The Italian Almanac

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Seborga

New Prince Needed

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.

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. 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.

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.