by Susan Flantzer
Besides being the Sovereign Prince of Monaco, Albert I left an interesting legacy. He was a pioneer of oceanography and founded the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco. His interest in the origins of man caused him to found the Institute for Human Paleontology in Paris, which conducted many archeological digs. Because of his quest for world peace, the prince founded the International Institute for Peace, a predecessor of the League of Nations and the United Nations.
Albert Honoré Charles was born in Paris, France on November 13, 1848. His father was Prince Charles III of Monaco and his mother was Antoinette de Merode, daughter of Count Werner de Merode and Countess Victoire de Spangen d’Uyternesse. Albert was the only child of his parents.
Albert’s first marriage was to Scottish Lady Mary Victoria Hamilton, daughter of William Alexander Anthony Archibald Hamilton, 11th Duke of Hamilton. The couple was married on September 21, 1869, a month after their first meeting, at the Château de Marchais in Champagne, France. Having been more or less forced into marriage, Mary Victoria and Albert were less than compatible. Albert thought that his new wife was empty-headed and although Mary Victoria thought her husband to be handsome, she did not particularly like him. Additionally, Mary Victoria did not like Monaco and the Mediterranean, which was so unlike her native Scotland. 19 year old, pregnant Mary Victoria left Monaco with her mother and headed to her mother’s family home in Baden (Germany). It was in Baden that Mary Victoria gave birth to the future Prince Louis II of Monaco on July 12, 1870. Mary Victoria and Albert never reconciled. Their marriage was annulled by the Roman Catholic Church in 1880 and civilly dissolved the same year by Prince Charles III of Monaco. Their son, the future Prince Louis II, was raised in Baden by his maternal grandmother and did not see his father until he was 11 years old. At that point in time, Louis returned to Monaco to be trained for his future royal duties.
On 10 September 10, 1889, upon the death of his father Prince Charles III, Albert became the Sovereign Prince of Monaco. The following month, on October 30, Albert married the Dowager Duchess de Richelieu, born Marie Alice Heine in New Orleans, Louisiana. Alice’s family was a German Berlin and Paris banking family and she was a cousin of the German poet Heinrich Heine. Alice had married Marie Odet Armand Aimable Chapelle de Jumilhac, Marquis of Jumilhac, 7th Duke of Richelieu and of Fronsac while a teenager, was widowed at age 21, and was left with a son and a daughter. Alice and Charles did not have children, but Alice did much to make Monaco a cultural center with world-class opera, theater, and ballet. Both Albert and Alice had affairs and the couple legally separated in 1902, but remained married.
Albert’s great interest for much of his life was the ocean. In his younger days, he had served in the Spanish and French navies and by the age of 22 he began to study the new science of oceanography. He devised a number of techniques and instruments used for oceanographic measurement and exploration, and participated in 28 scientific expeditions. Albert was nicknamed “The Prince of the Seas” and his four research yachts, Hirondelle, Princesse Alice, Princesse Alice II, and Hirondelle II, took him all over the Mediterranean Sea, the Azores and the Arctic. Albert made four scientific voyages to Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean in the northernmost part of Norway for oceanographic and zoological study. In honor of his Arctic journeys, the northwestern part of Spitsbergen, Svalbard was named Albert I Land. The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, which he founded, has a world class aquarium, museum, and library, and research facilities in Paris.
Prince Albert I of Monaco died in Paris, France on June 26, 1922, at the age of 73. He was buried at Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Monaco. His second wife Alice died in Paris, France on December 22, 1925, and was buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.