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Prince Jacques I of Monaco: Prior Owner of Matignon, the French Prime Minister’s Residence in Paris

You may wonder what is the link between the Princes of Monaco and Matignon, the French Prime Minister’s residence in Paris. And why does the Prince of Monaco also have the title Sire of Matignon. It all goes back to the first decades of the 1700s when the Grimaldi Prince, Antoine I of Monaco had no male heirs in line to the throne and sought a husband for his daughter Princess Louise-Hippolyte of Monaco who would become hereditary sovereign of Monaco.

Jacques I Monaco
Prince Jacques I @

One of the noble families of France were the Matignons of Brittany and it was Jacques Francois Leonor Goyon de Matignon who eventually became the principal suitor of Princess Louise-Hippolyte. There were advantages in this match – a noble suitor whose name could be subordinated to the desired Grimaldi identity for the ruling family. Jacques himself saw advantages in carrying the Grimaldi name. There was opposition to the proposed marriage from many members of the Grimaldi family, including the Grimaldi of Antibes, who saw a potential dilution of Grimaldi power if Princess Louise-Hippolyte would not be strong enough to keep Jacques in check.

Nevertheless, against all this opposition the marriage took place on October 20, 1715.  It was not a happy marriage. Jacques liked his life in Versailles where he had numerous mistresses. He never bonded with Monaco.  Princess Louise-Hippolyte herself was always suspicious of his real motives. The marriage pleased the King of France, however, who saw Jacques as a potential pawn and ally of France – his man in Monaco as it were. Furthermore, Jacques secured his place in the Grimaldi Family by the marriage to Prince Antoine I’s  daughter and by fathering nine children with her over the ensuing years. One of these children Honore would later be a Prince of Monaco.

Jacques I Monaco
© Service photographique de Matignon

Everything was reasonably tranquil while Prince Antoine I was still alive and reigned in Monaco. Jacques’ absence in Versailles was tolerated by Monegasques who never took to him, anyway, as they would never accept him as a genuine Grimaldi even though he had adopted the Grimaldi name. It was only in 1731 when Antoine dies that the history livens up.

Jacques returns from Paris and claims his place as Prince Sovereign consort to Princess Louise-Hippolyte of Monaco who is beloved by her subjects and welcomed as hereditary sovereign. Jacques is distrusted both by Louise-Hippolyte and the Monegasques who see him as an arrogant social climber from minor nobility. Jacques perceives himself as a ruler even though Louise-Hippolyte is legally sovereign.

Jacques I and Matignon
Jacques I and Matignon © Service photographique de Matignon

Things heat up, when only eleven months into her reign Princess Louise-Hippolyte dies of smallpox and Prince Jacques I becomes the ruler. Jacques I was then able to assume total control of Monaco and was welcomed as the Sovereign Prince of Monaco by the King of France. However, his reign would not be an uncontested one even after the death of Louise-Hippolyte. Her sister Princess Margaret d’Isenghien put up a fierce fight and waged a conspiracy against Jacques on the grounds that Monegasques had always been ruled by Grimaldis and would refuse to acknowledge any other dynasty. Disliked, Jacques is referred to as Prince Matignon. To deal with this Jacques appointed the Chevalier de Grimaldi (an illegitimate son of Antoine I) to be Governor of Monaco who proved to be a very capable administrator. It could hardly not have been an improvement over Prince Jacques who never showed much enthusiasm for Monegasque affairs and was generally detested. He preferred the opulence and dilettante lifestyle of the French court to the serious work of governing his little Principality. Finally, with public opposition to him showing no signs of abating he left Monaco in May of 1732 and a year later abdicated in favour of his son Prince Honore III.

The new Sovereign Prince was just 14 but with the experienced Chevalier competently running things the country was in expert hands with excellent prospects for the future. Prince Jacques returned to his favoured mistresses in Versailles and Paris where he spent the rest of his days before his passing away on April 23, 1751. His residence in Paris, the Hotel Matignon, which was bequeathed to him by his father, is today the official residence of the French prime minister.

Matignon red room
Matignon red room @ © Service photographique de Matignon

With Prince Honore III on the throne in Monaco, and with the Grimaldi blood flowing through his veins via his mother Louise-Hippolyte, the legacy brought by the Matignon family to the Principality became locked in place and the title Sire of Matignon lost its negative connotation.

As for Hotel Matignon in Paris, after the death of Jacques, his children and heirs being Grimaldis, this delightful little Parisian Palace stayed in the Grimaldi Family for another 80 years until they sold it to Talleyrand in 1808. Then it found its way back into the France’s state institutions in 1922 and has become the official residence of the Prime Minister of France. A leaflet on the history of the Matignon Hotel published by the Prime Minister’s services reminds us that Jacques I preferred to live there rather than on his Monegasque lands.

Matignon Blue room
Matignon Blue room © Service photographique de Matignon

Three salons in Matignon keep the memory of the princes and princesses of Monaco:

The current “Red Room” is the former throne room of the princes of Monaco.

The “Yellow Room” served as a parade chamber for the Princesses of Monaco.

As for the “Blue Room” it was the “golden cabinet” of the princes of Monaco.

As an art lover, Jacques I had collected paintings by Rembrandt, Brueghel, Caravaggio, Correggio, and Titian. They were unfortunately scattered during the French Revolution, after the death of his son, Prince Honoré III.

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