United States of the Ionian Islands

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United States of the Ionian Islands
Ἡνωμένον Κράτος τῶν Ἰονίων Νήσων (el)
Inoménon-Krátos ton Ioníon Níson
Stati Uniti delle Isole Ionie (it)
Amical protectorate of the United Kingdom



The Republic's territory extended to the seven main islands plus the smaller islets of the Ionian Sea
Capital Corfù
Languages Greek
Religion Greek Orthodox
Government Republic
Legislature Parliament
 •  Upper house Senate
 •  Lower house Legislative Assembly
Historical era 19th century
 •  Congress of Vienna 9 June 1815 (signed)
 •  Protectorate est. 9 November 1815
 •  Constitution 26 August 1817
 •  Treaty of London 29 March 1864
 •  Gifted to Greece 28 May 1864
 •  1864 2,659 km² (1,027 sq mi)
 •  1864 est. 236,000 
     Density 88.8 /km²  (229.9 /sq mi)
Currency Obol (1818–33)
Greek lepton (1833–64)
Today part of  Greece
References: Capital city;[1] languages;[2][3] area and population.[4]

The United States of the Ionian Islands (Greek: Ἡνωμένον Κράτος τῶν Ἰονίων Νήσων, Inoménon-Krátos ton Ioníon Níson, literally "United State of the Ionian Islands"; Italian: Stati Uniti delle Isole Ionie) was a state and amical protectorate of the United Kingdom between 1815 and 1864. It was the successor state of the Septinsular Republic. It covered the territory of the Ionian Islands, located in modern Greece, to whom it was ceded as a gift of the United Kingdom to the newly enthroned King George I,[5] at the end of the protectorate.


Prior to the French Revolutionary Wars, the Ionian Islands had been part of the Republic of Venice. With the dissolution of that polity by the 1797 Treaty of Campo Formio, it was annexed into the French Republic, created into the French departments of Greece. Between 1798 and 1799, the French were driven out by a joint Russo-Ottoman force. The occupying forces founded the Septinsular Republic, which enjoyed relative independence under nominal Ottoman suzerainty and Russian control from 1800 until 1807.

The Ionian Islands were then occupied by the French after the treaty of Tilsit. In 1809, the United Kingdom defeated the French fleet off the island Zakynthos on 2 October, and captured Kefalonia, Kythira, and Zakynthos. The British took Lefkada in 1810. The island of Corfu remained occupied by the French until 1814.

The Congress of Vienna agreed to place the Ionian Islands under the exclusive "amical protection" of the United Kingdom. Despite British military administration, the Austrian Empire was guaranteed commercial status equal to the UK. The arrangement was formalised with the ratification of the "Maitland constitution" on 26 August 1817, which created a federation of the seven islands, with Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Maitland its first "Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands".

On 29 March 1864, representatives of the United Kingdom, Greece, France, and Russia signed the Treaty of London, pledging the transfer of sovereignty to Greece upon ratification; this was meant to bolster the reign of the newly installed King George I of the Hellenes. Thus, on 28 May, by proclamation of the Lord High Commissioner, the Ionian Islands were united with Greece.[6]


According to the second constitution of the republic (1803), Greek was the primary official language, in contrast to the situation in the Septinsular Republic.[7] Italian was still in use, though, mainly for official purposes since the Venetian Republic. The only island in which Italian (Venetian) had a wider spread was Cephalonia, where a great number of people had adopted Venetian Italian as their first language.[8]


The United States of the Ionian Islands was a federation. It included seven island states (names given were the official names which are not necessarily the names used in English, either then or now):

State Capital Members elected
Corfù Corfù 7
Cephalonia Argostoli 7
Cerigo Kythira 1 or 2[9]
Ithaca Vathy 1 or 2[9]
Paxò Gaios 1 or 2[9]
Santa Maura Lefkada 4
Zante Zakynthos 7


Ionian two-oboli coin, 1819

The government was organised under the direction of a Lord High Commissioner, appointed by the British monarch on the advice of the British government. In total, ten men served in this capacity, including William Gladstone as a Lord High Commissioner Extraordinary.

The Ionian Islands had a bicameral legislature, titled the 'Parliament of the United States of the Ionian Islands' and composed of a Legislative Assembly and a Senate.[10]

The 1818 constitution also established a High Court of Appeal to be called the Supreme Council of Justice of the United States of the Ionian Islands, of which the president was to be known as the Chief Justice who would rank in precedence immediately after the President of the Senate.

Successive Chief Justices were:

See also


  1. Constitution of the Ionian Islands, Article II
  2. Constitution of the Ionian Islands, Article IV
  3. Constitution of the Ionian Islands, Article V
  4. "Treaty of London". Greek Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Archived from the original on 8 March 2005. Retrieved 21 July 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. The Times (London) 8 June 1863 p. 12 col. C
  6. Hertslet, Edward. The map of Europe by treaty (PDF). p. 1609. Retrieved 21 July 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. http://www.dircost.unito.it/cs/docs/settinsula.htm The second constitution of the republic (1803). (Italian)
  8. Kendrick, Tertius T. C. (1822). The Ionian islands: Manners and customs. J. Haldane. p. 106. Retrieved 8 February 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Cerigo, Ithaca, and Paxos each elected one member, but the three elected a second member in rotation. Constitution of the Ionian Islands, Article VI
  10. Constitution of the Ionian Islands, Article VII

External links