Co-Principality of Andorra Explained: Why the President of France is a Prince
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Co-Principality of Andorra Explained: Why the President of France is a Prince

September 17, 2019


Andorra is a co-principality in the Pyrenees Mountains, on the border between France and Spain, which means Andorra is ruled by not one, but two princes. Weirder still is that the princes are the Bishop of Urgell, in spain, and the President of France, neither of whom live in the country, and neither princehood is inherited through the usual method of Royal lineage, and is instead given by virtue of holding the other office. It’s a bit awkward that an otherwise Republican France, with all their liberté, égalité, et fraternité, has a head of state who is technically a prince or princess. A principality is a monarchy, like a kingdom, but instead of a king, it is ruled by Prince which in this case is a title unrelated to being the child of a king, meaning principalities have their own line of succession. Rulers of principalities are referred to as sovereign princes to distinguish them from non-reigning child princes. Kings would expend a lot of effort ensuring that they were the only King in their lands, and in order to remain independent sovereign princes would accept a lesser title to keep the more powerful rulers happy. The remaining principalities in Europe are Monaco, Liechtenstein, and Andorra, which, unlike the others, has one Prince which is elected by the people of a second country, and the other a member of the clergy of a third country, who is ultimately appointed by the Pope, who is the head of state of a fourth country, which, by the way, is also a title he holds by virtue of his other title. The Bishop of Urgell is the representative of the Catholic Church who oversees the other churches in the diocese of Urgell, which is one of the subdivisions of one of the Catholic Church’s ecclesiastical provinces which subdivide Catholicism around the world and don’t always line up with political borders. In the middle ages, the catholic church functions as a supranational organization that owned large areas of land that were a source of wealth and power that rivaled the official rulers of Europe. However in the church, just like with the secular rulers, control the lands and therefore the power was very localized. A king would have very little direct control over the lands of his country and the stability of a kingdom relied on the feudal lords swearing loyalty to King, which is why it was important that he prevent any upstarts from the declaring themselves Kings. The territory that became Andorra was transferred from the count of Urgell to the bishop of Urgell in exchange for some neighboring lands in 988. In 1095 the bishop, not being the best at medieval warfare, enlisted the help of the Viscount of Caboet for military protection in exchange for some rights and to Andorra, but the bishop made it clear he was its ruler. Through strategic marriage and baby making, these rights are transferred to the Count of Foix, who gradually tried to take more control from the bishop. This dispute was resolved in 1278 and established the bishop of Urgell and the count of Foix as co-equal princes of Andorra. By 1479 the count of Foix was also the king of Navarre. The king in 1589 was Henry of the House of Bourbon, who also became King Henry the fourth of France, who transferred the co-rulership of andorra and his office of the count of Foix to his office of the King of France in 1607. Then in 1792 the french revolution happened and France became a republic, and despite Andorra wishing to remain under French protection, the first french republic renounced its right to a co-princehood, since they had just revolted against feudalism and didn’t want to become a part of it. However in 1806, Napoleon restored the co-principal to the head of state of the first french empire himself. From then on, regardless of over France was a Republic, Empire, or kingdom, the head of state of France was also the co-prince of Andorra, along with Bishop of Urgell. Andorra today has an elected government that runs the country and is seen as a sovereign country by the UN and other states and has its own Foreign Relations. The co-princes do have some powers outlined in the Andorran Constitution such as appointing judges, but many of the day-to-day responsibilities are carried out by their official representatives in Andorra If you enjoyed this video you may also like this other one which explains all the different federal subjects which subdivide Russia

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