The attack of the Corsican Guards (1662) and the Treaty of Pisa (1664)

The attack on the Corsican guards in Rome in August 1662 was not a simple news item but an incident between French diplomacy and the Corsican papal guard, leading to significant political tensions due to the bringing together of considerable powers. The affront to the Crown of France was settled by the Treaty of Pisa, signed on February 12, 1664.

The Corsican papal guard

Rome is only an average city of just over 100,000 inhabitants, but very important politically and economically, because of the papal election. Most of the inhabitants are made up of the Pope's network, the ambassadors of all countries accompanied by their servants, not to mention the Pontiff's guards. The best known of the Pontifical Guards is the Swiss Guard, but we must not forget the Corsican Guard. The Corsicans have served the Pope since the 14th century and when Clement VIII was threatened by the Farnese, he definitively reinforced the functions of the Corsican guard from 1604.

The attack of August 20, 1662

An incident occurs between a French servant in the service of Christine of Sweden and a Corsican of the papal guard. The affair escalates and continues in the outbuildings of the Farnese Palace made available to the French Ambassador, the Duke of Créquy, although the place is subject to diplomatic immunity: shots are exchanged, one shoots the duke, the duchess's coach is attacked, one of her servants is killed; around thirty Corsicans to which are added the papal police officers attack the palace: the captain of the duke's guards as well as a page are killed; the French push back the attackers for more than three hours. Besides the large number of wounded and dead, the most important is the affront to an official representative of France by the papal soldiers.

The reaction of the King of France

The king quickly informed, meets a council of crisis where many members opt to embellish the apostolic nuncio. Diplomatically, Louis XIV prefers to expel the envoy of Pope Alexander VII, asking for a public apology and the dissolution of the Corsican guard. The king attaches great importance to this incident. Remember that since 1661, he intends to govern the kingdom alone. To mark his supremacy, he must not let anything go, his attitude in the face of such incidents is gauged and judged. There had already been precedents in October 1661 between the ambassador of France and that of Spain in London. The king had asked for a public apology and the dismissal of the Spanish ambassador, the affair ended in March 1662, in the Grand Cabinet of Louvres, with an official apology from the representative of Philippe II king of Spain.

The lightness of the Pope

The Pope, knowing that the French are not to be neglected in Rome because of their clientele made up of nobles, Roman barons, cardinals, the Este and Farnese families, understood the importance of the attack against the Duke of Créquy , but confines himself to writing to the king to inform him of the "great displeasure" caused by this affair and does nothing else.

For his part, Laws XIV considers the attitude of the Pope to be “light”, asking him for hangings, convictions and public apologies. The pontiff resolves to conduct an investigation, to put a few Corsicans to the torture, but for the king this is insufficient and the French accuse the head of the pontifical guard, brother of the pope and the governor of Rome, of being responsible for the attack. Since the Pope does not react more, the ambassador of the Duke of Créquy and the Cardinal d'Este leave Rome precipitately to settle on the territory of the Grand Duke of Tuscany.

Successive negotiations

Florence decides on a congress to put an end to this crisis, but it is a total failure without agreement at the end of the year 1662. The Louvre cabinet is trying something: the king sends his troops to help his allies in Parma and Modena ; he then ordered the joining of Avignon and Comtat Venaissin to the kingdom of France; the parliament of Aix, in spite of the refusal of the legate, proclaims the pure and simple annexation of these two enclaves in July 1663 decreeing that their cession to the papal States is contrary to the law; the French troops settling there, the vice-legate replaced by a governor of the king takes refuge in Nice.

New meetings take place in Lyon at the request of Spain and the Republic of Venice. Nothing is progressing because each party is now making its claims and demands. The Pope makes some proposals which are interpreted by the Louvre as protections granted to the guilty! Louis XIV, really getting tired of this length of negotiations, posed an ultimatum: he would send troops if no compromise was signed on February 10, 1664 and asked Milan for authorization to cross the territory.

The Treaty of Pisa

Finally, thanks to the initiative of Madrid and Florence, the Treaty of Pisa was signed on February 12, 1664 including among the fifteen articles: the public apologies brought to the Louvre by the cardinal governor of Rome, read by the nephew of the pope; the apologies of the pope's brother; the dissolution of the Corsican Guard with a declaration signed by the Pope stipulating “the islanders are declared forever incapable of serving Rome and all the ecclesiastical states; the erection of a black marble pyramid in memory of the triumph of Louis XIV on the site of the Corsican barracks.

The King of France triumphs, but must also defend the fate of all those who supported him, in particular the Este and Farnese families, concerning certain territories that belonged to them and passed under the tutelage of the pontiff.

Among the other articles, the Pope wants to recover the Comtat Venaissin and Avignon. This article then caused a lot of worries for the king: he had to override the acts of the Parliament of Aix and inform the population, especially the merchants who were sacrificed for reasons of state, granting them in return some promises of "royal protection. ". Having left Rome in March, the cardinal was received by the king on July 29, 1664 for the apology ceremony at Fontainebleau.

The treaty did not bring much to France, except for public apologies. The king wanted to show the Pope that no one can compete with the Court of France and thereby prove and ensure the majesty of the Crown. Louis XIV thus asserted his motto “Nec pluribus impar” on the international scene.

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