Saturday, July 25, 2009

H.S.H. Prince Antoine I


Prince Antoine I was the son of Louis I and came to the throne at the age of 40 upon the death of his father in 1701. On June 13, 1688 he had married Marie of Lorraine, daughter of the Comte de Armagnac at Versailles in a marriage that had been arranged by King Louis XIV himself. It would prove to be less than a joyous union and Prince Antoine became so frustrated with her that it was a relief to him when she abandoned him in all but name. She rarely set foot in Monaco but in those days the Reigning Prince himself was often absent as well and Antoine was no different. Like many before him and many who would follow after him on the throne of Monaco. During the War of the Grand Alliance (King William’s War in America) he fought in the German campaign of 1688 with the French army and participated in the great sieges of Mons and Namur. It was only shortly after succeeded to the Monegasque throne that Prince Antoine I was swept up with most of the rest of Europe in the War of the Spanish Succession which his father had hoped but failed to avoid diplomatically.

The Principality of Monaco itself was to become involved eventually when Savoy joined the alliance against France and thus threatened Nice and Monaco in 1705. It was a critical time for Monaco as she was threatened from the sea by the British Royal Navy and from the mountains by Savoyard troops. Prince Antoine wished to rush French troops to La Turbie (the sight of a great victory by Emperor Augustus in Roman times) which was a very strategic position and guarded by a respectable fortress. It was also contested by both Monaco and Savoy. However, the French commander on the Italian front, Marshal de La Feuillade, Duc de Roannais, refused to divert forces to defend La Turbie and instead ordered the fortress destroyed so as to deny it to the enemy. It should be kept in mind that La Feuillade owed his rank solely to family connections, was very young, inexperienced, arrogant and would ultimately prove quite inadequate to the task. Nonetheless, he was in command and his orders were carried out though he even managed to botch the demolition work and only half of the main tower was destroyed in the explosion.

Meanwhile, Prince Antoine worked feverishly to fortify Monaco and it is to his credit that he was able to scrape together the money, men and equipment to strengthen the defenses of his small country. His fortifications can still be seen in Monaco today in the old part of town and visitors can see the plaque marking “Fort Antonius”. Certainly Prince Antoine never would have imagined that the bastions he built would one day be firing canon salutes to American actress coming to marry the Prince of Monaco. Prince Antoine also looked to mother nature to help defend Monaco and some remnants are still around today. In the absence of modern obstructions like barbed wire, Prince Antoine had plants such as aloe, agave and prickly pear cactus planted along the walls to bedevil attacking troops. All of this required no small amount of sacrifice on the part of Prince Antoine since the high living of Louis I had left him with very little money. To build all of these new battlements in Monaco he melted down his own silver and sold the family jewels. However, he was not just concerned with military defense but also the welfare of his people and oversaw the construction of huge underground bunkers for the public in the event of enemy shelling and dug cisterns to hold an ample supply of water in the event of a siege. These improvements continued until 1713 (only a year before the war ended).
By 1713 negotiations for ending the war were already underway and Prince Antoine and all of Monaco was in danger of being sold out by their protecting power; France. During the haggling over the Treaty of Utrecht the Duke of Savoy demanded that the Principality be turned over to him but King Louis XIV protested that he could not simply hand over Monaco as it was an independent country and not his to give or take. However, Monaco did not survive completely unscathed. The continued independence of Monaco and the protectorate with France was maintained but the outlying towns of Menton and Roquebrune were forced to recognize Savoy as their overlord. This would contribute to the longstanding ambiguity over the status of Menton and Roquebrune for some time to come. Prince Antoine was deeply distressed by this but there was very little he could do about it and was at least grateful that Monaco itself remained as it had been. With the crisis of the war over Prince Antoine could turn his attention to problems closer to home, specifically his lack of a male heir.

The marriage with Marie of Lorraine had produced six children but of these only two daughters survived; Princess Louise Hippolyte and Princess Margaretha. With no son attention quickly focused on Princess Louise Hippolyte as the future heir to the throne and even at the age of 15 the matter of her marriage became of the utmost importance to the principality. The only other candidate was Prince Antoine’s brother who was perfectly willing to assume the throne but who could have only been a temporary solution at best as he was a priest. Prince Antoine wished for the name of the Grimaldi family to survive and so for that reason favored his eldest daughter marrying someone who was not so high up the social ladder that he would protest against changing his name and becoming a Grimaldi. There were many schemes and intrigues surrounding the potential marriage of Louise Hippolyte before she was finally engaged to Jacques de Goyon Mantignon, Comte de Thorigny. He was a descendant of the famous Marshal Jacques de Mantignon who had refused to follow his orders to participate in the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre. However, the intrigues surrounding Louise-Hippolyte were to continue even after her marriage.

Prince Antoine also had at least three illegitimate children, one of whom was to become very important for Monaco later which was Antoine Grimaldi, named for his father, but who is better known to history as the Chevalier de Grimaldi who would, in the future, rule Monaco quite capably as Governor-General and regent of Monaco. Prince Antoine had a great deal of problems when it came to his private life as a husband and father but no one could doubt his skill and bravery as a soldier or his abilities as a statesman. In Monaco he was very popular as the people recognized his work to protect them and make their lives better. He was a patron of the arts, supported numerous painters and was passionate about music. Under his rule many great artists, musicians and the like came to Monaco which even then began to have a reputation amongst the states of Europe as a place of refinement and high culture. He died on February 20, 1731 and the tumultuous reign of Princess Louise-Hippolyte began.

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