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.
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.)
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.