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The Sort-Of Italian Job: Fake Nation Rocked By Online Coup

An upstart from Savoy has challenged the royal authority of Marcello I, prince of the unofficially unrecognized so-called Principality of Seborga.

The past is alive on the walls of Seborga
The past is alive on the walls of Seborga
Giulio Gavino

TURIN— A coup d'état has rocked the so-called Principality of Seborga, an unofficial state in the hinterlands of Italy"s Liguria region that insists it is an independent entity because a 1729 sales agreement with the Kingdom of Sardinia was never officially transcribed.

Four years ago, Seborga citizens elected Marcello Menegatto, or Marcello I, as their prince. But recently, a Frenchman named Nicolas Mutte, from lower Savoy, issued an online proclamation asserting his leadership over the principality and detailing plans for the fantasy state's development and economic welfare. Mutte, for the record, calls himself Nicolas I.

The coup came about quietly. But it did prompt a reaction from Marcello I, who ordered Mutte and his supporters not to use the principality's symbols or coat of arms, and above all, to shut down the website on which the proclamation appears.

He also stripped Marcel Mentil — an established Seborga historian and former royal consultant whose relatives manage the offending website — of his citizenship in the principality.

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Welcome to the "principality of Seborga" — Photo: Gminguzzi

Marcello I, back from a trip to Dubai, where he met with Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum to strengthen diplomatic ties, has made his position abundantly clear to his "subjects," and has found ample support against the conspirators.

"The prince of Seborga is elected by the citizens by law, and I am the elected prince," he thundered.

Clearly, Italy does not recognize the principality, and the town does have an actual mayor and city hall. Nevertheless, the tourism industry around this fantasyland has flourished, giving a boost to local artisans. Visitors get to see the "Luigini," coins made in the principality and said to have a value equal to the U.S. dollar.

It's also true that without the protection of the prince's guards, local history and lore would have attracted far less attention, and the town wouldn't be nearly so well off.

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Updated Nov. 30, 2023 at 12:10 p.m.

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