Andorra: Notes

Origins of Andorra

In accordance with the agreement of 1278 (Spanish: pariatge; French: paréage; Catalan: pareatge), Andorra has been placed under the rule of two feudal lords - the bishop of Urgell and the count of Foix, who exercised their authority as co-seigneurs. Retrospectively described as "co-princes" in many historical works, the co-seigneurs, however, abstained from assuming any particular title with regard to Andorra, using their regular styles in related legislation. The ecclesiastical title of the bishops of Urgell is attested in Latin as Miseratione divina episcopus Urgellensis and Dei gratia Urgellensis episcopus. The counts and countesses of Foix were styled in Latin Dei gratia comes Fuxensis and Dei gratia comes Fuxi, also holding a number of sovereign titles such as Vescomte/Vescomtessa de Bearn, from 26 Apr 1290; Rei/Reina de Navarra, from 12 Feb 1479; Dei gratia Francorum et Navarrae Rex (Latin), Par la grâce de Dieu, Roi de France et de Navarre (French), from 2 Aug 1589.

Historical Development

From 8 Sep 1278 until 20 Oct 1620, the incumbent count (countess) of Foix exercised the rights of a co-seigneur of Andorra. In a document concerning the Valleys of Andorra (1591), Henri IV of France referred to his authority as sovereign seigneur of Andorra (La cuestión de Andorra, 14).

Louis XIII of France had the Sovereign Council (Consell Sobirà) of Navarra register, in his royal presence at Pau on 20 Oct 1620, an edict of 19 Oct 1620 (Recueil général des anciennes lois françaises, 16:140), according to which Navarra, Bearn, Andorra and Domezain were effectively incorporated under the Crown of France. The estates of Bearn, in whose sovereignty the office of the French co-seigneur was vested, when required to register the edict, procrastinated and actually never fully accepted it. The preceding remark notwithstanding, it seems reasonable to regard the office of the French co-seigneur to be, from 20 Oct 1620, vested in the kings of France.

Upon the extinction of the French royalty in 1792, it appears that the Andorran Consell regarded the office of the French co-seigneur to be vested in the French Republic; consequent to this interpretation, the Consell attemtpted, at a date in 1793 to deliver the traditional tribute to the administrator of the département of Ariège (in which the commune of Foix is situated) as local representative of the highest authority in France. The tribute was rejected by the letter of the administrator (dated 22 Aug 1793), in the context of the abolition of feudal rights (Vilar, 42). On 27 Mar 1806, Napoléon I issued an imperial decree (Bulletin des lois, No. 86, item 1463, pp. 408-409), restoring the arrangement which had been in force before 1792. However, the decree did not make any reference to the status of French co-seigneur, and made only a tangential reference to the bishop of Urgell and his veguer. The dispositions of the imperial decree were confirmed by the royal ordinance of 20 Apr 1820.

Following the occupation by the armies of France, Catalonia was organised as a territory under a "special government" (French: Gouvernement particulier; Catalan: Gobern particular) by imperial decree of 8 Feb 1810. The inclusion of Andorra in Catalonia as part of département of Sègre was confirmed explicitly by imperial decree of 26 Jan 1812. The date of the de iure end of the dependency status of Catalonia and the inclusion of Andorra in it is debatable.

Princely Title and Sovereignty

The first known use of the princely style with regard to Andorra dates back to 2 Mar 1663, when Joan Manuel de Espinosa, bishop of Urgell, promulgated an ordinance in response to five inquiries by the Consell General, in which the bishop responded styling himself sovereign prince of the Valleys and said that he "considers this inquiry as one of the frequent proofs of the faithful recognition of our sovereignty by the Consell". From that time on the bishops of Urgell styled themselves princes of Andorra without interruption (Robinat, 113-114). The bishops made further attempt to consolidate their sovereignty over Andorra by issuing a decree of 2 Mar 1762, which was signed by the bishop Catalán de Ocón as "príncipe soberano de les valls de Andorra" [sic] and proclaimed the Valleys of Andorra to be an independent state whose sovereignty belongs to the bishops of Urgell ("Andorra es un estado independiente, cuyo soberania es de los Illustrissimos señores Obispos de Urgel", Vilar, 62). After the resumption of ancient customs and appointment of a French veguer in accordance with the imperial decree of 27 Mar 1806, the authority of Napoléon I as co-seigneur was recognised (7 Jun 1806) by a statement of the same bishop of Urgell, who nevertheless insisted on his "ancestral" right to the title of sovereign prince of Andorra, while acknowledging that the relationship with Napoléon continues the co-rulership (referred to as Soberana Sociedad) of the bishops with the kings of France. (Robinat, 157). During the tenure of Casañas i Pagès (1879-1901), the bishops of Urgell openly contested the rights of France and its heads of state to exercise any rights over Andorra (Robinat, 88).

Despite the attempts of the bishops to be recognised as sole sovereigns of Andorra, local authorities continued to consider both the bishop and France (or its head of state) equal in their rights. In 1894, the Consell General of the Valleys petitioned the Holy See and the bishop of Urgell, demanding the recognition of the dual character of co-lordship (La cuestión de Andorra [1894]) and the change of style from from príncipe to co-príncipe, the latter being the first documented instance of the style. Although the French co-seigneur (or France) rarely exercised his right to issue legislation in the 19th and 20th century, he used to delegate this right to the ministers who issued a number of acts recognised valid in Andorra (decrees of 13 Jul 1888, 24 Dec 1911, 19 Apr 1928, 22 Aug 1929, 19 Jun 1930) (Robinat, 120).

The equality of the positions of co-seigneurs who eventually became known in official use as coprínceps (in Catalan) was achieved in the 20th century, but was not sealed until the promulgation of the Constitution of 1993. A customary formula used for the promulgation of legislative acts by the representatives of co-seigneurs until 1967 included the references to the Mitra and France ("Nos el Delegat Permanent de la Mitra, Nos el Delegat Permanent de França" in Catalan). This formula was replaced on 29 Dec 1967 with the formula strengthening the personal position of the bishop of Urgell and the head of state of France as co-princes of Andorra ("El Delegat Permanent de S.E. el Copríncep Episcopal y El Delegat Permanent de S.E. el Copríncep Francés" in Catalan) (Robinat, 121). Following the enactment of the Constitution on 4 May 1993, which formally recognised that the position of the Head of State of Andorra is jointly and indivisibly vested in the coprínceps, the promulgation of the most important legislative acts has been made directly by the bishop of Urgell ("Bisbe d'Urgell, Copríncep d'Andorra") and president of the French Republic ("President de la República Francesa, Copríncep d'Andorra").

Last updated on: 01 May 2012 14:00:01