Who was Prince Albert I, great-great grandfather of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and museum founder? Join us on a journey back in time to meet this pioneer of modern oceanography.
Albert I was born in Paris on 13th November, 1848. Nicknamed ‘Prince of the Seas’ by virtue of his deep love of the ocean, he initiated some of the most significant oceanographic campaigns of his time (cf. La Carrière d’un Navigateur/ The Career of a Navigator). Upon the death of his father, in 1889, he became Prince of Monaco and, alongside his expeditions, set about making reforms on political, economic and social levels. Democratic and modern, he bestowed a constitution upon the principality, a move which proved hugely popular among the people of Monaco.
In contact with the professor Milne-Edwards, who at that time was director of the Natural History Museum in Paris, Prince Albert I nurtured a project to create a temple dedicated to the sea. The goal was to bring to the fore everything he had collected over the years. On the 25th March 1910, the inauguration of Monaco’s Museum of Oceanography was celebrated with an exceptional feast. This was followed on 23rd January, 1911 by the inauguration of the Institute of Oceanography (its name has subsequently been changed to the ‘Maison des Océans’) in Paris.
Profoundly humanistic, Prince Albert I was also revered for founding an International Institute for Peace. This foreshadowed the League of Nations and the UN. Passionate about justice, he campaigned alongside Zola and Clémenceau for a review in the trial of Captain Dreyfus, even inviting him, in an open letter published by the press, to reside at his castle once compensation had been obtained. Beneficent Prince, erudite Sovereign, Albert I of Monaco passed away on the 26th June 1922, respected the world over.
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