In the new episode of Secrets d’Histoire, broadcast on France 3 this Monday, June 13, Stéphane Bern went to one of the castles of Albert II, located in the Aisne. A very secret place, kept away from television cameras to ensure the tranquility of the prince and his family.
Stéphane Bern reserved a nice surprise for the fans of Secrets d’Histoire on France 3 this Monday, June 13: the presenter opened the doors of a secret castle belonging to the family of Prince Albert II for centuries. It is the castle of Marchais, located in the Aisne, “the most private residence of the Grimaldi family”, according to the explanations of the specialist. No television camera has ever filmed this castle,” said the 58-year-old journalist. It is therefore both an immense privilege and an exclusive that the princely family grants us by allowing the teams of Secrets of History to enter.”
It was the mother of the young Albert I (then aged 6), Princess Antoinette de Merode, who acquired this vast property in 1854. “Coming from the Belgian aristocracy, she was thus closer to her native land since we are here only about sixty kilometers from the border with Belgium,” said Stéphane Bern. For Prince Albert II’s great-great-grandfather, this castle and its park are “an enchantment. He will even say that it is here that he spent the most pleasant days of his childhood,” continued the presenter. Very involved with his mother in the community of Marchais, Albert I established a strong bond with the inhabitants of the region. “A relationship that continues to exist,” said the author of numerous historical works.
Indeed, when Prince Albert II goes to the castle of Marchais with his wife Charlene and twins Jacques and Gabriella, they do not hesitate to mingle with the population of the village, composed of 430 inhabitants, as Jean Pestel, a local resident, had affirmed with La Voix du Nord in 2019: “He is left alone but you must not believe that he is withdrawn. He talks to everyone. Sometimes he goes to the bar in Liesse. One day he came across a man in the middle of a conversation who was grumbling at him. “Do you know the prince? ” he asked him. “No? Well, I do,” and they had a drink together.” He added, however, “When he’s here, we leave him in royal peace. The sovereign comes here to be a little quiet. To be able to relax and move around freely.”
“A real plague”: Prince Rainer forced to close the castle
If the Marchais castle has kept its secret character for the Grimaldi family, it is because Prince Rainer has put in place devices to keep himself from the cameras of the press. “Prince Rainier was forced to shut everything down at the time the paparazzi started photographing his two daughters. They were everywhere, perched in the trees to better take their picture. A real plague”, said Jacques Pestel. In the past, however, the 1,500-hectare estate was open to villagers who came to play boules in the summer in the castle’s driveway.
The Grimaldi family is used to staying at Marchais for one or two weekends in the summer, or in September or February, which are good times for hunting. Prince Albert is not a real hunter,” said Jacques Pestel. He loves nature too much. When he has the animal at the end of his rifle, he has trouble shooting. On the other hand, his sister, Princess Caroline, is an enthusiast. She is in charge of the bloodhounds. This consists of finding injured animals so that they do not suffer. As for Princess Stephanie, we never see her here. It’s not her thing, the countryside.”
Photo credits: Claudia Albuquerque / Bestimage