Friday, June 10, 2011
When the British Invaded Monaco
After going their separate ways an annoyed Prince Honore made a point of stopping in Nice to inform the authorities that Napoleon had returned. While the Emperor went on to reestablish his rule and plan the campaign that ended at Waterloo the Monegasque turned out to welcome their long absent Prince. However, news of his brief meeting the French Emperor traveled fast and on March 13, 1815 only ten days after his arrival in Monaco word was passed along that a British warship full of soldiers was heading toward Monaco. Prince Honore V was outraged by this invasion and ordered the gates of the port closed but, of course, this was only a symbolic act and there was nothing he could do to stop them. One Colonel Burke of the British army landed and called on Honore V at the Princely Palace who received him in the throne room. Colonel Burke handed him a letter from the representative of King Victor Emmanuel I of Piedmont-Sardinia.
With no other recourse available, Prince Honore V and Colonel Burke signed a statement bearing witness to the fact that Monegasque sovereignty had been violated, what the British orders stated and reiterating the fact that the Prince was constrained to acquiesce in light of his inability to resist such an occupation. The Prince also noted that even as the document was being signed he could look out his window at the palace and see hundreds of British troops taking up station around Monaco. Given this fact, the Prince did something that was very difficult for him to do and turned to the newly restored Emperor Napoleon in Paris for help. Reminding him that France had the sole right to garrison troops in Monaco he asked for Napoleon to have the British evicted and to stress the rights of Monaco as a sovereign state to the governments in London and Turin.
Some may have a hard time understanding how nervous this made the Princes of Monaco. After all, Italian had, before the French annexation, been the official language of the principality and throughout their history, even up until World War II, if pressed on the subject the Monegasque would identify themselves more with the Italians than the French. However, there had also been no more constant antagonist for Monaco than the Genoa from which they had come and the fear always remained that Piedmont-Sardinia would ultimately annex Monaco as well and the principality would go the way of other formerly independent states, such as the Republic of Genoa, in losing their sovereignty as part of the growing dominions of the House of Savoy. In the end, such fears were not entirely unfounded. Monaco was saved, thanks to the intervention of another Napoleon but Menton and Roquebrune were lost in the process and there were those in Italy who continued to claim Monaco as part of the “Greater Italy” or “Third Rome” they wished to create, and briefly did during the early years of World War II. Happily, that situation was only temporary and the comfortable fit with France returned. But, it was a rough road that began on that fateful day in 1815 when the British invaded Monaco.