Saturday, January 28, 2012

Statue of Prince Rainier in Bucharest

Who would have thought that a statue of one of the greatest princes of Monaco would be going up in Romania of all places? But, it is. Romanian sculptor Ionel Stoicescu has created a bronze statue of HSH Prince Rainier III of Monaco with the help of just under 161,000 euros in financing. The life-sized statue will be part of a monument in honor of Prince Rainier III and the Monuments Administration chose a location in front of the Circus building in Bucharest to place the statue. Obviously this is in recognition of the great love and support Prince Rainier III showed to the circus during his reign, work still being carried on by his family, particularly Princess Stephanie. He is also not alone in being recognized in such a way. The statue of Prince Rainier III will be one of six new statues going up in Bucharest to honor actors, writers, historic figures and other personalities. Those being honored include actor Gheorghe Dinica, writers Mircea Eliade, Emil Cioran, Hortensia Papadat-Bengescu and the 1840's revolutionary Avram Iancu.

Friday, January 27, 2012

St Devote Celebrations

Thursday was St Devote Day in Monaco and the Grimaldis were out in force:
Princess Charlene was in fine form for her first St Devote Day as Princess

The Prince and Princess of Monaco cross themselves as the procession passes before the palace, bearing the relics of St Devote, the patron saint of Monaco and the Grimaldis. The faithful family dog "Mila" can just be seen peeking through the balcony.

Archbishop Bernard Barsi of Monaco greets the Princely Couple after the St Devote mass

Princess Alexandra and Princess Caroline of Hanover join Princess Charlene and Prince Albert II for the final festivities of the day at the seaside.

Finally, like every St Devote Day, it all ends with a good ol' Monegasque boat burning! This tradition goes back hundreds of years when an attempt was made to steal the relics of St Devote, but it didn't work and the perpetrator ended up having his boat burned. For more information about the patron saint of Monaco and the House of Grimaldi read about Saint Devote.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Circus Awards

After considering this photo of our Steph and this troop of flamboyant Asian acrobats the thought occurred to me; Stephanie is probably the only princess in the world I could see in a photo like this and it all seem completely normal. That's why we love ya Steph. That's why we love ya.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Andy Joins the Guard, Charlie Goes to Court

Remember when the little Casiraghi boys used to dress in miniature Princely Rifles uniforms? Prince Albert II and Prince Rainier III did the same thing back in their day and it always made for a cute sight. Well, we may see it again soon for real. On Saturday, HSH Prince Albert II and nephew Andrea Casiraghi attended a special mass for the Feast of Saint Sebastian, patron saint of soldiers and the patron saint of the Prince's Company of Carabiniers, the military and palace guard of Monaco. Colonel Fringant, chamberlain to the Prince and High Commander of the Public Forces (that's right, he IS the "high commander") along with Philippe Rebaudengo, commander of the Princely Carabiniers were naturally among those who attended. The Sovereign Prince took the occasion to formally bestow the rank of "Brigadier" on Andrea at a reception held after mass at the Oceanographic Museum. The senior Casiraghi (and currently still the second-in-line for the throne) is now officially a soldier. I wouldn't expect to see him turning up for guard duty any time soon, but this is good news to me. Royals always look their best in uniform anyway.

News has not been so good for our beloved Charlotte though. Following the example of her often media-harassed mother, lovely Charlie has evidently come to the end of her patience with the press and Charlotte has decided to sue. The paparazzi, according to her lawyer Alain Toucas, follow her relentlessly day and night and have put her through, "daily hell". He even went so far as to compare her to the late Lady Diana, Princess of Wales who, as we know, was hounded to her death by the paparazzi in 1997. Of course, us sticklers for protocol could not fail to point that, like many (alas even many media "royal watchers"), Toucas referred to our Charlie as "Princess Charlotte" which she is not. The only members of her immediate family to hold that title are her mother and little half-sister Princess Alexandra of Hanover. True, she has the Grimaldi blood and all the proper qualifications (and we certainly think no less of her) but she is not a princess nor are her brothers princes. If she were to marry a handsome young prince and gain the title, of course, we would all be properly thrilled. In any event, I am glad she is taking her case to court as Princess Caroline has done in the past. I do think we live in a litigation-soaked world but this is not someone suing "for" something like so many frivilous cases, this is someone suing to get something to stop -and so she should. And this is why her lack of a title is someone pertinent. Charlotte is not a princess, she holds no hereditary title in Monaco and is a private citizen. Granted, she is an extraordinary one who comes from the Princely Family but she is still entitled to her privacy as anyone else should be. I certainly hope she wins and expect she will.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Imagine Lord Rainier I

Try to imagine Monaco as it was when the first members of the Grimaldi family of Genoa set their eyes on it. Instead of apartment buildings, luxury hotels, casinos and rows and rows of yachts imagine rocky, windswept cliffs, one or two towering and ominous castles keeping watch over a mostly empty countryside of farmland and fruit trees while small fishing boats cast their nets in the Mediterranean. From the ramparts of the castle flies the St George cross of the city-state of Genoa where feuding factions have carried on a civil war. This war started as a clash between the Pope and the Holy Roman (German) Emperor and soon spread across the Italian peninsula. The noble lords mostly favored the Emperor since it was by his favor that they gained their titles, the land that went with those titles, the peasants that went with the land and the income those peasants produced for them. The merchant city-state republics of northern Italy mostly favored the Pope, as did families such as the House of Grimaldi. These were self-made people who, by daring voyages of trade and astute business practices, became wealthy and gained status. The Pope was content to leave them to manage their own affairs and this is what made them loyal partisans of the papacy. They feared that under the Emperor they would be able to advance only so far as the ruler in far-off Germany would allow whereas with the Pope they could retain their independence and advance as far as their talents and ambition could take them.

This was the Guelph-Ghibelline feud that split Italy for many, many years. It became so bad people forgot what it had all been about to begin with. Some split into even more radical factions such as the Black Guelphs and White Guelphs. The poet Dante was from a faction more supportive of the Emperor (hence the presence of popes in his Inferno) and families feuded for generations. Shakespeare’s famous tragedy “Romeo and Juliet” was based on two feuding families from this same conflict. In Genoa the pendulum swung back and forth as one faction took control from the other. The House of Grimaldi was in the Guelph camp and their fortunes rose and fell depending on who held power at the moment. When the Ghibelline faction took control of Genoa the members of the Guelph faction such as the Grimaldi and Fieschi families were driven into exile. One of those who had to leave was the famous ancestor of the Princely Family Lord Rainier I. Imagine what a bitter pill this must have been. The Grimaldis, even at that time, had served Genoa for generations, attaining high office as consuls and ambassadors. Now they were fugitives and their former homeland was a hostile country under enemy occupation.

However, Rainier I was not a man to shrink from danger. Along with government offices, the Grimaldi family even then had a history of being sea-faring warriors. Rainier carried on the fight as best he could. We can imagine him, wearing his red and white family colors, standing on the deck of his galley dressed in armor, clenching his sword, the wind blowing sea spray in his face as his vessel plowed through the Mediterranean. Imagine his eyes squinting against the wind, keeping a sharp eye for Genoese galleys but also, in a larger sense, looking for any opportunity to restore the fortunes of his family and gain and advantage over those who had driven him and him from his home. At times he had to accept employment from neighboring royals to stay afloat (in more ways than one) such as King Charles II of Anjou. In his service Lord Rainier gained quite a reputation for skill and daring across the Mediterranean area. Imagine it: an enemy galley is sighted, the course is changed toward it as the men below decks groan with all their strength at the oars to increase their speed. The guns thunder, the galleys collide and Rainier pulls his sword and leads his men in boarding the enemy ship, wrenching it from them in fierce hand-to-hand combat. Quite a far cry from car races, football games and roulette wheels isn’t it?

It may be hard for people today to imagine what the Mediterranean was like back then. Competing states struggled for control among themselves, fighting for a variety of reasons. Additionally, if the threat from your fellow Christians was not enough, on the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea the Muslims ruled a vast though fragmented empire that stretched from the Atlantic ocean to Persia. Stray too far in the wrong direction and Muslim corsairs could see you and your crew killed or sold into slavery. The famous Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, for example, was captured by an Algerian corsair in the Mediterranean and kept as a slave until he was ransomed by his family. All of these were threats that Rainier I had to deal with, the enemies of the House of Anjou he was paid to fight, the Ghibelline faction that were his own enemies, the various raiders who were out for what they could get from any quarter and the Muslim corsairs who were a threat to any Christian ship no matter what flag they sailed under. We can imagine that this environment helped make Rainier I the hardened warrior that he was. Yet, in the one portrait we have of the man, we can see a twinkle in his eye (a familiar one) suggesting a bit of bravado and a more calculating mind than that of a simple mercenary. He was always on the lookout for an opportunity to make a comeback. Eventually, that opportunity came when, thanks to the crafty attack of Francesco Grimaldi, the “Rock” of Monaco was captured for the Grimaldi family who obtained their own land which, in time, would become one of the most glamorous and successful countries in the world.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Send in the Clowns

It's that time again -the Circus is in town! TSH Prince Albert II, Princess Charlene and Princess Stephanie (with Pauline and Camille in tow) attended the opening last night of the 36th annual Monte-Carlo International Circus Festival, a tradition started in 1974 by HSH Prince Rainier III who was a life-long fan of the circus. He passed this love to his youngest daughter and Princess Stephanie, as we all know, serves as President of the Monte-Carlo International Circus Festival.
There were lots of smiles all around, Pauline and Camille are really growing up fast (how many times have I said that) and very well I might add. Again this year Princess Stephanie will present the Clown d'Or Award, the most prestigious honor in the circus world. The fastival features the best in Circus acts and performances from professionals around the world -think of it as the Olympics for the Circus (maybe that will help the Prince & Princess relate) and of course is always a lot of fun. The circus may not have the huge popular following that it once did but it is still "the greatest show on earth" and something everyone should see at least once. There is a ton of great talent on display, human and animal, and it's just good, old fashioned family fun. Good on Monaco and kudos to Princess Stephanie in particular for keeping this tradition alive.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Prince and the Pole

Last night, HSH Prince Albert II was at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University, to attend a special series of lectures and gala dinner at the Scott Polar Institute in honor of the explorer Robert Falcon Scott. Scott was an officer in the British Royal Navy who led expeditions to the South Pole, was the second man to reach the South Pole after Roald Amundsen of Norway. Also attending the festivities was HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in his first public engagement since being released from the hospital for heart trouble (still doing pretty good for a man of 90). Along with the rest of those present, Prince Albert met with polar explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes who spoke about his experiences, descendants of Robert Scott were also present to discuss their famous ancestor, his life and work.

There is, of course, a tradition of interest in the polar regions amongst the Princes of Monaco named Albert. The Scottish explorer, William Speirs Bruce, who almost accompanied Scott on his famous voyage, joined Prince Albert I in some of his scientific voyages and the Prince placed Bruce in charge of the scientific observations made during his studies. Prince Albert II also accompanied a Russian arctic expedition in 2006 and became the first head-of-state and reigning monarch to reach the North Pole. In 2009 he visited Antarctica on an expedition to study the effects of global warming on the south polar region. The great concern Prince Albert II has for the environment has fueled most of his studies and interest on the state of the northern and southern polar regions.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

New Beau for Charlotte

Yes, I’m going to talk about this too. As all the Casiraghi crazies out there already know, last month our beloved Charlie and Alex “Dull Eyes” Dellal called it quits and went their separate ways. Long-time readers may (just may) have picked up on the fact that I was never a huge fan of Alex. I always thought Charlotte could do a whole lot better, however, for any die-hard Alex fans out there, let me reassure you that, when it comes to my beloved Charlotte, rest assured that no one will ever be good enough for her as far as I’m concerned. Well, Charlotte has evidently moved out of the London pad she shared with Alex and has found another man … (deep breath) the French-Moroccan actor/comedian Gad Elmaleh. Earlier this month the two spent a weekend together, it was all the rage on the French gossip pages, complete with many pictures of a very radiant looking Charlotte. Of course we wish Charlotte all the best and every happiness but … seriously … Gad Elmaleh. The man is forty years old! Charlie, you’re 25, gorgeous, the picture of style, the spirit of sweetness, any man in the world would worship the ground you walk on and you pick someone who’s forty?! (calming down)

I don’t keep up with the French stand-up comedy scene and this Gad may be the nicest Gad in the world, he may be a super-duper Gad and for Charlotte’s sake I hope he is. It is entirely possible I am overreacting about this due to an over-protective nature when it comes to my dear Charlie but … did I mention he’s forty? For someone as young as Charlotte, latching on to someone more than a decade older seems a little odd to me. I may also be influenced by the predictable disaster that was Princess Caroline and Philippe Junot. When I first heard about this new “glamour couple” (as labeled by the mags) that was the first thing that popped into my head, along with the hopeful assumption that this was not true and had been blown out of proportion as the gossip magazines have been known to do. That is probably unfair, but I cannot help it, that’s what I thought of first. I will also admit to being terribly “old fashioned” for this day and age. I certainly did not like Charlotte and Alex (or anyone for that matter) living together without being married. I realize no one these days thinks twice about it, not Haakon and Mette-Marit, not Will and Kate, not Carl Philip and his risqué model girlfriend whose name escapes me at the moment, etc and so on. They pretty much all do it, I just don’t like it and they don’t need me to like it, I just want to be clear I’m not picking on anyone here.

Just to be clear, I’m not trying to condemn Gad Elmaleh either. I don’t know the man, he could be the Mr. Perfect for all I know. My only concern is that he’s forty years old and already has one natural child that I know of by a French actress, Anne Brochet, who he used to live with (and who is five years older than Gad so maybe he’s just decided to go in the opposite direction for a while). When it comes to Charlotte, again, I cannot say I have been very impressed with any of her boyfriends but I have been impressed by how seriously she seems to take her relationships. In an age when the gossip columns are filled with one celebrity “party girl” (to use a more kind phrase) after another, Charlotte has had relatively few boyfriends and stayed with them a pretty long time. There was Felix Winckler from about 2004-2007 and then Alex Dellal from that time until now and those have been the only seemingly serious ones. That has always provided some reassurance that Charlotte is a smart girl who knows what she is doing and not simply behaving irresponsibly. My only problem is, now that Gad Elmaleh is the one she’s being connected with, I’m wondering if that behavior is holding steady or if it is as good a thing as I thought it was.

Time will tell if this will be another long-term relationship or just a passing flavor of the month. So far, just speaking for myself of course, I hope it is a passing fancy and Charlotte moves on to some dashing young gentleman more her own age. In any event, I do sincerely wish her the best.

Prince Albert in Austria for Youth Olympics

Yesterday, HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco was in Innsbruck, Austria for the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games. The competition will run until January 22. You can see a short video of the Prince here. Once all was done and dusted there, the Sovereign Prince spent the evening at the opening ceremony of the 75th Congress of the International Sports Press Association at the Innsbruck Conference Center. While there Prince Albert II was presented with an award for his longtime devotion to the field of sports, " the service of peace and social progress worldwide." Which is great, congratulations and all that ... just not too sure what that really means. Just me? When it comes to things like "social progress" I wonder if any of them really have a concrete definition or just went with it because it sounded like something no one could object to? Anyway, after the evening being honored the Sovereign Prince will be back at the games today , specifically to attend the downhill skiing competition where he will be cheering on Brian Pelassy of Monaco. How cool is that? How many other kids at the Olympics can say that their monarch came just to watch them? Not too many I'm thinking, but that's one of the great things about Monaco, it's a close-knit little monarchy.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Olympic Honor for Prince Albert

Today HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco was named the new patron of the World Olympians Association or WOA, succeeding the late IOC President Juan Samaranch who died last year. Prince Albert is the perfect man for the job, being a five time Olympian himself, married to an Olympian and is a longtime member of the International Olympic Committee. WOA President, Joël Bouzou, issued a press release in which he stated what an honor it was to have the Prince of Monaco as their new patron, both due to his extensive experience with the Olympics and his international standing as a man dedicated to making the world a better place. To quote the President speaking of Prince Albert, “He is an Olympian and a true humanist who has always believed that the values of sport can change lives and can change society for the better. I can’t thank him enough for his support.” The decision to bestow this honor on Prince Albert was approved without opposition by the WOA board members and by President Jacques Rogge of the International Olympic Committee. Congratulations to the Sovereign Prince on this distinction!

New Film About Princess Grace

A new film about Princess Grace has been given the green light and is set to be released in 2014 (no rush) with a new veteran director attached to the project according to The film will focus on a six month period in 1962 when French President Charles DeGaulle and HSH Prince Rainier III were feuding over Monaco's position as a tax haven. Although little remembered today, that spat between protector and protectorate became so serious that the borders were actually closed for a while and Paris considered taking punitive actions against Monaco for Prince Rainier daring to defy their wishes. It was quite an intense period. No word yet on what actress is set to play Princess Grace but the world will certainly be watching.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Today in Monegasque History

It was on this day in 1662 that His Serene Highness Louis I became Sovereign Prince of Monaco upon the death of his grandfather Prince Honore II. His reign would be noted for the legal code he gave the principality, his tumultuous marriage to Princess Catherine-Charlotte and his elaborate and eventful time as the ambassador for King Louis XIV of France to the Papal court in Rome in an effort to settle the dispute over the Spanish succession.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Relaxing After the Holidays

With the busy holiday season now behind them the Prince and Princess of Monaco have been off for a little Caribbean vacation. The Princely couple are seen here visiting the island of Barbuda (as in "Antigua & Barbuda") in the eastern Caribbean. I could go for some warm, sunny weather myself right about now...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Today in Monegasque History

It was on this day in 1701 that Prince Antoine I (aka "Goliath") became Sovereign Prince of Monaco.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Prince's New Years Address

This past year has certainly been exceptional for Princess Charlene and myself. On the occasion of our marriage, we witnessed the strong union between the community and our family of Monaco.

Tonight I am here to express, on behalf of us both, our hope that each of you, I remember this shared joy.

While around us, several countries are or are marked by a financial crisis, severe economic and social, the dynamism of the Principality allows us to resist.In this delicate situation, particularly wise management of public finances is necessary to integrate the constraints on us, while preserving our social model and our growth prospects. That is why we must make balanced choices, reasonable and fair.

Do not lose sight of that in situations of economic crisis that the urgency of solidarity is strongest to protect against stress. The holiday season is a special time of reunion for families and between generations.

These periods also sensitizes us to the values of tolerance, respect for others and cultural diversity. It is my wish that Monaco remains a model of “living together” based on a common set of values.

Tonight, my thoughts especially go to our community experienced the death, illness or loneliness. I also want to provide my warm encouragement to our young people who embody the future. We believe in their imagination, their ideals, their will, their capacity for hard work and generosity.

Women and men who work, invest or choose to live among us, I hope that their contribution to our country brings them, in turn, an authentic personal development.

To one and all, in the Principality or who are away but remaining near in heart, I say again with confidence: “Happy New Year!”
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