Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sad Look Back, Happy Look Ahead

It was yesterday in 1978 that HSH Princess Caroline of Monaco made the mistake of getting married to the much older French playboy Philippe Junot. It was a beautiful occasion and the bride at least looked happy, but a close look shows two very worried parents. It was a mistake from the start and everyone seemed able to see that save Caroline herself. Problems emerged right away and there were even rumors of abuse. Happily, Princess Caroline was able to extricate herself from the bad situation and the marriage was eventually ruled invalid. She went on to marry her beloved Stefano Casiraghi; a marriage which, though ending tragically, gave her probably the most happy years of family life she has ever known.
On a happier note, the buzzing has not stopped concerning the engagement of the Sovereign Prince and Miss Charlene Wittstock, nor is it likely to until the wedding. Unfortunately, not all of it has been good. I will admit to being slow to 'take to' Charlene as we say down here, and I still do not feel I really know what kind of woman she is, but I have been amazed at how vicious some people have been and remain towards her even while knowing next to nothing about her. As I said, I do not really know what sort of person she is or what kind of princess she will make but I would rather assume the best and believe that Prince Albert, who does know her quite well and has for quite some time, knows what he is doing. I have also been impressed with how much effort Charlene has evidently put in over the last few years to prepare herself for the 'job' of being princess consort. She has studied how things work at the palace, how certain events are handled, she has learned French and Monegasque (no small feat) and, so I am told, she has joined the Roman Catholic Church. I do not know, off hand, of any other example of a Grimaldi bride-to-be doing so much for such a length of time to be prepared for what she will be taking on when she says "I do". Hopefully, it will not be a wasted effort and the two will have a happy and successful marriage and many years together.
I will say again, as the Sovereign Prince is considerably older than his fiance and not getting any younger, when it comes to possible children I would say the sooner the better. I would like for the Polignac-Grimaldi line to continue and hear the guns at Ft Antoine firing and a birth announcement being read from the palace steps again.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Seigneur Lambert of Monaco

Lambert Grimaldi was born in 1420 into the branch of the Grimaldi family that ruled Antibes. Fairly late in his life by the standards of the time he was chosen to marry Claudine, daughter of Lord Catalan, of the Monaco branch of the Grimaldi dynasty in order to keep power consolidated in the family. He had already fought in defense of Monaco before and had to deal with intrigues on the part of the regent of Monaco and his future grandmother-in-law Pomelline. However, in 1465 he and his cousin Claudine were married despite the fact that she was no more than 14 at the time and he was 45. She abdicated her powers to her husband and Lambert became officially Seigneur de Monaco and was recognized as such by King Rene of Anjou and the ruling Sforza family of Milan in 1458. Were it not for the age of his bride they would surely have been married sooner so it was that the political arrangements actually preceded the wedding ceremony.

Lord Lambert of Monaco has a rather colorful history. Remembered as a great diplomat, this was explained in a less than flattering description which judged him, “Self-centered, cold, patient, contemptuous of the glories of battle, he preferred to rely on his diplomatic skills”. That is according to the early historian Gustave Saige who nonetheless also attributed to him great tenacity and composure in times of crisis. Somewhat more recent historians have shown from his correspondence that he was a very learned man and a sincerely religious man who considered a vocation in the Church. Yet, keeping a cool head in a crisis did not hurt as there were plenty of those to deal with, starting with his still-persistent grandmother-in-law Pomelline.

The formidable Pomelline had dispatched galleys and soldiers from Catalonia and Aragon to raid Monaco. They fought their way into the harbor at the Port of Hercules, burned the Monegasque ships, burned houses, vineyards and nearby croplands. Yet, Lambert eventually fought them off and saw them return to Spain. Then his own cousin Lascaris launched an attack on Monaco, which was repelled, and rebellions broke out in Menton and Roquebrune which had to be put down. Through it all the crusty, old aristocrat never wavered in his defense of Monegasque independence and survived every such catastrophe. He also improved the defenses of the country, put a permanent garrison of 400 troops in the fortification on The Rock and kept several galleys on hand ready for sea at a moment’s notice.

What is just as remarkable is that, in spite of all of these military expenditures, the frugal Lord Lambert was still able to turn a profit due to his success as a businessman and he would leave his successors on the throne of Monaco a considerable treasury that would prove invaluable as they advanced themselves in the world. Still, ever since Lord Catalan had revoked the treaty with the Duke of Savoy, Monaco had been without a royal protector and for long-term stability Lambert had to remedy this. The most natural choice was France and Lambert dispatched his brother, Bishop Jean-Andre of Grasse, to begin negotiations with King Louis XI. When the French monarch was less than receptive Lambert displayed his patience and when Louis XI was succeeded by King Charles VIII he tried again.

This time things went much better as Lambert had strengthened his hand by marrying his son Jean to Antoinette of Savoie with the approval of the French court. Not only did King Charles VIII agree to become protector of the Seigneur de Monaco in a formal document of February 25, 1489 but he also named Lambert a counselor and chamberlain to the King of France. More importantly for Monaco, the official document did not require Seigneur Lambert to submit totally to the French king as his liege lord nor did Charles VIII claim any rights or authority over Monaco itself. Effectively, Monaco had become a protectorate before the term existed and secured support and recognition for her status as an independent, sovereign country. With the backing of the French King secured, Lambert felt safe enough to inform the Duke of Milan and the Doge of Genoa that Monaco no longer had anything to do with either of them.

With that achievement sealing the deal, it can safely be said that the reign of Lord Lambert of Monaco was a resounding success. He died on March 15, 1494 in Menton after 37 years on the Monegasque throne. He had defended Monaco from the Spanish, dissidents of his own family, enemies without and rebels within. He had secured the protection of the Kingdom of France as a guarantee against the constant wars of the Italian states and he had been given recognition of the independence of Monaco as a sovereign state. It is thus fitting, and a sign of humility and piety on his part, that it was Seigneur Lambert who gave the House of Grimaldi of Monaco their official motto; Deo Juvante, ‘with God’s help’.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Watching the Horses

HSH Prince Albert II, proud mother Princess Caroline, brother Pierre and boyfriend Alex were all on hand to watch Charlotte Casiraghi compete in the International Jumping de Monte Carlo event yesterday. Once again, though Charlotte may take top prize for looking great in a pair of riding breeches she finished only with the minimum 500 euro prize (top was 5,000) so it is a good thing Charlotte is certainly not doing this for the money.
Because of her special connection with the host country Charlotte also handed out the prize to the top winner. Pierre's girlfriend Beatrice Borromeo was also on hand and day 2 Charlotte's little half-sister Princess Alexandra also came to watch the equestrian festivities.
After all was said and done a very glittering party was held for all involved in the high style that Monte Carlo does best.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Religious Festivities in Monaco

After making making the big announcement about his engagement, Prince Albert II, Princess Caroline and Princess Alexandra took in the local celebrations in honor of the feast of St John the Baptist. The little Princess of Hanover is really growing up fast.
Princess Caroline points out to her Protestant daughter how Catholics do things...

Prince Albert II teamed up with Princess Caroline again today for the opening of the "Buddha Bar" in Monte Carlo. A business geared toward over-indulgence in alcohol in a country famous for harboring the super-rich with a Buddhist theme...hmmm....somehow I doubt that the 'Enlightened One' would approve of his image being used in this way.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


There must be something in the water in Stockholm! Though everyone assumes it was known in royal circles before then (I'm not entirely sure) but it has been announced, it is official, -yes we have confirmation this time- our Sovereign Prince has finally popped the question and is engaged to be married to Miss Charlene Wittstock. To my regular readers, I know I have not been very prompt with this news but you should all know how many times Monaco-marriage-hopefuls have been burned in the past, so, I determined to hold off until there was an official announcement from the Princely Palace and not just a report on CNN quoting French newspapers. Well, the palace has confirmed it:

The Palace of Monaco announced the engagement of HSH Prince Albert II of
Monaco with Ms Charlene Wittstock
The Palace of Monaco announced on
Wednesday 23 June 2010 the engagement of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and Ms
Charlene Wittstock.

HSH Prince Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre
Grimaldi, Sovereign Prince of Monaco, Marquis des Baux, was born on 14 March
His Highness is the son of Prince Rainier III, Louis Henri Maxence
Bertrand Grimaldi (31 May 1923 - 6 April 2005) and Princess Grace, née Kelly (12
November 1929 - 14 September 1982).
HSH Prince Albert II succeeded His
father, Prince Rainier III, 12 July 2005.
Ms Charlene Lynette Wittstock is
of South African nationality and was born on 25 January 1978 in Bulawayo,
Zimbabwe. Before settling in Monaco, Charlene Lynette Wittstock was a youth

More than a few people are probably saying, 'Well it's about time!' In any event, better late than never, it will be nice having another wedding in Monaco to look forward to. Congratulations and all our prayers and best wishes to HSH Prince Albert II and Miss Wittstock!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lady Claudine of Monaco

Although not always considered as a sovereign of Monaco, Lady Claudine is often listed amongst the seigneurs and princes of the House of Grimaldi. She was born probably in 1451 (according to most if not all sources) to Lord Catalan of Monaco. She was one of three children but the only one to survive and thus stood to inherit the throne of Monaco from her father but a suitable arranged marriage to another Grimaldi cousin was necessary. Imagine having your marriage discussed and negotiated when you are only 6-years-old! The choice was her cousin Lambert Grimaldi but because of her age the two could not marry right away (at least it would have made little sense to as they certainly could not have lived as husband and wife). So, though the plans were made, she was still unmarried when her father died in 1457 and, at the age of 6, Claudine became the nominal lady of Monaco.

Obviously Claudine could do very little and power was exercised on her behalf by her formidable grandmother and regent Pomelline Fregoso, wife of Seigneur Jean I. The people of Monaco, naturally desiring a stable government with an adult in charge (a man naturally at the time of course), wanted the will of Lord Catalan to be put into effect and for Lambert to take over things immediately. Well, Pomelline was having none of that and she immediately began plotting against Lambert no sooner than Catalan was cold in the ground. She had her agents pursue Lambert and capture him though whether or not she intended to have him killed or simply locked away remains unknown.

Nonetheless, it was to no avail. Lambert found out about the conspiracy and eluded his attackers even fighting off a massive raid on Monaco when Pomelline enlisted the support of Catalonia and Aragon in her effort to maintain power. However, in the end, Lambert and his forces prevailed and he had Pomelline’s supporters beaten and arrested Pomelline herself and kept under guard at her home in Menton. With that matter settled, and after a nominal reign of only about a year, Lady Claudine abdicated her position to her future husband in 1458. Seven years later, in 1465, Claudine was considered old enough to marry and at the age of 14 she wed her, by now 45-year-old, cousin Lambert.

Given the roughly three decade age difference between the two, the fact that the match was an arrangement of family politics, one might expect the result to have been a failed and unhappy marriage. On the contrary, however, despite their disparity in age the two seemed to have had a very successful marriage and Claudine gave Lambert six children; Jean (future Jean II of Monaco), Louis (disinherited on grounds of insanity), Bianca, Augustine (future Bishop of Grasse), Francoise (who married into the Doria family) and Lucien who would also become Seigneur of Monaco one day. She died on November 19, 1515 during the reign of her son Lucien, to the last trying to keep peace in the family.

*in the absence of a known portrait of Claudine I substituted this image of a girl of the same period by Leonardo de Vinci.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Swedish Royal Wedding

HSH Prince Albert II and Charlene Wittstock cut a fine figure at the wedding of HRH Crown Princess Victoria and (now) Prince Daniel of Sweden yesterday. Charlene carried herself well, no major gaffes in her first major royal function though the press seemed a little put off that she basically ignored them and refused to answer the questions they shouted in her direction and the Sovereign Prince stood out in a sea of dark coats with his white jacket. I must say I still havn't figured that out -the shoulder boards are throwing me off. If this is some formal-dinner wear uniform I have not seen the Sovereign Prince wear it before. Perhaps a unique version of his Princely uniform for the special occasion? If anyone has any ideas let me know...

It has also been commented on in more than one media outlet that a "mere girlfriend" is not usually invited to such an event but only spouses and fiances. This fit right in with the constant reminders that the new Prince of Sweden was a personal trainer etc which just goes to show, yet again, that there are none so snobby and stuck up as the gaggle of common-born "media elites".

Friday, June 18, 2010

Albert and Charlene Arrive

Yesterday HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and longtime girlfriend Charlene Wittstock arrived in Stockholm, Sweden for the special concert building up to today's wedding ceremony between HRH Crown Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling. Just another day at the office perhaps for Prince Albert but this will be the first major royal function to which Charlene has been invited. Although they may be avoiding wedding bells of their own, royal society seems to be accepting them as a couple. In the past Prince Albert and Princess Caroline attended such events but not this time; which has led to some speculation. A prevailing viewpoint is that the Swedish court simply wanted to avoid any discomfort over whether or not to invite Princess Caroline and her wayward husband (in name only these days) Prince Ernst August V of Hanover. However, it may be less complicated then that. Prince Albert II and Crown Princess Victoria have been good friends for many years and that may be all there is to it. In any event, Charlene was looking very much at ease in this new situation for her and she and the Sovereign Prince made quite a pair. Perhaps the spectacle will give them a little nudge in the matrimonial direction.

TV Festival Follow Up and News

As the Monte Carlo TV Festival was shutting down for this year HSH Prince Albert II was asked about his own viewing habits. The Sovereign Prince said he doesn't have much time for TV and mostly watches the news but is also a fan of "House MD", "CSI" and "24". Albie, the king of all nice guys, a fan of Dr House? Who would have guessed the boss and your humble blogger have something in common. He also said the events he will remember most watching on TV was the moon landing, the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9-11. When asked when his own wedding would be seen on TV he gave no answer (they were expecting what?). Were I him I probably would have said something like, "Friday; didn't you hear?". The Sovereign Prince also confirmed that he will be attending the upcoming wedding of his friend HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden. The heiress to the Swedish throne was present for the most important public ceremony in Albert's life; the pontifical mass marking his succession to the Monegasque throne.

In other news Prince Albert II has gone to Kenya where he met on Tuesday with President Mwai Kibaki who thanked His Serene Highness for supporting the Green Africa Foundation in Kitui and other groups supporting the environmental protection of Africa.

Also on hand for the recent TV festival was HSH Princess Stephanie who hosted a radio show during the event to talk about the primary cause in her life; her charity focused on caring for AIDS victims; Fight AIDS Monaco. She showed up for the event with her new puppy, too bad you can't see 'cute' over the radio.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Monegasque Sculptor Francois-Joseph Bosio

One of the most famous names to ever come out of Monaco, and one of the most famous names in the world of art in general, was the Monegasque sculptor Joseph-Francois Bosio. He was born on March 19, 1769 in Monaco where a small square in Monaco-Ville honors him. His family roots went back to the island of Corsica and they owned a large estate called Pieve dei Bosio which was elevated to a county. It was in the late XVIth Century that the family settled in the Principality of Monaco. He showed early artistic promise and from the age of 16 was refining his skills as a sculptor. From a heap of iron he produced a striking figure of Christ which attracted the attention of HSH Prince Honore III. Seeing potential in the young man the Sovereign Prince gave him a scholarship to attend school in Paris under the famous master sculptor Pajou.

Bosio served in the French army during the Revolution, becoming a lieutenant, but left the army and wandered northern Italy working on his art, mostly doing religious pieces for chapels and convents. He spent time in Florence, later worked in Rome and Naples and returned to Paris when Napoleon crowned himself Emperor. While in Italy he had befriended the sculptor Bartolini who he met again in Paris and arranged his meeting with the director of the Imperial Museums, Denon, who appreciated his talent and commissioned work from him. His talent was seen and appreciated and Empress Josephine posed for a bust for him which so impressed the Emperor Napoleon that he placed the bust in his private quarters and named the humble artist from Monaco the official favored sculptor of the French Empire.

The fame of Bosio grew to such an extent that the fall of the empire and the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy had no effect on him. He was appointed to the Academie des Beaux Arts and was retained as first sculptor by King Louis XVIII. In 1817 he was, by royal decree, made a tutor at the royal school of fine arts. King Charles X confirmed the status of Bosio bestowed by his elder brother and even elevated him to the status of a baron on May 11, 1828. During his career Bosio produced many famous pieces and busts of all the monarchs he served. His statue of a young King Henri IV is displayed at the Louvre, his equestrian statue of the famous King Louis XIV stands in the Place des Victoires but it is his many pieces from classical Greco-Roman mythology that are probably most famous.

Bosio died on July 29, 1845. A month later Raoul Rochette, permanent secretary of the Academy of Fine Arts, at a memorial at his tomb, stated of Bosio that, “He was born in a State, almost imperceptible on the political map of Europe, but which yet will one day be celebrated as the birth-place of a great artist”. Today Monaco is famous for much more but in the arena of fine art the name of the Monegasque sculptor Bosio will be remembered and honored forever.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Seigneur Catalan of Monaco

Catalan de Grimaldi was the son and heir of Jean I, Lord of Monaco, and succeeded his father upon his death in 1454. However, Seigneur Catalan de Monaco was not to last much longer himself. Considering the rules of succession his father had drawn up just before his death, it was crucial that his only child; his daughter Claudine, make a suitable marriage. It was up to Lord Catalan to see his girl married to someone of proper strength to be a leader for Monaco and also someone who was either already a relative or who would forsake their own family name and arms for that of the House of Grimaldi. Of course, an additional problem may have been the fact that Claudine was only a child (6-14 years-old depending on the source). His father had been adamant that, if at all possible, daughters set to inherit the throne should be married to another Grimaldi. Lord Catalan finally decided on a cousin; Lambert Grimaldi who was co-seigneur of Menton and whose brother Gaspar was Seigneur of Antibes.

Other than the arrangement of this marriage, paving the way for the reign of the colorful Lambert Grimaldi, the only other thing Lord Catalan is known for is repudiating the treaty his father Jean I had signed with the Duke of Savoy. After reigning for only three years he died in 1457 at the age of 42, leaving the throne of Monaco to the husband of his only daughter (he had three children but Claudine was the sole survivor). The marriage must not have seemed ideal but necessary. Lambert and his brothers had fought for Monaco already and the Antibes branch of the family was descended in a direct male line from their Genoese family patriarch Grimaldo. If little else can be said of him, Lord Catalan did ensure that, despite his own problems in securing the succession in his own line, the family would go on and Grimaldi rule over Monaco was secure.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Today in Grimaldi History

On this day in 1688 HSH Prince Antoine I of Monaco married Marie de Lorraine, starting what would be a very tumultuous and controversial but ultimately enduring marriage. You can find out more about the match of a fun-loving society girl and a military monarch known as "Goliath" on their respective pages. MM

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Jazmin Grimaldi Graduates!

This last week Jazmin Grace Grimaldi, natural daughter of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, graduated, with honors, from Junipero Serra High School in California, a very prestigious, Catholic private school. Congratulations to Miss Grimaldi on this accomplishment and Mad for Monaco wishes her all the best in her future; she has a bright one ahead of her.

The Prince at the World Cup

HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and girlfriend Charlene Wittstock made the trip to South Africa to take in the start of the World Cup competition. Arriving in Johannesburg yesterday before the South Africa - Mexico game at soccer city both were eager to take in the excitement. Both are avid sports fans and former Olympians. This trip must hold special meaning for both of them, for the Sovereign Prince as a big football enthusiast and Charlene who is surely glad to be back in her native South Africa once again.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Television in Monaco

Yesterday HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and longtime girlfriend Charlene Wittstock joined local elites, celebrities and television icons for the 50th anniversary of the Monte Carlo TV Festival at the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel. It was 50 years ago that Albert's father Prince Rainier III started the festival and handing out the 'Golden Nymphs' when TV was a relatively new thing. This year those attending included TV icon Larry Hagman (star of shows such as "Dallas" and "I Dream of Jeanie", Cote de Pablo star of "NCIS", Zachary Levi star of "Chuck", Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder of "The Vampire Diaries", and Julie Benz lately of "Dexter" among others. For more information you can go to the official website of the Monte Carlo TV Festival here and see, among other things, Prince Albert's openning speech.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Happy Birthday Andrea!

It was on this day in 1984 that Andrea Albert Pierre Casiraghi was born to Stefano Casiraghi and HSH Princess Caroline of Monaco at the Princess Grace Hospital Centre in Monte Carlo, the first grandchild of HSH Prince Rainier III. Over the years Andrea has gone from teen heart-throb to a man serious, still well known on the social scene, but informed and prepared for the possibility of inheriting the Monegasque throne to which he is currently the second-in-line. Mad for Monaco wishes Andrea a very happy 26th birthday with many, many more to come!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Oldest Monarchy

One can find a number of different monarchies which certain historians and writers will attach the title to of being “the oldest monarchy” in Europe or even the world. What can be reasonably asserted is that the oldest monarchy still functioning in the world today is the monarchy of Japan. Although its origins trace back to the legendary foundation of Japan (not uncommon, particularly in the Far East) with figures and lifespans few would consider entirely accurate, even if the earliest names and dates are dismissed Japan still usually comes out well ahead of all others. HIM Emperor Akihito (currently reigning) is officially listed as the 125th Emperor of Japan dating from the reign of Emperor Jimmu on February 11, 660 BC.

In Europe it is the Kingdom of Denmark that is generally accepted as the oldest monarchy with HM Queen Margrethe II of today being able to trace the line of her predecessors back to roughly 936 AD with the accession of King Gorm the Old. Denmark also has a listing of legendary monarchs going back much further though obviously it is hard to separate fact from fiction in those cases. Still, there are some disputing claims. For example, King Alfred the Great of Wessex was the first monarch to style himself “King of the English” (or Anglo-Saxons) and his reign commenced in 871 AD with his taking of the title dated as sometime around 886 AD. However, it was his grandson King Athelstan (whose reign started around 924 AD) who was the first monarch to rule over mostly the same area as what is considered England today.

However, this raises the question as to whether or not a “monarchy” is more or less than a title. If one is to go by which figure in Europe retains the oldest unique title the winner would likely be the Roman Catholic Pope whose title, “Supreme Pontiff” predates Christianity itself being used by numerous Roman Emperors and officials of the Roman Republic long before the birth of Christ. It was though not until 381 AD that the Roman Emperor Gratian officially transferred this title to Pope St Damasus. If the Papacy is to be regarded as a monarchy it would be the oldest, dating from the life of Christ and the “passing of the keys” to St Peter. However, this gets into religious territory exclusively as St Peter did not become Bishop of Rome until some years later and the Papacy did not hold sovereignty over any actual territory, as a monarch, for some considerable time even after that.

The line of the Kings of France has been dated back to 428 AD which puts them back farther than the Danish or English kings but they are thwarted by the fact that there is no longer a reigning King of France today. What also complicates matters in the England-Denmark dispute over age is the fact that England did not maintain its independence throughout that great period from the first “King of the English” to today. There was the Norman conquest in 1066, the Dutch conquest (albeit largely welcomed) in 1688 and a number of changes in dynasty. Denmark has had changes in dynasties as well but have been more fortunate in maintaining their independence. Their monarchy has also been continuous whereas the English at one point overthrew and executed their King (Charles I in 1649) and had a republican dictatorship until the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. It is at this point that the partisans of England will usually bring up the occupation of Denmark by Nazi Germany during World War II. However, sad as that was, it must be remembered that the King of Denmark, Christian X, did not leave his country, nor was he ever deposed as monarch during the occupation. Germany regarded Denmark as a “protectorate” and never officially took direct control of the country. The status of Denmark, it seems, withstands the contests to her title of “oldest monarchy” in Europe.

Well, that all may be well good, you might be thinking, but why bring up this topic here? Because, believe it or not, there are writers who have stated (perhaps without giving it too much thought) that the Principality of Monaco is the oldest monarchy in Europe. Readers of this blog will know that is certainly not the case. It was not until 1297 that a Grimaldi first set foot in Monaco to take it from the Ghibellines of Genoa with Lord Rainier I titled as the first sovereign ruler of Monaco. However, Monaco cannot be easily dismissed either and while it cannot claim to be the oldest monarchy in the world or even in Europe, the House of Grimaldi is often seriously considered the oldest reigning family in the world. It is a fact that there was a Grimaldi ruling Monaco in 1297 and there is a Grimaldi ruling Monaco today -something no one else can really say, both because current royal dynasties do not go back as far in the countries they now preside over and because none of the monarchs of older kingdoms and even dynasties still actually rule their countries as the Prince of Monaco does.

However, there is always a catch, as they say, and that is somewhat true in this case as well. For example, the English monarchy has changed royal families a number of times over the centuries. Today it is the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (lately named Windsor) which dates from the reign of Queen Victoria whose husband was Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Prior to that time it was the House of Hanover after 1714. Prior to that time it was the House of Stuart (though the senior line was driven out in 1688) after 1603 before which it was the House of Tudor. During all that time and all those changes it was always the House of Grimaldi that ruled Monaco. Where cries of “foul” might arise is over disputes of what makes a reigning house -blood or legal name and title? In 1731 the Grimaldi Princess of Monaco, Louise-Hippolyte, (the only Sovereign Princess in Monegasque history) died of smallpox and the throne passed to her husband Prince Jacques I and then to her oldest son. Prince Jacques was of the Matignon family (as regular readers will know) but according to the rules of succession in Monaco laid down by Seigneur Jean I, those wishing to succeed to the throne by marrying a daughter of the House of Grimaldi must renounce their own family name and coat of arms and legally adopt the name and arms of Grimaldi. Moreover another such change came with the passing of Prince Louis II when the throne passed to Rainier III whose father was of the French noble house of Polignac.

So, contestation of the claim of the Princely Family of Monaco to be the longest reigning family still ruling today stems from those who accept only direct descent in the male line of a family. However, even this tends to fall apart today as most people in Britain, for example, would not think that their whole royal family changed since the time of Queen Victoria or that the current Prince of Wales represents a different royal family than that of his mother Queen Elizabeth II. All those who have succeeded to the Monegasque throne, other than Jacques I, have a male or female-line of relation to the original Grimaldi founders of the Principality of Monaco and even Jacques I and all others who married into the family and stood in the line of succession have legally taken the name and arms of the Grimaldi family. Therefore, while not the oldest monarchy in the world, the House of Grimaldi can boast of being the oldest reigning house still ruling over a sovereign nation today.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Albert Preaches the "Green" Gospel

The Sovereign Prince of Monaco is serious about the environment -as absolutely everyone should know at this point- and he was banging the environmentalism drum again on the first of this month he officially opened "Monacology"; a week of environmental awareness in the Principality of Monaco. This year it corresponded with International Kids Day so there was some special attention given to children. A number of topics were talked about from fishing (bad), farming (bad), deforestation (bad), repotting plants (good) and recycling (good). The next day he was in Paris to talk plants and hand out Prince Rainier III scholarships. That is probably one reason why Prince Albert (who talks about environmentalism *alot*) is usually preaching to the choir when it comes to 'green' issues. There really is not much Monaco can do to impact the environment; it is extremely developed but does have a high percentage of park space for so small a country and the Prince is constantly on the move, jetting around the world which would not tend to make global warming skeptics take him very seriously (though the Prince has done far more than many others who only talk about the problem). It is obviously an issue he cares a great deal about, but talking about the polar ice cap or ocean temperatures simply does not stir the public sympathy in the same way as Princess Stephanie caring for AIDS victims or Princess Caroline caring for orphans and destitute children does.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Chateau Grimaldi

Seigneur Rainier I is best known as the founding father, so to speak, of the Princely Family of Monaco. He was the first official Lord of Monaco but spent much of his time in France where, as readers of this blog will know, he became a grand-admiral of France for his contribution during the wars of King Philippe IV against England and Flanders, particularly the great naval victory in Zeeland in August of 1304 where he captured the Flemish admiral Guy de Namur whom he carried in triumph back to Paris. However, he was also, in addition to being Lord of Monaco, the Lord of Cagnes and it was as Cagnes-sur-Mer, in what is now the Alps-Maritimes department in France, that he built the formidable Chateau Grimaldi.
Standing tall and imposing on a hill overlooking the town, the castle was built from local stone with fortified walls, bastions, towers, an imposing keep all centered around a triangular courtyard. There had been fortifications on the hill going back to the Roman Empire and even the ancient Greeks before Seigneur Rainier I built his castle there in 1309. Later, during the reign of King Louis XIII, the castle was modified to be a more livable residence rather than simply a military structure. During that time the artist Genois Carlone painted the great hall of the chateau with a scene of the fall of Phaeton from Greek mythology.

Today the Chateau Grimaldi still stands, to a large extent as it was when Rainier I of Monaco built it but with a more peaceful occupation. Officially known as the Grimaldi Castle Museum it houses an impressive art collection including pieces of mostly contemporary and modern art. It is safe to say that a fighting sailor like Rainier I would be quite surprised to see his imposing fortress used to display modern art.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

One Little, Two Little, Three Little...

HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco
Chief Owl-Bear and Princess Little Crow plot a war party

Princess Stephanie spells "cute" t-r-o-u-b-l-e

The princess loves her captured baby like her own

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