Carlo Andrea Pozzo di Borgo
Life and career
He was born at Alata, near Ajaccio, of a noble Corsican family, four years before the island became a French possession. He was educated at Pisa, and in early life was closely associated with Napoleon and Joseph Bonaparte, the two families at that time being close political allies. Pozzo was one of two delegates sent to the National Assembly in Paris to demand the political incorporation of Corsica into France, and was subsequently one of the Corsican deputies to the Legislative Assembly, where he sat on the benches of the right until the events of August 1792. On his safe return to Corsica he was warmly received by Pasquale Paoli, but found himself in opposition to the Bonaparte brothers who belonged to a different Corsican clan (and one he detested) who were now veering towards the Jacobin party. Under the new constitution Pozzo was elected procureur-general-syndic, that is, chief of the civil government, while Paoli commanded the army. Along with Paoli, he refused to obey a summons to the bar of the Convention, and the final breach with the Bonapartes, who actively supported the revolutionary authorities, dates from this time. Eventually Paoli and Pozzo accepted foreign help, and from 1794 to 1796, during the British protectorate of Corsica, Pozzo was president of the council of state under Sir Gilbert Eliott.
When Napoleon sent troops to occupy the island Pozzo was excepted from the general amnesty, and took refuge in Rome, but the French authorities demanded his expulsion, and gave orders for his arrest in northern Italy. After a short stay in London he accompanied in 1798 Sir Gilbert (now Gilbert Eliott, 1st Earl of Minto) on an embassy to Vienna, where he lived for six years and was well received in political circles. His hatred of Napoleon dominated his life, and even as an exile of no official standing he was recognized as a dangerous enemy. In 1804 through the influence of Prince Adam Czartoryski he entered the Russian diplomatic service, and was employed in 1805 as Russian commissioner with the Anglo-Neapolitan, and in 1806 with the Prussian army. He was entrusted with an important mission to Constantinople in 1807, but the conclusion of the alliance between Tsar Alexander I of Russia and Napoleon at Tilsit in July interrupted his career, necessitating a temporary retirement after the completion of his business with the Porte.
He returned to Vienna, but on the demand of Napoleon for his extradition Metternich asked him to leave the capital. In London, where he found safety from Napoleon. He renewed many old ties, and had an affair with the noted society beauty Emily Lamb, Lady Cowper, and may have fathered one or more of her children. He remained in England until 1812, when he was recalled by Alexander. He diligently sought to sow dissension in the Bonaparte household, and in a mission to Sweden he secured the co-operation of Bernadotte against Napoleon. On the entry of the allies into Paris he became commissary general to the provisional government. At the Bourbon restoration General Pozzo di Borgo became Russian ambassador at the Tuileries, and sought to secure a marriage between Charles Ferdinand, Duke of Berry, and the Russian grandduchess Anna, Alexander's sister.
Pozzo assisted at the Congress of Vienna, and during the Hundred Days he joined Louis XVIII in Belgium, where he was also instructed to discuss the situation with the Duke of Wellington. The Tsar dreamed of allowing an appeal to the people of France on the subject of the government of France in accordance with his vague liberalizing tendencies, but Pozzo's suggestions in this direction were met by violent opposition, the Duke refusing to make any concessions to what he regarded as rebellion; but in St. Petersburg, on the other hand, his attachment to the Bourbon dynasty was considered excessive.
During the early years of his residence in Paris Pozzo laboured tirelessly to lessen the burdens laid on France by the allies and to shorten the period of foreign occupation. That his French sympathies were recognized in Paris is shown by the strange suggestion that he should enter the French ministry with the portfolio of foreign affairs. He consistently supported the moderate party at court, and stood by the ministry of the Duc de Richelieu, thus earning the distrust and dislike of Metternich, who held him responsible for the revival of Liberal agitation in France. His influence at the Tuileries declined with the accession of Charles X, whose reactionary tendencies had always been distasteful to him; but at the revolution of 1830, when the Tsar Nicholas was reluctant to acknowledge Louis Philippe, he did good service in preventing difficulties with Russia.
In 1832 he visited St Petersburg; the next year he was in London renewing its relations with Wellington, and early in 1835 he was suddenly transferred to the London embassy in succession to Prince Lieven. Although he did not lose in official standing, Pozzo was aware that this change was due to suspicions long harboured in various quarters in St Petersburg that his diplomacy was too favourable to French interests. He complained that the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, treated him with appalling rudeness, once keeping him waiting for two hours; the fact that he had once been the lover of Lady Cowper, now remarried to Palmerston, cannot have made for friendly relations between the two men. In London his health suffered, and he retired from the service in 1839 to spend the rest of his days in Paris. He had been made a count and peer of France in 1818.
Honours and awards
- Order of St. Andrew with diamonds
- Order of St. Vladimir, 1st class
- Order of St. Alexander Nevsky
- Order of St. Anna, 1st class
- Order of St. George, 4th class
- A mark of distinction for "XXXV years irreproachable service"
- Order of Saint Ferdinand and of Merit, 1st class (Naples)
- Order of the Black Eagle (Prussia)
- Order of the Red Eagle, 1st class (Prussia)
- Order of St. Stephen (Austria)
- Royal Guelphic Order, 1st class (Hanover)
- Order of The Neapolitan Order of St. Constantine
- Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus, 2nd class
- Order of Saint Louis, 2nd class (France)
- Order of the Golden Fleece (Spain)
- Order of Charles III, 1st class
- Order of the Tower and Sword (Portugal)
In popular culture
He was played by Norman Shelley in the British historical drama The Iron Duke (1934). He was also the subject of a semi-documentary US film in 1942 called Vendetta, part of the The Passing Parade series. The film served as wartime propaganda which equated di Borgo's service in the defeat of Napoleon to that necessary for the defeat of Adolf Hitler.
- Ouvaroff, Stein et Pozzo (St Petersburg, 1846)
- Charles Pozzo di Borgo, ed., Correspondance diplomatique du comte Pozzo di Borgo et du comte de Nesselrode, (2 vols., Paris, 1890-1897)
- Vicomte A Maggiolo, Corse, France et Russie--Pozzo Di Borgo 1764-1842 (Paris, 1890)
- JBHR Capefigure, Les Diplomates européens (4 vols., 1843-1847).
- Egon Larsen, Carlo-Andrea Pozzo Di Borgo: One Man Against Napoleon (1968)
- Prof. J. McErlean of McLaughlin College, York University, Toronto has written several articles on Pozzo and as recently as 2009 was preparing a biography using previously unknown di Borgo archival material.
- Ridley, Jasper Lord Palmerston Constable London 1970 p.43
- Ridley p.116
- IMDB - Vendetta