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Albert I, Prince of Monaco

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Albert I of Monaco

Albert I (November 13, 1848June 26, 1922), Reigning Prince of Monaco from September 10, 1889June 26, 1922).

Contents

Early life

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

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. 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.

In addition to his interest in oceanographic studies, Albert had an 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. In 1920, the "American Academy of Science" awarded Prince Albert its gold medal for his achievements.

Despite his heroic military service, 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, Monaco declared its neutrality but in fact provided the Allied forces with hospitals, convalescent centers, and soldiers, including Prince Albert's own son, Louis II.

Marriages

On September 21, 1869, 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. Within a year of their marriage, the couple's only child, Louis was born, but the strong-willed 19-year-old Scots girl disliked Monaco and everything about it. Shortly thereafter, she left Monaco permanently and the marriage was annulled in 1880. 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 who would later become a companion of her cousin Rainier III of Monaco.

Accession

On September 10, 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, 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.

Late life

On January 5, 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.

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

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