Monday, February 28, 2011

Still Green

Even with his wedding day drawing ever closer, Prince Albert II has not forgotten his first love: environmentalism. On the 10th (as seen above) the Sovereign Prince received the first electric "smart" cars for Monaco from the local chief of Mercedes-Benz France. The following day Prince Albert spoke at the "Natur Kongress" in Basel, Switzerland on the subject of ecology and consumption. The Prince has won many awards and hearty kudos around the world for his work in this area but also some criticism (particularly for his many pleas for reduced consumption) given that the lifestyle of a head of state and sovereign prince is not exactly conducive to a maximum limitation of pollution -particularly jet fuel.

Following that up, the next day (13th) the Prince of Monaco gave the opening speech to the scientists, environmentalists, businessmen and politicians gathered for the second edition of the Monaco Blue Initiative. This program is a joint effort on the part of Prince Albert's own Foundation, the Institut Océanographique de Monaco. There is also a large business convention being planned for September on marine bioresources and the biomarine business in France at St Nazaire and Nantes in which over 2000 people representing 1000 companies are expected to be involved.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Monaco and the Roman Empire

During the time of ancient Rome and the birth of the Roman Empire the area of Monaco, while not central, was certainly not unknown. The region, the Maritime Alps, Liguria etc was conquered by the Romans but as with many places never totally subdued. In Monaco, the Port of Hercules went by that name far back into ancient times as the Greek historian Strabon recorded that, “In Monaco there is a temple dedicated to Hercules” and the Roman naturalist and author Pliny the Elder also wrote of the “Port of Hercules at Monaco”. Julius Caesar was quite familiar with the area and when he completed his conquest of Gaul he boarded ship at the port in Monaco for his return to Rome. The Ligurians were, for the most part, loyal to the faction of Caesar and even rebels fought for Julius Caesar in his war against Pompey the Great in spite of the fact that the area of Monaco and Liguria had not been totally pacified at that time.

As we know, Julius Caesar ultimately met a tragic and bloody end, murdered and betrayed by his friends, and his legacy was inherited by his young nephew Octavian who, in time, became Augustus Caesar, the first Roman Emperor. It was Augustus who completed the work of his great uncle in bringing Liguria firmly under Roman control. The Romans built a road to connect the area with the rest of the empire, a road which followed almost exactly the same path as the later narrow road connecting Menton and Nice; famous for being narrow and rather hazardous if one were not a veteran at navigating it. We also have the remnants of that famous bastion La Turbie, which would long play a part in Monegasque history in numerous disturbances and dramatic historical events over the centuries, which was built by the Romans to commemorate the great victory of Augustus Caesar over the Ligurians at that place. Today La Turbie is also the name of a commune in the French Alps-Maritimes department. The name comes roughly from ‘trophy of Augustus’.

Later in the history of Rome, after the reign of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, the rival emperors Otho and Vitellius fought a battle in the area over control of Monaco. Emperor Otho won three battles in the area but was ultimately defeated in what was called the contest “between Monaco and Lumone” and after addressing his troops took his own life. Vitellius, however, did not go long unchallenged as Vespasian was proclaimed emperor in Alexandria. He sent a trusted friend named Fabius Valens to Monaco but he was captured before he could reach the port by Valerius. Monaco then goes unmentioned in Roman history until the reign of Emperor Pertinax. Although today it is widely disputed, it was once asserted that Pertinax, the son of a slave and a charcoal burner before his rise to the purple, had been born in Monaco. Was Pertinax the one and only Monegasque Roman Emperor? We may never know for sure but he did built two fortified towers in Monaco to defend Port Hercules. His successor, Emperor Septimus Severus, also built fortifications in the region. We also know that it was Emperor Diocletian who instituted the persecution of Christians which led to the death of St Devote, patron saint of Monaco and the House of Grimaldi. Not long after the era of Roman rule came to an end and the time of the barbarian invasions commenced.
Even today the legacy of Eternal Rome remains very much on display in Monaco, flowing over the country with such ease that one can easily miss it. There is the language itself (French and Monegasque), the very titles of "Prince" and "Principality" come from the Latin princeps which was used as a title by Augustus. Traces of the Roman style can be seen in many of the monuments, villas and so on, the Roman Catholic Church remains the faith of the vast majority and even the throne of Monaco is very Roman in style, designed after the revival of all things Roman during the Napoleonic era in France. Monaco was also later associated with the Holy Roman Empire, successor state of the Western Roman Empire, and was ruled by the aforementioned French Emperor Napoleon who, from his laurel crown to his Imperial Eagles, very much tried to copy the style of the Roman legions and their caesars. Like all the rest of the children of western civilization, Monaco can be justly proud of their deep roots in the Roman Empire.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Caro's Winter Holiday

HRH Princess Caroline has taken off for a little winter holiday in Zürs.

Little Princess Alexandra of Hanover, ready to hit the slopes.

Charlotte Casiraghi, wearing one of her usual 'annoyed but cute' expressions.

Well, the dog's not going to walk itself is it?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Charlene Swims for Charity

HSH Prince Albert II's fiancée Charlene Wittstock (a former Olympic swimmer as we know) wrapped up her visit to her former homeland of South Africa by participating in the 38th aQuelle Midmar Mile Race at Midmar Mile Dam in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa on Saturday morning. She had never participated in the race before but took part this year to raise money for the Special Olympics and was pleased to visit South Africa and see some old friends and family whom she has been apart from for some time. The race was held Saturday and Sunday and marked the end of Charlene's week-long visit home where she certainly attracted more attention, or at the least a different sort of attention than in the past -before she was engaged to marry the Prince of Monaco.

Prior to the race she attended several charitable activities to raise money for the Special Olympics; a very worthy cause. On Friday she was at St. John’s Diocesan School in Pietermaritzburg to host a charity breakfast that raised $2,300. Afterwards she cut the ribbon to open a new pool at the school for competitive swimmers and unveiled a plaque commemorating the occasion. The future Princess of Monaco spoke of her hope that the new facilities would see the school produce some future Olympic swimmers. The Games are clearly very dear to Charlene and Prince Albert who are both veteran Olympians (though in very different sports. That evening she attended the launch of the “Nelson Mandela Intimate Moments Exhibition” by Kerry Muldoun at Liberty Midlands Mall.

Now, it is back to Monaco, surely for more wedding plans for the future Princess of Monaco but she will be back in South Africa again after her marriage where the Prince and new Princess will both attend a meeting of the International Olympic Committee; something so important to both of them that they changed the original date of their wedding so that certain guests would not have to choose between attending to their Olympic duties and attending the wedding. "Nice guy" Albert II, always thoughtful...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The French Royal Martyrs and Monaco

Since starting this weblog, and preferring to talk about the history of the Grimaldis and Monaco more than current goings-on (though that isn’t always possible) I have often been asked about the relationship between the ill-fated French royals King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette and the Principality of Monaco. I have been hesitant in addressing this subject for a number of reasons but wanted to for others. In the first place, there is not much to tell. The short answer is that Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had practically nothing to do with Monaco or the Grimaldis aside from the occasional social meeting. I also do not like making comparisons between royals that highlight the shortcomings of one side or another and yet I also did want to at least address this subject because I am a great admirer of the martyred French king and queen and would like to point out how unfair the popular portrayal of the couple remains. Unfortunately, that cannot really be done without reliving some of the unfortunate shortcomings of my dear Grimaldis. Be that as it may, let’s dive in.

Politically of course, the King of France and the Prince of Monaco were very close. The political situation was pretty much the same then as it is today. Monaco was, and still is, an independent protectorate of France. The Prince of Monaco, at the time Honore III, was a sovereign monarch but King Louis XVI of France was responsible for the protection of Monaco. However, the Grimaldis were much more important in France in the time of Louis XVI than they are now since the Princes of Monaco held lands and titles in the French aristocracy and so had a high place in the French court so, naturally, there were meetings between the two at Versailles and so on. However, Honore III was about 34 years older than Louis XVI so it would not be expected that they would be buddies or anything or even nearly as close as say Honore II and Louis XIII or Louis I and Louis XIV had been. However, even with the Hereditary Prince Honore IV, he and his wife, Princess Louise, Duchess de Mazarin, did not have much in common with Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette.

The French King and Queen never visited Monaco, they rarely traveled at all and even the Princes of Monaco at that time were seldom in Monaco themselves. Prince Honore IV is something of a mysterious figure, only slightly younger than Louis XVI, since before the Revolution he was so overshadowed by his over-the-top wife and afterwards by his brother Prince Joseph who managed family affairs because Prince Honore IV was frequently ill. The marriage of Honore IV and Louise de Aumont Mazarin had been arranged and the two were completely incompatible with Princess Louise grabbing the most attention. As far as wives go, no two women were more opposite than Princess Louise and Queen Marie Antoinette. Not many people realize this because of the inaccurate portrayal of the French Queen but, as a matter of fact, the Hereditary Princess of Monaco was much closer to the way Marie Antoinette is so often accused of being.

No matter if one dismisses the most lurid tales as nothing more than court gossip there is no denying the fact that Princess Louise was a woman of rather loose morals who loved nothing more than wild and lavish parties with the most inventive costumes and diversions. Marie Antoinette is often portrayed this way but the truth is the total opposite. The King and Queen were both very religious people whereas the Grimaldis, although staunch Catholics of course, were not the most devout people in the world and Princess Louise certainly was not. Queen Marie Antoinette purposely did not associate with her because she so disapproved of her lifestyle, attitude and even her appearance. Whereas Marie Antoinette had a more delicate, childlike sort of beauty, Princess Louise was very voluptuous and bold and that type. So, Queen Marie Antoinette avoided Princess Louise specifically for behaving in ways that the Queen herself is so often accused of. It serves to illustrate how terribly unfair the popular portrayal of Marie Antoinette has been.

Prince Honore IV was nothing like his wife, which is one reason why they did not remain married for long, effectively parting before the revolution and divorcing during the period of the directory but even that was something the pious French King and Queen would not have approved of and could not have related to. In short, the two couples simply moved in different circles despite their proximity at the royal court in Versailles. And, even though Princess Louise in many ways embodied the sort of lifestyle Marie Antoinette was accused of being guilty of, the former Princess of Monaco would survive the revolution while the tragic Queen of course did not. Princess Louise, Duchess de Mazarin, with her husband Prince Honore IV and others of their family, were arrested by the revolutionaries but she managed to escape with her son, Prince Florestan, thanks to the kindly intervention of a doctor who was a family friend of the Grimaldis.

So, the House of Grimaldi ended up better off than their French counterparts, at least in as much as most of the Grimaldis survived the revolutionary bloodbath. They were eventually restored to their throne, as were the Bourbons, but the Grimaldis managed to stay whereas the French monarchy sadly did not. The families were close in political terms, friendly and correct and they both suffered due to the revolution. However, personally, they simply were not that close because they did not have a great deal in common and generally moved in different circles. Past kings had been much closer to the princes of Monaco but Louis XVI was quite different from his predecessors and neither he nor Honore IV were very “social” types. Their wives, contrary to popular belief, were as opposite as night and day. The Queen disapproved of the Princess of Monaco and the princess probably would have viewed the Queen as rather boring and prudish. For those who view Marie Antoinette as a consort unconcerned with her adopted country, unattached to her husband and given to extravagant spending and lavish parties they are actually giving an unfortunately accurate description of Princess Louise whom the Queen of France made it a point to avoid for those very qualities.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Charlene in South Africa

Princely fiancée Charlene Wittstock is back in her homeland of South Africa this week to compete in the Midmar Mile swimming race, which she is doing to benefit the Special Olympics. At The Holden Horse Hotel and Casino in Pietermaritzburg she presented a hefty check to the South Africa Special Olympics on Thursday. She has been able to meet with some members of her family on this trip home and the Princess-to-be could not avoid the press and took a few moments to answer the questions of a reporter. Charlene told Clyde Meela of the Benoni City Times (the town where Charlene grew up), “I am very happy about the wedding; Monaco is a beautiful country and I love everything about it,” and also mentioned the compatibility of herself and Albert II saying, “Some of the interests that the Prince and I share are sports, environmental and humanitarian causes.”

Charlene spoke of her love for Monaco and how she had, after these several years, become a part of life there but had to admit also that, “I miss my relatives, the friendly people and the Bunny Park,” but she is looking forward to making up for lost time with her friends in Durban. “I am really looking forward to a braai [barbeque], seeing my friends and, if possible, even going to a Sharks’ match.” However, perhaps showing how she has been coached on the priorities of a princess, she quickly steered the conversation back to the charity and matter at hand; the Midmar Mile, saying, “I am thrilled about the visit and while I have not had time for much training due to my commitments and I am not in Olympic condition, I am sure I will enjoy my first Midmar Mile,” and that, “It’s a fantastic, world-class event and, as I have been involved in the Special Olympics in Europe, I saw this as an opportunity to give back and raise funds for the Special Olympics in South Africa, while swimming the race at a social level.”

Of course, as reporters are coached to do, questions persisted on the subject of the wedding and Charlene was asked if she was living out a real-life fairytale (something often said of the marriage of the last Sovereign Prince). Taking a humble stance Charlene said, “If any woman can find someone who truly loves her and is lucky enough to marry him, then that is a fairytale to me,” which seemed to hit the right note. It is not expected that Charlene will be back to South Africa until after her marriage when she and her Prince will attend a meeting of the International Olympic Committee. If the local media are more interested in the wedding than the swimming race, we can perhaps be forgiving. The Midmar Mile is a regular tradition but Charlene will be the first South African to marry into Europe's oldest ruling family.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

New Comment Rules

As of yesterday, "anonymous" comments will no longer be accepted. This has been recommended as good policy and I've been forced to agree. Although this was due mostly to comments (largely by trolls) on my primary blog (The Mad Monarchist) I have to say that the lighter side of things here at Mad for Monaco was not immune to problems. Some anonymous comments were good or at least benign and it is too bad those will no longer be featured (unless they sign in or get an account somewhere) but I have to say there have been a lot of anonymous comments lately that were exclusively devoted to hateful insults directed at Charlene Wittstock. I think my opinions on that subject are well known (to all regular readers at least) but regardless of your opinion, spreading insulting gossip and leaving hateful comments just for their own sake is wrong -plain and simple. I never posted those and now I will not have to deal with them at all. I hope this is not too much of an inconvenience for anyone and thanks to all for reading. -MM

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ladies in Veils

The Princely couple and HH Pope Pius XII
The funeral of Princess Grace
The Princely Couple with HH Pope John Paul II
Charlotte Casiraghi
Charlene and Prince Albert II on St Devote Day
The Princely Couple visiting the Vatican
The Casiraghis at the funeral of Prince Rainier III

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Charlene Giving Back

When word first came that Charlene would be the next Princess of Monaco there was talk about what charitable causes she would champion. This, of course, is something not required but widely expected and, given her background, it was assumed that for Charlene the former Olympian something in the area of sports could be expected. It turns out that such predictions were pretty much spot-on. Next Saturday Charlene will be visiting South Africa to swim the Midmar Mile to benefit charity and make a few other appearances. The proceeds will go to benefit the South African Special Olympics. Many disabled swimmers will themselves also be participating in the event. Charlene said she was very excited to be returning to South Africa, looking forward to seeing friends and so on but also warned that she is not exactly in Olympic-quality shape anymore. It has been reported that Charlene has already raised some 60,000 euros for the Special Olympics. She first started considering swimming the Midmar Mile when she happened to meet the director of the event in Monaco. It seems a very good way for Charlene to do what she does best and to benefit a very worthy charity.

MM Video: Monaco Sights and Ceremonies

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Egypt and Monaco

Everyone is well aware of the turmoil and tumult that is currently gripping Egypt. The North African nation has been suffering under a succession of presidents (military dictators) ever since the overthrow of the Egyptian monarchy in 1953. The Muhammad Ali dynasty had ruled Egypt and the Sudan since 1805, first under the Ottoman Empire, then the British Empire and finally as an independent kingdom. The last official King of Egypt was King Fuad II, but he was only a child and had a nominal reign of only a few days. The last effective King of Egypt was King Farouk and he was actually pretty good friends with the late Prince Rainier III of Monaco. Like many royals he had vacationed in Monaco, which probably lowered his reputation in the eyes of religious fundamentalists but was not uncommon in an era of greater glamor and tolerance than most today would be familiar with in the region.

King Farouk had many enemies among Arab nationalists for his friendship with the British. What was unfair about this was that it was not really true and the British had little love for him because he was seen by them as not friendly enough. However, the British Empire was fading fast and the United States was the new super-power in the western world and the United States (especially the CIA) was convinced that King Farouk had to go! A military coup brought down the King and he suddenly found himself homeless and with few friends. Where did he turn? To the sunny Principality of Monaco of course where Prince Rainier III was good enough to give him a safe haven. When his Egyptian citizenship was revoked and the former King became a 'man without a country' in 1959 Prince Rainier III came to the rescue again and made Farouk a citizen of Monaco. Later the King moved to Rome where he ultimately died in 1965.

Princess Ferial and her father King Farouk of Egypt in Monaco for the wedding of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier III

The same Princess Ferial of Egypt (alongside King Juan Carlos of Spain) in Monaco for the funeral of Prince Rainier III

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Happy Birthday Stephanie!

It was on this day in 1965 that Her Serene Highness Princess Stephanie of Monaco was born. She was born in the same room as her older brother and sister and the pregnancy was the least difficult for Princess Grace, a veteran pro at motherhood by that time. When the artillery at Fort Antoine announced her arrival with a 21-gun salute a status-minded little 7-year-old Prince Albert pointed out that, "I got a hundred and one!" From an early age she was the most affectionate of the three children ... and the most trouble, acting out to compete for attention with her brother and sister who were quite older than her. In all the years since she has never lost her attitude of youth nor has she lost her warm-hearted compassion which has always been a part of her. She has endured a great deal in her life but she has always looked forward, never back, never felt sorry for herself and tried to learn from her experiences, good and bad. She is adored in Monaco and so I'm sure I am among the entire Monegasque population and her many fans abroad in wishing Her Serene Highness a very happy birthday with many, many more to come. Happy Birthday!
And, for the Princess I've always had a soft spot for, a little musical tribute:

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