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Monaco by R. Davey

There are three ways of reaching Monaco from Nice—by sea, by rail, and by carriage viâ the Corniche road. This last is the longest, but by far the most interesting route. The railroad takes you to Monaco in about an hour, and the steamer employs pretty nearly the same time. A carriage, on the other hand, requires not less than five hours for the journey, but then the scenery passed through is perhaps the most striking in Southern Europe. I have often gone on foot, leaving Nice early in the morning, and arriving in Monaco at about four in the afternoon, having been able to rest fully two hours on the way. Once beyond the town, the road begins to ascend what is called the Montée de Villefranche, and at every step the views become more and more varied and picturesque. Presently an olive wood is traversed, and the town is lost to sight until the summit of the mountain which separates the Bay of Nice from that of Villefranche is attained. This olive wood is of great antiquity, and, like almost all similar thickets in this part of the country, doubtless owes its origin to the Romans, who are said to have introduced the tree into the Maritime Alps and the south of France. Many of the trees are very large, and their trunks are black and much twisted, their branches long and weird-looking, but the exceeding delicacy of their foliage, which is dark green on the outside and silver gray on the inner, lends them a very fascinating appearance, especially on a moonlight night, when the arching boughs of an olive grove look exactly as if covered with shawls of rich black lace. The leaf of the olive tree, which is an evergreen, is attached to the bough by a very slender stalk, so that the slightest wind sets it in motion, as it does that of the quivering aspen. The fruit resembles an acorn without its cup, and is brown and dingy. The flower is very insignificant.

The olive trees at Nice are cultivated on terraces cut like deep steps up the mountain-side. All the earth which fills these terraces has been placed there by human labor; and when it is taken into consideration that many hundreds of miles of mountain-side have been thus redeemed from waste, that the work dates back at least fifteen centuries, and was performed at a period when agricultural implements were of the rudest, they must be acknowledged as among the most gigantic of undertakings. They are from ten to twenty feet high, about a quarter of a mile long, and from fifteen to twenty-five feet wide. In order to form them the rock had to be cut away, blasting being of course unknown at the time, and every handful of earth brought up from the plain below, often to a height of two thousand feet. The Provençal writers consider them the work of the Moors, but it is probable that they were commenced under the Phoceans and the Romans and continued by the Arabs. I have been shown several terraces the masonry of which was undoubtedly Roman, and coins bearing the effigies of the earlier Cæsars have been often found in the brick work. Corn is grown on them under the shadow of the olive trees, to whose branches the vine is frequently twined. I have seen two wheat-harvests gathered in one year on these narrow terraces, and nothing can be imagined more charming than their appearance late in autumn. Then the golden corn waves beneath garlands of vine heavily laden with luscious fruit, the olive tree, emblem of peace, waves its silvery foliage overhead, the peach is ripe, and so are the bright green October figs, and there is a mellowness in the air that makes one almost inclined to believe that the age of gold has returned to earth.

As the summit of the mountain is approached vegetation becomes less luxuriant, and finally disappears altogether. Mont Borron, for so is the mountain in question called, is about two thousand five hundred feet high, and the plateau at its top is barren and rocky, though the short tufty thyme and myrtle grow in great abundance, to the delight of the sheep and bees. The view obtained hence is amongst the most beautiful in the world. Facing you is the deep blue Thyranean Sea, sparkling with sails, and often on a clear day with the hazy outline of the island of Corsica distinctly visible on its horizon. To the right lies Nice, with all her domes, towers, churches, hotels, quays and the interminable line of her palatial villas traced out as in a map. Then range after range of mountains of every shape and nature, grass grown, rocky, forest-covered, barren, rise one above the other until the mists of distance alone efface them from sight. Along the coast of France can be counted, from this point, not less than fifteen separate bays and as many peninsulas and capes. Wherever the eye lingers it is sure to discover enchanting districts—gardens of surpassing loveliness, where grow groves of orange and lemon trees white with blossom or golden with fruit; stately palms of many varieties; the two-leaved eucalyptus; rose-bushes whose flowers are far more numerous than their leaves; magnolia and camellia trees capable of producing a thousand flowers; villas of Venetian, English, Swiss, Italian, and Oriental architecture. Here by the sea is one of such perfectly classical appearance that every moment one expects to see issue from its marble peristyle the gracefully shaped Ione, Julia or Lydia; there is a sweet little cottage, half buried in banksia roses, which might have been transported from the Branch, Cape May or the Isle of Wight. But if the view to your right is beautiful for its luxuriant fertility, that to the left surpasses it in grandeur. Below you is the pretty village of Villefranche, with its old church and forts half hidden amongst the palms, which, together with the innumerable aloe-plants of colossal proportions, give the scene a truly African character. Villefranche reflects herself and her palms upon the surface of the most mirror-like of bays, for even in the stormiest weather no ripple stirs its waters—waters so deep that the largest ships of war can anchor in them close to the shore. The American frigates cruising in the Mediterranean usually make Villefranche their winter resort, and the stately presences of the Richmond, Plymouth, Shenandoah and Juniata are often to be seen here, giving life to a scene which otherwise would lack animation. Beyond Villefranche the long hilly peninsula of Beaulieu and St. Hospice stretches for fully three miles out into the bay, as green as an emerald, with some twenty pleasure-boats usually clustering about its shores, for the cork woods of St. Hospice are famous for picnics and merrymaking, and its little hotel is renowned throughout Europe for its fish-dinners.

Behind Villefranche, and continuing for fully fifty miles along the Italian coast, rise the majestic mountains of the Riviera. Nothing can be imagined more awe-striking than their appearance: their weird shapes, their gloomy ravines, their fearful precipices, beetling over the sea many thousand feet, their crags, peaks, chasms and desolate grandeur produce a panorama of unsurpassed magnificence. But what impresses one most is perceiving that, however barren they seem, they are nevertheless thickly peopled. Towns, villages, convents, villas and towers cover them in all directions, and in positions often truly astonishing. Yonder is quite a large town clustering round the extreme peak of a mountain at least three thousand feet high, and utterly bald of vegetation; there is Eza perched upon a rock rising perpendicularly from the sea, so that a stone thrown from the church-tower would fall straight into the waves below through fifteen hundred feet of space; far away in the distance, and close upon the shore, looking as white as a band of pearls, are the villas of Mentone, and just in front of them the castle-crowned heights of Monaco; yonder, almost touching the clouds, is the famous sanctuary of Laghetto, and there is Augustus's monument at La Tarbia—a solitary round tower, so solidly built that it has resisted the ravages of eighteen centuries.

But what pen can describe the splendor of this scene? what brush reproduce its ever-changing hues, its delicate mists, its broad shadows, the deep blue of the sea, the rosy tint which Aurora casts over all, or the vivid purples and crimsons which glow upon the mountain-crags and strew the indigo of the Mediterranean with jasper, ruby, Sapphire and gold when the sun falls to rest behind the beautiful Cape of Antibes? Nature defies Art in such a spot as this, and seems to triumph in bewildering our delighted senses with the infinite variety of her products. Here her sea and mountains are sublime in their grandeur, and at our feet are wild violets and heath and rosemary and thyme, each, too, sublime in its way. She defies us with her colors, her odors, and even with her music, for overhead "the lark at heaven's gate sings," and the bees go buzzing home laden with honey stolen from the wild honeysuckle, caper and myrtle which grow abundantly around.

It was my fortune once to escort to this view the illustrious French artist Paul Delaroche. His delight can be better imagined than described. "Ah!" he exclaimed, "ceci c'est trop bien!" He assured me that no painter could attempt it excepting perhaps Turner, and vowed that although he had visited many lands he had never witnessed anything to surpass it. Turner perhaps could have reproduced such a scene, for he possessed the power of giving the general effects of extended landscapes admirably, without entering too minutely into their details. In the "Loreto necklace" and "Golden bough" he has painted two marvelously varied views full of ranges of mountains, rivers, lakes and classic buildings, without confusion, and with great skill displayed in portraying various and vaporous distances.

But it is high time that we leave the fine arts and hasten on to Monaco. Space, like time, is limited, and much as I should love to conduct my readers all the long way on foot, to show them the monster olive tree at Beaulieu, which is seven yards in circumference, and reputed the largest of its species in the world, to pause a little amidst the Roman ruins of La Tarbia and the Saracenic remains of Eza and Roccabruna, I must hasten on to the capital of the Liliputian dominions of his Serene Highness Prince Florestan II.

Let me entertain you with a very brief account of the history of this singular little princedom. Monaco is one of the most ancient places in Europe. Five hundred years before our Blessed Lord came to redeem the world, Hecate of Melites wrote an account of the city, which he called Monoikos (the "isolated dwelling"), and declared it to be even then so old a town that the people had lost all tradition of its origin, except that some of their priests asserted Hercules to have founded it after his feat of slaying Geryon and the brigands before he left Italy for Spain. The Romans, in fact, called it Portus Herculis Monceci, and for short "Portus Monceci." During the Middle Ages Hercules was entirely cast aside, and the town was spoken of as Monaco. The tradition of its original foundation is carefully preserved in the civic coat-of-arms, which represents a gigantic monk with a club in his hand—Hercules in a friar's robe. In the days of Charlemagne the Moors invaded Monaco, and remained there until A.D. 968, when a Genoese captain named Grimaldi volunteered to assist the Christian inhabitants in driving the infidels from their shores. He was victorious, and was rewarded for his bravery and skill by being proclaimed prince of Monaco. In the family of his descendants the little territory still remains.

The Grimaldis were powerful rulers, wise and brave, and having secured independence, they maintained it at all cost through centuries of trouble. Fifty-eight sieges has Monaco sustained from either the French or the Genoese, but she never lost her independence excepting for a few years at a time. In 1428 a terrible tragedy of great dramatic interest occurred in the castle. John Grimaldi was prince, and married to a Fieschi Adorno of Genoa, a lovely lady, but a faithless. She had not long been a wife ere she fixed her affections on her husband's younger brother, Lucian, and induced him to murder his brother and usurp the throne. Accordingly, Lucian, aided by his mistress, stabbed John Grimaldi in his bed, and having thrown the body into the sea, proclaimed himself prince. He reigned but a short time. Bartolomeo Doria, nephew of the Genoese doge, Andrea Doria the Great, murdered him at a masquerade given in his palace to celebrate his infamous sister-in-law's birthday. The galleys of the doge awaited the assassin without the port, and transported him back in safety to Genoa—a circumstance which gave rise to a suspicion that Andrea was himself privy to the deed. As to the wicked lady, she was banished to the castle of Roccabruna, where she died miserably, abandoned by all. A legend says she went distracted, and in a fit of insanity flung herself headlong over the rocks into the sea.

In 1792 the French Republic destroyed the principality, but it was restored through the interest of Talleyrand in 1815. A revolution broke out in 1848, which obliged the prince to declare Monaco a free town, and which also deprived His Highness of Mentone and Roccabruna. When the French annexed Nice they also added the two last-mentioned towns to their dominions, but had to pay Prince Florestan four millions of francs for his feudal right.

If Monaco is not a very large principality, it is in a pecuniary sense exceedingly flourishing. In 1863 His Highness made the acquaintance of M. Blanc, the famous gambling-saloon "organizer" of Homburg, and, on the receipt of the trifling consideration of twelve million francs and an annual tax of one hundred and fifty thousand, consented to allow him to establish the world-famous saloons at Monte Carlo, about a mile and a half from the capital.

The people of Monaco pay few taxes, enjoy many privileges, like and laugh at their sovereign, and by no means desire annexation either to France or Italy. By law they are strictly prohibited from gambling, and are a quiet, thrifty, peace-loving set, kept in order by an army of sixty-one men, ten officers and a colonel, of whom more anon. Just at present the court of "Liliput" has given room for a great deal of gossip. His Serene Highness the hereditary prince, and Her Serene Highness the princess, after a few months of matrimonial bliss, have quarreled and separated. It happened on this wise. (The information I give I know to be correct, as it was communicated to me by an intimate friend of the young princess, and I was at Nice myself when the affair occurred.) About four years ago the young prince of Monaco married, through the influence of the empress Eugenie, the Lady Mary Douglas, sister of the duke of Hamilton and daughter of H.I.H. the princess Mary of Baden, duchess of Hamilton, and grand-daughter of the celebrated Prince Eugene Beauharnois. The wedding was magnificent, and the bride and bridegroom appeared exceedingly well pleased with each other. After a brief honeymoon both their highnesses returned to Monaco to reside with the reigning prince and princess. Very soon afterward the young lady commenced making bitter complaints to her friends of the court etiquette, which she declared was utterly unendurable, especially to a free-born Englishwoman. An instance will suffice: One morning Her Serene Highness came down to breakfast before the whole family was assembled. To her amusement, she beheld on each plate an egg labeled "For His Serene Highness, the reigning prince," "For H.S.H. the reigning princess," "For H.S.H. the hereditary prince," "For H.S.H. the hereditary princess." Being in a hurry and hungry, "Her Serene Highness the hereditary princess" sat herself down and ate her own egg and the eggs of her neighbors. Horror! Court etiquette was over-thrown. The egg destined for the august prince Florestan II. had been eaten by his own daughter-in-law! The outraged majesty of Monaco was indignant, and the youthful aspirant to the throne by no means mild in his reproaches. However, true Douglas as she is, the old blood of Archibald Bell-the-cat boiled over, and the princess Mary is reported to have read the serene family a famous lecture. Matters went on in this way until the poor girl could stand it no longer, and one fine day escaped from "jail," ran down to the station and took the first train for Nice. A telegram was sent to the gendarmerie at Nice to arrest her as soon as she got out of the carriage. Accordingly, to her terror, when she put her foot on terra firm a there stood two gendarmes ready to pounce upon her. It was, however, no joke to arrest an imperial princess, for such Lady Mary is by birth. The men hesitated, but not so the princess. Brought up at Nice, she knew all the roads and bypaths of the place by heart. Tucking up her petticoats, instead of going out by the ordinary exit she made off as fast as her heels could carry her out of the station to the fence which separates the lines from the road, climbed over it and ran as swiftly as a hunted deer through the fields, pursued by the two gendarmes, who, however, soon gave up the chase. Her Serene Highness finally reached the Villa Arson, almost two miles distant, terribly frightened and with her clothes pretty nearly torn off her back. Here she found that noble-hearted and Christian woman her mother, from whom she has never since separated. Nor has she yielded up to her husband her little son, born soon after the flight from Monaco. Vain have been the young man's attempts to induce her to return to him, vain his appeals to the pope to use his influence, vain even the threats of law. Last winter the prince induced the king of Italy to permit an attempt to abduct the child from the princess whilst she was staying in Florence with the grand duchess Marie of Russia, but the guards of the imperial lady prevented the emissaries of the Florentine syndic from even entering the palace, and the next day the princess of Monaco fled with her child to Switzerland. What the future developments of this singular affair will be time will show. The husband seems determined not to yield, and has recently employed the celebrated lawyer M. Grandperret as his counsel. It is stated that undue influence of a malicious kind has been used to prejudice both the duchess of Hamilton and her daughter against the prince, but all who know the truly lofty mind of the duchess will be sure that, although the reason for the princess's conduct has never transpired, it must be a very good one, or her mother would never uphold her as she does. Not the slightest blame is attributable to the princess of Monaco, and her reputation remains utterly above suspicion.

The station of Monaco is about ten minutes' walk from the town, which we now see is built upon a lofty rock forming a kind of peninsula jutting out from the mainland in the shape of a three-cornered hat. It is about two hundred feet high, and rises almost perpendicularly from the water on three sides, and that which joins the rest of the coast is ascended by a winding and steep road which passes under several very curious old gates and arches, originally belonging to the castle. The castle crowns the centre of the rock, and is a most romantic construction, possessing bastions, towers, portcullises, drawbridges and all the paraphernalia of a genuine mediæval fortress. It was built upon the site of a much more ancient edifice in 1542, and is a very remarkable specimen of the military architecture of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. During the French Revolution it was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers, and subsequently fell into a state of pitiable decay. It has, however, been repaired with great taste by the present prince within the last few years. Internally, it possesses a magnificent marble staircase and some fine apartments. One long gallery is said to have been painted in fresco by Michael Angelo, but it has been so much restored that the original design alone remains. Another gallery is covered with good pictures by the Genoese artist Carlone. Five doors open on this latter gallery—one leading to the private chambers of the prince; another to those of the princess; a third into a room where the duke of York, brother of George IV., was carried to die; a fourth to the famous Grimaldi hall; and the fifth to the room where Lucian Grimaldi was murdered, as already related, by Bartolomeo Doria. This chamber was walled up immediately after the crime, and only reopened in 1869, after a lapse of three hundred years. The Grimaldi hall, or state chamber, is a large square apartment of good proportions and handsomely decorated. Its chief attraction is the chimney-piece, one of the finest specimens of Renaissance domestic architecture now extant. It is very vast, lofty and deep, constructed of pure white marble and covered with the most exquisite bas-reliefs imaginable. Under Napoleon I. it was taken down to be removed to Paris, but was replaced in 1815. The chapel is handsome, and covered with good frescoes and splendid Roman mosaics. The gardens are very delightful, abounding with shady bowers and beautiful tropical plants. In one of the alleys is a tomb of the time of Cæsar, bearing this inscription:


The streets of Monaco are very narrow, and possess but few handsome houses. The little shops are very neat and the place is exceedingly clean. The principal church, dedicated to Saint Nicholas, is very ancient, and possesses two or three good pre-Raphaelite pictures. It is attached to a recently-restored Benedictine abbey, the mitred abbot of which does the duties of bishop. He is an exceedingly pleasant old gentleman, very chatty and unassuming. The Jesuits have a superb college and convent in Monaco, which is the residence of the Father Provincial of Piedmont and California. This may appear a somewhat extensive jurisdiction, but California was placed under the direction of the provincial of Piedmont when it was first discovered and only a missionary station. The port (Portus Hercults) is small, but well situated: about eight hundred and fifty little vessels and steamers enter it annually. Surrounding the port are some excellent bathing establishments, and not far from it rises Monte Carlo with its magnificent casino.

I cannot bid adieu to Monaco without relating a little anecdote in which I was an involuntary actor. It chanced that one day in 1870 business took me to Monaco, and I arrived in that capital on the anniversary of the birthday of the reigning princess. The little town was decorated with flags and banners; a Te Deum was sung in the abbey church, and after high mass a review of the "army" took place in front of the castle, on the Grande Place. Now I happened to be well acquainted with the captain, who, the instant he saw me watching the manoeuvres, took the opportunity to come over and invite me to dine with the officers that evening, when they were to be regaled at a banquet at the expense of the princess. I of course accepted, and was, at about four in the afternoon, taken over the guard-house, which is exquisitely clean and neatly furnished, and contains a handsome chapel, a billiard-room and a well-supplied reading-room. Dinner was served at five o'clock, and a very good one it was. The dining-room had been, in days of yore the refectory of an ancient convent, and the men sat at two long white-wood tables placed facing each other in the centre of the chamber, while the officers were accommodated with a table to themselves at the top of the room. During the repast a good deal of jesting went on, toasts were drunk and wine circulated freely. Some hot heads amongst the youngsters began to turn, and it became pretty evident that it was more prudent to consign the men to the barracks than to allow them to go out after dark through the town. The colonel consequently gave the captain a hint to that effect. It soon got noised about, however, and when the colonel retired to his private room to smoke, his key was suddenly turned from without, and he was locked in. The same thing happened to the captain and myself. Presently the most awful noises resounded through the building: "the army" was in a state of insubordination. Some dozen young fellows came up to the colonel's door and declared that they would not release him unless he granted the extra leave which was theirs by right. Furious was the gallant colonel, and no less so my friend the captain. They swore terrible vengeance, but the "army" cared little for their threats. Over each door throughout the whole building is a circular window, just large enough for a man to put his head through. Wishing to see what was going on, I got up on a chair and looked out. Down the corridor was a tide of upturned excited faces. Out of the next loophole to mine appeared the infuriated face of the colonel. Presently some bright wit in the lower part of the house was inspired with the brilliant idea of firing off a gun. This decided matters, and, making a terrible effort, the colonel burst open his door, and rushing down the corridor with drawn sword, soon intimidated the revolutionists. By and by the captain and myself were released from durance vile, and before twenty minutes elapsed the "revolt" was over. Decided as was the action of the colonel, it was as kindly as possible. He treated his men as they deserved—like unruly boys—locked them up for the night, and promised them a holiday when they were good.

When I left the guard-house that night it was already long after dark: the last trains from Monte Carlo were due within half an hour of each other. I hastened to the station. Almost at its entrance I met an old friend whose face, I noticed, was deadly pale. He was a man of considerable influence, and I at once concluded that he had received bad news from the seat of war. I asked eagerly what was the matter. "Can you keep a secret?" "Of course I can," I answered. "If you divulge this one it may have serious consequences for yourself," he returned gravely. "I promise to keep silent." "Well, then, there has been a fight before Sedan. Napoleon III. has laid his sword at the feet of William of Prussia." "My God!" I cried, "is it possible?" "It is but too true. I have just seen a ciphered telegram which came viâ Cologne and Turin. It is not known in Nice, and will not be so for hours yet. Do not say a word about it: if you do it may cost you dear. No one will believe you, and they will take you for a spy, a Prussian or a pessimist." I understood at once the prudence of this advice. Presently the train came up, we parted, and I took my place. The third-class carriages were full of volunteers, recruits and conscripts from Mentone. They were singing à tue tête the Marsellaise. I shall never forget the terrible impression the song made on me. The triumphant words shouted out by the men seemed more sorrowful than those of the De profundis:

Allons, enfants de la patrie,

Le jour de gloire est arrivé.

"The day of glory" indeed had arrived. On we went as fast as the wind, and the singing continued uninterruptedly until we reached Nice. Here I found the station full of soldiers preparing to start by the 2 A.M. train. When we entered the station, hearing the shouts of "Le jour de gloire," they joined in enthusiastically. The next morning by daybreak the official despatch arrived. To describe the consternation it produced would be impossible, or the frantic glee with which the Republic was proclaimed. The next day the mob tore down all the imperial eagles and bees from the public buildings; M. Gavini, the Bonapartist prefect, had to escape the best way he could over the frontier, and madame his wife made her way to the station under a shower of potatoes, eggs and carrots, and a volley of insults and coarse epithets; Gambetta's father, a fine white-headed old gentleman, a grocer, was carried in triumph through the streets; the timid trembled for their lives; the wildest reports were circulated; the town was placed in a state of siege; but "le jour de gloire" did not arrive. It has not arrived yet, and may not do so for some time to come; but it must arrive sooner or later, or there will be no such thing as peace in Europe.