Albert I, Prince of Monaco

Albert I, Prince of Monaco (13 November 1848 – 26 June 1922) was the reigning Prince of Monaco from 10 September 1889 until his death.

Early life

Born Albert Honoré Charles Grimaldi on 13 November 1848 in Paris, France, the son of Prince Charles III (1818-1889), and Countess Antoinette de Mérode-Westerloo (1828-1864), a Belgan noblewoman.

As a young man, Prince Albert served in the Spanish Navy, but during the Franco-Prussian War, he joined the French Navy where he was awarded the Legion of Honor. He was only 22 years old when he began to develop an interest in the then relatively new science of oceanography. After several years of study, Albert showed his ingenuity by devising a number of techniques and instruments used for measurement and exploration (http://www.bookmine.org). Accompanied by some of the world's leading marine scientists, he recorded numerous oceanographic studies, maps and charts. He then founded what would become the world renowned "Oceanographic Institute" in Monaco that included an aquarium, a museum, and a library plus research facilities in Paris. He also discovered the Princess Alice Bank of the Azores in 1896 on an oceanographic survey of the area.

In addition to his interest in oceanographic studies, Albert had a keen interest in the origins of man and in Paris, he founded the "Institute for Human Paleontology" that was responsible for a number of archeological digs. Albert's intellectual achievements gained him worldwide recognition and in 1909, the "British Academy of Science" made him a member.

Marriages

On 21 September 1869 at the Château de Marchais (which is still in the possession of the Grimaldi family today) in Champagne, Prince Albert was married to Lady Mary Victoria Hamilton (1850-1922), of Lanarkshire, Scotland, a daughter of the 11th Duke of Hamilton and his Royal wife, Princess Marie of Baden. The couple met for the first time in August 1869 at a ball hosted by the Emperor and Empress of France, and their marriage had been arranged by Albert's grandmother Caroline.

Caroline had tried to make a marital match between Albert and Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, the first cousin of Queen Victoria and future mother of Britain’s Queen Mary, but to no avail. The failure did not dissuade Caroline from her goal, and it was to this end that she sought the help of the French Emperor Napoléon III (Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte) and his wife, Empress Eugénie.

The Emperor managed to convince Caroline that Queen Victoria was unlikely to allow one of her family members to marry a Grimaldi. The Emperor then suggested Mary, his third cousin and sister of his good friend, the 12th Duke of Hamilton, as a suitable alternative. As the daughter of a Scottish duke, Mary may not have been Royalty, but her family was sufficiently rich, well-connected, and related by blood to the French Imperial family through her maternal grandmother Stéphanie de Beauharnais, Emperor Napoléon I's adopted daughter and second cousin of Emperor Napoléon III's mother. [ [http://www.etoile.co.uk/Columns/RoyalScribe/050411.html The Royal Scribe ] at www.etoile.co.uk]

Within a year of their marriage, the couple's only child (Louis) was born, but the strong-willed 19-year-old Scots Mary disliked Monaco and everything about it. Shortly thereafter, she left Monaco permanently and the marriage was annulled in 28 July 1880 although a special provision was made by the Vatican that allowed for their son Louis to remain legitimate. That same year, the former Princess of Monaco married in Florence, Italy, as her second husband, a Hungarian nobleman, Tassilo, Prince Festetics von Tolna, 1850-1933. They had a daughter, Maria, who would become the paternal grandmother of the fashion designer Egon von Fürstenberg and his sister Ira von Fürstenberg, a European B-movie actress.

Accession

On 10 September 1889, Albert ascended to the throne of Monaco on the death of his father and that same year he married the Dowager Duchess de Richelieu, née Marie Alice Heine (1858-1925). An American, the daughter of a New Orleans, Louisiana building contractor of German-Jewish descent, Alice Heine had married the Duc de Richelieu, but had been widowed by age 21, with a young son, Armand. Her relationship and marriage to Prince Albert proved an equal blessing for him and the tiny principality of Monaco. To the marriage, she brought a strong business acumen, showing an understanding far beyond her years. Having helped put her husband's principality on a sound financial footing, she would devote her energies to making Monaco one of Europe's great cultural centers with its Opera, theater, and the Ballet under the direction of the famed Russian impresario, Serge Diaghilev.

Despite the initial success of Prince Albert and Princess Alice, in 1902, this marriage too ended. This was due to the Princess's affair with the composer Isidore de Lara, a liaison that resulted in the Princess publicly being slapped in the face by her husband during an evening at the Opera. The couple separated, but never divorced. Courtesan Caroline Otero, La Belle Otero, who had been a part-time lover of the prince between 1893 and 1897, recalled Albert fondly in her memoires and claimed that he wasn't a virile man and suffered from erection difficulty. Princess Alice had La Belle Otero banned from the province in 1897 for being seen with her husband.

Late life

On 5 January 1911, Prince Albert I granted Monaco a Constitution, but the document had little real meaning in terms of reducing autocratic rule and was soon suspended by the Prince when World War I broke out. Also in 1911, Prince Albert was responsible for the creation of the Monte Carlo Rally, an automobile race designed to draw tourists to Monaco and the Casino.

Despite his military service -- or perhaps because of it, the Prince became a pacifist, establishing the International Institute of Peace in Monaco as a place to develop a peaceful settlement to conflict through arbitration. In the tension-filled times leading up to World War I, Prince Albert made numerous attempts to dissuade Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II from war.

When war came, Prince Albert could not avoid becoming involved. In one incident, he even wrote personally to the Kaiser in an effort to ameliorate the consequences of Gen. Karl von Bülow's wrath. Without the Prince's intervention, the Alsatian villages of Sissonne and Marchais would have been destroyed. [http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=990CE0DF153AE633A25751C0A9679D946596D6CF "Prince of Monaco Rebukes Kaiser; This Is How a Prussian General Treats a Friend of Germany, He Writes of Levy on His Chateau; Offers Fine to Emperor; Willing to Pay Direct After the War if Home is Saved; Gives Copies of Letters to Whitney Warren,"] "New York Times." November 2, 1914.] In the "Great War to End All Wars," Monaco declared its neutrality, but in fact, provided the Allied forces with hospitals, convalescent centers, and soldiers, including Prince Albert's only son, Louis.

In 1920, the "American Academy of Science" awarded Prince Albert its gold medal for his achievements.

The Explorers Club elected Albert I to its highest category of membership -- Honorary Member -- in 1921.

Prince Albert I of Monaco died on 26 June 1922 in Paris, France and was succeeded by his son, Louis II.

Philately

Albert I constituted a collection of postage stamps that was later continued by Louis II and finally remain part of the postal museum Rainier III created in 1950.

Honors

* Knight of the Black Eagle, German Empire. [see above] ]

Notes

External links

* [http://www.geocities.com/henrivanoene/royalmonaco.html A list of the Reigning Princes since 1731]

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