal guard, descended into the Dila through the Bocca di Vizzavona and valley of the Gravona in the first week of August. It was the first time he had set foot in the south, a region which was less populous and economically important than the north but was nevertheless just as vital if he was to assert his claim to be king of all Corsica.

    The Dila was geographically isolated from the north, but it had long been socially distinct as well. In the days of the Carolingians, when Corsica had been freed from the terrors of Saracen raids, many noblemen of Frankish and Lombard descent had settled on the island, but by the turn of the millennium the situation had degraded into constant strife between these petty lords. The people of the inland north, particularly in the region of Castagniccia, decided to take action against such predations, and in the 11th century at Morosaglia in Rostino they established an elective republican government comprised of a union of the various pieves and their chosen elders. Their territory became known as the Terra di Comune, as opposed to the Terra di Signori of the south, where the quarreling lords still ruled. As the southern lords would not leave them in peace, the men of the Terra di Comune invited the Margrave of Massa to come to their aid, and in a very poorly-attested campaign Margrave William succeeded in defeating the southern signori. Although these structures had long been submerged in centuries of Papal, Pisan, and Genoese dominion, their legacy was still evident: the rebellion against Genoa had been led in large part by men of the old Terra di Comune, who still treasured their legacy of autonomy and resistance to feudal dominion, while the old Terra di Signori retained a somewhat more hierarchical society in which the descendants of the old barons still guarded their ancient privilege.[1]

    Lieutenant-General Luca d'Ornano had been made a marquis by Theodore, but he did not need a German baron to tell him he was a nobleman. Of the old noble families of the Terra di Signori, his was among the most respected. A proud man with an aristocratic bearing, he was also a devoted patriot. Ornano had been the supreme commander of the revolt in the Dila since at least 1734 and had seen various "national" regimes (which were inevitably headquartered in the north) come and go. When a new uprising had been proclaimed in January of 1735, he had gone north to be appointed as general, and then returned to the Dila; he had done the same later that year after the government of the ghjunta had been proclaimed; and he did it once more shortly after the coronation of Theodore. News of arms shipments and rebel victories in the north, however, had irked him, not because he begrudged the northern rebels their success but because he felt unequally treated, as rumors came of the northerners being showered in vast amounts of munitions and money by Theodore's foreign friends. That was a bit of an exaggeration, to be sure, but Ornano's lack of support was real enough. After engaging in a long and fruitless (not to mention artillery-less) siege of Ajaccio only to be surprised and defeated by a sally by the Genoese garrison, he abandoned the siege and demanded the aid he felt was due him before he would continue the campaign.

    Theodore's trip south was as much to soothe the feelings of this very important commander as to accomplish any real military objective. Arriving in advance of the caravan of artillery and arms under Lieutenant-Colonel Antoine Dufour, Theodore met personally with Ornano at the little village of Peri in the Celavo. After a congenial chat and Theodore's promises of aid soon to come, they decided to take a short trip to Cinarca to the north. It was thought that the indifferenti had been attempting to rally support there, but evidently without much success, as Theodore and Ornano captured the whole pieve practically without a fight and raised a company of Cinarcans to join Ornano's army. That brought them within striking distance of Vico, but Theodore declined to waste more time on the "traitors." They returned south towards Ajaccio, and stopped at Alata, the hilltop estate of Carlo Maria Pozzo di Borgo just four miles from the Genoese port. Signore Pozzo di Borgo, another one of the grand signori of the south, hosted the king for dinner. On the 15th of August, Theodore departed, assuring Ornano that Dufour would be along shortly. He was, although not without some difficulty, as his caravan was ambushed by the indifferenti near Tavera. They made off with some of the muskets but not with the vital artillery, which they had no means to carry away anyway.

    Theodore traveled southeast to the district of La Rocca, the domain of Lieutenant-General Michele Durazzo, a southern lord second only to Ornano in importance (and his superior in wealth, we are told). Theodore had made Durazzo a general and a count, and Durazzo had done reasonably well for the rebel cause by driving the Genoese garrison out of Sartena soon after Theodore's arrival. He welcomed the king at Livia with a little parade by a troop of cavalry that had been assembled from the noblemen of La Rocca. Although Durazzo possessed fewer men than Ornano, he was an officer of somewhat more initiative and daring, and had skirmished several times with Genoese companies operating out of their southern garrison ports. Theodore had no artillery to give him, but provided him with a modest amount of arms and ammunition and promised him that once affairs were on a better footing in the north he would be able to give him aid in the recapture of Porto Vecchio. Durazzo and his cavalry accompanied Theodore to Fiumorbo on the eastern coast, a sparsely populated but restless pieve whose village elders readily swore fealty to Theodore.

    Clearly, however, not all in the province were friends of the king. After Durazzo turned back to his home territory, Theodore was left with only a small part of his royal guard—most seem to have been given to Dufour as an escort, leaving only a small group on horseback to accompany the king. Near the village of Ventiseri, their local guide insisted on taking a path down a forested valley, claiming that the usual route lay near a hostile village, but Theodore refused to go despite his protests. Perhaps he trusted in his charisma; perhaps he did not fully trust the guide. Either way, the man vanished from the column a few miles later, and when Theodore reached the next village he found them quite friendly. It was discovered, in retrospect, that the "guide" had been paid off by the Genoese, and it was assumed he was trying to lead the little royal party into an ambush.

    While Theodore was away, the war in the north had been focused in the Nebbio. Although humbled by defeat, the Genoese colonel Marchelli still controlled around 2,000 men in total, and he was reinforced by another 500 or so in mid-August, although these appear to have all been more additions of prisoners and galley slaves to the compagnia dei banditi. Count Andrea Ceccaldi, recently promoted to Lieutenant-General, was his chief adversary, along with Colonel Don Felice Cervoni, who had acquitted himself bravely at Rutali; Colonel Giovan Natali, the leader of the local militia of the Nebbio; Captain Giovan Luca Poggi, who had defended the Bocca di Teghime against the Genoese battalion of Major Morati; and Major Antone Nobile Battisti, a former engineer in the Venetian army who had been placed in command of artillery in the absence of Dufour.

    This was a fairly experienced and capable group of officers, but a rift between Ceccaldi and Cervoni had continued to grow since their victory at Rutali. Cervoni disputed the great credit that had been given to Ceccaldi and despite being made a knight by Theodore resented that Ceccaldi, once his fellow colonel, had been given general rank ahead of him. This division between Ceccaldi and the second most senior leader in the Nebbio stymied progress, as did the depleted rebel numbers during the harvest season. A more daring leader than Marchelli might have sought to take advantage of this situation by going on the offensive, but Marchelli was probably fearful for his career prospects if he were to lead his army into disaster a second time and never risked it.

    Despite these complications, the rebels did capture Olmeta and Cervoni managed to defeat a large company of banditi under Captain Domenico de Franceschi in the valley of the Aliso. An attack on Oletta, however, was delayed because of disagreements between Ceccaldi and Cervoni, allowing Ceccaldi to reinforce Major Morati and hold the position. On the 19th the rebels made another go at it, this time attempting to cut off Oletta by seizing the road between the village and San Fiorenzo. The result was Ceccaldi's defeat at the hands of Marchelli in the Battle of Conca d'Oro ("Valley of Gold"), an engagement which was won by the Genoese less through brilliant generalship than the superior discipline and musketry of the Genoese and Swiss regulars. In an open field with none of the confounding terrain that had been so useful to the rebels at Rutali, the rebels were at a clear disadvantage. Marchelli claimed it as vengeance for Rutali and the Genoese government, hungry for any kind of good news, crowed about it as a sign of the impending collapse of the rebels. Numerically, however, it was poor revenge; the rebels suffered some 300 dead, wounded, or captured compared to a probable 100-150 on the part of the Genoese, a far cry from the 1,000 or so Genoese casualties at Rutali. Marchelli was seemingly content within the defensive triangle which he had established between San Fiorenzo, Oletta, and Patrimonio, and made no attempt after the battle to expand his control.

    Unhappy with Theodore's extended absence, a number of northern leaders including his own prime minister Marquis Luigi Giafferi had presented the king with a petition upon his return to Vescovato, imploring him for the good of the realm and the preservation of his own life to fix his residence in one place and not go touring the realm anymore. As we find him in the Nebbio on the 24th, he cannot have taken this advice entirely, but matters there urgently demanded his intervention. After Conca d'Oro, the rebels in the province were in disarray. Ceccaldi and Cervoni were blaming each other for the defeat and morale was low. The king, meeting with his commanders at Murato, decided to reassign Cervoni to command the rebels in Niolo so as to end the raids of the indifferenti and perhaps stamp them out entirely. Cervoni was from Rogna in central Corsica and had family ties in Niolo, which recommended him for the position, but it was probably also intended as a means to keep him and Ceccaldi on opposite sides of the island. Theodore then proceeded to Bastia, where he met with Count Gio Giacomo Ambrosi di Castinetta. Castinetta had been doing well enough keeping order in occupied Bastia, whose residents were mostly opposed to the rebel movement, but he had been hoarding the arms and ammunition which had been arriving at the port, preventing it from being disseminated elsewhere. Major Battisti had complained he had no powder or shot for his guns. Theodore managed to get him to loosen his grip, allowing the rebels in the Nebbio to receive new supplies, and attempted to get Castinetta to use his time more productively by instructing him to organize some privateers to take the fight to the Genoese.

    In the Balagna, meanwhile, the Genoese of Algajola under Captain Bembo broke out of their confinement for the second time and, in coordination with an armed flotilla, made an attack against Isola Rossa less than five miles to the east. Although only a small fishing village, Isola Rossa had rapidly become the primary port for the smuggling of Balagnese olive oil (primarily to France), for although the rebels controlled the port of Bastia there existed no infrastructure by which oil could be transported from the Balagna to the eastern coast. As Theodore's government levied no direct tax upon the already impoverished citizens, Balagnese oil (which Costa estimated at 100,000 barrels annually) represented the lion's share of the rebel government's regular income (excluding irregular exactions and confiscations of Genoese and filogenovesi property). Although the rebel besiegers of Algajola were heavily defeated, the physician-turned-officer Captain Paolo-Maria Paoli (no relation to Giacinto Paoli) delayed Bembo at Corbara long enough for Marquis Simone Fabiani to arrive and force the attackers back, while the Genoese flotilla was dissuaded from landing men by strong winds and sporadic cannon-fire from the Torre Pietra, a Genoese tower off the coast of Isola Rossa which had been garrisoned by the rebels. Bembo caused more casualties than he suffered and burned fields and orchards in the vicinity of Pigna and the Nonza Valley, but Isola Rossa remained in rebel hands and smugglers continued to arrive.[A]

    Map of Corsica around the end of July
    Green: Royalist control
    Yellow: "Indifferenti" control
    Red: Genoese occupation
    White: Neutral, uncertain, or unoccupied areas
    Dotted Green Line: Route of Theodore's southern review

    [1] The north and south had linguistic differences as well. Despite the Terra di Signori being ruled by lords who claimed descent from Frankish counts of the continent, it was the northerners who spoke a dialect much closer to Tuscan, for the north's proximity to the Italian coast and its relative richness compared to the south had attracted many more immigrants from Tuscany over the course of the second millenium. The language of the south, meanwhile, was considered more "rustic;" that is, less Tuscan-influenced and closer to Sardinian and Sicilian. This contributed to a certain northern chauvinism, particularly among the educated class which contributed heavily to the leadership of the rebellion: while many (mainland) Italians thought of Corsica as a rough and uncivilized backwater, northern Corsicans thought much the same of the Dila. It was, in a sense, the Corsica of Corsica.

    Timeline Notes
    [A] IOTL, Isola Rossa (now L'Île-Rousse) played a similar role. Pasquale Paoli, unable to take Calvi, built the little village up into a major port (by Corsican standards). That has not happened ITTL, but it's possible that it may, depending on how long the rebels hold the Balagna and how long Calvi and Algajola remain in Genoese hands.
    The Diplomatic Game
  • The Diplomatic Game

    "The affairs of Corsica are now in a great crisis... it seems that it would be time to take advantage of it, if the thing is suited to the service of the King."

    - Jacques de Campredon, French Minister to Genoa, February 1735

    As the Corsicans were fighting a war against the Genoese with musket and ball, Theodore was waging a one-man war with the Republic with paper and pen. Even before his landing on the island, Theodore had known very well that his success would probably be contingent upon finding foreign support for his venture. His early inquiries had been promising: during his preparations between 1734 and 1736 he had realized that there were few governments, aside from the Genoese Senate itself, which really cared whether Genoa retained Corsica. What worried statesmen in Paris, London, Madrid, Naples, Turin, and even Vienna was whose hands Corsica would fall into once it had been wrested free from the Republic. It was commonly assumed that Theodore was a front for some other power; newspapers speculated on who his backer might be, while diplomats and ministers sent urgent letters back and forth debating the latest "evidence" as to who his benefactors were. Theodore's challenge was not to prove to foreign powers that he could win—for that seemed very possible—but to satisfy them that, having won, he would not reveal himself to have been a pawn of their enemies all along.

    The great power which was most directly concerned with the fate of Corsica was France. The island itself was of no great value to the kingdom, but it could be very valuable to her enemies. If one wished to cause the most mayhem to the lucrative trade between the French ports of Marseilles and Toulon and the Ottoman ports of the eastern Mediterranean, one could not design a better base for such interdiction than Corsica. The London Daily Journal observed in June 1736 that “Anybody who holds Corsica can, with two frigates of twenty cannon each, stop France’s trade with the Levant.” That potential would be cause for concern even if the holder of the isle was the king of Spain or Naples, both fellow Bourbons, but if Corsica were held by the British it would be a true disaster. As a result of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, the British had gained a foothold in the Mediterranean with the acquisition of Gibraltar and Minorca. Corsica would make a fine addition to this string of bases, extending British naval power projection to the very coast of Italy and raising the prospect of a British stranglehold on the French Mediterranean.[1]

    The first Frenchman to truly grasp the importance of the Corsican rebellion was Jacques de Campredon. Campredon was a diplomat with a long and distinguished career who had served as the French minister to Sweden and then to Russia before being dispatched to Genoa in 1728. From this position he had seen the rebellion from its very earliest days. He had established many contacts and sources in his years spent there and possessed a deep knowledge of the workings of the Genoese government; in both matters of Genoese elite society and the Corsican troubles, his knowledge was unrivaled among foreign observers.

    By 1735, this knowledge had led Campredon to the conclusion that the war was unwinnable for the Genoese. In his opinion it was only a matter of time before the Republic completely lost control of the island, and thus the only question was which power would come subsequently to control it. Campredon wrote that the kings of Spain, Naples, and Sardinia were all very interested, and even claimed to have uncovered evidence of an imperial scheme to bequeath the island to Portugal. Campredon knew very well of the threat which a hostile fleet, or even a few privateers, could pose to French trade out of Toulon and Marseille, and concluded that the only way for France to safeguard her own interests in the Mediterranean was to take possession of Corsica for herself.


    King Louis XV in 1739

    King Louis XV and his ministers thought the idea was at least worthy of study, and gave Campredon a royal blessing to move ahead with his plans. Campredon prudently observed that French control would be impossible without at least some base of support among the Corsicans themselves, and began establishing contacts with various Corsican chiefs in an attempt to build up a pro-French faction. Very quickly his "French party" came to include some very notable men indeed, including Luigi Giafferi and Luca d'Ornano. Convinced at the time that Spanish intervention was likely, Campredon sent letters back to Paris arguing that "we should propose to Genoa to cede Corsica to France." In late 1735, when the rebellion seemed to be in desperate straits, he obtained from some of the beleaguered rebel leaders a signed document inviting the King of France to take sovereignty of their island. It seems he purposefully attached no date to the document so it could be used at his government's leisure. Having thus built a favorable faction within Corsica and obtained an invitation to rule it, Campredon sent the document to Paris. By now, however, his views on how best to obtain the island had evolved based on his own appraisal of Genoese politics. He now believed that Genoese pride was probably too great to permit a negotiated cession, and the best solution was for France to invade Corsica without warning and present its occupation to the Genoese as a fait accompli. It was easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, and Genoese outrage could be mollified by compensation after the fact.

    Campredon may have known the Genoese well, but he had badly misjudged his own king. Louis was scandalized by the very notion of such an unprovoked assault against the Genoese Republic, and Campredon's audacious plan was immediately rejected and suppressed. Rebuffed, Campredon returned to covertly expanding the pro-French faction on the island, but just a few months later his careful work was completely ruined by Theodore's arrival. Many of the Corsican leaders had a favorable opinion of France, but while Campredon offered only promises of future succor Theodore offered food, guns, and ammunition. It was no contest at all: the "French party" ceased to exist practically overnight. Giafferi, who had been Campredon's greatest catch, became Theodore's prime minister. Soon after, Campredon received instructions from his government to cease all contact with the rebels. Sternly commanded to turn his attentions elsewhere, he began working on a report on Genoese politics and the social lives of its elite which was published in 1737 as the Relation de l'État de Gênes.

    Although Campredon's scheme had come to nothing, French concern with Corsica only intensified after it became known that Theodore had been first conveyed to Corsica by a British ship piloted by a British captain, Richard "Dick" Ortega. In fact the British government had already banned its citizens from having any business with the "malcontents" of Corsica, and Ortega was acting on his own volition under the mistaken impression that Theodore had some arrangement with the King of Britain. He and his ship, the Richard, were as mentioned the focus of a minor diplomatic crisis which was resolved by the capture of his ship by the Genoese, Ortega's suicide, and the repatriation of his crew to Britain.[A] After this point more supplies were coming to the island under the French flag than the British, but nevertheless the Republic dispatched Marquis Giovanni Francesco Brignole Sale, a future Doge and one of the foremost Genoese statesmen of the age, to London in May to lodge an official protest over the manner of Theodore's arrival. Although wary of British involvement, Campredon does not seem to have believed that Theodore was really a British agent. Most speculation by serious minds (as opposed to febrile gossip in the papers) centered around three possibilities: Spain, Naples, and Sardinia.

    Much of the Spanish speculation centered not on King Felipe V but his wife Elisabetta Farnese. The queen had extraordinary influence over the government and a keen interest in foreign policy with a particular focus on Spanish power in Italy. She herself was the daughter of the Duke of Parma, and eventually became the heiress of that state which was passed to her son Carlos in 1731. By 1736 Carlos had exchanged that title for that of Naples,[2] but the queen still hoped to regain her patrimony for her younger son Felipe. Elisabetta had certainly met Theodore when he was in Spanish service, at least in the context of a royal audience, and it seems plausible that she knew who he was; he had, after all, married one of her maids of honor and had been a protege of Cardinal Alberoni, once her closest adviser. Nevertheless, there is little actual evidence to suggest that she had much interest in Corsica, and Theodore's association with the disgraced Johan Willem Ripperda (whose dukedom had since been officially stripped from him in absentia as a result of his service to the Moors) probably counted against him.


    The Infante Carlos in 1732 as Duke of Parma, who would be King of Naples and Sicily two years later.

    Carlos, now King of Naples and Sicily, was himself a possible contender. He had already been offered the crown of Corsica once before; the rebel delegation of 1734 which had included Andrea Ceccaldi, who was either at that time or very soon to be a colonel in Carlos's army, had traveled to Madrid to propose that the infante become their king. As the Spanish Bourbons were quite busy with the conquest of Naples and the broader War of Polish Succession, this proposal came to nothing. By 1736, however, Carlos's position was more secure, and as a twenty year old conqueror full of ambition it was quite plausible that he might set his sights on further acquisitions. Carlos had presumably never met Theodore, but his secretary of state Joseph Joachim, marqués de Montallegre was not only a good friend of Theodore from their days together in Spain but also his marital relation, as Montallegre had married the sister of Theodore's wife Catalina.[3] Notably, Naples seems to have been a port of significance for illicit trade with the rebels second only to Livorno.

    Finally there was Charles Emmanuel III, King of Sardinia. The Savoyard state had gone to war with Genoa twice in the 17th century, and tensions had been ratcheted up further by the bequest of the Marquisate of Finale to Genoa in 1713 as this territory was also claimed by the House of Savoy.[4] Around 1727, just before the outbreak of the rebellion, Sardinian and Genoese forces had clashed at the Ligurian border; it was not exactly a war, but shots were fired, and the Genoese added a thousand men to their standing army just to be on the safe side. Finale, not Corsica, remained Charles Emmanuel's principal object, but as the Genoese position deteriorated he had reason to be concerned. Everything that was true about the island posing a threat to French shipping was even more true for Sardinia, a two-part state whose only link between Piedmont and Sardinia proper consisted of the port of Nice and the waters around Corsica. Initially, Charles Emmanuel was quite content to passively observe the continuing woes of the Genoese, but after the fall of Bastia his government became increasingly anxious about the prospect of French intervention.

    Theodore's diplomatic strategy, insofar as it could be called a strategy, was little more than to throw everything at the wall and hope that something stuck. Most of his letters were to friends, acquaintances, and family members asking for monetary support, but he also sought constantly to gain the ear of diplomats and royal ministers. He was not picky; the French, Spanish, British, Sardinians, and Austrians were all courted for their support or at least asked to reject Genoa's contrary overtures. Theodore knew his politics well, and needled at the fears and neuroses of each of these powers by implying that if they did not support him the island would surely be delivered into the hands of their enemies. To the British, for instance, he raised the specter of Stuart conspiracies with the backing of France and Spain; he was not ashamed at all to use the Old Pretender as a bogeyman despite having personally served his cause as a secret agent for years.

    The Genoese diplomatic strategy was to secure pledges from other powers to bar their nationals from providing arms to or having any commerce with the rebels. France had done this in 1731 and Britain in 1732, while Sardinian authorities in Nice (but not the Court of Turin itself) had banned arms sales to the Corsicans in 1731. In July of 1736, Genoa succeeded in getting a similar pledge from the States General of the Netherlands, and Britain re-iterated her own ban on dealings with the "malcontents" after the Ortega affair. Attempts to gain the same promise from other powers, however—most notably Spain, Naples, and Tuscany—seem to have born little fruit.

    [1] There was of course Livorno, just across the water from Corsica, which was to be the major British naval base in Italy during the coming War of Austrian Succession. Livorno, however, was not a British possession but part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and a free port; its use depended on the friendship of the Medici (and after the Grand Duke's death in 1737, the Habsburgs) and this might not always be guaranteed. Livorno was also a poor site—not an obvious place for a port, it had been essentially willed into existence by the Medici, and it suffered from both a comparatively shallow harbor and a lack of fresh water, which had to be carried from some distance inland. Geographically speaking, Porto Vecchio, San Fiorenzo, and Calvi were all clearly superior. Finally, since Livorno was on the continent it was potentially vulnerable to landward attack in a way that Corsica was obviously not, something which the British of all people could certainly appreciate.
    [2] Technically the War of Polish Succession, when all of this was occurring, was still ongoing in 1736, although open hostilities had ended in October of 1735. A final treaty would not be signed until 1738.
    [3] The fact that Montallegre and Theodore remained on good terms in 1736 is another reason to suspect that the tales of Theodore's supposed mistreatment of his wife were merely Genoese fabrications. If Theodore had really stolen all of Catalina's money, abandoned her in poverty, and bigamously married while she was still alive as Genoese "witnesses" attested, one suspects that the relationship between Theodore and Catalina's brother-in-law would have been less than amicable.
    [4] The Savoyard dukes became Kings of Sardinia only in 1720.

    Timeline Notes
    [A] If you haven't already guessed, I've decided to retcon my little POD involving Ortega surviving; I initially thought I would do something with it, but I've decided it's not necessary and doesn't really change anything that's happened thus far. I have not yet edited my previous posts to reflect this decision, but I will soon.
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    The Abettors
  • The Abettors


    The Port of Livorno, early 18th century

    The debate over which state was backing Theodore was mostly idle; he had not attained his position with the direct assistance of any of the great powers. Still, there was one state, seldom discussed, which certainly was in his corner: the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

    The Grand Duke of Tuscany Gian Gastone de Medici probably knew Theodore through mutual acquaintances for more than a decade. His sister, Anna Maria Luisa de Medici, had been married to the Elector-Palatine Johann Wilhelm von Wittelsbach (d. 1716) and moved back to Florence after her husband's death. Philipp von Stosch, the Prussian antiquarian who had been secretly spying on the Stuart court in Rome and who had been befriended by Theodore (unaware that he was a spy for the Pretender at the time), wrote that Neuhoff was well known at Anna's court in Florence in the early 1720s. When Theodore came to Tuscany in 1732 to begin crafting his plans for aiding the Corsicans, he was clearly already known to Gian Gastone, and indeed it is possible he was actually employed by the Grand Duke in some capacity during that time. They seem to have gotten along well, perhaps in part because of their shared philosophical views. Both were unusually progressive and religiously tolerant rulers for their time; Gian Gastone repealed his father's onerous legislation against the Jews, encouraged the teaching of the sciences, and commissioned a statue of Galileo Galilei in Florence.[1]

    The most striking difference between them was that while Neuhoff was to be the first of a royal house, Gian Gastone was to be the last. He was the only son of the previous grand duke, Cosimo III, and his unhappy marriage with Anna Maria of Saxe-Lauenburg resulted in no children.[2] Depressive, boorish, alcoholic, and chronically ill, Gian Gastone had not made a public appearance since 1729 and was almost perpetually bedridden. As early as 1718, the infante Charles of Spain was proposed by the Bourbons as his successor (Charles was only two years old at the time), but this did not gain wide acceptance until the Treaty of Vienna in 1731, in which Charles received the Duchy of Parma through the inheritance of his mother Elisabeth Farnese, the Queen of Spain. As it happened, Gian Gastone quite liked the young Charles; he adopted him as his ward, named him his successor, and introduced him to court life in Florence, where the boy was well-received. In 1734, however, during the War of Polish Succession, Charles conquered Naples, and by the preliminary agreements made between the powers in 1735 Charles was compelled to give up both Parma and his position as Gian Gastone's heir in exchange for being recognized as King of Naples. The powers agreed that Tuscany should go to Duke Francis III of Lorraine, who wed the Habsburg heiress Maria Theresa in January of 1736 and would eventually become Holy Roman Emperor. Gian Gastone was furious and despondent; none of the powers had ever for a moment consulted him about his own desires for his duchy.

    The Grand Duke was helpless—and, as it would soon become clear, dying. Yet his misfortune was to be Theodore's good fortune. Faced with the inevitable loss of his duchy and his own swiftly approaching mortality, destined to bequeath all he had built and maintained to rapacious foreigners, demeaned and ignored by the crowned heads of Europe, the Grand Duke was truly a man with nothing to lose—and despite his physical infirmity and the presence of Spanish troops in Livorno and Portoferraio, he still held the levers of power in his arthritic hands.

    Tuscany, it must be said, was far weaker and poorer than even Genoa. The state's fiscal health was dire; Gian Gastone had ordered reforms which had improved the situation relative to that during his father's reign, but by the Grand Duke's death in 1737 the state debt still stood at 14 million scudi, compared to a gross annual revenue of around 8.6 million. Around 13% of that revenue was devoted to paying for the Spanish garrisons which were maintained in Tuscany against the will of the Grand Duke. Militarily, the state was a non-entity. The army was less than 3,000 strong and considered quite useless, little more than a drain on the treasury. The navy consisted of three galleys which spent much of their time acting as cargo transports for raw silk as a means to defray their expense. The Military Order of Saint Stephen, the Tuscan equivalent of the Knights of Malta which had at one point fielded its own naval flotilla and fought the Ottomans and Barbary corsairs, had been converted into an educational foundation.

    This was not a state which was going to come to Theodore's rescue. Nevertheless, while Gian Gastone had no intention of bankrupting his country he knew very well that neither he nor his (non-existent) children would ever have to pay Tuscany's debts. (In fact all his debts would be "inherited" by Francis of Lorraine, though Francis tried unsuccessfully to get out of the obligations.) The Grand Duke had laid out some funds for Theodore's original venture to Corsica and may well have continued to send him funding afterwards. The Grand Duke's greatest contribution to Theodore's cause, however, was as a facilitator. He was more than willing to turn a blind eye to and even abet the schemes of agents, smugglers, and bankers involved in the Corsican cause, and the Genoese envoys found him entirely unresponsive to their demands that he crack down on these rebels and criminals. The Genoese complained to the great powers, too, of the "permissiveness" of the Grand Duke; but everyone could see the Grand Duke would not live much longer, and the Austrians simply did not care enough to make anything more than a token protest which Gian Gastone did not pay the slightest attention to.


    Grand Duke Gian Gastone de Medici, in the dress of a Knight of Saint Stephen

    Livorno itself, as well as its lord, was friendly to Theodore's cause. That city had seen its fortunes fall significantly in recent years. This was partly due to the mismanagement of Cosimo and the falling demand for Florentine silk in the north, but it also had much to do with competition from Genoa. Livorno had gained much of its prosperity from its status as a free port in a neutral country, but Genoa had since also been designated as a free port, and Tuscany's neutral status was now in considerable doubt given the state's planned acquisition by the Lorrainers (and thus the Austrians) and the presence of foreign troops in its maritime posts, including Livorno itself. Traffic declined, profits fell, and the outlook for the future seemed grim.

    Desperate for new financial opportunities, Livornesi merchants turned to a nearby emerging market: Corsica. Naturally, any trade with Corsica was smuggling (at least in the eyes of the Genoese) and carried considerable additional risk of loss at the hands of Genoese patrol ships. Yet even legitimate trade could be interdicted, as the Barbary corsairs demonstrated regularly, and there was significant profit to be made on Corsica. The Livornesi noted that Corsican olive oil was just as good as Neapolitan oil and could be acquired for much less. Furthermore, because Livorno was a free port and Theodore imposed only a nominal duty at Bastia, the trade was nearly tax-free. If profit could be made while confounding their Genoese rivals, so much the better.

    Even illicit trade, however, required finance, and Theodore had a number of contacts in the world of banking. Most important were the two bankers Bertoletti and Huigens, who were based in Livorno and managed the payroll and budget of the Spanish garrison force in Tuscany to the tune of 1,120,827 scudi in 1737 alone (as mentioned, around 13% of the Grand Duchy's annual income). While their business with Theodore is not well documented, they may have been involved in financing smugglers and certainly acted as Theodore's bank in Livorno, by which means Theodore's agents could receive payments, access funds, and use them to buy munitions on the continent without actual specie traveling over Genoese waters. The Genoese consul also reported rumors that Bertoletti and Huigens had sent 30,000 silver piastres to Theodore, which if true suggests that they were not merely acting as merchant bankers but were effectively managing payroll for the Corsican rebels, as Theodore had little other need for coins on Corsica than to pay his soldiers. It would come as little surprise, as the bankers were already performing the same service for the several thousand Spanish troops in the Grand Duchy.

    While Livorno was a thus vital to the supply and financing of the rebellion, neither the Livornesi nor the Grand Duke could furnish Theodore with all he required, not merely to win the war but to prove to his "subjects" that he had secured the support of a foreign power as he had promised. The pool of capital was relatively small, and the Livornesi did not have access to a ready or inexpensive supply of arms. There was one power, however, which had all this and more, and whose citizens had already been deeply involved in Theodore's venture beginning with Theodore's original co-conspirator, Johan Willem Ripperda. Ripperda was a Dutchman, and had stowed most of his fortune in Dutch banks before journeying to the Mediterranean to enter the service of Morocco. It was Ripperda who had coordinated the arms shipments which Theodore originally brought with him to Corsica, also Dutch in origin, and without his capital and connections the Corsican expedition could have never succeeded.

    Ripperda's health was poor, and he was presently mired in Moroccan intrigues. His old master Moulay Abdallah, after being overthrown by his half-brother Ali in 1734, had returned to the throne in February of 1736 only to be overthrown again that August by another half-brother Mohammad II. The assistance of the Bey of Tunis, arranged by Ripperda and Theodore together, was also in doubt because of domestic turmoil there. Bey Hussein of Tunis had provided Theodore with gold and agreed to a 20-year truce with the new "Kingdom of Corsica" in exchange for good trading terms and assurances that Corsican trade would be good for Tunis.[3] Hussein, however, had been overthrown by his nephew Ali Pasha later that year, and while Hussein would withstand a siege at Kairouan for five years it would ultimately end in his defeat and death. For Theodore, it was a shame to lose him; Hussein had not only been a patron of Theodore's cause, but his two sons, whom he had been grooming as heirs until his overthrow, were half-Corsican on account of their mother, a Corsican concubine. One of these sons would one day rise to the throne, but not until years after the revolution had already been won.

    Ripperda would contribute little more to the Corsican cause until his death little more than a year later, but Theodore had since established his own connections with Amsterdam and no longer needed Ripperda as a go-between. He exchanged letters with certain Dutch bankers by way of Thomas Blackwell, an English merchant who was a friend and business partner of the British consul in Tunis Richard Lawrence, father of the late Captain Ortega. Theodore's Jewish backers also had contacts there; one of his principal Jewish investors in Tunis, Mordecai Senega, had a brother, Nehemiah, who was a merchant in Amsterdam and was already involved in the Corsican venture.

    Like the Livornesi, the merchants of Amsterdam were always out for new opportunities. Amsterdam, however, was a global financial hub and had a vastly deeper pool of private capital from which to draw. It was also a major manufacturing and export center of munitions: In the early 18th century Dutch merchants exported tens of thousands of muskets and 30,000 tons of gunpowder annually to West Africa alone as part of the slave trade, against which Theodore's 1,000 Dutch muskets in the hold of the Richard was practically a rounding error. Corsica, too, had something to offer Amsterdam. While the Dutch were not terrific connoisseurs of olive oil, olive oil soap was used in an industrial capacity by the Dutch textile industry for fulling wool and felt-making. Because of its utility to an important domestic industry, the import of olive oil into the United Provinces had been declared duty-free.

    At the end of the summer of 1736, this relationship was still in its very early stages. Yet the Dutch had now been reading about Theodore's success in their newspapers for months, and their merchants were conversing with local bankers involved with the scheme and hearing rumors of the brisk (albeit illegal) trade between Corsica and Livorno. While the Livornesi could really only afford to concern themselves with today's profits, the deep-pocketed merchants and investors of Amsterdam were able to look further into the future. With high labor costs and high taxes at home, Dutch investors in the early 18th century found domestic investments less attractive than they once had been. The answer was to find investment opportunities abroad, and the Dutch became pioneers in the field of "foreign direct investment." To merely trade guns for oil in Corsica might be profitable, albeit risky; but the real profit lay in independence, for if an investor could get in on the ground floor and set up business relationship with the new regime, he might reap the rewards for years to come.

    [1] Although Gian Gastone's persecution of Freemasonry may not have agreed with Theodore, who is often thought to have been a Mason and certainly had many close friends who were.
    [2] It was not merely unhappy, but not much of a marriage at all. From the start, the newlyweds had utterly detested each other, and Anna Maria had refused to leave Bohemia. After departing for Tuscany in 1709, Gian Gastone never saw his wife again, although she was still quite alive in 1736.
    [3] The Beylik of Tunis thus is often given the distinction of being the first state to formally recognize the Kingdom of Corsica. Whether it really "counts," however, is questionable; Hussein Bey granted his recognition about a year before Theodore's election and coronation, and by the time of Theodore's landing in Corsica Hussein had already been replaced in Tunis by Ali Pasha, who made no effort to grant recognition to the Kingdom of Corsica nor behaved as if it had already been granted.
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    The Consulta of Morosaglia
  • The Consulta of Morosaglia


    The Convent of St. Francis at Morosaglia

    By a strict military reckoning, Theodore's reign had so far been a success. Since his arrival, the Genoese had lost their capital of Bastia, as well as San Pellegrino, Calenzana, Sartena, and numerous other villages. Only a handful of coastal garrison towns remained in their grasp, and even these seemed to be endangered as Count Andrea Ceccaldi's forces skirmished with the Genoese in the Nebbio and Marquis Luca d'Ornano renewed his siege of Ajaccio with his newly-acquired heavy artillery.

    Nevertheless, his reign was beginning to show cracks that indicated just how fragile it really was. It was true that he had delivered considerable amounts of munitions and money to the Corsican rebels, much of it from confiscated Genoese properties and arsenals, but his promises of imminent great power support had so far been empty. Certainly his initial contributions had been valuable, both materially and in terms of leadership, but now rebel generals were prosecuting the war and some were paying for it quite effectively through smuggling. What use, then, was Theodore if he could not provide the beneficent intervention which he had promised?

    Theodore had created nobility, assigned ministers, and minted coins to emphasize that he was not merely a benefactor or foreign general here to provide his services in wartime but the permanent crowned head of a legitimate and functioning government. As a practical matter, however, the "government" had virtually no power save that which it exercised in military matters by Theodore's personal commands, and even then much of the armed struggle was carried out autonomously. The government collected no taxes; even if the destitute Corsicans had been able to pay, Theodore dared not, lest he completely destroy his own popularity. The king's various edicts had little effect, for there was no real system of justice or enforcement. Theodore had repealed many onerous Genoese laws, but many of these had been ignored anyway since 1729, as the Corsicans had hardly waited for a royal edict to tell them they could hunt and fish once Genoese power in the interior had collapsed.

    What Theodore had which maintained him in power was honor and money. By honor, we mean the pledges of the Corsican leaders, who for the most part believed in the importance of their word and would not lightly renounce solemn oaths they had made at Alesani. Even honor, however, would mean little if Theodore did not also have money. If he ever were to be broke, he would be truly worthless; at least in the present circumstances he could pay his soldiers, which was more than most of the provincial colonels and caporali could say of their irregular bands, bound to them more by local pride and family ties than the promise of regular remuneration. Yet managing money had never been Theodore's strong suit, and although he yet had funds to draw upon he was continually scrambling for more. Smuggling into Livorno alone could not pay the bills, and there was only so much Genoese property that could be seized. Certainly arms were needed too, but if he could not pay the men who bore them, he would not retain his throne for long.

    Theodore knew he needed a victory, and where he needed a victory most was the Nebbio, which was the island's second richest agricultural region (after the Balagna). Yet while the Genoese Colonel Marchelli had utterly lost the will to go on the offensive, his defensive position in the northern Nebbio seemed strong, and the rebel advantage in numbers was not great. To address the concerns of the rebel leaders and hopefully gin up support for a new campaign, Theodore announced that a new consulta would be convened by royal authority at the Convent of St. Francis at Morosaglia on the day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September 14th.

    For the second time, King Theodore sat enthroned before the national assembly, wearing his coronation robe of crimson brocade and his long peruke.[1] The mood was less joyous than before; the delegates were respectful, but they were wary of unfilled promises and some were certainly being courted by the indifferenti to renounce the king. Theodore began with matters of state, announcing the twenty-four members of the constitutionally mandated Diet. The members were all distinguished men, most of whom were not actively serving as his military officers. They included Filippo Antionio Gaffori, the podesta of Corti and father of his secretary of state Giampietro Gaffori, as well as Decia Ciavaldini, a good friend of Count Anton-Francesco Giappiconi. The latter was chosen, perhaps, as it was rumored that Giappiconi had been considering a defection to the indifferenti. In theory, Theodore could make no decision on levying taxes or making war without them, but in practice the Diet did little of consequence at this point in the revolution, serving primarily as a sinecure for the grey-haired "elites" of the kingdom who were not useful or physically vital enough to make ministers or officers.

    He then fulfilled another of his constitutionally mandated duties, that of constituting an "order of true nobility." This, he announced, was the Order of Deliverance.[2] Its knights would wear a sky-blue mantle, and Theodore presented a proof of the medal itself, presumably struck with at least moderately more artfulness than his currency. Worn upon a green ribbon, it was a fourteen-pointed star upon a cross, seven points black and seven gold, upon which was the nude figure of Justice; in one hand she held a sword, and in the other a scale holding a drop of blood and a ball of lead (or iron) above a triangle inscribed with a "T." He gave no reasons for this particular emblem, and we can only imagine it came directly from his own head; some European observers wondered if the triangle was an allusion to the Freemasons, who used similar symbols. Theodore himself never explained it. Notably, the order was explicitly non-denominational, unlike most knightly orders of Catholic monarchs which were open only to Catholics; as part of the induction ceremony involved swearing upon the gospels, however, Theodore's ecumenism was evidently not so radical as to encompass Jewish or Mohammedan knights. Knights of the order were exempt from taxation, allowed access to the royal palace "as far as the forechamber," and could use the title of "illustrious" (It: illustrissimo). Always conscious of money, however, Theodore added that knights would be required to loan the state (that is, Theodore) 250 pounds sterling. The king promised that the order would swiftly be recognized by the Pope.

    The king then launched into a speech. He directly acknowledged the lack of foreign support thus far, but explained that had been delayed only by the machinations of the Genoese and the divisions of the Corsicans themselves. He implicated the indifferenti, albeit not by name, saying that no power would easily see Corsica as a peer so long as the Corsicans were divided and bickering. A new spirit of unity and a demonstration of resolve was necessary, and as such the kingdom should at once endeavor at once to drive Marchelli and his army from San Fiorenzo. He called upon the delegates to muster all strength for this endeavor, which he would lead personally for the honor and salvation of the nation.

    Theodore the traveling salesman always knew how to work a crowd. Costa wrote that the mood of the consulta was entirely transformed by the end of his speech; the quiet skepticism had been replaced by delegates cheering and shouting "Evviva u Rè!" The Wizard of Westphalia had worked one more miracle, but he knew well that his spell would be short-lived. If he could not best Marchelli and finally deliver what he had promised, he would not be able to dissolve the skepticism of the Corsicans with rousing words alone.

    Presumably, Theodore had chosen Morosaglia for the consulta not only because of the village's history as a revolutionary stronghold but because it was fairly close to San Fiorenzo, only seventeen miles as the crow flies.[A] The militia companies in the Nebbio alone, under Ceccaldi, had proven insufficient to match the Genoese defenders, and the king needed the same sort of swell of volunteers and irregulars which, after his coronation, he had marched forth with to defeat the Genoese at Furiani and lay siege to Bastia. While a crowd of the same magnitude was not quite within his reach in September, he nonetheless succeeded in attracting a large force in the Castagniccia who were willing to follow the king, who had thus far been personally undefeated in battle. For his own sake, he needed to remain so.

    [1] A peruke being a wig. He brought three to Corsica, described as "one long, one short, and one with a pigtail." Theodore's wardrobe was rather limited given the difficulty of finding wigs and silk in Corsica; his "coronation robe" had been made from brocade which Francesco dell'Agata happened to have on hand shortly before his voyage to Corsica.
    [2] The order's original name in Italian was l'Ordine della Liberazione ("The Order of the Liberation"), but "deliverance" is also a reasonable synonym for liberazione and that is what stuck, perhaps because "deliverance" was favored by the contemporary English-language press. Occasionally "Order of [the] Redemption" is also seen. Theodore later referred to it as specifically a Military Order (l'Ordine Militare della Liberazione).

    Timeline Notes
    [A] It's also the birthplace of Pasquale Paoli, and there's a museum devoted to him in Morosaglia today. As mentioned, ITTL Pasquale is currently only 11 years old and a non-entity, although his (much) older brother Clemente is 25 years old and already a rebel officer. It was Clemente who IOTL suggested that Pasquale, then abroad in Naples, would make a good leader following the assassination of Gaffori, and laid the groundwork for his brother's swift rise to leadership over the rebel movement.
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    The Siege of San Fiorenzo
  • The Siege of San Fiorenzo

    "The discredit of the officers of the Republic and their troops is here [in Turin] great and is aggravated by the last affair of the Nebbio, as I had the opportunity to learn it. The condition of the Genoese troops is deplorable, and their morale is also at their lowest."
    - Letter of Jacques de Campredon, French Minister to Genoa, to the Comte de Maurepas, November 1736


    San Fiorenzo viewed from the Cima del Buttogio to the southwest

    The strategy of the Genoese government up to this point had been primarily one of isolation, both political and economic; if the islanders could be prevented from receiving arms or money from the outside world, surely they would be forced to capitulate. Although this led incidentally to famine on account of the inability of those Corsicans outside Genoese-controlled areas to trade for food, famine was not then a purposeful aim of the Republic. By the autumn of 1736, however, it had become evident that this strategy was not working. Although the Genoese blockade did cause difficulties for the Corsicans, it did not accomplish complete isolation, and smugglers continued to slip through to Bastia, Isola Rossa, San Pellegrino, and various isolated coves and rivers up and down the eastern coast. A new strategy was called for, and the one which the Genoese adopted was one of scorched earth. If the rebels could not be cut off from arms, it was reasoned, then it was necessary that they should be starving and destitute; and so the commandants were ordered to do all in their power to undermine the food security of the islanders. This would be done by chopping down olive, almond, and chestnut trees, and stealing or killing sheep, goats, cattle, and pigs.

    Such a policy of "small war," requiring only raids rather than confrontations, appealed to the Republic which still stung from the defeat of Colonel Marchelli at Rutali. Yet the Corsicans, too, could raid, and the "campaigns" in late summer and autumn of 1736 often look more like local feuds than actual war, with a group of Genoese soldiers stealing a few dozen goats and a band of rebels replying a few days later by burning fields near a Genoese fortress. Marchelli, who had somewhat mitigated his earlier failure at the Battle of Conca d'Oro but had no particular desire to risk his career further, exemplified the new strategy and took every opportunity to devastate the Nebbio. The royalist Colonel Giovan Natali, a Nebbian native, responded by stepping up reprisals against filogenovesi in the region, while Colonel Castinetta—the rebel military governor of Bastia—led his troops north into the generally pro-Genoese Capo Corso and razed acre after acre of vineyards.

    With several thousand men under his command, Marchelli could do quite a bit of damage in the Nebbio, but as a fighting force his detachment was weaker than it looked. He complained that his soldiers did not have enough food and lacked adequate clothing. Sickness was rife; the Germans and Swiss, his best soldiers, seem to have been particularly vulnerable to the local malarial fever ("the air of these countries does not suit them"), and Marchelli informed the Commissioner-General that many of his soldiers were so afflicted with scabies that they were unable to grasp their muskets. Hundreds of men had to be returned to Genoa for health and hygienic issues. His regular companies, whose strength on paper ranged between 80 and 100 men each, by September had on average 50 to 60 combat-effective troops. Problems with recruiting made it difficult to reinforce them from the mainland. A decree by the Archbishop Nicolò Maria de' Franchi which permitted those who signed up for military service to eat meat during Lent failed to move the needle much, and stories of the hardship of the troops in Corsica and the ferocity of the Corsicans led to a phenomenon in which prospective new recruits for the regular army started demanding written contracts from the War Office promising that they would not be posted in Corsica. The Ligurian peasantry plainly had no interest in their government's desperate war to retain the last vestige of their colonial empire, and the French minister to Genoa Jacques de Campredon reported that some Genoese were alleged to be trading with the rebels themselves.

    All this made Marchelli (as well as Genoese commandants elsewhere in Corsica) increasingly dependent on Corsican auxiliaries, but the Genoese command was suspicious of these soldiers and was downsizing their regular Corsican companies at the same time that Marchelli was desperately trying to raise more Corsicans locally. Genoese plundering and razing in Corsica further alienated Corsicans who might otherwise have been sympathetic to the Republic, and Marchelli's shortages of supplies caused further problems, as the filogenovesi irregulars were the last to receive scanty supplies and payment and correspondingly the first to desert.

    The low-level skirmishing and devastation which had characterized the war since mid-August was succeeded suddenly by a royalist assault on Oletta in the wake of the Morosaglia consulta. This attack found the Genoese quite off-balance. The Oletta garrison, under Captain Trinchieri, offered respectable resistance but was overwhelmed by superior numbers and withdrew. Why Marchelli allowed this key town to fall without coming to its rescue as he had done at Conca d'Oro is an open question; certainly Theodore possessed a larger army in September than Ceccaldi had been leading in August, but his failure to show up may have also been an indication of the deteriorating quality of his troops, who were enduring a wave of malaria, and the miserable status of Trinchieri's garrison, which was constantly menaced by Natali's guerrillas.

    The fall of Oletta collapsed Marchelli's defensive triangle. By the 30th of September, the rebels captured Patrimonio; the Genoese did not try hard to defend it, as it was now caught in a pincer between the main rebel force to the south and the Bastian detachment under Captain Giovan Lucca Poggi. Marchelli now fell back on San Fiorenzo itself, which was protected by an arc of steep hills and cliffs. The town's own defenses, however, were lacking, consisting only of a formidable-looking but wholly obsolete 15th century citadel at the harbor and a few coastal defense towers on either side of the bay.

    These towers were the first targets of the rebels, as Theodore had resolved to starve the Genoese out of San Fiorenzo. By this time the rebels had been joined by a company of Balagnese under Captain Paolo-Maria Paoli, as well as a battalion of rough-looking maquisards from Canale and Caccia under Colonel Carlo Felice Giuseppe and some 200 mountaineers of Niolo, who enjoyed a reputation among the Genoese as the fiercest and most formidable of the Corsican rebels. These troops were assigned to invest San Fiorenzo from the west, and captured the tower of Mortella on the western coast of the gulf's entrance. The Genoese defenders fled, leaving the rebels in possession of its artillery, two seaward-pointing heavy guns and a light landward-facing gun.[A]


    The Torre Mortella, at the entrance to the Bay of San Fiorenzo

    With the loss of the interior Nebbio, Marchelli had to rely entirely on naval shipping for his supplies. The guns at Mortella being in rebel hands complicated that, but the bay's entrance was wide enough that Mortella alone could not close the noose. Theodore instructed Major Antone Nobile Battisti, the former engineer in the Venetian army who now commanded the artillery in the north, to construct a battery at Fornali that could bombard the harbor of San Fiorenzo itself. Marchelli did not strongly oppose the rebels taking this position, but he was at least careful to remove all guns and military stores from Fornali before withdrawing. By the 10th, Battisti had moved his guns into position. Two batteries were constructed, one at Fornali proper and one at Ochinese half a mile to the south. Around 2,000 and 1,600 yards from the harbor, respectively, these guns were at extreme range; the Fornali battery was probably unable to reach the harbor at all, while the Ochinese battery could only do so well past the distance at which its gunners could reliably hit anything. Both batteries, however, could fire at ships coming down the channel, and even the incredibly inaccurate bombardment from Ochinese made operations at the port at least seem hazardous.

    To complete the investment, Poggi's men captured the Tower of Vecchiaja on the east shore opposite Mortella, and two light guns were eventually moved to that position. This position seemed an afterthought but soon proved its importance. A Genoese relief convoy—which had already been delayed for a week by rough seas—attempted to make the passage down the bay on October 12th, braving the continuing poor weather to bear much-needed supplies to Marchelli. In their attempt to give the western shore a wide berth, however, they ventured too far east, and when the wind picked up a galley and a felucca were driven aground and captured by Poggi's men. Several other feluccas and tartanes[1] foundered, and the remainder of the fleet turned around rather than continue on to San Fiorenzo. The rebels captured munitions, clothing, and flour, and freed dozens of galley slaves in accordance with Theodore's will.

    Marchelli was not totally inactive. A raid was made against Battisti's batteries in the west that succeeded in overrunning the Ochinese battery and killing several dozen rebels, but it was soon recaptured by Colonel Giuseppe's battalion and the men of Niolo. While the Genoese succeeded in liberating some powder and supplies and spiking or otherwise damaging some of the guns, the artillery was brought back into action within a few days. Thereafter the siege of San Fiorenzo settled into a series of small and inconclusive skirmishes and raids. Theodore, fearing that his largely irregular army would suffer heavily against the Genoese defensive position, hesistated to attack, while the deteriorating health and morale of his troops convinced Marchelli not to attempt a major breakout.

    Despite the rebel batteries and the earlier disaster off Torre Vecchiaja, supplies continued to trickle into San Fiorenzo. As the harbor's approach was under Battisti's guns, Marchelli had directed supply ships to instead anchor of the beach of Tettola just north of the town. This complicated the unloading process, as there were no harbor facilities here and supplies had to be conveyed to the beach in rowboats, but it was well away from rebel interference.

    Captain Poggi, observing these transits from his post at Torre Vecchiaja, determined to demonstrate that this security was an illusion. On the 22nd, after observing a group of four ships (presumably feluccas or tartanes) sailing towards Tettola, Poggi left a small watch at Vecchaija and with the rest of his men manned the Genoese galley which he had captured earlier that month which had been pulled onto the beach at Farinole. As the Genoese flotilla was unloading off the beach, the galley bore down on them; they seem to have been caught unaware at first, as Poggi approached under the banner of St. George, the Genoese flag which had been captured along with the galley. Poggi captured one vessel, and the defenseless crews of the other three ran their ships aground on the beach so they could flee. Anchoring within musket-shot of the shore, Poggi's men cleared the beach with cannon and musketry, and under cover of this fire a longboat full of men went ashore and managed to set two of the beached ships aflame before a large Genoese force arrived on the scene. Costa claims Poggi and his men withdrew having suffered not a single casualty.

    This audacious stunt boosted morale in the rebel camp, but Theodore was now concerned about a lack of powder—Battisti's batteries were running through his limited supply very quickly. Costa informs us that the desertion of some filogenovesi militiamen inspired Theodore to his own creative approach. The handful of irregulars, dissatisfied with the poor conditions and prospects of the Genoese camp, had been captured by the rebels while attempting to sneak through the besiegers' cordon and return to their homes. Some of the rebels urged that they be hanged as an example. There was also, however, a group of local women who demanded to see the king: they had husbands, sons, and brothers either in Theodore's custody or in the Genoese army, and they wished to petition for their amnesty. The king, Costa says, proposed a trade to the women; for each "measure of gunpowder" they gave him, he would grant one man full amnesty. The women, who were apparently able to move with some freedom between within the camps, spread his message among the enemy militia. Very soon, Costa marvelled, there were deserters coming into the rebel camp every night with muskets and casks of powder in their hands, much of which had been stolen from the Genoese regulars or the citadel's arsenal. At no cost, the king was simultaneously bleeding the enemy of both troops and munitions, and they could spare neither.[B] Theodore the magician was not yet out of tricks up his sleeve.


    [1] A tartane or tartan, like the felucca a vessel and term of Arabic derivation, was a small lateen-rigged ship used for fishing and transport. It is differentiated from the felucca that it is solely a sailing ship, possessing no oars, but otherwise the categories overlapped considerably.

    Timeline Notes
    [A] This, incidentally, is the "famous" Mortella tower that was widely copied (and mis-spelled) by the British in the form of the Martello towers, built for coastal defense all over the empire in the 19th century. It had impressed the British in 1794 after its 33 men and three guns held off a ship of the line and a frigate and forced the British to take it by a determined land assault. One result of this TL regarding military architecture is presumably that the Martello towers inspired by the 1794 incident are never built and British coastal fortification in the 19th century follows other examples.
    [B] If this sounds outrageously stupid, all I can say is that Theodore IOTL allegedly did a very similar trick at the siege of Calvi, bargaining with local women whose husbands/brothers were in Theodore's custody to go get him powder from the Genoese-held citadel if they wanted them back. Somehow it worked; he got his powder, although the siege was overall a failure. On occasion, Corsican clan society actually works for Theodore—family, after all, is more important than loyalty to a government even for the filogenovesi, and there's nothing too wrong with sabotaging your masters for the sake of your kin.
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    L'Affaire Trévou
  • L'Affaire Trévou


    Arms of the Counts of Trévou

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Cardinal Fleury, chief minister of King Louis XV

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

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


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

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

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


    Sir Robert Walpole, Prime Minister of Great Britain

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    An 18th century maritime scene in Amsterdam

    "It is probable that we shall soon hear from him, for such a restless person will not long be able to stay hidden."

    - Count Lorenzi, French envoy in Florence

    As soon as he set foot on dry land in Livorno, Theodore was targeted for death. He infiltrated the city dressed as a priest, but word soon spread of his transit. The Genoese authorities immediately hounded the Tuscan government, demanding the arrest of the "king" and his followers. The Tuscan officials soon agreed, and promised swift action, but it soon became clear that empty promises were the only things the government intended to deliver. At the very same time, Theodore had made his way to Florence and was granted an audience with the ailing Grand Duke Gian Gastone de Medici. The Grand Duke granted him some money, and probably assured him that he was in no danger from the Tuscan government.

    In fact Theodore's "incognito" existence in Florence was not all that secretive. He was put up comfortably by one of his Italian followers, the Florentine merchant Francesco dell'Agata. While there, he was visited by a number of notables, including Wenzel Anton von Kaunitz, a 25 year old Austrian junior diplomat who in later years would be the imperial state chancellor and the architect of Habsburg foreign policy. Theodore's chancellor Sebastiano Costa allegedly met with Padre Ascanio, the Spanish minister in Florence, which was taken seriously enough by the Genoese that they lodged an official protest with the Spanish government.[1]

    After leaving Florence, rumors proliferated as to Theodore's whereabouts; he was in Rome, or Turin, or Vienna, or had sailed to London or Amsterdam. Unlike his semi-secret existence in Florence, Theodore went underground after leaving friendly Tuscan territory. He sent followers off in different directions and spread false rumors as to his next stop. Eventually he made his way to France, and after tricking the Genoese into thinking he was headed to a ship in Marseilles, went north to Paris instead. After learning that he was there, the Genoese minister to France demanded his arrest, but for whatever reason the French authorities were no more helpful than the Tuscans. Perhaps it was just bureaucratic bungling; but some were inclined to believe that France, though it posed as a protector of Genoese interests, was more interested in the Genoese coming on their knees to beg France's support and thus saw no great reason to remove Theodore from the equation just yet.[A]

    At last, Theodore arrived in Amsterdam, but it was here that he came into the greatest difficulty of his journey. Theodore had been out of the reach of his old creditors on wild and distant Corsica, but Amsterdam was another story. His creditors proved better able to sniff out Theodore than the Genoese had been, and he was soon arrested and imprisoned for debt. Initially his friends and associates proposed to settle the debt, which at that moment amounted to "only" 5,000 florins. Once word spread of his imprisonment, however, more creditors seemed to come crawling out of the woodwork, and his well-wishers had to abandon their plans once his claimed debts topped 30,000 florins.[B]

    Once more, Theodore had to talk his way out of a jam. He was granted the opportunity to appear before the aldermen of Amsterdam to argue his case. Theodore, as always, knew how to make an entrance, and he arranged that he should appear before the court in fine clothes, with his plumed hat on his head, his silver-headed cane in his hand, and his sword on his hip, in much the same manner as he had first appeared to the Corsicans. Astonishingly, virtually all in attendance - including the magistrates themselves - rose from their seats when he entered, a dignity which some observers claimed had never been granted to anyone before. The aldermen addressed him as "Your Excellency" and Theodore played the part, conducting himself with supreme dignity wholly unexpected from a man who had come there straight from a cell in debtor's prison. With an air of great solemnity, Theodore swore that his creditors would be repaid in full as soon as he was able. It was a vague and meaningless promise, but delivered with such apparent sincerity and by such an eminent figure that the aldermen of Amsterdam—who surely counted many shrewd merchants among them—accepted his oath as sufficient and granted him his liberty. While his debts were not discharged, he was officially shielded from any further action by his creditors while in Amsterdam.[C]

    It was here in Amsterdam that Theodore must have truly realized, for the first time, that he was a celebrity. Despite Genoa's attempts to suppress all news out of Corsica that wasn't officially sanctioned, including an official policy of paying various continental gazettes to suppress articles about Theodore and print pro-Genoese editorials, newspapers across Europe had reported on the exploits of the dashing and mysterious King of Corsica. Britain and Holland in particular, with their relatively high rates of newspaper publishing and public literacy as well as a historically-informed aversion to "tyranny," were particularly fascinated with Theodore and the plight of the Corsican rebels. The 1735 and 1736 constitutions had been widely published, as had been some of Theodore's propagandistic broadsides. Coverage was not always positive—many editorials hewed close to the Genoese line and dismissed him as a scoundrel and adventurer—but criticism did not decrease his fame, and his fame was enough for people to try and cash in on it. In London, a man was arrested for selling counterfeit "Corsican wine," and in October of 1736 an English distillery had begun selling gin under the brand "King Theodore of Corsica." One could already buy books about Theodore, like Das Alte und Neue Corsica written by Johann Hieronymus Lochner and published in Nuremberg in 1736.[2] In Amsterdam, crowds gathered wherever he went, often requiring him to exit buildings quietly by the back door if he didn't want to be mobbed.

    Celebrity was a double-edged sword, however, for while he was in every paper and received numerous invitations to social affairs, Theodore remained an active target for assassins. His chief patron and protector in the city was Lucas Boon, a wealthy merchant and deputy of state for Gelderland, who continually shuffled him between different residences throughout the city to keep Genoese agents (and non-Genoese who just wanted to be 2,000 crowns richer) off his trail. Boon had visited Theodore while in prison and had been fascinated by him. He had an amateur interest in alchemy and enjoyed discussing it with Theodore, who was extremely well-read on the subject (and indeed had been a practicing alchemist in Prussia).

    Boon's primary interest, however, was in money. In particular, he had interrogated Theodore on Corsican economics, and paid close attention to Theodore's figures on Corsican olive oil production. Because of wars and political turmoil in the Mediterranean, the price of oil had skyrocketed; in England, for instance, the price of a barrel of olive oil more than doubled over the course of the 1730s. If Costa's export figures are correct, the Balagnese olive oil crop alone was potentially worth in excess of 5 million pounds sterling at then-current prices. That alone was enough to grab a merchant's attention, but what Boon was truly interested in was long-term investment. Theodore assured him that, with arms, ammunition, and money, he could triumph over the Genoese, secure Corsican independence, and provide Boon and his co-investors with a very favorable concession.

    Theodore, perhaps aided by Boon, produced a prospectus to be made available to possible investors, and had no trouble finding interested parties. The Amsterdam press, which had formerly treated Theodore's enterprise with skepticism and occasional contempt, abruptly flocked to his defense.It has been suggested that Boon and friends were bribing the journalists, a tactic which is difficult to criticize as it was already being extensively used by the Genoese. Not all newspapermen, however, needed to be bought. Some of the most detailed coverage of Theodore and the Corsicans was offered by Le Mercure Historique et Politique, a French-language political gazette which was published in Amsterdam to avoid French government censorship. Its editor, the French Huguenot Jean Rousset de Missy, shared Theodore's views on religious freedom and was also a key figure in Dutch Freemasonry, being the Venerable Master of an Amsterdam lodge. Theodore was soon utilizing their acquaintance, and Le Mercure was the frequent recipient of "scoops" on the Corsican affair which were undoubtedly passed to de Missy by Theodore's friends, family, and business partners.


    Jean Rousset de Missy, French Huguenot historian and journalist

    In May, the initial contract was drawn up between Boon and the principal partners in the new enterprise, Cesar Tronchin, Daniel Dedieu, and Pieter Neufville. They were men of means and standing who shared two key attributes: they were hungry for better returns on capital than could be acquired in Holland, and they were not averse to a little risk. Dedieu, like Boon, was a deputy of state, and had formerly been the president of the aldermen of Amsterdam and the minister of the States General to Russia; he had also had contact with Theodore while in prison. Tronchin was a relation of Theodore Tronchin, a physician who would soon be famous for his pioneering work on smallpox inoculation, and whose family included some of the wealthiest bankers in Switzerland. Neufville was a prosperous banker and dealer in grain, linen, silk, and silver throughout Germany. They were joined by an undisclosed number of other investors, including, we are led to believe, other aldermen, whose status as both Theodore's financial backers and his judges at the recent trial suggests that there may have been something more to the king's astonishing release from prison than sheer charisma.

    This organization was the progenitor of the Nederlandse-Corsicaanse Compagnie, but as yet it was not quite so formally organized. While the States General had not criminalized trade with Corsica as the Genoese had demanded, the partners still deemed it advisable to operate on a less public basis, and thus did business on the basis of ad hoc contracts and agreements rather than constituting themselves as a corporation. In those years, when the organization had a name at all, it was known simply as "the syndicate."

    Although optimistic about Theodore's chances and excited to begin their endeavor, the syndicate's partners were not so beguiled by Theodore as to give him a blank check. The plan that was eventually agreed upon was to dispatch one modestly sized ship to Corsica, bearing both Theodore and some military supplies. Upon landing, the ship would load up with oil (or, as written in their contract with Theodore, whatever other available goods were available which the syndicate might prefer, including wine and wax) and return to Holland. If this was satisfactorily accomplished, a larger fleet would follow. If all went well, the partners stood to double their initial investment. The ship was the Yongfrau Agathe[3] and its captain was a Swede, Gustav Barentz. His cargo, aside from the king and his entourage, consisted of 27 cases of muskets,[4] 42 barrels of gunpowder, 4,000 bullets, 1,800 knives, a pair of cast-iron 12-pounder guns with carriages and ammunition, and various other supplies including bolts of cloth, ingots of iron and lead, shoes, match-cord, and brass trumpets. Officially, the ship was bound for Livorno, and Theodore and his comrades were all supplied with assumed names and legends; Theodore was "Mijnheer Bookmann."[5]

    Theodore accepted this proposal—he had little choice—but the syndicate was not his only resource. Through his banking associates in Amsterdam, as well as through the sale of knighthoods in the Order of Deliverance to certain wealthy admirers who thought it a wonderful novelty, he had also been able to raise some capital of his own, although to avoid having to pay it to his creditors the funds were actually handled by his Florentine friend Francesco dell'Agata. Before departing for his kingdom on the Yongfrau Agathe, Theodore instructed dell'Agata to charter a second ship, fill it with whatever military stores he could afford, and follow him to Corsica as soon as practicable.

    The lasting question is to what extent the Dutch government favored Theodore's cause. There is no evidence that the States General gave him any direct support, but the incidental involvement of the government and its agents is eyebrow-raising and drew comment even at the time. The Genoese government, upon learning of Theodore's imprisonment, protested to the Dutch government and demanded his extradition. At first, the Dutch representatives denied any knowledge of the person of the Baron Neuhoff and disputed that he was even in their territory. This was too obtuse to be credible, however, given that one could read about him in any of Amsterdam's gazettes. The government soon changed its tune, replying to the Genoese envoy that they had no association whatsoever with any Corsican affairs and had neither the obligation nor the inclination to arrest Theodore, who as far as they knew was guilty of no crime save indebtedness. While the Dutch government had rebuffed Theodore's suggestion some months earlier of a treaty of alliance, their obstinate refusal to cooperate with the Genoese and the involvement of a number of mid-level civil servants with Theodore's cause, including various diplomats, aldermen, and consular officials, suggest that the government must have seen some value in Theodore and his cause. At the very least, they made conscious choice to allow him and his agents to raise capital, contract vessels, recruit men, and buy armaments in Dutch territory without interference.

    [1] Madrid, unsurprisingly, denied any knowledge of such a meeting or any involvement with the rebellion.
    [2] Or its full title: Das alte und neue Corsica, oder hinlängliche Nachricht, so wol von dieser Insul und Königreich an sich, als auch, was sich von Anbeginn biß jezt, insonderheit bey der dermaligen weltbekanten Revolution damit zugetragen hat: nebst dem Leben des berühmten König Theodors. The book purports to be a comprehensive treatise on the island, proceeding from geography and its history since Roman times up to Theodore's reign. One must admire Lochner for producing such an extensive and topical text in a matter of months.[D]
    [3] The Yongfrau Agathe was probably a small fluyt or similar vessel. It was described as being a 16-gun ship, but merchant vessels often carried fewer guns than their nominal maximum armament to accommodate more cargo. Indeed, Barentz's crew was only 12 men, enough to sail the ship and not much else. Clearly Barentz had no intention of fighting his way through the Genoese blockade.
    [4] While exactly how many muskets were in a "case" is unclear, the Yongfrau Agathe probably carried at least 500 muskets to Corsica. For reference, Theodore had 700 muskets with him when he arrived in Corsica on the Richard. The cargo of the Agathe thus represented a significant, but probably not decisive contribution of materiel, and with only two cannon in its hold it did not seriously enhance Theodore's ability to besiege Genoese fortresses, which was his greatest need.
    [5] A "legend," in espionage, is the fictional identity and background of a spy, including name, occupation, personal details, and so on. Theodore's legend was not actually fictional—Boon did know a businessman in Livorno named Bookmann. Whether the real Bookmann was part of the plot, or even aware that Boon had loaned his name to the King of Corsica, is unknown.

    Timeline Notes
    [A] Theodore really did travel through Paris in 1737, and the Paris authorities didn't do much of anything about it despite the insistence of the Genoese minister.
    [B] Theodore's debts were clearly a daunting amount for one man, but not enormous from the perspective of a state. The Grand Duchy of Tuscany, for example, had an annual state revenue of around 2.8 million florins in the late 1730s, which means clearing Theodore's Amsterdam debt would have cost just over 1% of annual revenue. The annual revenue of the Austrian Empire, for comparison, was 40 million florins with a national debt of 280 million in the immediate wake of the War of Austrian Succession (1748).
    [C] This really happened. Well, the "Your Excellency" part is an editorial flourish, but the rest reportedly happened—he did walk into the court with his hat, cane, and sword (!), the magistrates did stand, and they did indeed let Theodore go with only an oath that he would repay when he was able.
    [D] If you can read German and don't mind 200+ pages of Fraktur, you can read the whole book here.
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