I have often been asked about the relationship between the ill-fated French royals King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette and the Principality of Monaco. I have been hesitant in addressing this subject for a number of reasons but wanted to for others. In the first place, there is not much to tell. The short answer is that Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had practically nothing to do with Monaco or the Grimaldis aside from the occasional social meeting....Share
Politically of course, the King of France and the Prince of Monaco were very close. The political situation was pretty much the same then as it is today. Monaco was, and still is, an independent protectorate of France. The Prince of Monaco, at the time Honore III, was a sovereign monarch but King Louis XVI of France was responsible for the protection of Monaco. However, the Grimaldis were much more important in France in the time of Louis XVI than they are now since the Princes of Monaco held lands and titles in the French aristocracy and so had a high place in the French court so, naturally, there were meetings between the two at Versailles and so on. However, Honore III was about 34 years older than Louis XVI so it would not be expected that they would be buddies or anything or even nearly as close as say Honore II and Louis XIII or Louis I and Louis XIV had been. However, even with the Hereditary Prince Honore IV, he and his wife, Princess Louise, Duchess de Mazarin, did not have much in common with Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette.
The French King and Queen never visited Monaco, they rarely traveled at all and even the Princes of Monaco at that time were seldom in Monaco themselves. Prince Honore IV is something of a mysterious figure, only slightly younger than Louis XVI, since before the Revolution he was so overshadowed by his over-the-top wife and afterwards by his brother Prince Joseph who managed family affairs because Prince Honore IV was frequently ill. The marriage of Honore IV and Louise de Aumont Mazarin had been arranged and the two were completely incompatible with Princess Louise grabbing the most attention. As far as wives go, no two women were more opposite than Princess Louise and Queen Marie Antoinette. Not many people realize this because of the inaccurate portrayal of the French Queen but, as a matter of fact, the Hereditary Princess of Monaco was much closer to the way Marie Antoinette is so often accused of being.
No matter if one dismisses the most lurid tales as nothing more than court gossip there is no denying the fact that Princess Louise was a woman of rather loose morals who loved nothing more than wild and lavish parties with the most inventive costumes and diversions. Marie Antoinette is often portrayed this way but the truth is the total opposite. The King and Queen were both very religious people whereas the Grimaldis, although staunch Catholics of course, were not the most devout people in the world and Princess Louise certainly was not. Queen Marie Antoinette purposely did not associate with her because she so disapproved of her lifestyle, attitude and even her appearance. Whereas Marie Antoinette had a more delicate, childlike sort of beauty, Princess Louise was very voluptuous and bold and that type. So, Queen Marie Antoinette avoided Princess Louise specifically for behaving in ways that the Queen herself is so often accused of. It serves to illustrate how terribly unfair the popular portrayal of Marie Antoinette has been.