Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Princely Family in 2009

All in all 2009 was a relatively uneventful year for the Princely Family of Monaco, with much more being rumored than actually happening. Over the past year we heard Prince Albert talk about global warming, Princess Caroline and Princess Stephanie joining forces for the cause of charity and the Casiraghi trio worked on official duties, social activities, relationships and their tans. Prince Albert talked about global warming while Prince Ernst August V was hauled back to court over allegedly hitting a hotel owner in Africa. Prince Albert talked about global warming and took flak from Catholics for allowing exceptions to Monaco's anti-abortion laws. Charlotte Casiraghi gave everyone a scare when she was involved in a car accident in Italy which brought back sad memories of the death of her grandmother, but thankfully the young lovely escaped with only minor injuries to her hand and wrist. Prince Albert talked about global warming and rumors of a possible breakup between Andrea and longtime girlfriend Tatiana Santo Domingo surfaced after he was seen cozying up to another girl but their relationship endured. Pierre Casiraghi was caught with his pants down by a long-distance cameraman, proving again the tastelessness of the paparazzi.

Prince Albert talked about global warming and avoided marrying girlfriend Charlene Wittstock. Princess Stephanie expanded her AIDS charity, Charlotte Casiraghi went back to jumping competitions and gave her first TV interview and Princess Alexandra made her debut at the Monaco garden party. Prince Albert talked about global warming and his mother Princess Grace who was honored by TCM in honor of the 80th anniversary of the birth of the late Princess consort. A visit to Ireland was scrapped but Albert II did make it to America to speak to the UN about global warming, go to Hollywood to accept an award on behalf of his late mother and to accept an award of his own for talking about global warming. Andrea laughed off a little embarrassment when he put the wrong fuel in his car and had to get out and push it off the road. Charlotte got into the eco-clothing fashion magazine business and Prince Albert talked about global warming and was sued by a former employee hired as an intelligence agent.

Perhaps most troubling was the split of the Prince and Princess of Hanover, Caroline moving back to Monaco with their daughter and being conveniently out of the country when Prince Ernst had his day in court. Rumors of an impending divorce began to swirl though the Palace denied that there were any such plans. Prince Albert also went to Copenhagen to talk about global warming. And that, was a brief overview of the events of the Princely Family of Monaco in 2009.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Death of the Duke of York

HRH Prince Edward Duke of York, younger brother of Britain's King George III and a rear admiral in the Royal Navy was 28 when he went on a tour of the continent, going from Paris he headed toward Genoa where he planned to meet a beloved girlfriend. While at a party in Toulon he seemed to take sick and was advised to take rest but refused and inisted on going on his way. He left on August 29, 1767 against the advice of his retinue. Instead of going to Genoa by sea he proceeded overland and stopped in at the small Principality of Monaco. HSH Prince Honore III, who was in Normandy, rushed home to meet so high-ranking a guest which was a rather unusal honor for the isolated country. The Sovereign Prince pulled out all the stops to honor the Duke who stood tall and handsome in full uniform despite the extreme heat as the Monegasque honor guard saluted in his honor. However, the trip and all worsened his condition and he became feverish and Honore III had the Duke put up in his state bedchamber.

The Prince of Monaco provided the best care for the Duke he could, calling in local physicians and doctors from Nice but, lacking the medical facilities of Paris or London, little could be done. His condition rapidly declined and Honore wished to inform King George III but the Duke would not allow it. He himself finally dictated an apologetic letter to his brother, with whom he had grown apart since their youth, and he thanked Honore III for all of the care he had provided as well as the doctors who had attended him. On September 17 the Duke of York passed away and Honore III ordered full honors be given with a cannon shot every half hour and the Duke laid in state in his own bed with the room decorated according to the English customs of mourning with a black canopy over the bed which was placed on a raised dias in the middle of the room that was draped in black for the occasion.

The frigate HMS Montreal was dispatched to bring the King's brother home and Honore III ordered artillery salutes and waited himself by the landing as the coffin bearing the Duke's body and all of his attendants were taken aboard. The Royal Standard was dropped to half-mast and the Sovereign Prince ordered a salute of two more cannon shots from the ramparts of the fortress and two volleys from the Monegasque regiment drawn up in salute as the remains of the Duke of York departed Monaco. The room in which Prince Edward died in the Prince's Palace has been known ever since as the York Room and in thanks for the care given his brother King George III sent Prince Honore two of the Duke's best race horses and invited him to London as his guest to show his appreciation. Honore III was honored to go, hoping it might lead to a closer relationship between Great Britain and Monaco which was not to be, the King being very polite and correct but no more.

It was a sad occasion for Britain where the fun loving Duke of York was quite popular though quite a different character from his more reserved brother. It was sad as well for Monaco but also an occasion that drew a great deal of attention on the small principality and Honore III was very conscious of this, insisting that all proper protocol be followed exactly and showing both the hospitality of Monaco as well as all the pomp and ceremony the Monegasque could muster for the passing of the brother of the King of the largest colonial empire in the world.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy Birthday Princess Antoinette!

Today HSH Princess Antoinette of Monaco, Baroness of Massy celebrates her 89th birthday. Princess Antoinette is the older sister of the late Prince Rainier III and over the years gained someting of an eratic reputation. There had long been tension between Princess Antoinette and the little brother who replaced her as heir to the throne but things came to a head with an effort by Princess Antoinette to usurp the Monegasque throne in the name of her young son Christian. Prince Rainier handled the situation without any publicity but Princess Antoinette was exiled from Monaco for quite some time thereafter. However, later in life the Grimaldi siblings were reconciled and Princess Antoinette was again seen at formal events and social occasions with her late brother and her nieces and nephew. Princess Antoinette, because of her age and poor health has not been seen out much lately. In the photo above she is flanked by her great-niece Charlotte Casiraghi and her grandaughter Melanie de Massy. The Mad for Monaco blog wishes Princess Antoinette a very happy birthday!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

"One day, but not today"

In a recent interview HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco was again asked the question about marriage and his longtime girlfriend Charlene Wittstock. The Prince's response was, "One day, but not today". This is only the latest dodge of the question for the middle-aged monarch who many if not most have given up hope of ever marrying and having a family of his own. Still, given how long his association with Wittstock has lasted there are still those who think that later if not sooner she will be his bride. As for this observer, it is a case of once biten twice shy. Some time ago when there were rumors of an impending engagement and wedding plans underway at the Princely Palace I took the bait and thought this time it would really happen. Of course that turned out to be completely incorrect.

However, when considering this issue it is important to keep a few things in mind. Although it can be debated whether or not young Andrea is being properly prepared to rule or not there is no doubt that, for the time being, the succession is secure with Princess Caroline, Andrea and Pierre all waiting in line. I would also caution against anyone trying to find a case of victimhood between Albert and Charlene. No one is forcing them to do anything and if either of them was unhappy with their relationship I have to believe it would have ended some time ago. There is something to be said for royal-watchers to simply relax and let the Sovereign Prince and his beloved determine their own course -it is their life after all.

Yet, I would also shy away from those who constantly dismiss the whole issue as unimportant and far from pressing. It may not be positively crucial as in times past, but Albert II is no longer a young man. Not an old man certainly, but still not a young man anymore. Were he to marry and have children at this point they would not be of age to succeed on their own for quite some time in which case a regent might be required anyway (and in which case I would think Princess Caroline the ideal choice if, God willing, she's still with us at that distant and hypothetical date). I would like to see the Prince married with children and have a traditional Princely Family for Monaco again as much as anyone; the golden days of Rainier and Grace still live on for that very reason. However, Prince Albert has also learned the hard way that not everyone he trusts has proven themselves trustworthy (not that I am implying anything about miss Wittstock at all!) and that may make him hesitant to walk to the altar as perhaps might the unhappy marriages of others in his family. He may remain the bachelor prince forever or he may follow the example of his late great-grandfather Prince Louis II and surprise everyone with a very late-in-life marriage.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Monaco Dance Forum 2009

HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, HRH Princess Caroline of Hanover, Andrea, Pierre and Charlotte Casiraghi were all out in all their glamor and finery at the 2009 Monaco Dance Forum. It is always nice to see so many members of the family gathered together and they all looked great, showing off their winnings from the 'genetic lottery'.

Annual Christmas Charity Swim

On the 20th HSH Prince Albert II, girlfriend Charlene Wittstock and nephew Pierre Casiraghi all participated in the annual Charity Christmas Swim for TATSA association in Monaco. At about 57 degrees it was certainly a 'brisk' dip as usual but the participants were all smiles and it was all for a worthy cause.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Princely Letter Up for Auction

A letter is going up for auction by HSH Prince Honore II, the Lord of Monaco from 1604 to 1612 and Prince of Monaco after that time. The letter is addressed to the Marquis Genois Marcello Raimondi telling of the upcoming marriage of Honore's son Hercules to Donna Aurelia, daughter of Luca Spinola; a family which produced several doges of the Republic of Genoa. Prince Hercules died in an accident in 1651 making his son heir to the throne who succeeded his grandfather in 1662 and Prince Louis I of Monaco. Thanks to Harold in the land of Oz for emailing this bit of news concerning Monaco's Princely past.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas in Monaco

HRH the Princess of Hanover arrives at the palace
HRH Princess Alexandra, one of Santa's little helpers

HSH Princess Stephanie of Monaco goes for the 'Hello Kitty' boxes
A princess with toys commands attention!

The Grimaldi siblings of Monaco together for Christmas

HSH Prince Albert II explains to the boys the importance of this toy car having zero emissions and of buying carbon offsets to compensate for its manufacture.
A group photo with the children on the steps of the Princely Palace. Christmas in Monaco is always a special time of year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Monaco and Napoleon

The French Revolution brought great suffering to Monaco, the displacement of the Grimaldi dynasty and the loss of Monegasque independence. Considering that, it is no wonder that the Princely Family, like many, looked with cautious optimism on the coming to power of Napoleon Bonaparte. He did, after all, end the Reign of Terror, restore law and order and through his victories restored something of the pride in the glory of France that had been lost. The Grimaldis, with their personal fortunes all but gone and their country annexed to France, had little choice but to try to make themselves acceptable to the French emperor. They had opposed the revolution and must have longed for the old days of the ancien regime when Monaco was independent and the House of Grimaldi was a prominent family in the French nobility. The situation under the former artillery corporal wasn’t ideal but they would try to make the best of it.

There was necessity but also the call of glory. The House of Grimaldi had distinguished itself on numerous battlefields over the centuries in the service of France and the Napoleonic Wars would be no different. With the passing of Honore III the throne of Monaco passed to his son Prince Honore IV, or at least it would have if Monaco still existed, which it did not and as things stood the idea of a Grimaldi restoration seemed as impossible a dream as a Bourbon one. Given that, in 1806 Prince Honore IV joined the French army and was attached to the staff of Joachim Murat, Marshal of France and Prince of the Empire, as an aid-de-camp. Honore IV rode with Murat in Napoleon’s epic invasion of the Russian Empire and was severely wounded at the battle of Friedland; a French victory. For his service, which had cost him most of the use of one arm, Honore IV was awarded the Legion of Honor.

The Monegasque prince also fought with Murat in Spain as the French moved against Portugal. However, his health turned bad and his wounds gave him much trouble and he was sent back to Paris with little more than a medal and a miniscule pension to show for his service. Prince Honore IV mostly stayed away from the glittering social events of the French Empire, leaving those obligations to his brother Prince Joseph who was also trying desperately to keep the family financially afloat. Eventually Honore IV became completely paralyzed on one side of his body and had to depend on his brother and son for his survival. That son, Honore-Gabriel, the future Prince Honore V of Monaco, also saw extensive service in the Napoleonic Wars.

Honore V joined the army when he was 20 years old, serving in the guard and the cavalry where he worked his way upward to become a staff officer to Marshal Grouchy as a captain. He saw combat in Germany and Poland and even in Spain under Marshal Murat where his father was his superior officer. Honore V was an exemplary soldier and was cited for bravery many times. He was wounded in the arm at the great Napoleonic victory at the battle of Hohenlinden which prevented him from seeing action at Austerlitz. He did, however, serve with great distinction at the battle of Jena and in a number of fights with Marshal Murat’s cavalry corps. Marshal Grouchy was impressed with him and related that the Monegasque prince had taken a handful of cavalry and forced the surrender of an entire enemy battalion; for which he was recommended for the star of the Legion of Honor.

Nonetheless, Honore V was rather offended that all of his exception services had advanced him no farther than captain and in 1808 he left the army and went back to Paris where he became an equerry to Empress Josephine. He was proud of this position and became very fond of the Empress, staying with her to manage her household even after Napoleon divorced her. Following the downfall of Napoleon Honore V was quick to reassert his rights to the throne of Monaco. When his ailing father named him regent for the principality to rule on his behalf he quickly made his way to the coast. Along the way he met the deposed Emperor Napoleon on the afternoon of March 1, 1815. That very day the Emperor had landed at Cannes and was on his way to Paris to retake power. Honore V was stopped by Bonapartist soldiers when a general he had served under recognized him and took him to see Napoleon.

The French Emperor greeted the Prince of Monaco as if they were old friends and the two stood around a fire talking. Many stories have been told since about what words exactly were exchanged during that famous meeting. One tale is that Napoleon asked Honore where he was headed and the prince responded, ‘home to Monaco’ to which the Emperor replied that he too was going home -to the Tuileries. When the Emperor stated his intention of reclaiming his empire Honore V warned him that the odds would certainly not be in his favor. Napoleon wanted to know what had been happening in Paris and if conditions looked good for his restoration. Honore thought it would be risky but the two parted with apparent friendliness. However, Honore was not too pleased with the situation.

In order to maintain security the Bonaparte forces held up Honore for about an hour while Napoleon traveled on before they would let him pass. This annoyed Honore V who was, once again, a Prince of Monaco and thus superior in rank, at least for the time being, to the deposed Emperor. Honore V was also still upset with Napoleon for leaving his family in the lurch after they had given so much in his service as well as for his callous treatment of his ex-wife Josephine who was a dear friend of Honore. As soon as the Prince was allowed to continue on his way he stopped at Nice to inform the Sardinian authorities to spread the word that Napoleon had returned from exile and was moving to retake power. The next day he also sent a letter to the French Minister of War Marshal Soult warning him of Napoleon’s arrival.

Once word reached London about the return of the Emperor a British troop ship was dispatched to Monaco. Honore V ordered the gates of the port closed, entirely as a gesture of displeasure, and he was rather offended that a mere colonel was sent to deal with him. He was told that Monaco would be occupied though he insisted that it be made clear that Monaco was independent and that Honore V was prevented from opposing the move only because of the lack of an effective garrison in the principality. Several hundred British redcoats arrived and when Prince Honore V appealed to Paris for help he received none as Napoleon had learned how the Prince had reported his return to the royal authorities. The occupation force stayed until summer when they were replaced by a British organized Anglo-Italian regiment and the end result was the end of the long standing relationship between Monaco and France and the principality being transferred as a protectorate into the Sardinian sphere of influence.
The last of the Princes of Monaco to have been directly involved in the Napoleonic Wars was Prince Florestan who had a hard time in his youth. His passion was the theatre but to please his mother he joined the French army though he was always upset that, unlike his princely predecessors, he never advanced beyond the rank of corporal. He saw dreary service at garrison duty on Oessant, at Neort, Bordeaux and Toulon before taking part in the invasion of Russia. Prince Florestan did not adapt well to the army, his upbringing made him less than amenable to taking orders, he was unaccustomed to the rough diet and harsh conditions. He was indignant and not being elevated in rank and fell into depression. Death and misery were all around him and he came down with dysentery before being taken prisoner on September 7, 1812 at the battle of Borodino. Life as a prisoner of war was certainly grueling but he was eventually sent to a hospital and finally freed after Napoleon was defeated.

The only other Prince of Monaco closely associated with Napoleon was the soldierly Prince Louis II. He gathered an impressive collection of Napoleonic artifacts and memorabilia with items ranging from his many battles, his time as Emperor and exile to St Helena as well as a set of clothes that belonged to Napoleon’s son the young “King of Rome”. This extensive collection was organized as the Napoleon Museum at the Princely Palace and is now open to the public.
(photo of Honore V and Napoleon meeting from the Wax Museum of the Princes of Monaco)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Princess Stephanie Giving Back for Christmas

HSH Princess Stephanie of Monaco has been making the rounds for charity in the lead-up to Christmas. After attending a meeting of some 600 local charities in Monaco to discuss cooperation between them (the meeting being a brainchild of Prince Albert II) and yesterday Princess Stephanie was bring smiles to many faces in several events around the principality. First she handed out Christmas presents (and a few kisses) to the children at the St Devote school before going on to visit a child care center for the smaller children. She then went to the headquarters of the Red Cross in Monaco to distribute Christmas presents and a few hugs there as well. As usual everyone seemed very happy to see Princess Stephanie who never fails to bring smiles to the faces of those around her wherever she goes. With her natural compassion and ability to connect with any and everyone events such as these always show Princess Stephanie at her best.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Prince Albert in Copenhagen

HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco is in Copenhagen, Denmark for the UN global climate change conference to talk about his favorite subject. So far he has spoken at a seminar on the Congo basin and at a meeting of the European Environment Agency. He touched on the issues which have long been the center of his focus, namely global warming and the acidification of the oceans because of green house gas emissions. The Prince stressed the importance of this issue for island nations and vulnerable coastal communities, something the people of Monaco are certainly familiar with. He also announced the launch of the "Monaco Blue Initiative" which be a collaboration between the Monaco Oceanographic Museum (founded by HSH Prince Albert I) and his own Prince Albert Foundation. He also participated in round table discussion on electric cars and the zero emissions policy of the Principality of Monaco. None of this is out of the ordinary for the Prince of Monaco though he might ruffle some feathers with his criticism of the culture of consumerism. Albert II warned that every individual consumer must take responsibility for their actions and re-evaluate their consumption due to the impact on the environment. Again, this is not exactly anything new from Prince Albert. He has said similar things in the past and, he is often answered with fingers pointing at his own jet-set lifestyle and constant travels around the world. This time will surely be no different and there will certainly be those who will accuse the Sovereign Prince of having no room to talk on the subject.

*Note: It has probably not helped the "cause" that the UN global warming conference has produced a larger carbon footprint than any other meeting in the history of the United Nations. The conference has generated more pollution than a population of millions would in an entire year -again, probably not a great thing for a group of world leaders telling everyone else to stop being so wasteful and to pay up for "green" initiatives.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Princess Stephanie in South Africa

HSH Princess Stephanie of Monaco has just finished up a trip to South Africa as part of her duties as UNAIDS goodwill ambassador and the President of Fight AIDS Monaco. She inspected centers for care given to AIDS patients, the distribution of assistance and met with numerous leaders to discuss the situation such as Nelson Mandela and his wife, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi (Minister of Health) and Michel Sidibe the executive director of UNAIDS. South Africa is one of the most hard-hit countries in the world by the AIDS epidemic with some 5.2 million people currently infected by HIV.

Friday, December 11, 2009

MM Movie Review: The Swan

“The Swan” was the last feature film to star Grace Kelly who became HSH Princess Grace of Monaco the same year the picture was released. It also has the distinction of being the only movie in which Grace played the part of a princess before taking on that role in real life. Filmed in North Carolina and directed by Charles Vidor “The Swan” stars Grace Kelly as Princess Alexandra, Alec Guinness as Crown Prince Albert and Louis Jourdan as Dr. Nicholas Agi. Also on hand are Jessie Royce Landis as Princess Beatrix (the mother of Grace’s character which must have been an easy fit as Landis also played mother to Grace Kelly in “To Catch a Thief”), Agnes Moorehead (yes, TV’s Endora from “Bewitched”) as Queen Maria Dominika and Brian Aherne as Father Carl Hyacinth. Monarchist movie fans will remember the brilliant performance of Brian Aherne as Emperor Maximilian of Mexico opposite Bette Davis in “Juarez” for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.

“The Swan” and “High Society” were the last films to feature Grace Kelly before her marriage to HSH Prince Rainier III of Monaco and both show just how talented she really was and how great a career she sacrificed for the sake of marriage, family and the duties of being a princess-consort. In fact, when Prince Rainier III came to the U.S. for the last time before his marriage, taking his fiancé out in New York the soon-to-be Princess Grace wore one of her costumes from “The Swan” showing off all of her natural, regal elegance. “The Swan” is one of my favorites and a great movie but, alas, film buffs will be at the mercy of TCM to see it since, as far as I know, it has never been released on DVD (shame MGM!) and even an old VHS would be hard to come by.

Princess Beatrix is a very status-conscious royal without a throne who is desperate that her daughter Princess Alexandra be married to the dashing Crown Prince Albert, son of the imperious Queen Maria Dominika. However, Albert seems oblivious (though he does love Alexandra) just as Alexandra is seemingly oblivious to the fact that the family tutor, Dr. Agi, is desperately in love with her. As a solution the scheming Beatrix convinces Alexandra to string along the low-born egalitarian doctor in an effort to arouse the jealousy of Prince Albert to motivate him to claim the princess for himself. Special mention is also deserved for the part of Brian Aherne as the uncle who left the royal life of intrigue by becoming a priest. His character is saintly, soft-spoken, a peace maker but also, as we soon find out, more wise to the world around him than most realize.

The film is made for the romantics but I would say almost anyone could enjoy it, especially the comedic moments sprinkled throughout, particularly the character of aunt Symphorosa played by Estelle Winwood who has a rather naïve honesty and always seems to say the wrong thing at the wrong time (I will agree with her line, “I don‘t like the 20th Century“). It is a rather old-fashioned sort of movie, relatively simple but with brilliant performances, a beautiful look and an ending that will likely surprise. Alec Guinness gives a typically excellent performance, showing that there is more to his character than meets the eye and Princess Grace is at her most radiant. I would recommend it for any classic film fan and of course any fan of the late great Princess Grace of Monaco.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Throne of Monaco

The throne room, in the past known as the Grimaldi room, of the Princely Palace is surely the most important of all for all of the historic, official and most significant ceremonies held there. A large Renaissance chimney faces the throne (it would be behind where the photographer was standing to take the above picture). Portraits of past Monegasque sovereigns usually decorate the room, such as those of Prince Albert I and Prince Louis II seen above. This is the room where allegiance is pledged in the Principality of Monaco. State and commune dignitaries are sworn in before the Sovereign Prince in the throne room and it is here that the Sovereign Prince receives foreign consuls and the political, religious and military leaders of Monaco during the National Day celebrations. HSH Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly had their civil wedding performed in the throne room and it is here that Monegasque leaders come to pledge their loyalty to the Sovereign Prince when a new monarch ascends the throne. The Empire style throne is decorated with the Monegasque crown and the Grimaldi coat-of-arms is displayed behind while overhead is a canopy of crimson Viennese velvet. The throne of Monaco is the lasting symbol of authority in the principality and of the centuries old rule of the House of Grimaldi over the Mediterranean nation.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Britain and Monaco; Did You Know?

Britain and Monaco: Did you know that ......
  • Lord Charles I of Monaco once pillaged Southampton, England and was later wounded at the battle of Crecy.
  • King Edward III of England "bought" Lord Rainier II of Monaco for 12,000 gold francs.
  • King Charles II of Britain and Prince Louis I of Monaco shared a mistress (not at the same time of course!)
  • Princess Henrietta Anne Stuart, daughter of King Charles I of Britain, and Princess Catherine-Charlotte of Monaco (wife of Louis I) were very close friends for some time which led some gossip mongers to think the two had an affair.
  • In 1767 the Duke of York died in Monaco and the room he stayed at in the Princely Palace is still called the York room in his honor. King George III of Great Britain gave some of his late brother's horses to Prince Honore III of Monaco for taking care of the Duke in his final days.
  • During Napoleon's Hundred Days British troops occupied Monaco for a short time. The French Emperor was not eager to defend the place as Prince Honore V of Monaco had reported his arrival to the French King.
  • Lady Mary Victoria Douglas-Hamilton was the first British-born Princess of Monaco. She was the first wife of Prince Albert I and mother of Prince Louis II.
  • In 1910, during a protests for political reform Prince Albert I of Monaco called in British sailors from a nearbye warship to safeguard British interests and take up key positions in the event of a general revolt.
  • Prince Rainier III and Princess Antoinette of Monaco had an English nanny as children, a cousin of Winston Churchill, and both spoke English before learning French.
  • As a small boy Prince Rainier III went to boarding school in England which he found so intolerable that he tried to run away.
  • When Prince Rainier III was looking for a wife one of the first names suggested was Princess Margaret of Great Britain. The idea was dismissed because it was not thought she would convert to Catholicism.
  • Before Prince Charles married Diana some magazines suggested Princess Caroline of Monaco as a possible match for the Prince of Wales even though the two had never met at that point and by British law if Charles had married Caroline he would have lost his birthright to be the next King of Great Britain.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Monaco Stamps on Display

Yesterday HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco was on hand for the international stamp exhibition MonacoPhil 2009 where the extensive stamp collection he inherited from his father Prince Rainier III was displayed. The collection of HM Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain was also displayed at the exhibition. Prince Albert I of Monaco began the Grimaldi family stamp collection and Monaco has printed its own stamps since the reign of Prince Charles III.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Lord Rainier II of Monaco

Rainier II became Lord of Monaco on June 29, 1352 ruling jointly with Lord Antonio. Earlier, in 1350, Jean II became King of France and the Hundred Years War soon flared up again with King Edward III of England and the famous Black Prince. Lord Rainier II was ready to participate just as his grandfather and namesake Lord Rainier I did. In 1355 he reported for duty with 24 war galleys and 6,000 crossbowmen. The following year he led his forces with the French army at the epic battle of Poitiers on September 19, 1356. The French side suffered from a lack of organization and in one of the greatest victories in English history the French army, which outnumbered the English by about 2 to 1, was soundly defeated and King Jean II himself was taken prisoner by the Black Prince.

The terrible defeat, combined with the humiliation of the king and most of his knights being taken prisoner, caused the middle class, feeling let down by the aristocracy, to equip a fleet on their own to go to the rescue of Jean II. Joined by other forces they defeated the English at the battle of Winchelsea, even landing and taking the town before returning to Boulogne. Shortly thereafter the Treaty of London was signed, Jean II was freed and peace restored. The new King of France, Charles V or Charles the Wise, began rebuilding the French fleet and made extensive use of the Mediterranean ports, Monaco in particular. Rainier II fitted out four galleys and sailed to the English Channel where he met an English squadron that was escorting Charles II of Navarre to Cotentin. He captured an English ship of 180 tons which he sold for prize money in Normandy. When the English moved to take revenge for this action on some Genoese ships in the area Rainier II arrived in time to save the day, destroying the English force and following up with a number of raids on the English coast.

Stories abound about the exploits of Rainier II, some factual and some legendary with it becoming increasingly difficult to separate the two. One such story was that the ship Rainier II himself was commanding was run aground on the Isle of Wight though other sources say Sandwich. When English troops approached and hailed the vessel, asking to whom it belonged, Rainier II replied, “To the King of France”. The soldiers then demanded he surrender it to the “King of France and England”. Rainier II asked the name of this individual to which the soldiers proudly replied, “Edward!” but Rainier boomed back, “Edward! That is not the name of the King of France; he is called Charles and to him only will we give up our ship”. The English troops attacked and Rainier II and his men battled them long enough for the tide to come in, re-float the vessel and allowed them to sail away.

Later Rainier II was charged with escorting convoys of merchant ships through the dangerous waters of the English Channel. When he got word that John of Lancaster was preparing a move to Calais with 11,000 troops he boldly threatened Southampton. It was only a diversion though as the port was well defended due to all the trouble and he had only a few ships and 1,200 men. Unfortunately, it did not work and the Duke of Lancaster made the passage to Calais, meeting the Monegasque flotilla and capturing Rainier II in the process. It was the spring of 1375 and a greatly impressed King Edward III bought Rainier from the Duke for 12,000 gold francs.

Later on peace was declared and Rainier II was freed but by 1377 the war was back on again and saw action at the great naval victory off Rye. The victors then began fighting amongst themselves between those who wished to go on and those who wished to occupy Rye and make it a French enclave in England that would be the equivalent of the English enclave at Calais. In the event they did land, fought a few skirmishes and captured some English soldiers from whom they learned that their great foe King Edward III was dead and Richard II was now king. Lord Rainier II burned the town of Lewis and then put to sea again, going on a campaign of pillage that hit Portsmouth, Dartmouth and Plymouth. They even overran most of the Isle of Wight other than the castle where the governor held out with his forces, refusing to give up.

The French and Monegasque did not sack the island but ransomed it for a 1000 marks. There were numerous other raids and daring deeds but at some point Rainier II tired of being in the employ of French and by the time peace was restored had already left. Doubtless, part of the reason for this was the growing aggression of the Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean who were raiding the Riviera and forced Monaco and Genoa to turn to France for assistance. However, it was not long before the French themselves were in need of assistance when the famous King Henry V of England showed up with an invading army and a large fleet at the mouth of the Seine River. France then had to ask Genoa and Monaco for help. They sailed north and tried to break the English siege of Harfleur in a gallant attack but Henry V was victorious and the town surrendered. He then march on toward Calais and won his most spectacular victory at the battle of Agincourt. By that time, however, Rainier II had long since ceased to be the Lord of Monaco. That ended on August 15, 1357. From that year until 1359 Monaco was under Genoese control with control passing back and forth between them and the Grimaldis for some time after.
(photo from the Wax Museum of the Princes of Monaco)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Monaco, Abortion and the Church

HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco has been the source of mixed signals on the religious front lately. On the occasion of his last meeting with Pope Benedict XVI the headline put out was the reaffirmation of Monaco as a pro-life country with the Supreme Pontiff and the Sovereign Prince standing together for the defense of human life from conception to natural death. However, Albert II also attracted harsh criticism from the Catholics at The Royal American Institute for the Study of Monaco for a bill earlier this year, passed by the National Council of Monaco, which amended the law to allow for abortion in cases of rape, fetal illness or deformity or if the live of the mother is imperiled. Many Catholics regarded this as a betrayal on the part of Prince Albert who has final authority over all bills that are passed in Monaco.

Undoubtedly, Prince Albert II is held to a higher standard in this regard as he is effectively an absolute monarch in a country which has Roman Catholicism as the official state religion. For this reason some Catholics have also called upon Albert II to take religion more seriously even to the point of changing the Monegasque coat of arms to remove the two Grimaldi soldiers holding swords while dressed as monks; and outlawing gambling which has long been the backbone of the economy. However, the change in the abortion law attracted even harsher criticism with some referring to it as a “royal betrayal” of Monaco’s status as a Catholic principality.

However, it should be kept in mind that even with the recent changes Monaco still has more restrictions on abortion than most other European countries and the procedure is still, for the most part, illegal there. Furthermore, Prince Albert II has managed to tear himself away from environmental issues long enough to be the patron of the second International Congress on Responsible Stem Cell Research which was held in Monaco from November 26 to 28, 2009. The event was organized by the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, the Pontifical Academy for Life, the Bioethical Consultative Committee of Monaco and the Foundation Jerome Lejeune. The group met to discuss the use of adult stem cells which has shown far greater promise in research than the more well-known embryonic stem cells and does not involve the destruction of human life.

Considering all of that, a balanced view should be taken of the situation of life issues in Monaco. At the end of the day, Monaco is still a predominately pro-life country wherein abortion is mostly banned and where research is promoted which protects human life rather than destroying it for experimental purposes. It is not as pro-life as Malta but is about on the same level if not slightly more pro-life than the Principality of Liechtenstein and has far more restrictions on abortion than other traditionally if not officially Catholic monarchies such as Spain and Belgium. However, there is also some room for legitimate criticism since, unlike Spain or Belgium for instance, Monaco is in fact if not in name an absolute monarchy in which the Sovereign Prince could outlaw all abortions under any circumstances if he so wished, it is the only officially Catholic monarchy other than Liechtenstein and Vatican City and it also seems rather unnecessary considering that Monaco is such a tiny country, surrounded on three sides by France where abortion is available on demand.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Princess Stephanie and World AIDS Day

Yesterday was World AIDS Day, a cause very near to the heart of HSH Princess Stephanie, president and foundress of Fight AIDS Monaco. For the occasion she attended the annual auction to benefit her foundation in Monaco at the Sea Club Meridien. Princess Stephanie has given a great deal of herself to this organization and to wider cause of bringing help and comfort to those suffering with AIDS, a section of the populace all too often ignored or marginalized. Princess Stephanie is seen here with one of the items on the block; a portrait of her beloved mother HSH Princess Grace of Monaco.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Prince Albert in Washington DC

Yesterday, HSH Prince Albert II was at the National Press Club in Washington DC, where he talked about -you guessed it- the environment! Go figure right? Specifically he addressed the action that the Principality of Monaco had taken on sustainable practices for the protection of the marine environment. This is an issue of some concern to the Prince and people of Monaco who have traditionally been bound up with the sea. In the past it was a matter of survival, nowadays it is to a much lesser extent but also true that if sea levels were to rise too much the tiny country might disappear. In 1913 Prince Albert II's great-grandfather Prince Albert I also addressed the Press Club. Afterward the Sovereign Prince spoke at the Antarctic Treaty summit at the Smithsonian Museum wherein he talked about his own Antarctic expedition.
*Additional note: Prince Albert also addressed the recent controversy over the emails passed between scientists speaking of exaggerating the data on global warming and blocking any evidence contrary to their point of view. Prince Albert said it was unfortunate, there was room for some minor disagreements, but that global warming was real, was happening and that he had seen the evidence himself in his extensive field work on the subject. He warned that to turn our backs on the problem was to sacrifice the future of the world for present-day selfishness. He also bemoaned the fact that the climate-change treaty in Copenhagen does not look set to be nearly as far-reaching as was first thought. I am sure Prince Albert is sincere in this, but I also doubt his words will have much effect on the skeptical crowd. Coming from a prince with a reputation as a playboy who flies to a different country almost every day in his private jet, lectures on selfishness and environmental protection will probably not go very far -at least in the USA.
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