Charles Wentworth Dilke.

The fall of Prince Florestan of Monaco online

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The fall of Prince^ Flo res tan of Monaco^

THlke, Sir Charles Wentworth, bart.

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91 I H *
Ji JiiA




I AM Prince Florestan of Wurtemberg, born
in 1850, and consequently now of the mature
age of twenty -four. I might call myself
"FLORESTAN II." but I think it better taste for
a dethroned prince, especially when he happens
to be a republican, to resume the name that
is in reality his own.

Although the events which I am about to
relate occurred this winter, so little is known in
England of the affairs of the Ex-principality of


Monaco, now forming the French commune of
that name, that I feel that the details of my
story, indeed all but the bare facts on which it
is grounded, will be news to English readers.
The English Post Office believes that Monaco
forms part of Italy, and the general election
extinguished the telegrams that arrived from
France in February last.

All who follow continental politics are aware
that the Prince Charles Honore, known as Charles
III. of Monaco, and also called on account of
his infirmity "the blind prince/' was the ruling
potentate of Monaco during the last gambling
season ; that there lived with him his mother,
the dowager princess ; that he was a widower
with one son, Prince Albert, Due de Valentinois,
heir apparent to the throne ; that the latter had
by his marriage with the Princess Marie of
Hamilton, sister to the Duke of Hamilton, one


son who in 1873 was six years old; that all
the family lived on M. Blanc the lessee of the
gambling tables. But Monaco is shut off from
the rest of the world except in the winter
months, and few have heard of the calamities
which since the end of January have rained
upon the ruling family. My cousin, Prince
Albert, the " Sailor Prince," a good fellow
of my own age, with no fault but his rash
love of uselessly braving the perils of the
ocean, had often been warned of the fate
that would one day befall him. Once when
a boy he had put to sea in his boat when
a fearful storm was raging, had been upset just
off the point at Monaco, and had been saved
only by the gallantry of a sailor of the port
who had risked his own life in keeping his
sovereign's son afloat. In October 1873 my
unfortunate cousin bought at Plymouth an Eng-

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lish sailing yacht of 450 tons. He had a sailor's
contempt for steam, which he told me was only
fit for lubbers, when he came up and stayed
with me at Cambridge in November to see the
" fours." He explained to me then that he had
got a bargain, that he had bought his yacht
for one-third her value, and that he was picking
up a capital crew of thirty men. He had no
need to buy yachts for a third their value, for
he was rich enough and to spare, having en
joyed the large fortune of his mother from the
time he came of age. She was a Merode, and
vast forests in Belgium part of Soignies for
instance belonged to him. His wife had her
own fortune of four and a half million francs,
bringing her in about seven thousand pounds a
year, so he was able to spend all his money on
himself. He did not spend it on his dress, for
when he came to Cambridge and was introduced


to Dr. Thompson, lie neither had a dress suit to
dine in at the lodge, nor a black morning coat
to put on for hall, where his rough pea-jacket
scandalised the " scouts." He sailed from Ply
mouth in November, and reached Monaco at
the end of that month. In December he made
several excursions, in none of which did his
father go to sea with him, but on the 26th of
January, as ill luck would have it, he tempted
my poor uncle to go with him for a three days,
cruise. It came on to blow hard that night, and
nothing was ever heard of them again. Great
was the excitement at Monaco on the 27th and
28th, but on the 29th the worst was known, as
a telegram from Genoa informed the unfortunate
old princess who has all her faculties at the
age of eighty -six that her son and grandson
were both numbered with the dead, for one of
the boats of the rotten yacht had been fallen


in with by a fishing vessel floating empty in
mid sea.

The Conseil d'Etat was at once called to
gether by the Governor General, and the little
boy of the Princess Marie proclaimed by their
order at the market-place. A proclamation was
posted in the town the moment the sitting
ended, declaring the joint regency of the
dowager princess and of Baron Imberty. A
telegram was sent to Princess Marie, who was
staying with her child at Nice, informing her
of her husband's death and of the accession of
her son, and begging that she would the next
day confide the little Due de Yalentinois to
the deputation of the councillors of state and
of the officers of guards, who would reach Nice
by train at noon. She was in the same despatch
assured that on the death of the old dowager
princess she should succeed her in the regency,


but for family reasons on which I need not
enlarge, she was requested not on this occasion
to accompany her son.

All this I learnt by a telegram from the
baron ; I, as the son of the sister of the late
prince, having now become most unexpectedly
next heir to the throne of Monaco. I had no
idea of the possibility of my ever being called
upon to succeed a healthy boy of six, and gave
the matter no thought but one of regret at the
death of my gallant cousin Albert, who in the
Prussian war had proved his courage in the
French navy, while I, had I been older, should
have had to have fought upon the other side,
my father having been a prince of Wurtemberg.

I was thoroughly English in my ways.
My father, a man of wide and liberal views,
disliking "professors" as much as Mr. Disraeli
does, and especially distrusting Prussian peda-


gogues, had sent me to Eton and to Trinity.
At Eton I had lived rather with the King's
scholars than with my more natural allies, and
had imbibed some views at which my poor
father would have groaned. When I went up
to Cambridge my friendships were in King's
rather than in Third Trinity, and my opinions
were those now popular among spectacled under
graduates, namely, universal negation. I even
joined First Trinity Boat Club, instead of Third,
because the gentlemen of the latter were too
exclusive for my princely tastes.

During my four years at Cambridge I had
rowed in First Trinity Second. I had heard at
the Union Mr. Seeley defend the Commune, and
oppose a motion declaring it innocent because
it did not go on to express the " love and
affection" with which that body was regarded
by the University. I had supported a young


fellow of Trinity when he showed that the sur
plus funds of the Union Society should be
applied to the erection of statues of Mazzini
in all the small villages of the West of England
a motion which I believe was carried, but
neutralized by the fact that the Union Society
possessed no surplus funds. I had also had the
inestimable advantage of attending the lectures
of Professor Fawcett on the English poor laws.
I had, by the way, almost forgotten the most
amusing of all the Union episodes of my time,
which was the rising of Mr. Dilke of Trinity
Hall, Sir Charles Dilke's brother but a man
of more real talent than his brother, although,
if possible, a still more lugubrious speaker to
move that his brother's portrait, together with
that of Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, the com
munist brother of a Marquis and a congenial
spirit, should be suspended in the committee


room to watch over the deliberations of that
body, because, forsooth, they had happened to
be president and vice-president of the Society
at a moment when the new buildings were begun
out of the subscriptions of such very different
politicians as the Prince of Wales, the Duke of
Devonshire, and Lord Powis. Mr. Dilke and
his radicals were sometimes in a majority and
sometimes in a minority at the Union, and the
portraits of the republican lord and baronet went
up on the wall or down under the table accord
ingly, Mr. Willimott, the valued custodian of
the rooms, carrying out the orders of both sides
with absolute impartiality.

Fired with the enthusiasm of my party and
of my age, I had subscribed to the Woman's
Suffrage Association, to Mr. Bradlaugh's election
expenses, to the Anti-Game-Law Association, and
to the Education League. My reading was less


one-sided than my politics, and my republicanism
was tempered by an unwavering worship of
" Lothair." Mr. Disraeli was my admiration as a
public man a Bismarck without his physique
and his opportunities but then in politics one
always personally prefers one's opponents to one's
friends. As a republican, I had a cordial aver
sion for Sir Charles Dilke, a clever writer, but
an awfully dull speaker, who imagines that his
forte is public speaking, and who, having been
brought up in a set of strong prejudices, posi
tively makes a merit to himself of never having
got over them. This he calls " never changing
his opinions." For Mr. Gladstone I had the
ordinary undergraduate detestation. There are
no liberals at Cambridge. "We were all rank
republicans or champions of right divine.

The 31st of January was a strange day in
my history. On entering my rooms in my flan-


nels, hot from the boats, and hurrying for hall,
I saw a telegram upon the table. I tore it

" The Governor-General, Monaco;


His Serene Highness Prince Florestan,

Trinity College,

Cambridge! 9

" His Serene Highness ! " Surely a mistake
I read on.

"This morning at noon his Serene Highness
the reigning prince was committed by the princess
his mother to the care of M. Henri de Payan,
at Nice. The princess being nervous about rail
way accidents, the departure for Monaco took
place by road. The carriage conveying his Serene
Highness and M. de Payan was drawn by four
horses. Turbie was reached without mishap, but


half-way between Turbie and Koquebrune, at a
sharp turn in the road, the horses took fright,
and the coachman, in avoiding the precipice,
threw the carriage upon the rocks on the moun
tain side of the road. His Serene Highness was
thrown on his head and killed on the spot.
Your Serene Highness is now reigning prince of
Monaco, and will be proclaimed to-night after
the meeting of the Council of State by the style
of Florestan II. Lieutenant G-asignol, of the
guard, will proceed at once to England and meet
your Serene Highness at any spot which your
Highness may please to indicate. M. de Payan
escaped without a scratch."

Prince of Monaco ! Prince of Monaco. And
I had seen Lafont in Rabagas ! I was not a
"milk-and-water Kabagas," as Mr. Cole called Mr.
Lowe, when all the papers reported him to have
said " milk-and-water Kabelais/' and the Spectator


mildly wondered at the strangeness of tlie com
parison. No, but I was somewhat of a milk-
and-water Prince of Monaco after Lafont. "What
distinction ! "What carriage ! If the princes of
the earth were only like the princes of the stage,
there would be no republicans. But then, for
tunately, they are not. " Fortunately ! " and I
one of them. What am I saying ?

Poor little fellow ! How sad for his young
mother too. A reigning prince for nineteen hours,
and that outside of his own dominions and at
the age of six. A strange world! and a strange
world for me too. A half-Protestant, half-free-
thinking, republican, German, Cambridge under
graduate, suddenly called to rule despotically
over a Catholic and Italian people. My succes
sion, at least, would be undisputed. No one had
ever vowed that I " should never ascend the
throne without a protest." One of the Gri-


maldis had a claim which was no doubt a just
one, my respected great uncle having been pro
bably a usurper"; but Marshal MacMahon and
the Due de Broglie would, I well knew, support
me, preferring even a German prince at Monaco
to an Italian. My succession, I repeat, was un
disputed; but if anybody had taken the trouble
to dispute it, I can answer for it that they
would have been cheated out of their amuse
ment, for I should willingly have resigned to
their charge so burdensome a toy. I was that
which the republican mayor of Birmingham, Mr.
Joseph Chamberlain, in his jocular speech pro
posing the Prince of Wales' health at the mayor's
banquet, said that one of his friends had been
trying by argument to make the Prince with,
" as yet/' only " partial success " a republican
King. I would have gone only to Monaco to
proclaim the republic had I not known that


the strange despotism presided over not as a
despotism should be by one clever despot, but
by two stupid despots, the Dukes of Magenta
and Broglie which is called the French republic,
would not permit the creation of a small model
for herself in the middle of her commune of

I was not sorry to leave Cambridge. My
rooms in the new court overlooked Caius, where
they had typhoid fever ; and between the fear
of infection and the noise of the freshmen's
wines in Trinity Hall, I was beginning to have
enough of Cambridge. My bedmaker and tutor
were the only people to whom I bid goodbye.
The men were all in hall and out at wines, and
I left notes for my friends instead of looking
them up in their rooms. I caught my tutor as
he was going into hall. I told him of the news,
and I could see the idea of an invitation for


next winter to the castle at Monaco pass through
his mind as he assured me that my rule would
be a blessing to my country, and that nothing
could better fit me for a sceptre than the train
ing of an English gentleman. He added, with
a return of the grim humour of a don, that
he supposed that as a sovereign prince I need
scarcely " take an exeat." My poor old bed-
maker, who had read the telegram in my absence
from my room, called me " your imperial majesty "
three times while she packed my shirts, but in
half-an-hour I was off to London ; and on the
evening of the 3rd of February I met M. de
Payan and Lieutenant Gasignol by appointment
at the Grand Hotel at Paris.

From M. de Payan I obtained my first accu
rate ideas as to the State of Monaco. I found
that I was not more independent under the supre
macy of France than is the Emperor William


independent under the domination of Prince von
Bismarck. I had not only the Code Napoleon, and
a Council of State dressed in exact copies of
their Versailles namesakes, but French custom
house officers levying French custom-house duties
in my dominions. At the beginning of our con
versation I had said to M. de Payan, " Between
ourselves, and fearing though I do that like
Charles I. of England I may be committing high
treason against myself, I feel bound to tell you
that my only ideas of my principality are derived
from M. Sardou's Rabagas"

Why is it that inhabitants of small and iso
lated communities never can see a joke ? M. de
Payan, slightly drawing himself up and speak
ing with as much stiffness as he could assume
towards his prince, gravely answered me, " Your
Serene Highness is not aware, I presume, that
Rcibagas was a satire directed against France


in her decline, and not against your Highnesses

M. Sardou wasting his hours on satirising
Monaco. I will never joke again, I said to my
self, unless I should suffer the modern fate of
kings and be r deposed.

" M. de Payan," I replied, " I am aware of
what you say, and I was joking."

" We have no Gambettas at Monaco, your
Highness ; that is all I meant."

" Perhaps, Sir, the country would be happier
if you had. Kabagas was not Gambetta, but
Emile Olivier not the man who never despaired
of France, but the man who sacrificed his opinions
to his advancement. I admire M. Gambetta, who-
is at this moment the first man in France, in
my estimation, and the second political man in
Europe. His figure will stand out in history,
daubed as even it is with the mud that

c 2


French politicians are ceaselessly flinging at each,

"M. Gambetta is, as your Serene Highness
says, a man of extraordinary powers ; but his
father was a tradesman at Cahors, and is retired
and lives at Nice, near your Serene Highness's

What more could I say ? There was nothing
to be made of M. de Payan.

On the 5th of February I reached Nice by
the express, and after reading the telegram which
announced the return of Mr. Gladstone by a
discerning people as junior colleague to a gin
distiller, was presented with an address by the
Gambettist mayor at the desire of the legitimist
prefet. The mayor, being a red-hot republican
in politics but a carriage-builder by trade, lec
tured me on the drawbacks of despotism in his
address, but informed me in conversation after-


wards that he had had the honour of building
a Victoria for Prince Charles Honore which was
next door to giving me his business card. The
address, however, also assumed that the Princes
of Monaco were suffered only by Providence to
exist in order that the trade of Nice, the nearest
large French town, might thrive.

In the evening at four we reached the station
at Monaco, which was decked with the white
flags of my ancestors. What a pity, was my
thought, that M. de Chambord should not be
aware that if he would come to stay with me
at the castle he would live under the white flag
to which he is so much attached all the days
of his life. My reception was enthusiastic. The
guards, in blue uniforms not unlike the Bava
rian, but with tall shako es instead of helmets,
and similar to that which during the stoppage
of the train at Nice I had rapidly put on, were


drawn up in line to the number of thirty-nine
one being in hospital with a wart on his
thumb, as M. de Payan told me. What an
admirable, centralisation that such a detail should
be known to every member of the administration !
Two drummers rolled their drums French fashion.
In front of the line were four officers, of whom
one fat ; Baron Imberty ; the Vicar General ; and
Pere Pellico of the Jesuits of the Visitation,
brother as I already knew to the celebrated
Italian patriot, Silvio Pellico, of dungeon and
spider fame.

" Where is M. Blanc ? " I cried to M. de Payan,
as we stopped, seeing no one not in uniform or

" M. Blanc/ 7 said M. de Payan, severely,
" though a useful subject of your Highness is
neither a member of the household of your
Highness, a soldier of His army, nor a function-


ary of His government. M. Blanc is in the
crowd outside."

Had I ventured to talk slang to M. de
Pay an, of whom I already stood in awe, I should
have replied, "Elle est salve, celle la; puisque
sans M. Blanc mon pays ne marcherait pas."
But I held my tongue.

I have seen many amusing sights in the
course of my short life. I have seen an Angli
can clergyman dance the cancan I have seen
Lord Claud Hamilton, the elder, address the
English House of Commons I have watched
with breathless interest the gesticulations of
French orators in the tribune of the Assembly,
when not a word could reach my ears through
the din of Babel that their colleagues made.
But the oddest sight I ever saw was the bow
with which Colonel Jaccjuemet, conscious ever.
at the glorious moment that history would not


forget his name, assured me that " the devoted
army of a Gallant and a Glorious Prince would
follow him to the death, when Honour led and
Duty called."

At this moment Pere Pellico slipped round to
my side and said, " A word with your Highness.
A most unfortunate report has got abroad that
your Highness is a heretic. What is to be
done ? "

" I very much fear I am," I replied.

" But surely your Highness has never formally
joined a Protestant body ? "

" Protestant ? Oh, no. I am a freethinker ; a
follower of Strauss rather than of Dr. Gumming ."

" How your Highness has relieved my mind I
Only a freethinker but that is nothing. I feared
that possibly your Highness might have suffered
a perversion to some of the many schisms/' He
bowed and hurried off into the town, while


taking the arm of Baron Imberty I said, " Intro
duce me to M. Blanc."

"Your Highness wishes that M. Blanc should
be presented to your Highness, but there are
three hundred and ten or three hundred and
twenty gentlemen who take precedence of M.
Blanc. Nevertheless, your Highness has only to

" Well, then, touch my arm as we pass him in
the crowd, and I will speak to him informally."

My ideas of etiquette would have horrified
Madame von Biegeleben, the lady-in-waiting to
my poor mother ; still, I was improving already,
as may be seen.

As we left the station building a little man
in black, who when he is twenty years older will
be as like M. Thiers in person as he already is
in tact, in power of talk, and in the combination
of a total absence of fixed opinions with a de-


cicled manner, made a low bow, accompanied
with the shrewdest smile '.that I had seen.

"That," I said, halting before him, "is M.
Blanc. I am glad to have so early an oppor
tunity of commencing an acquaintance, which I
hope to improve."

" Your Serene Highness does me too much

Thus I passed the man who played Hauss-
mann to my Emperor, but who had the additional
advantage which the costly baron of demolishing
memory certainly did not possess, of being a
magnificent source of revenue to my state.

Mounting the really fine horse that they had
sent me down, and escorted by the sixteen
mounted carbineers (who do police duty on foot
in ordinary times at Monte Carlo and in the
town), I rode off at a sharp trot by the winding


" Will your Serene Highness graciously please
to go at a walk, for otherwise the guards will
not have time to get up by the military road
and to form again to receive your Highness at
the Place"

I did as I was bid, of course. Bouquets of
violets were showered on me as we passed through
the narrow street, and the scene on the public
square in front of the castle was really fine. The
sun was setting in glory over the Mediterranean
in the west ; on the north the Alpes Monegasques
were beginning to take the deep red glow which,
nightly in that glorious climate they assume. On
the east the palms at Monte Carlo stood out
sharply against the deep still blue sky, and in
the far distance the great waves of the ground
swell were rolling in upon the coast towards
Mentone and the Italian frontier, with thousands
of bright white sea-gulls speckling the watery


hills with dots of light. At the palace gate I
was received by the old dowager princess. She
bent and kissed my hand. I threw my arms
round her neck and kissed her on both cheeks.

" That was kindly meant, Highness/' she said,
"but your Serene Highness is now the reigning
prince, and in the presence of the mob your
dignity must be kept up."

Passing the two great Suisses who, arrayed in
gala costume, stood magnificently at the gate but
whose wages I afterwards discovered were supple
mented by showing my bedroom when I was out
to English tourists at a franc a head we entered
the grand courtyard, ascended the great stairs,
and passed straight into the reception hall known
as the Salle Grimaldi. There, standing on a dais,
opposite to the magnificent fireplace and chimney-
piece, with the baron at my side, I held a levee,
and received the vicar-general, pere de Don ; the


cure of the cathedral, Y abbe Eamin ; the chevalier
de Castellat, vice-president of the council of state;
the chevalier Yoliver, member of council of state,
and president of the council of public education;
the Marquis de Bausset-Roquefort, president of
^he high court of justice and member of the
council of state ; the treasurer-general, M. Lom
bard; Monsignore Theuret, the first almoner of the

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Online LibraryCharles Wentworth DilkeThe fall of Prince Florestan of Monaco → online text (page 1 of 3)