Prince Albert got to play Santa – even if some bad weather called for a last-minute change in plans

By Peter Mikelbank
December 20, 2018 12:09 PM
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Prince Albert got to play Santa for the children of Monaco – even if some bad weather called for a last-minute change in plans.

The rains were spectacular and unslacking – and washed out Santa’s annual courtyard arrival as well as the much hoped for appearances of Princess Charlene, Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella at this year’s annual Palace Christmas party in Monaco.

Luckily, the Palace had a spare room – its Throne Room – available on short notice.

Over 650 children aged 5 to 12, each wearing a Christmas bonnet, were quickly ushered into the alternative room where Prince Albert (in a festive Christmas tie!) and his nephew Louis Ducruet took on what is clearly one of his favorite royal responsibilities: hosting the principality’s annual children’s party.

Approaching its 60th anniversary, the traditional event was begun as an informal way of introducing Princess Grace to Monaco’s children. At the first party, guests were entertained by a reel of Disney cartoons before each received a gift from a member of the royal family. Traditions like stage magicians, a visit from Santa (this year, a proper bear-sized Santa), the Palace’s legendary hot chocolate (it tastes like melted chocolate bars) and circus performers have been added over the years – but in general the intimate scale has been largely kept.

Stephane Cardinale/Corbis/Getty
Stephane Cardinale/Corbis/Getty

“It’s Grace’s legacy,” suggests one Monégasque citizen who has attended “over a dozen” parties, both as a child and a parent. “No one enjoys it more though than Prince Albert.”

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Chief among the unique traditions from its very beginning is that each child has an opportunity to speak briefly with the ruling sovereign.

Weeks of organization are required by dozens of palace employees to create a list of “bespoke” gifts for each child, and after this year’s magician sawed his assistant in half, each of the children were brought in one of three waves to a large table where Prince Albert handed over their gift.

VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty
VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty

“The youngest ones come first,” explains one palace staffer. “Their name is called out, they are handed their gift – usually something in a box twice their size, it can be quite funny – and then they have a word with Albert. It’s something he really enjoys. It shows in his eyes. He genuinely loves children.”

“In so many ways Monaco is really a village. Everyone knows everyone else, everyone knows everyone else’s father, mother,” the staffer adds. “This Christmas tradition at the Palace which Rainier and Grace started, it nurtures that bond between the whole community. Being in the Palace, meeting the prince, attending the party. That’s something you look forward to all year long when you’re a child. And then, when you’re a parent you look forward to sharing it with your own children.”