Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Tragedy of Princess Louise-Hippolyte

Prince Antoine I died in 1731 and was succeeded by his daughter, an enigmatic and captivating figure in Grimaldi history; HSH Princess Louise-Hippolyte. It was a sad day for the principality as Prince Antoine I, the one known as “Goliath” because of his great size and strength, had been extremely popular amongst the general public. It was an historic change in Monegasque history and though the people also loved Princess Louise-Hippolyte, they were not thrilled about the rules of succession set down by Lord Jean I that an heiress should marry into her own family and, were that not possible, that her husband would have to take the name and coat of arms of the House of Grimaldi. They had no great love for Jacques de Mantignon and were fairly adamant, from the very beginning, that they would bow to the authority of a Grimaldi Princess but not to her French husband. Prince Jacques was deeply offended by this and, as the public made their feelings clear and generally shunned him, he left the remote Principality and returned to Paris, leaving Princess Louise-Hippolyte to rule Monaco on her own.

During the short time that Princess Louise-Hippolyte shared with her subjects as their Sovereign Princess (a novel title in Grimaldi history) she was greatly loved by her people because of the great love she showed for them. Contemporary accounts record that she had a very maternal sort of relationship with her people, cherishing them all as much as she did her own children. The people appreciated her care and concern and called her la bonne princesse. She had not been enthusiastic about sharing power with her husband, and was often suspicious of his ambition, so she was not terribly distraught when he left, though it would be untrue to say that she never missed her husband or had no feelings for him at all. He was the father of her eight children and that must have counted for something. Yet, her people adored her and she was utterly devoted to their welfare. She had expected to one day become the reigning monarch, she wanted to prove herself and she wanted to show everyone, even the chattering class at Versailles, what she was capable of. The Princess was undoubtedly a very strong and committed woman.

Sadly, her reign was to be an extremely short one, lasting less than a year. She was only thirty-four years old when she was taken away by an outbreak of smallpox and the grief of the Monegasque people was just as heartfelt as that of her own children. Her husband found no more acceptance among the Monegasque after her death than when she first came to the throne and his rule did not last long either before it was turned over to a regent in the name of the little Prince Honore III who was only eleven years old when his mother died. The loss of Princess Louise-Hippolyte was a great tragedy, even though Monaco remained in competent hands after her death. Yet, one cannot help but wonder how events would have unfolded if she had lived to reign into old age. It is hard not to imagine great things considering the level of mutual support that existed between the subjects and their Sovereign Princess. The death of so young and lovely a person is tragedy enough, but there is an added sting that she wanted so much to prove what a great monarch she could have been and there was every indication she would have been, yet she never got the chance.

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