Sunday, December 13, 2009
Mourning in Seborga
It is with some sadness that I note the passing of Giorgio I, Prince of Seborga. You know.....Seborga. His recent death marks the end of a remarkable 46-year reign, and throws the future of the principality in some doubt. There may be some readers who have not followed Seborgan events closely, and I dare say even some who are not quite certain of the principality's exact location. Seborga, within sight of the Mediterranean, and near the Franco-Italian border, occupies a hilltop midway between Fascia Piana and well, the end of the road. Seborga encompasses a total of 5 square miles, and is home to 2,000 citizens, 350 of whom live in the capital city.
Prior to 1963, the prince was simply Giorgio Carbone, a wholesaler of mimosa flowers. But that year was pivotal in the annals of Seborgan history. According to Carbone, about 280 years ago, Seborga slipped through the cracks of European diplomacy and empire-building, leaving it, in effect, independent. From 954 until 1729, Seborga was a principality in the Holy Roman Empire. In 1729, the Vatican sold it to the House of Savoy. The new owners, however, failed to register the transaction which invalidated the sale, according to Carbone. Seborga was omitted from the dictates of the Congress of Vienna in 1815, and was not specifically included in the act of unification of Italy in 1861, nor in the formation of the Italian republic in 1946. To Carbone, it was clear that Seborga had never been a part of Italy. And by 1963, a majority of Seborghini agreed.
The principality rewarded Carbone by electing him prince, as historically Seborga had an elected, rather than hereditary prince. By a vote of 304 to 4 in 1995, Seborgans ratified their independence and made Carbone prince for life. Giorgio graciously accepted the title of "His Tremendousness" from his loyal subjects. But he remained steadfastly a man of the people, holding court in the Bianca Azzura bar.
Lest anyone think that the Prince Giorgia did not take his responsibilities seriously, it must be noted that he "established a palace, wrote a Constitution, and set up a cabinet and a parliament. He chose a coat of arms, minted money (with his picture), issued stamps (with his picture) and license plates, selected a national anthem and mobilized a standing army, consisting of Lt. Antonello Lacala." Perhaps his most memorable achievement was the formulation of a national motto: Sub umbra sede (Sit in the shade).
About 20 nations, in one fashion or another, have recognized Seborgan independence. Unfortunately, Italy is not one of them. Rome, a bit thin-skinned in these matters, remains insistence that the Seborghini pay Italian taxes.
One of the highlights of his reign was his championing of smoking in the principality. "Early in his reign the prince, a heavy smoker, passed a law to encourage smoking." His Tremendousness engaged in a brief power struggle with the mayor of Seborga. This tension soon passed as the mayor recognized that the princely court was something of a tourist draw, and the prince, in turn, realized that the mayor did all the boring work.
I generally take a dim view of secessionist movements--though the prince would contend that you cannot secede from something you were never a part of to begin with. We have our own secessionists here in Texas. They are generally regarded as being bores and crack-pots. We like to think (hope) they are a distinct minority. Texas is too big and crazy to secede. I think we would be a menace on the world stage. But if you are small enough, and eccentric enough, with just a dash of panache, then I think it is something I could get behind and support. There are certainly worse ways to confront our soulless modern world. So, three cheers for Seborga! They make a hellavu stronger case than does say, "South Ossetia." Those interested in further Seborgan studies might start here , here and here.
At the Seborgan border