In the mid-eighteenth century, Honoré III was the Prince of a small but independent country. Monaco’s neutrality was especially evident in the fact that the monarch maintained good contacts with France (of course he was a Frenchman who had grown up in Paris) and England. He even visited King George III in London. While the Chevalier Antoine Grimaldi mainly interfered with local issues, Honoré tried to play a role internationally. He also tried to convince the Vatican that Monaco should become its own diocese and not fall ecclesiastically under the bishops of Nice or Ventimiglia, but in this diplomatic mission he failed because nothing would change.
Monaco in the eighteenth century was a small country of more than seven thousand inhabitants, of which the majority (four thousand) lived in Menton, while only thirteen hundred people lived in Monaco on the Rock or on the harbour. The population of Roquebrune was around five hundred. From an economic point of view, the country mainly relied on the cultivation of citrus fruits and olives, but tobacco was also grown while the ships that came to shelter in Monaco had to pay a considerable toll, which provided an additional source of income. Honoré tried to stimulate entrepreneurship in his country by attracting foreign investors with tax advantages that would ensure the construction of workshops and factories (especially in the textile industry in Menton). One of the consequences of this development was that Monaco got its own printing house and from 1768 even its own newspaper – Courrier de Monaco. The infrastructure was improved, with a road built from Monaco to Menton in 1724 that was passable for carriages. Yet the Rock of Monaco was still isolated and only easily accessible from the sea.
Honoré spent a lot of time in Paris and Versailles. The real control of the country remained in the hands of the Chevalier. The Monegasques began to worry that Honoré was not providing offspring. He was already 35 when it was really time for a serious partner. He did have an affair with Anna Balbi, the wife of the Marquis Giuseppe Brignole of Genoa, who was also France’s ambassador to the port city. He eventually chose the daughter of his mistress, Maria-Catarina Brignole, when she was only eighteen. She fell in love with the Prince, who was almost twenty years older, but her father was not in favour of this proposed marriage, also because of the evil role that the Prince had played in his own marriage. Maria-Catarina begged her father for permission for the marriage and informed him in a letter: “I promise that I will marry only the Prince of Monaco.” Finally, the marriage was concluded by procuration on June 15, 1757 in Genoa. Then everything was prepared for a fairytale wedding in Monaco.
Maria-Catarina was accompanied by many dignitaries from Genoa when she travelled by sea to Monaco, but once near the port a remarkable diplomatic problem arose. The Prince refused to pick up the bride from a ship while the Genoese refused to drop her off. The mother-in-law demanded that the Prince come and pick up his wife-to-be himself, but Honoré did not feel like it because of the protocol that a monarch could not come to another. The Genoese delegation then sailed out to sea in protest, which seemed to jeopardize the marriage. The weather changed and the Genoese fleet waited on the high seas for the storm to subside. Then a solution was found, a happy medium, in the form of a bridge between shore and ship that was quickly built. At the center of this bridge, the bride and the Prince would meet. It was the start of a great wedding on the Rock, which took place on July 5, 1757.
The couple had two children, Honoré and Joseph, but it would not be a particularly fruitful marriage and in 1771 there was even a divorce because she had an affair with the Prince of Condé, whom she would marry in 1798. She moved to England and died at Wimbledon in 1813. She maintained very good contacts with the British royal family, which paid for her funeral.
In 1784, Honoré III was given control of his empire as a divorced man after the death of the Chevalier. He had to guide Monaco through a turbulent time because in France everything would change after the storming of the Bastille in Paris (on July 14, 1789). Of course, Monaco could not stay away from the French Revolution. As a member of the French nobility the Prince was arrested by the French Revolutionary Guards as Honoré Goyon on 21 July 1793 and placed in a prison but managed to escape the guillotine. He was eventually placed under house arrest at the Hôtel Matignon and would die of a heart attack on 21 March 1795, as a lonely and also exhausted man. His life had turned out completely differently than he had anticipated, despite being the longest-serving monarch in Monaco’s history.
PHOTO: The watchtower on the Rock facing Genoa