French conquest of Corsica

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French Conquest of Corsica
Date1768–1769
LocationCorsica
Result French victory. Corsica annexed.
Belligerents
Corsica Corsican Republic  France
Commanders and leaders
Corsica Pasquale Paoli Kingdom of France Comte de Vaux
Kingdom of France Comte de Chauvelin
Strength
24,000

The French conquest of Corsica took place during 1768 and 1769 when the Corsican Republic was occupied by French forces under the command of the Comte de Vaux.

History[edit]

France received de jure control of the island of Corsica as a pledge from the Genoese Republic via the Treaty of Versailles in 1768. Genoa still claimed ownership of the island, although since 1755, Corsicans had achieved virtual independence and had written a Corsican Constitution (in Italian). After abandoning any hope of recovering Corsica by force, the Genoese chose to sell their rights over the island to France who were keen to gain new territory to replace territory lost during the Seven Years' War.

France's initial offensive failed after a significant defeat was suffered at the Battle of Borgo in October 1768. France dispatched large numbers of reinforcements, swelling the size of their army there to 24,000. The Corsican army suffered a major setback at the Battle of Ponte Novu and the French forces soon overran the island although Corsican forces were not completely subdued until the following year and sporadic outbreaks of rebellion continued.

Consequences[edit]

The French invasion triggered the Corsican Crisis in British politics. Although they sent secret aid to the Corsicans, the British government chose not to act to prevent the island's occupation. The leader of the Corsican Republic, Pasquale Paoli, went into exile in Britain where he remained until the French Revolution allowed him to return to Corsica. British troops subsequently intervened in Corsica between 1794–1796, where they created the Anglo-Corsican Kingdom, and in 1814 when they agreed the Treaty of Bastia. Following the Congress of Vienna control of the islands were returned to the restored French monarchs.

The invasion and occupation had even more profound consequences for France itself. When Napoleon Bonaparte was born on Corsica in 1769, he automatically became a natural-born French citizen. Both his parents Carlo Maria Buonaparte and Maria Letizia Ramolino joined the local resistance and fought to maintain independence, even when Maria was pregnant with him. Although raised as a Corsican nationalist, Napoleon gradually turned his loyalties towards the whole of France, serving in the French Army. He went on to become ruler of mainland France, adopted the ideals of the French Revolution as his own, and triggered the Napoleonic Wars that devastated much of Europe and changed it permanently.

To this day, some Corsican nationalists advocate the restoration of the island's republic. There are several groups and two nationalist parties (the autonomist Femu a Corsica and the separatist Corsica Libera) active on the island calling for some degree of Corsican autonomy from France or even full independence. Some groups that claim to support Corsican independence, such as the National Liberation Front of Corsica, have carried out a violent campaign since the 1970s that includes bombings and assassinations, usually targeting buildings and officials representing the French government.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Black, Jeremy. European Warfare, 1660-1815. UCL Press, 1994.
  • Englund, Steven. Napoleon: A Political Life. Harvard University Press, 2005.
  • Gregory, Desmond. The Ungovernable Rock: The Anglo-Corsican Kingdom. Associated University Press, 1985.