The French map not only includes regions and départements but also two principalities and a particular status called “Territoire de Belfort”. The best known sovereign states resulting from the History of France are the Monaco principality and Andorra (co-principality), whilst Lichtenstein is now part of Switzerland.
The concept of principality was born in the Middle Ages when most European countries adopted a feudal economic system. Such a political fragmentation gave rise to “microstates” led by princes and dukes who finally proved more powerful than the kings themselves.
From the 13th century, all these principalities had struggled to extend their sovereignty: the warfare and tragic plague of that time weakened some of them whilst other territories were reinforced thanks to agricultural and commercial progress.
This is why some principalities were consolidated in France (Monaco and Andorra), England (Wales) and Spain (Asturias), although most of Europe was made of large kingdoms.
Widely called simply “Monaco”, this French principality is a constitutional monarchy ruled by Prince Albert II, son of Princess Grace, from the Grimaldi dynasty. This city-state situated in Western Europe is part of the French country but nowadays, most Monegasque inhabitants are wealthy foreigners.
The state of Monaco – second smallest principality of Europe – used to be mixed up with the capital city Monaco itself, but since 1911, the territory has been divided into three municipalities, Monaco, Monte Carlo and La Condamine.
This lovely region bordering the South East of France and the Mediterranean Sea is considered a “tax haven” and holds 32,796 people (2008 census), amongst which an increasing number of Italian, French and Monegasque people.
Close to Italy, Monaco has often been “torn” between the French and Italian governments. In the 13th century, Francesco Grimaldi captured the Monegasque fortress and the territory would be in the Grimaldis’ hands for many years. After being under the French control between 1793 and 1814, Monaco was caught back by the Italian from 1815 to 1860 as a protectorate of of the Kingdom of Sardinia. It was only in 1861, through the Franco-Monegasque Treaty, that Monaco's sovereignty was recognised.
Since then, Monaco Royal House has been highly admired by the French and Albert Family (including his sisters, princesses Caroline and Stéphanie) attend many public events in France.
This lovely small principality in Southwestern Europe is a perfect destination for ski holidays! Situated in the Pyrenees mountains, sharing borders with both Spain and France, Andorra is indeed highly appreciated by ski enthusiasts - especially the town of Arinsal.
Due to its location, Andorra boasts a wide cultural range; the official language is Catalan (although you can easily meet French and Spanish speakers), many names have Iberian or Arabic origins, the main religion is Catholicism, and most traditions (including food, folk music and dances) are typically catalan.
Such a local "melting-pot" proved to be one of Andorra's gems and has implied singularities in terms of politics. This micro-state is in fact a co-principality. Its ruling and defending are assumed by the Spanish and the French authorities.
Given its ecclesiastical origin, Andorra is indeed ruled by both the Bishop of Urgell, Spain, and the President of France. These two co-princes have mainly representative duties since the small nation is an independent parliamentary democracy led by the Prime Minister (head of government).
Another consequence of its religious background is that Andorra features 7 parishes, Andorra la Vella (capital city), Canillo, Encamp, Escaldes-Engordany, La Massana, Ordino and Sant Julià de Lòria.
The Territoire de Belfort (Belfort Territory) specificity is that the département itself was made up from its main city, Belfort.
Located between the Vosges and Jura mountainous regions, on the route linking the Rhine and the Rhone, Belfort used to be a strategic site, highly regarded by both the German and the French armies.
The territory was ceded to the French by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 but it officially became the Territoire de Belfort after the Franco-Prussian war in 1871: as the Prussians refused to annex the French-speaking Belfort area, a new special administrative status was created to indicate this particular site.
The term "Belfort" now refers to the smallest departement of France as well as to the préfecture (capital city) itself. It is actually widely renowned for its huge music festival called Eurockéennes de Belfort. This successful 3-day festival held in the core of the town is really popular amongst students. Offering more than 75 shows and receiving international pop and rock artists, 'Les Eurock' have been gathering thousands of music lovers since 1989.
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