During the exclusive interview with GALA in his study, Albert von Monaco talks about his childhood, talks about his parents and explains what he would like to pass on to his children.
He quickly clears a few more books from the coffee table – in case his guest wants to put something on it. But not only here, everywhere in the study of Prince Albert, 65, letters and files are piled up, souvenirs are lying around. He’s accumulated a lot over the years. Those who are received here, in the heart of the principality, have already passed two guard posts. Has taken the narrow elevator to the third floor, where a photo of Albert’s mother Grace Kelly with Hollywood director Alfred Hitchcock hangs in the hallway – as a reminder of the time before she became Princess Grace Kelly. In the antechamber of Albert’s office, one notices a Christmas card from Charles and Camilla. The prince greets GALA in fluent German, after all he has German ancestors.
Prince Albert: His parents serve as inspiration
GALA: We are sitting here in your office, which you once inherited from your mother. How big are the changes you made back then?
Prince Albert: Pretty serious. I think it feels more masculine today in terms of decor and color scheme. When it was her office, the space more reflected her taste and colors. When I was a young man, my father told me I could have her room. (Gracia Patricia died in a car accident in 1982 at the age of 52; editor’s note.) I always thought the size was just right. It also has the best view – even on three sides. That’s why I stayed here. It was easier than moving downstairs to my father’s office later.
How close do you feel to your mother working here?
I feel a connection to both parents. There are moments every day when I think about them and ask myself: how would they have reacted, what would they have done? You are an important inspiration for me.
About formative childhood memories
You yourself grew up in this palace. How was it?
My sisters and I walked around everywhere, poking our heads in different rooms and seeing who was working there. For us children it was an adventure to discover everything. For example, I went roller skating with my sisters at the Hercules Gallery. Our curator would no longer allow me to do that today. (laughs) But I never broke anything.
And how is it for your children today?
Well the palace is also a place where we live as a family. There are areas, for example the gardens, where children can feel completely free and play. This helps them develop a sense that this is not only an official place, but also their home.
At the same time, many people work here every day, and tourists come to visit. How do you reconcile all of this?
You get used to it. All employees strive to ensure that coordination runs smoothly. We know: Visitors come to the west wing from Easter to October, so we try to avoid standing around in the inner courtyard for too long during this time.
Later, GALA also gets the opportunity to explore the palace, even places that remain closed to tourists. Surprise: under the courtyard where Albert and Charlène were married in 2011 there is a cistern, a huge water reservoir that Albert’s ancestors had built in case of a siege. Today stalactites grow here and it resonates like in a church. Dark clouds are hanging over the northern garden, where Gracia Patricia once did her rounds with the pram. Everyone says the plants could use a bit of rain.
Between modernity and traditions
The Grimaldis have lived on this rock for more than 700 years, and their family has expanded and rebuilt the palace over the centuries. How do you teach your children which tradition they belong to?
My wife and I do it step by step. We have already shown you the State Apartments and other important rooms. But that’s not something you do in a day. Nor do we tell them to sit down and listen to a lecture. You should discover things for yourself. Little by little they will understand what it all means. And what an incredible legacy we are leaving them.
Sustainability is also an important issue in Monaco. What does this mean in relation to the palace?
For example, we use as few chemicals as possible for cleaning. The plants in the garden are planted from a sustainable point of view. And our vehicles are mostly hybrid or electric.
They want to preserve the past and look to the future. How do you balance?
In order to see into the future, one must understand one’s own past. This maxim has always guided me. Maybe it’s in my DNA. My ancestors always thought about how to modernize and improve Monaco. It was always a challenge to be small, with narrow borders and therefore having to forge different alliances. We had to evolve and innovate without destroying the past.
Her father, Prince Rainier, who would have turned 100 this year, has also helped to modernize the palace.
Both of my parents contributed a lot. My mother started changing the private rooms early on, but also some of the state rooms. She had great taste. And my father did a lot to improve the general living and working conditions in the palace. Both taught me to pay attention to details at an early age of 17. Of course you have to have a master plan. But sometimes it’s the little things that count. And that’s why you have to make sure that everything is just right.