Idare say that the late Princess Grace (whom I knew very slightly, and who I know retained strong roots in her Irish Catholic inheritance) would have preferred that her son Albert beget a child within wedlock, rather than in the circumstances which have emerged: through a public “naming and shaming” by the child’s mother, followed by a verbal inquisition on French television. During this exercise, Prince Albert admitted that there might be other “paternity cases” in the pipeline.
Princess Grace, besides being an Irish Catholic at heart, was also a woman of the world, and it would be far-fetched to say she would have been scandalised. But she would have thought it irresponsible for her son to go on his merry way begetting babies hither and thither, with ladies he seemed to have no intention of marrying.
Yet I think she would also have come to look on the redeeming side. Most grandparents who initially disapprove of the circumstances in which their offspring procreate eventually take the grandchild to their hearts on sight. Albert’s natural son, the two-year, Alexandre, is a cuddlesome little mite, with that delicious café-au-lait colouring. And, to exercise that forgiving Catholic principle that to sin is human, and to forgive divine, Albert is far from being the first scion of a royal house to have produced progeny on the other side of the blanket – the Grimaldis have much previous form in this sphere.
Moreover, among the Latins, the revelation of the child’s existence is privately greeted by guffaws of “Macho!” and “Hombre!” – annulling Albert’s former reputation as a wet rag and a dull stick. And it proves that the new Grimaldi ruler is fertile – in an era when men are anxious about such matters – and that the way is open for him to do his duty, get married and start a family on a more regular basis.
People are notoriously influenced by the conduct of their peers, and Albert’s peer group among the younger European royal set have been marrying and procreating with zest. It was recently announced with much delight that the Crown Princess of Spain, Letizia, is – at last – four months pregnant (her sisterin-law, the Infanta Cristina has just given birth to her fourth child); that Princess Claire of Belgium, (wife of Prince Laurent), is expecting twins next January: that Princess MetteMarit of Norway (the first unmarried mother to wed a Crown Prince) looks forward to her third child in December this year. In the Netherlands, meanwhile, Crown Prince Willem Alexander has just happily attended the baptism of his new daughter, Princess Alexia of the Netherlands, a sister for Catharina Amalia.
In the midst of concerns about the downward European demographic spiral, the young Continental royals are holding up family life in great style, the Grand Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg holding the laurels, so far, with five handsome-looking children. If begetting families is a vote of confidence in the future, the Almanach de Gotha can look forward optimistically.
Albert’s own story is a little sadder, in that he made it plain, in interviews, that although he had a sexual relationship with the mother of his child, he does not love her. “One can have a tender regard for a child without loving the mother,” he said. And
perhaps Nicole Coste’s feelings of being rebuffed prompted her to go public. Modern women are more confident about doing this: although it has to be said that she was sponsored and supported by the powerful magazine ParisMatch, which, in a subsequent editorial, threatened that France
should repossess Monaco if Albert didn’t own up to his responsibilities.
Who knows what the private emotions or unresolved problems are of a public man? But at the end of the day, I feel sure that Albert’s mother would have said: “The child is here now, and he is welcome.”
PS It has been reported
that Pope Benedict has denounced the mania for the Harry Potter books because of their lack of spiritual content. It seems to me that this is a rather petty matter for the Holy Father to be concerned with. It is also an unwinnable case, as the huge queues all over the country for the new Harry Potter story demonstrate. And most people judge the tales to be pretty harmless. Unlike certain other children’s authors, J K Rowling is not setting out to plot an atheist’s agenda.
The reported papal denunciation may be a misconstruction: you can’t always believe what you read in the papers.
PS It has been reported
that Pope Benedict