Inquirer News Service
SOCIETY circles are agog over the dinner to be presided over by Chito Madrigal, Bea Zobel, Mary Prieto and Imelda Cojuangco, featuring Princess Caroline of Monaco and her husband, Prince Ernst August of Hanover. Readers of Paris Match and Hello! magazines are familiar with Princess Caroline, the eldest child of Prince Rainier of Monaco and his movie star wife, Grace Kelly. Caroline, after her mother’s tragic death in an automobile accident became the “ceremonial (if unofficial) first lady” of Monaco. Along the way, she married twice (French banker and “playboy” Philippe Junot in 1978, divorced in 1980; and Italian industrialist, Stefano Casiraghi in 1983, who died in a motorboat accident in 1990). She was wedded to Prince Ernst in August 1999. Princess Caroline was ineligible to succeed her father, Prince Rainier, because the laws governing the House of Grimaldi (the ruling dynasty of Monaco) forbade women rulers. However, in 2002 the constitution of Monaco was amended allowing female successions in cases where the male heir has no children. So, for example, if Prince Albert, the son and heir apparent of Prince Rainier won’t have kids, Princess Caroline will become the ruler of Monaco.
The stringent requirement for a male heir that governed the succession in Monaco for centuries is the Salic Law. It is called thus because it was codified by various German kings and dynasties, including the Salian Franks (called the Lex Salica, first compiled by Clovis I circa 508-11 AD). This body of laws became extremely influential as it was adopted by the Carolingian (Charlemagne and his successors) and Merovingian dynasties. The influence of this body of Germanic laws in countries outside Germany is best understood by the term Germans still use for France: Frankreich, or empire of the Franks.
And so it came to be that the ruling dynasties of France, first the Valoise and then the Bourbons, became the most prominent upholders of the Salic Law on succession, which was really a misenterpretation of the German laws: as the Columbia encyclopedia explains it, “provisions of the code forbade female succession to property but were not concerned with titles or offices.” The extension of a law on property to titles and offices was, perhaps, inevitable considering the proprietary nature of those titles and offices for various ruling houses, or dynasties, of Europe. Again, in the case of France, this was always strictly enforced, which is why you didn’t have cases of queens formally ruling France: mothers might have acted as regents for their sons, or pulled the strings behind the scenes, but always a male heir had to succeed to the throne (leading to lots of scheming and plotting whenever a king lacked sons or the sons of a king turned out sickly).
In 1700, the imbecile and sterile last Hapsburg ruler of Spain, Carlos II (ironically possessing the same name as Carlos I, founder of the Hapsburg dynasty in Spain and father of Philip II), who was an example of everything bad about royal inbreeding, died and willed the throne of Spain to the Duke of Anjou, a grandson of Louis XIV of France. Louis IV accepted the throne for his grandson, triggering off the 13-year War of the Spanish Succession. The Hapsburgs in Austria, the older branch of the dynasty to which Carlos II belonged, felt they had a stronger claim to the Spanish throne and fought for it. Louis XIV managed to keep the throne of Spain for his grandson, but Spain lost what is today Belgium and Holland to Austria, as well as its territories in Italy to both Austria and the Kingdom of Savoy.
Filipinos might have heard of the Carlist Wars in Spain, which began because of the Salic Law: its requirements were set aside to allow Isabella II (who has a statue in Intramuros) to become Queen of Spain. Supporters of her uncle started a civil war and there are Carlists in Spain to this day.
In the case of Caroline of Monaco, her husband’s family history was affected by the Salic Law.
Because sovereignty for centuries was considered to be incarnated in the person of the ruler and his family, Europe has many kingdoms ruled by foreign families. The royal houses of Great Britain have been, since the time of James I, foreign: the Stuarts, to which James I, Charles I and II, and James II, were Scots; William of Orange was from Holland; then the crown passed on to the Elector of Hanover (elector because he had the hereditary privilege of being one of those who could vote for the elected Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire), George of Brunswick-Loneburg in 1718. The first George of England (great-grandson of James I), in fact, didn’t know, and didn’t bother to learn, English. It was only his grandson, George III (in whose reign America revolted), who could properly be called English in mannerisms and speech.
George III went intermittently insane, and eventually his son, for many years proclaimed regent, became George IV. He died without children, so his brother succeeded him as William IV, who also died without children in 1837. The result was that George IV’s and William IV’s niece, Victoria, became Queen of Great Britain. At this point, the Salic Law kicked in: the House of Hanover could continue in Britain under a woman, but could only be headed by a man in Hanover. An uncle of Queen Victoria, Ernst Augustus, youngest son of George III of England, became King of Hanover. In 1866, Ernst Augustus’ son, George V, sided with Austria in a war against Prussia. They lost; Prussia annexed Hanover, and the last King of Hanover decided to call himself the Prince of Cumberland. This is the family, throneless since 1866, to which Ernst August, husband of Caroline, belongs.