Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween Monaco!

Monaco is (rightly) thought of as a beautiful country full of happy people enjoying themselves. It is known as the playground of the rich and famous, great scenery, games of chance, fast cars and luxurious yachts. Colorful characters abound and sometimes unsavory characters crop up, hence the famous description of Monaco as “a sunny place for shady people”; but sunny, upbeat and fun-loving for everyone in any event. Who would ever think of Monaco as a place of fear, horror or ghosts? Well, like any country, Monaco has had its violent periods, its tragedies and its mysteries. Halloween is as good an occasion as any to look into some of these. Starting from the very beginning we have probably the most famous Grimaldi brush with the supernatural. That is, the “curse”. Most know the story; Lord Rainier I of Monaco was fighting in France during the wars with England and raped a local woman who turned out to be a witch. In retaliation the witch put a curse on Rainier that would prevent all of his descendents from every finding happiness in love.

Is there any evidence of that actually happening? Of course not. Have ALL of the Grimaldis been unlucky at love? No, but it is an entertaining story used to explain an exaggerated run of failed romances. It is also a little less tragic than much of the early history of Monaco which was fraught with conflict. After Rainier II and his sons ruled in a rotation system, over the first 200 years of Grimaldi history in Monaco no less than four of the seigneurs came to a violent end. Probably the most famous was Seigneur Jean II who, so it seems, was murdered at the Princely Palace by his brother Lucien Grimaldi in 1505. Seigneur Lucien himself was later murdered in the palace in an attempted coup by his nephew Francois. In 1604 it was the grandson of Lucien, Seigneur Hercule (the ‘ladies man’) who was stabbed to death, supposedly by a gang of irate fathers, in a dark alley in Monaco and then had his body thrown off the jagged cliff into the Mediterranean. Does the ghost of Jean II stalk the halls of the palace seeking revenge on his brother for his assassination? Perhaps the specter of Lucien rattles his chains in sorrow over being condemned to the same fate that brought him to the Monegasque throne. And what of Lord Hercule? Does his soul leave the Church of St Nicholas to wander the Grand-Rue, floating past the old home of Bartholomies Dadino looking for those who brought him to his gruesome end? Honestly, I've never heard of such stories, but throughout the history of the House of Monaco there is certainly plenty of good material for few scary tall tales taking advantage of local history.
Fortunately, almost every prince and princess of Monaco have been as far from terrifying characters as one can be. Certainly there was none less frightening than the beloved Princess Grace. Yet, she did have her connections as one of her former directors, and certainly one of her many, many devoted admirers, was Alfred Hitchcock, master of suspense and film frights.

Happy Halloween from Mad for Monaco!

1 comment:

  1. I know that Mannerheim's birthplace, Louhisaari Manor, is the supposed haunt of many a tragic ghost.


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