You probably know already that Napoleon was Corsican. But there are even more important historical facts which deserve to be known. “One day, this small island will astonish Europe”, said the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He was right: we inspired the American Constitution and we invented Coca Cola, so you can basically say that we are the cradle of modern civilization! 🙂
1. We inspired the American Constitution
We did! During the brief period of Corsican independence in the mid 18th century, Pasquale Paoli, leader of the independence from the Republic of Genoa, wrote a Constitution. It was voted in 1755 by an assembly of representatives and is considered the first democratic constitution in the modern times. Separation of powers, sovereignty of the people, courts of justice instead of ancient vendetta, and even voting rights for women: it was quite a modern constitution! It was applied from 1755 to 1769, the year when France, having bought Corsica from the Genoese, sent troops and annexed the island. The spirit of this constitution was inspired by the theories of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, famous French philosopher of the Enlightenment. It then inspired the drafting of the American Constitution of 1887. In fact, several cities in the United States are named after General Paoli.
2. Coca Cola was invented by a Corsican
It was! In 1863, Corsican chemist Angelo Mariani invented a tonic wine made of coca leaves. Its tremendous success led him to implement his business in the United States under the name “French wine Cola”. In 1885, Doctor Pemberton in Atlanta made the non-alcoholic version, and you know the rest!
3. We used to be British
You certainly did not expect that, did you? There was a short-lived Anglo-Corsican Kingdom in the 18th century!
When France annexed Corsica in 1769, putting an end to its period of independence, Pasquale Paoli, the hero of the independence, was exiled to Great Britain. When France started its revolution in 1789 and beheaded its King Louis, Pasquale Paoli asked for the British, whose army was fighting revolutionary France, to free Corsica. Tempted by this occasion to set foot in the Mediterranean, the British sent Sir Gilbert Elliot with military forces to occupy major cities. An election was organized and the Anglo-Corsican kingdom proclaimed in 1794, with King George III as the monarch. It was over in 1796 when riots organized by the Republican party forced Sir Elliott to leave. Coins from this period still show the inscription “Corsica united to Great Britain”.
Pasquale Paoli died in exile in London in 1807. He was buried in Westminster Abbey for a long time until his remains were brought back to his native island. You can still see his cenotaph in Westminster.
4. We had a German king
We did! He was our first and only king (so far). Baron Theodor Von Neuhoff was born in Cologne in 1694 in a noble Westphalian family. He was an adventurer and a colorful character. A diplomat traveling across Europe, he met Corsican rebels exiled in Genoa and persuaded them that he could help them free their country from the Republic of Genoa. He arrived in Corsica in April 1736 and was crowned King Theodore I. The Genoese easily defeated his outnumbered army and put a price on his head. He had to leave in November 1736, just a few months after his arrival, and never managed to reclaim his kingdom again.
5. We made menhirs and dolmens
We did! And many are still standing. Corsica actually has the largest array of megaliths in the whole Mediterranean area. You can visit them at the sites of Filitosa and Palaghju.