At the end of the fifteenth century, thanks to Lamberto’s diplomatic gifts, Monaco became an independent country, taken seriously by the powerful countries in the region. When the monarch died in 1494, he was succeeded by his eldest son Giovanni (Jean) II, who was 26 years old.
The young monarch stood at the side of the French kings Charles VIII and Louis XII and granted the French fleet access to the harbour under the rock in yet another attack on Italy. But at the same time, the Austrian Emperor Maximilian and the Spanish King Ferdinand formed an alliance against France, which had become increasingly powerful. Giovanni understood well that he had to choose and even considered selling the country’s independence to a powerful neighbour.
This led to irritation for his brother Luciano (Lucien). The two men met on 10 October 1505 at Menton Castle (which has now been demolished but was on the site of the present cemetery above the town). Their mother Claudine was also present because she wanted her children to act together. Luciano accused Giovanni of being too weak and wanted to take over the role of his brother. The discussion ran high and suddenly Giovanni pulled a knife. At that very moment, Luciano grabbed a dagger to defend himself and stabbed his brother in the stomach. Jean II fell to the ground and died in a pool of blood.
Claudine witnessed the brawl but she would not condemn Luciano. According to her, he acted out of self-protection. Giovanni only had a daughter, who was not eligible for the succession and so Luciano automatically became the new ‘seigneur of Monaco’. He was almost immediately recognised as such by France and Savoy. He would take care of Giovanni’s daughter Maria and declared: “I will treat my cousin as if she were my own daughter.”
The perpetrator of fratricide would become a hero in the history of Monaco. A few months after he had become the lord of Monaco he ensured that the rock managed to defy a huge offensive by Genoa. In December, Menton and Roquebrune soon fell into the hands of a large Genoese army. Monaco did not seem to stand a chance, but the population entrenched itself on the rock and held out for three months. On March 19, the Genoese made another attempt but again they never managed to get on the rock. From the watchtowers, boiling oil and burning pitch were thrown along the high walls to drive out the attackers. This was followed by a rain of stones for the troops under the rock. The Genoese dropped away beaten and the ships fled out to sea. The city of Genoa conceded defeat. Within a few days, the Monegasques took again possession of Roquebrune and Menton. This survival action has been attributed to Luciano.
This siege had also caused a lot of damage to Monaco. A large part of the harbour and the Rock had been turned into rubble by the attacks. In fact, everything had to be rebuilt from the ground up. That is also the reason that today on the rock there is almost no building older than five hundred years. There was still a lot of uncertainty in the region because the French king Louis XIII opened an attack on Genoa. He also wanted to join Monaco to his empire. He offered Luciano to buy the land, but the ‘seigneur of Monaco’ didn’t want to know about it. Louis then had Luciano imprisoned. Claudine reacted unyieldingly. She bought her son free and then demanded the French king to recognise Monaco as an independent country in an official statement. France was only allowed to intervene in Monegasque matters in legal disputes and should protect the tiny country in every possibility of a threat from another power.
At the same time, Spain showed suddenly interest in Monaco’s geographically convenient port. The situation became even more tense when Andrea Doria’s fleet suddenly entered the harbour under the Rock. The admiral had just defected from Spain to France and was not seen as an enemy but he actually made an attempt to take the Rock himself. On the evening of August 22, 1522, Luciano had a party at his palace. One of the guests was Bartolomeo Doria, the lord of Dolce Acqua but also a nephew of Luciano and of Andrea Doria. He had come to the palace for a different purpose and brought a few henchmen with him.
At one point, they surrounded the host and beat him up. Eventually, Luciano died in a bloodbath at the bottom of the palace steps. It was clearly a coup, engineered by Andrea Doria waiting outside on his ship in the port. But Bartolomeo was immediately apprehended by the palace guard. The people on the rock noticed that something was going wrong and gathered in front of the palace. Then Bartolomeo and his henchmen managed to get away.
The Monegasques were stunned but had no intention of surrendering. An heir to the throne had to be appointed soon, but Luciano’s son, Onorato, was only nine months old, and therefore a brother of Luciano, Augustino (Augustin), was asked to become governor. He was already 44 and above all the bishop of Grasse, very erudite, smart and well-travelled. He had been to Rome a lot and got along well with Pope Clement VII, who immediately gave him permission to exercise a dual function (bishop and head of state).
The fugitive Bartolomeo was caught in La Turbie and taken to Monaco. The Monegasques wanted to impose the death penalty on him, but then the Pope intervened. He claimed that Augustino shouldn’t begin his term in office with such a severe sentence and demanded leniency. The newly-appointed monarch had no choice but to grant this request and released Bartolomeo. The murderer went to Savoy where he would enjoy protection.
Augustino felt particularly let down by the French, who had turned a blind eye to Luciano’s murder, and feared that Andrea Doria had been given permission by France to take Monaco. It was a reason for Augustino to look to another party. Not much later, he opted for an alliance with Spain and Emperor Charles V, in whose empire (actually Spain and Austria together) the sun never sets. On June 7, 1524, a treaty was signed at Burgos, whereby the ‘seigneur of Monaco’ would submit to Spain in exchange for protection. A few months later, another treaty between the two countries was signed at Tordesillas, on November 3. From now on Spain guaranteed the protection of Monaco.
PHOTO: The walls on the Rock, the Bastion de Serravalle