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United States of the Ionian Islands

The United States of the Ionian Islands (Greek: Ἡνωμένον Κράτος τῶν Ἰονίων Νήσων, romanizedInoménon Krátos ton Ioníon Níson, lit. "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, in modern Greece, and it was ceded to Greece as a gift of the United Kingdom to the newly enthroned King George I[7] after the Resolution for union with Greece which was proposed by the Party of the Radicals.

United States of the Ionian Islands

Ηνωμένον Κράτος των Ιονίων Νήσων
Stati Uniti delle Isole Ionie (it)
Coat of arms of Ionian Islands
Coat of arms
The Republic's territory extended to the seven main islands plus the smaller islets of the Ionian Sea
The Republic's territory extended to the seven main islands plus the smaller islets of the Ionian Sea
StatusAmical protectorate of the United Kingdom
Official languagesGreek
Greek Orthodox
GovernmentFederal republic
Senate (executive)b
Legislative Assembly
Historical era19th century
• Congress of Vienna
9 June 1815 (signed)
• Protectorate est.
9 November 1815
• Constitution
26 August 1817
• Resolution for union with Greece
26 November 1850
29 March 1864
• Union with Greece
28 May 1864
18642,659 km2 (1,027 sq mi)
• 1864
CurrencyObol (1818–64)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Imperial French rule in the Ionian Islands
Kingdom of Greece
Today part ofGreece
^ Italian was used as the official language of administration during the first Parliament only.

^ The Senate is listed in the Constitution as the Executive branch of government. It shared legislative power with the Legislative Assembly, and in some British sources it appears as the Executive Council.[1][2]

References: Capital city;[3] languages;[4][5] area and population.[6]


Before the French Revolutionary Wars, the Ionian Islands had been part of the Republic of Venice. When the 1797 Treaty of Campo Formio dissolved the Republic of Venice, they were annexed to the French Republic. 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 Zakynthos island 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".

A few years later resistance groups started to form. Although their energy in the early years was directed to supporting the Greeks in the revolution against the Turks, it soon started to turn towards the British. The Party of Radicals (Greek: Κόμμα των Ριζοσπαστών) founded in 1848 was against the British occupation of the Ionian Islands and in favour of union with Greece. In September 1848 there were skirmishes with the British Army in Argostoli and Lixouri on Kefalonia, which led to some relaxation in the laws and to freedom of the press. Union with Greece was now a declared aim, and by 1849, a growing restlessness resulted in even more skirmishes. The twenty-one instigators were hanged, another 34 were jailed and 87 whipped.[8]

On 26 November 1850, the Radical MP John Detoratos Typaldos proposed in the parliament the resolution for the union of the Ionian Islands with Greece which was signed by Gerasimos Livadas, Nadalis Domeneginis, George Typaldos, Frangiskos Domeneginis, Ilias Zervos Iakovatos, Iosif Momferatos, Telemachus Paizis, Ioannis Typaldos, Aggelos Sigouros-Dessyllas, Christodoulos Tofanis. Britain responded with persecutions, arrests, imprisonments, and exile. In 1862, the party was split into two factions, the United Radical Party and the Real Radical Party.

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 Greece. Thus, on 28 May, by proclamation of the Lord High Commissioner, the Ionian Islands were united with Greece.[9]


According to the second constitution of the Republic (1803), Greek was the primary official language, in contrast to the situation in the Septinsular Republic.[10] 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.[11]


The British coat of arms surrounded by the emblems of the seven Ionian Islands. From top, clockwise: Corfu, Zakynthos, Ithaca, Paxoi, Cythera/Cerigo, Leucas, Cephalonia

The United States of the Ionian Islands was a federation. It included seven island states, each of which was allocated a number of seats in the parliament, the Ionian Senate:

State Capital Members elected
Corfu Corfu 7
Cephalonia Argostoli 7
Cythera Kythira 1 or 2[12]
Ithaca Vathy 1 or 2[12]
Paxos Gaios 1 or 2[12]
Leucas Lefkada 4
Zakynthos Zakynthos 7


Ionian two-oboli coin, 1819

The British organised administration 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 (in office 1858-1859).

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.[13]

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.

The successive Chief Justices were:

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Fieldhouse, David (1985). Select Documents on the Constitutional History of the British Empire and Commonwealth: "The Empire of the Bretaignes," 1175-1688. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 679. ISBN 9780313238970.
  2. ^ Fitzroy, Charles (1850). Ionian Islands. Letters by Lord C. Fitzroy and documents from other sources, on past and recent events in the Ionian Islands; shewing the anomalous political and financial condition of those States. p. 115.
  3. ^ Constitution of the Ionian Islands, Article II
  4. ^ Constitution of the Ionian Islands, Article IV
  5. ^ Constitution of the Ionian Islands, Article V
  6. ^ "Treaty of London". Greek Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Archived from the original on 8 March 2005. Retrieved 21 July 2006.[dead link]
  7. ^ The Times (London) 8 June 1863 p. 12 col. C
  8. ^ British Occupation
  9. ^ Hertslet, Edward. The map of Europe by treaty (PDF). p. 1609. Retrieved 21 July 2006.
  10. ^ The second constitution of the Republic (1803). (in Italian)
  11. ^ Kendrick, Tertius T. C. (1822). The Ionian islands: Manners and customs. J. Haldane. p. 106. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  12. ^ a b c Cythera, Ithaca, and Paxos each elected one member, but the three elected a second member in rotation. Constitution of the Ionian Islands, Article IV
  13. ^ Constitution of the Ionian Islands, Article VII


  • Gekas, Stathis (2016). Xenocracy: State, Class, and Colonialism in the Ionian Islands, 1815-1864. Berghahn Books. ISBN 9781785332623.
  • Moschonas, Nikolaos (1975). "Τα Ιόνια Νησιά κατά την περίοδο 1797-1821" [The Ionian Islands in the period 1797-1821]. Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Έθνους, Τόμος ΙΑ′: Ο ελληνισμός υπό ξένη κυριαρχία, 1669–1821 [History of the Greek Nation, Volume XI: Hellenism under foreign rule, 1669–1821] (in Greek). Athens: Ekdotiki Athinon. pp. 382–402.

External linksEdit