Friday, October 16, 2009

H.S.H. the Princess Charlotte of Monaco

Princess Charlotte was the daughter of Prince Louis II and the mother of Prince Rainier III of Monaco. For twenty years she was the Hereditary Princess of Monaco before abdicating her succession rights to her son Rainier. Her life story begins in Algeria where Hereditary Prince Louis of Monaco was serving with the French Foreign Legion. While there he became enamored with a cabaret singer (and part time laundress and dressmaker) named Marie Juliette Louvet. As a result of their relationship Charlotte Louise Juliette Louvet was born in Constantine, Algeria on September 30, 1898. The status of her birth was a matter of controversy from day one and, in time, would become a matter of international concern.

Prince Louis very much loved Marie Juliette but his father, Prince Albert I, was aghast at such a relationship becoming permanent. Because of this, Prince Louis maintained that he had married his beloved secretly a year before their daughter was born. No evidence was produced and insofar as the laws of Monaco and France were concerned little Charlotte was illegitimate. This became a major concern for both countries as Louis would one day inherit the Monegasque throne and if he died without a legitimate heir the next in the line of succession was his cousin Duke Wilhelm von Urach, the son of Princess Florestine of Monaco. This was actually a major concern for the French who did not want a German, even one largely raised in Monaco, ruling a country on their southern coast.

To avoid this issue before it became a crisis a law was passed by Prince Albert I which recognized Charlotte as Prince Louis’ daughter, making her a member of the Princely Family. However, this still did not please everyone as it was later held to be invalid because of a previous legal code adopted in 1882. Finally, though the worst of the potential threat had passed, on October 30, 1918 another ordinance was passed which allowed for the throne of Monaco to pass to adopted heirs. The following year, on May 16, 1919 Prince Louis formally adopted Charlotte, giving her the surname Grimaldi and granting her the title of Duchess of Valentinois. Because of the laws already passed when her father became Sovereign Prince Louis II of Monaco in 1922 his daughter became Hereditary Princess of Monaco.

Some still questioned the legality of the adoption (which seems all the more absurd when Charlotte was the natural daughter of Louis II and according to the Prince never illegitimate in the first place) because of age requirements for adoption in the Monegasque legal code.
Nonetheless, Louis II was sovereign prince and as far as he was concerned the whole issue was settled and his daughter would be his successor. Moreover, by that time, the family was already growing larger. On March 19, 1920 the Princess Charlotte married Count Pierre de Polignac of Guidel, Morbihan, Brittany, France. Prince Louis had arranged the aristocratic match and by his princely decree the count was given the Grimaldi family name and made a Prince of Monaco as well as becoming Duke of Valentinois by his marriage to Princess Charlotte. In December of that year the couple welcomed their first child into the world, Princess Antoinette. Three years later Princess Charlotte gave birth to their second child, the future Prince Rainier III.

For a time Princess Charlotte and Prince Pierre were one of the most seemingly glamorous couples in the world. However, in private, the marriage was unhappy one and things only grew worse with time. On March 20, 1930 Princess Charlotte left her husband to live with her Italian paramour Del Masso. Her mother died the same year and on February 18, 1933 a frustrated Prince Louis II officially declared the couple divorced. Princess Charlotte continued to appear at social functions and did charity work, for a time serving as a volunteer nurse. She also became more aware that, as a divorced woman whose legitimacy was clouded by controversy it would probably be best for her not to take the throne of an officially Catholic monarchy in her turn. Therefore, on May 30, 1944, a day before her son turned 21, she gave the title of Hereditary Princess, renouncing her rights of succession in favor of her son Prince Rainier. Prince Louis II agreed to the move and placed his hopes for the future of the principality on his handsome young grandson who had already proven to be a young man of considerable ability.

Princess Charlotte had officially left the stage but she remained very busy and involved. She went to college, earned a degree as a social worker and remained close to her children. When her father died and her son became Sovereign Prince Rainier III of Monaco she moved to the family estate at Le Marchais outside of Paris. Very much against the wishes of her concerned children she turned the estate in a rehabilitation center for ex-convicts. Her good deeds were judged too dangerous by many and especially so when she became very close to one of her “patients” a former jewel thief named Rene Girier or “Rene the Cane”. There were even rumors that he practiced his trade on some of the guests at the wedding of Rainier III and Princess Grace. Princess Charlotte did not always see eye-to-eye with Princess Grace but adored her grandchildren and left her famous jewelry collection to Princess Caroline who bears a striking resemblance to her grandmother. The long and tumultuous life of Princess Charlotte of Monaco came to an end on the night of November 15/16 1977 in Paris, France.

1 comment:

  1. Does "Mad for Monaco" have any pictures of Marie Juliette Louvet? This is the only one I could find.


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