Co-principality in Andorra

Co-principality in Andorra

Andorra is the world’s only co-principality.

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Some 80,000 people live in this mountainous micro-state wedged between France and Spain, but only third are Andorran nations with the right to vote. Despite a number of historical and political changes, Andorra is a co-principality under the shared rule of the Bishop of Urgell and the President of the French Republic.

Andorra is the last independent survivor of the March states, a number of buffer states created by Charlemagne to keep the Muslim Moors from advancing into Christian France. Tradition holds that Charlemagne granted a charter to the Andorran people in 805 in return for their fighting the Moors.

Between the 9th and 10th centuries, the Andorran valleys belonged to the Counts of Urgell, who ceded them to the See of Urgell in 988 in exchange for other possessions in the Cerdanya, although it was not until the 12th century that Andorrans recognised the sovereignty of the See of Urgell in an agreement signed with the bishop Bernat Sanç in 1176. A period of struggle for the sovereignty over the Andorran valleys ensued, particularly with the Counts of Urgell, which caused the bishops to call on the closest nobles for aid and protection. For its cooperation with the bishop, the House of Caboet was given the valleys of Andorra in fief.

During the 15th century, the Counts of Foix assumed sovereignty of Navarre. When, in 1589, Henry, King of Navarre and Count of Foix, Viscount of Béarn and Lord of Andorra, ascended to the French throne, his co-rule over Andorra as Count of Foix became fused with the French crown. In 1793, due to the feudal origin of the bonds linking Andorra to France, the French Republicans refused to recognise their relationships with Andorra and to receive tributes from the territory. In 1806, Napoleon restored the feudal tradition and the French claim to co-lordship over the Principality of Andorra.

The position is a constitutional one similar to the British Monarchy and holds no real power. Except for limited things, the two princes must exercise their authority together, not separately. This is the only country where one of their heads of state (the President of France) is democratically elected by another country. The other prince, the bishop, is appointed by the head of state of another country (the Pope).

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