Andorra Stories and Tips

The Small History of Andorra

Casa de la Vell Photo, Andorra, Europe

As I mentioned in the overview, ever since I was a little boy, I had always wondered what the tiny country of Andorra was like. Were the people very little too? How come France or Spain didn't just walk over the mountains and conquer it?

When I arrived in Andorra, I was relieved to see that the people were not in fact miniature as I had imagined that they may be when I was about nine years old. What I did not see was a great deal of resources available to tell me about the history of Andorra.

I had purchased a little book called "All Andorra" which gave some rudimentary explanations of Andorran history in poorly translated English. I walked to Andorra's equivalent of Parliament, the Casa de la Vall (House of the Valley), which is located at the end of a street that emanates from the Placa de Benlloch. It has been the seat of Andorran government since 1702. This body of government is called the Consell General. The Consell General is made up of four repesentatives from each of the seven municipalities of Andorra, for a total of 28. (Hard to believe that a small country needs seven municipalities, isn't it?) The building itself looks a bit like a stony castle with arches and turrets.

The country of Andorra actually came about when a bloody power struggle between the Bishops of Urgell (in Spain) and the Counts of Foix (in France) ended with the signing a treaty in 1278. The treaty stipulated that Andorra was to be ruled by two co-princes, the Bishop of Urgell and the Count of Foix. Leadership of the country was given to the people by the co-princes in the form of the "Consell General" in 1580, which I mentioned above. To this day, the Bishops of Urgell retain their rights as co-princes, but the right to the title of co-prince of Andorra on the French side has passed, through a succession of marriages, from the Counts of Foix, to the Crown of Navarre, and then to the Crown of France. The French co-prince rights were rudely severed (literally) by the French Revolution in the late 18th Century. The "Consell General", who wished things to be as they were before the Revolution, petitioned Napoleon in 1806 to be the co-prince. He accepted. Today, the French co-prince is the French president.

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