Portrait of a Marriage: Princess Charlotte of Monaco and Count Pierre de Polignac

Princess Charlotte of Monaco weds Count Pierre de Polignac

On 2 February 1920 in Paris, the engagement was announced between Count Pierre de Polignac and Princess Charlotte of Monaco, Duchess ofValentinois. This union between the French nobleman and the Monegasque royal was destined to secure the future of the Grimaldi dynasty.

Count Pierre Marie Xavier Raphaël Antoine Melchior de Polignac was born on 24 October 1895 at the Château de Kerscamp. Pierre was the fourth son and seventh child of Count Maxence de Polignac and Suzanne de la Torre y Mier. Pierre served in the French Armed Forces during World War I. He became a friend of Marcel Proust and Jean Cocteau.

Charlotte Louise Juliette de Monaco was born on 30 September 1898 at Constantine, French Algeria. Charlotte was the only child of Prince Louis of Monaco and Marie Juliette Louvet. In 1919, Prince Louis formally adopted Charlotte in Paris, and she was recognised as his legitimate daughter as a consequence of this adoption. Charlotte was transformed from being simply “Mademoiselle Charlotte Grimaldi de Monaco” into “Her Serene Highness Princess Charlotte of Monaco, Duchess ofValentinois.

The Hereditary Prince Albert and Hereditary Princess Mary of Monaco

Charlotte’s father Louis (1870-1949) was the only son of Prince Albert I of Monaco (1848-1922) and Lady Mary Victoria Hamilton (1850-1922), who married in 1869 and whose marriage was annulled in 1880. Prince Albert was the only child of Prince Charles III of Monaco (1818-1889) and Countess Antoinette de Mérode (1828-1864). Lady Mary was the only daughter of William Hamilton (1811-1863), the 11th Duke of Hamilton, and Princess Marie Amelie of Baden (1817-1888).

On 19 March 1920, Princess Charlotte of Monaco and Count Pierre de Polignac were married in a civil ceremony at Monte Carlo. The couple were joined in matrimony in a Roman Catholic service the following day, 20 March. The day before the civil wedding, on 18 March, Pierre de Polignac took the Grimaldi surname and became a Monegasque citizen. By virtue of marrying Charlotte, Pierre was titled as the Duke of Valentinois. Alas, this alliance between Charlotte and Pierre was not destined to end “happily ever after” for the parties involved. 

The Duke and Duchess of Valentinois welcomed their first child within nine months of their union. Princess Antoinette Louise Alberte Suzanne of Monaco was born on 28 December 1920 at Paris. Almost three years later, Charlotte and Pierre produced their second child and only son: Prince Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand of Monaco arrived at the Princely Palace in Monte Carlo on 31 May 1923. After the birth of their second and last child, Pierre and Charlotte’s marriage foundered.

In March 1930, Princess Charlotte and Prince Pierre legally separated after a decade of not-so-wedded bliss. Former French president Raymond Poincaré acted as a mediator for the princely couple. Charlotte left her husband in favour of her lover, the Italian doctor Pietro Dalmazzo. In her case for a separation, Charlotte sought a division of the couple’s marital property. In his followup to his wife’s lawsuit, Pierre cited Charlotte’s lover Dr Dalmazzo as a factor in the breakdown of the marriage. Pierre temporarily placed his children, Antoinette and Rainier, in the custody of Princess Henriette of Belgium, Duchess of Vendome. This infuriated Pierre’s father-in-law Prince Louis II. In February 1933, the divorce between Hereditary Princess Charlotte of Monaco and Prince Pierre was officially announced by the princely palace in Monte Carlo. In a letter to her father, the princess wrote: “All I ask is to be permitted to seek a peaceful life for myself. For reasons which have been clear for three years, I ask you to dissolve my marital ties and to grant me an absolute divorce.” The dissolution of the couple’s marriage “led to unofficial indications of displeasure from the Vatican.” As a condition of receiving the divorce, and in a stipulation that was only ratified years later, Charlotte gave up her succession rights so that her son Rainier would be the immediate heir of his grandpa Louis.

On 9 May 1949, Prince Louis II of Monaco passed away at the age of seventy-eight. He was succeeded by his grandson, who became Prince Rainier III. Both Charlotte and Pierre attended the celebrations that marked their son’s succession to the Monegasque throne. By this time, Charlotte had taken up residence at her family’s Château de Marchais outside of Paris. Pierre was also a resident of his country of birth. 
Prince Rainier, Princess Charlotte, Prince Pierre, and Princess Antoinette of Monaco in 1956.
The wedding of Prince Rainier was the last public occasion to reunite his parents. Charlotte and Pierre both attended the union of their son to the American actress Grace Patricia Kelly in April 1956. Rainier’s nephew Baron Christian de Massy, the only son of Princess Antoinette, recounted the acrimonious goings-on between his grandparents during this family event in his memoirs:

Some time after, when I was older, Aunt Grace told me that the royal wedding day and the whole period that preceded it were among the worst ordeals she had ever known. At the various official and unofficial occasions, the lunches, the dinners, and the other family gatherings, she was miserably aware of the tension that existed in most of the family, and especially between Charlotte and Polignac, who even carried on vicious arguments right in front of her and Uncle Rainier. At one point she heard Polignac say, in a deliberate slight to Charlotte, and referring to her illegitimate birth, “At least my son married a real princess!” Grace had naturally dreamed that her new parents-in-law would be pleasant and compatible; the fact that her mother-in-law was less than welcoming to her and that Mamou despised her own [ex-]husband was very painful to Grace, for whom family links were of primary importance. One of her first wishes was to make the difficult, quarrelling Grimaldis a family as united as hers. She now understood that this was impossible.

Several months after Rainier’s wedding, in July 1956, Pierre underwent a 2 1/2 hour operation for a stomach ulcer in Charlottesville, Virginia.

On 10 November 1964, Prince Pierre of Monaco died of cancer at the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine. The prince had been an active patron of the arts. He was sixty-nine years-old. Rainier and Antoinette were at their father’s bedside when he passed away. Pierre’s former wife survived him by over a decade. Princess Charlotte of Monaco died on 15 November 1977 at the Château de Marchais. The princess had taken to rehabilitating ex-convicts on her estate. She was seventy-nine years-old. Both Charlotte and Pierre are buried at the Chapelle de la Paix in Monte Carlo. 

Charlotte and Pierre.
  • Leave a Comment