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Valira Torrent:   Contents | Subject index


Perforation image from Serif Art Gallery. © Serif Inc, 1996

Valira Torrent - bulletin of the Andorran Philatelic Study Circle. Issue 18, pp2-3 (Oct 1983)

Copyright notice

Governing Andorra (Part 1)

By David Hope

Europa 1982 Europa 1982

The reference on the two Europa issues of 1982 to the formation of the Andorran Government prompted an investigation into the political arrangements in the country since the Paréage of 1278.

The Paréage contracted between Mgr. Pierre d'Urg, Bishop of Urgell (SG121) and Roger Bernard III, Comte de Foix, stated in its principle clauses: Pere d'Urg

  1. Each of the two Seigneurs would receive the Questia (or tribute) alternately
  2. Each Seigneur would name his Veguer or lieutenant
  3. Each of them had the right to arm the Andorrans to fight for them except in the case of war between themselves
  4. Each of them should administer justice through the intermediary offices of his Batlle (judge)
(SG F287, F292 and SG 110)
7th Centenary of Paréages Text of Paréages SG 110

Confirmation of Paréages St Vincens Castle The paréage was confirmed in 1288 (SG F 191) as the result of the Comte de Foix building a castle above Santa Coloma (SG F281). This was stopped and from that time Andorra was finally placed under the authority of the Co-Princes. This dual arrangement it seems kept Andorra out of the various conflicts which beset France and Spain during the Medieval period.

The Co-Princes themselves did not meet to discuss matters but operated through their intermediaries, the Veguers. They resided in Andorra and issued decrees which became laws as long as both sides agreed. They also saw that justice was done and public order kept.

Gradually it became the norm for both Co-Princes to also appoint a Permanent Delegation. On the Bishop's side the Permanent delegate remains the Vicar General of the Diocese of Urgell. On the French side the delegate is now the Prefect of the Department of the Eastern Pyrenees. The Permanent Delegates deal with contentious matters. Whereas the Co-Princes seem to have had overall authority, internally it seems that affairs were managed by a group of heads of families. However, in 1419 the Co-Princes agreed to the setting up of the Consell de la Terra to look after internal affairs (French Europa 1982). By this system councillors were freely elected by the people. The Councillors themselves then elected Syndics to head the Council and carry out the administration.

Decree of Louis XIII

During the following century the title of Comte de Foix passed to the Kings of France. In succeeding reigns the Kings confirmed the privileges extended to the Syndics of Andorra. An edict of Louis XIII is shown on the Customs Co-operation Council issue of 1983 (French Andorra).

Y F168 Napoleon re-establishes the co-principlaity, 1806

As a result of the French Revolution the office of French Co-Prince ended. The revolutionaries told the Andorrans that they were free. However, the Bishop had no intentions of relinquishing his title. After a few years the Consell de la Terra decided that they would prefer to have two Princes rather than one. They probably felt that the Bishop having both temporal and spiritual powers was rather too much. In 1806 Napoleon Bonaparte, now Emperor of the French, was petitioned to re-establish the status quo. This he did by decree. (SG F 190, F 304)

Y F285 Decree of Napoleon 3rd

After Napoleon the Kings of France continued as Co-Princes until 1848 when Louis Napoleon, as President of France, assumed the title. He proclaimed himself Emperor in 1851. After his abdication in 1870 the title of Co-Prince has rested with the Presidents of France. This has led to some problems in that the presidents consider that as a result France itself has an interest in Andorran affairs. On the other hand the Spanish Government can make no such claims as the bishop's authority rests with the Pope in Rome.

Over the centuries the Consell de la Terra came under the control of the "Caps grossos" or leading families. By the 19th century opposition arose to the paternalistic nature on the Consell. As a result in 1866 the New Reform was introduced instigated by Syndic Guillem de Areny y de Plandolit (SG F 285). Guillem d'Areny Plandolit The Main points of the New Reform were:

  1. The Consell de la Terra was replaced by the Very Illustrious General Council of the Valleys
  2. The right to vote was given to all heads of families (Caps de casa)
  3. The General Council was to consist of 24 members (4 from each parish) elected for four years. Elections were to take place every two years for half the Council. The Councillors elected the Syndic General and Vice Syndic.
The duties of the Syndic General were to:
  1. Summon meetings of the Consell General
  2. Take charge of administrative documents
  3. Keep the Seals of the Valleys
  4. Cast the decisive vote where an equal division occurs.
The Consell General dealt with:
  1. Irrigation, fishing, shooting and forestry
  2. Upkeep of roads
  3. Taxes for each Parish
  4. Checking of weights and measures
  5. Study of matters of general interest

The Consell also handed to each Co-Prince the "sisena" ( a list of six Andorrans, one from each Parish) from whom the Prince chose his Batlle (judge).
(New Reform stamps: SG F 201, Spanish Europa 1982, SG 122 Josep Caixal, Spanish Co-Prince at the time of the New Reform)

Y F181 New Reform Europa 1982 Europa 1982 Josep Caixal

Part 2

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