Tuesday, September 29, 2009

St Devote, Patron of Monaco

St Devote or Devota is the patron saint of Monaco and a very dear figure to the Monegasque throughout the history of the country. She was a beautiful and extremely pious 16 year old girl from Corsica who was martyred during the persecutions of Emperors Diocletian and Maximian for refusing to worship the pagan gods. Her body was to be burnt but other Christians placed her remains in a boat and put out to sea bound for Africa. On the way, as she predicted, a dove flew out of her mouth and guided the boat to the port of Hercules in Monaco. The boat was dashed against the rocks and the crew drowned but the body of the saint was recovered by some local fishermen and placed in a Christian chapel that was already there devoted to St George. Later a chapel dedicated to her was built and it still stands in Monaco to this day where flowers planted in her honor bloom out of season on her feast day of January 27.

It was in 1536 that Lord Honore I of Monaco purchased the expanded and rebuilt chapel of St Devote. Over the years many miracles vital to Monaco and the House of Grimaldi have been attributed to St Devote. When the area was threatened by a Muslim invasion the relics of St Devote were taken to Cimiez monastery but were returned to Monaco in grand style by Prince Antonio I. In 1070 a violent storm at sea foiled a plot to steal the relics, the would-be thief was captured, had his ears and nose cut off and his vessel was burned on the beach. The Monegasque prayed for the intercession of St Devote in 1506 when the Genoese attacked Monaco and she appeared wrapped in a cloud which terrified the Genoese and forced their retreat. The ultimate success of the Monegasque in fighting off these efforts and maintaining their independence was attributed to St Devote. In 1581 when Monaco was attacked by the French and Corsicans, St Devote appeared over the walls and reprimanded the attackers, especially the Corsicans for whom she is also the patron saint, for making war on those who had cared for her relics for so long. The attack failed and St Devote was again hailed as the deliverer of Monaco.

St Devote was also credited with ending a plague that broke out in Monaco in 1631 and with ending the Spanish occupation in 1641 after which a captured Spanish galley was renamed in her honor. Prince Honore II had some of the first Monegasque coins minted bear the image of St Devote. In 1924 Prince Louis II began the tradition of setting fire to a boat the night before the feast of St Devote in memory of the thwarting of the effort to steal the relics and a dove is released in honor of the miracle which brought St Devote to the shores of Monaco. The Princely Family and national dignitaries always attend formal services the following day dedicated to St Devote at St Nicholas Cathedral. Every year this service included a formal procession with the relics of St Devote, a blessing of the Princely Palace and all of Monaco and the nearbye sea. Fireworks displays are held in the evening and a formal reception is usually held at the Monte Carlo Opera House. Prince Albert II has carried on this tradition as his father and great-grandfather did before him. St Devote has also been featured on various coins of Monaco as well as on Monaco postage stamps in 1944 and 1992.

Pope Sixtus IV was the first pontiff to issue a papal bull granting certain indulgences for the celebration of St Devote's feast and who contribute to the keep of her chapel.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Out and About with Prince Albert

The Sovereign Prince has not been letting up with his busy schedule. September 25 found Albert II in Germany at the "Challenge Future" congress in Bochum which addressed environmental and climate change issues. Her Highness the Begum Aga Khan was also on hand for the event. However, all of this stress on environmental activism has not caused the Monegasque government to scale back its on-going campaign to encourage the super-rich to settle in Monaco. The most luxurious sales-pitch programs are reserved for those categorized as "URI's" or Ultra-Rich Individuals. If you're a plain, old grubby millionaire I'm afraid you will not qualify. To get the full red-carpet treatment of a URI you have to have a worth of tens of billions of dollars. I guess I'll have to stand in line with the "poor" folks.

On the 26th he laid the foundation stone for a new museum on the French island of Corsica to be named after his late father Prince Rainier III. The museum will be devoted to archaeology and training students in that field. Corsica and Monaco, as you have read, share a patron saint and Prince Albert has visited several times. Prince Rainier III last visited in 2003 and it was decided to name the museum in his honor.

Yesterday, Prince Albert was on hand for the opening ceremonies of the VI Francophone Games at the Camille Chamoun Stadium in Beirut, Lebanon. It is the first time since the inception of the Francophone games in 1989 that they have been held in an Arab country. There are set to be 3000 athletes from 68 Francophone countries competing in the games.

Lord Charles II of Monaco

Lord Charles II was the son and heir of Lord Honore I of Monaco and his wife Isabella Grimaldi who had four sons and five daughters. Born in 1555 he came to the Monegasque throne upon the death of his father on October 7, 1581. He was 27-years-old and Monaco was still in the midst of being caught between the contesting spheres of influence of France and Spain. Shortly after coming to the throne Monaco was attacked by 500 French and Corsican troops who attempted to storm the Grimaldi stronghold. It was then, in the midst of the attack, that one of the most famous miracles of Monaco occurred. As the story goes, St Devote appeared over the walls of the fortress and began giving the attacking troops a strongly worded lecture, particularly the Corsicans as St Devote is the patron saint of both Corsica and Monaco. The saint shamed the Corsicans for daring to attack the Monegasque who had taken such care of her mortal remains ever since her body arrived on the shores of Monaco. The Corsicans were terrified and withdrew from the attack and the assault soon fell apart, ending in total defeat for the attackers. Charles II gave thanks to the patron saint of Monaco for this intervention but his rule was not to last for very long. Unmarried and childless he died at age 34 after a short reign on May 17, 1589 after which the throne passed to his youngest brother Hercules I.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Andrea Casiraghi

Andrea Albert Pierre Casiraghi is the oldest son of Hereditary Princess Caroline of Monaco and, as things stand today, second-in-line to the Monegasque throne. He was born on June 8, 1984 in Monaco at the Princess Grace Hospital Center in Monte Carlo to Princess Caroline and her husband Stefano Casiraghi. Sadly, young Andrea was only 6-years-old when his father died in a boating accident. Described as sensitive, introverted, friendly and athletic he inherited a sizeable oil fortune from his father (sister Charlotte was given an island) and it did not take him long to become one of the most photographed "royal" lady killers in Europe. Not surprisingly he is rarely seen without some lovely creature on his arm. However, Andrea is no brainless jock; he speaks four languages and earned a degree in visual arts and international politics at the American University of Paris. His known hobbies include football (soccer), horseback riding, an assortment of water sports, skiing, reading and collecting "swatches" (you know, those wristband watches from Switzerland that were big in the 80's) and he has taken on increasingly more official duties over the years on behalf of his mother. According to his uncle, Reigning Prince Albert II, since 2007 he has been living in New York City doing under-grad work.

Although still untitled, Andrea has taken on the style of a Renaissance prince having studied at the International School of Paris, McGill University in Canada and the American University of Paris he rides horses, skis and plays guitar. He has also taken on more serious duties recently in keeping with his status as potential heir to the Monegasque throne. Since 2004 he has worked with his mother's organization AMADE (World Association of Children's Friends), has taught children in Africa and in 2006 went to Manila on behalf of AMADE and the Virlanie Foundation. He was accompanied on that trip by his most consistent girlfriend to date Tatiana Santo Domingo. In 2007 he became the patron of the Motrice Foundation which works to find a cure for cerebral palsy.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Monaco's Busy Monarch

HSH Prince Albert II has had an eventful last few days. On the 23rd he addressed the General Assembly of the UN, his remarks focusing on environmental concerns and the commitment of Monaco to the reform of the global financial system, the creation of a new “green economy” and humanitarian causes around the world, particularly those concerning women and children. He also pledged 0.7% of the GDP of his Principality to development in these areas. Which lends weight to his words considering that the Monegasque pay virtually no taxes and the national income is largely his own income. It is not quite the same as other world leaders promising money they have taxed from their people whether they like it or not. The Sovereign Prince went to his speech in a good mood as just prior to his remarks the Monegasque delegation was informed that Monaco was taken off the “gray list” of tax havens by the OECD just ahead of the Pittsburgh summit. However, the Sovereign Prince did not hand around long, jetting back to Monaco in time to open the 19th Monaco Yacht Show the very next day. The Monaco Yacht Show is famous across the Riviera as THE ultimate display of super-large luxury yachts. So, His Serene Highness has been busy as a bee, working hard for Monaco and the world. But think about the carbon footprint for all those trans-Atlantic flights!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Prince Albert Speaks on the Environment

Yesterday HSH Prince Albert II, in New York City for the UN General Assembly, addressed a news conference at UN headquarters on the environment and in particular the impact of climate change on the Arctic, an area he is very familiar with following in the footsteps of his predecessor and namesake on the Monegasque throne. For someone who is easily annoyed with the whole environmentalist movement I have to give the Sovereign Prince of Monaco a great deal of credit and would consider his words to hold far more weight than someone like former US VP Al Gore. That is because Prince Albert has taken the advice of the Chinese sage who said "go thyself". He has gone to the Arctic and the Antarctic and other areas to see the situation for himself and, unlike many others who seem eager only to profit from environmentalist fears, Albert II has actually put his money where his mouth is. The Chicago Field Museum recently made public that the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation had donated about $537,344 toward a 3-year project to establish new conservation landscapes in the Amazon region of Peru. You see what can be done without government regulations, forced taxation as compared to the philanthropic power of simple princely status? Quite a lot it seems.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Charlotte Talks About New Mag

In a recent interview with the Italian magazine "La Stampa" Charlotte Casiraghi announced that she had founded an eco-magazine called "Ever Manifesto" The 20-page publication will focus on fashion and art (probably mostly fashion) with an environmentalist angle. The magazine will be available on-line and will be presented in Biella, Italy during the fashion show "Fashion Cittadellarte". The Italian Loro Piana cashmere producers will finance the first edition. Charlotte said, in the interview, "The newspaper is published in connection with major events that are associated with fashion, design and architecture. Depending on contributions from renowned experts and journalists will be published. Our goal is to raise awareness among companies on environmental issues. Many big brands have lost customersbecause they exploited minors". Is this the work of an environmentalist fashionista or simply a savy take on the world's biggest current trend? We shall see.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

MM Video: Princely Family of Monaco

Yachts and History in Monaco

HSH Prince Albert II was on hand yesterday for the last day of The Monaco Classic Week, held by the Monaco Yacht Show, celebrating 25 years of the Prince's presidency of the Monaco Yacht Club and the 100th birthday of the yacht "Tuiga". The racing yacht was built in 1909 for the Duke of Medinacelli, a friend of His Catholic Majesty King Alfonso XIII of Spain. The yacht was restored by the Fairlie Restorations ship yard in England by Duncan Walker and is now owned by the Monaco Yacht Club. Prince Albert also honored South African Mike Horn who was named the 2009 Personality of the Sea.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Current Grimaldi Goings On

First off, on the rumors of marital trouble between the Prince and Princess of Hanover, the Princely Palace has said that the talk is simply tabloid speculation with no facts to back them up. I wish I could say that puts my mind at ease but all too often denials from the Palace do not seem to last long. I hope they are right but it still looks a little dubious with Princess Caroline living back in Monaco again (though that's always a good thing) and Prince Ernst remains absent. In other news HSH Prince Albert II (seen above) opened a new children's section at the Princess Grace Hospital and inspected newly installed equipment such as a new medical scanner. The Princess Grace Hospital sees more than 5,000 child-patients and the new neonatal unit is set to provide better services and convenience for the patients, parents and staff. That was September 16. Yesterday, the Sovereign Prince attended the presentation of a new film by the Cousteau foundation, shown by Jean Michel Cousteau, called "Return to the Amazon" at the highly esteemed Oceanographic Museum of Monaco. The museum was first opened in 1910 by Sovereign Prince Albert I, noted sailor and oceanographer.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Monaco and Mexico

Today, 16 September, is the national holiday of Mexico and although not often considered there are several connections between Mexico and Monaco. Hereditary Prince Albert (later Sovereign Prince Albert I) served in the Spanish Royal Navy during the Anglo-Spanish-French intervention in Mexico in 1862 which paved the way for the foundation of the Second Mexican Empire. Mexican blood was introduced to the Grimaldi family via Prince Pierre, Duke of Valentinois, the father of HSH Prince Rainier III. Prince Pierre, born Count Pierre Marie Xavier Raphael Antoine Melchior de Polignac, was of French and Mexican descent. His mother, Suzanne Marie de la Torre y Mier was a Mexican, born there in 1858. As seen above, his grandson Prince Albert II (before taking the throne) had a cameo role in the Mexican-American War film "One Man's Hero" wherein he played an Irish volunteer of the famous San Patricio Battalion, even using the last name Kelly in homage to the heritage of his Irish-American mother.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Sad Anniversary

It was 27 years ago today that HSH Princess Grace of Monaco left this mortal coil one day after being in a horrific car crash with her daughter Princess Stephanie. The conclusion reached after subsequent investigations is that the Princess consort of Monaco had suffered several minor strokes before another larger stroke caused her to lose control of the vehicle she was driving while her and her youngest were on their way home to Monaco. She was unconscious when she was pulled from the wreckage and never came to. Princess Stephanie suffered a severe neck injury that prevented her from attending the funeral as Monaco mourned their glamorous princess and the United States mourned one of its most famous celebrities and native daughters. Princess Grace was one of a kind and the world has never seen her like since. As an actress she remains one of the great icons of the Golden Age of Hollywood and as a princess the very image of style, civility, kindness and, in a word, grace. At her funeral her fellow acting legend and longtime friend Jimmy Stewart said, "You know, I just love Grace Kelly. Not because she was a princess, not because she was an actress, not because she was my friend, but because she was just about the nicest lady I ever met. Grace brought into my life as she brought into yours, a soft, warm light every time I saw her, and every time I saw her was a holiday of its own. No question, I'll miss her, we'll all miss her, God bless you, Princess Grace." In her last television interview Princess Grace said, "I would like to be remembered as a decent human being and a caring one". I think it is more than safe to say that she accomplished that.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Is the Wettin-Grimaldi Match Over?

The royal rumor mills are getting crowded with stories that the Prince and Princess of Hanover (aka Ernst August V of Hanover and Caroline of Monaco) are on the road to the big "d" (and that's not Dallas, TX). Several magazines and tabloids have already published predictions that the royal marriage is over. Princess Caroline did testify for her husband in his legal trouble with the hotel owner but she has not been seen together with her prince since June and that she and the children have left the family chateau. Princess Caroline has been spending more time in Monaco as of late and considering the romantic record of the Grimaldis another divorce would probably not be earth-shattering news to most people (though we hope each time they will find domestic happiness). The Royal Representative calls to mind the old legend about Lord Rainier I raping a woman who turned out to be a witch and put a curse on the Grimaldi clan that they would never find happiness in love; though this would be good story to come up with to explain things after the fact. The marriage between Caroline and Ernst took some by surprise and may not have been entirely planned as it was a "shotgun marriage" to use the old term, Caroline already being pregnant with Princess Alexandra. I would hope that everything works out and that the rumor mills are wrong again but the stories are getting harder to dismiss. It is, however, nice to see the Hereditary Princess spending more time in Monaco. We will be watching.

US and Monaco Sign TIEA

Still bending over backwards to get the club of bullies known as the G20 to take Monaco off the so-called "grey list" Monaco and the United States signed a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) in Washington DC on Tuesday 8th September. Signing the agreement on behalf of their governments were H.E. Franck Biancheri, Government Counsellor for External Relations and for International Economic and Financial Affairs, and Mr. Neal Wolin, Deputy Secretary of the US Treasury. Similar agreements have been signed with other countries such as Belgium and San Marino and is said to complement existing agreements made in 2001 between AMAF (Monaco’s Banking Association) and the American Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on a national level.

Negotiations with other countries are on-going and the new agreement comes prior to the opening of the General Debate of the 64th Session of the United Nations General Assembly for which H.S.H. the Sovereign Prince will travel to New York to attend on September 23. Biancheri said he was "extremely satisfied" with the agreement, the negotiations for which have been going on for some time between the U.S. and the Department for External Relations in Monaco via the Monegasque Embassy in Washington. In order to be withdrawn from the grey list, Monaco needs to negotiate twelve bilateral agreements of this type. When they have been signed and officialised by the OECD, the Principality will join the white list. Negotiations in this regard are currently underway with about twenty countries.

Once signed, these texts will be integrated into Monaco’s national legislation by Sovereign Decree (I just love that phrase!), complemented by arrangements for their practical enforcement.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Prince Parties to Promote Peace in Mid-East

Yesterday, HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco hosted a charity gala called "Paths to Peace" at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco. On hand to perform was the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Lorin Maazel. The Sovereign Prince is seen above with start pianists Bishari Haroni and Itamar Golan who also displayed their talents at the event. The gala was held to raise money for the University of Jerusalem and will be used to further the "Paths to Peace" project which grants scholarships to Arab and Jewish students to attend the university and which is a joint Arab-Jewish effort. Once again we see the "celebrity" of royalty (in this case the Princely Family of Monaco) being put to good use to sponsor worthy causes.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Monaco in World War II

Recently, on September 3, Monaco celebrated its liberation day from the occupying Axis forces of World War II. It was a very difficult time for the principality. HSH Prince Louis II, a decorated veteran of World War I, knew the horrors of war first hand and though he was pro-French naturally wanted to keep Monaco neutral during the conflict. As was traditional though this did not prevent his grandson, Prince Rainier, from serving at the front with the French army in attempting to repel the Nazi invasion. Ranier was a lieutenant in the French artillery and distinguished himself during the German counter-offensive in Alsace. He earned the Croix de Guerre, the Bronze Star and was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. Perhaps because of this service Rainier was always strongly in the Allied camp.

Prince Louis II was in a difficult position and was sympathtic to his old war time commander Marshal Philippe Petain, leader of the French Vichy regime. The population was also torn with some favoring the French but with many, seeing themselves as more Italian than French, also favoring Mussolini's government in the Kingdom of Italy. In 1943 Italian fascist troops marched in and occupied Monaco setting up their own local government. When Mussolini's regime fell the situation became worse as this meant occupation by German troops who immediately began targeting the Jewish population in Monaco. Prince Louis II did what he could, working behind the scenes, to save Jewish lives. He had access to the police files which showed who would be targeted and he was able to warn Jews ahead of time that they were scheduled to be arrested by the Gestapo, allowing them time to escape the Nazis. Rene Blum, founder of the opera in Monaco, was one of those arrested and he would later die in a Nazi concentration camp. However, many were able to escape thanks to the assistance of Louis II and the Monegasque police who acted at great risk to their own lives by interfering to thwart the Nazi effort.

On September 3, with the Allied advance, the German forces retreated from Monaco and the country was liberated though the pre-war economy was in shambles. Nonetheless, it was a time for celebration, particularly for Prince Rainier whose sympathies had always been with the Free French, and it was this occasion that was recently celebrated in Monaco with parade and military march past.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Alexandra's First Garden Party

HRH Princess Caroline of Hanover (who seems to have been absent alot lately) came with her daughter, HRH Princess Alexandra of Hanover, to a traditional Monegasque picnic/garden party organized by the Mayor of Monaco. Of course, HSH Prince Albert II, the proud uncle, was also on hand for this first official engagement. Princess Alexandra was presented with a bouquet of flowers from a troupe of traditional Monegasque folk dancers. After mass Prince Albert II and the two Princesses of Hanover joined several hundred of their Monegasque countrymen for a reception in the Princess Antoinette of Monaco Garden. This friendly meal and meeting between the native Monegasque population and their sovereign is an annual event in Monaco and one of the unique features of the monarchy which enable it to retain a friendly familiarity between the Monegasque (a minority in their own country) and their Princely Family. This year of course the most attention went to the little Princess of Hanover.

Friday, September 4, 2009

H.S.H. Princess Ghislaine of Monaco

She was the last living consort of a Sovereign Prince of Monaco and she was born Ghislaine Marie Francoise Dommanget in Rheims, France on October 13, 1900 to French cavalry Colonel Robert Dommanget and his wife Marie Louise Meunier. She grew up with a love for the stage and eventually became a fairly well known and accomplished comedy actress. She married a fellow actor, Andre Brule, but the marriage did not last and the two eventually divorced. On July 24, 1946 she married HSH Prince Louis II of Monaco and had the distinction of being the first woman to marry into the Grimaldi family without presenting a dowry. The two were married in Monaco, Louis II being 76 at the time and his bride was almost 46. By 1946 Louis II, a hardened veteran of the Foreign Legion and decorated hero of World War I, was worn out by his long and trouble-filled reign and the added stress of occupation during World War II by Italian and later German forces. He spent most of his time away from Monaco in Paris. Princess Ghislaine was to be his primary comfort and companion in this last period of his life.

Following the divorce of his only daughter, Princess Charlotte, Louis II looked to his grandson Rainier to be the heir to the throne and his mother abdicated her succession rights to her son. Less than three years after their marriage Prince Louis II passed away on May 9, 1949. The 48 year old Princess Ghislaine continued to live in Paris for the most part and unfortunately did not get along well with her step-grandson, now Sovereign Prince of Monaco, Rainier III. She was officially titled Princess Dowager of Monaco and though she had her problems with Rainier III (who eventually cut off her pension from the Monegasque government) she did have a fairly good relationship with his wife Princess Grace whom Rainier had married in 1956. It surely helped that both had been actresses before becoming Princesses of Monaco.

When Princess Grace died tragically in 1982 Princess Ghislaine went to Monaco for her requiem mass and impressed everyone with her style, bearing and solemnity. With no consort for Monaco it was technically Princess Dowager Ghislaine who was again the highest-ranking woman of the Princely Family but, as most know, it was young Princess Caroline who effectively took over the job of trying to fill her mother's shoes. Remaining mostly in Paris as usual Princess Dowager Ghislaine lived to the age of 90 before her death on April 30, 1991 at Neuilly-sur-Seine.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Prince Albert Talks About the Climate

Today HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco is addressing the high level segment of the World Climate Conference-3 (WCC-3) at the CICG in Geneva, Switzerland. Some 1,500 policy-makers and decision-makers from more than 150 countries will interact with scientific experts to take practical steps to adapt to climate variability and change. The conference will continue into tomorrow. Throughout his life Prince Albert has always been interested in environmentalism and "climate change" or whatever the current phrase of the month is.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

More on Monaco and the "Grey List"

Today and tomorrow representatives from Monaco and more than 100 other countries are attending a summit Los Cabos, Mexico, to address economic issues, measures to be taken to increase transparency and exchange of information about banking and fiscal matters. This is a lead-up to the next G20 meeting at Pittsburgh on September 24th and 25th. So far, Monaco has signed 8 out of 12 accords. HSH Prince Albert II has chosen as his envoy to the summit in Mexico one Franck Biancheri. I cannot help but get a bit nervous whenever these issues are discussed and as much as I would like to see Monaco get past it's reputation as the land of 'sunny skies and shady deals' I am a bit relieved that not all of the accords have been agreed to. As I have expressed before, a country like Monaco needs to have some special incentives to attract business and investment. For a country with no natural resources, little chance of expansion and a native population that depends almost entirely on tourism I fear that if Monaco adopts the policies of other countries (most of which are dominated by anti-profit socialists) they could be signing the death warrant of the Monegasque economy. Thankfully, Prince Albert II seems to realize the need for balance and does seem to understand that a good PR-image is half the battle in these situations -hence his efforts to portray Monaco as an environmentalist haven. I hope all goes well and that this new drive for transparency does not thwart the economic freedom that has given Monaco so much prosperity in recent decades.
For more info read the interview with Mr Biancheri here.
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