Saturday, July 10, 2010

Spouse Searching in Monaco

With everyone gearing up for the day when HSH Prince Albert II makes Miss Charlene Wittstock his Princess consort of Monaco, it might be fun to look back on how some of the past lords of ‘The Rock’ have hit or missed their mark in trying to find that certain special lady. The first lords of Monaco all stuck to their same background and did not go too far to find romance, most marrying the daughters of the prominent families of the Italian Riviera. After Prince Honore II aligned Monaco with France this trend began to change as he was intent on arranging a French marriage for his son and heir Prince Louis I. The final choice was Catherine-Charlotte de Gramont, a very lively, famously beautiful and high born girl.

She was one of the more colorful princesses of Monaco to say the least. In time their marriage existed almost exclusively in law but the couple did have six children together so the succession was secured at the very least. The next was Marie de Lorraine, another well bred French beauty who seemed the total opposite of her husband, the formidable Prince Antoine I. They had no male heirs and both had their affairs but in those days divorce was almost unspeakable and they finally settled down together. The marriage of their daughter, heiress to the Monegasque throne, was arranged to Jacques de Mantignon. Their marriage was a fruitful one, seemingly ideal, but actually far from happy.

Prince Honore III reverted to marrying an Italian lady, and one he went to great lengths to capture. There were children but, alas, not a happy marriage as the princess ended up running away with the Prince de Conde after the outbreak of the French Revolution. Next, however, a French princess returned in the person of Maria Caroline Gibert de Lametz, the first Princess of Monaco to be an actress which is how she met Prince Florestan I, himself a player on the stage. She was a remarkable woman and a pillar of strength for her husband but greatly underappreciated by the population at large. Nonetheless, she played a *major* role in the long-term success of the principality.

Next, Monaco received its first Belgian consort with Antoinette de Merode-Westerloo who had a very successful and happy marriage with Prince Charles III, to whom she was infinitely devoted. Prince Albert I became the first Prince of Monaco to marry a British national when he wed Lady Mary Victoria Douglas-Hamilton, though she was never consort as their short marriage fell apart before Albert came to the throne. His next wife was the first American princess of Monaco, Alice Heine of New Orleans, who made Monaco a social and cultural center in Europe but whose marriage also ended in divorce. The next princess consort was one of the shortest when the aging Prince Louis II married the French actress Ghislaine Marie Fran├žoise Dommanget whom he doted on for the last three years of his life. She was not too enthusiastically received by the rest of the family.

Finally, and most famously, came the second American and third actress to be Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly. It would be hard to overstate her impact on Monaco, not so much because of any particular thing she did but simply by the international attention, glamour and famous names she attracted to the principality. A legend in her own time, famously sacrificing career for family, her tragic death ensured that her memory would achieve mythic status in Monaco and around the world (there was even a short-lived effort to canonize her).

Now, the world is waiting anxiously for the day the Charlene Wittstock joins the ranks of the princess consorts of Monaco. She will be the first princess to be born on the African continent and the first to come from a primarily athletic background. How she will fill the part remains to be seen but she has already put in a great deal of effort preparing for the ‘job’ and after so much time together both Charlene and her Prince should certainly know each other well enough to know what to expect from each other. May they have nothing but the best and I do hope that the future Princess Charlene of Monaco will be the best consort she possibly can be. 

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