France has several enclaves

Territorial reform is in the news but did you know that some areas of France are enclaves, that is, they are part of one area - department, commune or even country - that is inside a different one?

The Canton de Valréas, or “Enclave des Papes”, is the largest of these, at more than 125km2. It is in the Vaucluse department, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region but is surrounded by communes in the Drôme (Rhône-Alpes).

The area gets its name from the fact that the town of Valréas and its surroundings were acquired by the Popes in the 14th Century, when they ruled from Avignon.
Towards the south, the old Comtat Venaisson (now part of the Vaucluse) was already Papal territory, along with the city of Avignon next to it.

It is said a sickly pope tried some Valréas wine and felt so much better he bought the area from the local lord, which was then marked out with boundary stones showing papal crossed keys - 22 still exist.

Following the Revolution, the Papal lands were annexed for France and, like everywhere else, were reorganised when ancien régime provinces were replaced with départements. Wanting to remain Provençal, the inhabitants voted to be in Vaucluse but were finally cut off from the rest when the commune of Suze-la-Rousse to its south was swapped, in 1800, from Vaucluse to the Drôme.

Another oddity is Llívia - a Spanish town inside the French Pyrénées-Orientales; a situation which resulted from years of haggling between France and Spain over territories in the border area.

Meanwhile Pheasant Island, in a river on the French/Spanish border in the extreme south-west is French for half the year and Spanish for the other half.

Various diplomatic meetings took place on the uninhabited island including an “exchange of fiancées” between ambassadors in 1615 - the French king’s daughter, destined for the Spanish king, in return for the latter’s sister, to be married to the French king’s son.

In 1659 the signing there of the Treaty of the Pyrenees ended the 30 Years’ War between France and Spain, and in 1660 the young Louis XIV met the King of Spain on the island to conclude an agreement to marry his daughter Marie-Thérèse.
It is governed by two “vice-rois” who are senior naval officers.


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