Princess Antoinette of Monaco was born as the first child of Princess Charlotte of Monaco and was the older sister of Prince Rainier III of Monaco. In her time, she was good for quite a few scandals. Highly eccentric, she was also well beloved by the citizens of Monaco. She took two turns at being First Lady of the Principality of Monaco and was president of its animal welfare charity SPA.
Princess Antoinette was born on the 28th December, 1920, in Paris. Her father was Comte Pierre de Polignac who divested himself of his French titles and name to become Pierre Grimaldi, and was invested as Prince Pierre of Monaco, Duc du Valentinois upon his wedding to Princess Charlotte by Prince Albert I. Her mother was Hereditary Princess of Monaco at the time, i.e. second in line to the throne after her Antoinette's grandfather Louis. She was third in line to the throne until the birth of her brother Rainier in 1923.
During the German occupation of Monaco, she decided to marry a German officer stationed at Monaco. Prince Louis II was shocked, not because he was a German, but because he was a commoner. But then, by 1944 there were no eligible husbands left in the German army as Adolf Hitler had passed his Princes Edict in 1943 to winnow out all the former ruling houses from the forces for fear of their overthrowing his regime. The German high command was equally unimpressed by the idea and transferred the young man to the Eastern Front where he died in combat.
She then entered into an affair with Monegasque tennis player Alexandre-Athenase Noghès with whom she had three illegitimate children before finally marrying him in 1951 in a civil ceremony at the Monegasque consulate in Genoa. Her wedding present from her brother Prince Rainier III was the title of Baroness of Massy. Divorce followed in 1954. Her second try at marriage was with Jean-Charles Rey, president of the Monegasque Parliament. They in turn were divorced in 1974. In 1983, she married world class ballet dancer John Gilpin who died of a heart attack only six weeks after the wedding.
After Prince Rainier III took the throne in 1949, she took on the role of First Lady to the bachelor prince until his marriage to Grace Kelly. She took on the role of First Lady a second time after the untimely death of Princess Grace until Princess Caroline was ready to take over. Despite that, she often chaperoned Princesses Caroline and her sister Stephanie after that.
During her first tenure as First Lady, she promoted her son Christian to become the successor of her brother Rainier. The treaty with France stated that if the Prince died without issue, Monaco would become part of France. A bachelor Prince without even illegitimate children was not a life insurance in that respect, and her concern was understandable. But Rainier didn't see any urgency on the issue. Their disagreement was blown out of all proportions by the press at the time, and what is purported nowadays about this story amounts to slander.
With the change in the constitution of 1962, Antoinette and her children lost their remote claim to the throne (the situation under the 1949 constitution were unclear enough to leave the question pending though probably they would not have had a claim); with the new constitution of 2002, Antoinette and her children regained full rights to succession.
Princess Antoinette was president of the local animal help charity SPA for many years; she lived most of her life in her house in Èze-sur-Mer which she ran like an animal shelter for cats and dogs. Though eccentric, she was a much loved member of the ruling family. She died on March 18th, 2011, at the Princess Grace Hospital in Monaco. Prince Albert II decreed a two weeks’ period of national mourning for her. He, Princess Charlene, Princess Caroline, and Princess Stephanie accordingly did not take part in the famous Ball of the Roses but were represented by Princess Caroline’s children Andrea, Pierre, and Charlotte Casiraghi.