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'Prince' of Ligurian village dies

Ex-flower grower fought for independence from Italy

25 November, 18:52
A view of the Ligurian coast
A view of the Ligurian coast
'Prince' of Ligurian village dies

IMPERIA - A Ligurian man who claimed headlines in recent years by proclaiming independence from Italy and getting himself crowned 'prince' has died at the age of 73.

Giorgio Carbone, a former flower grower, was elected to the post by the 364 inhabitants of the apparently sleepy village of Seborga, about 50km inland from the Ligurian Riviera, in 1963. He was known as His Tremendousness Giorgio I and boasted that Seborga was the oldest independent principality in Europe.

The prince made numerous attempts to obtain international recognition for his breakaway principality and launched a separate currency, the 'luigino'.

In 2005 he made a rare TV appearance in the 2005 BBC programme How to Start Your Own Country.

The following year a power struggle arose when a woman calling herself Princess Yasmine von Hohenstaufen Anjou Plantagenet wrote to newly elected Italian President Giorgio Napolitano claiming to be the rightful heir to Seborga's throne.

She sais she was a descendant of the Hohenstaufens, the German princely family that ruled over the Holy Roman Empire in the 13th century, and offered to 'return' the village to Italy.

Prince Giorgio dismissed her claim, voicing doubts over her lineage.

Seborga was a principality of the Holy Roman Empire from 1079 until 1729, when it was acquired by Vittorio Amedeo of Savoy, Prince of Piedmont and King of Sardinia.

The Seborgans still have the luigino, which is accepted in the village shops and bars, as well as their own stamps and their own flag - a white cross on a blue background. A sign at the entrance to the village reads 'Principality of Seborga'.

In 2006, undeterred by the Italian state's continuing reluctance to take him seriously, Giorgio and his subjects launched a drive to seriously detach Seborga from Italy.

His Tremendousness told ANSA in an interview that he and his ministers were talking to big insurance groups with a view to creating a health insurance and pension system for the community.

''Then we really will be independent,'' he said.

''We have nothing against Italy, it's just that we're not part of it and our administration should reflect that''.

The 'Prince' claimed that Seborga was not listed as a Savoy possession when Italy was united under the Savoy dynasty in 1861. It had, therefore, never been part of the modern Italian state, he argued.

But the people of Seborga continue to pay taxes to the Italian state and the village has a mayor, Franco Fogliarini, who like all other Italian mayors swears allegiance to the Republic.

He took a laissez-faire attitude towards the activity and proclamations of Giorgio Carbone, partly because so many of the inhabitants seemed to be behind him.

''If it helps bring in tourists, then it's fine by me,'' Fogliarini said, adding that there might well be some truth in Prince Giorgio's historical claims.

The prince has not left any heirs and it is unclear whether any Seborgans will take up his standard.

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