Monaco has been celebrating its Fête Nationale since the reign of Prince Charles III in 1857, although “Festival of the Sovereign” was renamed “National Day” in 1951 when the commemoration moved to November 19, which is Saint Rainier of Arezzo Day, the patron saint of HSH the Sovereign Prince Rainier III. Prince Albert decided to keep November 19 as the Fête Nationale, or National Day as it’s known in English.
Around town over the weekend, the local Monaco community demonstrated its support for His Serene Highness with red and white flags displayed on every balcony, light pole, church and major landmark.
On Friday, school children dressed in red and white to participate in National Day and class activities included patriotic-themed art and crafts.
For the first time, the Mairie de Monaco put on a musical laser show at 8 pm Friday night at Port Hercules. This replaced the traditional fireworks display, although on Saturday evening, a pyrotechnic production will light up the Principality as usual.
The town hall also organised a 90-minute “Cabaret Show” at Espace Léo Ferré, with a performance on Friday and Saturday.
Prince Albert, returning from the COP22 conference in Marrakesh, wasted no time getting into the holiday spirit. Friday afternoon, His Serene Highness and Princess Charlene were at the Monegasque Red Cross where 138 gift baskets were presented to retirees and recipients of the Collectif Réfugiés d’Orient (CRO), a non-profit association that assists Christians, in Monaco and in France, who are persecuted due to their religion. The CRO welcomed the third Syrian refugee family to the Principality two weeks ago.
Before hosting the National Day Ambassador’s Party at the yacht club Friday evening, Prince Albert met with the American Ambassador to Paris, Jane Hartley. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, issued a statement November 17, recognising that Monaco is one of the world’s oldest sovereignties and “has been a trusted friend to the United States for over 150 years”. He said, “On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I congratulate the Monegasque citizens as you celebrate the Sovereign Prince’s Day on November 19. Please also accept our warmest felicitations on the tenth anniversary of full diplomatic relations between the United States and Monaco.”
Saturday was a non-step schedule, starting at 9:30 am when Prince Albert presented medals and honours to the police and palace guards at a ceremony at the Palace’s Cour d’Honneur.
Saturday’s invitation-only Mass took place from 10:15-11:15 am at the Monaco Cathedral, where on Friday afternoon, a remembrance service for Monaco resident Paul Pettavino, who died Saturday November 11, filled the church, an appropriate tribute for the remarkable 20-year-old.
To honour the events that have marked France over the last year, Saturday morning’s traditional Te Deum was replaced by Psalm 130 “De Profundis”, a prayer for the deceased.
Following the morning’s service, back at the Place du Palais, the Prince and his family celebrated National Day with the Monegasques (it’s never too late to learn the National Anthem), and the traditional balcony waves and parade ran just over an hour.
Prince Albert blew one final kiss to the crowd before the palace windows were closed at 1 pm, when the official lunch was served in the Salle du Thône.
A gala reception for the Fête Nationale was held later in the evening at 6:30 pm, and the day ended with a performance of Verdi’s “Nabucco” in the Salles de Princes for those lucky enough to have been invited.
Article first published November 19, 2016.