THE KINGDOM  IN THE CLOUDS

Erik Messori / Ilaria Morani / Matteo Manghi

 

The Principality of Seborga is a micro-nation or a fantasy state, in the north-western Italian province of Imperia in Liguria, near the French border, and about 35 km (23 mi) from Monaco. Seborga is a hilltop village overlooking the Italian Riviera that for half a century has proclaimed itself a self-governing principality, supposedly independent from Italy. For the last six years the village of 320 inhabitants has been ‘ruled’ by Marcello Menegatto, 37, a businessman who styles himself His Tremendousness Marcello I, along with his wife, Princess Nina, who is originally from Germany. Locals insist that when the area was sold in 1729 to the Savoy dynasty the deal was not registered properly, so that when Italy was unified in 1861 Seborga was left in a legal twilight zone belonging to no state. The unification of Italy and the 1946 declaration of the Italian Republic would therefore be illegitimate and unilateral acts in violation of the legitimate sovereignty of the people of Seborga. The exile of the Savoy, in 1946, also involved the end of ius patronatus, or their control of local church assets. The argument for Seborga’s present-day status as an independent state is based on the claim that the 1729 sale was never registered by its new owners. Italy has no intention of recognising Seborga’s independence and firmly disputes its contention that it was not included in the country’s reunification in 1861. The five-square-mile ruler was elected after the death of the principality’s first ruler, a flower grower called Giorgio Carbone who styled himself Prince Giorgio I and declared independence from Rome in the 1960s. In 1963, Carbone claimed that documents from the Vatican archives showed that during the Middle Ages the town had become part of the feudal holdings of the Counts of Ventimiglia. He insisted that in the year 954, Seborga became the property of the Benedictine Monks of Santo Onorato of Lerins and in 1079 the Abbot of this monastery was made a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire, with temporal authority over the Principality of Seborga. Prince Giorgio I reigned until his death on November 25, 2009. His successor Marcello Menegatto was elected on April 25, 2010 and crowned four weeks later as Marcello I. According to the constitution of Seborga, the reigning monarch has to rule under the advice of his Privy Council. Four members of the council are elected by the citizens of Seborga while other members can be named by the Prince himself. The Privy Council is the executive in the principality. The monarch’s position is not hereditary and elections are held every seven years. The 2017 election was held on April 23, when Marcello was challenged by the British-born Mark Dezzani, who has lived in Seborga for almost 40 years. Prince Marcello was re-elected in a landslide, gaining 129 votes to just 42 for his rival. The Principality of Seborga operates its own royal guards and border check points and issues stamps, license plates, passports and currency. Bearing a likeness of the late Prince Giorgio, the Seborgan “luigino” is worth about US $6 and can be spent in local bars and shops. Tourists come to see Seborga’s distinctive blue and white flag fluttering outside the medieval gates to the village and to buy principality-themed T-shirts, mugs and bottles of wine.

 

 

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