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News from Graustakia
For centuries the shepherds and smugglers of Andorra have flaunted their blustery motto: “ Touch me if you dare.” But it is a rhetorical dare and the French have sent gendarmes to police the midget state during every crisis from the Franco-Prussian War to 1939. Paris has the authority to do this because the head of the French State is co-prince of Andorra with the Spanish Bishop of Urgel. Their joint suzerainty goes back to 1278 when a French count and a Spanish Bishop, tired of fighting for the 191-square mile scrap of land, decided to rule together.
Thus once again last week French gendarmes – 100 of them – climbed over the steep snow-capped mountains from France to the tiny territory high on the Spanish slope of the Pyrenees. The official reason was the maintenance of order along the Spanish-French border, where Spanish Loyalist exiles recently clashed with Franco troops.
No Lawyers Please:
Andorra, one of the oldest of Europe’s Graustarkian principalities, is a hangover from feudalism in which only married landowners can vote. In 1933 the young bachelors won a small revolution to get suffrage, but three years ago Andorrans restored the limited franchise. They elect a council of 24 “notables” and a president known as the Most Illustrious Syndic and also as Syndic Procurator of the Valleys. The leather-faced patriarchs, wearing cocked hats and long, black gowns over their usual corduroy suits, holt their Parliament in “The House of the Valleys” at Andorra-the-Ancient. There each of the six senior councillors produces a key for one of the six locks on the “Iron Cabinet,” the iron bound, age-blackened oak cupboard which contains the archives.
Andorra has only one court. Foreign judges also come in once or twice a year to try a few cases, because Andorrans believe law is an immoral profession. On the other hand, smuggling is a perfectly legal and respectable, and Andorra is ideally situated for it. Andorrans, like most mountain people, are dour and industrious. They speak Catalan and work unbelievably hard at tilling the few arable acres of their craggy country, growing poor-quality tobacco and finding pasture for their sheep and cattle. In Andorra wealth is based on Land, mules, and gold in that order because gold will run away and mules may, but land won’t.