Buffer state in the Ionian islands of Greece, founded in 1799 and dissolved in 1807.

Following the conquest of Italy by the French under Napoleon Bonaparte, Corfu (formerly a Venetian possession) fell under French rule, in 1797. However, a Russo-Turkish force seized the island in 1799 and the Septinsular Republic was established as a buffer state, including Corfu and a number of the other Ionian islands. Though nominally independent, the Septinsular Republic was, to all intents and purposes, a Russian dominion.

The fledgling republic had a mayfly life - it was dissolved in 1807, after the Treaty of Tilsit, by the terms of which Russia ceded Corfu and the other islands of the republic to France.

After the fall of Napoleon, in 1814, the islands of the former republic became a British protectorate, under the misnomer: the "United States of the Ionian Islands". They remained under British rule until 1848, and did not rejoin the rest of Greece until 1864.

An interesting footnote that I only recently became aware of:
The plebiscite that resulted in the Ionian islands ceasing to be a British protectorate, and rejoining Greece, was cited as a precedent by the Danish ambassador plenipotentiary, Count Bernstorff, at the London Conference of 1864, in response to British unwillingness to support a similar plebiscite for Schleswig-Holstein.

Source: Protocol no. 10 of the London Conference of 1864, dated June 18, 1864

"M. le Comte Bernstorff dit qu'il n'a parlé spécialement ne de bourgeois ni de paysans. Il désire surtout que ce soient les Etats du pays qui aient à se prononcer, et il ne comprend pas le surprise de Lord Clarendon. Il cite la cession des Iles Ioniennes, et la consultation des vœux de leurs habitants à cet régard, comme l'exemple le plus récent, donné par l'Angleterre elle-même, de l'application de ce principe, qui n'est nellement aussi dangereux que le principe proclamé dans des pièces officielles émanées du Cabinet Britannique, d'aprés lequel chaque peuple qui ne serait pas content de son Gouvernement aurait le droit de le renvoyer et de s'en donner un autre. Le principe qu'il propose n'est pas non plus nouveau, puisqu'il a été applqué dans les derniers temps presque à tous les pays qui ont changé de Maître. Il cite entre autres Naples, le Toscane, le Savoie et Nice."

The Septinsular Republic of course means the republic of the Seven Islands, a Latinization of an ancient Greek name for the archipelago, the Heptanesos. The seven are Corfu (Kerkira), Cephalonia, Ithaca, Zante (Zacynthos or Zakinthos), Paxos, Leukas, and Cerigo. (Each has a classical Greek name, a modern Greek, and often a more familiar Italian or English name.)

They came into Venetian possession, along with much other territorial booty from the Crusades, in 1386. Venice's power declined over the centuries, and by the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718 her empire was reduced to these seven Ionian islands, and the coast of Dalmatia (including Ragusa, now Dubrovnik). Venice fell to France in 1797 and by the Treaty of Campo Formio on 17 October, France took the islands and Austria took the rest.

After Russian participation in the defeat of France, the Septinsular Republic came into formal existence on 1 April 1800. The rulers during this period were the presidents of the senate:

  1. Spiridon Theotokis 1800-1803
  2. Komis Komoutos 1803-1807

France annexed the islands again on 13 September 1807 and attached them to its territory of Illyria (that is Dalmatia, the coast of what was later Yugoslavia). The governors-general in this period were:

  1. César Berthier 1807-1809
  2. François Xavier, comte de Donzelot 1809-1815
On the defeat of France the Congress of Vienna in June 1815 organized the new arrangement of Europe, but did not decide on the Ionian Islands. A separate protocol of 5 November 1815 created the British protectorate. The British were represented by a Lord High Commissioner. One interesting name to note is that of future prime minister Gladstone in 1859:
  1. Sir Thomas Maitland 1815-1823
  2. Sir Frederick Adam 1823-1832
  3. Alexander Woodford 1832
  4. Lord Nugent of Carlanstown 1832-1835
  5. Howard Douglas 1835-1840
  6. James Mackenzie 1840-1843
  7. Lord Seaton 1843-1849
  8. Sir Henry Ward 1849-1855
  9. Sir John Young 1855-1859
  10. William Gladstone 1859
  11. Sir Henry Storks 1859-1863

The local government this time was again in the form of presidents of the senate:

  1. Baron Emmanouil Theotokis 1815-1818
  2. Komis Komoutos again 1818-1833
  3. unknown 1833-1835
  4. someone Voulgaris 1835-1839
  5. Petros Petritsopoulos 1839-1842
  6. Komis Delladetsimas 1842-1844
  7. Spiridon Phokas 1844-1850
  8. Spiridon Damaskinos 1850-1852
  9. Komis Solomos 1852
  10. Georgios Romas 1852-1857
  11. Alexandros Damaskinos 1857-1862
  12. Komis Karousos 1862-1864
The islands were incorporated into the Kingdom of Greece on 1 June 1864.

During Venetian rule each island flew as a flag the winged lion of the evangelist St Mark, patron saint of Venice, with in the canton a depiction of each island's saint. With independence in 1800 a similar flag was introduced, a blue background, with the winged lion in gold, holding the Gospel, and bearing seven lances.

For the British-protected union, a royal proclamation of 26 August 1817 introduced a flag that was that but with the Union Jack as a canton, that is using the lion and lances symbol as the emblem on a Blue Ensign.


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