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The Motorcycle Tours of Prince Albert I of Monaco – A request for help

We are honoured to have been contacted by Michaël Bloche, Directeur de la Mission de Préfiguration des Archive Nationales (Director of the National Archives’ Steering Committee) at the Ministry of State of the Government of the Principality of Monaco.

He gave us the following fascinating information and made a request (shown in BLUE below) for any help our readers can give.

If you can help, please in the first instance contact the SAHB website through the Comments facility. Correspondence will be forwarded.

‘As part of the preparation of a conference within the framework of the Centenary of the death of Albert I of Monaco (+ 1922), I am preparing, for a conference next February 2022, a communication and an article on the Prince’s motorcycle journeys between 1903 and 1905 (three trips Monaco-Paris with great detours through the South-West, the East of France, etc.). The conference will be entitled “The ‘Tour de France’ of a Prince in the Belle Époque: The motorcycle routes of Albert I of Monaco (1902-1905).”

‘These journeys lasted between one and two weeks, always in May. The Prince was travelling alone, incognito, with a mechanic who followed him one hour behind. He rode motorcycles until the very end of his life, for the taste of physical effort, adventure, piloting and speed, mechanics, for the feeling of freedom and escape that it gave him (one could almost speak, all things considered and while avoiding any anachronism, of a “motorcycle road trip of a prince in the Belle Epoque”), to discover “deep France” (population, landscapes, etc.), etc. He also took advantage of trips to Paris to make tourist, family and friendly stops, etc.

The Prince made these three journeys with a Humber Beeston 2¾ HP 350cc motorcycle, of which several glass plate photographs are preserved, but he would also have owned, according to a recently published article (Jacqueline Carpine-Lancre, “Le Prince Albert I of Monaco and the mobilities of his time”, in “Monaco and the automobile from 1893 to the present day”, 2020, p. 24), another Humber, a Clément autocycle, a Peugeot motorcycle and a Rover sidecar. I would like to think he could be considered as one of the pioneers of motorcycling, and especially of great motorcycle trips.

‘The Clément Autocyclette, which appeared in 1901 and was produced until 1903, would in fact be Gustave Adolphe Clément’s first motorcycle (4-stroke single-cylinder, 150cc). The Prince would have owned one as early as 1902, but unfortunately I did not find any documents in the Monegasque archives attesting to the presence of a Clément autocycle in the Palace at the disposal of the Prince. I only found mention in the Palace’s accounts of the purchase of a Clément triplet in 1901.

‘As regards the Peugeot motorcycle, it was acquired in 1902. Thus, on December 15, 1904, we can read in the Palace’s books of account: “at the Peugeot house in Valentigney for the supply of a motorcycle for the Prince, 872.30 francs”. I have no other information on this Peugeot motorcycle acquired by the Prince.

As to the second Humber the Prince allegedly owned, I also have no information. I wrote to Peugeot’s archives to find out more.

‘My main source for this communication and the article which must follow is the autograph diary which the Prince kept for several decades, and in which he devotes several dozen pages (the equivalent of about thirty pages of a file in Word or Open Office) to his motorcycle trips. Correspondence on this subject is also kept in the Archives du Palais, as well as accounting documents, a map of France De Dion-Bouton from 1905 on which the Prince had his travel itineraries plotted, etc. The Annuaire de Monaco and the Journal de Monaco also provide valuable information, as does an issue of La Vie au Grand Air which enshrines Albert I as a model of the accomplished sportsman (issue of March 30, 1905). I am currently digging deeper into the old digital press and will shortly be consulting the travel guides the Prince used on these trips (notably Michelin, Touring Club and possibly Autocycle Club de France).

Could you please tell me if there are any specialized articles or books that could help me with my topic of study and if you know any specialists in motorcycle riding and travel in France at the very end of the 19th century and at the very beginning of the 20th century? In your opinion, to what extent can Albert I be considered as a pioneer of motorcycles and motorized cycle tourism that was born then and how rare were such trips by motorcycle around 1900 (1200 to 1500km each time), with all this that this implied (breakdowns, accidents, falls, injuries, fatigue – the Prince was between 54 and 56 years old during these three great trips, and health concerns in one arm – etc.)? Can you confirm to me that such motorcycle trips were still relatively rare at that time? Do you know of any motorcyclists who kept travel diaries around this same time, and are there any famous motorcycle trips through Europe or some of its countries around 1900 (apart from the Tour de France by motorcycle which appears at the same time, or other similar sporting events)? Likewise, do you know of any other rulers at that time who would have been seasoned motorcyclists?

Do you think I could post a query on the website of the SAHB? It could be seen by a range of international experts who may post replies…

 

I thank you very much and I wish you beautiful Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Sincerely yours.

Michaël Bloche, Directeur de la Mission de Préfiguration des Archive Nationales

Miistère d’Etat

Gouvernement Princier

Principauté de Monaco


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