Thursday, June 30, 2011

Royal Guest List Update

Crown Prince Frederick, Crown Princess Mary, Prince Joachim and Princess Marie of Denmark.
Their Majesties King Carl XVI Gustaf, Queen Silvia, Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Daniel, Prince Carl Philip and Princess Madeleine of Sweden.
TRH Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway
TRH The Earl and Countess of Wessex and HRH Prince Michael of Kent from the U.K.
TRH the Prince and Princess of Orange
TM King Albert II, Queen Paola, Crown Prince Philippe, Crown Princess Mathilde, Prince Laurent, Princess Claire and Princess Astrid of Belgium.
TRH the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Luxembourg
HSH Prince Alois and HRH Princess Sophie of Liechtenstein
TRH Lalla Mariam and Lalla Soukaina of Morocco
HRH Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana of Thailand
HRH Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad of Bahrain
HRH Prince Feisal al Hussein of Jordan
HH Prince Aga Khan IV
HM King Letsie III of Lesotho
HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia
HIH Empress Farah of Iran
HRH Prince Louis Alphonse, Duc d'Anjou
HRH Henri, Comte de Paris, TRH the Duke and Duchess of Vendôme
HRH Prince Vittorio Emanuele and Marina Doria of Italy
TRH Prince Emanuele Filiberto and Princess Clotilde of Italy
TRH the Duke and Duchess of Bragança
HRH Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia
TRH the Duke and Duchess of Castro
TRH Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia
TRH Princess Margarita and Prince Radu of Romania
HRH Prince Leopold of Bavaria
HH Princess Ira von Fürstenberg
HH Erbprinz Bernhard von Baden

Clearing the Record

I had not wanted to talk about this, wasn't going to, but stories like these do tend to spread so, now that we are in the final countdown to the happy occasion I will speak my peace and lay the matter to rest. It all started when L'Express ran a story claiming that secret "sources" they trusted told them that last week Charlene had found out some terrible secret about Prince Albert that sent her over the edge. Her father sent her a one-way ticket to South Africa and she was about to board a plane for home in Nice when she was stopped by French police, taken back to Monaco and calmed down. Afterwards, supposedly to calm the fears of the Monegasque the two went on a stroll through the principality just to show everyone that everything was okay. The Palace immediately denied the story of course and demanded to know who the "source" was that said such a thing to defame the Sovereign Prince days before his wedding. Of course, the "journalistic integrity" (as if such a thing existed anymore) of L'Express meant no information was forthcoming. Obviously though, one does not have to be a genius to tell that this tall tale stinks to high heaven.

In the first place, the story probably cannot confirm their "facts" because almost no facts are given. There is no exact timeline for one thing (that has changed) and it first came out when Charlene was in Greece for the opening of the Special Olympics. They also never said what the "secret" was that sent Charlene running. They imply (without actually stating of course) that it was an illegitimate child -yes, another one. However, the fact that Prince Albert, a foot-loose bachelor for many decades now, is not exactly pure as the wind-driven snow is hardly news to anyone on planet earth. Charlene knows about his two children, any allegations in this area would not be news, not be anything to be shocked over. Furthermore, on what grounds would the French police stop Charlene for getting on a plane in Nice? The French Republic is not exactly Stalinist Russia, police have to have a reason to stop someone. The Prince of Monaco may be an effectively absolute monarch inside his tiny realm but he cannot give orders to the police of foreign nations -that's just ridiculous. In short, nothing about this story makes any sense at all.

However, I cannot say I am totally surprised. Unfortunately, I fully expected something like this to happen. Prince Albert II, like any high-profile, public figure these days, has people who dislike him, people eager to take advantage of him and at least one with absolutely no life who spends every day slandering him in the most ridiculous fashion out of childish spite. I will mention no names because I don't want to "feed the trolls" as they say in 'Internet Land' but I would bet dollars to navy beans I know exactly who leaked this idiotic story and exactly who the "source" is that made it public. This is no more than an effort to get money, attention and most of all to spoil a happy occasion, not just for the couple and the House of Grimaldi but for all the people of Monaco who are collateral damage in this instance. It is utterly disgraceful and I will leave it at that.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mariage à Monaco

This photographic look back at the lives of Albert and Charlene was done by Stéphane Bern, a close friend of Prince Albert II.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Albert and Charlene Busy Apart

In a further taste at what her life as a princess will entail, Charlene was in Athens, Greece this weekend where she attended the opening ceremonies of the summer games of the Special Olympics, for which she is, as we know, the new global ambassador. She rubbed shoulders with a few celebrities who hold the Special Olympics dear, including the former first lady of California Maria Shriver -who has been in the news alot lately. That photo rather stood out for me, one lady about to walk down the aisle to say "I do" and the other certainly wishing she had said "I don't".

Meanwhile, back on the homefront, HSH Prince Albert II and HRH Princess Caroline watched the 2011 Global Champions Tour in Monte Carlo, of which the lovely young Charlotte Casiraghi is serving as honorary president of the Horse Jump Show. Our Charlie also competed and came in a respectable third this time around. Princess Caroline, ever the proud mother, was at her radiant, dignified best.

Finally, for those of you who have been wondering, the Princely Wedding will be streamed live on the internet at the Princely Palace website for all of those who will not be covered by the TV coverage (or if you just prefer to watch on the PC). The wedding will be shown at this link here. Make a note of that. Unfortunately, at this point, no American media has said they will be showing the wedding live in the United States (a big bummer for many I know, but maybe someone will change their mind at the last minute). Several channels in Europe will be doing so, those of you in the "Old World" can check your local listings for that. I never really expected it to be shown live in the U.S. but I did hold out just a tiny bit of hope that after the ratings monster that the Royal Wedding in London was they might have decided to cover Monaco as well but, so far, no luck.

Friday, June 24, 2011

More and More Media Coverage

News coverage from The New York Times. ("The Quiet Royal Wedding")
An article (in English) from The Monaco Times. ("No Nerves for Albert & Charlene")
Finally (yes, *finally*) there is an extensive English-language interview with the couple on EuroNews.

We also see that TV4 plans to broadcast the Princely Wedding, according to a report out of Sweden. Whether or not they will broadcast it online remains to be seen (I know many are wondering about web coverage of the event).

Monaco's future Princess is also getting more experience with the deep religious traditions of the principality, attending alongside the Sovereign Prince the St Jean Mass and the special festivities afterwards. Check here for photo coverage of the event.

You can also check here for photos of the International Jumping competition of Monte Carlo, attended by HSH Prince Albert II, Charlene, HRH Princess Caroline and of course our lovely Charlotte who was a participant.

Also in wedding news, the guest list has been updated to confirm that Their Majesties King Albert II, Queen Paola, and Their Royal Highnesses Prince Laurent and Princess Claire of Belgium will be attending. The Belgian Royal Family will be out in force!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Royal Wedding Guests

We are now less than two weeks away from the *big day* and the royal guest list is starting to take shape. Not quite everyone expected has confirmed yet (I would wag a finger but modern royals who must please the public do tend to have rather rigid schedules). Flags and decorations are being prepared, flowers arranged and setting up for the entertainment is well underway. Here is a look at what we know so far about the many royals expected to attend the Princely Wedding:

Possibly the largest presence will be the Swedes, which should come as no surprise as the Sovereign Prince is very good friends with the Swedish Royal Family. From the ranks of the House of Bernadotte, Their Majesties King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, Their Royal Highnesses Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Daniel, Prince Carl Phillip and Princess Madeleine are all expected to attend. It will be a family affair for Sweden. It is not yet known if the King and Queen of Sweden will have much company of equal rank with the Grand Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg having not yet confirmed. There is little doubt though that the House of Nassau will be represented in some way. Their Majesties King Albert II and Queen Paola of the Belgians might show up but so far only Their Royal Highnesses Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde, Duke and Duchess of Brabant have confirmed.

From the House of Windsor, Their Royal Highnesses Prince Edward and Princess Sophie, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, will be representing the United Kingdom, as they did at the enthronement of Prince Albert II as Sovereign Prince of Monaco. There will also be many royal heirs present such as Their Royal Highnesses Willem-Alexander and Maxima, the Prince and Princess of Orange from the Netherlands, Their Royal Highnesses Felipe and Letizia the Prince and Princess of the Asturias from Spain, Their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway and Their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Frederick and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark who will also be joined by Prince Joachim and Princess Marie of Denmark.

In the "not quite a sovereign" but effectively so category we have fellow micro-monarchie royals His Serene Highness Prince Alois and Her Royal Highness Princess Sophie of Liechtenstein and in the "royals without thrones" category we have Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Braganza from Portugal, Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Castro from the former Kingdom of the Two-Sicilies and, representing the former Royal Family of the protecting country of France Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Vendôme are expected to attend. None of the German royals have confirmed as yet nor have any from the Balkan countries though most expect some to attend, most probably the Crown Prince and Princess of Serbia. In any event, the royals will be out in force for the Princely Wedding and those providing the television coverage have hinted that the visiting royals will be given a little more attention this time around than they were at the royal wedding in London. I certainly hope that will be the case.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Accession of Charles III

It was on this day in 1856 that HSH Prince Charles III became the Sovereign Prince of Monaco. He came to the throne beloved by the people, a handsome prince known for his sharp mind and decisiveness but he inherited many problems and his path to the throne was not without bumbs. His mother Princess Caroline had ruled the place, more or less, while his father, Prince Florestan, had the artistic nature that inclined him toward liberalism and never getting down to business. Prince Charles became so disgusted with the situation that at one point he threatened to go to the King of Piedmont-Sardinia to have him intervene to force Prince Florestan to abdicate in favor of Charles. His mother was not amused to say the least.

She was a formidable and talented woman but Charles had good reason to be concerned. All of her financial wizardry had not been enough to keep the family on solid financial ground as Prince Florestan was as liberal in his spending as he was in his political opinions. Prince Charles III wanted to get out from under the Savoys and return Monaco to the old protectorate with France. He also wanted to restore the Grimaldis to their place at court in Paris, having sorely felt the lack of attention from King Louis XVIII, Charles X and Louis Philippe. He hoped Emperor Napoleon III would be more friendly. However, all of these ambitions would cost money and that was something Monaco nor the House of Grimaldi had in abundance. The tensions were also growing worse with Turin. It was left to Prince Charles III to sort all of these issues out and to steer through the complex world of Franco-Sardinian relations. In the end, it cost Monaco the towns of Menton and Roquebrune but, in the end, in every other way Prince Charles III was to see all of his goals accomplished and would usher in a new era for the Principality of Monaco.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Princely News

On Tuesday it was all glitz and glamour as Prince Albert II attended the charity gala “Liasons au Louvre” at the Louvre in Paris. Charlene was not on hand but everyone who is anyone in the upper echelons of society was there. However, attending to some earlier business at home was a much different affair as the Sovereign Prince came home to personally open the “Monacology Eco-Village” again this year. The event, which will run until Friday, is focused on a wide variety of environmental issues from global warming to deforestation to recycled toilette paper. Vegetables were being pushed in a big way (going vegan seems to be the “it” thing to push in the environmentalist world lately) along with a variety of subjects related to ‘sustainable living’. To be sure, if there is one thing our Albie believes in heart and soul it is environmentalism.

However, my favorite story concerns a surprise visit that occurred last Thursday. First, a little background information is in order. When all the recent unpleasantness began in Iraq, the Principality of Monaco dispatched two doctors to Damascus in 2009 to lend a hand in treating Iraqi refugees. One patient that treated was Basim Omar Basim, a 5-year-old Iraqi boy born in Syria after his parents fled their native land due to death threats against the boy’s father. It was found that the boy needed heart surgery, obviously out of the question in the area in which he found himself and so he was flown to Monaco, free of charge by the Aviation Sans Frontieres Charity using money raised in 2008 in honor of the 50th birthday of Monaco’s Sovereign Prince. The operation was performed at the Cardio-Thoracic Centre and went well but, a few days ago, he was back again for follow-up surgery. Last Thursday, in a surprise move, Prince Albert dropped in at the hospital to visit the brave little guy and check on his progress. What a story he will have to tell his children some day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Charlene to Appear in Vogue

Of the pictures I've seen so far, this one was my favorite. They will be featured in the July 2011 edition.

Interview with Prince Albert and Charlene

The French newspaper Journal du Dimanche recently interviewed the Princely couple attending the Mere Nostrum International Swimming Competition in Monaco and of course the subject of the wedding came up:

How do you feel? There are only three weeks until your marriage?

Albert II: We cannot wait to get married, but we have so many things to do before. My work continues despite our upcoming marriage. I don’t feel any particular stress upon the approach to our marriage. We are very relaxed.

Charlene: I’m in the same state of mind that any woman feels upon her marriage. We’re committed to life, it is not something to take lightly. Some brides stress. Others, do not. I feel calm…

But you are not marrying just anyone, you will soon become a princess …

Charlene: Yes, but I won’t let that pressure take a hold of me.

What will be your role?

Charlene: My role will be defined once I am married. Although I have learned, during five years in Monaco, the proper palace protocol, the habits as well as the customs of the principality. Today, I feel ready.

Albert: I let Charlene find herself and find identity here in the principality. She was already very involved in humanitarian causes for the youth. Moreover, she already has an established role in the sports world. Recently, she was appointed the Ambassador for Special Olympics, a foundation dedicated athletes with disabilities worldwide.

You are both great athletes, are you talking about sport together?

Charlene: All the time! This is one of the many things we have in common. It is sports that has truly united us.

Miss Wittstock do you feel apart of Monaco?

Charlene: I’m starting to get to know people from the principality. Now, I truly feel that I have found my where I have bearings here. Much more than in the early years. Today, I feel apart of the family here in the principality.

You are from South Africa. Do you miss your native country?

Charlene: South Africa is a part of me and will always be. In my heart I’ll always be South African, although today, Monaco is my new country and home.

This marriage is a way for you to give another image of Monaco?

Albert: Although this is not its primary purpose, this marriage will help correct the image of Monaco, a country that has always suffered from stereotypes. To better know the identity of Monaco and its values, its economic, social, cultural, humanitarian, sports, environmental. The power of attraction of Monaco will be strengthened.

Your Serene Highness, you’re close to your sisters. What is the relationship between Caroline, Stephanie and your future wife, Charlene?

Albert: We’re really lucky. I not only get along very well with the Charlene’s family, but Charlene works perfectly with mine. In the end, it all came naturally. In my family we have a great team spirit. Charlene is apart of this team has all the support from my sisters.

Charlene: I’m very comfortable with the prince’s sisters, Princesses Caroline and Stephanie. We get along well and they are strong women, great mothers.

A happy event promises to be there?

Albert: Well when you say children and you look at me, I’m not the one carrying them.

Charlene: I love children. We definitely want children and we hope to have a children soon.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

New Stamps of Albert and Charlene

Monaco Post has released new stamps to commemorate the marriage of Prince Albert II and Charlene Wittstock. Such stamps have become something of a tradition in Monaco.
Special stamps were also issued for the last princely wedding of Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace:

Friday, June 10, 2011

When the British Invaded Monaco

The Principality of Monaco had suffered a lot because of the French Revolution. The Grimaldi family were overthrown, Monaco annexed to France, property was confiscated and the small communities lingered in neglect and poverty, isolated from the government in Paris more concerned with fighting the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. However, ultimately, the Emperor Napoleon was defeated, forced to abdicate and the Principality of Monaco was restored to independence by the Congress of Vienna. After the regency of Prince Joseph, his nephew Prince Honore V was on his way to Monaco, a country he had not set foot in since he was four years old, when he came across his old commander, the “Little Corporal” himself, on his way north after escaping from Elba. Their meeting was cordial enough but certainly not friendly. Prince Honore V had never forgiven the whole revolutionary era for what it had done to his family, he had never forgiven Napoleon for his treatment of Empress Josephine (a dear friend and former employer) and it rather irritated him that he, a Prince of a centuries-old dynasty, was treated condescendingly by a Corsican upstart who could not even speak French properly.

After going their separate ways an annoyed Prince Honore made a point of stopping in Nice to inform the authorities that Napoleon had returned. While the Emperor went on to reestablish his rule and plan the campaign that ended at Waterloo the Monegasque turned out to welcome their long absent Prince. However, news of his brief meeting the French Emperor traveled fast and on March 13, 1815 only ten days after his arrival in Monaco word was passed along that a British warship full of soldiers was heading toward Monaco. Prince Honore V was outraged by this invasion and ordered the gates of the port closed but, of course, this was only a symbolic act and there was nothing he could do to stop them. One Colonel Burke of the British army landed and called on Honore V at the Princely Palace who received him in the throne room. Colonel Burke handed him a letter from the representative of King Victor Emmanuel I of Piedmont-Sardinia.

The letter stated that, due to his meeting with Napoleon, and the threat posed by his return to France, Monaco was to be occupied by the British. Prince Honore was outraged at this violation of Monegasque sovereignty. The independence of Monaco and her status as a French protectorate had been restored by the Congress of Vienna after the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in France. However, with the small country still impoverished and the Prince having only a guard of about 35 half-trained cadets on duty there was nothing he could do. As British redcoats came ashore and marched down the streets of Monaco the Prince saw the King of Piedmont-Sardinia behind it all and assumed this was only a pretext for annexation. Part of this was because he doubted that anyone in Turin could have learned of his brief meeting with Napoleon and reacted so rapidly. He was certain that the occupation had been planned all along.

With no other recourse available, Prince Honore V and Colonel Burke signed a statement bearing witness to the fact that Monegasque sovereignty had been violated, what the British orders stated and reiterating the fact that the Prince was constrained to acquiesce in light of his inability to resist such an occupation. The Prince also noted that even as the document was being signed he could look out his window at the palace and see hundreds of British troops taking up station around Monaco. Given this fact, the Prince did something that was very difficult for him to do and turned to the newly restored Emperor Napoleon in Paris for help. Reminding him that France had the sole right to garrison troops in Monaco he asked for Napoleon to have the British evicted and to stress the rights of Monaco as a sovereign state to the governments in London and Turin.
However, as much as Napoleon would like to have attacked the British wherever he found them, he was no great friend of Honore V. The French Emperor had learned that it had been the Prince of Monaco who had reported him to the Sardinian authorities and alerted the Allies to his presence on the continent and he was not about to do the Monegasque any favors, regardless of the fact that Prince Honore IV, young Prince Florestan and Prince Honore V had all served in his army. There would be no help coming from Paris and Napoleon himself, with all the powers of Europe arrayed against him, would not be around forever. Like the cut flower in a vase he was fair to see yet bound to die. He did not die of course but met his ultimate defeat at Waterloo and then went into permanent exile on St Helena. In Monaco, the redcoats remained until the summer when they finally marched down to the port and boarded their ships bound for home, replaced by an Anglo-Italian regiment that took up their duties. It was the end of the French protectorate over Monaco that had lasted since that first agreement between Prince Honore II and King Louis XV 173 before and it was the beginning of the period of the protectorate of Piedmont-Sardinia under the House of Savoy.

Some may have a hard time understanding how nervous this made the Princes of Monaco. After all, Italian had, before the French annexation, been the official language of the principality and throughout their history, even up until World War II, if pressed on the subject the Monegasque would identify themselves more with the Italians than the French. However, there had also been no more constant antagonist for Monaco than the Genoa from which they had come and the fear always remained that Piedmont-Sardinia would ultimately annex Monaco as well and the principality would go the way of other formerly independent states, such as the Republic of Genoa, in losing their sovereignty as part of the growing dominions of the House of Savoy. In the end, such fears were not entirely unfounded. Monaco was saved, thanks to the intervention of another Napoleon but Menton and Roquebrune were lost in the process and there were those in Italy who continued to claim Monaco as part of the “Greater Italy” or “Third Rome” they wished to create, and briefly did during the early years of World War II. Happily, that situation was only temporary and the comfortable fit with France returned. But, it was a rough road that began on that fateful day in 1815 when the British invaded Monaco.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Happy Birthday Andrea!

It was 27 years ago today that Andrea Albert Pierre Casiraghi was born at the Princess Grace Hospital in Monaco to HSH Princess Caroline of Monaco and Stefano Casiraghi. He is currently second in line to the Monegasque throne (though with the upcoming marriage of his uncle that could be changing). Mad for Monaco wishes Andrea a very happy birthday!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Charlene Named Global Ambassador for Special Olympics

Prince Albert in Estonia

On Wednesday, HSH Prince Albert II arrived in Riga, Latvia for his 3-day visit to the Baltic countries of Latvia and Estonia. The Sovereign Prince met with President Valdis Zatlers of Latvia shortly after his arrival, the two discussed Latvian-Monegasque relations and diplomatic ties but also their common interest in greenhouse horticulture and visited an ecological waste management company. On June 2, the Prince went to Estonia and met with the President, First Lady and Prime Minister there. They discussed bilaterial relations and environmental issues (of course) and the Prince also visited a rare event, but one close to his heart, in an electric car rally. He talked with the drivers before having the honor of starting the Tallinn-Monte Carlo race. He also unveiled a commemorate bench in honor of his mother Princess Grace before going on to a charity dinner at the Estonian Opera House. On the Prince's last day in Tallinn he took some time to walk the streets, chat with the regular folks and sample some of the local cuisine.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mystery Marchesa

Observe this portrait by the famous Belgian painter Sir Antony Van Dyck. It is of the Marchesa Elena Grimaldi, wife of Marchese Nicola Cattaneo. I feel a little sorry for the woman because this painting must be more famous than she is as every time I've tried to look up info on-line about Elena Grimaldi all I get is details about Van Dyck and this famous portrait. What information I was able to find was not in a language I spoke and on-line translators usually leave me more confused than when I started. I know the Cattaneo family were very big in the Republic of Genoa and at one time were the major financial backers for the Hapsburg war effort in Holland and Belgium. In any event, it would make perfect sense for a Grimaldi and a Cattaneo to be married but I have no more information than that. If anyone knows more, or where some details might be found, please leave a comment and let me know.
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