Part 3 in our History of Monaco Series
In 1301 the Grimaldis renounced the rock. This was mainly due to the fact that Provence and Genoa needed each other in the fight against the Catalan armies in southern Italy.
Charles II of Anjou, the Count of Provence, who had just founded the port of Villefranche, was asked by Genoa to buy out the Grimaldi brothers to leave the rock. He offered them shelter in his empire. Ranieri entered the service of the French king Philip the Fair and won a number of important battles in Flanders. In gratitude for that effort, he was rewarded by the Count of Provence with the ‘seigneurie’ (lordship) of Cagnes.
However, he would never see the rock of Monaco again let alone own it. His son Carlo (Charles) I managed to take the rock in 1335, on behalf of his family, when Genoa and Provence were fighting each other again. Carlo I simultaneously bought Menton and Roquebrune to merge with Monaco to form a small country.
He was ambitious, had the port reinforced with some primitive docks and started levying tolls. In this way, the monarch behaved very independently.
But in Genoa, the political leader Simone Boccanegra wanted to take back the rock and the harbour. While Carlo I lay on his deathbed, his country was attacked by a fleet of twenty ships. When Carlo died his son Ranieri II surrendered and was captured in Genoa.
For reasons that are not really clear, he was allowed to keep Menton and Roquebrune and so he remained the monarch of a country.
Eventually, other members of the Grimaldi family bought him free again, but he was never able to return to the rock and died as ‘seigneur of Roquebrune and Menton’.
The port under the rock played a crucial role a few years later when the French king Charles VI began his Italian campaign and launched an attack on Genoa. Monaco was the base of operations of its fleet. The French modernised the harbour with a few docks.
Eventually, Genoa fell into the hands of Milan and France shifted its attention to Naples. Meanwhile, neighbouring Nice (and La Turbie) had come under the supervision of the Duke of Savoy. A son of Ranieri II, Giovanni (Jean) I, took advantage of this troubled period by retaking the rock on behalf of his family. He won the sympathy of Provence, Milan and Florence to secure the independence of his country.
Monaco’s position was strategically very important. Giovanni married a niece of the leader of Genoa, Pomellina Fregoso, expecting that he would also count on the support of Genoa. But with this choice he betrayed his old ally, the Duke of Milan Filippo Visconti, who decided to attack Monaco in retaliation.
Despite a siege of a few weeks, Monaco held out (also thanks to the support of the fleet of Genoa) and eventually repulsed the attack.
The great heroine was Pomellina, who, after her husband was captured, took the lead in defending the rock. She is the first woman in the history of Monaco to make a huge impression on her contemporaries. She took the fate of Monaco into her hands by assuming the leadership of the government. Her husband was found to be too weakened when he eventually got out of prison and their son
Catalano looked psychologically unsuitable as head of state and stepped down after three years.
Pomellina held all the reins and decided to continue governing as governor on behalf of her granddaughter Claudine. She arranged that this girl should be married off to Lamberto Grimaldi, from another branch of the family from Antibes (from the palace that is now the Picasso museum). This man was 31 years older and wanted to become the new monarch of the country. The Monegasques were also pleased with him and welcomed him exuberantly.
Pomellina had not counted on such enthusiasm and immediately felt threatened. She retreated to Menton to prepare an attack from there. On March 14, 1458, an army unit even entered the port to drive Lamberto away, but he managed to escape. Two days later, the Monegasques pledged allegiance to him and Lamberto felt confident.
Pomellina made another attempt at a revolt from Menton in 1466, but then Lamberto asked for the support of ally Milan. An army unit from that city of Francesco Sforza took Menton. Pomellina could not go anywhere and returned to Monaco submissively. She
would die there in 1468 at the age of eighty.
Lamberto, who was now married to Claudine, considered this success a gift from God and therefore included in the coat of arms of Monaco the motto: Deo Juvante (with the help of God).
Under Lamberto, Monaco entered a new era. The defences were strengthened. The fortress on the rock was converted into a palace. His marriage to Claudine was very fruitful despite the large age difference between the partners because six children were born.
There was no extinction of the dynasty for the time being. Lamberto could also count on the support of the French king Charles VII, who added the County of Provence to his empire during this period.
In 1489, Lamberto signed with him a treaty, at Chinon, whereby France promised to protect Monaco from attacks by foreign armies. Incidentally, Monaco was called ‘Monique’ in this agreement.
From then on, the country would play an important role in the balance of power in the region. Because Savoy, Milan, Genoa and France had an interest in the enemy not owning the port under the rock, all four did not object to Monaco’s independent
and neutral position. Even Spain recognised Monaco as an independent country in 1494.
PHOTO: The picture is from a fresco in the Chapelle de la Miséricorde on the Rock