Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Code Louis

In December of 1678 HSH Prince Louis I enacted a four volume overhaul of the Monegasque legal system known officially as the “Statutes of the Principality” but also known simply as the “Code Louis”. Today Prince Louis I may be best remembered for his battlefield exploits and colorful personal life but for Monaco he was also a great lawgiver and his “Code Louis” merits his ranking as one of the most far-sighted monarchs of his time. In some ways the statutes were rather ordinary. They dealt with civil law, criminal law, regulations for the municipal police and rural police (in that time Monaco consisted largely of farmland) and many other items that would have been commonplace in most any legal code in Europe. However, what made the “Code Louis” stand out was that it forbade the use of torture, something which, while not as prevalent as in the past, was still considered a legitimate tool of the state at the time. Yet, Prince Louis I went even further than that and abolished all forms of corporal punishment, probably the most common of which at that time was public flogging. To give an example, Great Britain only totally abolished judicial corporal punishment in 1948 and such laws remained on the books at least in Canada until 1972. In the United States corporal punishment remained officially legal in the state of Delaware until 1952.
The "Code Louis" still exists in the archives of the Princely Palace and is a testament to the innovation of Prince Louis I. He also, in a way, looked forward to the land-reclaiming projects of Prince Rainier III. During his reign Louis I increased the territorial waters claimed by Monaco to 30 nautical miles in order to collect more shipping levies. When the French protested Louis I replied that, "My land is so small that I must take a bit from the sea". One wonders what he would have thought of Rainier III taking that idea so literally.


  1. I've never grasped why torture was ever considered an appropriate tool of state. Aside from the cruelty aspect, it doesn't even seem like it would be very reliable. How do you have any guarantee that a person under torture will tell you the truth? They might say whatever it takes to stop the pain, but that isn't necessarily the same as the truth.

  2. There is still some debate about that today -though what many call "torture" today is a far cry from ages past when people were stretched, burned with hot pokers, had their fingers broken, nails pulled out or pressed in iron maidens. I don't think, in those cases, they were really looking for the truth, just a confession. What I find amazing is that some people endured that and yet still refused to confess.


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