It was on this day in 1898 that HSH Princess Charlotte of Monaco was born, daughter of HSH Prince Louis II of Monaco and mother to HSH Prince Rainier III of Monaco. It is appropriate to take a look back at her life, her image and her rocks.
Prince Pierre and Princess Charlotte
Princess Charlotte and her little ones Prince Rainier and Princess Antoinette
It was on this day in 1846 that HSH Prince Charles III of Monaco was married to the Belgian noblewoman Antoinette de Merode-Westerloo, one of the more happy and successful Grimaldi marriages. In honor of that occasion, we can take a moment to appreciate the long and close friendship of the Royal Family of Belgium and the Princely Family of Monaco:
Prince Rainier III (hidden behind the Queen of Denmark) and Prince Albert II at the funeral of the beloved King Baudouin of the Belgians
Prince Albert II and Prince Philippe
Princess Astrid and Prince Albert II
Prince Philippe and Prince Albert II
Queen Paola and King Albert II of the Belgians at the wedding of Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene. The King was the only guest I noticed wearing his Monegasque Order of St Charles
It seems that Russia has been *the* place to be in September. Earlier this month HSH Princess Stephanie of Monaco, along with daughters Pauline and Camille, were in Moscow for the award ceremony of the “Contest of the Circus Arts” at the Tenth International Youth Festival. Of course, when it comes to the circus world there is no bigger celebrity than our Princess Stephanie. Everyone was all smiles and Pauline pitched in with handing out the trophies. It is nice to see Princess Stephanie and her brood once in a while and they seem so much more ‘grown up’ every time we do.
As long-time readers will know, the Principality of Monaco is very old amongst the modern States of Europe and has its origins in the Guelf-Ghibelline conflict of Genoa. But what exactly was this city-state on the sea from which our beloved Grimaldis sprung? “The Most Serene Republic of Genoa” came into being in 1005 on the Ligurian coast of the Italian peninsula. What started out as a minor city state grew over time to be one of the major commercial mini-empires of the Mediterranean with Genoese outposts stretching from Spain and North Africa, all of Corsica to parts of Sardinia, the Italian mainland, a number of Greek islands, a quarter of the East Roman capital of Constantinople and all the way to the Crimean Peninsula in what is now the Ukraine and ports in what is now Syria. Although it never reached quite the height of power that its rival across the peninsula, the Republic of Venice, did, Genoa was nonetheless a force to be reckoned with and the House of Grimaldi became one of the leading families of the oligarchic republic.
Originally an autonomous commune within the old Kingdom of Italy (the successor of the Lombard kingdom which sprang up after the end of Imperial Roman rule). The Republic of Genoa began to establish itself during the height of the Islamic expansion, starting with raids against the Fatimid Caliphate in North Africa. A number of victories broke Muslim rule over the Mediterranean and allowed maritime powers like Genoa and Venice to rise rapidly in importance, particularly as the Crusades were launched and Italian merchants were needed to transport knights, supply them and, sometimes most importantly, to fund them. Genoa itself contributed a great deal in these campaigns, even supplying warships and soldiers to participate in the fighting and in return the republic was given colonies and advantageous commercial treaties with the Crusader states. For the most part though, although Genoa gained some colonial footholds in certain ports, her real influence was in her economic power, through trade and commerce and not by direct rule.
Genoese galleys, upon which the state was built
As Genoa and Venice both grew in wealth and influence they naturally grew in rivalry with each other as well and often backed opposing sides in various conflicts. In the infamous Fourth Crusade, for example, Venice backed the Latin Knights whereas Genoa backed the Byzantine Emperor. When Constantinople was retaken Genoa benefited greatly from this investment and received many new ports in the Greek islands. It was not until the rise of the Kingdom of Aragon as a major Mediterranean power that the dominance of Genoa, by then mostly in the western Mediterranean, began to decline. However, even then, the Republic of Genoa began to rebound as a center of banking within the Spanish sphere of influence. Genoa sold Corsica to France and lost her last outpost on the African coast (the island of Tabarka) to the Bey of Tunis in 1742. Genoa had just started recovering from a disastrous war with the Austrians alongside Spain and France when Napoleon Bonaparte (himself a native of Corsica) led French revolutionary forces in conquering the Republic of Genoa and proclaiming the region the “Ligurian Republic” which was simply annexed by France a short time later. Unlike some other states, after the Napoleonic Wars the Republic of Genoa was not restored but her remaining territory ceded to the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia in 1815.
Doge of Genoa Giovanni Giacomo Grimaldi
The Republic of Genoa was, as stated, an oligarchic republic, ruled by a Doge (“duke” ) chosen from amongst the prominent merchant families and one of the most prominent was the Grimaldi family. In all, a member of the House of Grimaldi would hold the office of Doge of Genoa on twelve occasions throughout the history of the republic. The first of these was Cristoforo Rosso Grimaldi who was elected the 49th Doge of Genoa in 1535. Originally the Doge was elected by popular vote for life but later, after changes made by Andrea Doria, the Grand Council elected the Doge who served for a limited term. The last Grimaldi to hold the office was Pier Franco Grimaldi, elected in 1773 though due to the decline in Genoese fortunes, his was a very modest coronation and celebration. Much of his term was spent dealing with religious issues as this was when the Society of Jesus was being suppressed throughout Europe and trying to recover from the ‘Balilla Uprising’ and the war with Austria. After his term ended he served in the Ministry of War and then the Ministry of Holy Worship as the Church and the military had long been the most important parts of his life.
The branch of the family that eventually became the Lords and Princes of Monaco started out like most of the Genoese patricians, as fighting sailors and intrepid entrepreneurs. In charge of their Genoese galleys they had brought the King of Jerusalem and the King of Hungary to Egypt in the Fifth Crusade, they raided Venetian galleys in the intermittent war with that state, grow in wealth and status and finally fight the forces of Genoa itself on a number of occasions as the republic tried to reassert her claim to Monaco or when a rival political family gained power in the ‘serene republic’. The history of Genoa is a fascinating one, growing from a tiny, overlooked port to a commercial empire with merchant ships and war galleys operating from the Black Sea to the Pillars of Hercules, from the African coast to the English Channel. When eclipsed by Venice the city-state came back as the banking center for the Spanish empire and their colonial adventures in the Americas when the famous Andrea Doria was admiral-in-chief to the Hapsburg monarchs. Even today, traces of the maritime empire of Genoa can still be seen even in such far removed places as the fortress in Sudak, Ukraine to the famous Galata Tower in what is now Istanbul.
HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, who was recently ranked the 28th most visible world leader, alongside the Pope, the Dalai Lama and President Obama, by the Reputation Institute, arrived today in Archangel, Russia to attend the conference titled, "The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue" (I think you can figure out what will be the object of discussion there) alongside such political leaders as President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson of Iceland and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia. This is a good occasion to look back and the long history of Russo-Monegasque friendship.
Prince Albert and Vladimir Putin on a fishing excursion
Vladimir Putin and Prince Albert have an informal lunch
HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco arrived in the south Caucasian Republic of Georgia on Sunday for an official visit that will end today. The Sovereign Prince has for some time now made it a matter of policy to strengthen ties with East European countries and peoples. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and other dignitaries were on hand to greet the Prince at the airport and the President escorted the Prince to several sites of cultural interest in Mestia, including one right up my alley in the area known as Lanchvali where the traditional style of that part of town (which goes back to the Middle Ages) is being restored. The Prince visited many areas where the Georgians proudly displayed their rich and ancient heritage, including something we're always fond of here at Mad for Monaco, some groups of very colorful folk dancers. At the end of the day, the Prince went to take in a musical at the Opera House in Batumi.
The next day, again with President Saakashvili acting as travel guide, the Prince visited Kvareli where he was given a demonstration of new techniques introduced there for the harvesting and processing of grapes and, as he is known to do, Prince Albert got involved himself in lending a hand with preparing some wine (which Georgia is known for) which the monarch of a country on the borders of France and Italy would not be totally unfamiliar with. The President also conducted Prince Albert to Dmanisi to visit an archaeological site (something of interest to the Prince as it would have been to the first Prince Albert of Monaco) and then to a meeting with the members of the National Olympic Committee of Georgia. Afterwards, the Prince was off to the Georgian National Museum in Tiblisi where he had been asked to speak. It was a busy day but the Prince also made it a point to make time for a very special visit to the home of the late Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili -a name not everyone will remember but all will certainly remember his tragic fate. That was the young Georgian athlete who was killed in a practice run at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, which stunned the world, caused a re-work of the event in question and a wave of sympathy directed toward the nation of Georgia. The Sovereign Prince met with the parents of the late athlete and presented them with a special medal of honor in memory of their son. It was a very touching scene.
Prince Albert poses with a group of Georgian folk dancers
Some very striking Georgian dancers performing for the visiting Prince
Prince Albert II presenting the medal of honor to the parents of Nodar Kumaritashvili
On September 11, HSH Prince Albert II and his nephew Andrea Casiraghi marked the 100th anniversary of the Club Alpin Monegasque by taking a little hike from the Princely Palace to the top of Mont-Agel, the highest point in the Monaco-France frontier region. The Sovereign Prince hoped to make this a more regular occurance. Later in the week, Prince Albert, Princess Caroline and Pierre Casiraghi attended the 10th Monaco La Belle Classe at the Monaco Yacht Club where the Prince was presented with a commemorative watch by the grateful members for all of his years of support. Later, Prince Albert met with James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, who reported on the Monaco Méditerranée Foundation Conference which had the theme, " The World 2050" which was held earlier in the week at the magnificent Le Meridien Beach Plaza in Monaco. On Wednesday the Sovereign Prince met with members of the Carabiniers Racing Team at a special reception in their honor in Monaco. However, pride of place went to racing champion Jimmy Maccio who recently won the WREC (better than "wreck") French racing championship for the motorcycle division. Young Maccio, like the rest of the team members are all soldiers in the Princely Rifles and he was congratulated by the Prince and his commanding officer for the title which is a first for the Principality of Monaco. Although all in good fun of course, the Princely Rifles (some of them at least) must be capable on a motorcycle for their escort duties in guarding the Sovereign Prince.
British coverage of the funeral of Princess Grace. It is still heartbreaking to see the sorrow of Prince Rainier, known as such a strong man and a strong monarch, absolutely crushed by the loss of his one and only. A tip of the hat to Matterhorn at The Cross of Laeken.
It was on this day in 1889 that HSH Prince Albert I succeeded his father (Charles III) as Sovereign Prince of Monaco. Under his leadership, the character of Monaco was to change a great deal as the principality became a center for scientific research, culture and peace. Although his father had never understood his fascination with the sea, Prince Albert I established the Oceanographic Institute of Monaco which has grown in prestige ever since and remains a major center for oceanographic research to this day. His interest in archaeology also prompted him to found the Institute for Human Paleontology and the actions of his consort, Princess Alice, brought high culture to Monaco in the form of the opera, ballet and theater. When the threat of world war began to appear on the horizon, Prince Albert founded the International Institute of Peace in Monaco to try to find a way to avoid such a disaster and having been a veteran of the Franco-Prussian War, the Prince was only too aware of what horrors resulted from the last time the French and Germans had had at each other. When the war came anyway, he intervened with the German Kaiser, who had been his friend, to lessen the suffering of people in Belgium and Alsace and he established hospitals and recovery centers in Monaco for the Allied soldiers. He was a great man and widely respected all around the world, the first Prince of Monaco to be known in America as well as Europe (he was the first Grimaldi to visit the United States) and it was quite traumatic when he died in 1922, honored by the people of Monaco and scientific societies all around the world.
Tuesday and Wednesday saw HSH Prince Albert II in Brussels, Belgium for a conference on -you guessed it: the environment! In this case the forests of Europe and the world. Meeting at the European Parliament the Prince of Monaco spoke with the intensity and sincerity he always shows for environmental issues, the cause closest to his heart, and addressed the impact of climate change (the artist formerly known as 'global warming') on the woodlands of the world.
Also on Tuesday, Prince Albert teamed up with 'big sis' Princess Caroline to take in a new exhibit by famed filmmaker and photographer Nick Danziger called "War and Peace: Women in the XXI Century". The exhibit focused on the plight of women in the many conflicts of our time, pointing out that it is they who often suffer the most. It brought to mind a line my mother often quoted, "War is hell on the home front too, God only knows what a woman goes through..." The exhibit will run until the end of the month.
And finally, there is more bad news for the nutjob with the 'notgays' who is obsessed with Prince Albert. His case against Monaco was recently thrown out by a French court on the grounds that one grumpy old man with a grudge and too much time on his hands cannot sue an entire country. He only resorted to that when his case against the Prince himself was thrown out on the grounds of sovereign immunity. So far, he seems to have a hard time accepting the lesson that 'crime doesn't pay'. But, one must do something when you get too old to go on being a professional fraud.
HRH Crown Prince Alexander II of Serbia, HSH Princess Charlene of Monaco, HRH Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia and HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco
HSH Princess Charlene of Monaco and HRH Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia
The House of Grimaldi and the House of Karađorđević have been good friends for some time now and it was good to see Serbian royal couple at the recent princely wedding. The Serbian Crown Prince is, I think, probably the most impressive non-reigning royal around today. He has been very successful in forging close ties with the existing Serbian government and the Orthodox Church and has done a great deal of good for the Serbian people. He has stayed out of politics but has been very active in advocating for a constitutional monarchy in his long-suffering homeland. Serbia will be a great deal better off when they finally correct past injustices and make Alexander their King. I'm sure the Prince and Princess of Monaco would be happy to attend his coronation.