Friday, April 30, 2010

The Passing of a Princess

It was on this day in 1991 that HSH Princess Ghislaine of Monaco passed away at Neuilly-sur-Seine. She was the wife and consort, in the twilight of his life, of HSH Prince Louis II of Monaco. She was 35 years younger than the Sovereign Prince when the 69-year-old Louis II fell in love with the former actress. He married her and brought her to the palace where, sadly, most of the family turned a cold shoulder to her. Prince Louis II adored her totally but the rest of the family tended to be suspicious of her, as is often the case when an older man at the end of his life weds a much younger woman. In fact, when the two married Louis' granddaughter, Princess Antoinette, refused to attend (and when she made her first marriage Louis II responded in kind). When Prince Louis II died he made generous provision for his wife in his will but Prince Rainier III blocked this and though he never spoke to Princess Ghislaine she still kept her apartments in the Princely Palace and made use of them from time to time. One of the last major events Princess Ghislaine attended in Monaco was the celebration in May of 1974 of the 25th anniversary of Prince Rainier III coming to the throne. This included a Te Deum at the national cathedral in honor of Prince Louis II and Princess Ghislaine, along with almost the whole Grimaldi family for a change, attended. Although she was rather put aside in Monaco for the most part she remained Dowager Princess of Monaco for the rest of her life, a life that ended on this day, April 30, 19 years ago.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ancient Monaco

The history of Monaco, vivid enough as most know it, goes back much, much farther than the arrival of the Grimaldi dynasty from Genoa. The name “Monaco” actually came from the name of a Ligurian tribe that occupied the area which was known as the “Monikos”. As early as the 400’s BC the Greek historian Hecataeus of Miletus described Monaco as a city in Liguria -though he did not mean “city” in the way that we define it today. Still, ships took refuge in the natural port, people lived there and there was a permanent presence even then. The name for the Port of Hercules comes from an association so ancient it is undetermined when it began. Strabon, another Greek historian, wrote that, “In Monaco there is a temple dedicated to Hercules” and so the area has long been associated with the mythic Greek champion. In Roman times Pliny the Elder also wrote about the ‘Port of Hercules at Monaco’. Even the great Julius Caesar, when leaving his conquests in Gaul for Rome, boarded his ship for the return to Italy in the port at Monaco.

Evidence has been uncovered in excavations in a cave under St Judist’s Gardens that people have lived in what is now Monaco as far back as around 300,000 BC. Fittingly enough, ancient historians say that the original inhabitants (Ligurian mountain people) originally came from Genoa just as the Grimaldi Lords of Monaco were to do so many centuries later. The first to use the Ligurian name “Monikos” as a geographical term were the Phocaeans of Massalia who founded a colony sometime in the 6th Century BC. Ancient historians say that Hercules stayed in the area, while passing through, alone (thus the name Hercules Monoecus) and it was because of this that a shrine of some sort was erected in his honor and Hercules has been associated with Monaco ever since.

Roman historians explain this in one of two ways; either because Hercules drove out everyone else and lived there alone or because at his temple no other gods were worshipped besides Hercules alone. The Romans ruled Monaco for a very long time and numerous Roman historians, writers and even poets like Virgil make mention of Monaco which was part of the Roman province of the Maritime Alps or Gallia Transalpina. Today there are few other existing monarchies with such a long history as the Grimaldis of Monaco, yet, as can be seen, the small gem on the Riviera already had a very ancient history and had been trod by ancient Greeks, Romans and perhaps even by Hercules (;-)) when Francesco Grimaldi first set foot on the Rock to claim it as his own.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Swedes and Flowers in Monaco

HSH Prince Albert II welcomed Their Majesties King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden to Monaco for the gala dinner of the 59th World Baden-Powell Fellowship Event Scout Foundation today. HM Queen Silvia and Prince Albert II

Later today Prince Albert and big sister Princess Caroline toured the 43rd International Bouquet Competition in Monaco

Prince Attends Olympic Funeral

Last Thursday HSH Prince Albert II attended the funeral mass for Juan Antonio Samaranch, former president of the International Olympic Committee at the cathedral in Barcelona, Spain. The Prince had a long association with Samaranch who was one of the longest-serving presidents the IOC ever had. He died on April 21 at the age of 89 at Barcelona hospital of cardiorespiratory arrest. Hundreds came to pay their respects and attend the funeral mass including numerous royals, athletes and politicians. Also on hand, naturally, was current IOC president Jacques Rogge (seen with the Sovereign Prince above). King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia and the Prince and Princess of the Asturias were all in attendance.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

When the Emperor Came to Monaco

(Holy Roman Emperor Charles V)
The trouble began with the murder of Seigneur Lucien Grimaldi in 1523. He was succeeded by his brother, Bishop Agustin Grimaldi acting on behalf of his young son Honore I. In the feud that erupted between the Grimaldi family (especially the branch still in Genoa) and the murderers of Lucien both sides lined up with the on-going war between King Francis I of France and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. The primary leader of the murder plot and the effort to take over Monaco, Barthélemy Doria, was sheltered by the French queen mother, Louise de Savoie. Bishop Augustin later lured him to Monaco and captured him but let him go after being advised against executing the man by Pope Clement VII. Doria then went back to King Francis I and spent the rest of his life in the French army. So, who else did the Grimaldis of Monaco have to turn to but the Emperor?

It was rather significant that the Lord of Monaco at this time was a Catholic bishop. The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V was widely viewed as the Catholic champion of Europe and Pope Clement VII, after giving official papal recognition to Bishop Augustin as heir to his brother and rightful Lord of Monaco, urged him to come to an agreement with the Emperor and join the Hapsburg camp. Thus persuaded, though still cautious, the Lord-Bishop sent a relative, Leonardo Grimaldi, to Burgos to speak to the Emperor about an alliance with Monaco. Leo seems to have been a little overcome by imperial surroundings and more than arrange an alliance, on June 7, 1524 he pledged on behalf of the Lord of Monaco to swear, “total obedience in the service of his emperor”.

Monaco was badly in need of a strong protector it is true, but by his actions Leonardo had all but sold out the sovereignty and independence of Monaco which the Grimaldis had jealously guarded and defended for so long. Bishop Augustin was outraged when he learned what Leonardo had done in spite of the fact that he brought back an appointment from Charles V to the rank of Imperial Counselor and an annual pension of 2,000 écus. The bishop immediately informed the Emperor that Leonardo had overstepped his authority and the Emperor graciously annulled the oath Leonardo had made and recognized the independence of Monaco as a protectorate of Spain (Emperor Charles V also being King Carlos I of Spain).

Several years later, in the summer of 1529, after peace was finally secured with France, Emperor Charles V paid an imperial visit on the newest star in his orbit. He was on his way to Bologna where he was to be crowned by Pope Clement VII with the famous Iron Crown of Lombardy and along the way he dropped anchor in Monaco. Bishop Augustin put on a lavish ceremony to welcome the Emperor with all of the pomp and pageantry that Monaco could muster. For three days Emperor Charles V was feasted and celebrated in Monaco and when he finally departed Bishop Augustin went along with him, at least as far as Genoa, where some other members of the Grimaldi family owned a bank that had extended credit to Charles. The occasion was such an historic event for Monaco that it is still immortalized in a fresco on the façade of the palace chapel of St John the Baptist. (image below)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Crime Strikes in Monaco

Monaco is widely known for its safety and security with the highest ratio of police-per person of any country in the world. This was particularly emphasized by the late Prince Rainier III who was determined to keep organized crime from establishing a foothold in his country. However, Monaco is not immune to crime and yesterday seven men, described as looking like Central Americans, robbed the Credit Foncier Monaco bank on Port Hercules. The bandits got away with 100,000 euros after creating a distraction during which time two of the men jumped behind the counter to grab the cash. The thieves sped off in a blue saloon getaway car which was later found abandoned in Larvotto. Police and security forces immediately shut down the border, blockaded the harbor and began a thorough search of nearbye garages, garbage bins and so on to see if the money had been stashed somewhere but to no avail. The bank is the oldest in Monaco (founded in 1922) and has been a longtime sponsor of the Monte Carlo ballet.

One of the Perks of the Job

There are many duties, heavy responsibilities and alot of work that goes with being the Sovereign Prince of Monaco, but Prince Albert II also gets to be very well off, travel the world, go to lavish parties, rule his own countries and give awards to women beach volley ball players. That is what went on last Sunday when the Prince decorated the winners of the third beach volleyball tournament for women in Monaco. It was the Italian team which came out on top and were presented with medals and trophies for their victory. It's a tough job, a life of sacrifice, but someone's got to do it and Monaco's monarch is there for all of us to get it done.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Happy Anniversary

It was on this day in 1956 that Hollywood icon and American sweetheart Miss Grace Kelly of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was married to HSH Prince Rainier III, Sovereign Prince of Monaco. Both have departed this life, but that moment remains etched in time, the moment when what seemed like the whole world suddenly descended upon the tiny Principality of Monaco with a fascinated interest. Fortunately, the marriage of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace would go down as one of the most happy and successful in the history of the Grimaldi dynasty.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tennis Time in Monaco

Today is the final day of The Monte Carlo Tennis Masters tournament which began on the tenth. HSH Prince Albert II was on hand, and obviously very caught up in the action, at the semifinal match between Fernando Verdasco of Spain and Novak Djokovic of Serbia yesterday. Sitting with the Sovereign Prince at the match were Melanie de Lusignan and Cristiana Crociani who is the sister of friend of the family HRH Princess Camilla of Bourbon-Two Sicilies.
Results Update:
Appearing to watch the final round was princely cousin Elizabeth-Anne de Massy, President of the Monegasque Tennis Federation and the Monte Carlo Country Club where the game was held. Prince Albert II and Charlene Wittstock were also in attendance to congratulate the winner.
And that winner was Rafael Nadal of Spain, seen here accepting his trophy from the Sovereign Prince. Muy bien Senor Nadal!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Prince of Monaco in London

HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and girlfriend Charlene Wittstock are in London to attend the opening of the "Princess Grace: Style Icon" exhibit at the Albert and Victoria Museum in London. Set for tomorrow the Sovereign Prince arrived early for a little royal preview and was welcomed by Their Royal Highnesses the Earl and Countess of Wessex. The exhibit will show off some of what made the late Princess Grace so famous for her style and taste with an assortment of dresses, handbags, gloves, shoes, pearls and other jewelry and so on. Also on hand for the star-studded event was Joan Collins, Erin O'Connor and Ringo Starr. Pieces of the exhibit are arranged to show the stylistic changes that went through the life of Princess Grace from her time as a Hollywood movie star, a blushing bride and finally a Princess consort of Monaco. Some 40 gowns owned by the late Princess will be displayed including those which were part of her costume wardrobe from such famous films as Rear Window and High Society (one of my favorites). The exhibit will be open until September 26.

Congratulations to AS MONACO

The Monegasque, and probably Prince Albert and his nephew and football enthusiast Louis Ducruet have reason to cheer these days as the AS Monaco football club has made it to the French Cup finals. Thomas Mangani has said, "only important matches are left" and that they are going to take things as they come, one Saturday at a time and try to focus on winning each match and not get too far ahead of themselves. You can keep track and follow the favorite team of Mad for Monaco at the official website of AS Monaco football club here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Princely Relationship

Any time it seems that a member of the mainstream media scores and interview with Prince Albert, as much as he would like to concentrate on global warming and the polar ice caps the conversation always has to include some talk about marriage and the "pressure" of Albert to marry his girlfriend of 3-years now Charlene Wittstock. Well, I will chime in with my two cents on this most popular of subjects. I am an admittedly old-fashioned sort and there is nothing I would like better than to see Prince Albert properly married and having a family of his own, ideally with a son to succeed him on the Princely throne. However, I am also not going to criticize the Prince because this has not happened. Because, to be blunt about it, my opinion does not matter and what I would prefer makes no difference.

The question has been asked whether I (with my traditional values) approve of the Prince's behavior. My response to this is always the same; does he want or require my approval? Obviously, most definitely not, nor that of any other person. Further, as much as I would like to see the Prince married and having a family of his own, I would be much more distressed to see yet another failed Grimaldi marriage, another divorce and another divided family. It seems to me that it would be better for the Prince to remain unmarried if that is a state in life he is not prepared for or not fully committed to. The Prince is also much younger than most of the other sovereigns of Europe and has grown up in an atmosphere very different than that of the previous generation which emphasized duty first and foremost. Today the prevailing attitude is to emphasize personal happiness above all else. Now, one can agree or disagree with this change in attitudes, but that change is not the fault of Prince Albert nor can he be blamed for the prevailing climate his generation was born to.
In short, I can have my preferences for what I would like to see for Albert II, for Monaco and the Grimaldi monarchy but at the end of the day it is not for me, or anyone else, to judge. He and Charlene are unmarried, no one is cheating on anyone else, no families are being broken up, no one is being hurt by them keeping their relationship a little on the casual side and I see no reason why anyone should get too worked up about it. I say it would be better for him to be married but it would also be better for him to be unmarried than to be married and divorced or married without being truly committed to it. I have also been asked whether or not the Prince, as an officially Catholic monarch, is setting a good example (invariably by people who already know the answer). That is a little sticky because, we do not know what goes on behind closed doors, nor should we (it is nobody's business but his own) but I would add that, while we are all supposed to do our best to set a good example we are also told in the Good Book not to put our faith in princes. If you're looking for an example to follow, follow Jesus -He was perfect and will never disappoint. Any mere mortal, royal or common, is invariably bound to.
I wish nothing but the best for the Sovereign Prince and while I am in favor of marriage I am also glad that he is not one of those who rush into it unprepared. It is not a decision to take lightly and again, at the end of the day, despite what preferences I may have, it is the Prince's decision, it is his life, his business and the personal lives of others are not for us to judge.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Princely Mistress: Hortense Mancini

One of the most fascinating and famous figures to touch the history of Monaco and the Grimaldi dynasty was Hortense Mancini, Duchess Mazarin. She was born in Rome in 1646 and was the favorite niece of the powerful Cardinal Mazarin, the power-behind-the-throne in France. She was one of five sisters and all became famous for their beauty. Their father was Baron Lorenzo Mancini but their mother took them to Paris so her ‘eminent’
brother could help arrange socially advantageous marriages for the girls. As far as that idea went things worked pretty well. Laure married the duc de Vendome, Olympe married Eugene-Maurice of Savoy-Carignano (parents of the famous Prince Eugene of Savoy), Marie was an early mistress of King Louis XIV and married Lorenzo Colonna (and if that name doesn’t sound familiar read up on your papal history and it soon will) and Marie Anne married the duc de Bouillon.

What about Hortense though? She was proposed to by none other than King Charles II of Britain (never one to miss a pretty face) and while the King of England, Scotland and Ireland who was also the first cousin of King Louis XIV of France might have seemed like the most prestigious marriage of all -Cardinal Mazarin did not think so. At the time King Charles II was not actively the king of anything and was living in exile on the generosity of friends and relatives. When Charles II was restored to the British throne the Cardinal realized he made a mistake and tried to have a do-over and offered his niece to the Stuart king but the miffed Charles wouldn’t have it. Similar proposals from the Duke of Savoy and the Duke of Lorraine also fell through.

Finally Hortense was married to the fabulously wealthy duc de La Meillerave who was then titled duc Mazarin. It was a lucrative marriage all around but not a happy one. Hortense was a pretty, fun-loving and popular girl; intelligent, carried herself well and the life of the party. Her husband was an obsessively prudish, miserly control freak who wouldn’t let his wife associate with men, refused to allow his female servants to milk cows because he thought it was sexual and even knocked their front teeth out to make them less attractive to men. The guy had problems. He was so paranoid about his wife cheating on him that he made surprise searches of the house at all hours. In short, he made life a living hell for Hortense.

Bullied by her husband and cut off from men she began an affair with a teenage girl which, when her husband found out, earned her a one-way ticket to a convent. The two were such a problem the nuns sent them back and after a nightmarish existence and giving birth to four children Hortense managed to escape on June 13, 1668 with the help of her brother and went to Rome to live with her sister. She need not have worried though as powerful men all over Europe were tripping over each other to declare themselves her protector, the most prominent of which was King Louis XIV. Another was the Duke of Savoy and she went to live under his wing in grand style but as her and the Duke got a little too “friendly” once the Duke passed his wife showed Hortense the door.

What was she to do? Where was she to go? London of course, where the English ambassador to France hoped to win favor by making Hortense the new favored mistress of Charles II. She went to England on the excuse of visiting her cousin Mary of Modena (wife of the future King James II) and as expected Charles was smitten immediately by Hortense and was soon lavishing money and gifts on her as his primary mistress. Things were going great for her, but all those years of repression with her husband must have had an effect on her. Since being freed from so many years of enforced virtue Hortense couldn’t seem to get enough and rumors began to swirl of her having additional affairs with a number of men and women alike. One of her lovers was HSH Prince Louis I of Monaco, which seemed to anger Charles more than the rumors of her lesbian relations. She and Charles managed to remain on good terms but Charles finally pushed her aside and brought back the Duchess of Portsmouth to console him.

Hortense stayed in England for quite some time. After Charles died his brother King James II took good care of her (she was his cousin by marriage) and even after James was overthrown by his son-in-law William of Orange nothing changed except a reduction in her pension. Hortense Mancini died on November 9, 1699 with some even claiming it had been a suicide. One thing is certain, she “touched” a lot of lives in her years (her life could have been a soap opera) and she had quite an impact on many of the most powerful people of her time. Prince Louis I of Monaco had been absolutely besotted with her. He drenched her in praise and flattery but she seemed more amused by than in love with him. It was another famous mistress, Nell Gwyn, who tattled on her to Charles II. When the King cast her off in a fury Prince Louis offered her a handsome sum to run away with him as his mistress but that shocked Charles into making a better offer and taking her back.

This incident basically ruined what emerging relations there were between Britain and Monaco (Prince Louis I had to quit England and return to the continent) but it was not the end of the role of Hortense Mancini in the history of the Grimaldi dynasty. One of her descendants, many years later, was Louise d’Aumont who married Prince Honore IV of Monaco which means that, despite things not working out between her and Louis I, all of the subsequent Princes of Monaco down to Albert II today have a little bit of Hortense Mancini flowing in their veins.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Prince of Monaco in Portugal

HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco is in Portugal for a 2-day private visit. Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva and First Lady Maria Cavaco Silva welcomed the Sovereign Prince at the Presidential Palace in Lisbon. Prince Albert was also welcomed by locals on a quick trip to the Portuguese islands of the Azores. Today he will be visiting the "Observatoire de Météorologie et the Sismologie Prince Albert Ier" which was founded by his great-grandfather Prince Albert I who was good friends with King Carlos of Portugal. The observatory was damaged in an earthquake in 1998 and Monaco has been giving considerable funds to its restoration.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Glory Days of Monte Carlo

Perhaps at no other time in the history of Monaco were there so many elite and royal visitors to the principality as during the reign of HSH Prince Albert I, particularly during the years of his marriage to Princess Alice who first tried to make Monaco as famous for its cultural attractions as for gambling. One of the most prestigious visitors was HRH the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII. Arriving aboard the royal yacht Britannia the Prince was a frequent feature at the gaming tables. He usually came with Alice Keppel though he would also have friendly visits with his former flame, the famous actress Lillie Langtry who had a villa in Monte Carlo. He came incognito of course though there were precious few who could possibly have been fooled.

Some of the most prominent guests, and among the most lavish spenders, were the Russian nobles, notably HIH Grand Duke Michael (uncle of Czar Alexander III). The future King Gustavus V of Sweden also turned up. King Leopold II of the Belgians was a regular visitor and each time he came the (generally unsavory) monarch would go to the Princely Palace to pay his respects to Princess Alice. There were Arab sheiks, French aristocrats, German princes and even a Prince of Nepal who was restricted by his Hindu faith to only gambling five days each year. One of the more prominent royals to call was the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, a close friend of Prince Albert I, who would sail his yacht Meteor into Monaco harbor and have long talks with the Sovereign Prince on subjects from oceanography to archaeology.

However, the presence of the Russians and the King of the Belgians probably did not help the cause of attracting the one royal visitor most unsuccessfully sought after; HM the Queen-Empress Victoria of Great Britain. Princess Alice especially longed for a visit from Queen Victoria but the British monarch was adamantly against it. The Prince of Wales tried to convince her that she would enjoy meeting the new Princess of Monaco but Queen Victoria disapproved of the gambling that went on (particularly that of her son) and the most that ever came about was when Prince Albert and Princess Alice were invited by the Queen to tea at her hotel near Nice. It was, however, not an especially friendly visit and was kept short.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Sad Anniversary

It was on this day in 2005 that His Serene Highness Prince Rainier III of Monaco passed to his eternal reward at 6:35 AM at the age of 81. He had been hospitalized for bronchitis, which developed into a lung infection until his life was finally taken as a result of renal and heart failure. There would certainly have been much more attention given to the passing of the Prince had it not come so soon after the death of Pope John Paul II. For Monaco the death of Rainier III was truly the end of an era. At the time he was the second longest reigning monarch in the world after HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. It is also my opinion that, with the clarity of hindsight, Rainier III will be remembered as one of the greatest monarchs in Monegasque history. This is true for many reasons. Rainier III was the first Sovereign Prince in quite some time to make his principality his primary residence, he was determined to live amongst his people and was adamant that he was Monegasque and nothing else. He showed firm leadership in asserting his authority over the country and ensured that Monaco would welcome people of all backgrounds rather than being reserved only for the super-rich. He expanded his country, diversified the economy to ensure future success when the country could not prosper from gambling revenues alone. His marriage to Princess Grace brought glamor and world attention on Monaco, he made Monaco a place for everyone; a place with excitement and culture, fun and refinement, lavish and family friendly, welcoming to the elites of the world and ordinary tourists. He ensured that Monaco was a place where vast fortunes were made and lost but with a large and professional police force that made it one of the safest countries in the world. He was a forward-thinking man, a stylish prince who embraced the future but also a Catholic monarch who honored the traditions of his country and people. His absence is still felt and he is still sorely missed. May His Serene Highness Prince Rainier III have eternal rest and may he rest in peace.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Prince Albert Appoints First Minister of State

HSH Prince Albert II has appointed Michel Roger to be his new Minister of State after the retirement of Jean-Paul Proust. M. Roger said he felt very honored by the appointment and justly so as this is the first such appointment the Prince has made after new agreements came into effect between Monaco and the French republic. In the past it had always effectively been the government in Paris which has chosen the Minister of State but M. Roger is the first to be chosen and appointed exclusively by the Sovereign Prince of Monaco. Roger said he has deep gratitude and regard for his monarch and also wishes to serve in the best interests of the Monegasque people, all the inhabitants of the country and the Principality of Monaco.

The new minister affirmed his support for the goals of the Sovereign Prince and stressed that his efforts would be toward the preservation of the status Monaco has already gained in the areas of economic prosperity, human development and justice and hopefully to go further in all of these areas so that Monaco will become an example of excellence in all areas. He says his role is to be a conductor and not a soloist, a manager and not a technocrat. Roger said he is not planning any immediate changes in the administrative team organized by Proust and pointed out that after sitting on the Supreme Court he has had a good relationship with Prince Albert II and has also met a number of times and is on good ground with French President Sarkozy.

The appointment of Michel Roger represents the start of a new period of greater independence of action between France and Monaco and many people will surely be watching M. Roger closely, not only in terms of how he performs, but to judge the wisdom of the Sovereign Prince in choosing him for this important position.
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