Friday, July 30, 2010

Red Cross Ball 2010

The 62nd annual Red Cross Ball was held today at the Monte Carlo Sporting Club of the Principality of Monaco, the biggest event on the Grimaldi's social calendar and the largest charity gala in the world. The special guest entertainment this year was Tom Jones and the "theme" this year was a luxury cruise.

HSH Prince Albert II arrived with his two special girls. Fiance Charlene Wittstock set a glamorous tone that has drawn mostly praise from observers. HSH Princess Stephanie turned heads with her fashion choice -reviews have been mixed, though in my very biased opinion I think she looks fantastic.

Other celebrities on the guest list included model/actress Victoria Silvstedt (a regular every year), singer Julio Iglesias, the ever-present and ever-ominous looking designer Karl Lagerfeld, singer Shirley Bassey, Baroness Tita Cervera, Tiziana Rocca, Isabell Kristensen, etc. Also attending was Prince Albert's former paramour and mother of his son Alexandre, Nicole Valerie Coste. I hope Charlene was properly prepared for that experience. Although Nicole has attended events at which the Prince was presiding before this was the first time she ever attended a formal ball. Sadly, once again, Princess Caroline was not to be seen, nor were the "Casiraghi trio" who lately have attended more often than not. Still, it was a very glamorous and successful event, as it usually is, Charlene seemed to handle all the extra attention very well and it is always great to see Princess Stephanie at such formal family events.

Monaco Boys Choir Perform in New York City

See also this previous post on Church Music in Monaco

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pope Innocent IV

In the history of the Catholic Church one pontiff who, inadvertently, had a major impact on Monaco was Pope Innocent IV. Coincidentally enough he was a native of Genoa, born there as Sinibaldo Fieschi in 1195. He was educated in Parma and Bologna until being called to Rome to serve in the Curia in 1226. The Church had enjoyed a succession of strong popes, particularly Pope Innocent III during whose reign the Church reached its peak of political power in Europe. Lately, however, conflicts had arisen with the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (quite famous and formidable in his own right he was known as the ‘Wonder of the World’). After a very long and contentious conclave Cardinal Fieschi was elected, a decision he accepted with great reluctance. He had been on friendly terms with the Emperor but as pope he could have no favorites and Frederick II expected this and it surely turned heads when he took as his name Innocent IV.

Problems arose almost immediately over imperial control of the Church (such as in the appointment of bishops) and the earlier seizure of northern Italy from the papacy by the Emperor. Italians were roused to anger against the German monarch and open conflict seemed inevitable. In 1244 the Pope left Rome (where German agents made things dangerous for him) and moved to Genoa and from there he later went in disguise to France where he was warmly received in Lyons. Safe to act freely he summoned a council aimed at reminding the Emperor that his power had limits. On July 17, 1245 the Pope and assembled bishops formally excommunicated Frederick II and absolved his subjects of all allegiance to him. All across Europe there were preparations for war but, perhaps fortunately for the Pope, Frederick II died only five years later which ended the crisis for the moment and Innocent IV returned to Rome.

The Pope had numerous political as well as religious matters to deal with and, like the previous pontiff of his name, maintained that as the Pope was the Vicar of Christ he had final authority over all kings and princes. He intervened in Portugal, Austria but could be a strong ally to monarchs as well as an adversary, taking the side of King Henry III of England even when the nobles and bishops of the country were opposed to him. He even sent a mission to the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, Guyuk Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan. He asked the Mongol Emperor to cease his attacks on Christian countries and advised him to become a Catholic. Guyuk kept his own religion and sent a message back demanding that the Pope and all the monarchs of Europe submit to the rule of the Great Khan. That submission was not forthcoming.
In his latter days Pope Innocent IV was again occupied by problems with the Holy Roman Empire, specifically the offspring of Frederick II who were still struggling for domination of Italy. He died in 1254 in Naples but the battle lines had already been drawn and across Italy, particularly northern Italy, factions emerged which supported the Pope (the Guelphs) and the Emperor (the Ghibellines). One of the places where this rivalry was fiercest was in the Pope’s native Genoa where both sides made war against each other in true vendetta fashion. The result was a Ghibelline victory and the expulsion of the Guelf families, one of which was the House of Grimaldi. Driven from their home they looked to take their revenge and seek their fortunes elsewhere and the target they had in mind was the Ghibelline fortress on the Rock known as Monaco.
So, if you have ever wondered why Pope Innocent IV was featured on a Monegasque postage you know.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Date is Set

HSH Prince Albert II and Charlene Wittstock have officially set a date for their upcoming wedding. The happy event will start next year on July 8 with a civil ceremony, at the Princely Palace we presume, with a religious ceremony the following day, July 9, presumably at St Nicholas Cathedral. The staff at the palace are already very busy making the preparations for what will be the first such event held in the principality in decades. We can only hope that a proper balance will be struck to share the happy occasion with everyone while keeping it intimate and joyful for the happy couple as well. As many know the wedding of the late Princess Grace and Prince Rainier, while it looked very glamorous and so like a fairy tale from the outside, was not a very pleasant experience for the couple who, they revealed later, felt positively suffocated by all the cameras, photographers and general horde of media that descended on their little Mediterranean paradise. We can hope for things to be at least a little bit calmer this time around considering that Charlene does not have the same pre-marriage celebrity status that Princess Grace did as an international movie star and, perhaps, because Charlene is already a familiar face around Monaco having been part of their lives, as she has been part of that of the Sovereign Prince for some time now. In any event, we can only hope things go smoothly, the time will certainly fly by for those doing the planning and we can all look forward to a grand wedding in true Monegasque style which has long been wished for by many.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Grimaldis in England

Last Saturday HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and fiance Charlene Wittstock were in England taking in the Asprey World Class Cup at Hurtwood Park Polo Club in Ewhurst. As can be seen on the left in this photo, also on hand was Grimaldi cousin Melanie de Lusignan (probably there for promotional work) who, as readers will know, is the granddaughter of HSH Princess Antoinette of Monaco, the older sister of the late Prince Rainier III and currently the most senior member of the Grimaldi clan. No word if the Sovereign Prince got into any trouble for wearing his "La Martina" (an Argentinian polo team) cap to a match in England...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bishop Augustin Grimaldi

Augustin Grimaldi was born in 1482, the son of Seigneur Lambert of Monaco and his wife the Lady Claudine. Lords Jean II and Lucien were his brothers and Augustin himself would one day rule Monaco as well, though he took a different path in life, becoming a priest and eventually rising to the positions of Bishop of Grasse and Abbot of Lérins. This was something of a family tradition as his uncle, Jean-André Grimaldi, had also been Bishop of Grasse and a diplomat on behalf of his brother Lord Lambert. Bishop Augustin would do much the same but with even greater success. He may be most remembered outside the country as the founder of the village of Valbonne in France, but in Monaco he is remembered as a national savior.

His first, most vital service, came during the Genoese invasion of Monaco in 1506-1507. While his brothers Lord Lucien and Charles were struggling to repel the Genoese Bishop Augustin of Grasse was dispatched by the brothers, along with their sister Francoise, to the court of King Louis XII of France to appeal for French assistance. Genoa had tried to keep the French out of it but King Louis had considerable interests in northern Italy and the last thing he wanted was a revived and more powerful Genoese republic. So, Bishop Augustin was successful and Louis XII dispatched the French Governor of Savona, Yves d’Allégre, with his troops to come to the aid of the Monegasque. In mid-March of 1507 the Genoese spotted the approaching French army and finally gave up their attack and retreated.

Bishop Augustin was left in charge of things in Monaco while Lord Lucien joined the French in pursuing the enemy, finally joining in a siege against Genoa led by King Louis XII himself. The French and Grimaldi forces were successful but in the aftermath Lucien was imprisoned by his ally after he refused to either sell Monaco to France or become the vassal of the French king. Bishop Augustin was still overseeing the cleanup of Monaco, which was in ruins after the Genoese attack, when he received a message from Louis XII demanding the surrender of Monaco. Naturally, the Bishop refused and the King promptly ordered his galleys to move against Monaco by sea and dispatched 4,000 troops to attack overland.

The situation could not have been more desperate. The small Monegasque army had been reduced to a skeletal force and the fortifications were in ruins because of the recent attack. There were hardly any soldiers, few supplies and almost no money. Bishop Augustin, in response, did the only thing he could do; he stalled. Using every diplomatic trick up his sleeve he kept the French out with a string of vague and contradictory messages. He weaved red tape like a master and in so doing saved Monaco from utter disaster. Bishop Augustin kept this going until the tide turned against the French in Italy and Louis XII was forced to release Lucien. Yet, in the years that followed, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, King of Spain, defeated the French in Italy, captured Genoa and cast a long shadow over Monaco.

The next year, in 1523, Lord Lucien was assassinated in an attempted coup led by the Doria family. Bishop Augustin happened to be passing through on his way back from Cannes a short time after these events and so, according to the will of their mother Claudine, Bishop Augustin took charge of the government as regent in the name of his young nephew Honore I. Historians since have hailed Bishop Augustin as the most intelligent of the three brothers to rule Monaco and such an estimation seems believable. Already famous for his diplomatic skill, the Bishop proved a firm leader in the aftermath of the murder of his brother and, full of righteous indignation, he organized his forces to hunt down and punish those responsible.

Bishop Augustin was known, even at the time, as a remarkable man. Having lived in Rome he was well connected there, respected in the French court for his diplomatic talents, well known for his great intelligence and his piety, even going on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem some years before. He was 44 when he became regent of Monaco but, being a man of the cloth, he had to have the permission of the Pope to hold temporal power. Because he was so well known and admired by the curia in Rome this was quickly granted and he could carry on with the government of Monaco. His first order of business was to punish the murderer of his brother, namely Barthélemy Doria. Through some trickery he managed to capture him but when Pope Clement VII advised showing mercy Bishop Augustin released him.

Doria later died while serving in the French army and it had not escaped the notice of Bishop Augustin how little the French seemed bothered by the crisis that had shaken Monaco. The country was still in a very precarious situation and needed the protection of a great power. The two most powerful monarchs in the region were King Francois I of France and Emperor Charles V of Spain. Bishop Augustin would have to choose one or the other and Pope Clement VII advised him to choose the Emperor. Augustin sent a relative, Leonardo Grimaldi, to negotiate an alliance with the Holy Roman Emperor, the most powerful man in Europe at the time. Leonardo went too far in the first negotiations, sacrificing Monegasque independence, but Bishop Augustin was so persuasive in his appeal that Emperor Charles V annulled the agreement and in the Tordesillas declaration recognized the independence of Monaco.

Emperor Charles V visited Monaco during the regency of Bishop Augustin; a guest of some considerable significance. To some extent the decision to align with Spain was the correct one. Charles V defeated the King of France, obtained Spanish dominance over Italy and was even given the Iron Crown of Lombardy by Pope Clement VII. Yet, the Spanish presence proved burdensome and the treasury of Monaco was emptied paying for the garrison as promised compensation never arrived. Thus it was said that Bishop Augustin came to regret his decision to take Monaco into the Spanish sphere of influence at the end of his life. That end came on April 14, 1532, suddenly, which caused rumors of poisoning to spread but there is no evidence of that. Bishop Augustin had literally saved Monaco on more than one occasion and proved himself a masterful regent as well as a devout churchman. The alliance he arranged would last until 1641 when Prince Honore II ousted the Spanish and took Monaco back into the orbit of France where it has remained ever since.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Princely Remnants in Menton

Le Palais de Carnolès est situé à Menton dans les Alpes-maritimes. Le prince Honoré II s’installe à Menton en 1640. Un terrain jouxtant la première résidence princière, est acheté par son descendant le prince Antoine Grimaldi en 1717 aux moines. C’est là que l’architecte Antoine Latour construisit un palais qui devint la résidence d’été des princes de Monaco.
Aujourd’hui, le palais expose au niveau du premier étage de belles pièces datant du 17ème au 19ème siècles. le rez-de-chaussée est réservé pour des expositions temporaires organisées par la ville de Menton. Le parc abrite quant à lui la principale collection d’agrumes de France avec 400 variétés. (Merci à Versaillaise pour les photos)
Palais de Carnolès - Musée des Beaux-Arts de Menton - 3, avenue de la Madone - 06506 Menton - France

Friday, July 16, 2010

Grimaldis Gather for Gala

HSH Princess Stephanie of Monaco welcomed her brother Prince Albert II and future sister-in-law Charlene Wittstock to the annual gala dinner for her foundation Fight AIDS Monaco today at the Monte Carlo Sporting Club. The annual event is held to raise money for the most prominent charity of Princess Stephanie who has devoted much of her life to combating the spread of AIDS and comforting those afflicted with the disease. Recently she has been making frequent radio broadcasts related to the foundation and opened a retreat house in France for those suffering from AIDS. She has stressed the need for respect for all human life as well as using "safe sex" methods. This puts the princess somewhat at odds with the Catholic Church, which is not only Stephanie's church but the official state church of Monaco, which maintains that abstinence before marriage and fidelity after marriage is the only "safe sex". Princess Stephanie, for those who look past the headlines, has long been known for being a very warm-hearted person and a very popular member of the Grimaldi family with the native Monegasque population and her concern for AIDS victims demonstrates this. The Princess herself attributed her attitude to the influence of her parents. As Princess Stephanie said, "Mom was generous and open to others, and this is how we have behaved. Dad did nothing but repeat to me: ‘The fact that you are born in this palace does not make you any better or more important’."

MM Video: The Prince's Soldiers

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Nice-Matin Interviews Charlene Wittstock

Your engagement was officially announced June 23, 2010, how do you feel?
I feel great joy and emotion as you can imagine. I know it is an important moment for the people of Monaco. I’ll do anything to be worthy of its expectations.
You imagine yourself already in your role as Princess?
For over four years, I learned about Monaco, its different populations – there are over 124 nationalities – and I really love this country. I’m still better appreciate its specificities, its traditions, its history. But deep in my heart, it is my country already.
What struck you most arriving in Monaco?
I think I was very fortunate to discover in Monaco alongside the person who knows best (smile). But above all his incredible openness to the world and its incomparable generosity. I know that the country in Europe which gives the most per capita for humanitarian causes. This spirit of generosity is the first characteristic of the population and the many actions that are taken can only give pride to residents.
Do you intend to invest in a humanitarian cause, a foundation?
Since my teens, I have been busy sharing what I could do. In South Africa, when I was very young, I used to help disadvantaged children learn to swim. I really got from them. At this point I realized that giving was the most beautiful gesture that we can do. In Monaco, I want to get involved in defending a cause dedicated to children and in which sport has its place.
We saw you next to Nelson Mandela and more recently you have supported Mandela Day. What does this mean to you?
I remember back in 1995 during the Rugby World Cup in South Africa, Nelson Mandela was on the ground with a polo Springbok representing unity and freedom within our country. The same year, he launched the Children Foundation. I was then 17 years old. I admire Nelson Mandela for his courage, he changed the course of history. The suffering he has borne makes him a unique person. This is why I am so proud of my contribution to the Fund of Nelson Mandela. However, the work is just beginning and he has many things to do.
What is the importance of organizing the World Cup Soccer in South Africa?
This is the first time in history that Africa receives a global event as important and I am very happy.
What relationships do you have with your family?
We are a very united family. Gareth, Sean [her brothers] and myself have been educated with the same values, those that sport has given us. This gave us a lot of balance. Sport is a family heirloom: my uncle led the Springboks team and my mother was a high level sport. It was a simple family life, healthy, with strong links between us. This is very structured.
What are the passions that you share with Prince Albert?
Priority, that of sport is that it allowed us to know ourselves. But we’re both philanthropists, we like to go to meet others, we have the same interest in understanding what is happening in the world and the same willingness to help others. But we also have subjects on which we do not agree!
Let me protect my secret garden …
You now have an official status, what is different for you today?
I am aware of the responsibilities imposed on me that my official status. I will continue to familiarize myself with the daily habits and customs of the Principality, the protocol and rules of the Palace to prepare myself to best accomplish the mission confided to me that the prince is at my side.

Vos fiançailles ont été officiellement annoncées le 23 juin 2010, que ressentez-vous ?
Je ressens beaucoup de joie et d’émotion comme vous pouvez l’imaginer. Je sais aussi que c’est un moment important pour la population monégasque . Je ferai tout pour être digne de ses attentes.
Vous imaginez-vous déjà dans votre rôle de Princesse ?
Depuis plus de quatre ans, j’ai appris à connaître Monaco, ses différentes populations – il y a plus de 124 nationalités – et j’aime vraiment ce pays. Je dois encore mieux apprécier ses spécificités, ses traditions, son histoire. Mais au fond de mon cœur, c’est déjà mon pays.
Qu’est-ce qui vous a le plus frappé en arrivant en Principauté ?
Je crois que j’ai eu la grande chance de découvrir Monaco aux côtés de la personne qui le connaît le mieux (sourire). Mais c’est avant tout son incroyable ouverture sur le monde et son incomparable générosité. Je sais que c’est le pays en Europe qui donne le plus par habitant pour les causes humanitaires. Cet esprit de générosité est la première caractéristique de la population et les nombreuses actions qui sont menées ne peuvent que donner de la fierté aux habitants.
Avez-vous l’intention de vous investir dans une cause humanitaire, une fondation ?
Depuis mon adolescence, je n’ai eu de cesse de partager ce que je savais faire. En Afrique du Sud, très jeune, j’aidais les enfants déshérités à apprendre à nager. J’ai beaucoup reçu de leur part. C’est à ce moment-là que j’ai compris que donner était le plus beau geste que l’on puisse faire. À Monaco, je souhaite m’investir dans la défense d’une cause dédiée aux enfants et dans laquelle le sport aura toute sa place.
On vous a vu à côté de Nelson Mandela et plus récemment vous avez soutenu la Mandela Day. Qu’est-ce que cela représente pour vous ?
Je me rappelle qu’en 1995, pendant la Coupe du Monde de Rugby, en Afrique du Sud, Nelson Mandela était sur le terrain avec un polo des Springboks représentant l’unité et la liberté à l’intérieur de notre pays. La même année, il a lancé la Children Foundation. J’avais alors 17 ans. J’admire Nelson Mandela pour son courage, il a changé le cours de l’histoire. La souffrance qu’il a supportée fait de lui une personne unique. C’est pourquoi je suis si fière d’apporter ma contribution au Fonds de Nelson Mandela. Cependant, le travail ne fait que commencer et il reste tant de choses à faire.
Quelle est l’importance de l’organisation de la Coupe du Monde de Football en Afrique du Sud ?
C’est la première fois dans l’histoire que l’Afrique reçoit un événement mondial aussi important et j’en suis très heureuse.
Quels rapports entretenez-vous avec votre famille ?
Nous sommes une famille très unie. Gareth, Sean et moi-même avons été éduqués avec les mêmes valeurs, celles que le sport nous a données. Cela nous a apporté beaucoup d’équilibre. Le sport est un héritage familial : mon oncle entraînait l’équipe des Springboks et ma mère était une sportive de haut niveau. C’était une vie familiale simple, saine, avec entre nous des liens forts. Ce qui est très structurant.
Quelles sont les passions que vous partagez avec le prince Albert ?
Prioritairement, celle du sport, c’est elle qui nous a permis de nous connaître. Mais nous sommes tous les deux des personnes philanthropes, nous aimons aller à la rencontre des autres, nous avons le même intérêt pour comprendre ce qui se passe dans le monde et la même volonté à aider les autres. Mais nous avons aussi des sujets sur lesquels nous ne sommes pas d’accord !
Laissez-moi protéger mon jardin secret…
Vous avez désormais un statut officiel, qu’est-ce qui est différent pour vous aujourd’hui ?
J’ai conscience des responsabilités que mon statut officiel m’impose. Je vais continuer à me familiariser chaque jour avec les us et coutumes de la Principauté, le protocole et les règles du Palais afin de me préparer au mieux à accomplir la mission que le Prince me confiera à ses côtés.

Happy Birthday Camille!

Today Camille (sometimes Gottlieb, sometimes Grimaldi), second daughter of HSH Princess Stephanie of Monaco, celebrates her 12th birthday. I have noticed I do not seem to see as much of her as I do her older (half) siblings Daniel and Pauline, but Princess Stephanie has done a pretty good job of keeping her children out of the spotlight and the 'jet-set' lifestyle and maybe she is not quite considered old enough to be fair game for the photographers. In any event, she seems to be growing up nicely and Mad for Monaco wishes Camille a very, very happy birthday with many more to come!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bastille Day

Today the republicans of France celebrate the storming of the Bastille, usually used as a way to mark the start of the French Revolution. The "accepted" viewpoint is that the Bastille represented tyranny and oppression and the storming of the Bastille and the subsequent revolt was a glorious uprising of the people for 'liberty, equality and brotherhood'. However, facts can often get in the way of a good, rabble rousing story. The fact is that the Bastille was ugly and imposing but was not a terrible prison. At the time of the storming it held only a few petty criminals and lunatics. Moreoever, the Revolution that followed did not deliver freedom and liberty but a horrific bloodbath, known even at the time as the "Reign of Terror" which was not finally ended until the imposition of the authoritarian regime of Napoleon. It was not a battle between suffering masses and a cruel elite, in fact it was the poor common people who suffered the most and far more of them were murdered than were aristocrats. It was a terrible turn of events that brought greater suffering than anyone in Europe at that time had ever seen.

The storming of the Bastille also set events into motion that led to misery and suffering for France's neighbor Monaco. Shortly after the Bastille fell the revolutionary instigators infiltrated the lands of the Prince of Monaco and encouraged uprisings and demands for government power in Monaco, Menton and Roquebrune. HSH Prince Honore III was caught in a desperate situation. He allowed the formation of independently elected councils in the towns of his domain to appease his subjects and then rushed to Paris to try to save his considerable estates as a member of the French nobility. On August 4, 1789 he lost everything with the adoption of the abolition of all feudal rights and privileges in France. Promises were made to compensate him as he was a foreign prince and the Grimaldis had been given their French titles as payment for services to France but nothing ever came from it. The Grimaldis and Monaco were pulled down into the abyss that was the French Revolution.

The Prince de Conde (whose paramour was Honore III's ex-wife) gathered the royalist emigres to fight for the Kingdom of France and Prince Joseph of Monaco (a veteran of the Lorraine Dragoons and the Royal-Cravate) joined them. On October 22, 1792 French revolutionary forces occupied Monaco which Honore III protested but could not stop and his petitions were ignored. A Monegasque branch of the Jacobin Club, a radical bloodthirsty society led by the notorious executioner Robespierre, was set up in Monaco and the palace was ransacked by a revolutionary mob. In January of the next year they finally got around to arranging a "vote" to depose Honore III and allow Monaco to be annexed to France. Relegated to a mere cantonal seat in the Alpes-Maritimes department the "People's Council" voted to change the name of Monaco to Fort d'Hercule.

These were the darkest days for the House of Grimaldi. Prince Honore III, old and soon to die, tried to get back simply his own personal property but even this was denied him. Prince Joseph went into exile and Honore III and his son Honore IV were thrown in prison by the revolutionary regime. Honore IV's ex-wife Louise-Felicite and their son Prince Florestan were also put in prison. All of the property of the Grimaldi and Mazarin families were confiscated and Princess Francoise-Therese, the beloved wife of Prince Joseph, went to the guillotine as the last victim of the Reign of Terror. Ironically it was on that very day, 9 Thermidor on the revolutionary calendar, that Robespierre himself, the instigator of the nightmarish bloodlust, was arrested by his own revolutionary cohorts. That would not be the end of the ordeal and anyone observing the situation could have understood the Grimaldis and the people of Monaco giving up. Thankfully, they did not and their fortunes were ultimately restored but the spiral downward, toward revolution, occupation, terror and death all started today, July 14, in 1789 with the storming of the Bastille.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Diving in Finland

HSH Princess Stephanie of Monaco was in Finland this weekend to watch her daughter, Pauline Ducruet, compete in the European Junior Diving Championships in Helsinki. In the first round Pauline placed 19 out of 26, came down to 22 in the next round so did not go on to the final round which is today.

Today in Grimaldi History

It was on this day in 1870 that HSH Prince Louis II of Monaco was born to Prince Albert I and his first wife Princess Mary Victoria. One of my favorites Monegasque monarchs, he was perhaps not as appreciated in his own time as he should have been and has largely been overshadowed by his more well-known successor and grandson; Prince Rainier III. During his time on the throne of Monaco he was known as "the military prince" because of his heroic service with the French army in World War I. As Sovereign Prince of Monaco Louis II set up the modern courts of law, built a home for the elderly, a football stadium and a water reservoir at the boulevard de Belgique. He established the Supreme Court of Monaco and the Labour Court. He was a very strong, dutiful and hard working monarch whose memory deserves to be celebrated.

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 Françoise 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. 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Seigneur Jean II of Monaco

When the formidable Lord Lambert died on March 15, 1494 the throne of Monaco passed to his eldest son Jean II. Only 26 when he became Seigneur de Monaco, Jean II nonetheless showed from the start an astute judgment and made good decisions, winning him praise from many quarters. He seemed to have a good head on his shoulders, was very active and hard working but also possessed a rather fiery temper that sometimes worried onlookers. He was, in many ways, a man of his time and place much like many of the other Renaissance lords. He was intelligent, ambitious, very protective of his prerogatives and authority and a man of great taste and high style.

All around the Mediterranean there was an immense boom in trade and commerce and Monaco, and the House of Grimaldi, profited greatly by it with Seigneur Jean II lavishly improving his castles in Menton and Roquebrune as well as Monaco. There were also military expenditures with the outbreak of the Italian Wars. Jean II dutifully rallied his forces to assist King Charles VIII of France in his conquest of Naples. When the tide turned against the French, Jean II likewise used his forces to cover their retreat. King Charles VIII was very grateful to Jean II for his help and made him captain-general of the Riviera di Ponente, granted him the right to patrol for pirates and paid him a proportion of the value of the cargo being protected and also gave him the right to “import duty-free the grain and wines of the ports of Provence”.

Seigneur Jean II was proving a highly successful monarch but with success invariably comes enemies. The people of Marseilles, for example, were not happy with the special favors being shown Monaco and the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, was so outraged at the rise of the Grimaldis of Monaco that he tried to have Jean II assassinated. The attempt did not succeed and the Duke of Milan was dealt with by the new King of France, Louis XII, who renewed the invasions of Italy, defeated Sforza and made himself lord of Genoa and Duke of Milan. King Louis XII also maintained the good relationship with Monaco by appointing Lord Jean II governor of Ventimiglia and ensuring that the special maritime privileges he enjoyed would remain in place.

Jean II of Monaco was riding along with King Louis XII when he made his triumphal entry into Genoa in 1499; a scene shown in a famous painting by Jean Marot done in 1507. However, Jean II worried some of the French courtiers with his violent temper. Monaco and the House of Grimaldi were riding high and the alliance with France seemed to be working out greatly to their benefit. The independence of the country was secure, their enemies defeated and Monaco was prospering. However, there were still problems for the House of Grimaldi. One of the worries was the succession. Jean II had earlier married Antonia de Savoy, natural daughter of the Duke of Savoy by his mistress Libera Portoneri in 1486. However, Jean had only a daughter and no sons to succeed him which meant that his heir was his brother Lucien, with whom the volatile Jean II did not always get along.

On the night of October 10, 1505 Lord Jean II was at his castle in Menton with his brother Lucien and their mother Claudine. During the night there was evidently an altercation and when Claudine cried for help servants rushed in to find Jean II dead on the floor in a pool of his own blood. He had been stabbed to death, presumably by his brother Lucien. It is probably safe to say that the death of Jean II is the most famous murder mystery in the annals of the House of Grimaldi. Lucien claimed that Jean II had announced he would sell Monaco to Venice and when Lucien challenged this Jean II attacked him with a knife and in the ensuing struggle Lucien killed his brother in self-defense. Was this what really happened?

Anyone who knew Jean II knew of his fiery temper and could imagine him lashing out at his brother in a rage. However, the idea that he planned to sell Monaco to Venice seems too far-fetched to be believed. Not only would it be unthinkable that Jean II would even consider such a thing it is absurd to believe that Venice would have wanted it considering that Monaco was so far from their own sphere of influence in the Adriatic and eastern Mediterranean. Was it rather simply a political murder on the part of an ambitious brother? That too seems hard to believe as Lucien never seemed the type and he was set to inherit the throne anyway. In addition, the Lady Claudine never showed any disfavor toward Lucien after this incident. The facts, it seems, are few and the real motive behind the violent end of Seigneur Jean II of Monaco may always remain a mystery.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Busy Days for Albert II

HSH Prince Albert II has been very busy lately. On June 28 he attended the 'Inventaire sans Frontieres' Exhibition at Jardin des Plantes in Paris, France and the Institut Pasteur where he expressed his hopes for future collaboration between the institute and Monaco. He also reiterated the importance his Principality has placed on playing a part in protecting public health as part of their contribution to international aid. The following day he welcomed the new official representatives of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Principality of Andorra to Monaco, accepting the credentials of those diplomats. On the 30th His Serene Highness made a 200m dive in the last submarine of the Comex society, the remora 2000, off the coast of Monaco. The mini-sub can accomodate 2 people and can dive to a depth of 610 meters for up to ten hours.

A little less thrilling to me, Albert II has recently been trying very hard to 'make nice' with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or OECD which had been critical in the past (along with others) for Monaco's 'tax haven' reputation. They are still complaining about financial relations between Monaco, Italy and Great Britain but, on the financial transparency front, Monaco has recently signed new fiscal agreements with Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands. After all this recent activity, the Sovereign Prince still found time for some fun, attending the Monaco Live Music 2010 event yesterday along with fiance Charlene Wittstock (seen above) and sister Princess Caroline, both of whom he danced with during the evening.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Princess Stephanie Opens La Maison de Vie

Last Saturday HSH Princess Stephanie of Monaco attended the formal openning of La Maison de Vie, a home to care for those suffering from HIV/AIDS. This has long been a cause very near to Stephanie's heart, she is President of Fight AIDS Monaco and has been involved with the construction of the house from the very begining when she participated in the ground breaking. HSH Prince Albert II attended and Pauline Ducruet was also on hand to support her mother in her work. On the subject of her long and dedicated devotion to helping AIDS victimes Princess Stephanie said, "I saw the rejection that all these people are victims, I could not stand by and do nothing. This suffering, this injustice, these patients alone, abandoned by those they love, it’s horrible. When I was appointed ambassador for UNAIDS, I had the chance to go to New York and monitor the work of Housing Works, an organization that deals with housing for people living with HIV and give them the possibility of taking over their lives."

The home can care for 28 people at a time for up to 3 weeks as well as being able to host the friends and family of those staying there. Nothing was overlooked in providing for every need and, in a nod to Princess Stephanie's very 'green' brother, it was also made environmentally friendly. Princess Stephanie deserves a great deal of credit for her work in this area, she has really been a tireless advocate and a force for providing real assistance to the victims of this disease.

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