Monday, August 10, 2009

1910: Monaco in Peril

Monaco seems an idyllic place today, but in 1910 there were real fears that the small principality was doomed. The New York Times newspaper reported on the crisis which focused on Monaco being either absorbed by some foreign power or becoming (God forbid) a republic. The fears revolved around the succession to the throne. People seemed to be in need of something to worry about as the potential crisis was some way down the road. The immediate succession was secured through HSH Prince Albert I's son the Hereditary Prince Louis. However, at the time Louis had only a daughter who was not universally recognized in law and failing that the throne would pass to Wilhelm von Urach of the German Kingdom of Wurttemberg.

The French were not about to let a German presence take hold on their southern coast and threatened to annex Monaco if there was ever any real danger of this happening. On the other hand the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, would have liked nothing better than a toehold on the Mediterranean and might have championed the cause of the Urach clan which, if established, many feared would make Monaco an outpost of the German Empire. The Monegasque themselves, at this time, were intensely anti-French and had been protesting the dominance of the French in their country. More ethnically Italian than anything else there were also fears that to head off the French or Germans the nearbye Kingdom of Italy might annex the principality. The old Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia had been the protecting power of Monaco after the Congress of Vienna and had stationed Savoyard troops in Monegasque territory for some time thereafter. Finally, there were rumblings that the people of Monaco might head off all of these eventualities and overthrow the Grimaldi monarchy and install a republic (shudder).

Thankfully, as we know, Prince Albert I managed to avert all of these potential disasters starting the following year and working throughout the war years of World War I. Hereditary Prince Louis gained a greater reputation through his service and heroism in the French army in World War I, his daughter, Princess Charlotte, was recognized as legitimate and thus the German cousins placed a safe distance away in the line of succession. Another law was also passed allowing for an heir to the throne to be adopted. In 1918 an agreement was also made which allowed for France to review and approve candidates to the Monegasque throne. In 1922 HSH Prince Louis II became Sovereign Prince of Monaco with his daughter Charlotte as Hereditary Princess. However, as we all know, she eventually abdicated her rights to her son prior to the death of Louis II and at his passing the throne went to his grandson HSH Prince Rainier III.

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