The self-styled “Prince” of a miniature kingdom in France has held a lavish coronation ceremony and invited other foreign “royals” to attend.
Prince Vincent I of Hélianthis, a 38-year-old lawyer “founded” the micronation known as the Principality of Hélianthis in 2013 in the ancient walled town of Blaye which can be found less than an hour’s drive north of Bordeaux.
The self-appointed monarch Vincent Merchadou said the motivation for proclaiming the Principality was to provide a boost to tourism in the Blaye and explained the name Hélianthis was taken from the Greek Sun God Helios.
Mr Merchadou was crowned on Saturday in a ceremony complete with the regalia and trappings of royalty with 20 other rulers of micronations attending the event to witness the ceremony.
An attendee, Italy’s Daniele I, Prince of Shedingeh said: “It’s interesting for me, because my micronation is only two years old, so I’m watching how it’s going in France.
“It was a very beautiful ceremony, he will make a very good Prince.”
Prince of Bérémagne Emanuel de Dovimaldi-Nassor travelled from Quebec, Canada, to attend the coronation ceremony and explained the concept of a micronation as a means of seeking comfort and detachment.
He said: “For some, a micronation makes you dream, it allows you to get out of a somewhat harsh reality. For others, it allows you to affirm values, whether ecological, social… it can affect all areas.”
This year saw the crowning of the kingdom’s initial prince, a noteworthy event that occurred more than 230 years after the French Revolution. This ceremonial event was precisely prepared to coincide with the group’s 10 year “jubilé” milestone.
When he is not playing the part of prince, Mr Merchadou works as a lawyer, motivated by a strong attachment to the community where he grew up.
Blaye’s 17th-century stronghold, with a population of 5,000 people, sits vigil over the Gironde estuary, earning it a coveted spot on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
During Mr Merchadou’s school days a decade ago, the idea of forming a micronation was somewhat crudely conceived. It has grown over time into a legally recognised non-profit organisation, generating revenue to support its endeavours.
The Prince further emphasises that the micronation is free of any religious or political affiliations.
The occasion, a blend of grandeur and levity, reproduced the traditional rituals of a coronation ceremony.
The Prince walked down the church aisle to the solemn tones of César Franck’s Panis Angelicus, shrouded in an extravagant ceremonial garment created by local artists, with a beautiful blend of gravity and humour.
His brass crown, ceramic orb, and wooden sceptre, all embellished with grape clusters as a tribute to the region’s winemaking legacy, were all handcrafted by talented craftsmen from the region.