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A Destiny ...

These Figures of History

Pascal Paoli   Napoléon Bonaparte

The Figures of History

From the most humble village to the proudest genoese tower in passing by the most isolate convent, everything, in Corsica, reminds or bears the mark of these man, major actors of its history, symbolic or heroic figures to which the memory remains faithful.

Giudice de Cinarca | Sampiero Corso | Pascal Paoli | Napoléon Bonaparte
Historic Events: The First Napoleonic Days of Ajaccio

Historic Men and Facts

  • Giudice de Cinarca (Sinucello della Rocca)
    Born in Olmeto in 1221, Sinucello della Rocca more known under the name of Giudice de Cinarca is the most representative figure of the powerful lordships who, in the 13th century shared out Corsica, some were supporters of Corsica, others of Pisa.

    Descended from the family of the local squires of Cinarca who was in control, in the south, of almost half of the isle, Sinucello who was a young enlisted man in the army of the Republic of Pisa, received, at 24 years old, the title of "Giudice" (Judge, or supreme magistrate) and also the mission of subject the rest of the country.
    Redoubtable adversary of the camp that he didn't choose, Giudice succeded very fast in advancing in his conquest of the isle.

    Nevertheless, in 1258, he joined Genoa and swore loyalty to it, to, few years later, in 1280, at the occasion of a disagreement, declare himself vasal of Pisa.
    Then after having recognized the supremacy of Genoa over Pisa in 1289, he turned against it in 1290.

    He became very fast master of the country and wanted to govern in peace and justice, knowing thus with the population which was exhausted by the incessant struggles, a certain success whereas his fickleness, his successes, and his strong personnality made of him a "man you've got to rid of" for his peers.

    Then, this lord, without doubt warrior haunted by power, who successively made alliances with the two Republics in contention according to his grudges, finally was the victim of Pisa and Genoa.
    Pisa actually abandoned it all the more easily that one of the clauses of a truce signed between the genoese and the people of Pisa in 1299, stipulated its banishment - so his energy is redoubtable. It is by the treason of one of his natural sons that Giudice de Cinarca is captured by the genoese on the beach of Propriano, took away to Genoa where he was jailed and died in 1306 according to others.

    Like many figures of History, Giudice de Cinarca has today joined the legend in which everyone will find, according to his sensitivity, the heroic patriotism, or mad ambition.

  • Sampiero Corso
    This man was born at the foot of the Renosu mount, while in Florence the monk Savonarole was perishing in the flames.
    Very young, he got himself taken under the orders of the last great florentine condottieri : Giovanni de Medeci. This great captain thought that to be a soldier was the essential complement of the fine art.

    Man of erudition, he fought with a courage which impressed his mercenaries. He recognized in the young Corsican an equal and rewarded him as such.

    Giovanni de Medeci put himself at the service of France in 1522, taking with him Sampiero.[...] Sampiero struggled on the sides of Bayard and covered himself with glory so as to deserve the title of colonel of the corsican infantry at the service of France. So he returned to his isle to marry to Vanina d'Ornano, heir of one of the most renowned corsican families. He was fifty years old and his young woman was thirty five years less.

    The Genoese hardly beared the prestige of the old soldier and made him jail. Released thanks to the intervention of the french king Henri II, Sampiero came back to see raze the house that he had built in Bastelica. It was a fatal insult.
    Later, when Pasquale Paolidecrees his justice, he ordered to raze the houses which belonged to those who indulged in the vendetta.

    For, the who who loses his house, loses his roots..

    Sampiero vowed to Genoa one of these enmities which burn a heart at every second of the life. To lead the war against the republic of Liguria, he allied himself to Charles Quint, his old adversary.
    Then, at the service of the french-turk alliance, he participated to the landing in Bastia. The Turks gave up Corsica in 1553 and Sampiero remained alone face to the Genoese, led by Andrea Doria.
    The last mentionned drew up in lines twelve thousands men.
    The 18th of September 1554, the Corsican of Sampiero hacked them to pieces at the pass of Tenda.
    The 15th of September of 1557, in Viscuvatu [Vescovato], Corsica was enroled into the crown of France.
    The great powers have often reason of which the reason of the small nations are unaware.
    Two years later, the treaty of Cateau-Cambresis returned Corsica to the Genoese. [...]

    Named ambassador extraordinary in Turkey by the king of France, Sampiero Corso leaved his wife and children in his house of Marseilles. The young woman fretted and let herself manipulate by the private tutor of her children, the priest, Michel-Ange Ombrone, genoese spy.
    Vanina sold the goods of Sampiero and sailed for the capital of Liguria. Her husband knew it and made intercept the ship.
    Then he judged his wife and sentenced her to death..
    She accepted the sentence, only imploring him to strangle her with his own hand, rather than delivering her up to the lace of the executioner. That is what did Sampiero.

    This murder much scandalized, for the deceased belonged to a noble family. The queen of France made know that she would not receive this "killer".

    The matter inspired Shakespeare who transposed Sampiero into the character of Othello.

    The old lion did not give up his struggle for the liberation of Corsica. In 1564, he landed in the gulf of the Valincu at the head of twenty-five gascon mercenaries. He put his foot on the sacred land and uttered these words :
    « I have not come here for my particular interests but to liberate my poor homeland.»

    Corsican kept a stinging memory of the french treason and they join not much themselves to the old colonal. Nevertheless, with two hundreds experienced men, he beat the Genoese.
    Then , the villages of Corsica sent him reinforcements. The revolution ablazed the territory, from the mountains to the plains. There was only the Cape to resist to this wave of liberation which submerged the isle.
    The family of Ornano offered two thousands golden ducats to the one who would bring back the head of the colonal, whereas Genoa was promising four thousands. In Livia, a gathering of the corsican Nation had just taken the oath of loyalty to him. Sampiero was a sprightly sixty-nine-year-old and lead the fight.
    The war ravaged the isle and the atrocities answered the massacres. The Genoese decided to use the brothers of Ornano to kill the old lion.

    Not far from Prunelli, the plain which leads to the sea, discovers itself. Far off the gulf of Ajacciu stands out.
    There Sampiero Corso fell the 17th of January 1567, hence of the island history.

  • Pascal Paoli
    Youngest son of Hyacinthe Paoli - ancient general of the Nation, chief of the twice of the four insurrections which have marked the Corsican Revolution - Pascal Paoli was born in the Stretta, a hamlet of Morosaglia, the 6th of April 1725.

    Exiled in Naples in 1739, Hyacinthe took off with him his son Pascal who got there a sound education and an intellectual training, drawing, it seems, as well from the sources of the classical culture as in the modern theories, notably those of the french philosophers. His culture of hoariest man actually allowed him to speak and read english and french almost fluently, he very soon interested himself in the foreign doctrines while showing a partiality for politics, under his most perceptive and disinterested aspect.

    This tendency like his attachment to Corsica that he had leaved at fourteen made him, whereas he was a regular soldier in Italy, very aware of his isle's businesses about which he was informed by his brother Clement and a few friends.

    It is them who, at the death of the General Gaffori named Supreme Chief of Corsican, murdered whereas his revolutionnary government control a big part of the isle, urged Pascal Paoli to join his country to apply for the supreme office.

    Without doubt already mature for a such decision, aged of thirty years, the young officer landed on the ground of his native country in April 1755 where he was elected the 13th of July 1755 - against his adversary Marius Matra - General-in-Chief (Capu Generale) by the Consul of Saint Antoine of the Casabianca who invested him of the mission of a decisive war against Genoa.

    He has governed Corsica for 14 years.

    To differently impose himself from his election which had not been unanimous and because such was his ideal, Pascal Paoli endeavored to realize better than his predecessors the moral and political unity of the Nation.

    After having defeated an insurrection fomented by Matra, and, in various places of the isle, strong resistances made of friendship which were genoese or french or simply made of hostility to a man coming from the outside, fervent partisan of a democraty whose meaning had not been straightaway got by everybody; Pascal Paoli finally succeded in taking the head of his country.

    Settling the capital in Corte he made vote there a Constitution asserting the sovereignty of the Corsican Nation and also the separation of powers, made strike a coin, gave the law regular courts, created an army and tried hard to give the country a small fleet.

    As regards economy, he encouraged the development of farming , made dry the marshes and stimulated the trade but the blockade of the seaside towns from which he couldn't chase the genoese away, prevented the development of it. In order to create new exchanges and counterbalance the power of Calvi, genoese fortified town, he founded Ile Rousse.

    Desirous of helping the corsican nation to assert itself, he set up the primary school and founded an University in Corte.

    Nevertheless, Genoa, which, in 1764 was still present but had no ressources left in the main coastal towns that it had founded, facing the impossibility of negotiating with Pascal Paoli, asked France for help. This one tried to negotiate with the Babbu (father) of the young nation but got from him only the reassertion of his will of independence and in the worst case, aware of the necessity of a foreign policy, the acceptance of a protectorate.

    The negotiations between the Republic of Genoa and France of Louis XV came the 15 of May 1768 to the Traity of Versailles.

    Thus, whether it has been sold or given in token of a debt, the young corsican nation saw itself treated as an object and during the Consulting of the 22th of May 1768, it pronounced itself in favor of the mind resistance.

    Pascal Paoli fought for one year against his new adversary, one of the most powerful rullers of Europe, but he is beaten during the battle of Ponte Nuovo the 8th of May 1769.

    After a few attempts of resistance, Pascal Paoli is forced to exhile himself and boarded the 13th of June on an english ship.

    Invited by the king, England welcomed him with all the honors due to the one that we considere in Europe as a real statesman accompagnied with the stuff of which heroes are made.

    Actually, the revolution of the corsican led by Pascal Paoli, was said to be titanic face to the Genoese and whereas Corsica was, until then, a little piece of land, unknown to everybody, aroused and rounded up since a few years the fellow feelings of the public opinion and of the european intellectuals it created a real Paolien Myth, in the greek sense of the term.

    Besides the renown set by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, James Boswell or by Voltaire, it is, in Europe, books, newspapers, private correspondence, essays which abound in praises, and it is the diplomats, businessmen or historians who show their admiration and their esteem to the one who is described by the great Frederic as:

    generous protector and defender of his homeland, this great man whose public esteem and veneration have already nude the rime immortal..

    Whereas the Bastille had just entered forever in History and 21 years after having left his isle, Pascal Paoli saw his exhile in London take an end with the amnesty towards the expatriated corsican suggested by Mirabeau in 1789.

    Coming through Paris in April 1790 where he was received by Louis XVI, praised by Robespierre and acclaimed by the people, he landed on Corsica which became a french department, knew like other provinces the increasing fermentation of the partisans of the Revolution and of its adversaries.

    Pascal Paoli is elected Commander-in-chief of the national guard and President of the Departmental Directory.
    But after a so long exhile, far from the island realities, in a period of a chain of transformations, Pascal Paoli was not still the master of the isle.
    Whereas the divisions became more pronounced, with the support of the Count Pozzo di Borgo, he thought it wisdom to save Corsica and permit it a government aside to separate it from France in order to ensure it from an other State - preferably a great sea power with institutions more liberal than the France 's ones - a system of protectorate.

    From the year 1792, distancing himself from the corsican partisans of the Revolution, he is brought by Lucien Bonaparte as a counter-revolutionary before the Convention and deprived of his command.

    Proclaimed Generalissimo by his supporters in 1793, he succeded in taking the control of the biggest part of the isle and wrote a bill of indictment against the Convention, that brought him to be declared traitor towards the Republic and to be put outlaw.

    Whereas the french troops and the troops of Paoli were in confrontation, the the Father of the Corsican Nation solicited the support from England which, with the squadron of Nelson, broke off the resistance in Bastia, Saint-Florent and Calvi.

    The Formation of an english-corsican kingdom appeared the 15 of June 1794 with at its head not like he was expecting Pascal Paoli, but the english viceroy ... Sir Gilbert Elliot.

    This union lasted only two years. Troubles appeared in Castagniccia and took a such vigor that Pascal Paoli was on the request of Elliot recalled in London.

    So, in October 1795, Pascal Paoli went on the way of exile.

    His isle that he never stopped to picture free, was smoothly reoccupied by the french troops in october 1796.

    After having lived 47 years of exile, Pascal Paoli died in London the 5th of February 1807 and was burried in the cemetery of St-Pancrace.

    The ashes of this exceptional personnality who has charmed so many men touched by the spirit of the Enlightenment and has dazzled the young Napoleon Bonaparte, rest since 1889 in Morosaglia.

  • Napoléon Bonaparte
    He was torn the 15th of August 1769 in a house of Malerba street, which is now Saint Charles street, in Ajaccio , like his twelve brothers and sisters - seven of whom survived - that his parents Letizia and Charles Marie Bonaparte gave him .

    This one, who in 1768 fought on the sides of Pascal Paoli, maybe becoming aware of the irreversible nature of a Corsica united with France, he joined himself very fast to France and got various favors like a school maintenance allowance which allowed the young Napoleon, to be admitted to the military academy of Brienne.

    Aged of nine years he left Ajaccio, Napoleon was already an independent child and a strong mind. He recognized later :

    " I did not fear anybody, I beat one, I had a dig at the other. I nude myself redoubtable for everybody.".

    In Brienne, while going on with his studies, he felt appear for his isle not only a simple "love of the country" but a real patriotism and was enthusiastic about the general Paoli - about the man, his ideal and his action.

    In 1784, he entered in the military academy of Paris from where he left being lieutenant of artillery. At 16 years old, his ambition was then to come back on his isle to make a career in policy and to be a regular soldier dreaming of one day being on the top.

    When in 1789, the Revolution broke out, Napoleon was in complete support of his ideas. He took part in the political struggles which divide Corsica, and very fast whereas he was 20 years old, his ambition worried Pascal Paoli of whom he became soon the adversary.

    In 1792, he was forced to go away from Ajaccio when after a bloody riot degenerating into a civil war, he failed in his attempt of seizure of the Citadel.

    The following year, his family loyal to the Convention, target of a population which held a grudge against Lucien (brother of Napoleon) for his virulence against Paoli, had to take refuge in his house in the country at the Milelli before joining Napoleon. This one actually attempted, one time again, from the tower of the Capitello, to seize the town with the help of the fleet of the Republic but he failed again.

    This failure marked the departure of Napoleon Bonaparte first towards Toulon then to an other fate, reminding then of the assessment of him made by a teacher at the academy of Brienne :

    " Corsican of nation and of character, he'll go far if the circumstances favor him. " .

    This young and ambitious man who already pressed in himself a kind of genius, left his isle but, this one without a doubt remained forever the birthplace of his family and of his affections.

    Named, at this same year 1793 Chief of the Artillery in the army in charge of recapturing Toulon to the royalists, he covered himself with glory.

    After having known setbacks due to the political crisis of France notably at the fall of Robespierre, Napoleon saw himself confide, in 1796, a short time before his marriage with Josephine de Beauharnais, the command of the troops in the campaign of Italy during which his "stuff" of military strategist was coupled with the "stuff" of a real chief of State.
    It was actually, after having defeated Piemontese and Austrian, that he imposed on them peace (Campo Formio 1797), that he formed what became later the kingdom of Italy, then it was the campaign of Egypt, from where he came back in October 1799, invested by the moderates with the task of riding them of the Directory.

    But it was not as a simple instrument of the bourgeoisie that Napoleon Bonaparte strove in the end of 1799 : following the coup of the 9th and 10th of November, he made himself proclaimed First Consul of the Republic and became ruler of the country in imposing on it the Constitution of the An VIII which granted to him executive power and initiative of the laws.

    Chief of State and Army, Napoleon endowed with exceptional ability to work, an intelligence, and with a creative imagination, reformed in record time the administration and the law.

    Once again victorous against the austrian coalition, imposing on English peace, signing in 1801 the Concordat with Pie VII who put the Church of France at the service of the government, Napoleon saw his power grow from day to day and had more and more difficulty to bear the opposition.

    It was thus that a royalist plot was discovered, he made himself proclaimed in 1804 emperor of the French under the name of Napoleon 1st, then king of Italy in 1805.

    Then a real "monarchy" was created around him with court and nobility of empire, whereas the established system went on with, under its impulse, the reforms and modernization: education, town planning, economy, fine art, creation of the Napoleon code, giving the society which was born of the Revolution a juridical base...

    But the Emperor is very fast absorbed in the war. Failing in face of England (Trafalgar 1805) but succeeding in a series of campaigns against the Austrian-Russian (Austerlitz 1805), the Prussians (Iena 1806) he built up the great Empire after the treaty of Tilsit in 1807.

    In answer to the sea blockade raised by London, Napoleon set up between 1806 and 1808 the Continental System in order to isolate England. This blockade indeed energized the french industry and farming but hintered the european economy and forced the Emperor to develop an expansionist policy which, from the Papal States to Portugal and to Spain in passing by the mastery of a new coalition of Austria (Wagram 1809) left his armies exhausted.

    In 1810, concerned with ensuring his issue, Napoleon married Marie Louise d'Autriche who gave him a son Napoleon II, king of Rome.

    In 1812, sensing hostility from the Tsar Alexandre 1st, the Great Army of Napoleon invaded Russia.

    This bloody and disastrous campaign made sound the waking up of eastern Europe who, from coalition to occupation of France by the South and the East, saw Paris invaded by the enemy troops the 4th of March 1814 and a few days later Napoleon forced to abdicate in favor of his son then, the 6th of April 1814, to renounce to whole his powers.

    It was from May 1814 to May 1815, during his forced stay in the Isle of Elba, the only derisory sovereignty left by his victorous enemies, that Napoleon saw the Austrian, Prussian, English and Russian share out, during the Congress of Vienna, what was his Great Empire.

    Escaping from the english watch, Napoleon succeeded in coming back to France in March 1815 where supported by the liberals - enemies of the Bourbons - he knew a second but brief reign known under the name of the "Hundred Days" which brought France a new coalition of Europe bringing the following day of the disaster of Waterloo the new abdication of the Emperor the 22th of June 1815.

    It was thus in putting himself in the England's hands, that this islander with a little ordinary fate had as a jail the distant the isle of Sainte-Helene, where before dying he often evoked with nostalgia his native island for which he confided to have been too preoccupied with the wars and jealousies to have the time and the means to implement the great plans he had conceived for it.

    Real intentions or belated regrets, maybe history will tell it one day but anyway between Napoleon and Corsica the bonds are today indestructible and those who contest the actions of the renowned man like nevertheless the small boy of Ajaccio who isolating himself on the wooded heights of the town, maybe already sensed a fate out of the common.

Other History Headings :
A Brief Chronology / The Sites and Monuments
Vendetta and Bandits d'Honneur [Outlaws] / The "Maure" Symbol

A Few Books to Go Further....


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