by Susan Flantzer
© Unofficial Royalty 2022
Antoinette Ghislaine de Merode, the wife of Charles III, Prince of Monaco, was born on September 28, 1828, in Brussels, then in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, and after 1831 in the Kingdom of Belgium. She was the sixth of the seven children and the fourth of the five daughters of Werner Jean-Baptiste Merode, Count of Merode (1797 – 1840), a Belgian politician from a Belgian noble family, and Countess Victoire de Spangen Uyternesse (1799-1845).
Antoinette had six siblings:
- Louise de Merode (1819 – 1868), married Carlo Emmanuele dal Pozzo, 5th Prince of Cisterna, had two daughters including Maria Vittoria dal Pozzo, Queen of Spain, Duchess of Aosta whose husband Prince Amedeo of Savoy, Duke of Aosta was briefly King of Spain
- Louis Ghislain de Merode (1821 – 1876), married Anne de Rochechouart-Mortemart, had three children
- Theresia de Merode (1823 – 1901) married her first cousin Werner de Merode, had four children
- Françoise de Merode (1825 – 1885) married Léonel de Moustier, 5th Marquis of Moustier, had one son
- Amaury de Merode (1827 – 1884), married Charlotte Georgery, had one son
- Marie Ghislaine de Merode (1830 – 1892) married Antoine François d’Arenberg, Prince of Arenberg, had three children
On September 26, 1846, her 18th birthday, in Brussels, Belgium, Antoinette married the 27-year-old future Charles III, Prince of Monaco, then the Hereditary Prince of Monaco and Marquis of Baux. Charles was the son of Florestan, Prince of Monaco, and Maria Caroline Gibert de Lametz. It was a double wedding, as Antoinette’s elder sister Louise married Carlo Emmanuele dal Pozzo, 5th Prince of Cisterna at the same time.
Although they sometimes were in Monaco, Charles and Antoinette preferred to live in France, where Antoinette had acquired the Château de Marchais in Aisne in northern France. The Château de Marchais still belongs to the Princely Family of Monaco.
Charles and Antoinette had one child:
- Albert I, Prince of Monaco (1848 – 1922), married (1) Lady Mary Hamilton, had one son, Louis II, Prince of Monaco, marriage annulled (2) Alice Heine, no children, legally separated
Antoinette’s mother-in-law Maria Caroline Gibert de Lametz, Princess of Monaco showed her the ropes of French society and soon Antoinette was well known in the Parisian society of the Second Empire, ruled by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, Napoléon III, Emperor of the French. In 1855, when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited France, Antoinette and Charles attended the magnificent ball in their honor at the Palace of Versailles. Antoinette was so affected by this that she decided her son Albert, who was only seven years old, would marry into the British royal family. This did not happen but Albert’s first wife was the daughter of the British William Hamilton, 11th Duke of Hamilton.
Charles’ father Florestan, Prince of Monaco died on June 20, 1856, and he was succeeded by his 38-year-old son as Charles III, Prince of Monaco. Antoinette was now Princess of Monaco. During his early reign, Charles had begun to lose his eyesight. He depended greatly on his wife Antoinette as his condition continued to worsen.
However, in 1862, Antoinette was diagnosed with cancer, and the advice and assistance of Charles’ mother Maria Carolina became vital. Even though Antoinette was very ill, she was more concerned about her husband and mother-in-law. She insisted to her husband that his 70-year-old mother must not take on too much work. In the last stages of her illness, Antoinette had been moved to the Château de Marchais in Aisne in northern France in the belief that the country air might help her. However, she soon asked to return to Monaco where she would be near her husband, her son, and her mother-in-law. Antoinette traveled from France to Monaco in a coach accompanied by a doctor and two maids. Three months later, on February 10, 1864, 35-year-old Antoinette died.
Antoinette was buried in the crypt of the Church of Saint Nicholas in Monaco. Later in Charles III’s reign, construction began on a new and larger church, the Cathedral of Monaco, which was built on the site of the Church of Saint Nicholas. The original church was demolished in 1874 but the current cathedral was built over the areas of the previous church and the old burial site so that the sovereign princes and consorts originally buried at the Church of Saint Nicholas are now buried in the Cathedral of Monaco.
Charles never remarried. Because of his blindness, he was a recluse for the last decade of his life. He survived his wife Antoinette by twenty-five years, dying at the age of 71 from pneumonia on September 10, 1889, during a visit to the Château de Marchais in Aisne in northern France, with his sister Princess Florestine at his bedside. He was interred in the crypt of the Cathedral of Monaco, still not yet completed.
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