Friday, April 30, 2010

Presenting “His Tremendousness”

I’m fascinated by unrecognized states – places that aspire to be nations of their own, but that the rest of the world refuse to recognize. Add to that list the alleged Principality of Seborga, a tiny Italian village near the French border and within sight of that most famous of European microstates, Monaco. The good people of Seborga just elected a new prince, Marcello Menegatto, an heir to a hosiery company, who will likely take the title “His Tremendousness” (which in this case refers to the monarch’s magnificence, not his ample waistline) once installed in office.

Seborga can trace its history back 1,000 years when it became a principality of the Holy Roman Empire. (The old joke among historians is that the collection of 300-odd principalities wasn’t Holy, it wasn’t Roman and it wasn’t an Empire, and yes, historians have an odd sense of humor…) Seborga’s rather dubious claim to independence today goes back to the 19th century when Seborga was accidentally left out of the unification treaty that established the modern state of Italy in 1861. Since they weren’t included in the treaty the Seborgans think that they have the right to be recognized as an independent principality today, though they didn’t actually get around to pushing the idea of Seborga as a state until a local flower-grower named Giorgio Carbone started advocating for the idea in the early 1960’s – of course Giorgio would become the first modern prince of Seborga in 1963 (just a funny coincidence I’m sure). And Seborga hasn’t really pushed for actual independence from Italy, in fact according to the folks at Wikipedia, 84% of Seborgans voted in regional Italian elections in 2001. Seborga is content though to earn a few extra tourist dollars by issuing their own stamps and currency, the luigino, which is accepted within Seborga as legal tender.

As part of his political platform, His Tremendousness is pledging to improve Seborga’s infrastructure and their economy by building a new hotel to attract more tourists to this odd little slice of Italy.
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