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Rebellion in Andorra 1933

The Memory of the Principality

(Translated from the French by Peter Parkinson.

Original version appeared May 2000 in “L’Echo des Vallées”, published by the Andorran chapter of the Union des Français de l’ Etranger, to whom we are grateful for permission to publish)

In that year 1933, Albert Lebrun was the French Co-Price and Monseigneur Juan Guitort, the Prince-Bishop. They were both going to remember the social and political tension then present in the Principality. Today, perhaps, some Andorrans in their 90’s still remember it.

Firstly because in 1933 universal suffrage became the norm in Andorra; “universal” is not the right word, for in effect only men of 25 could vote and only those aged 30 or more could be elected. Andorran women had to wait until 1970 to obtain, in this domain, equality with men. During the second World War, universal suffrage was suppressed, and one reverted to the previous system, when only males heads of families could vote. But in 1946 the universal suffrage granted by the Co-Princes on 19th August 1933 was re-established.

Before that time, in the early months of 1933, the institutional structure had been seriously troubled by what several historians had called the Andorran revolution of 1933. The Council General had reached agreement on several matters without informing the delegates of the Co-Prices. The Tribunal des Corts, “competent to recognise when the Council General exceeded its authority”, declared it in rebellion against the Co-Prices, “the supreme authority in the Valleys”. and for disobedience to the sovereign powers, the Tribunal ordered the dissolution of the Council General.

At this time, to emphasise his full authority, the French Co-Price sent to Andorra a contingent of 50 gendarmes, armed and in uniform, under the orders of Colonel René Baulard – with the full agreement of the Price Bishop. The French and Episcopal Viguiers were promoted by the two sovereigns to be “extraordinary commissioners for the provisional administration of the Valleys” . And the Co-Prices called a new general election for the 31st August 1933.

But the rebellion against sovereign authorities continued. The deposed Council General refused this instruction, and proclaimed that it would punish severely those who would stand against it, recalling that it was the only authority in Andorra. It was a declaration of war! In the parishes also, confusion reigned. The Consuls protested against the entry of the gendarmes, considered as a violation of the rights of Andorrans But that was all. On 31st August 1933 there took place the elections ordered by the Co-Princes to choose the members of the new Council General, who a few days later took the oath of allegiance to the two sovereigns.

That did not prevent, during those weeks in 1933, from the side of the rebels, the expression, hardly concealed, of the wish that the Andorran people ought to be the real and only sovereign. Is not that what Article 3 of the first chapter of the Constitution was going to proclaim 60 years later?

Still in 1933, before the events we have just described, the Council General granted in April, without passing through the Co-Princes, a concession to a Spaniard of Barcelona, allowing him to set up a Casino in Andorra, for various games of chance. That was not allowed by for Monseigneur Guitort and the strict ideas of the Church. The concession had hardly been signed before it was quickly forgotten in the confusion of the rebellion.

There was also another rebellion in 1933, that of the Spanish workmen who were constructing the electric generating plant in Escaldes. Dissatisfied with their working conditions, they went on strike for almost a month. Strikes were not tolerated in Andorra, so the conflict was resolved by expelling its leaders from the country. (in the second strike, in 1934, several workers were shot by gendarmes red.)

Another significant event in 1933 was the creation of the first police force in Andorra, consisting of six agents and their chief. Not many, but at the time Andorra contained only 3,671 Andorrans and 368 foreigners, a total of 4,039 inhabitants.

Recall also that in that year there were no newspapers in the country, nor was there liberty of expression. On the other hand, much was written abroad about Andorra. Isabella Snady, a writer of Ariège in France, had already published the famous “Andorra, or the men in Bronze”. This successful book was translated into several languages, including an American edition by Houghton Mifflin. Rudyard Kipling wrote to the author to say how much he had enjoyed her book, which he had read several times. It was thanks to him that among the first visitors to Andorra were some Americans on mule back.

Finally, in a Toulouse newspaper of 10th October of that year 1933, terrible for Andorra, one can read that on the previous day, 9th October, after a military parade, Colonel Baulard and his fifty gendarmes recrossed the frontier, their mission accomplished.

Calm had returned to the Valleys of Andorra.

François d’ Urgell 

Published in the Inter-Comm May 2001