Princess Grace Irish Library Presentation
Jeremy Williams, Architect, Dublin 2008.
The Princess Grace Irish Library was opened in November 1984 by His Serene Highness The Sovereign Prince Rainier III of Monaco (1923-2005) — as his tribute to the attachment Princess Grace (1929‑1982), his wife, felt for her Irish origins. Operating under the ægis of the Fondation Princesse Grace, the Library is situated in the former family home of the late Countess Brame-Gastaldi, a short walk from the Palace on the Rock of Monaco.
It was during the 1961 State Visit to Ireland that Their Serene Highnesses The Prince and Princess of Monaco visited the two-roomed cottage — overlooking the Leg of Mutton lake at Drimurla in County Mayo — where Princess Grace's grandfather John Kelly was born in 1847 during the Great Famine. He emigrated to the United States and founded what was to become one of Philadelphia's leading construction companies.
Princess Grace's personal collection of Irish books (most of which lined the walls of her Palace office) and Irish‑American sheet music form the very heart of the Library's collections. Many of the volumes are from the library of leading Irish diplomat Count Gerald Edward O'Kelly de Gallach (1890-1968) which Princess Grace purchased in the 1970s. There are also books inscribed to the Prince and Princess by Irish president Eamon De Valera in 1961.
Since the Library's inauguration, some ten thousand books have been acquired or donated by benefactors and visitors including works from the Irish literary revival (1892‑1922) and an excellent selection of contemporary writings — many signed by the authors. There are also older Irish books and imprints. Among the prime volumes are the Annals of the Four Masters (1841-45), the modern facsimile Book of Kells (donated by Sir Michael Smurfit KBE, Honorary Irish Consul to the Principality of Monaco) and early editions of the works of James Joyce including the first English and French editions of Ulysses. A rare seventeenth century atlas of Ireland, with Spanish text, is displayed in the Princess Grace Salon.
Visitors can admire a full-length portrait of Princess Grace by Mohamed Drisi, as well as paintings by Jack Yeats, Louis le Brocquy, Jack Murray and Claire D'Arcy, bronze heads of Oscar Wilde and William Butler Yeats by Dutch sculptor Kees Verkade (who also designed the Library's logo), and a magnificent 19th century Spanish silver Virgin font which was the property of the De Valera family.
The Young Readers section has a good selection of books for age 3 upwards.
The Library is a very active centre for all things Irish. Its annual season of lectures and readings has featured distinguished speakers including Seamus Heaney (Nobel Prize for Literature, 1995), Ambassador Anne Anderson, Ambassador Paul Kavanagh, Sebastian Barry, Ruth Barton, Síghle Bhreathnach-Lynch, Enoch Brater, Anthony Burgess, Andrew Carpenter, Anthony Cronin, Patrick Crotty, Michel Déon (Académie Française), Carol Drinkwater, Desmond Egan, Brian Fallon, Desmond FitzGerald (The Knight of Glin), Garret FitzGerald, Christopher Fitz-Simon, Roy Foster, Ian Fox, Nicola Gordon Bowe, Godfrey Graham, Hugo Hamilton, Peter Harbison, Keith Jeffery, Pierre Joannon, Jennifer Johnston, Joe Joyce, Michael Longley, Charles Lysaght, Bernard MacLaverty, Fidelma Macken, Edward Madigan, Muriel McCarthy, John Montague, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, Colm Ó Briain, Mary Ann O'Brien, Séamas Ó Catháin, Edna O'Brien, Robert O'Byrne, Kevin O'Dwyer, Fintan O'Toole, Jane Ohlmeyer, Eliza Pakenham, Homan Potterton, Sheila Pratschke, Nicholas K. Robinson, Ann Saddlemyer, Tim Severin, Colm Tóibín, Brendan Walsh, Patricia Noonan Walsh, Pearse Walsh, Alex Ward, Jeremy Williams… The choice of subjects is vast in order to appeal to a wide audience.
BIENNIAL AUTUMN SYMPOSIA
Until 2006, papers presented at the Library symposia were published in The Princess Grace Irish Library Series: Assessing the 1984 Ulysses, Irishness in a Changing Society, Yeats the European, ‘Ulysses': A Review of Three Texts, The Literary Works of Jack B. Yeats, The Celtic Connection, Rediscovering Oscar Wilde, Beckett and Beyond, Oscar Wilde's ‘The Importance of Being Earnest', Images of Joyce, That Other World: The Supernatural and the Fantastic in Irish Literature and its Context, Hearts and Minds: Irish Culture and Society under the Act of Union, The Irish Book Lover and Irish Poetry After Feminism.
Thanks to the continued generosity of Sir Michael Smurfit KBE, state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment enables Irish films and documentaries to be viewed at symposia and lectures throughout the year.
The Library works with the English Department at the Lycée Albert I (senior high school) in Monaco. After viewing Irish films at the Library, the pupils discuss the subject in class and appreciate this opportunity to express themselves on matters as varied as music, mythology, history and contemporary social problems. In 2003, a new activity was added to the schools programme: English-language theatre workshops animated by Melanie Clark Pullen — a talented Irish actress who has performed on stage and in television in Great Britain and Ireland — have proved tremendously popular and stimulating for the pupils. April 2005 saw the first writing workshop presented by Irish poet Leontia Flynn; it was a great success and the students showed remarkable literary flare. In 2006, the first “learning through art” workshop took place in January, and the first poetry workshop in April. The proof that learning can be fun!
SAINT PATRICK'S DAY IN MONACO
Since 1999, Saint Patrick's Day events have taken place in various venues across the Principality: The Cathedral, Chapelle de la Visitation, Théâtre des Variétés, and Cinéma du Sporting. The Monegasque public has enjoyed performances by Les Petits Chanteurs and La Maîtrise de Monaco (Boys' Choir and Cathedral Choir), students from the Académie Rainier III - Musique & Théâtre (performing music and songs from Princess Grace's personal collection of Irish-American sheet music held in the Library), dancers from the Académie de Danse Classique Princesse Grace, the Pallas Quartet (Cork School of Music) and Tom Cullivan. In 2000, children from Rostrevor in Northern Ireland performed the Gaelic opera An Iarlais at the Théâtre Princesse Grace. In 2013, Cór Mhaigh Eo — the award winning choir from Co Mayo — sang at the Chapelle de la Visitation and the Eglise Saint-Charles.
Some of the events have extended beyond Saint Patrick's Day: A week-long Irish Film Retrospective delighted cinema buffs in 2001. There have been three one-month exhibitions featuring black and white literary portraits by the celebrated Irish photographer John Minihan, oil paintings by Ulster artist Jack Murray and watercolours by Mary Collins from Dun Laoghaire.
THE IRELAND FUND OF MONACO
In addition to the Princess Grace Irish Library's main funding by the Fondation Princesse Grace, The Ireland Fund of Monaco is immensely generous to the Library. In 2001, the IFM created a Bursary for Irish writers and academics to pursue their writing and research projects in the friendly surroundings of the Library. It consists of a one-month stay in Monaco in the Spring and Autumn. The laureates to date are Eoin McNamee, Angela Bourke, Molly McCloskey, Fred Johnston, Leontia Flynn, Justin Quinn, John F. Deane, Gerry Smyth, Anne Fitzgerald, Mary O'Donnell, Brian Lynch, Fintan Vallely, Martina Devlin, Gréagóir Ó Dúill, William Wall, James Harpur, Robert O'Byrne, Turtle Bunbury, Polly Devlin, Tom Phelan and Ríonach uí Ógáin.