To mark the end of commemorations celebrating the centenary of the death of Prince Albert I, which took place throughout 2022, the Annales monégasques are publishing part one of the proceedings of the symposium entitled Careers of a Prince. The Life and Lands of Albert I of Monaco (1848-1922), held in Monaco on 24 and 25 September.
The first theme, Sports and Outdoor Life, features a richly illustrated monograph that highlights the pioneering nature of Prince Albert’s motorcycling exploits. Between 1903 and 1905, he crossed France several times, travelling between Monaco and Paris on a Humber Beeston motorcycle. His autobiographical journal tells a fascinating, precious, previously unseen story of the early days of motorcycling during the Belle Epoque, when the practice was still somewhat perilous. Hunting, another of the Prince’s favourite sporting pastimes, merited an in-depth study. The numerous documents available paint a picture of a man who favoured a sensible and rational approach to hunting, indicating that Albert I was somewhat ahead of his time, anticipating contemporary debate on the issue.
On the theme of Politics and Power, an article looks at one of the momentous events that marked the young Prince Albert I, namely the funeral of Victor Hugo, which took place on 2 June 1885. In a letter to his father, the Prince related what he had seen, incognito amid a vast crowd. His admiring and respectful account is close to the spirit of reports carried in the moderate press.
The theme of the Prince’s International Reach and Commitments is covered by three articles. The first looks at the Princely paradoxes around colonialism. Albert I’s stated opposition to colonialism was belied by his investments in a colonial business in Mozambique (the Madal company), and his faith in colonial arrangements between powers as a way of keeping the peace. The second article examines his meeting with Mirza Riza Khan, an Iranian diplomat and pacifist who was his country’s first delegate at the League of Nations and the First Hague Peace Conference. His move to Monaco, in 1910, to live in the Villa Ispahan, forged a cultural connection between East and West. The third topic covered is Monaco’s contribution, made at the Prince’s behest, to the treatment and convalescent care of wounded allied soldiers during the First World War, in temporary hospitals and convalescent homes set up in the Principality.
The theme Scientific Life and Work also includes three articles. The first shows how, although Prince Albert I is known for his work in the field of prehistoric research, he also took a close interest in the anthropology of modern mankind, and later supported research into human fossils. This little-known aspect of the Prince’s work provides an insight into his intellectual frame of reference, and helps to explain some of his scientific and philosophical choices. The next topic concerns the Prince of Monaco’s contribution to issues of marine security and the preservation of fish stocks, at a time when shared resources such as the ocean were the subject of diplomatic negotiations. Finally, a study looks at the Prince’s role, as a member from 1885, with the Société de géographie de Paris, the oldest geographical society in the world.
The last theme, Artistic Culture and Patronage, looks at the creation on 7 February 1907 at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo - which is to say, in a monarchy - of the opera Thérèse by Jules Massenet, which takes place at the time of the French Revolution. The creation of this opera offers insights into Albert I’s political and artistic sensibilities. The final article attempts to paint a portrait of the “elusive” Princess Alice of Monaco, the Prince’s second wife, as seen through the eyes of her contemporaries. Beloved, adored, celebrated, envied, and sometimes hated, she promoted the cultural life of the Principality for fifteen years.