Thursday, August 30, 2012

Working Holiday for the Princely Couple

As we see in this photo released by the Princely Palace, for any reigning monarch, there is work to attend to even during holidays. And the Princely Couple have been busy. After wrapping up the massive event that was the 2012 Summer Olympics, they stayed in London for the opening of the 2012 Paralympics. This was especially important for HSH Princess Charlene who was made the ambassador for the special olympics more than a year ago. However, even if she had not been, the promotion of athletics and athletics as a way of helping the disabled are huge priorities for her and have occupied a great deal of her official time since becoming Princess of Monaco. While in the area, Princess Charlene has also reached out to another one of her primary causes, children, by attending the reveal of a newly restored bus for children with disabilities, put out by the "Variety Club" for a primary school in Leeds, England. Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene attended the gala of this organization last September and seemed very pleased to be checking up on their progress.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Media Coverage of Princess Caroline

It is so fun when they get it wrong. Earlier this month, the tabloids were full of stories about poor, lonely Princess Caroline, forced to sail away on her own while all her children were gone. Andrea was with Tatiana, probably going over wedding plans, Pierre was out racing, Charlotte was with her (40 yr old) boyfriend in Los Angeles, California -oh the heartache! But, of course, none of it was true as a later crop of pictures clearly showed. The Caroline family vacation, sailing around the French island of Cosica on the family yacht, was missed by none. Princess Caroline even had a friend along it seems, Andrea and Tatiana were there, as were Charlotte and Gad, Pierre, little Alexandra and what looks like a friend of her's as well. The whole family, enjoying some time off together. This is what happens when the mags try to invent a story that isn't there -they end up with egg on their face.

Tatiana and Andrea. There have been rumors that Tatiana may be "with child" but I can't tell. One source cited her 'flowing' wardrobe as a sign but, as we all know, that common for Tatiana.

Princess Caroline, still looking cute as ever, walking the hot dogs before boarding.

Charlotte has a puff on the bow with her old man. If this works out, I want to see video of him calling Princess Caroline "Mom".

Pierre having a cold drink while Caroline's mystery man picks up in the background.

And just to show everyone really was there, here we see Princess Alexandra who looks oh-so-much like her mother in this shot. Anyway, she seems uninterested in what everyone else is looking at.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fun Facts About Monaco

Monaco is not large enough to have an airport (though everyone who is anyone has a private plane). Nearest thing is a shuttle service to the airport in Nice, France.

Monaco is 1.95 square kilometers in size -less than half a square mile.

The motto of Monaco and the Grimaldi family is “Deo Juvante” or ‘with God’s help’. It became so during the reign of Lord Lambert of Monaco in the fifteenth century.

The primary ethnic group in Monaco is not Monegasque but French. Roughly 47% of the population is French, the next largest groups being Italian and then British tax refugees.

Classes at the International University of Monaco (the only university in Monaco) are held exclusively in English.

The York bedroom in the Princely Palace was so named because the Duke of York, brother to King George III of Great Britain and Ireland, died there.

Monte Carlo is the only municipality in Monaco. Meaning “Mount Charles” it was named after HSH Prince Charles III.

Prior to 1861 Monaco was a protectorate of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia and the official language was Italian.

Lord Charles I of Monaco led a corps of Monegasque crossbowmen at the battle of Crecy alongside the French during the Hundred Years War with England.

Some 330,000 square meters of the ward of Fontvieille consists of land that was reclaimed from the Mediterranean Sea. Prior to that, the ground where the heliport and Louis II Stadium sits was under water.

Lord Jean II of Monaco was allegedly murdered by his brother Lucien after he threatened to sell Monaco to the Republic of Venice.

French is the official language of Monaco, not Monegasque though the native tongue is taught in schools. Monegasque is a Ligurian dialect, similar to that spoken in Genoa, Italy.

Lord Hercules I of Monaco, a noted ladies’ man, was supposedly murdered by a gang of irate husbands and fathers.

Lord Rainier II of England, allied with France, led a raiding fleet that sacked Portsmouth, Dartmouth and Plymouth, England.

Monaco has more policemen per person than any other country in the world. Crime is not a problem.

The longest-reigning monarch in Monegasque history was HSH Prince Honore III who reigned as Sovereign Prince of Monaco for 59 years and 73 days.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Princess Charlene Visits Grandma

HSH Princess Charlene of Monaco made a surprise visit to South Africa last Sunday to visit her grandmother, Sylvia Wittstock, on the occasion of her 91st birthday -quite an accomplishment. The spry South African said, "This is the best day of my life, I am 91 years old and I feel great!" It was a special family gathering at the Rynpark Old Age Home with Princess Charlene being joined by her parents Mike and Lynette and brothers Gareth and Saun. Princess Charlene had not seen her grandmother in some time and was very excited to make the trip. And, while in South Africa, the Princess was able to meet again with South African swimming sensation and now Gold medalist Olympian Chad Le Clos. Of the South African swim team she hosted in Monaco, Princess Charlene said, "I am very proud of them, especially Chad, I have known him since he was 11-years-old. They have made me proud."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Prince Albert on Royals at the Olympics

HSH Prince Albert II was in his element at the London Olympic games and he obviously had a great time, whether alongside Princess Charlene who cheered wildly for her native South Africa or among the crowd being cracked up by the Duchess of Cambridge. The Sovereign Prince made a point of saying how glad he was that so many members of the British Royal Family were on the scene for the Olympic games. As the Prince told an interviewer, "You see a very touching side to them that you probably wouldn't under other circumstances. That can only bring them closer to the people. I think it's wonderful that they are so involved, that they show such support to the British athletes and the Games themselves." The Sovereign Prince also admitted to getting very emotionally involved in some of the competitions, because of the personal stories of some of the athletes or because they are people the Prince knows well. Since he has competed himself in the Olympics, the Prince was asked about other royals or royal relatives being in competition and if, perhaps, they had an extra advantage in their family connections. An example raised was the team Silver medal won by the British equestrian team which includes Princess Royal Anne's daughter. Prince Albert was quick to dismiss any such notion, "Sport is the great leveler and there's no special treatment for anybody. You have to prove yourself. For Zara Phillips and her team-mates it's incredible."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Rainier I and the Franco-Flemish War

Lord Rainier I was renowned as a great sailor, particularly for his part in the victory of the English and Flemish fleet at the battle of Zierikzee. Long before that he had a reputation for naval excellence in the service of King Charles II of Anjou and against the Ghibellines. But what was the background of the conflict that brought him to his most celebrated victory? It started with a campaign that would have sounded familiar to Napoleon Bonaparte many centuries later. King Philippe IV of France had determined that the way to cripple the power of England was to cut her off from trade with the European continent. Toward this end he undertook a diplomatic campaign to effectively create a blockade of England. His efforts were quite successful with rulers from Sicily to the Baltic closing their ports to English ships. England was soon becoming more and more weakened and the formidable King Edward I determined that something had to be done about this. However, England was not much of a naval power in those days and Edward I realized that he needed an ally that was.

Flanders was the place the English king looked to. A trading people even then, the blockade of England had hurt the Flemish economy, making them more open to the idea of an alliance with England, and the Flemish were renowned sailors. In 1297 King Edward I and Count Guy of Flanders signed the Treaty of Bruges which granted a monopoly to English and Flemish ships on all trade between Europe and England. This did a great deal to save the situation of England but it took a toll on the French ports in the area, such as Calais and others, and King Philippe IV determined that war was the only answer. He would have to attack England and Flanders on the high seas to break their dominance of Channel trade and restore his proto-Continental system. To do that he would need good warships and a veteran naval warrior to command them and for that he turned to Lord Rainier I of Monaco from the House of Grimaldi which had served French royals so well in the past. Rainier I came with sixteen well-armed galleys to add to the twenty ships the King of France had available but these were poorly built and the crews not experienced. It was up to Rainier I to train them for serious combat and he took a 'hands on' approach, taking them in several small-scale raids against English ships to teach them the ways of naval warfare. This helped them gain the experience they would need to confront the more formidable Flemish ships.

When the fight came, both sides called on all available allies. France had the Count of Holland who contributed warships while on the English side help came, primarily from Flanders but also from Spain, Sweden and the Hanseatic League. France also, it seems, had an agent among the enemy fleet. As battle was first joined the Anglo-Flemish forces seemed to be getting the better of the Grimaldi admiral as the larger French ships tended to run aground in the shallow coastal waters. However, when the tides changed, the French galleys began to take a terrible toll on their enemies. Then, during the night, someone who was presumably an agent of France, cut the anchor cables of the Anglo-Flemish ships and they drifted out of formation and the next day Lord Rainier I had little trouble picking them off one at a time until the enemy fleet was totally destroyed. As a result the siege of Zierikzee was lifted, Guy of Flanders was captured and King Philippe IV led his army to victory against the Flemish at the battle of Mons-en-Pévèle on August 18, 1304. Not a bad contribution to history by the veteran sailor from Monaco.

Friday, August 10, 2012

President Hollande, Friend of Monaco

As most probably know there was recently a new President of the French Fifth Republic elected, the socialist candidate Francois Hollande. Governments struggling to cope with the massive debt crisis in Europe have learned one thing: people like their benefits and don't like austerity measures that would cut back state expenditures. So, Francois Hollande swept to victory on a platform of more government spending instead of less and higher taxes to pay for it all. So, no cut backs but an increase to a 45% tax rate on incomes from 72,000 to 1 million euros and, this is the big one, a 75% tax rate on anyone making over a million euros. The campaign of Hollande was largely based on class resentment of the rich and the promise to make the wealthy "pay their fair share" (something which should sound very familiar to Americans). Of course, compared to the United States, income taxes in France were already extremely high on the wealthy (movie star Will Smith was aghast when told the rate in a French interview) and many well off French citizens have been leaving their republic for some time because of that. This is how President Hollande is a friend of Monaco.

Law firms in France have been flooded with calls since the election of Hollande from high-earners wondering if they should join the exodus and flee French taxes. Lawyer Vincent Grandil said that not all of these are people one would usually think of as the "wealthy elite", "Even young, dynamic people pulling in 200,000 euros are wondering whether to remain in a country where making money is not considered a good thing". High-income citizens have already been looking for ways to shift their income around and more and more are or are planning to leave France completely. Where do they go? Well, of course, the beautiful, sunny Principality of Monaco right on their southern coast with no income taxes is a very popular destination and, of course, Monaco is happy to have them. Being the second-smallest country in the world, Monaco, cannot, of course, accomodate everyone and in the past France has used her influence to obtain agreements with Monaco to avoid French people relocating there to avoid taxes. However, long ago Monaco adopted the policy that having a wealthy population is a good thing and while other countries, like France, impose tax penalties on the rich, Monaco has worked to welcome them to the principality. If not Monaco though, perhaps the wealthy French will sail their yachts to Florida or Texas or some other place with a comparitively miniscule tax on their earnings.

In any event, it is an interesting contrast between France and Monaco. The two countries, simply by being so close together and having such a long history of close association, have a great deal in common. Yet, one is a (very republican) republic with very high taxes on the wealthy while the other is a monarchy (where the monarch still has the last word) with very low taxes for everyone and a more pro-investment environment. Students of economic systems could find a great deal to learn in studying these two very different systems in such close proximity and how each country prospers under the system they have.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Princess Charlene Cheers South Africa to Victory

The South African swim team had a very good showing at these Olympic games with Chad le Clos becoming an international star for his accomplishments which included beating the record-holding Michael Phelps of the USA by 0.2 seconds in one race. The South African swimmers have earned two gold medals and one silver medal and, through it all, no one was cheering harder for them than HSH Princess Charlene of Monaco who donated training facilities to her countrymen for their preparations for the Olympics and who has been giving them moral support every step of the way. Perhaps even a little advice from someone who is herself a veteran Olympic swimmer. The Princess consort was very emotionally involved and could not help shedding a few tears at the moment of triumph when the South African national anthem was played at the gold medal ceremony.

Team South Africa was very appreciative of all the help and support Princess Charlene gave them. In an interview, head coach Graham Hill said that the assistance of Princess Charlene and their stay in Monaco had really helped build up the confidence of the team and was very grateful for the hospitality Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene had shown to them. The team psychologist even went so far as to say that the moral support of Princess Charlene, with her experience as an Olympic swimmer, had been the key to their success, citing her presence at the pool during their training, always encouraging them and helping to keep them calm and focused as well as her moral support at the games themselves. The Princess took the time to talk to the swimmers, lift their spirits and give them the reassurance that only a veteran can. In addition to providing for their training and stay in Monaco, the Princess also took care of many other minor things for them and also helped make sure they enjoyed their stay in Monaco and have some fun while in the principality. It is great that Princess Charlene was able to be such a help to Team South Africa and it is great to see how much they appreciated it. Long live the Princess!

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Great War Begins

It was during this week in 1914 that the "guns of August" were heard, marking the start of the First World War as German troops marched into Belgium and France. The conflict, thankfully, would not touch Monaco directly but the Principality and moreso the House of Grimaldi played a part in the conflict. As we have discussed before, HSH Prince Albert I was a good friend of the German Kaiser Wilhelm II. The two had very different characters to be sure, but both shared a love of hunting, archaeology and most of all a love of the sea and sailing. In fact, the Prince was with the Kaiser on his yacht when the German monarch first learned of the murder of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Prince Albert I, after serving in the Franco-Prussian War, became a pacifist and he did his best to try to prevent World War I from starting by trying to get the main players together to talk out their differences -something which is hard to say would not have worked since there really wasn't much motivation for going to war in the first place. Everyone was going to war because everyone else was. The only people who did not have any choice in the matter were the French and the Belgians; they went to war because they were attacked, though even the French were far from innocent in the whole affair as they had been pushing the Russians to intervene in what had been a localized Austro-Serbian conflict. Prince Albert was very distressed that his peace efforts were rejected but he still did all he could to minimize the damage. His personal appeals to the Kaiser are credited with saving the French towns of Sissonne and Marchais from total destruction.

Prince Louis II
The outbreak of war was particularly painful for Prince Albert I because Monaco had always been very close to France and by his mother the Prince of Monaco was half Belgian. He was pained by what happened to France and Belgium but was simply heartbroken at the tremendous waste of the entire conflict, for all those involved. He allowed the Principality of Monaco to be used freely by the Allied powers to send wounded soldiers to recover and relax but he wanted no part in the actual conduct of the war. This almost brought him into conflict with his son and heir Prince Louis, a veteran of the French army who was determined to rejoin and serve at the front. Prince Albert wanted no part in causing any harm to anyone and did not really want his son to either, however, he came to understand the point of view of Prince Louis who felt that if he did not go to the front he would be letting down all of his friends and comrades in the French army he had trained and served with. He allowed him to go and Prince Louis proved to be a great soldier, upholding the reputation of his family going back to the Hundred Years War and before. When peace came, Prince Albert breathed a sigh of relief but although Monaco had been untouched by the fighting, it was not unaffected by it.

In those days the gaming industry was the primary source of income for the principality and the customer base was almost exclusively the wealthy aristocrats and minor royals of Europe. World War I brought business to a halt and after the war most of the great noble and royal houses who had frequented Monte Carlo were either destitute or had been overthrown. It would also not be long until another world war broke out that would see Monaco occupied and bombed. Prince Albert I had never been fond of the gaming industry himself but tolerated it as something necessary. It would be left to his son, Prince Louis II and even more so his successor Prince Rainier III, to see the Monegasque economy fully recovered and diversified to prevent such hard times in the future.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Red Cross Ball 2012

Yesterday evening TSH Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene attended the Red Cross Ball, one of the most anticipated annual events in the Principality of Monaco. The German band "Scorpions" provided the entertainment which was finished off in the evening by Boy George acting as DJ.

(left to right) Jean-Leonard Taubert-Natta de Massy, HSH Princess Charlene, HSH the Sovereign Prince, Baronness Elisabeth-Anne de Massy, Melanie-Antoinette de Massy, Gareth Wittstock (brother of Princess Charlene) and his girlfriend  Roysin Galvin.
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