Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bishop Augustin Grimaldi

Augustin Grimaldi was born in 1482, the son of Seigneur Lambert of Monaco and his wife the Lady Claudine. Lords Jean II and Lucien were his brothers and Augustin himself would one day rule Monaco as well, though he took a different path in life, becoming a priest and eventually rising to the positions of Bishop of Grasse and Abbot of Lérins. This was something of a family tradition as his uncle, Jean-André Grimaldi, had also been Bishop of Grasse and a diplomat on behalf of his brother Lord Lambert. Bishop Augustin would do much the same but with even greater success. He may be most remembered outside the country as the founder of the village of Valbonne in France, but in Monaco he is remembered as a national savior.

His first, most vital service, came during the Genoese invasion of Monaco in 1506-1507. While his brothers Lord Lucien and Charles were struggling to repel the Genoese Bishop Augustin of Grasse was dispatched by the brothers, along with their sister Francoise, to the court of King Louis XII of France to appeal for French assistance. Genoa had tried to keep the French out of it but King Louis had considerable interests in northern Italy and the last thing he wanted was a revived and more powerful Genoese republic. So, Bishop Augustin was successful and Louis XII dispatched the French Governor of Savona, Yves d’Allégre, with his troops to come to the aid of the Monegasque. In mid-March of 1507 the Genoese spotted the approaching French army and finally gave up their attack and retreated.

Bishop Augustin was left in charge of things in Monaco while Lord Lucien joined the French in pursuing the enemy, finally joining in a siege against Genoa led by King Louis XII himself. The French and Grimaldi forces were successful but in the aftermath Lucien was imprisoned by his ally after he refused to either sell Monaco to France or become the vassal of the French king. Bishop Augustin was still overseeing the cleanup of Monaco, which was in ruins after the Genoese attack, when he received a message from Louis XII demanding the surrender of Monaco. Naturally, the Bishop refused and the King promptly ordered his galleys to move against Monaco by sea and dispatched 4,000 troops to attack overland.

The situation could not have been more desperate. The small Monegasque army had been reduced to a skeletal force and the fortifications were in ruins because of the recent attack. There were hardly any soldiers, few supplies and almost no money. Bishop Augustin, in response, did the only thing he could do; he stalled. Using every diplomatic trick up his sleeve he kept the French out with a string of vague and contradictory messages. He weaved red tape like a master and in so doing saved Monaco from utter disaster. Bishop Augustin kept this going until the tide turned against the French in Italy and Louis XII was forced to release Lucien. Yet, in the years that followed, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, King of Spain, defeated the French in Italy, captured Genoa and cast a long shadow over Monaco.

The next year, in 1523, Lord Lucien was assassinated in an attempted coup led by the Doria family. Bishop Augustin happened to be passing through on his way back from Cannes a short time after these events and so, according to the will of their mother Claudine, Bishop Augustin took charge of the government as regent in the name of his young nephew Honore I. Historians since have hailed Bishop Augustin as the most intelligent of the three brothers to rule Monaco and such an estimation seems believable. Already famous for his diplomatic skill, the Bishop proved a firm leader in the aftermath of the murder of his brother and, full of righteous indignation, he organized his forces to hunt down and punish those responsible.

Bishop Augustin was known, even at the time, as a remarkable man. Having lived in Rome he was well connected there, respected in the French court for his diplomatic talents, well known for his great intelligence and his piety, even going on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem some years before. He was 44 when he became regent of Monaco but, being a man of the cloth, he had to have the permission of the Pope to hold temporal power. Because he was so well known and admired by the curia in Rome this was quickly granted and he could carry on with the government of Monaco. His first order of business was to punish the murderer of his brother, namely Barthélemy Doria. Through some trickery he managed to capture him but when Pope Clement VII advised showing mercy Bishop Augustin released him.

Doria later died while serving in the French army and it had not escaped the notice of Bishop Augustin how little the French seemed bothered by the crisis that had shaken Monaco. The country was still in a very precarious situation and needed the protection of a great power. The two most powerful monarchs in the region were King Francois I of France and Emperor Charles V of Spain. Bishop Augustin would have to choose one or the other and Pope Clement VII advised him to choose the Emperor. Augustin sent a relative, Leonardo Grimaldi, to negotiate an alliance with the Holy Roman Emperor, the most powerful man in Europe at the time. Leonardo went too far in the first negotiations, sacrificing Monegasque independence, but Bishop Augustin was so persuasive in his appeal that Emperor Charles V annulled the agreement and in the Tordesillas declaration recognized the independence of Monaco.

Emperor Charles V visited Monaco during the regency of Bishop Augustin; a guest of some considerable significance. To some extent the decision to align with Spain was the correct one. Charles V defeated the King of France, obtained Spanish dominance over Italy and was even given the Iron Crown of Lombardy by Pope Clement VII. Yet, the Spanish presence proved burdensome and the treasury of Monaco was emptied paying for the garrison as promised compensation never arrived. Thus it was said that Bishop Augustin came to regret his decision to take Monaco into the Spanish sphere of influence at the end of his life. That end came on April 14, 1532, suddenly, which caused rumors of poisoning to spread but there is no evidence of that. Bishop Augustin had literally saved Monaco on more than one occasion and proved himself a masterful regent as well as a devout churchman. The alliance he arranged would last until 1641 when Prince Honore II ousted the Spanish and took Monaco back into the orbit of France where it has remained ever since.

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