Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Convenient Child of Monaco: Charlotte Louise Juliette Grimaldi

Charlotte Louise Juliette Grimaldi was born 30 September 1898 and was the daughter of Louis II, Prince of Monaco, and the mother of Prince Rainier III. She was the only child and illegitimate daughter of HSH Prince Louis II of Monaco.

She was born in Algeria, the daughter of a prince and cabaret singer, Marie Juliette Louvet. Due to Monaco’s constution at the time of her birth, Monaco was due to pass to her father’s cousin, Prince Wilhelm of Urach, Count of Württemberg, 2nd Duke of Urach upon his death. To prevent this, on 15 May 1911, when Charlotte Louvet was only twelve years old, a law was passed recognizing Charlotte as Louis's daughter, and making her a member of the sovereign family. Though it was later held to be invalid under the 1882 statutes, an Ordinance of 30 October 1918 allowed her to be adopted. Louis legitimated and adopted Charlotte in Paris on 16 May 1919, when she was twenty years old, bestowing on her the surname Grimaldi and granted her the title Duchess of Valentinois for life; she was thus his heir presumptive as Hereditary Princess from 1922 until 30 May 1944.

She was so admired by her father, that when she was just four years old, he had construction of the Villa Charlotte, of which was often used for visits from Jacques Foccart, a former Secretary General of the Elysee to African and Malagasy Affairs from 1960 to 1974. Very close to General De Gaulle, it stayed there often to receive the heads of African states and at the end of his life to write his memoirs.

Some still questioned the legality of the adoption (which seems all the more absurd when Charlotte was the natural daughter of Louis II and according to the Prince never illegitimate in the first place) because of age requirements for adoption in the Monegasque legal code.Nonetheless, Louis II was sovereign prince and as far as he was concerned the whole issue was settled and his daughter would be his successor. Moreover, by that time, the family was already growing larger.

On the 18th of March 1920, her father arranged for her to marry Pierre de Polignac of Guidel, Morbihan, Brittany, France who, by the Prince's ordinance, took the surname Grimaldi and became a Prince of Monaco. It was from that day forward she was known as:
Princess Charlotte, Herditary Princess of Monaco, Duchess of Valentinois, Countess of Polignac
Princess Charlotte and Prince Pierre went on to have two children:

Princess Antoinette Louise Alberte Suzanne of Monaco in Paris, France on 28 December 1920.
Prince Rainier Louis Henri Maxance Bertrand of Monaco in Monaco on 31 May 1923.

Their marriage was said to be unhappy, and they separated on 20 March 1930 when Charlotte left him to live with her Italian lover, Del Masso the year her mother, Marie Juliette Louvet, died. The couple was divorced on 18 February 1933 by ordinance of Prince Louis II. Princess Charlotte continued to appear at social functions and did charity work. It was during this time that she began to realize that a divorced woman who's legitimacy was controversial that it would be best for her to step aside as Heir to a Catholic throne in her turn. On the even of her only son's 21st birthday in May of 1944, with her father's full support, she renounced her rights to the throne of Monaco in his favor.

After Princess Charlotte rather gracefully bowed out of the monarchy, she went to college to become a social worker, and remained close to her two children.

In May of 1949, Princess Charlotte's father Prince Louis died and her son became Sovereign Prince of Monaco. Upon his death, Princess Charlotte moved to the Grimaldi estate outside of Paris, Le Marchasis. Her two children were concerned for their mother's safety there as she had turned the Grimaldi estate into a rehabilitation center for ex-convicts. Her good deeds were judged too dangerous by many and especially so when she became very close to one of her “patients” a former jewel thief named Rene Girier or “Rene the Cane”. There were even rumors that he practiced his trade on some of the guests at the wedding of Rainier III and Princess Grace. Princess Charlotte did not always see eye-to-eye with Princess Grace but adored her grandchildren and left her famous jewelry collection to Princess Caroline who bears a striking resemblance to her grandmother. The long and tumultuous life of Princess Charlotte of Monaco came to an end on the night of November 15/16 1977 in Paris, France. She was survived by her two children, a daughter-in-law, six grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren. Her great-granddaughter, Charlotte Casiraghi is named in her honor.

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