Tuesday, August 30, 2011

King Carlo Alberto and Monaco

It was during the reign of HSH Prince Florestan, aided by his ever-diligent wife Princess Caroline, that the crisis over Menton and Roquebrune reached its height. The one royal figure on the other side of that crisis was HM King Carlo Alberto of Piedmont-Sardinia, head of the House of Savoy which held a partial protectorate over the Principality of Monaco since the Napoleonic Wars, including Menton and Roquebrune. When liberal outbursts began to sweep Europe, and the southern areas particularly, some royals tried to suppress the spread of such sentiments while others tried to get out in front of them. King Carlo Alberto tried to get out in front, perhaps belatedly, but quite successfully. It was a course of action that put him on a path to conflict with the Prince of Monaco. However, King Carlo Alberto was not quite the scheming man of ambition many of his enemies make him out to be. At the outset he was simply following the example seemingly being set by other monarchs and even the Holy Father in Rome. The difference was, having set out, he refused to change course. The two driving forces behind this movement were constitutional government and nationalism. This is the background.

In 1846 His Holiness Pope Pius IX was elected to the Throne of St Peter and came with a reputation for being something of a liberal, a man known for the demands he had made for governments to care for their people and for his recognition of the people of the Italian peninsula as one nation. Naturally, liberals rejoiced when he was elected and further thrilled when he released from the prisons in Rome all of those jailed for sedition or revolution or any sort of what we would call political prisoners. He appointed progressives to positions of leadership and began the unheard of process of introducing constitutional government in the Papal States with a leadership made up entirely of laymen. King Carlo Alberto followed the example of the Pope and soon in the Principality of Monaco, particularly Menton, there were cheers for Pope Pius IX and King Carlo Alberto by those hoping for the same innovations to be handed down from their Prince. However, the Pope who was so celebrated by liberals and even Protestant governments eventually became horrified by the effects of his progressive changes and ultimately became known as one of the most ardently conservative or even reactionary of pontiffs.

King Carlo Alberto, on the other hand, did not change course. His convictions may have even been strengthened by the sight of the Pope being forced to flee Rome in disguise and then brought back only by the intervention of the French army. The King of Piedmont-Sardinia would stay on the more liberal track and came to be hailed by Italian nationalists as the one monarch who never betrayed them. This meant clashes with other crowned heads, most significantly the Austrian Hapsburgs rather than the relatively powerless Prince of Monaco but it would also mean that, in the end, the House of Savoy would become the Royal Family of the unified Kingdom of Italy in the not too distant future. So, King Carlo Alberto enacted many liberal changes, including constitutional government, a system which hearkened back to the Code Napoleon but which also modeled itself somewhat on the constitutional monarchy of Great Britain which seemed to work quite well. New rights and liberties were granted and troublesome elements in Menton seized on this to demand the same in the Principality of Monaco. Many residents, even in Monaco itself as late as the 1940’s, continued to think of themselves as Italians in ethnic terms and the nationalist drive toward creating an Italian nation-state had its supporters in the Principality of Monaco.

This put Prince Florestan in a terrible position. He was no reactionary himself and, indeed, Monaco would eventually put all the demanded changes into effect, but he did not want to see his country divided or taken over by a foreign power. The problem was that the power he most feared, Piedmont-Sardinia, was the only one he was supposed to appeal to for help. Charles Trenca, a leading liberal, was an early flashpoint. He had served the House of Grimaldi since 1819 and in 1841 he had been sent on a diplomatic mission to Turin along with the Duke of Valentinois (future Prince Charles III) and King Carlo Alberto had been impressed with him. On a subsequent mission the King chose him to act as go-between with the court in Monaco on the subject of annexing Monaco to Piedmont-Sardinia. Needless to say, Prince Florestan and Princess Caroline were less than impressed with this suggestion and Trenca was eventually dismissed for his plotting on behalf of Turin.

King Carlo Alberto had showed his hand and his desire to include Monaco or at the least Menton and Roquebrune in his kingdom was now known. However, the agitation in those areas only increased even after reforms were made and Prince Florestan had no choice but to appeal to the King for Piedmontese troops to restore order. When soldiers were dispatched under General Claudio Gonnet to Menton they were met by a crowd of citizens carrying a large bust of their own beloved King Carlo Alberto. They could not bring themselves to shoot down a mob cheering their own monarch and when the crowd approached, carrying the bust before them, they simply saluted the image of their King and allowed them to pass at which point the crowd burst into cheers. General Gonnet declared that there was no trouble in Menton and marched his troops on to Monaco to report as much to the Prince. This did not go over well at the palace and they assumed, probably correctly, that General Gonnet was on the side of the protestors in wishing for annexation.

When the Revolutions of 1848 swept Europe, Menton and Roquebrune declared their secession from Monaco as “Free Cities” when similar uprisings were breaking out across Italy. Within two years they would be formally placed under the protection of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia. However, King Carlo Alberto would not live to see that. Following his defeat at the hands of the Austrians in the First Italian War for Independence, he abdicated in favor of his son, Vittorio Emanuele II, in 1849 and died later that same year. Piedmont-Sardinia would not hold the former Monegasque towns for long though. As we know, in 1860, as part of a treaty to gain French support for the unification of Italy by the House of Savoy, the County of Nice, with Menton and Roquebrune included, were ceded to the Second French Empire after a referendum, disputed by some as being less than honest. Nonetheless, aside from a brief period during World War II, Menton and Roquebrune have remained a part of France ever since then.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Prince Albert, Football Fan

On Friday, HSH Prince Albert II was alongside good friend UEFA President Michel Platini at the Louis II Stadium in Monaco for a football match between FC Barcelona and FC Porto. Onlookers were a little disappointed not to see Princess Charlene accompanying her husband, but of course I speak of 'real life' people who like the princess, not the clique of 'e-people' who have had it in for her from the start. They ignored the game, the smiling prince, the laughter and conversation between two old friends and zoomed in on one thing: the lack of a wedding ring on the Prince's finger. Aha! "This proves it!" they exclaimed, "this means there really IS trouble in paradise!". Well, don't get your hopes up you twisted people. And, seriously, what sort of deeply hateful person has to obsess over two people finding happiness together and getting married, whoever they are? As I mentioned last post, the Princely couple is fine, there are no problems, they are doing great. Anyone can look at the pictures of the two of them, whether together or apart and all you will see is two happy people going about their daily lives. The absence of a wedding ring (and this is not even the first time since the wedding the Prince has been spotted without one) means absolutely nothing. In fact, I could find it a little bit insulting. My parents have been happily married for many decades and I have never seen my father wear his wedding ring in my entire life. The only reason I know it exists is because my mother showed it to me once while putting some clothes away (he kept it in his sock drawer with other valuables). Likewise, I don't remember my grandfather ever wearing his wedding ring and he was happily married to my grandmother from 1941 until the day he died. Move on people -there's nothing to see here.

Also, some have asked if the Grimaldi dynasty was represented at the wedding of HIRH Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia this weekend in Germany. The answer to that would be "no". Not many high-profile royals attended the event, it being, after all, a marriage between two royals whose status is unrecognized by their current government. It also might have been a little uncomfortable for them to do so given that HRH the Prince of Hannover was there. However, that is not to say that there are any problems between the German and Monegasque royals. In fact, Prince Albert I of Monaco, our Albie's namesake and great-great grandfather, was quite good friends with Prince Georg Friedrich's great-grandfather Kaiser Wilhelm II (both of them being yachting enthusiasts). So, no problems between the Grimaldis and Hohenzollerns but Germany is just a little bit outside the 'orbit' of the Principality of Monaco these days.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Princess Charlene, Doing Fine

Since her first official engagement at the Red Cross Ball, HSH Princess Charlene of Monaco has been keeping a pretty busy schedule. She and the Sovereign Prince re-opened the Van Cleef & Arpels boutique (which now includes a Charlene Salon), then there was a classic music festival in the neighboring town of Menton (once a part of the Grimaldi dominion many years ago), where the new Princess let her hair down and was given a very warm welcome -and a *very* large armfull of flowers, from the adoring crowd and then, last Friday both attended the 50th anniversary of the Stade Nautique Rainier III where, again, the welcome was exuberant. No gaffes, no stumbles, no "scenes" and not a hint of trouble, just a Prince and Princess of Monaco, comfortable, at ease and still newlyweds who (as you can tell from the many photos of each occasion) still have a hard time taking their eyes off each other. If all of those who were trying to cast doubts and who made a habit of saying unkind things could see just how silly -and sad- they look based on the example of the Princely couple, well, perhaps it would all stop.

What is even more telling, considering all the "doom and gloom" so many were spouting, is the public reaction at every place the new couple have visited, whether in France, Monaco or one of the nearby towns within the 'Monegasque community'. I wonder if the gloomy gus types realize how out of touch they are? On each and every occasion the welcome has been warm and exuberant, even moreso than the always polite and friendly welcome given to the Sovereign Prince, who is a familiar face in these areas, but there are huge cheers for Princess Charlene, very large and very long rounds of applause, shouts of best wishes and as many photographs as possible. In short, the people love them. They see them, up close, they see what a happy couple they are, comfortable and at ease with each other (which they should be by now) and your average person without a heart full of malice is instantly attracted to that. Princess Charlene, despite a great deal of negativity hurled her way right out of the gate, has gotten off to an excellent start as the new Princess of Monaco. She has not let the naysayers get her down but, as the British used to say, has simply kept calm and carried on. Good for her and well done.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Favorite Princely Images: Spain and Monaco

HM King Juan Carlos I of Spain and HSH Princess Grace of Monaco. The Spanish Royal Family and the Princely House of Monaco have long been good friends, carrying on a close relationship that is centuries old, dating back to when Monaco was within the Spanish sphere of influence. That didn't turn out so well, but the countries and their Royal Families are friends again. Recent generations have been particularly close since, as we know, Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain was Prince Albert's godmother and a close friend of Princess Grace when she was still the "new princess on the block".

Monday, August 22, 2011

Queenship of Mary

Today the Catholic Church (the state religion of Monaco) celebrates the Feast of the Queenship of Mary. This image of the Blessed Virgin, Queen of Heaven, can be found in St Nicholas Cathedral in Monte Carlo. A nice holiday and further proof that God is a monarchist -His mother is a Queen!

Video: Princess Stephanie's "Flash"

A little 80's nostalgia, what a great decade, and we saw alot of Princess Stephanie -what a cutie...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Anti-Monaco Blogger Busted!

Justice has been served on the now legally certified liar and professional pain in the gluteus maximus from Los Angeles who has spent his retirement harassing the Prince of Monaco and pretty much anyone in any way connected with him. You may recall, the fellow in question tried to extort a million dollars from the Prince (claiming to be a “spy”) and then sued the Prince for breach of contract, a lawsuit that was swiftly slapped down. Since then this cranky old man with no life and a severe case of the ‘not gays’ with a burning obsession over our Sovereign Prince devoted his every waking hour to insulting, smearing and besmirching the character of the Prince and any and everyone around him. He also ‘carpet bombed’ every blog, forum and message board dealing with Monaco in an effort to spread his hate-filled rants and fling juvenile insults at anyone who dared to disagree with his accusations.

Well, the Prince kept it on the down low, as they say, but the story has now come out that Monaco’s most persistent internet enemy has been ordered by a French court (the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris) to pay Prince Albert 20,000 euros in damages and 7,000 euros in legal fees “for the publication of false and libelous materials”. In a separate case the crazed crank was ordered to pay 60,000 euros for six libelous attacks on Claude Palmero plus 3,000 euros in legal fees. In addition, he’s also been ordered to pay over 15,000 euros to Thierry Lacoste, personal lawyer of Prince Albert II, for the same reason. He was also ordered to pay 20,000 euros for two counts of slander against Andre Muhlberger along with 3,000 euros in legal fees. Three additional judgments were made against him to a tune of 30,000 euros in damages plus 9,000 in legal fees for attacks against Claudio Marzocco, Thierry Lacoste and Prince Albert II.

More judgments are to be expected in September, October and December, delayed so that the mud-slinger in question can present himself to the court and make his case. However, don’t hold your breath for that to happen as he’s ducked into his shell like a frightened turtle. Since the court ruled that he would have to pay an additional 5,000 euros per day for any offending material remaining on his blog he quickly removed it but while still protesting his innocence of course and how, despite the legal findings, still claiming everything he says is “true”. His blog now mostly consists of advertisements for his own books. He has also refused to accept his summons to court and refused every effort at communication by the court. Which of course is exactly what someone would do who is being unjustly accused right? No, there is no way this guy is getting anywhere near a court of law unless he is dragged in in handcuffs. However, it is safe to say that he will not be visiting the continent of Europe any time soon -at least not willingly, and his war of insults against the Principality of Monaco has been muzzled.

The leading liar and captain in the tin-foil hat brigade seems very worried about the findings against him despite his assertions that it is all false and the courts have no jurisdiction over him (why remove the stuff from the website then?) and has put a halt to his war of words with Monaco. However, that does not mean he has turned over a new leaf and decided to become a happy, laid back retired gentlemen. No, it just means he has taken to flinging juvenile insults at the news outlet which released the information about the judgments against him. That would be the article here. As they say, a leopard cannot change his spots and neither can a cranky old man with skin thin enough to see through. To sum up: Prince Albert -1, cranky media whore -0.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Princess Charlene, Nicole and Gossip

I dislike even discussing these sorts of things but, as usual, there is no let up in the rumor mill regarding Princess Charlene. The latest rumor (from the usual anonymous sources -not worth a dime, keep that in mind) is that Princess Charlene has forbidden Prince Albert to have any contact with his past girlfriends. Of course, as with such gossip, you can take it for what it is worth (which isn’t much). I remain indifferent on the subject. I certainly would not object to Princess Charlene putting her foot down on this issue, they are a married couple now and different rules apply. A husband and wife have every right to want each other completely to themselves. Much of the tongue-wagging has focused on the absence of Nicole Coste (mother of the Prince’s natural son Alexandre) from the recent Red Cross ball which she had attended in the past. She certainly has not been bashful about being seen.

All of this may be completely untrue (and probably is I would think) but as I, or anyone else who runs a weblog, forum, chat room, message board or what have you on the subject of Monaco can tell you, the former flight attendant from Togo has a handful of very committed fans on the internet with a great deal of free time on their hands. Any time Nicole or Alexandre is mentioned they come out of the wood work to plead her cause, trash the Prince and the new Princess and to moan endlessly about little Alexandre as if he were some poor, victimized, neglected child in an uncaring world. Spare me the drama (and thanks to upgrading screening measures taken a few months ago I am), this is simply ridiculous and I will take this opportunity to explain exactly why.

Nicole does not have a very illustrious reputation and most of it began when the general public first learned she even existed, when she went public with her son, announcing to the media that Prince Albert was the father, mere days after the death of HSH Prince Rainier III when all of Monaco was still deep in mourning. Alexandre was born in 2003 and yet she said nothing until 2005 until there was a death in the family and all eyes were on Monaco to go public with her “revelation”. That did nothing to endear her to the general public from the very start. She has also been rather forward with herself, such as when she decided to go strolling through the streets of Monte Carlo the very day before Prince Albert and Princess Charlene were to be married. A rather odd time to visit the country to say the least. Neither was she some empty-headed girl who was taken advantage of by a dashing prince. She was a grown woman when they had their “relationship”, already divorced with two children. In short, she had been around the block and knew how the world worked. She has cashed-in big time because of her fling with the Prince, a fling she had to know would go nowhere.

Finally, as to Alexandre himself, he is the one totally innocent party in all of this. His parents made the bad decisions and he has to live with the consequences. Everyone wishes the very best for him, I certainly do and I have never come across anyone who does not. What I will not do is feel sorry for him. This may come as a surprise to some people but, in the grand scheme of the history of the Grimaldi dynasty, Alexandre is nothing special. Illegitimate children are nothing new, in fact they have been rather common. None ever became princes of Monaco, nor did any ever expect to be, though some certainly rose to positions of great importance in the principality. This was the case in royal houses all across Europe. Alexandre is not unique in being the natural son of a prince, nor is he being treated any better or any worse than any other. He is not a child to feel sorry for. He is very well cared for, can do and become anything he likes and he will never have to work a day in his life if he doesn’t choose to. Just because he may not see his father as often as some people think he should (and rest assured these people have no idea how often the Prince sees Alexandre) that is nothing to moan and groan about. Feel sorry for children who have no parents or who have abusive parents, who are sick or starving. Do not feel sorry for Alexandre. He is better off than the vast majority of children on this planet, he wants for nothing and he has the world at his feet. He’s a good kid and can live whatever sort of life he chooses.

Now, let’s move on shall we…

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Red Cross Ball 2011

The dust has now settled from the annual Red Cross Ball, the first major social function for the Monegasque newlyweds, held last night at the Monte-Carlo Sporting Club and it was a resounding success. Obviously, there was a greater amount of public attention paid to the event this year and no one seemed disappointed. The entertainment guest was British singer Joe Cocker and the customary donation of artwork to the Monaco Red Cross was by Peter Wüthrich. The collection was titled "Collection Mondo" and the tombola winnings were handed out by Dame Shirley Bassey (who organized the event) and Sandrine Quétier. The garden-paradise theme was enhanced by huge numbers of flowers decorating the Salle des Etolies of the Monte-Carlo Sporting Club. About 800 guests attended this, the 63rd annual Red Cross Ball, paying 1,000 euros each with all proceeds, of course, going to the Red Cross.

All the Grimaldi girls turned heads, though Princess Caroline's rather colorful choice of dress took a few people by surprise. Perhaps she and her sister mixed up their wardrobes?
The Princely party arrives. Princess Charlene was wearing her new Ocean tiara-necklace.
Left to right: Melanie de Massy, Princess Stephanie, Prince Albert II, Princess Charlene, Princess Caroline and Elisabeth-Ann de Massy. The Princely Family was out in full force!
Princess Caroline and cousin Elisabeth-Ann look as if they're having a good chuckle
The Sovereign Prince takes a turn on the dance floor.
The Prince and Princess of Monaco. How long have we waited for this picture?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Happy Birthday Charlotte!

Yes, it was on this day in 1986 that HSH Princess Caroline of Monaco and Stefano Casiraghi welcomed their lovely daughter Charlotte into the world at the Princess Grace Hospital in Monte Carlo. What has she been up to lately? One of the recent events she graced with her presence was the Islamic Fashion Festival in London, called "Discover the Beauty of Modesty" (Monaco hosted a similar event here a while back). Mad for Monaco wishes our Charlie a very happy 25th birthday and many, many more to come.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Knights of Malta in Monaco

Their Serene Highnesses Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco have hosted their first official visit by a foreign dignitary to Monaco. That honor went to His Most Eminent Highness Fra' Matthew Festing (seen above with the Princely couple) the 79th Prince and Grand Master of the Knights of Malta or (officially) the "Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta". Prince Albert II has long been a member of the Knights of Malta, something which, I will admit, rather surprised me given his rather "colorful" personal history but since Rupert Murdoch was given a papal knighthood (the Order of St Gregory or something I think) nothing should really come as a surprise in that department I suppose.

However, the Grand Master was in Monaco to give the Sovereign Prince something of a promotion. I will admit, I don't know how these sorts of things are decided, I do know membership in the Knights of Malta is by invitation only (which basically means if you are prominent enough or know the right people you get asked), but other than that, I have no idea how one moves up in the ranks. Perhaps it is seniority, automatic promotion, donations to the order (and I don't mean to sound too cynical as the order does do some very good work around the world) or perhaps our Albie is just an outstandingly chivalrous Catholic. We may never know. In any event, the Grand Master bestowed upon our Sovereign Prince the rank of "Honorary Bailiff Grand Cross" and the visit was quite a grand occasion.

The Princely Rifles turned out, smart as usual, to welcome the Grand Master with full military honors and all the pomp and ceremony the tiny Monegasque army could muster. Minister of State Roger and the Prince's Chamberlain were also on hand, along with the Prince and Princess to welcome the distinguished visitor. After the official greeting was done the Archbishop of Monaco celebrated a special mass in the palace chapel which all attended. There was a private dinner, a meeting with the Minister of State and Princess Charlene joined the Grand Master for a special concert in the palace courtyard (right where a wedding was recently held you might have heard of) to benefit the many charities which are supported by the Knights of Malta. It was all very glamorous but, alas, it seems I will still have to wait to see Prince Albert in all his Hospitaller finery. In all seriousness though, I do love this sort of stuff and it is good to see two representatives of such ancient historical presence in Mare Nostrum get together once in a while.
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