National Day, also known as Sovereign Prince’s Day or La Fete du Prince, is a day in which Monaco joyfully comes together to honor their prince, H.S.H. Prince Albert II, His family and their country. It’s now celebrated every November 19th and includes a colorful day of festivities to pay homage to the current reigning family and those that ruled before them. While it’s a public holiday rich in tradition, it’s also evolved with modern additions like live music concerts and black-tie galas. Let’s take a look back at how it all started.
The History of National Day
Interestingly, National Day wasn’t always celebrated on November 19th. The holiday was instituted by Prince Charles III in 1857, and he chose November 4th, as it was the feast day of his patron saint. When he died, Prince Albert rose to the throne, and announced that National Day would take place on November 15th (his saint’s day). It became tradition that each prince thereafter would choose a day for their patron saint, but that didn’t quite go as planned.
When Prince Louis II was crowned, he realized he had an issue: His patron saint’s day was on August 25th, when the principality is on holiday. He chose January 17th to honor the patron saint of his granddaughter, Princess Antoinette, instead. Another unforeseen issue popped up when Prince Rainier III became prince in 1949. He had chosen April 11th, but two years later, Good Friday fell on April 11th, so a new date needed to be selected. In 1952, he chose November 19th. When H.S.H. Prince Albert II succeeded his father in 2005, he decided to stick with November 19th—instead of changing National Day back to November 15th (his saint’s day)—to honor his father.
National Day has always kicked off with a fireworks display the night before, with two exceptions: In 1891 a cyclone made off with the display, and during Covid, the fireworks were canceled. The morning of the 19th, a mass is held at Saint Nicolas church, where a Te Deum (a Latin hymn to God) is sung. The first parade took place in 1871, and a few years after that, the Prince’s parliamentary police, called the Carabinieri, became a key part of the National Day ceremonies. They are given rank insignias and medals of honor in the palace’s Cour d’ Honneur (court of honor) and there is a presentation of arms in the Place du Palais.
Finally, the royal family stands on the balcony to salute the citizens of their principality, who cheer and wave Monegasque flags. In 2019, a piper played a moving rendition of “Amazing Grace” to honor what would have been Princess Grace’s 90th birthday.
This Year’s Celebration
Sticking with tradition, the eve before National Day, the fireworks display will take place over Port Hercule. In addition, there will be a musical performance by Blønd and Blönd and Blónd. The traditional mass will be held on the 19th, followed by the parliamentary police ceremonies. Then the royal family, H.S.H. Prince Albert II, H.S.H. Princess Charlene and their twins Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella, will gather on the balcony to greet the people of Monaco. Following their appearance, there will be a series of special private events for the Grimaldi family and principality officials. This includes an official lunch, a performance by the singer Anna Chedid (aka Nash), and a glamorous National Day gala.
While the date of National Day has shifted a bit over the years, the family’s traditions have not wavered, making National Day a time of celebration, and displays of Monaco pride - much as it was when Princess Grace first experienced it more than half a century ago.