Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Giballin Grimaldi

One of the earliest members of the House of Grimaldi to find mention in the history books is the enigmatic figure of Giballin Grimaldi. He came to notice during a very difficult and dangerous period in European history, the Dark Ages, after the great civilization of Imperial Rome had fallen away and when the continent was under threat from all sides. In the south the principle threat was the expanding forces of Islam. Moors, Saracens and so on, the forces of the new and growing Muslim religion had charged out of the Arabian desert and rapidly conquered the Middle East, spread across North Africa and began making inroads into Spain, southern Italy, even reaching as far as central France. From Monaco to St Tropez the Muslims were the dominant force and in 975 AD Count William of Provence led a major effort to reclaim the area for the forces of Christendom. He called upon the nobles and prominent leaders of the region to join him and the response was immediate. He was joined by Bishop Izam of Grenoble, Boniface of Castellane, the Lords of Vintimille and, as mentioned, the Genoese patrician Giballin Grimaldi. Banding together, they marched against the Moors and after fierce battles succeeded in capturing the primary Islamic fortress in the region at Fraxinet.

Giballin Grimaldi displayed qualities that would later come to characterize the personality of the Princely Family of Monaco; a concern for issues greater than his own, sympathy for the downtrodden and a willingness to help those in need. This was combined with great courage in times of conflict. During the capture of Fraxinet, Giballin Grimaldi and his men scaled a steep, rocky position which the Moors had left undefended as they were certain no one could possibly accomplish such a feat. As a result, Giballin and his men were able to surprise the Moors with their attack through the back door and divert their attention from the main assault by the Christian forces at the front door. Because of his crucial role in this victory, with only a small band of hand-picked soldiers to help him, Giballin Grimaldi was rewarded with the grant of a sizeable tract of land from St Tropez to Frejus. Because of his valor in battle the Muslims were driven from Villafranca, Castellare, Turbia, St Hospice and the Little Fraxinet. The Ligurian borders were firmly secured from the Moorish threat.

There is also the story that the second son of Grimaldi I, Lord of Antibes, father of Giballin Grimaldi, led a similar campaign to liberate the area that is today Monaco with dates for this given as 920 AD, 962 or 968 and that the Holy Roman Emperor gave the Grimaldi family this liberated territory of Monaco to them as their own sovereign state, as a reward for their heroism. Later historians have raised doubts about this story and that long ago, in such a chaotic time, obviously evidence is scarce but it was told for a long time as a nice story to show the House of Grimaldi having very, very deep roots in the region of Monaco. However, whether it is accurate or not, Monaco was not retained by the Grimaldis since, as we know, other powers (principally Genoa) took over the region and Grimaldi rule was not firmly established until the famous nighttime attack by Francesco Grimaldi (“the Cunning”) and his Guelf faction of warriors. However, many historians a great many centuries ago reported the story as fact, and it may well be, it is simply hard to tell with absolute certainty when it comes to almost anything in history so long ago.

To some extent it depends on the veracity of the earliest genealogical records of the House of Grimaldi, one of the first of which was compiled by a secretary to HSH Prince Honore II who traced the family line back to Grimoald, son of Pépin d’Héristal, elder brother of Charles Martel (“the Hammer” who defeated the Saracens at Tours in France) who was the grandfather of the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne. This would obviously give the House of Grimaldi some quite prestigious bloodlines as well as a family history that Giballin Grimaldi and his actions against the Moors would have fit neatly into. Perhaps it is so, and perhaps Giballin was the son of the Grimaldi lord who was first given the sovereignty of Monaco from the Holy Roman Emperor Otto the Great. If so, Francesco Grimaldi and his men were merely taking back what was rightfully Grimaldi land with their famous attack, though that time on the side of the Supreme Pontiff rather than the Emperor in Germany.

What is not disputed is that Giballin Grimaldi played a critical role in the campaign to evict the Muslim invaders from the region of Liguria at a critical time in the development of Europe when Christendom was in real danger of being completely overrun by enemies from the north, east and south. Thankfully, when the people came to Giballin Grimaldi for help, looking for someone to defend them and make right the wrongs they had suffered, he did not turn them away but devoted himself to effecting their rescue and the return of their lands and security. It was the start of what would be a long and colorful history of involvement on the part of the House of Grimaldi in the struggles between Christendom and the expanding world of Islam. They would go on to participate in the crusades, becoming quite prominent as both diplomats and naval military commanders, before that page of history finally came to an end and focus shifted to other areas.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Grimaldis at the Oscars

Last night, TSH Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene hit the Hollywood red carpet to attend the Academy Awards (their first). Being not far from the anniversary of the late Princess Grace joining that elite club of Oscar-winners and her tragic end. The Princely couple are 'paving the way' so to speak for an upcoming film about Princess Grace. It is worth taking a look back at Princess Grace at the Oscars:

Grace Kelly presenting the Oscar for Best Actor to Ernest Borgnine in 1955 for his starring role in the film "Marty"
Grace Kelly and Marlon Brando with their new Oscars in 1954, a great year for movies. Brando won for "On the Waterfront" and Grace Kelly for "The Country Girl"

Grace Kelly, the new Oscar-winner, alongside her co-star Bill Holden

Three Hollywood icons: Bette Davis, Marlon Brando and Grace Kelly

Edmond O'Brien with Grace Kelly on Oscar night. O'Brien won Best Supporting Actor for his role in "The Barefoot Contessa"

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Red Cross Graduation

HSH Prince Albert II is back from Africa and joined Princess Charlene for the Red Cross graduation ceremonies on Tuesday at the Rainier III Auditorium in Monte Carlo. Prince Albert had the honor of handing out the diplomas to the happy graduates.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Watch Out Slugger!

We all remember the days when Pierre Casiraghi was (and I really hope I'm not offending anyone by saying this) viewed as the cute little geek of the Casiraghi clan? With his slight frame and adorable little glasses he seemed the opposite of his older brother Andrea, long-time heartthrob for teenage girls who from day one looked like some kid from the JC Penny catalogue. But then our little Pierre grew up. Puberty happened (as it tends to) and Pierre got ripped, lost his glasses and soon it was he who had all the girls swooning. Well, recently we've been reminded yet again of how times have changed as Pierre seems to have taken a page from the playbook of his (nominal) step-father and been involved in a public brawl. I don't mean to make light of this at all, he is all right but was roughed up badly enough to be rushed to the hospital to have some facial wounds taken care of.

Evidently it all went down at the Double Seven nightclub in Manhattan where Pierre had some sort of confrontation with former nightclub owner Adam Hock. Who knows what it was about but words were exchanged, harsher words were exchanged and then someone took a poke at someone else and the 'almost royal' rumble was on. Pierre is alright but, as stated, had to be taken to the hospital to get patched up (I hope he gave as good as he got, surely he did some hand-to-hand combat training in the French army) and hopefully he will emerge from this unfortunate incident a little wiser with some (hopefully not permanent) scars to impress the girls with.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Prince Albert in Africa

As you can see the Sovereign Prince has arrived in the Republic of Mali for his state visit. So far, everything has gone according to plan. For a little background information, Mali and Monaco have at least one thing in common, both being members of the Francophone community. The west African nation (which way back in history was the Mali Empire during the days of the trans-Sahara trade routes) was a French colony until 1960, prior to that being the center of the "Mali Federation" within the French Union. As an independent country Mali has had a pretty rough time of it, facing a massive famine right out of the gate that took many lives. A dictatorship emerged but was finally toppled by a coup in 1991. A new constitution was put in place and the first democratic elections were held in 1992. Things have improved a great deal since then and today Mali is one of the more stable and orderly nations in Africa. Still, there is widespread poverty across much of the country and a lack of basic services. This is where the Principality of Monaco has become involved through the Prince Albert II Foundation and other development agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations. This has been part of a larger campaign and something unprecedented in Monegasque history. Since coming to the throne Prince Albert II has enacted a decidedly humanitarian foreign policy whereas, in the past, Monaco had little foreign policy at all outside of the "special relationship" with France. When it came to foreign relations Paris handled most things. However, Prince Albert has been very involved in investing and developing countries around the world where help is greatly needed. He may not often get credit for this but it is one of the significant changes of his reign.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Our Stunning Stephanie

'Back in the day' I had a huge crush on Princess Stephanie, and I must say I've never fully recovered.
Lova ya Steph!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Latest from Monaco

HRH Princess Caroline is not letting her recent court defeat get her down, she is carrying on doing good for the least of these her brethren in the world. She recently presented a check for 475,000 euros to the African Republic of Burundi on behalf of her charity AMADE. The funds will go toward providing medical care and education in the impoverished African country.

Meanwhile, the Palace announced that, starting next week, HSH Prince Albert II will be off to visit the African continent himself with a state visit to the Republic of Mali from 13 to 15 February followed by an official visit to Burkina Faso from 15 to 17 February. In Mali His Serene Highness is scheduled to meet with the Prime Minister, President and President of the National Assembly (the President visited Monaco last October so this will be formal reciprocation for that event). While there he will visit medical, education and sporting facilities which were built in part thanks to funding from the Monegasque Office of International Cooperation. Over 16,000 citizens of Mali have benefited from the projects enacted due to cooperation from the Principality of Monaco. The Sovereign Prince will also open the first Honorary Consulate of Monaco in the country (I'm still holding out for mine!).

Likewise, in Burkina Fasco Prince Albert II will meet with the Prime Minister and have a working meeting with the President. He will also visit the National Fire Brigade and some other sites where assistance is being given thanks to the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and other Monegasque government agencies. The visit of the Prince to both African countries will be followed up by a delegation from the Chamber of Economic Development.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Princess Caroline and Privacy Rights

Unfortunately, the latest word is that HRH Princess Caroline has lost her court case against the German magazine Frau im Spiegel which she had taken to the European Court of Human Rights in 2008. This is unfortunate because of the principle involved, it is certainly no great tragedy (the House of Grimaldi has plenty of experience dealing the real ones) but may have far-reaching consequences concerning who does or does not have a right to privacy and how far such rights go. It may have an impact on the case recently filed by Charlotte against the paparazzi, we will just have to wait and see and hope for the best. This did distress me though as, because of the principle involved as well as my own fondness for the princess, I was really hoping our Caro would take that mag to the cleaners and send a warning to all the other unscrupulous gossip rags in the world who have made an art of the invasion of privacy. I am a big believer in two basic rights: the right to private property and the right to privacy and I think we would live in a better world if everyone could at least respect those two rights.

Alas, however, we do not and privacy issues involving royals can be a little bit thorny. Many people would say that a lack of privacy is simply the price that has to be paid for some of the other perks that come with royal status. There is also no denying the fact that the attention royals draw is often harnessed by them to use their status to raise awareness of important issues, causes and to raise money for worthwhile charities all around the world. That is certainly true and some would say that a lack of privacy must be accepted as going with the territory of being a royal or a celebrity or any sort of public figure or public servant. I would disagree, at least to an extent, with that assertion.

This is because, as I see it, royals are in an entirely different ballpark than celebrities or politicians. Although I think everyone deserves some standard of privacy, the difference to me is that celebrities and politicians freely chose professions that come with scrutiny. In the case of celebrities, they deliberately court public attention because their celebrity status is what gives them the “rich and famous” lifestyle they crave. If no one cared about them their music or movies wouldn’t sell and they’d be just like the poor slobs they scorn. With politicians, they are public servants who rule and exercise power on behalf of the public so scrutiny of them and their actions is not only expected but, I think, necessary. For royals, on the other hand, it is an entirely different story. They didn’t ask to be royals; they were born into the position. They didn’t seek fame or notoriety, it just came with their birth certificate. In most cases they hold no actual power over anyone and this is certainly the case with Princess Caroline. It is even more the case with Charlotte who actually has no title and no official position at all.

Princess Caroline, it is important to note, brought this case against a German magazine. The Federal Republic of Germany does not recognize her title as Princess of Hanover (nor does it recognize the title of her erstwhile husband Ernst August IV) and when in Germany she should be entitled to the same rights to privacy as any ordinary citizen or foreign visitor because, legally, that is all she is in that country. The way I see it, some amount of public attention is certainly to be expected but especially when it comes to photographs it does not seem to me that the public would be harmfully deprived if the attention was limited to official events and appearances. Private time is private and family moments should be sacrosanct. I’m sorry the European Court of Human Rights doesn’t see it that way. Regardless of what titles or status someone holds they are just as human and you or I and should be accorded the same rights, including privacy, as anyone else.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Grace Kelly: Engagement Party

Some great pictures and interesting info on this event at The Royal Digest (with a tug of the forelock to Tea at Trianon for bringing this great blog to my attention). What more can be said about Princess Grace that hasn't been said already? I'll simply repeat myself: never did a princess so live up to her own name.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Long May He Reign

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the accession of HM Queen Elizabeth II to her British and Commonwealth thrones. A very special and historic occasion for all those people over whom the Queen reigns to be sure. In all of British royal history only Queen Victoria has reigned longer than the current Queen and Her Majesty may break even that record before all is said and done. This date made me curious though as to how this record compares to the Princely House of Grimaldi who have reigned over Monaco far longer than the current British Royal Family has reigned over their array of countries yet whose position has often been far more precarious than that of the British Royal Family. After looking into it, I have found, not surprisingly, that no Prince of Monaco has reigned so long as the current Queen of the United Kingdom etc. However, the longest reigning so far did come pretty close. That honor goes to His Serene Highness Prince Honore III of Monaco, the longest reigning Sovereign Prince in Monegasque history. He acceeded to the Princely throne on November 7, 1733 and reigned until January 19, 1793 when he was sadly brought down by the spreading forces of the French Revolution for a reign totalling 59 years and 73 days. When looking into this subject I had expected the record would go to the great Prince Rainier III who was, for a time, the longest reigning monarch in Europe and the second longest in the world after the King of Thailand. However, Prince Rainier III was several years short of the record set by Honore III though he was one of the longest reigning princes in Monegasque history at 55 years and 332 days. And, of course, who knows, HSH Prince Albert II may yet beat them all. So long live the Prince and may he beat the record of Honore III!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Checking In on Government

This last Thursday, TSH Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco stopped by to check in on the government. Of course, in Monaco, like everything other than their style, the government is quite small. The National Council which deals with legislation for the principality would be viewed by much of the world as a government for a mid-sized city but they get the job done well enough. The Sovereign Prince addressed his legislators in a special speech and Council President Jean-François Robillon also said a few words. This was a special occasion as the Sovereign Prince only rarely visits the National  Council as he has little reason to. With so small a government it is not difficult keeping him well-informed, his presence is not required for the day-to-day business and the Prince gets a far better return on his time by acting as the ambassador-at-large for his little country. Once business in the chamber was concluded the Prince and Princess signed the (Golden) guestbook and then were treated to cocktails at a special reception held in their honor where they were able to talk to the Council members and civil officials one-on-one. It is truly remarkable (and I wish more would take the lesson) that Monaco requires only a relative handfull of politicians and one Sovereign Prince to operate one of the most efficient, well-governed and prosperous countries in the world. Personally, I think more countries could benefit from following their example.

Princess Charlene Shelters Children

HSH Princess Charlene of Monaco is making her mark on the principality. On Wednesday, along with HSH Prince Albert II, underneath their wedding portrait hanging on the wall, the Princess consort officially opened the first building in Monaco to bear her name, the "Princess Charlene Home for Children". The place will serve as a shelter for children going through troubled times at home. The Princess and the Sovereign Prince inspected the dorms, the recreation room and Princess Charlene even tested the fooseball table, everything designed to make the children staying there feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible during difficult times. There's nothing like unveiling a plaque to tell someone new they've really joined the royal club.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Princess Stephanie's Press Conference

Yesterday, HSH Princess Stephanie of Monaco teamed up with renowned footballer Pascal Olmeta for a press conference to discuss the upcoming charity football match to benefit AIDS victims. This will be the second Fight AIDS beach soccer event so far and some of the official sportswear for the game was displayed featuring the organizations involved in sponsoring the event, including Princess Stephanie's own charity Fight AIDS Monaco of course. A good game for a good cause.
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