Prince Albert is turning 60? That cannot be! And yet, on 14th March 1958, Princess Grazia Patrizia – formerly known as American actress Grace Kelly – gave birth to her second child in the Palais Princier. The future sovereign, Hereditary Prince Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre Marquis de Baux, was born! He had an elder sister (by little over a year) in Princess Caroline, but to this day, the Monegasque constitution provides that a boy is first in line.
More than half a century has passed since the principality fired 101 cannon shots in celebration and the population rejoiced in an important event for the future of the small country. In all those years, heavy blows of fate and moments of pure happiness have marked the life of the prince.
Albert spent his childhood with his siblings and family, particularly in the loving care of his warm-hearted and charismatic mother. It would have been she who instilled in him his openness to others and his remarkable empathy. Today he has worked his way towards the status of an ever popular and highly respected regent, with a well-rounded human intelligence and commendable sensitivity to all areas of public life. But back to the early days… Like many other Monegasque children, the young prince graduated from the Lycée Albert Ier on the Rock in 1976. Over a lunch, he once told me – laughing in memory – of how he suffered under his strict German teacher, Armand Zwiller. Then, from 1977 to 1981, he studied political science, economics, psychology and other subjects in his mother’s homeland at the Amherst College.
1982 brought the first major shock. When he was 24, his beloved mother tragically died. “It took me years to get over it,” he later said in an interview.
His father, Prince Rainier III, slowly trained the son in the official business of a sovereign, but it would take more than 20 years for Prince Albert to ascend to the throne. On 6th April 2005, the patriarch died, and on 12th July of that year, Prince Albert was crowned.
While Prince Rainier III went down in Monegasque history as the Builder, his son has forged his own identity as a consummate fighter for the future of our planet. Thanks to his commitment to the environment and the establishing of a foundation in his name – the Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco – the world no longer perceives the principality as just a wealthy and privileged nation. It has become a symbol of sustainability.
The year after his coronation, the prince followed in the footsteps of his great-great-grandfather, Albert I, to become the first head of state to undertake an expedition to reach the North Pole. Three years later, a trip to the Antarctic. Since then, he has won numerous international awards for his conservation and protection efforts, but his boyish modesty has not changed. Transparency has been a leitmotif of his reign. In the past, Monaco was blacklisted as a tax haven. While the prince cares deeply about the economic development of his country, it is not at any price. With countless new decrees, he has created a more modern – and more open – state.
Finally, in 2011, wedding bells, long-awaited by the Monegasque people, rang. Prince Albert and Princess Charlene were married on 1st July.
Ahead of their marriage, the prince officially recognised his two children from previous relationships; this too belonged to his principles of transparency.
On 10th December 2014, Prince Albert and Princess Charlene welcomed the birth of twins Jacques and Gabriella. The principality once again revelled in the happy news; the future was assured.
They have been 60 well-filled and well-used years. Congratulations, Monseigneur, and bon anniversaire, Prince Albert!