Reportage

“My father passed his love of the circus on to me” : Princess Stéphanie pays tribute to Prince Rainier III through an exhibition

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Princess Stéphanie, Prince Albert II, Camille Gottlieb and Louis Ducruet opened the exhibition on Tuesday evening - © Frédéric Nebinger / Prince's Palace

The Princess wished to create an exhibition on a circus theme, which was inaugurated on Tuesday, 21 November by the Princely Family.

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As you enter the premises that previously housed the Prince’s Car Collection, on the Terrasses de Fontvieille, the sunlight gives way to subdued lighting and suddenly you’re in… a red and white circus tent! Where a big exhibition about the circus, and more specifically the International Festival initiated by Prince Rainier III, comes to life.

Stage costumes, official records, archive photos and video footage, props, artwork… The exhibition celebrates a double anniversary: the 50th anniversary of the Monte-Carlo International Circus Festival and the 100th of the birth of Prince Rainier III. “It’s a fortunate coincidence,” smiles Princess Stéphanie, the initiator of this major project entitled “The Prince at the Heart of the Circus.”

“My father passed his love of the circus on to me, it’s deep in my veins,” said the Princess, who is delighted to be working with Charlène Dray, a former student at the Pavillon Bosio who holds a doctorate in circus studies and is the exhibition’s scientific curator.

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Princess Stéphanie and Charlène Dray – © Frédéric Nebinger / Prince’s Palace

Fifty Years of History

From clowns to acrobats, by way of the menagerie, a lot of research was carried out using 50 years’ worth of Festival archive material. “We really worked hand in hand, using my personal memories too. Charlène went through thousands of photos and we chose them together,” says Princess Stéphanie.

Asked about the possibility of a Circus museum being created in Monaco, the Princess exclaimed: “May God hear you, may the Prince hear you, may Saint Devota hear you! It’s my most cherished wish! (…) The circus also contributes to Monaco’s reputation around the world. I know, for example, that in China Monaco was best known for the circus, then for the Grand Prix or the Prince. So I think there are valid reasons for having a Circus museum in Monaco, and it would be very successful!”

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Princess Stéphanie strongly supports the creation of a Circus museum in Monaco – © Communication Department / Frédéric Nebinger

Until that project comes into being, perhaps someday, visitors are invited to dive into fifty years of history, full of magic and emotion. And as the Princess says, “You need to take your time to look at this exhibition. It’s not the sort of thing you should do if you have half an hour to spare, that would be a shame! You need to stop, watch the videos, and discover all of it. This is not an exhibition you can just rush round.”

The tour pays tribute to Prince Rainier III, who defended the art of the circus with passion, moving it from the French Ministry of Agriculture to the Ministry of Culture, and was one of the first to show concern for animal welfare. But iconic circus artists, such as the clown Charlie Rivel, the Festival’s first Clown d’Or in 1974, or Petit Gougou the ringmaster, are also honoured.

This spotlight would certainly have pleased the Builder Prince, who said, 50 years ago in the inaugural speech: “This Festival was created so that you, as spectators who pay attention to their efforts and their work, can get to know them better, celebrate them better.”

The Princely Family inaugurated the exhibition

The exhibition was inaugurated on the evening of 21 November, by Prince Albert II, Princess Stéphanie, Louis Ducruet and Camille Gottlieb.

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Many Monegasque figures were invited to the inauguration – © Frédéric Nebinger / Prince’s Palace

The Minister of State, Pierre Dartout, the Minister of the Interior, Patrice Cellario, and the President of the National Council, Brigitte Boccone-Pagès, were also present. Prince Albert II took the opportunity of signing the visitors’ book.

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The Sovereign signed the exhibition’s visitors’ book – © Frédéric Nebinger / Prince’s Palace

Practical details:

  • Dates :  22 November 2023 to 28 January 2024
  • Venue: Terrasses de Fontvieille, former Musée de l’Automobile, 25-29 Avenue Albert II, 98000 Monaco
  • Admission is free and open to all
  • Open every day from 11 am to 7 pm
  • Closed on  25 December 2023 and 1 January 2024