Friday, September 10, 2010

Anniversary of Albert I

It was on this day in 1889 that Albert I became Sovereign Prince of Monaco. Known as "the Scholar" and "the Sailor Prince", Albert I was the son of HSH Prince Charles III and after coming to the Monegasque throne laid the foundation for Monaco to become a center of scientific research and development in the emerging field of oceanography of which Albert I was an enthusiastic student. A veteran of the Spanish and French navies, Prince Albert became a pacifist later in life but was also very good friends with German Kaiser Wilhelm II. His contributions to science are numerous, particularly in the fields of botany and oceanography. He had many trials in his private life but, in many ways, for much of his life his first love was always the sea and he looked with great hope on the modern world and felt that the great scholars he associated with and the new advances in science and technology were about to bring in a new era of understanding and advancement to the world. As such he was always opposed to cruelty and discrimination wherever he found it. The Prince earned a number of enemies in France when he spoke up in defense of the unjustly accused Captain Alfred Dreyfus (a Jewish officer in the French army convicted of spying for Germany on fabricated evidence). In fact, it was through his friendship with the Kaiser that he learned who the real spy was and that Dreyfus was as innocent as he always claimed to be. Prince Albert was crushed when World War I broke out and his vision of the future seemed to go up in flames. Naturally attached to France, the son of a Belgian mother but a friend of the Kaiser he tried to arrange peace but no one would listen. When war came he opened the luxuries of Monaco up for wounded soldiers to recover in the sun and splendor of Monte Carlo. Honored by many nations, Prince Albert I was the first Monegasque prince to visit the United States and who married the first American Princess of Monaco. His life had its ups and downs but the reign of Prince Albert I started today in 1889.

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