Daily life in Monaco is stable, reassured and dependable. But in 1856, the Principality was in a state of crisis. Prince Honoré V had died unexpectedly, leaving the throne to his brother, Florestan I, who had never been prepared for the role of ruler.
Instead of studying power and governance, Prince Florestan studied theatre and was considered quite the performer. Needless to say, he didn’t turn out to be the greatest Sovereign. Monaco lost a great deal of its wealth with Florestan at the helm, mainly from the demands of Menton and Roquebrune to become independent.
In this climate of uncertainty, Prince Florestan met an untimely death as well. With his son set to take the throne, a member of the Grimaldi family in Cagnes protested the choice, insisting that he was more suited for the throne, as his family tree was an unbroken chain of Grimaldi since the 12th century—long before that of Florestan’s successor, Charles III. He detailed in his claim that Charles’ position came because of a marriage in 1715 between Baron Jacques Goyon-Matignon and Princess Louise Grimaldi.
There is a rule in the House of Grimaldi, that the reigning monarch bear the Grimaldi name. Both Prince Honoré V and Florestan I held the throne through their mother, meaning that his surname was changed to Grimaldi in order to hold the throne. This fact must have given the claimant an extra vote confidence and authenticity.
The claimant even went so far as to publish pamphlets with the surprisingly brief title:
“Protestation by the only and venerable prince of Monaco (Charles-Louis-Henri-Maxence, marquis de Grimaldi d’Antibes, marquis de Cagnes, etc.) against the fake prince of Monaco (Charles Goyon de Matignon); Call for public opinion at S.M. le roi de Sardaigne, protector of the Principality of Monaco, and the great power of Europe.”
But nothing came of his grand ‘protestation.’ In the end, it was Florestan’s son who took the throne, and Charles III has gone down in history as a brilliant prince and leader. He reigned for nearly forty years, from 1856 until his death in 1889. Known for many changes to the Principality, notably the official cessation of Menton and Roquebrune (nearly 80% of Monaco’s territory), which helped lead the way to official recognition of Independence from France.
He opened up diplomatic relations with other nations, increased trade and also created the area known today as Monte-Carlo (meaning ‘Mount Charles’ in Italian). The Monte-Carlo Casino was established by Charles III, creating the greatest source of wealth for the country in the last century.
His son, Albert I, succeeded him to the throne, creating the family lineage we are most familiar with today. This year marks the 150th anniversary of his reign, and June of this year, Monaco minted 15,000 coins of Prince Charles III to commemorate the occasion. The next time you pay with a €2 coin, check to see if Charles is there, too.
Source: Monaco Matin