Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Whatever Happened to Hercules

Everyone knows about the "Louis XIV of Monaco" Prince Honore II, the first Grimaldi to officially bear the title of Prince and everyone knows about his successor and grandson Prince Louis I, the great law-giver, but what about his son? Poor Hercules, Marquis de Baux often seems to be forgotten. He was the son and heir of Honore II, named after his grandfather Lord Hercules I, and father of Prince Louis I. We have talked about him here of course, but how was it exactly that the tragic young prince met his untimely end? It happened, as we know, on August 1, 1651 when the Marquis de Baux and his wife, Aurelia Spinola, and their children went to visit the convent of Carnoles in Mentone. After the visit was over the Marquis took some recreation in some gardens that were close, target shooting with some soldiers of the guard with arquebuses (some sources say it was pistols, most say arquebuses). At one point Hercules ordered one of the soldiers to take a shot at the target to see how expert he was in the use of this (relatively new) firearm. The soldier, anxious to obey and be quick about it, turned quickly and, in doing so, caught the arquebus on his belt. The weapon fired, by accident, wounded two others standing nearbye and striking the Hereditary Prince Hercules in the spine. It was a terrible wound and, of course, the best medical care at hand was provided for the heir-to-the-throne of Monaco but it was to no avail and he died the next day.

It was a terrible loss for the Marquis de Baux was a truly noble man. Despite the agony of his wound, he insisted over and over again, as he lay on his deathbed, that the soldier who inadvertently shot him was innocent of any wrong-doing, that it had been purely an accident and that no blame should attach itself to the poor fellow. Nonetheless, the man was imprisoned for a time, though perhaps as much for his own safety as he had tried to kill himself after the terrible tragedy. When he was released a short time later he left Monaco never to return. But, of course, this wouldn't be a proper page of Grimaldi family history without some legends to go with it. Immediately there were accounts that a local monk had prophesied that Prince Hercule would meet a tragic end and soon a story also began to circulate that a few days before the accident while the Marquis was reading alone he was visited by a mysterious phantom who asked what he was doing. When the Marquis said he was reading the phantom replied, "Read and learn, for you will very soon have no need of either" before vanishing in dramatic fashion. Did such a ghostly image really appear? It's a pretty fantastic story but it also hardly out of place in the long, colorful and often tragic history of the House of Grimaldi.

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