Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween Monaco!

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

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

Happy Halloween from Mad for Monaco!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Charlene's First Official Visit

This week, HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco visited the land of the Rising Sun to talk about, of course, his favorite subject: environmentalism. What made this trip special was that it was his first official visit accompanied by his fiancee Charlene Wittstock. Although the couple have gone to many places and attended many events together, this was the first time Charlene accompanied the prince on an official visit overseas. They made the trip on Wednesday and attended a special dinner reception in Nagoya held by Ryu Matsumoto, Environment Minister, as part of the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The following day Prince Albert and Charlene attended a presentation on "Monaco and Marine Protected Areas". This was no mere social occasion with government officials and assorted dignitaries from almost 200 different nations represented at the event. The conference will set new goals for 2020 to protect plant and animal species that are in danger of extinction to maintain biodiversity. They had earlier set a goal for greater protection by 2010 but had to admit that their goals had not been met.

The Prince of Monaco and his future Princess also visited Tokyo on Friday for the BirdLife International banquet. BirdLife International is a group of representatives from a number of countries which works to protect birds, bird habitats and conserve biodiversity. As seen above the Prince and Charlene met with HIH Princess Takamado, a cousin by marriage of His Majesty the Emperor. Prince Albert and Charlene plan to meet with HM Empress Michiko prior to leaving Japan on Monday.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dealing with the Loss of Grace

For a number of reasons, mostly his kind and friendly temperament, Prince Albert II has never been viewed as an exceptionally “strong” monarch. Before he came to the throne many worried what would happen once the firm and familiar figure of Prince Rainier III was gone. Albert seemed like too nice of a fellow to make the big, tough decisions required of a prince who is expected to actually rule his country. There had been no such trepidation about Rainier. He was the man who had gone head to head with Aristotle Onassis and won, faced down Charles DeGaulle and even exiled his own sister when she acted against him. Yet, Rainier was a man who felt his feelings hard and Prince Albert had more inner strength than most people gave him credit for even fairly early on. At no time was this more demonstrated than at the darkest moment for the family: the tragic death of Princess Grace.

Rainier III was positively devastated. One of his best friends had died the year before and, contrary to what some dishonest tabloids tried to imply, Grace was the love of his life and the center of his world. Everyone saw the sad Mediterranean monarch, head bowed by grief, walking behind the casket at the funeral, doing everything according to protocol, even attending a second requiem mass several hours after the first (something not so many are aware of). His heartbreak was evident but he seemed to be bearing the burden solidly. Yet, what the public did not see was how inconsolable he was in private. Immediately after it happened Prince Rainier simply shut down. His beloved wife was gone, his baby girl in the hospital -it must have seemed like his world was falling apart. It was in that most terrible of situations that Prince Albert, only 24 at the time, stepped in to fill the breach.

For several weeks after the passing of Princess Grace it was Prince Albert who covered for his grieving father. Although obviously he was extremely struck by the tragedy as well (everyone said Albert was the most like Grace and he was the apple of her eye) he nonetheless shouldered the burden for his father. He dealt with the officials, the courtiers and it was he who took the phone calls from the multitude of friends of Princess Grace that came pouring in after the news of her death hit the news. He put off going to New York to study international finance so he could deal with the tragedy and he showed a side of his character that not many had had occasion to see before. The sympathetic young man was effectively acting as a guardian for his grief-stricken father, screening him from the intrusion of the world at such a time until he could compose himself. Princess Caroline also stepped up to help her father at the time. She took charge of the palace, overseeing the staff, the maintenance and even ordering meals for Prince Rainier. She would also often go to the hospital to sit up overnight with Princess Stephanie. When he was able Prince Rainier also visited several times a day if only to stop and play cards.

Not surprisingly, Princess Stephanie had a particularly terrible time dealing with the situation. Her uncle, John Kelly Jr. said, “Stephanie is suffering not just from her injuries but from the trauma of being there when it happened. I think maybe in some way she might be blaming herself for not having done something to save the situation”. Obviously, that would be quite a burden for a seventeen-year-old girl who had been arguing with her mother just before the crash and then had to deal with all of the hurtful rumors that spread afterward, adding even further to the pain common in such circumstances known as ‘survivors guilt’. While the others had duties to keep themselves busy, even if only helping take care of their father for Albert and Caroline, Stephanie had many long hours in her hospital bed to relive every detail of the tragedy in her mind over and over again. The overnight stays by her sister and the visits by her father, several times a day, certainly helped. They had always been close and the tragedy only drew them closer as it did the family as a whole. Once stable enough himself Prince Rainier led the way in their coping as a family, taking them away from the glare of Monaco to the island of Nassau where they could spend time together coming to grips with what had happened and trying to occupy themselves with other things when possible.

Many people wondered how Rainier would carry on without Princess Grace. He had never loved being in the spotlight and had been the shy type ever since he was a boy. Princess Grace, the actress, the socialite and international celebrity, had in many ways been the public face of the Monegasque monarchy during their marriage. She excelled in dealing with people and Rainier had given her a great deal of freedom in handling things in which he knew she was better suited than he was. How could he go on without her? Of course, he did, and the tragedy perhaps showed all of them what they could cope with when they had to. Princess Caroline stepped into the role of ‘first lady’ admirably, working together with her father to fill the space that Princess Grace had occupied in public life. Albert continued on with his preparations for his destiny to become Sovereign Prince one day, despite the worries of people that he was too nice, too accommodating and eager to please to be the sort of tough monarch that the people of Monaco expected. Those who said such things did not know how he had shielded his father in those terrible days after the accident. He was made of tougher stuff than anyone had imagined. Those closer to the family noted that the tragedy had a maturing effect on him.

Princess Stephanie has probably had the toughest time carrying on after the tragedy, which is understandable. Her meteoric ups and downs over the years have caused many to blame it all on the absence of Princess Grace. ‘If she had been around things would be different’ was the attitude. That may be true or it may not. Both the Grimaldi girls have always been very strong willed and both parents learned that once their minds were set to something there was finally nothing that could stop them. Of course, had the accident not occurred Princess Stephanie would perhaps have at least been spared some of the emotional trauma she had to endure that the rest of the family did not and that may have caused her to make different decisions in her life. However, we can say that Princess Stephanie, perhaps because of the tragedy, has displayed a desire to live her life (to quote a song of hers’) because it can be cut short without warning. She has also carried on the tradition of her mother in her charitable work and her compassion for others, regardless of their background or personal choices. In that regard, I think Princess Grace would certainly be proud of how all of her children have done since she has been gone.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Birthday of Prince Pierre

It was on this day in 1895 that HSH Prince Pierre of Monaco was born. His marriage to Princess Charlotte did not work out well and he never got along with her father Prince Louis II. He was not able to have a very big part in the lives of his children as they were growing up but his son, Prince Rainier III, was devoted to him and once he became Sovereign-Prince he allowed his father to return to Monaco and gave him as much recognition and appreciation as he could. He died in 1964.

Early Troubles for Grace

Everyone knows the story. A famous American movie star, a Mediterranean prince, a glamorous little monarchy on the coast, vacation spot for the rich and royal and a genuine romance. It all sounds wonderful doesn’t it? Of course, all of that is true and all of that was wonderful but, of course, there was more to it as there always is and life was not all cakes and ale for Princess Grace of Monaco when she arrived in her new home on the Riviera. She married, first of all, into a family in conflict, something she got the first hints of when she arrived for her wedding. Prince Rainier filled in the details on their honeymoon. His mother did not get along with his father, Rainier did not get along with his sister Antoinette and Princess Antoinette didn’t get along with anyone. Aristotle Onassis was in a subtle struggle with Rainier over control of Monaco and very few were enthusiastic about Princess Grace at the outset.

Prince Rainier was attacked on behalf of Grace with accusations that the whole match had been nothing but a publicity stunt on his part and there was prejudice against Grace because of her American background and as yet imperfect French. Family and staff would often speak French when Grace was around knowing she could not understand them; making snide remarks. Princess Grace tried to make herself a part of the circles of her husband but she was treated rather coldly in the beginning. When she began redecorating the Princely Palace there was plenty of criticism about her taste. Too American they said, too Hollywood they said. However, grumbling was about all they could do as Prince Rainier took the side of his wife in everything. She was to have things the way she liked it and that was that. However, Prince Rainier was extremely busy, the weight of ruling a country on his shoulders, and he had less time to devote to his wife than either of them would have liked.

Princess Grace was often lonely in these early days. She took time to study the history of Monaco, the House of Grimaldi and was particularly interested in the previous American Princess of Monaco and took her as something of an example to follow at least so far as bringing art and culture to Monaco. While her husband devoted himself to the business of government she would devote herself to adding style, class and refinement to Monegasque life. Still, with the other high society ladies giving her the cold shoulder, it was difficult to get started. It is to her credit that she never let it show in public how much this bothered her. She accepted the situation and went ahead as she thought best. If there were those who would criticize her in any event, she would not bother with them. She even did her best to smooth relations amongst the Grimaldi family, keeping the lines of communication open even after the rivalry between Princess Antoinette and Prince Rainier reached its apex in what some have described as an attempted palace coup.

In time, Princess Grace carved out her niche in spite of the ill will of many around her. Supporting the opera, the theatre and the ballet while also developing new ways to help the less fortunate Princess Grace made charity fashionable. However, even after she had settled in, had two children and achieved a level of domestic tranquility, criticism came from her own homeland. When Prince Rainier suspended the constitution in 1959 the claims that the Prince was being a tyrant from the press in the United States hurt Princess Grace deeply and she did not hesitate to defend her husband, pointing out that the Prince was ruling on his own for a short time only to put things in order, make necessary changes and that it would all ultimately lead to a more free and beneficial society in the future. Of course, she was right. It is also fairly well known that there were problems for the Princely couple over the desire of Princess Grace to resume her film career, at least to some limited extent. In this, Prince Rainier is often portrayed as the ‘bad guy’ but he finally gave in to the wishes of his wife and it was the Monegasque public that was more opposed to the idea than even he was. This was not out of any malice toward Princess Grace, who had by this time become quite popular (though the ordinary folk had mostly loved her from the start) but simply out of a natural selfishness. They did not want to share their princess with anyone.

In the end, of course, Princess Grace triumphed over them all. Steadily, quietly but firmly, she charted her own course and with her and Rainier supporting each other she asserted her authority as the first lady of the country. Perhaps people had become too used to consorts who came and went or were rarely seen at all. Whatever the case, it says a lot that Princess Grace was treated rather coldly at the start by the society elites in Monaco and yet went on to become probably the most beloved Princess of Monaco in all the seven centuries of Grimaldi rule. Things were not always easy for her, nor was she spared her share of troubles and heartaches, yet she succeeded more brilliantly and completely than any and all others who had gone before her; becoming quite literally a legend in her own time.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Two Sides of Caroline

On Wednesday Princess Caroline was at her charitable best, attending the gala dinner of GEMLUC, the Groupement des Entreprises Monegasques dans la Lutte contre le Cancer; an organization founded in 1973 to fight cancer. In such an event we see Caroline's famous combination of high artistic taste, her always high class style combined with her care and concern for the suffering of the world. Princess Caroline has always excelled at finding ways to combine her interests and causes she cares about and as any who have watched her throughout her life can confirm, when it comes to these charitable causes, her concern is real and devotion genuine; something she has passed on to her children it has been so much a part of her and her life. Princess Caroline has not always been happy about the intrusive glare that comes with being a Grimaldi but she has tried to make the best of it in order to benefit the less fortunate.

Keeping that in mind, this last week we also saw the side of Princess Caroline that has always detested the extremes of the intrusive media on her life. Caro has gone to court again to assert her right to privacy; a contest she has both won and lost in the past. On the 13th her lawyer went before the European Court of Human Rights to protest a previous ruling against her in Germany based on the old tired line that Princess Caroline is a person of "legitimate public interest" and thus, basically not entitled to privacy. Look back at almost every interview Princess Caroline has done over the years and you will see how much she has really been bothered by the intrusive media glare she has been subjected to, literally from the day she was born. As stated, some of this she accepts and makes the best of but when it comes to intimate family moments she has not hesitated to take her case to court and fight for her rights. Frankly, I say good for her and I am glad that she fights back rather than simply taking it on the chin like so many others often do.

Many people roll their eyes whenever a "celebrity" complains about a lack of privacy or the media glare. However, with royals, this is a different issue. Unlike actors or pop stars, royals did not seek out attention or a career that would draw focus on themselves. They were born in the spotlight, like it or not. Now, to some extent this is understandable and/or unavoidable but there are certain areas that are, or should be, very clearly off-limits. Just consider all of the traumatic events Caroline has been through in her life. There were tensions as a teen, growing up, the family problems that came with her first marriage, that disaster in and of itself and then a very public divorce. There was the death of her beloved mother, near death of her baby sister and the sudden death of her dear husband, leaving her a widow with three children. Imagine all the heartache on each such occasion and then try to imagine having cameras and microphones stuck in your face at every moment and being pursued with every move you make. Thankfully, Caroline is a strong woman who is not just going to 'take it'.
So, in just the last week we see the kind, compassionate and the strong and determined side of Princess Caroline. She does and always has struck me as a very remarkable woman and, one thing I like best, she has reportedly always taken an interest in the history of the House of Grimaldi. Perhaps that appreciation of her family history has helped make her, in some ways, the woman that she is today. From what I have seen Princess Caroline certainly fits right in amongst the succession of strong, dedicated and resourceful women who have long played key roles in the history of Monaco and her Princely Family. God bless her.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Today in Grimaldi History

It was one of the most controversial matches in Monegasque history and the search for a husband for Princess Louise-Hippolyte, daughter of Prince Antoine I of Monaco, was extremely contentious. The Princess was not supposed to have any say in the matter, her father had packed her off to the Convent of the Visitation at Aix-en-Provence for two years until he settled the matter for her. However, her mother, Princess Marie de Lorraine, slipped out of Monaco in the dark of night, without the knowledge of her husband (with whom she did not have the greatest relationship) and went to Paris where she and her father decided on the dashing nobleman Jacques de Mantignon, Comte de Thorigny. He was wealthy, 25-years-old and from a very good family and they considered him the best choice. However, Marie de Lorraine knew Prince Antoine I would oppose any choice she made so she and her father approached the Duchess of Lude to approach the Sovereign Prince of Monaco on the subject.

Prince Antoine was totally duped. The Duchess convinced him that Jacques was her own suggestion and not only did he agree but he extracted a promise from the duchess to keep the name “secret” from his wife. He thought he had put one over on his wife, not knowing she was behind the whole affair. Antoine wrote to Marie de Lorraine to inform her that the choice had been made and if King Louis XIV of France agreed (necessary because of the place the Grimaldis held in the French aristocracy) Jacques de Mantignon would be married to their daughter. Needless to say, Princess Marie wrote back to her husband congratulating him on such an excellent choice and asking to come back to Monaco. The marriage negotiations got underway but things came to a halt when King Louis XIV, who had been a great friend of Monaco, passed away. But, after his death, the young King Louis XV and his regent signed the marriage contract on September 5 and on October 20, 1715 the marriage of 18-year-old Princess Louise-Hippolyte and Jacques de Mantignon took place.

Unfortunately, problems seemed to plague the young couple from the very start. Before they were married even a year they lost a child, a tragic event for all concerned, and to make matters worse Prince Antoine and Princess Marie were at odds again. After having established something of a truce Prince Antoine found out how he had been fooled into accepting Marie’s candidate for husband to their daughter and he was furious. Always known for his short-temper, Antoine made things so heated that Princess Louise-Hippolyte and Prince Jacques could not stand the atmosphere in Monaco and moved to Paris. Prince Antoine also came into conflict with his daughter and (more so) his son-in-law after the death of his wife in 1724. Marie de Lorraine (as per her own marriage agreement) left her fortune to her daughter and the cash-strapped Prince Jacques sued for control of the estate of his late wife, accomplishing nothing in the end but making some lawyers wealthier and himself all the poorer.

Princess Louise-Hippolyte and Prince Jacques would go on to have plenty of problems of their own, ended only when the life of the Princess was cut short not long after succeeding her father as Sovereign Princess of Monaco. However, the marriage was an extremely significant event as it made Princess Louise-Hippolyte the mother of a whole new branch of the Grimaldi princely house. Despite their problems Princess Louise-Hippolyte and Prince Jacques had nine children together, though two did not long survive. Because of their marriage the rule of the Grimaldi family in Monaco would go on in the person of their oldest (surviving) son who in due time became Prince Honore III of Monaco.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Princess Caroline in Italy

This Friday and Saturday HRH the Princess of Hanover, in her capacity as President of AMADE, was at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy for the first 'Ballo del Giglio' gala to benefit Princess Caroline's charitable organization AMADE. The event was promoted by the local Honorary Consul of Monaco and was inspired by the great success of Monaco's Rose Ball. It is hoped that this will be the start of a new and equally successful tradition that will benefit children all over the world. In the picture above Princess Caroline is arriving at the Four Seasons Hotel in Florence, looking glamorous as usual. Other events were held in the Galleria Uffizi and the Corridoio Vasariano at the Vecchio palace where the dance was held on Saturday night. Despite all of the recent drama Princess Caroline seemed in great form, just like her old self.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Albie and Steph in China

I love it when the Grimaldi siblings do things together and it was great seeing Prince Albert and Princess Stephanie together in Shanghai.
HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco addresses the crowd

How adorable is that?

Prince Albert and Princess Stephanie at the 'Monaco Past and Present' exhibition

My girl Stephanie looking great in black at the evening gala

The Sovereign Prince and Princess Stephanie with stars from the Monte Carlo Circus

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Birthday of Princess Ghislaine

It was on this day in 1900 that HSH Princess Chislaine of Monaco was born in Rheims, France. A divorced actress, it caused quite a stir when she married the aging Prince Louis II of Monaco in 1946, the first time any Prince of Monaco had married a woman without a dowry. Perhaps because of this, because of her background, and the considerable age difference between her and Louis II (35 years), the rest of the Grimaldi clan, unfortunately, were not very welcoming to Princess Ghislaine. Louis II adored her but he seemed to be the only one with the rest of the family suspecting her sincerity and basically viewing her as a 'golddigger'. Princess Antoinette was so furious she refused to attend their wedding. No doubt they felt justified when Louis II passed away and left half of his fortune to his beloved wife with the other half divided amongst his daughter Princess Charlotte and grandchildren Princess Antoinette and Prince Rainier III. But, at that time, the will of the Sovereign Prince was law and once Louis II breathed his last that honor belonged to Rainier III and he voided his grandfather's will. Princess Ghislaine was allowed to keep her jewelry, gifts her husband and others had given her, but no more. She was provided with a modest pension and the use of apartments in the palace which she did use even though Rainier III refused to speak to her. She did attend his wedding to Princess Grace and the 25th anniversary of Prince Rainier III coming to the throne. She also returned to Monaco for the funeral of Princess Grace before her death at the ripe old age of 90 in 1991.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

To the East and Back

After taking in the opening ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games HSH Prince Albert II met with the Prime Minister of India to discuss Indian-Monegasque relations before going on to China where he enjoyed a night at the ballet in Shanghai and visited the Monegasque pavillion at the World Expo where he participated in a recreation of the festivities held in Monaco to celebrate National Day. On Friday he joined his circus-loving sister, HSH Princess Stephanie, for a gala performance by the International Circus Festival of Monte Carlo. Over the weekend he was back at home in Monaco for a gala to benefit the Princess Grace Foundation and the Irish Fund. On Sunday the Sovereign Prince attended the Magic Stars Gala at the Princess Grace Theatre for their 25th anniversary celebration. Yesterday he also visited the Lycee Albert I for their 100th anniversary. The high school was named after, of course, Prince Albert I. Also yesterday he was at the Golden Foot Awards with Francesco Totti being the big winner this year.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Grimaldi Double Birthday

It was on this day in 1697 that HSH Princess Louise-Hippolyte of Monaco was born and it was today in 1785 that HSH Prince Florestan I of Monaco was born. It was Princess Louise-Hippolyte who was mother of the subsequent Mantignon-Grimaldi branch after her marriage to HSH Prince Jacques I who succeeded her on the throne after her death from smallpox in 1731. Her line would continue all the way to HSH Prince Louis II after whom, by the marriage of his daughter Princess Charlotte to Prince Pierre, we came to have the Polignac-Grimaldi line which continues to this day.

Prince Florestan, as all will remember, was that artistic, dramatic Grimaldi who had little interest in being a monarch but who inherited the job from his brother Prince Honore V. Prior to that he had served in the French army during the Napoleonic Wars, at the insistence of his mother, and was taken prisoner during the invasion of Russia. Probably his greatest contribution to Monegasque history was his marriage to the energetic and formidable Princess Maria Caroline who did much to put Monaco on a solid foundation for the future.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Rebellion in Monaco

Although not a pleasant subject, nor one most today like to talk about, there was, at one point, at least something of a rebellion in the idyllic Principality of Monaco. This was not, as some might expect, during the years when Monaco was a relatively poor and isolated country when the House of Grimaldi had to take dowries seriously into account when arranging marriages to pay off a seemingly immovable deficit. It was, rather, in the Twentieth Century, after the opening of Monte-Carlo and the boom in tourism that came with the principality being a chic place for royals and the well-to-do to vacation. However, despite all of the glamour on the surface, the principality had very real problems and that was the extent to which the native Monegasque felt left out of all of the opulence that had descended upon their tiny country along with the horde of well dressed foreigners dripping with jewels and gaining and losing fortunes at the gaming tables.

The municipal council was made up entirely of foreign investors and included not a single native-born Monegasque. Their monarch, HSH Prince Albert I, was not unpopular and certainly not a tyrant or a harsh man, but he was seldom at home and preferred sailing and pursuing his oceanographic studies to economic reports, business models or the lack of civic care for the sick and infirm or the lack of schools for local children. The Sovereign Prince was a generous man but most of his charity went to foundations, mostly of a scientific nature, while investment at home was overseen by Camille Blanc who preferred to spend on tourist oriented luxuries that would earn a better return. The Monegasque paid no taxes it was true but neither could they earn a living by any but the lowest paying jobs; carrying luggage, cleaning rooms and the like for their wealthy visitors. Discontent grew and finally approached the breaking point.

It was on April 4, 1910 that a crowd of about 600 men organized themselves and marched on the palace demanded to speak to their Prince and present him their complaints. They wanted something done about all the foreign workers who were occupying all of the better paying jobs. Efforts had been made to raise this issue before but had been put off to be dealt with at a later date. Finally the Monegasque would wait no longer and appeared ready to make trouble. Their farms and orchards were gone, converted to villas, and yet there was high unemployment and few opportunities for the local people. Prince Albert I was greatly alarmed, as was Camille Blanc though more about what the upset might cause the coming tourist season. In Marseilles French troops were put on the alert and 300 British sailors from a flotilla off Villefranche to be placed at the disposal of the prince to secure British lives and property if there should be an outbreak of violence. The Hotel de Paris was stocked with wine cases filled with guns and ammunition and strategic points were designated for the British sailors to defend in the event of trouble.

Thankfully, unlike other countries, there was no violence. When presented with the grievances of his people Prince Albert I took action. He agreed to grant his subjections representation in the government and on June 19, 1910 the Monegasques, for the first time, participated in the democratic process, electing four Monegasque men to the municipal council. However, Albert I still feared that his people were unhappy and there was, it must be said, no shortage of agitators, oftentimes from outside of Monaco, demanding that the country “progress” with the times. As a result, on October 16, Prince Albert I agreed to the drafting of a constitution; the first in the history of Monaco. The work was done in Paris with input from French jurists, the four representatives of the Monegasque people, Prince Albert I and Hereditary Prince Louis II. As a result, on January 5, 1911 Monaco, officially at least, became a constitutional monarchy and Albert I was no longer an absolute monarch. However, from that day to this, the Sovereign Prince of Monaco remains effectively an absolute monarch in all but name.

Still, it was a benevolent rule that Albert I and successive Princes of Monaco held over their people. As part of the changes brought about by the confrontation was the right of the people to have a say in government, to have their views and concerns represented and given voice. Furthermore, their welfare was greatly improved as Prince Albert I ceded some of his own financial holdings to establish a public domain and the budget was reorganized to include funding for public education, public health services and humanitarian assistance for the poor and elderly. Today, as then, the Monegasques are still a small minority in their own country, but they have very happy and comfortable lives with virtually no poverty or unemployment at all. This is due to the care and generosity of the Sovereign Prince, the House of Grimaldi and also because of their system of government. That first constitution did not last very long but the history of constitutional monarchy in Monaco started with that march on the palace on April 4, 1910 and the action taken by the scholarly “Sailor Prince” Albert I.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Prince Albert in India

Call him a hopeless sports fan, just back from a visit to Spain, HSH Prince Albert II is now in India where he is attending the British Commonwealth Games, opened yesterday by HRH the Prince of Wales and the President of India at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

It Happened Yesterday

It was yesterday in 1990 that Stefano Casiraghi, husband of Princess Caroline, was killed in a boat racing accident off the coast of Monaco while defending his title as world offshore powerboat champion. Princess Caroline was devestated and went into deep mourning for a long time afterward. She became noticably more religious and would often go to Church during the day just to visit the resting place of her beloved husband. In the following years she always said that Stefano was her one true love and, in light of recent events, it is probably safe to say she was never happier than when she was with him. Their marriage had been quick but it took a great deal of time and a good deal of lobbying by her father to normalize things with the Church and it was to come to a tragic end all too soon. However, Stefano Casiraghi, as well as leaving a lasting mark on Princess Caroline, also left behind a striking legacy in the persons of his children; Andrea, Pierre and Charlotte. Undoubtedly he is still greatly missed.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Today in Monegasque History

It was on this day in 1841 that HSH Prince Florestan I became Sovereign Prince of Monaco. One of the more artistic members of the Grimaldi dynasty, he was a reluctant monarch and was faced with many immense problems (through which he was helped by his energetic wife, the first Princess Caroline) and was only too willing to see responsibility pass to his son Prince Charles III. He had only inherited the throne in the first place because of the lack of a wife or children on the part of his brother Prince Honore V.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...