Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Family Resemblance

Pauline Ducruet & Princess Caroline

Charlotte Casiraghi & Princess Stephanie

Pauline Ducruet & Princess Caroline

Princess Caroline & daughter Princess Alexandra

(photos collected by Nathalie Cox)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Historic Anniversary

It was on this day in 1816 that HSH Prince Florestan of Monaco married Maria Caroline Gilbert de Lametz in what was to be one of the most successful and influential marriages in Grimaldi family history and would have quite an impact on the future of Monaco. The results of this match are still felt today.

Friday, November 26, 2010

News of Future Papal Visit

Rene Giuliano, Vicar-General of Monaco, has confirmed that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI will visit the principality, sometime in the first half of 2012. The Vicar-General said, "It's more or less sure, unless there's something major, like the Pope falling ill". This statement was prompted by rumors that the Pope would be visiting next year which sparked even more whispers that the Pontiff might be set to officiate at the wedding of Prince Albert II and Charlene Wittstock. It is hard to imagine that anyone would believe that but was evidently a story that was 'making the rounds'. However, a papal visit of any sort will be a very happy occasion for Monaco, one of the very few officially Roman Catholic monarchies left in the world. Talk of the Pope performing the wedding ceremony was obviously silly, that is not something popes commonly do and given the Prince's rather 'colorful' years as a bachelor for the Pontiff to preside at his wedding would be unthinkable. That does not, of course, take away from the importance of the occasion with the marriage set to be *the* wedding event of 2011 -at least until the news came out that Prince William and Kate Middleton will be marrying on a date set prior to that of the Prince of Monaco. On a historical note Pope Paul III was the first Supreme Pontiff to visit the Principality of Monaco.

Happy Birthday Louis!

Today Louis Ducruet, eldest son of HSH Princess Stephanie of Monaco, celebrates his 18th birthday. Congratulations to the young man though it does seem hard to believe that Princess Stephanie has a full grown son. Happy birthday Louis!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Order of St Charles

The Order of St Charles is a “house order” of the Grimaldi Princely Family and the highest honor which can be bestowed by the Prince of Monaco. As such it is featured on the official royal arms of the Prince of Monaco. The order was established by HSH Prince Charles III on March 15, 1858 and includes five grades which are; knight, officer, commander, grand officer and knight grand cross. Membership is open to Monegasque subjects and foreign nationals alike and is awarded for meritorious achievement or significant service to the Monegasque state or the Sovereign Prince. The order is named for St Charles Borromeo, archbishop of Milan, patron of Prince Charles III and a relative of the Grimaldi family. The star of the order is emblazoned with the mottos “Princeps et Patria” and “Deo Juvante”.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Prince Albert II, Five Years on the Throne

It was on November 19, 2005 that HSH Prince Albert II was formally enthroned at St Nicholas Cathedral as Sovereign Prince of Monaco. This followed a period of mourning for the death of his father upon whose passing Albert inherited the title on April 6. It was a time of great nervousness, for lack of a better term, when Albert II took the throne. Most of the Monegasque could hardly remember a time without the sturdy image of Prince Rainier III reigning over them. At the time of his death he was the second-longest serving head of state in the world. What sort of a monarch would Albert, the quintessential “nice guy” and perpetual bachelor be? It would, of course, be grossly immature to pass final judgment now, but in light of the recent anniversary it would be appropriate to take a look back at Albert’s five years as Sovereign Prince of Monaco.

Probably the most significant events of the reign of Albert II so far have been the changes he has brought about in the economy. Carrying on and expanding on the foundational work done by his father, Albert II has shifted Monaco away from a purely tourism-based economy (though that is still obviously a major part) and toward becoming a center for technological innovation, global business and the study of environmental changes, particularly in regards to the oceans, and finding new ways to deal with these changes. If there is one area Albert II has been tireless in his efforts it has been researching, warning and raising awareness about global climate change and advocating more responsible lifestyle changes to combat the effects of global warming. He has also taken on a larger role for Monaco in humanitarian causes around the world such as rushing financial assistance in the wake of natural disasters to countries as far removed as Haiti and Pakistan.

Another major accomplishment of Albert’s reign, so far, related to the new direction in the business life of Monaco has been his effort to get Monaco off of the so-called “grey list” of nations regarded as tax havens. Although still strictly guarding their own sovereignty, Monaco has worked extensively with the OECD, the G20 and individual nations in showing that Monaco has nothing to hide in regard to her banking and business transactions. Prince Albert has instituted new policies, new reforms and signed new fiscal agreements with Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Monaco signed a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) with the United States of America and similar agreements with Belgium and San Marino, enacted into Monegasque law by Sovereign Decree. Monaco still wants to be as investment-friendly as possible but all of these changes have done much to improve the international reputation of the principality.
Also under Albert II Monaco has achieved a measure of greater practical control from the French with the appointment of Michel Roger as Minister of State. Prince Albert made the appointment himself after some legal changed regarding the special relationship with France. Previously the Minister of State had effectively been chosen in Paris. Fortunately, under Albert’s leadership Monaco has remained comparatively unscathed in the economic crisis of recent years though it did necessitate the dropping of a planned expansion into the sea. And, on the personal side of things, Albert admitted his failings to the world in recognizing two illegitimate children and has been a source of strength to his sister Princess Caroline when marital problems beset her. He slapped away a ludicrous attempt at extortion by a professional fraudster and finally, almost marking the anniversary of his five years on the throne, announced his engagement to longtime girlfriend Charlene Wittstock. Given how long it was in coming this may be seen as the most significant achievement of Prince Albert yet, particularly if, in years to come, an heir to the throne comes along to continue the Grimaldi-Polignac line.

It has not been all cakes and ale certainly, and changes always mean making some uncomfortable. However, on the whole, any objective look back would have to view the first five years of the reign of Prince Albert II as a solid success.

Vive le Prince!

Friday, November 19, 2010

National Day Gala Evening

Charlene, Star of National Day

Charlene Meets the Public

Charlene and Prince Albert greet the people

Princess Caroline, Princess Alexandra and Charlotte Casiraghi

Cousin Melanie de Massy, Princess Alexandra, Princess Caroline, Andrea and Pierre Casiraghi

Yep, caught a fish *this* big right out there in the harbor

The Princely Couple, beaming at the crowd.

National Day Thanksgiving Mass

The Princely Family at Mass

obligatory picture of the lovely Charlotte

Greeting the celebrants

Monaco's next princess greets the Archbishop

"Let's go dear we have to beat the crowd to the balcony!"

Happy National Day Monaco!

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the accession of HSH Prince Albert II as Sovereign Prince of Monaco upon the passing of his beloved father Prince Rainier III. Preperatory festivities began yesterday (the usual gift giving). The celebrations today begin at the National Cathedral of St Nicholas with a Thanksgiving Mass said by His Excellency Bernard Barsi, Archbishop of Monaco, with the participation of The Maitrise of the Cathedral of Monaco; Les Petits Chanteurs de Monaco and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Monte-Carlo. Afterwards, at about 11:15 AM today there will be a parade at the Court of Honour of the Princely Palace starting with the presentation of badges and medals to the Police and Security Officers of the palace by the Sovereign Prince after which the parade will begin at 11:30. At 8PM tonight there will be a gala soiree (by invitation only) at the Grimaldi Forim in the Salle des Princes. An hour later will be the Gala Evening with Michel Boujenah: Free at Last! Salle du Canton, Espace Polyvalent
with free bus service after the show. Photos will be posted later. It is expected that, for the first time, Charlene Wittstock will appear on the balcony with the Princely Family to honor the reign of her husband-to-be the Sovereign Prince.
Vive Albert II!
Vive Monaco!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Albert and Stephanie Giving Gifts

Yesterday at the Princely Palace, sticking to family tradition, Their Serene Highnesses Prince Albert II and Princess Stephanie of Monaco distributed gifts from the Monaco Red Cross to elderly citizens.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Growing Up with Grace

Grace Patricia Kelly was born on November 12, 1929, the third of four children, to John Brendan “Jack” Kelly and Margaret Katherine Majer Kelly. Her father was the son of poor Irish immigrants who firmly instilled two things in their children: the importance of religion (they were devout Roman Catholics) and the importance of economic success. Jack Kelly had done just that, striking it rich and becoming a very wealthy man as well as a decorated Olympian. Because of this he pushed athletic excellence on his own children almost from the day they were born. Margaret Kelly was a very strict German woman who ran a tight ship with her children, who tended to prefer their father even though he pushed them through a rigorous exercise schedule every day. Little Grace was loved as a child but did not exactly fill the expectations of her parents. For an athletic champion like Jack Kelly any sort of physical imperfection was unthinkable and Grace had a few.

Early on it was noticed that Grace squinted a lot. She clearly needed glasses but never got them, her squinting was dismissed as simply an unattractive habit and her inability to catch a ball was attributed to poor coordination. Perhaps because of this Grace was rather withdrawn, considered a daydreamer and so on. Grace seemed to be the awkward child, was too often ill with some ailment or other and was generally considered a rather odd duck. Like the rest of her siblings Grace went to a strict Catholic school before her socially conscious grandmother (‘Ma Kelly’) prevailed upon her parents to move her and her sisters to a more elite secular school. While the other girls carried on well enough, Grace worried her mother. She was too withdrawn, content to play by herself, caught colds frequently and spent her free time performing plays with her dolls. Early on Grace had caught the acting bug.

When Grace was only 12 she joined the East Falls Old Academy Players, encouraged by her uncle George Kelly who had made a career in the theater though her parents, particularly her mother, disapproved of Uncle George, both because of his homosexuality and because they considered the acting profession a largely immoral lot. He received much of the “blame” for Grace, always the odd one out, setting out on the path of becoming an actress. Margaret Kelly tried to dissuade her daughter, insisting that women had hobbies, not professions, and that the most important thing was finding a good husband and becoming a good mother. Lest anyone take too harsh a view of Grace’s mother (who could be a bit of a tyrant at times according to her own children) she had herself given up a career in education to devote herself to her family and she knew the importance of taking the time to find the right spouse before getting married. Grace’s parents had a rather unhappy marriage but stayed together because, especially at that time, for Catholics divorce was unthinkable. She also knew how hard this would be in a place like New England where the society elites looked down on the offspring of immigrants and Catholics in particular.

At the urging of her parents, when Grace finished school she applied to Bennington College but was rejected. Then, in opposition to her parents, she auditioned for and was accepted into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. Grace said she wanted to ‘find herself’. Margaret Kelly hoped her daughter would go along for a while and then give up on acting. Grace, now wearing thick glasses to compensate for her extreme myopia, thought of herself as a bit of an ugly duckling but of course everyone else could see that the opposite was true and this would give her a great advantage when it came to performing on stage. Jack Kelly absolutely opposed the whole idea and when he withdrew his financial support, thinking this would force Grace to move back to Philadelphia, his daughter cashed in on her statuesque features and took work as a model -which her parents were obviously even less happy about. Grace was a huge success as a model, appearing in a number of national advertising campaigns but she always considered it something done simply to pay the bills while pursuing her real dream of acting.

As we all know this finally came to be. In 1949 Grace was cast in two plays, she attracted Hollywood notice but was given no parts and went on to perform in some of the biggest plays on Broadway. In time she was given her first minor part on film in the 1951 movie Fourteen Hours. Her big break came when she was given the part of the leading lady alongside screen legend Gary Cooper in High Noon. It was all uphill from there with an extensive film career, Grace Kelly become one of the iconic stars of the golden age of Hollywood and eventually an Oscar-winner. A stunned but proud Jack Kelly later joked that, of all his children, he never expected it would be Grace who would be able to provide for him in his old age -though of course such a thing was never necessary.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Princess Stephanie for Fight AIDS Monaco

Birthday of Albert I

It was on this day in 1848 that H.S.H. Prince Albert I of Monaco was born in Paris, France to HSH Prince Charles III of Monaco and the Belgian Countess Antoinette de Merode-Westerloo

Friday, November 12, 2010

Princess Grace Awards in New York City

HRH Princess Caroline of Hanover was in New York City on Wednesday to honor the winners of the Princess Grace Award which are distributed to those who have made a significant contribution in the areas of the arts and charity. This year the big winners were Mr. and Mrs. Denzel Washington. Most know Denzel Washington for his long list of acting credits, being an Oscar-winner and so on. However, he and his wife Pauletta have also been very active in helping a number of charities over the years with little fuss or fanfare. They have established the Gifted Scholars Program in Neuroscience which provides scholarships to medical students who have shown promise to go and study under Dr. Keith Black, chairman of the neurosurgery department at Cedars-Sinai. Denzel Washington has done a great deal of good for many people, without drawing attention to himself and the Washingtons are very much deserving of this award. Pauletta Washington told Bloomberg News, "We are so blessed, and we are blessed to be a blessing to others. That’s our family mantra about giving. The main thing is to have an appreciation for what we have, and we teach that to our children."

Tony Award winning theatre director Anna D. Shapiro was also honored Wednesday for her contributions to the arts, in this case the theatre. Princess Caroline was all smiles as she handed out the awards.

Birthday of Princess Grace

It was today in 1929 that Grace Patricia Kelly was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania U.S.A. to John Brendan Kelly and Margaret Katherine Majer Kelly. Surprisingly enough, as a child she was rather the oddball in the athletic Kelly clan, being a bit on the frail and sickly side, even considered something of an 'ugly duckling' by some. Fitting then that her last film should be "The Swan" before she went on to become the Princess of Monaco.

Veterans' Day

In the above photo we see HSH Prince Albert I (third from left) visiting the western front during World War I where his son, Prince Louis II (second from right), was serving with the French army. Prince Albert I had strong feelings about the Great War, being a veteran of the Franco-Prussian War, then a pacifist, a man very attached to France and yet a very good friend of the German Kaiser Wilhelm II. In fact, Prince Albert was on the yacht with the Kaiser when word of the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand first reached him; the event that would ultimately lead to the outbreak of the First World War. He was very reluctant for his son Louis to serve in the French army, much less to go to war, but he could not refuse him and Prince Louis II went on to become a genuine hero in the French military on the western front.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Birthday of Honore III

Today marks the 290th anniversary of the birth of H.S.H. Prince Honore III of Monaco, one of the most significant of Monegasque monarchs. He was the son of the controversial Prince Jacques I and would become one of the longest reigning monarchs in European history, serving as Sovereign Prince of Monaco for almost 60 years. He grew up in less than ideal circumstances, had plenty of domestic drama of his own following his marriage and he served with distinction in the French army. However, surely the most significant event of his long reign was the outbreak of the French Revolution which would ultimately spread to Monaco and cost Honore III his throne. He was arrested during the Reign of Terror and was very fortunate not to have ended his life on the guillotine. All seemed lost at the end of his life, but of course his end was not the end of the Grimaldis or Monaco. However, the very eventful life of one of the most colorful monarchs in Europe began 290 years ago today

Monday, November 8, 2010

Albert's Godmother

Victoria Eugenie was born in Scotland in 1887, the daughter of Prince Henry of Battenberg, granddaughter of Queen Victoria and first cousin of King George V of Great Britain. She was named after her grandmother Queen Victoria and her godmother the Spanish-born Empress Eugenie of France, consort of Emperor Napoleon III (who happened to be good friends with the Grimaldis of Monaco). Due to an incorrect reading of her name she became known to her family as Ena. Her father died while serving in Africa and Ena grew up in the court of Queen Victoria. In 1905, while at a dinner hosted by King Edward VII, the princess caught the eye of His Catholic Majesty King Alfonso XIII of Spain. A long-distance courtship began despite great misgivings from Alfonso's family over Ena's Protestant religious, rather obscure German heritage and the haemophilia that was carried by Queen Victoria's family.

In spite of all this King Alfonso XIII was determined to marry Victoria Eugenie and only a year later they were engaged and soon married after a marriage treaty was agreed upon between the British and Spanish governments which required the removal of the princess from the British royal succession for marrying a Catholic. On May 31, 1906 the couple married and on their wedding day only narrowly escaped an attempt on their lives by an anarchist bomber. This may have been a clue as to things to come. Victoria Eugenie, Queen of Spain, was in general not accepted by the Spanish people and when her first child, a son, was found to have haemophilia King Alfonso XIII held his wife responsible and never forgave her. While it was true that the Queen did pass on the disease it is also true that Alfonso knew this would be a possibility before he insisted on marrying her.

The couple went on to have seven children but were never reconciled and finally lived mostly apart with Queen Ena devoting her time to charity work. In 1923 Pope Pius XI awarded her the Golden Rose. She continued her work to help the poor and promote education until the coup of 1931 forced the Spanish Royal Family into exile after which Spain was declared a republic and the country soon fell into civil war. Queen Ena lived in the U.K. until the government informed her that she was unwelcome after which she moved to Switzerland. She saw her husband again in Rome in 1938 on the occasion of the baptism of her grandson Juan Carlos (the current King of Spain). The former King died in 1941.

For a long time the Grimaldis of Monaco had been good friends with the Bourbon family and also had good relations with the family of General Francisco Franco who ruled Spain after the civil war until his death and the restoration of the monarchy. It was through these ties of friendship that HSH Princess Grace came to know the Spanish Royal Family and, in her study of the world she married into, came to be an admirer of Queen Ena. It was a mark of the great respect Princess Grace had for the Queen that she named her godmother of her only son, Prince Albert II, when he was born in 1958. Queen Ena last visited Spain in 1968 for the baptism of her great-grandson Prince Felipe of the Asturias. She died at her home in Switzerland the following year at the age of 81.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Oh, Charlene, You Were Doing So Well

Charlene Wittstock, set to become Princess of Monaco next summer, has made some eyebrows go up and made me slap my head in an interview given to the UK’s Tatler. Oh, where to begin? In the first place, I have to wonder what Charlene was thinking giving such an interview to Tatler of all people, but that is a minor issue compared to what she talked about. One would be tempted to ask Charlene if she would like some cheese with her whine. She complained about being “subject to jealousy” since coming to Monaco, which she admitted “comes with the territory” but seems like an odd thing to say. If you knew it came with the territory, why even mention it? Charlene, you are a young Olympian who looks great in a swimsuit who lives in a palace and is about to marry the Prince of Monaco -the last thing anyone wants is to hear you complain. However, she went on.

“The people I mixed with in Monaco didn’t relate to my South African mentality or humor.” Well, again, that is to be expected Charlene, Monaco is a completely different country from South Africa on a completely different continent. You are moving on to their turf and it is your duty to adapt to the Monegasque, not for the Monegasque to adapt to you. She also said, “Although I have met some wonderful people since I’ve been living in Monaco, I regard them all as acquaintances. I only have two people I consider friends here.” And would one of those two select people be the Prince himself? This really blew my mind and I cannot help but wonder how many of those “acquaintances” thought they were friends of Charlene before she said such a thing. She comes off in this as having an attitude that a great many people are not ‘good enough’ for her friendship. Of course, many princesses of Monaco have come to the country and struggled to gain acceptance but talking like this a year before the wedding is certainly not going to help that situation. I also cannot help but point out, after the years she has spent with Albert and the considerable time she has been a common feature in Monaco, well, Charlene, dear, if you have only two friends at this point that might say more about you than it does about them.

Some may think I am being too harsh here, but I cannot help being astounded by this. I have never had anything against Charlene, I have always given her the benefit of the doubt and sincerely hoped that she be given a fair chance and not be constantly judged by the impossible standards set by Princess Grace. However, I cannot imagine any Princess of Monaco saying these sort of things, especially at such a time as this. As I recently pointed out here things were far from easy for Princess Grace when she first arrived in Monaco but she never publicly complained about it or even mentioned it. Charlene also said that, as Princess of Monaco, she wants to modernize the principality and even named names saying she wants to see a Starbucks and a Manolo Blahnik shoe store installed in the country. Again, Charlene dear, I am trying to be as generous as I can but saying you want to “modernize” the country by means of a coffee shop and a shoe store just makes you look shallow.

There was more talk about adjustment problems adapting to high society life but, as you can tell, I was very disappointed by the interview and as someone who wants the best for Charlene who will be the next Princess of Monaco, I don’t think she did herself any favors here. From what I have seen, regardless of her intentions, she seems to come off as critical and a bit condescending; not exactly the ideal for a woman about to marry into the Princely Family of Monaco especially when she has already been a familiar face for several years. I’m sure it will also annoy some people that her first ‘revealing’ interview was given to a British magazine instead of a French-language publication. This really seems to me to make Charlene look bad and I cannot imagine what she could have been thinking going on record in this way.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Princess Charlotte of Monaco

The colorful, troubled, controversial daughter of HSH Prince Louis II, for a time the Hereditary Princess of Monaco, mother of HSH Prince Rainier III, grandmother of the current Grimaldis:

The lovely girl whose background made waves

Princess Charlotte, glamorous socialite

The wedding of Prince Pierre de Polignac and Princess Charlotte

(left to right) Princess Charlotte, Prince Rainier, Prince Louis II, Princess Antoinette and Prince Pierre. Such images of family unity would not last for very long.
Princess Charlotte working as a volunteer nurse in World War II
Princess Charlotte with one of her fierce dogs she loved so much.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Charlotte and Beatrice in Rome

On Saturday our Charlotte Casiraghi teamed up with Beatrice Borromeo, her brother Pierre's girlfriend as we all know, for a screening of Frederico Fellini's "La dolce vita" which has recently been fully restored at the Rome Film Festival. With these two ladies in the audience one can only wonder if anyone actually watched the movie:
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