Once king of Corsica, Theodore de Neuhoff

Theodore de Neuhoff Patrimonio di CorsicaBorn in 1694, in Cologne (Westphalia). His father, Leopold de Neuhoff, of noble family, was captain of the guards of the Bishop of Munster and having married the daughter of a merchant, was disgraced and forced to retire to France. Taken under the protection of the Duchess of Orleans, he obtained the command of a fort at Metz.

Theodore had a brother, William Henry and a sister Marguerite. At the death of their mother in 1695, the three orphans protected by the Duchess of Orleans, were educated in France. A page for the Duchess up to 17 years of age, Theodore graduated with the rank of lieutenant in service for France. Soon after, he returned to Germany to Cologne with his uncle, the Baron Drost.
In 1714 and 1715, Theodore commands an infantry of the
regiment belonging to the Emperor Maximilian of Bavaria.
In 1717 he participated in the siege of Belgrade against the Turks.

Following a duel with one of his superiors (that he wounded with a pistol), Theodore left for Spain in 1718 to join the royal service as colonel of dragoons. ‘Thinking rather to seek fame and fortune,’ as he wrote himself, he will renounce marriage.
From Spain he was sent to England to incite civil war in order to restore the Stuarts to the throne. After a few trips his intrigues are discovered, he must end his mission and return to Madrid in late December 1718, where he will be responsible for diplomatic missions in various European countries.
He intended asking for the viceroy of Mexico when he made ​​the acquaintance of Canon Erasimu Orticoni, sent to Madrid seeking assistance and protection of the Spanish Court for Corsica – in revolt against Genoa.
Orticoni makes it clear to Theodore that the Corsicans are ready to offer him the title of king, if he is willing to lead them. Theodore promises to accept ‘the day when he would see a way to do it successfully’.

In 1733, after the departure of the German troops on the island, Theodore spoke with the Corsican leaders exiled in Livorno (Ceccaldi, Giafferi, Aitelli, Raffaelli) promising help and decided to ‘go to Corsica at first notice that he would receive’.
After a tour in the Mediterranean, via Tripoli and Tunis, Theodore landed on the beach of Aleria, on March 20th, 1736. From the English ship that brought him, the Baron unloads cannons, guns, equipment and even money. He immediately writes to the Corsican leaders, announcing his arrival.
“I’m here to help you, to help the kingdom with my ability and I dedicate myself to your interests. My promise is to do everything necessary to free Corsica from Genoese slavery – I will fulfil it carefully provided on your side you also do your duty to me, and I only want to ask one thing: if you choose me for King, allow me to grant liberty to all who will come from other countries to live in Corsica – in order to increase the population”.

On March 23rd, the Corsican leaders thus go to Aleria; and on March 29th, at noon, Theodore reaches Cervioni amidst cheers and musketry from the population, gathered in the cathedral’s square.
On April 13th, a meeting at the Alisgiani Convent takes place, and accept Theodore as king; whereupon the Constitution is written, which will bind him to Corsica along with the laws and conventions that govern the kingdom.
On April 15th, several thousand people gather at the Alisgiani Convent, where Theodore was elected and crowned king, unanimously. The King and his people take oath to follow the new constitution.

During the second half of April 1736, Theodore moved to Cervioni. He grants a general amnesty, forms a government, publishes edicts concerning the administration and justice, and organises an army of regular militias, made responsible for the ‘beyond mountains’.
On April 27th, the king went to Venzulasca in order to take charge of the army who will besiege San Pelegrinu, Bastia, and Aiacciu. Early May, he founded a mint (the zecca) at Ornetu of Tavagna, which will be mint with copper coins bearing the letter TR (Theodorus Rex).
In mid May, Theodore confiscates
Corsican pro-Genoese property, in favour of the Royal Treasury.
In late May, the royal troops occupy the Nebbiu, and simultaneously attack Bastia and San Fiurenzu.
In early June, the Genoese are declared ‘
banished forever from Corsica’.

On October 21st 1737, news arrives about the imminent French intervention in Corsica, to finally take place on February 6th, 1738.

The following year, Corsica is still occupied by the Genoese troops, and supported by the French. The Corsican leaders are now divided too. Theodore asks help, and manages to bring an English squadron back to Corsica. From there on, history relates the continual downfall of efforts, leading to the imprisonment of Theodore in London, who has had continual growing debts, until 1756 when he finally comes out – to die on December 11th, miserably. It is said, he felt responsible for Corsica up to his dying day; respectful and conscious of the solemn sermon he took and who linked him to his subjects, and his kingdom – his actual reign lasted seven months ..

Théodore de Neuhoff merits the fact that Corsica should remember him.


Patrimoniu di Corsica
Photo © DR (collection: Bastia Museum)


Leave a reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.