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As I see It... (6 June, 2006)

6 June, 2006

When I was seven years old I went from Calcutta with my immediate family for a holiday in Europe. Whilst in Nice in the south of France, my father took my mother and me to Monte Carlo in Monaco. He was an inveterate gambler, so it was obvious that the object of the trip to Monte Carlo was the Grand Casino. It was early evening when we arrived, and the flowers in the spacious public gardens began to sparkle like jewels as the early street lamps were switched on.

My parents went towards the gaming rooms, and I was put in the charge of an attendant who took me to an area reserved for children. He had red hair and his name was Jaques. He was about seventeen as he charmingly informed me. I had not yet learned how to calculate a person’s age from height or features.

He bought me an orange-flavoured ice cream soda, and we strolled in a pretty little garden, and he said to me :

“I have seen maharajahs and other nobles from India, but never before have I seen an Indian child! Don’t worry about asking for chocolates or anything else you fancy. Your mother has given me enough money with which to manage.” We entered a small building which turned out to be a mini cinema, which was showing Charlie Chaplin and cute silent short French films... After a couple of hours Jaques took me to the motorcar which my father had hired in Nice, we kissed in French fashion and said “Adieu.” The liveried chauffeur drove me back to the Atlantic Hotel in Nice. It was obvious my father intended to make a night of it, while my mother watched him throwing chunks of his wealth on the baize tables.

The history of Monaco has always interested me from then on. Not so long ago, the Principality of Monaco celebrated the 700th anniversary of the Grimaldi family’s reign, whilst His Serene Highness Prince Rainier III was still alive.

His first marriage was a disappointment because the Princess was barren, and the couple, though briefly happy, parted. The second princely matrimonial adventure was a sensational fairy tale affair, which sent the western world into a romantic whirl! The lovely Hollywood actress Grace Kelly was on the ascendancy to stardom when Rainer met her at a Cannes Film Festival. It must have been love at first sight. The International Jet Set recovered its breath and prepared itself for a Royal Wedding. And that indeed it was! Charles and Diana tried to outdo it many years later, but the spectacle in the Cathedral in London may have had an edge over the marriage of Rainer and Grace in Monte Carlo’s ancient Cathedral in 1956.

It is almost eerie to recall that both celebrates were destined to die in automobile accidents, and both in such mystifying circumstances!

In April 2005. HSH Prince Rainier III of Monaco died after a long bout of illness. After celebrating a Requiem Mass that was open to the sorrowful public, the children of the dead Prince buried him next to his late wife, Princess Grace, in a somber state funeral full of tradition, pomp, and restrained splendour.

Although Grace Kelly was a “commoner”, from first to last she conducted herself with consummate skill as regal by birth, and to the manner born. She never said an ill-bred thing, or picked up the wrong fork.

Prince Rainier and Grace had three children : Caroline, Albert, and Stephanie. The two girls grew up to lead indecorous and sometimes scandalous lives, but always protected and saved by money. As for Albert? Well! The illustrious Geimaldi family was of Genoese origin, and had participated in the First Crusades. What is to become of it now?

A haunting paradox is that the jewel of the House of Grimaldi, Monaco, has managed to engineer its survival through most wars and revolutions in Europe. Wedged between snow-white summits and a glittering blue sea, Monaco and its Monégasques are living proof that small States have their rightful place in the world. Monaco is even a member of the UNO. As is Bhutan.

In the course of their privileged and carefree lives, the Grimaldi gentlemen may have indulged themselves to lascivious lengths in past generations, when it was almost considered the height of fashion to do so, but the dynasty has always stood as firm as the rocks upon which it still exists, never losing its golden lustre. Now it seems that shame and dishonour are about to enfold it.

The Times put it bluntly.

Prince Albert II of Monaco is to legally recognise a second child born out of wedlock, according to a book to be published soon.

Playboy ruler’s second lovechild is reported to be a 14-year-old girl named Jazmin Grace who is the daughter of a former waitress from California.

Albert and Tamara Rotolo met on the Cote d’Azur in July 1991 where Tamara had come with her husband on holiday… The lecherous Albert was “careless”, the authors quote a friend of the Prince as saying. “Less than four weeks later, in August 1991, Tamara told Albert that she was pregnant.”

The authors, of the above mentioned book, Lena Lutaud and Thibault Dromard, are both journalists at France's Le Figaro newspaper.

“Described as a mature, pleasant and intelligent young girl, Jazmin Grace was born in March 1992 in Palm Springs, California,” the authors continue. The child’s second name appears to be a reference to Albert’s late mother, Princess Grace.

Later the same year Mrs Rotolo filed a paternity suit in a California court citing the Prince as the father, but the court ruled that it had no jurisdiction in the affair.

Officials in the small Mediterranean state refused to comment on the claim, but the book quoted an unnamed friend of the Prince, who said “there are no more hidden children!”

Last year, shortly after inheriting the princedom from his late father, Rainier III, Prince Albert II confirmed that he is the father of a boy, Alexandre, who was born in August 2003 to Nicole Coste, an air hostess from Togo.

According to Lutaud and Dromard, Albert, who at 48 is often referred to as Europe's most eligible bachelor, is preparing to confirm his paternity in the coming weeks, and his lawyer is in negotiations with the girl’s mother.

Discussions between the two parties centre on what strategy the Prince should follow once he has recognised Jazmin Grac as his legitimate daughter, according to the book. She is in the succession line, after all. Albert is anxious that his daughter remain out of the headlines, and not “give in to the temptation to become a star”, in the steps of her paternal grandmother Grace Kelly.

Albert has been linked in the popular press with a procession of girlfriends, but, like his sisters Caroline and Stephanie, has regularly resorted to the French law courts to protect his privacy.

An illegitimate child cannot accede to power in Monaco, unless the Prince marries the child's mother. Under a 2002 succession law, Monaco’s throne will pass to Princess Caroline if Prince Albert dies without legitimate offspring. This apparently will not occur, if all the reports cited above are correct.

The case of Prince Albert of Monaco should whet the appetite of any sagacious psychiatrist. What could Albert Grimaldi desire that he did not already possess? He has wealth, royalty, good looks and health, and all the privileges and luxury that money can buy, and a pedigree of which he ought to be jealous and proud! And now it seems that the throne of Monaco may one day accommodate either the backside of a Prince Alexander I, whose mother was from Togo (West Africa) or that of Princess Grace II, daughter of tourists from California, who would never have seen the light of day, if Albert II had sensibly kept condoms in his wallet!

How deep would a psychoanalyst have to delve in order to discover the fact that Albert was perhaps ashamed that he, son of so grand a man, had for mother a glamorous Hollywood actress, who, alas, could not act.

Is that the true reason why Albert has made himself so thoroughly déclassé?

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