Saturday, 20 September 2014

Conspiracies, controversies and bullet holes

How much do you know about Corsica? For starters it's located above Sardinia and is an island in the Mediterranean between France and Italy. These days it's part of metropolitan France even though it's not strictly in the hexagon, so it's not considered an overseas territory even though its a flight or moderate ferry trip from the mainland.

We'd heard it was spectacularly beautiful with an interesting history. Of course, Napoleon was born and raised there, it has a very Italian flavour to it and comes with it's own language. The Corsican language is alive and flourishing, spoken by young and old alike. Courses at the universities can be taken in this language. It cannot be compared to the virtually dead Breton language of Brittany (where there are also separatists and dual-language street signs).

Coming from NZ I'm at home on large islands so I expected to just sit back and enjoy the guided tour, despite the fact that, once again, I'd have to struggle with 8 days of rapid French around me, understanding maybe half at most.

Corsica is known for vendettas. They were rampant in the past, I don't know if they still exist but the bullet holes in the signposts told us that the separatist movement is alive and well. Our Corsican bus driver told us that Corsicans require respect from non-Corsican visitors; offend someone at your peril. From time to time someone will have their house exploded by plastic explosive, so there is a sort of mafia here but tourists won't see that.

Why the bullet holes? The separatists want Corsica to be independent, so they shoot out the street signs written in French. In most cases there are street signs in both French and Corsican. Only the French version is defaced with spray paint or bullet holes.

Our guide introduced us to two controversies: one surrounds the real parentage of Napoleon Bonaparte. His mother Letizia was young and very beautiful and very 'close' with the island governor, the  Comte de Marbeuf across the street. Napoleon's father Carlo was keen on getting ahead, socially and financially. Was Napoleon's true father the governor? It is highly probable that at least one of his brothers or sisters (probably Louis) was fathered by the Governor. Mister Bonaparte would have turned an opportunist blind eye. His family benefited from numerous political contacts in France.

The other controversy surrounds Napoleon's death and remains. Are the remains in the grand tomb at Les Invalides really those of Napoleon? These days DNA testing could say once and for all but the descendents of Napoleon, and the French government, refuse to answer this question. I supose if the remains weren't those of Napoleon they'd all look right idiots and tourism would certainly take a hit at Les Invalides.

Napoleon's death is attributed to stomach cancer (probably hastened by 6 months, due to bumbling medical action on St Helena) but the other side of the debate says he was slowly poisoned by arsenic which might account for the 'well preserved' state of the body 19 years after his death. There's a report that the corpse's teeth were is excellent condition though it's known Napoleon had dental problems leading to various extractions. Who knows? Whoever knows the truth is not about to tell.

For further reading on the Napoleon's Death  'conspiracies' try these links

And for the dangers of Corsican Liberation Front bomb blasts?

Photos show house in Corte were Napoleon was conceived and his older brother Joseph was born, house where Napoleon was born in Ajaccio on August 15th 1769 , statue in Ajaccio, of Napoleon on horse surrounded by his brothers, various other sites in Ajaccio.


Post a Comment

I welcome your comments, contributions and feedback.