United States of the Ionian Islands

The United States of the Ionian Islands (Greek: Ἡνωμένον Κράτος τῶν Ἰονίων Νήσων, romanized: Inoménon-Krátos ton Ioníon Níson, lit.'United State of the Ionian Islands'; Italian: Stati Uniti delle Isole Ionie) was a Greek state and amical protectorate of the United Kingdom between 1815 and 1864. The successor state of the Septinsular Republic, it covered the territory of the Ionian Islands, as well as the town of Parga on the adjacent mainland in modern Greece. It was ceded by the British to Greece as a gift to the newly enthroned King George I.[7][8]

United States of the Ionian Islands
Ηνωμένον Κράτος των Ιονίων Νήσων (Greek)
Stati Uniti delle Isole Ionie (Italian)
Coat of arms
The Republic's territory extended to the seven main islands plus the smaller islets of the Ionian Sea
StatusAmical protectorate of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Official languagesGreek, English, Italian
Common languagesVenetian
Greek Orthodox
GovernmentFederal republic
Senate (executive)b
Legislative Assembly
Historical era19th century
 Congress of Vienna
9 June 1815 (signed)
 Protectorate est.
9 November 1815
26 August 1817
 Resolution for union with Greece
26 November 1850
29 March 1864
 Union with Greece
28 May 1864
1864[1]4,696 km2 (1,813 sq mi)
CurrencyObol (1818–64)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
French rule in the Ionian Islands
Kingdom of Greece
Ioannina Eyalet
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.[2][3]

References: Capital city;[4] languages.[5][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, Britain defeated the French fleet off Zakynthos island on 2 October, and captured Kefalonia, Kythira, and Zakynthos. The British proceeded to capture Lefkada in 1810. The island of Corfu remained occupied by the French until 1814.

Under the Treaty between Great Britain and [Austria, Prussia and] Russia, respecting the Ionian Islands (signed in Paris on 5 November 1815), as one of the treaties signed during the Peace of Paris (1815), Britain obtained a protectorate over the Ionian Islands, and under Article VIII of the treaty the Austrian Empire was granted the same trading privileges with the Islands as Britain.[9] As agreed in Article IV of the treaty a "New Constitutional Charter for the State" was drawn up and 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 Greek nationalist groups started to form. Although their energy in the early years was directed to supporting their fellow Greek revolutionaries in the revolution against the Ottoman Empire, they switched their focus to enosis with Greece following their independence. The Party of Radicals (Greek: Κόμμα των Ριζοσπαστών) founded in 1848 as a pro-enosis political party. In September 1848 there were skirmishes with the British garrison in Argostoli and Lixouri on Kefalonia, which led to a certain level relaxation in the enforcement of the protectorate's laws, and freedom of the press as well. The island's populace did not hide their growing demands for enosis, and newspapers on the islands frequently published articles criticising British policies in the protectorate. On 15 August in 1849, another rebellion broke out, which was quashed by Henry George Ward, who proceeded to temporarily impose martial law.[10]

On 26 November 1850, the Radical MP John Detoratos Typaldos proposed in the Ionian parliament the resolution for the enosis 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. In 1862, the party split into two factions, the "United Radical Party" and the "Real Radical Party". During the period of British rule, William Ewart Gladstone visited the islands and recommended their reunion with Greece, to the chagrin of the British government.

On 29 March 1864, representatives of Great Britain, 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.[11]


According to the second constitution of the Republic (1803), Greek was the primary official language, in contrast to the situation in the Septinsular Republic.[12] 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.[13]


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[14]
Ithaca Vathy 1 or 2[14]
Paxos Gaios 1 or 2[14]
Leucas Lefkada 4
Zakynthos Zakynthos 7


Ionian two-oboli coin, 1819
30 oboli, Ionian Islands, 1862

The British organised administration under the direction of a Lord High Commissioner, appointed by 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 Senate.[15]

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:

  • John Kirkpatrick 1820–1835
  • Sir James John Reid 1837–?
  • Sir Charles Sargent 1860–?
  • Sir Patrick MacChombaich de Colquhoun 1861–1864

See also


  1. "Treaty of London". Greek Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Archived from the original on 8 March 2005. Retrieved 21 July 2006. The Ionian Islands were formally united with the Kingdom of Greece on 2 June 1864. This was the first expansion of the Greek kingdom since its foundation. The national territory increased by 1,813 square miles and the population by 236,000.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Constitution of the Ionian Islands, Article II
  5. Constitution of the Ionian Islands, Article IV
  6. Constitution of the Ionian Islands, Article V
  7. The Times (London) 8 June 1863 p. 12 col. C
  8. "::[ History of Parga | Prefecture of Preveza ]::".
  9. Hammond, Richard James (1966). Portugal and Africa, 1815–1910 : a study in uneconomic imperialism. Stanford University Press. p. 2. ISBN 0-8047-0296-9.
  10. British Occupation
  11. Hertslet, Edward. The map of Europe by treaty (PDF). p. 1609. Retrieved 21 July 2006.
  12. "Costituzione Della Repubblica Settinsulare" [Constitution of the Septinsular Republic]. Università di Torino: Dipartimento di Scienze Giuridiche (in Italian). 1803.
  13. Kendrick, Tertius T. C. (1822). The Ionian islands: Manners and customs. J. Haldane. p. 106. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  14. Cythera, Ithaca, and Paxos each elected one member, but the three elected a second member in rotation. Constitution of the Ionian Islands, Article IV
  15. Constitution of the Ionian Islands, Article VII

Further reading

  • Gekas, Stathis (2016). Xenocracy: State, Class, and Colonialism in the Ionian Islands, 1815–1864. Berghahn Books. ISBN 9781785332623.
  • Hannell, David. "The Ionian Islands under the British Protectorate: social and economic problems." Journal of Modern Greek Studies 7.1 (1989): 105–132. online
  • Hannell, David. "A Case of Bad Publicity: Britain and the Ionian Islands, 1848–51." European History Quarterly 17.2 (1987): 131–143.
  • Knox, Bruce. "British policy and the Ionian Islands, 1847–1864: nationalism and imperial administration." English Historical Review 99.392 (1984): 503–529.
  • Moschonas, Nikolaos (1975). "Τα Ιόνια Νησιά κατά την περίοδο 1797–1821" [The Ionian Islands in the period 1797–1821]. In Christopoulos, Georgios A. & Bastias, Ioannis K. (eds.). Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Έθνους, Τόμος ΙΑ΄: Ο Ελληνισμός υπό ξένη κυριαρχία (περίοδος 1669 - 1821), Τουρκοκρατία - Λατινοκρατία [History of the Greek Nation, Volume XI: Hellenism under Foreign Rule (Period 1669 - 1821), Turkocracy – Latinocracy] (in Greek). Athens: Ekdotiki Athinon. pp. 382–402. ISBN 978-960-213-100-8.
  • Pagratis, Gerassimos D. "The Ionian Islands under British Protection (1815–1864)." in Anglo-Saxons in the Mediterranean. Commerce, Politics and Ideas (XVII–XX Centuries), (Malta, 2007) pp: 131–150. online
  • Paschalidi, Maria. "Constructing Ionian identities: the Ionian Islands in British official discourses; 1815–1864" (PhD dissertation, UCL (University College London), 2010. online
  • Schumacher, Leslie Rogne. "Greek Expectations: Britain and the Ionian Islands, 1815–64.” in Imperial Expectations and Realities: El Dorados, Utopias and Dystopias, edited by Andrekos Varnava, (Manchester University Press, 2015), pp. 47–65. [www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1wn0scs.8 online]
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