Circus de Monaco: 35 Years and Still Going Strong

  January 23, 2011 at 9:23 pm by

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Elephants, horses, camels, and tigers! Oh no! Once again, Monaco is overrun by animals, acrobats, and clowns. Saturday afternoon, there was the parade of the circus animals from the Big Tent in Fontvieille, winding its way through the streets and around the Rock, and ending at the Palace, where the acts began! Besides the five animal acts, there was the high-wire act by the Weishet troupe.

This ritual of the circus — that is, the parade — is only five years old. It was introduced in 2006 to mark the Circus Festival’s 30th year and its debut in the reign of HSH Prince Albert II. HSH Princess Stephanie is the President of the Organizing Committee overseeing one of the most controversial circuses in the world. PETA has been petitioning the Prince for years, urging Monaco to stop its use of animals in the circus. But Princess Stephanie is a strong supporter of animals in the circus, arguing that it plays an important role in animal conservation. Furthermore, the organizers insist on the humane treatment of the animals.

Princess Stephanie told reporters from the Nice Matin: “Zoos and circuses do much for the preservation of endangered species. The animals of the circus are treated as artists in their own right. I can tell you that in the menagerie of the circus, the horses are treated better than in some equestrian sports.”

And so the past week, from Thursday, January 20, saw the commencement of the 35th International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo.

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Afternoon performances began on Sunday, 23 January, followed the next evening by an ecumenical celebration attended by religious leaders of all denominations to watch four acts and a performance of the circus theme song by the band of the Company of the Princely Guard of “Carabiniers.” With acts throughout the week, the circus ends on the 30th.

This year, there is a special act by the Paris Fire Brigade, marking their bicentennial. They will jump through hoops of fire on a trampoline. Another special visitor this year is Flavio Togni, the elephant trainer from the American Circus Troupe. The US troupe is just one of 18 companies, from 30 different nations, participating in the circus this year.

Princess Stephanie is always involved in the entire festival, from start to finish, smiling through each occasion, and even feeding gargantuan carrots to the elephants! Her daughter Pauline Ducruet has developed a love of the circus to rival her own. Pauline is something like a circus veteran and a former pupil of her mother’s ex, the elephant trainer Franco Knie. The mother and daughter joined Prince Albert on Friday and Saturday evenings for the opening acts in the Big Tent. The VIPs all displayed the 2011 circus scarves, which are bright blue for the first time in the history of the circus. Others who attended Saturday’s occasion were as follows: The Grimaldis’ favorite journalist, Stephane Bern; Pierre Casiraghi and his girlfriend, Beatrice Borromeo; and HRH Princess Alexandra of Hannover.

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