The French Revolution had major consequences for both Monaco and the Princely family. At the time of the storming of the Bastille, Honoré III’s two sons were already grown up and married. For the most part, their lives were lived in Paris and so they were close to the fire. Joseph immediately fled to Germany. As a result, his wife Françoise-Thérèse de Choiseul was arrested and eventually beheaded by guillotine. She was the only fatality of the Terror in the Princely family. Honoré III’s brother, Charles-Maurice, also fled and died in Switzerland in 1798. During the first years of the Revolution, many goods were confiscated, including the castles and houses. Joseph would later regain Hôtel Matignon, but his financial situation had become so precarious that he felt compelled to sell the beautiful family home in Paris in order to survive. He then left for England for a few years to return to France after Napoleon took power. The Princely family, which had been removed from power and had also lost all status and wealth, adapted to the new circumstances.
The Revolution initially went completely past Monaco. The French soldiers stationed in the port conveyed the revolutionary message to the Monegasques, but they proved insensitive to it. In Menton there was social unrest and eventually Honoré agreed that the city would have an elected board of three directors but a short time later withdrew this plan. The situation changed drastically when the revolutionary army from Antibes launched an attack on Nice. That city was taken on September 29, 1792. The army then advanced to Monaco, which was captured on October 22. The Grimaldis were immediately removed from power by General Brunet and a ‘Société populaire des Amis de la Liberté et de l’Egalité’ was founded. On January 13, 1793, the Convention (of twelve members) proclaimed a Republique libre et indépendante, which immediately called for an annexation by France. This came into force on February 14, 1793, after a law for annexation was passed in Paris on February 4. The Monegasque Convention was dissolved on March 4.
Whether the Monegasques really supported this is highly questionable. It was striking that General Millo was elected mayor after he had been deposed a few weeks earlier because the French thought he was too loyal to the Grimaldis. In the end he would be replaced by his son-in-law Antoine Sigaldi. In the official documents, Monaco was suddenly called Port Hercule because Monaco (which could be translated as “of the monks”) was apparently too religious and therefore too fraught a concept. Here, too, the property of the Princely family was confiscated, as well as that of the church. All religious symbols were removed from the facades of the buildings. According to travelers and contemporaries, Monaco lost a lot of shine during the French takeover. Due to the annexation, many traces of the Grimaldis in the country were erased.
The Monegasques were not at all happy with the new situation, because suddenly they also had to pay for the high costs of the French army and paid much more tax than they were used to until then. Port Hercule was first a canton in the newly created Departement of Alpes-Maritimes (including Eze, La Turbie and Roquebrune). In 1800 the place received the status of a sous-préfecture, but it was lost again when San Remo received that status after Napoleon had also conquered Genoa. In 1805 the name Monaco was restored. Monaco and Menton fell in the arrondissement of Nice. During this period, the road from Nice to Menton over La Turbie was finally completed (1812).
After the fall of Napoleon, Monaco regained its independent status at the first Treaty of Paris on 30 May 1814, with the Restoration that restored the borders in Europe as they were in 1789. The reinstated French king, Louis XVIII, and the French negotiator Talleyrand stood up for Monaco. They also restored the French protectorate over the dwarf state. Mayor Antoine Sigaldi immediately had the bust of Napoleon removed from the town hall. He went to Paris to look for the Grimaldis and requested them to return to the Rock.
Honoré IV and Joseph were not yet very enthusiastic. The eldest proved depressed and appointed his brother as governor with the task of putting together a provisional government, a so-called Conseil d’Etat. Honoré IV informed the Monegasques by letter that he would soon return to Monaco, but in practice this would not be the case. He was physically and mentally incapable of serving as head of state. His son Honoré-Gabriel informed Louis XVIII of his father’s situation: “He suffers from an illness, which mainly affects his mental qualities.”
Joseph soon discovered that the French interlude had had dramatically affected the local population. The economy had collapsed due to a trade blockade, while taxes had only increased. To make matters worse, in the last year there was also an extremely cold winter, which caused the harvest (mainly lemons and olives) to fail. The population had become a lot poorer and had no reserves. There was a lot to do for the restored Grimaldis. The Monegasque government had to meet its own needs mainly through agriculture (lemons, oranges, olives and wine grapes). Joseph appointed Louis Millo-Terrazzani, the son of the first mayor, as head of the new government.
Joseph returned to Paris, but his nephew Honoré-Gabriel was not happy with the situation and convinced his father to appoint him as governor. That happened on January 18, 1815. Joseph, who had achieved a lot for Monaco’s independence through his friendship with Talleyrand in the background, was displeased. He was 52 and felt very suitable for this role, but the children of Honoré IV rightly felt passed over because they were also adults. Honoré-Gabriel, who would become Honoré V, was a real soldier, who had been an officer under Napoleon and later also served under Joachim Murat, the King of Naples. He was severely wounded in his right arm at the battle of Hohenlinen and then had to retreat to Paris. Financial problems forced him to sell some palaces that the family had recovered in 1804. He then became the chamberlain of Empress Josephine (who had just divorced Napoleon) and later appointed ‘baron of the Empire’ (a new peerage) by Napoleon, on 15 August 1810, but that title was taken away from him again by the emperor a few years later because he had failed to keep the empress’s expenses within budget.
Honoré V felt that Joseph did not have a good policy for the country over which he had been given power. Joseph ruled from Paris and refused to settle in the Palace of Monaco. That, of course, drew criticism from him. Honoré was officially the crown prince. Honoré disputed his father’s deal with his uncle because it was not valid in Monaco. In the end, the problem had to be solved. Honoré IV convened both his brother Jacques and his son Honoré V and at that meeting Honoré IV handed over power to his son (on November 18, 1815). Honoré IV remained the head of state, but his son was allowed to rule in his name.
On his way to Monaco, Honoré-Gabriel happened to run into Napoleon at a night stop at a bivouac near Cannes. The deposed emperor had just landed from Elba and wanted to take an army to Paris to regain power. The two men talked for an hour, although the conversation was anecdotally condensed into the following dialogue:
“Hey, Monaco, you here at this hour, don’t feel like coming with us?”
“But, sire, I’m finally on my way home.”
“Me too, on my way to the Tuileries Gardens.”
This nightly meeting would still have repercussions, because the impression was created that the Grimaldis still had some sympathy for the deposed emperor. After the battle of Waterloo and the final downfall of Napoleon, the second Treaty of Paris (1815) stipulated that the Kingdom of Sardinia would regain the protectorate of Monaco. In the Principality, people were not happy with this outcome.
Honoré IV would eventually die on 16 February 1819. He was sixty and drowned under bizarre circumstances in the Seine, during an evening walk. He was not able to walk at all and was usually driven around in a special wheelchair. Was it an accident or an attempted suicide and who had helped him? It has never been clear how this unfortunate monarch of Monaco met his end.
PHOTOS:Top, Monaco’s flag back on the Rock, centre, a stamp honouring Honoré IV