Saturday, April 30, 2011
Friday, April 29, 2011
HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and Miss Charlene Wittstock took a little scolding from the press for arriving 30 minutes late to the pre-wedding party last night but they seemed in fine form for the big event. They looked to be sitting behind the Crown Prince and Princess of Greece, across from the Crown Prince of Serbia and in front of the Kings of Tonga and Swaziland. Prince William was as dashing as expected and Kate (they are now Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) was the very picture of loveliness. Not a few people (your humble blogger included) noted the similarity in style between Catherine and our own Princess Grace in their choice of wedding gown. Comparison shots are already all over the internet. Everything went off without a hitch and though the upcoming wedding in Monaco will be nothing like this event, we can only hope it goes as smoothly. Congratulations and best wishes to the happy couple!
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Prince Albert II has said that he will be 'taking notes' on how William and Kate have organized things as he and Charlene prepare for their own wedding. As we have discussed before, Prince Albert is distantly related to the British Royal Family, being descended from the Kings of Scotland, through the marriage of HSH Prince Albert I and Lady Mary-Victoria Douglas-Hamilton. It also might be fun, on this occasion to take a look back at a past post: Britain and Monaco - Did You Know? listing some fun facts about the long ties, sometimes friendly and sometimes not, between Great Britain and Monaco.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Friday, April 22, 2011
For the first time (that I know of) a book has just been released on the Princely Carabiniers, the palace guard and primary military force of Monaco. HSH Prince Albert II was good enough to write a preface for the book which is a photo essay (I like anything with lots of pictures) on the 115 soldiers who serve as the elite guard of the House of Grimaldi. The book gives an overview of this downsized regiment who have a perfect record when it comes to protecting the palace and the Sovereign Prince. Photos cover some of the famous events the guard participates in such as the daily changing of the guard (always a must for tourists) which is done with a little more pomp and ceremony on National Day, the drills the guard goes through in their side-job as the reserve fire brigade and escorting the Prince when he is out and about. For more than a century this elite corps of soldiers has defended the Prince of Monaco and they will be on hand, of course, with their military band to provide the music for the upcoming princely wedding. It is about time that their service was recognized in such a way. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if there is an English version but there usually is, eventually, for books like this.
"Les Carabiniers du Prince" preface by HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, Jean-Pax Méfret, Sylvie D. Ruau Bernard Boucher, Editions du Rocher, 2011, 190 p.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
A friend remembered Grace telling her that she had finally 'found her prince' only to later discover that for Grace, her "prince" actually was a prince. Their match and marriage put Monaco on the map. People all over the world and particularly in the United States, who had never heard of the tiny principality before suddenly became obsessed with all things Monegasque. Prince Rainier designed his own special uniform for the big day and Grace was given an early release from her MGM contract on the condition that the studio be given exclusive rights to film the princely wedding and release it to the public. It was an excellent short film, showing not just the wedding but Grace arriving in Monaco, exploring the Princely Palace that would be her new home and getting a taste of the centuries of history of the Grimaldi monarchy she was marrying in to. Prince Rainier had plenty of logistics to handle as his tiny country was literally swarmed with press and Grace had to have felt pulled in every direction from the wedding plans to relocating to Monaco to quickly learning French (or at least enough to get through the ceremony, to be refined and completed later). The Princess said later the actual wedding was rather difficult, so intense and crushing was the media glare. However, true to form, one would never have suspected it as everything was carried off flawlessly.
Not only did the wedding day and wedding ceremony set a standard for class and excellence but so did the marriage itself. Rainier and Grace were absolutely devoted to each other and would remain so for the rest of their lives. The Prince of Monaco could not have made a better choice. Princess Grace brought world attention to Monaco, made it the premier vacation spot for the Hollywood crowd among whom she had many friends but, with the help of Prince Rainier, Monaco also became known to the average person and was welcoming to a new wave of middle class visitors rather than remaining the exclusive retreat of the super-rich. Much of the artistic and charitable dates on Monegasque social calendar even today go back to what was first set up by Princess Grace. Recently, in the United States, a poll was taken as to the most beautiful princesses in the world. Kate Middleton made the list, as did (not surprisingly) Princess (later Queen) Rania of Jordan, Diana Princess of Wales, but still topping them all was our own Princess Grace of Monaco. Clearly, she set the standard in more ways than one.
Monday, April 18, 2011
When asked how Charlene will cope with the position of Princess of Monaco, Stephanie, who has had some experience with the title herself of course, said that it will not always be easy, but life is difficult for everyone at times. Her late mother, Princess Grace, made it work, and she seems confident that Charlene can too. Princess Grace taught her that love was the key, "it works miracles". Finally, on a more trivial subject, Monaco's rebel princess and chief AIDS crusader was asked about her favorite television shows. What does Princess Stephanie like to watch when it's time to veg-out in front of the TV? Steph admits she has little time for television but, when she does, her American side comes through as her favorite show is "CSI". Stephanie said, "Perhaps I was a policeman in a previous life". In the past, I would have said I could never picture such a thing as "Officer Stephanie" but, seeing what a protective mother she is, perhaps it is not that great a leap after all.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
On Thursday the Casiraghi Duo (no Pierre this time) and Princess Caroline were out in all their Mediterranean glory for the annual AMADE charity gala. Princess Caroline, dressed in black and notably subdued, still seemed to be feeling the loss of her aunt Princess Antoinette, but, as has often been said, the House of Grimaldi is all too familiar with tragedy and they have carried on quite well. It helps that AMADE (the World Association of Children’s Friends, a foundation started by HSH Princess Grace) is near and dear to Princess Caroline and she has devoted herself to her charity whole-heartedly. Charlotte looked her usual stunning best in a yellow dress (you see Charlie, there are colors other than black!) and big brother Andrea turned more than a few heads with his choice of footwear. A handsome black tuxedo was set off by a pair of quite unusual zebra-striped shoes. Longtime girlfriend Tatiana Santo Domingo was also on hand with Andrea for the event. The gala included an auction of artwork and other items along with a performance by a stand-up comedian (possibly a first?) to raise money for AMADE which helps children in impoverished countries around the world.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Sunday, April 10, 2011
It has already been speculated about as to whether Princess Caroline would keep her "HRH" if she and Prince Ernst-August were ever to actually divorce. However, I have not seen much discussion on the opposite side of that question. Ironically, the titles of the Prince of Hanover are not recognized at all in his native Germany but are recognized in the Principality of Monaco which recognizes him and Caroline as Their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Hanover. However, readers of this blog might remember that the rules of succession in Monaco, set down by Prince Jean I many centuries ago, calls for the husband of any heiress of Monaco to take the name and arms of the House of Grimaldi. It would impossible to imagine the Prince of Hanover doing this, even if their marriage was not effectively over. For a Hanoverian and someone included in the succession of the British Royal Family, this would be seen as a "step down" to become a Princely Grimaldi.
However, not having seen the original document (and a few changes have been made over the centuries), I would how this would work out if Princess Caroline was obliged to take the throne of Monaco. Would the Prince of Hanover simply be ignored? Again, I cannot imagine him voluntarily becoming a Grimaldi under the best of circumstances and it certainly would be unthinkable the way things are now. To the best of my knowledge, this situation has not arisen before. The only other female heiress was Princess Louise-Hippolyte whose husband did take the name and arms of Grimaldi (though he was not royal to begin with like Ernie) and in the case of Princess Charlotte and Prince Pierre, she abdicated her rights to the throne in favor of Rainier III before Prince Louis II had passed away so the issue never needed addressing. Anyway, I thought that was an interesting little quandry and something to think about for Monaco-Grimaldi scholars out there ;-)
Friday, April 8, 2011
The three-day state visit of HSH Prince Albert II and Princess-to-be Charlene Wittstock to the Republic of Ireland was a resounding success. The Guard of Honor was drawn up, school children sang and waved Irish and Monegasque flags. The visit was timed for the 50th anniversary of the triumphal tour of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier III to the Emerald Isle. Upon arriving the Sovereign Prince and Charlene visited the National Museum and the Shelbourne Hotel where there is a suite named in honor of Princess Grace. During their tour the Princely couple visited Dublin, Galway and Newport in County Mayo where the Kelly family originated. The Irish were very enthusiastic and friendly in welcoming the Princely couple who were all smiles during the trip.
The Sovereign Prince and Charlene accept flowers from young well-wishers
Mr. McAleese, President of Ireland Mary McAleese, Prince Albert II and Charlene at their formal welcome
The Sovereign Prince inspects an Irish guard of honor
At a formal evening dinner Charlene turned heads. Her fashion choices throughout the visit recieved positive reviews from the critics all around.
The President and the Sovereign Prince on the red carpet
The "green" Prince planted a tree to mark the occasion of this visit and the 50th anniversary of the visit of Princess Grace, the first Irish-American Princess of Monaco
HSH Prince Albert II (with Monegasque and Irish army officers) was welcomed by the Irish artillery at McKee Barracks firing a 21-gun salute. The formalities and ceremony were all correct but it still seemed a very warm and friendly for a state visit, even if it was a little damp at times.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Monday, April 4, 2011
Princess-to-be Charlene Wittstock, former Olympic swimmer, has swam the Tiber! Yes, according to People magazine, after quite a period of "is she or isn't she" it was announced today that Charlene has decided to come to 'home, sweet Rome' and officially converted to the Catholic faith. Charlene was raised a Protestant and though there is no law in Monaco that would requite the princess consort to embrace a certain religion, the state religion of Monaco is Roman Catholic and the vast majority of the Monegasque population has always belonged to the Catholic Church. Prince Albert II was adamant in past interviews that the issue was totally up to Charlene and she was under no pressure, however, it would be unrealistic to think that the weight of tradition was not felt. There has never been a Princess of Monaco who was not Catholic, the ties between the House of Grimaldi and the Church are older than the country itself and the diplomatic ties between Monaco and the Holy See are older than almost any other country. In a short statement from the Princely Palace it was said, "Miss Charlene Wittstock, who professes the Christian faith, has been admitted by free and personal choice into full communion with the Catholic Church." This is very good news as the future Princess of Monaco will now be united in faith were her husband, the rest of the Grimaldi family and the people of Monaco. Congratulations to Charlene on this important occasion in her life.
As I have been considering doing a series of posts elsewhere on the subject of my ‘favorites’ I thought I might try it out here first. Naturally, as a monarchist, I support all of the Monegasque monarchs regardless of their personal successes or failures or their personalities. To keep this from running on I will be looking only at my personal favorites from the time that the Lords of Monaco became the Princes of Monaco, keeping in mind that these are not in any order other than chronological, picking favorites is hard enough for me so ranking my least-to-most favorite is just not going to happen. So, let’s get started: I - The first is the first, that is Prince Honore II, who, as we know, was the first Grimaldi to be formally titled “Prince of Monaco”. This guy was something. Even as a baby his life was in danger as the assassins of Lord Hercules I ransacked the palace trying to find him to kill him as well. He became a very astute statesman, never had any marital problems from all I have read and his surprise attack which took Monaco out of the Spanish camp and into the French one shows that he was a clever diplomat as well as a masterful tactician. He obtained a much better position for his country, beautified the place and in every way left it better than he had found it. His people adored him for his wisdom, kindness and courageous leadership. The Spanish were not too happy with him but most every other account of his life and reign speaks of him only in the most complimentary terms. Monaco was his life, he devoted himself to it and to making it better. In that, he fully succeeded. II - Prince Antoine I, unfortunately had some setbacks in his reign. He was obliged to recognize the Duke of Savoy as overlord of part of his realm, his marriage to Marie de Lorraine was a disaster and so on. However, he inherited a nearly bankrupt state and yet managed, through immense personal sacrifice, to find enough money to improve the defenses of Monaco when the country was under threat. He was also a great patron of art and music and was the first to make Monaco a center of such creative talent, which might have surprised some since the Prince was also a very heroic veteran soldier. The people of Monaco adored him because of the concern he showed for their safety and the sacrifices he was willing to make to protect them and their property. He could be stern and strict but such a firm hand was called for and he not only secured and improved Monaco but pulled the country back from the brink of economic ruin and left it better than he found it. III - Prince Charles III, in many ways, was the monarch who put Monaco on the map. After losing the vast majority of the territory of the principality to France (the ceding of Menton and Roquebrune) it was Prince Charles III who presided over the economic renovation of Monaco into the holiday hot spot of Europe. The country had fallen on hard times since the whole trauma of the French Revolution but under Charles III the situation finally stabilized. The Italians were dealt with once and for all, the relationship with France was put firmly in order and a new era of economic independence came with the establishment of Monte Carlo casino and the rise of the resort industry. Much of this was also due to the wife of Charles III, Princess Antoinette, and his mother Princess Maria Caroline but it was Charles who was ultimately the one responsible as Sovereign Prince. Monaco adopted an official national flag, national anthem, the Order of St Charles was established and diplomatic relations were established with a number of countries all during the reign of Prince Charles III. IV - Prince Louis II might not be included on every list of great Princes of Monaco but he is one of my favorites. He embarked on a military career in the French army and took his service very seriously. Many said he would have been happier as a soldier than as a prince and he was a very good soldier. During World War I he displayed great skill and valor, winning numerous decorations and promotions. He was proud of his service and was often seen in uniform. During World War II when Monaco was occupied by the Axis forces, Prince Louis II used his police connections to ensure that Jews were able to escape before they could be arrested by the Nazis. He took a major risk in doing this and had to walk a thin line during those years. As Prince of Monaco he took the first steps toward a greater diversity in the tourism industry, making Monaco a center of football and racing as well as gambling. It was the steady leadership of Louis II that saw Monaco through its darkest period since the Revolution. V - Prince Rainier III, I firmly believe, will go down in history as one of the greatest Monegasque monarchs of all time. His extensive list of accomplishments are nothing short of exemplary. A strong monarch but also a forward-thinking man he brought Monaco out of the devastation of World War II and made it, once again, the most famous spot on the Riviera. His marriage to Princess Grace made Monaco a household word around the globe and he was a devoted husband and father. He diversified the economy to get away from the over-reliance on gaming and made Monaco a tourist destination that everyone could enjoy, not just the super-rich. He dealt firmly with any threats to the public good, reworked the constitution and strengthened the police to keep organized crime out of his country. Monaco became a center for business under his rule, the country expanded as land was reclaimed from the sea and a supreme court was established. His economic diversity programs brought a wave of unprecedented wealth and prosperity to the country. Although not often recognized, he was also a very humorous man and a very religious man and was awarded the Order of the Golden Spur by the Pope. At the time of his death in 2005 he was the second-longest reigning monarch in the world. Honorable Mention: It would be premature to pass judgement on the reign of Prince Albert II, however, some mention should be made of the admirable job he has done so far. He has made Monaco a center of environmental study (particularly concerning the oceans of the world), uprooted criminal elements trying to take root in the country and opened a new era of transparency that has taken Monaco off the list of 'tax havens' and "Morality, honesty and ethics" has been his motto. The economy has done well, even going through the current world financial storm relatively unscathed and relations with France have been greatly improved as well as managing to increase the effective political independence of the country. So far, so good.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Monegasque news services and the Foreign Office of the Republic of Ireland have confirmed that HSH Prince Albert II will soon be visiting the Emerald Isle and will be bringing Charlene along with him. Sources say the visit will be held from April 4 to April 6, so just around the corner. Their Serene Highnesses Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace paid an official visit to Ireland in 1961 (where the Irish-American princess was very warmly welcomed in particular) and Prince Albert had planned to visit in 2009 but, other issues came up and that was not possible. This time, however, things are looking good and even the Irish have noted that it doesn't rain until it pours as they have been a while without any foreign heads of state visiting and within the span of about two months they will have His Serene Highness the Prince of Monaco, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Her Majesty the Queen and the President of the United States all stopping by. In other news, embattled Libyan dictator Colonel Qaddafhi reportedly stated that he might like to follow the example of the late King of Egypt and make his home-in-exile the sunny Principality of Monaco! Where would he find enough open space to pitch his famous tent? Of course, we assume this was yet another case of the news services having some fun with us on April Fool's Day -though I don't doubt there is at least one "fool" (and that's being kind) who will be more than willing to believe the story -if you know what I mean ;-) *Update: Very interesting article here at the Irish Times about the upcoming princely visit as well as a discussion with the Sovereign Prince about the situation in Monaco.
Friday, April 1, 2011
Regular readers will know I have a soft spot for Princess Stephanie, always have, and since her last interview with Paris Match I have wanted to relate some of that. Other things came up but, better late than never. The interview noted the appearance of Stephanie’s office and that she seemed to be existing on Diet Coke but that was due to Camille having the flu and, as Princess Stephanie said, her “first job is mom”. On the subject of the Princess’ rather varied resume; singer, model, fashion designer, humanitarian etc Stephanie confessed that she has had a rather hectic life. This was not exactly what she would have intended. “I built my life as a woman alone because I had lost my mother, my reference, my guide”, Stephanie said, “I tried to learn everything from everyone and everywhere, by myself, because I had no guide”. She realized how life could be cut short and was determined to live it to the fullest, try everything and enjoy it while she could. However, Stephanie was adamant that she has no regrets. All of her life experiences made her the woman that she is and she is content with how she turned out. So, no regrets but, mistakes, she’s had a few. However, even there she says they made her stronger.
The PM interviewer asked her a lot about her love for the Circus which, Stephanie said, came from her father taking her growing up. He had dreamed of being a circus manager as a boy (something I never knew) and passed on his love for the spectacle to Stephanie. She has always been impressed by it. Today Stephanie is very involved in the ‘nuts and bolts’ of being President of the International Circus of Monte-Carlo. As Stephanie said, it would be useless to be president and only attend performances. When asked what she likes about both sides of the Circus, public and behind the scenes, Stephanie said, on the inside, it is the solidarity. There is a family atmosphere, even when there is competition, that causes performers to help each other, stay honest and because the people involved work so hard to bring a little happiness to others. When asked about the criticism Stephanie has received from animal rights activist over her love of the Circus, the Princess would not budge. She admitted some small circuses might mistreat their animals but the activists generally ignore those and go after the wealthier, bigger circuses where the animals are actually treated extremely well. She said she could not understand the extremists who seem to want to release every animal even though many in the Circus have been raised and lived there for six or seven generations and could not survive in the wild.
Princess Stephanie said she had something of the same mentality as the Circus performers when it came to her work for Fight AIDS Monaco, giving of herself to bring a little happiness to others. As can easily be seen, Stephanie remarked that, “Life has taught me compassion”. She shrugs off those who think helping the victims of AIDS creates a “bad image”. She also spoke about her children, how she takes them to the circus like her father took her and that they have inherited her love for it as well and she remarked on Pauline and her commitment to competitive diving. In fact, Pauline spent so much time taking care of the animals (the elephants especially) at the circus that she even wanted to spend the night with them. The Princess, however, said she exercised her “veto” when it came to that extreme. However she said the performers in the circus were like athletes, something that Pauline would have in common with them. She takes her diving very seriously but has told her coach she has to make time for the circus too. As the Princess laughingly said, “The succession is assured!”
On the larger subject of motherhood Stephanie admitted that the children are growing up and will some day go their own way, just not too soon. She gives them her advice based on her life experiences but wants to allow them to have their own experiences. She has tried to impart some moderation on them, urging them to wait until they are older before trying certain things (drinking, partying) and to know that some things are fun once and a while but should not be made a habit. She has never exposed them to the high life and parties of the jet-set crowd and as such they have no temptation in that direction and, she says, are happy to live more anonymously than some others. She stressed again that she learned nothing lasts forever and wants her children to be skilled and educated so that, come what may, they will always be able to adapt and do for themselves.
When it comes to being a princess, Stephanie has a very unromantic view of the position. When asked what it means to her, she said simply being the daughter of Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace, nothing more. When asked about those girls who dream of being a princess, Stephanie said, “If people lived the life of a princess for even a week, they would dream a lot less”. No, there are no Cinderella’s or Sleeping Beauties for Stephanie. “We are human beings like any other, with our sorrows, our joys, our laughter, our tears … We suffer the same way, except that we still suffer in public” she said. On the fairy tale that befell Charlene, as we have mentioned before, Stephanie was very supportive, saying she had all of the qualities necessary to be a princess consort. She is sensitive, she is strong and Stephanie is willing to help in any way she can to support her brother whom she has always been very attached to. On the part she has to play in Monaco it is, according to the Princess, also one of supporting her brother. She prefers the less glamorous style, slightly off stage, with the people. As Stephanie said, “Monegasques see me pushing my trolley when I go shopping, they approach me, ask me for advice, I try to refer them to appropriate services to solve their problem”. She remarked on how busy and hard working Prince Albert is and that, for the sisters, they each try to cover a certain segment to help out. Princess Stephanie deals with the people at home, Princess Caroline covers the international issues and the glamorous events Stephanie would rather avoid and between them they keep all bases covered.