Just back from Philadelphia and New York, H.S.H. Prince Albert welcomed us in his ceremonial chambers. Following the enormous success of the Gala Ocean, the Monegasque sovereign kindly accepted answering HelloMonaco questions. The interview was held in an exceptional place populated with rare objects, master paintings and souvenirs. It had a truly warm and sincere vibe to it thanks to the Prince who, just like his mother, knows how to listen to people not only with his mind, but also with his heart.
Hello Monaco: You are just back from Philadelphia. It must have been a touching moment, going back to your mother’s house…
Prince Albert: My cousins help me a lot in its restoration and maintenance. Thanks to a collection of photos, articles and documents it was refurnished and revived in the spirit of Princess Grace. We didn’t manage to find the same exact objects. It was not our goal anyway. We just wanted my grandparents’ house to look nice again as it used to be in quite a lamentable state. Our intention, however, was not to make it a museum.
HM: Would it still be available for a visit?
Prince Albert: Yes, in small groups. This house is mostly designed to host seminars and colloquiums. A few events have already been held by the Irish library. My cousin is an associate professor at the Irish Literature and Art Department, University of Villanova, in charge of symposiums. This house also serves as headquarters for my foundation’s American branch.
HM: Could you tell us about your mother? She is known to be a woman exceptional in every way. Do you have any remarkable memories that you could share with us?
Prince Albert: My mother was so considerate… She gave so much love to us, her children, but she was also very caring with others. My mother truly had a big heart, a lot of empathy and a kind word for everyone. It’s amazing how much she reached the hearts of so many people around the world, even in countries she had never been to. Australia, for example. Two exhibitions have been held there, with a record attendance.
HM: Could you say that your mother was a mother like any other?
Prince Albert: She specially strived for us to have the most normal family life possible, with our own moments of great intimacy and joy. She sometimes cooked our meals…
HM: What tasty dishes did she treat you to?
Prince Albert: Very simple things like grills and pasta. But most importantly, it was family time with no staff around, just our small circle.
HM: Has she ever been strict?
Prince Albert: I would not say she was strict, but she knew how to set limits when needed. She hardly ever had to raise her voice. There were moments, however, when we had to be quieter or silent, calmed down a little. But I’ve never felt she was too severe.
HM: Your father must have been more so…
Prince Albert: Yes, a little bit. He knew how to inspire awe in his children, but he also had an extremely warm side to himself.
HM: Do you remember any of the gifts you made to your mom for her birthday or Mother’s Day?
Prince Albert: I have a very good recollection of drawings and paintings that I made as a child.
HM: What were ultimately the most important things in her relations with children? Could it be just making you happy…
Prince Albert: Yes, absolutely, but also making sure we were in good health and our privacy not overly invaded…
HM: By the paparazzi?
Prince Albert: It was mostly my sisters who suffered from them. I was a bit less of an interest.
HM: Were you aware as a child of an absolutely unique radiance your mother conveyed?
Prince Albert: We were occasionally aware of it… We did fully realize it later on. For us, she was our mother. We obviously knew that she played in films, that she used to be an actress…
HM: Could you name three things that she particularly enjoyed? In terms of leisure, works of art, music…
Prince Albert: She liked reading books in English, but also in French. You know, she did speak French even before she got married. She was also into knitting blankets, scarves… She once knitted a blue and red sweater for me.
HM: Do you still have it?
Prince Albert: It must be somewhere, but I wouldn’t be able to squeeze my one arm into it… Oh yes! She also made hundreds of dried flower paintings. She loved it.
HM: What qualities did she pass on to you? When making an important decision as a Head of State, do you sometimes wonder what the Princess would have done on such an occasion?
Prince Albert: Yes I do. I also think of my father and wonder what he would have done in respect to certain delicate matters. As to my mother, most importantly she passed on the necessity of not just listening to people with my mind, but with my heart as well. Trying to understand the context, always seeing both sides of things… In a complicated situation, making an effort to listen to both parties.
HM: Do you use her methods, if one can speak of a method, in educating your own children?
Prince Albert: Of course! She has surrounded us with so much affection! I am trying to give as much time as possible to my children, despite my constraints and obligations. I believe that if you surround your children with love, it will help them grow in the most harmonious way.
HM: Sorry to be moving to quite a different subject… A very alarming report on our planet has just been released. You are a very committed supporter of the preservation of our seas and oceans. Do you have any new projects in this field?
Prince Albert: We were very pleased to host the 51st meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in Monaco. The Principality, my foundation and other countries that have supported us had specifically requested this report establishing a connection between the oceans and climate change. It was highly anticipated and helped in influencing public opinion.
HM: There are still people who deny the obvious…
Prince Albert: For me it is incomprehensible. 98 % of scientists cannot be wrong! Why would the scientific community hide things from us or falsify the results? We have to listen to the researchers and try to mitigate the effects of climate change as much as possible. We are already getting wake-up calls and it is only going to get worse. So we have to change our ways.
HM: Is the Principality taking any measures in this field?
Prince Albert: We have been taking action for a very long time. We have quite ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse emissions. We are aiming at a 50 % reduction by 2030 and hoping to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. We are on the right track, these emissions have already been reduced by about 20 %…
HM: You set an example… But some people would say that it is easier to do in a small state…
Prince Albert: All the big cities have the same problems. It’s the scale that is different. If we can do it, it can be done elsewhere.
HM: Speaking along these lines, you have tried banning the consumption and overfishing of bluefin tuna in the Principality…
Prince Albert: We wanted to put bluefin tuna on the endangered species list. We did not succeed in that, but our efforts had their effect since we obtained a reduction in fishing quotas. This allowed the bluefin tuna population in the Mediterranean to rebound. It is now out of danger. We have now authorized its consumption in the Principality, although we must remain cautious.
HM: Do you have other goals in this field?
Prince Albert: We are also working on increasing protected marine areas in the Mediterranean; our goal is to cover 10 % of the ocean surface. We are currently at 6 % and some scientists are recommending aiming at 30 %. I am not sure that it can be achieved.
HM: I met you in Roure where forest protection was debated…
Prince Albert: Yes, of course. We are also fighting against deforestation, it is part of our environment.
HM: You must be revolted by what is happening with Amazonian forests…
Prince Albert: It’s terrible… There need to be so many actions taken. Several countries are affected by intensive agriculture and grain production to feed livestock. The demand for beef is so high… But we can’t carry on like that and massacre this forest at a rate of a football field per day!
HM: Do you advocate a meat-free diet?
Prince Albert: I consume a lot less meat, for health reasons among others. Eating red meat more than once every ten days seems excessive.
HM: Do you eat organic food?
Prince Albert: As much as possible…