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Travel stories > Monte Carlo

We reached Monte Carlo in time for the grand concert at two o'clock. Passing through the delightful gardens surrounded by cafes, we entered the dazzling and gorgeous concert-room. There was nothing to pay. Plush-liveried servants handed us to our seats, and we enjoyed their soft luxuriance, admired the handsome and profuse decorations, and scanned the mixed society around us, listening meanwhile to some of the finest classical music.

After spending a pleasant hour, we retired to make room for others. There was a silent expression on the countenances of the attendant croupiers, and also on many of the faces of the habitues of the place, which showed that, although this refined and intellectual enjoyment was the ostensible reason of their presence, the real and more appreciated object was the gaming-table.

An English gentleman staying at the same hotel with us told me that he came to the Riviera almost every year, and that he limited himself to L100 for the gaming pleasures at Monte Carlo, which he could not resist, and this sum he invariably lost at the end of the season.

The story of Monte Carlo is perhaps not sufficiently well known. In consequence of his subjects revolting from his tyrannical rule, the Prince of Monaco lost part of his territory. France having annexed Nice and Savoy after the Italian campaign of 1859, the prince's fortunes were at a very low ebb indeed. But under the protection of Napoleon III., who put him up to a good thing in ground speculation at Paris, when Baron Hausmann was going ahead with his great building furore, the prince's coffers were not long empty. Then, the gambling-houses in Germany having been suppressed, the notorious Blanc appeared upon the scene, doubtless accompanied by a few choice friends. The importance of Monaco, from a gambler's point of view, and the natural beauty of the place, were not lost sight of by him. The constant stream of visitors to Cannes, Nice, Mentone, and San Remo, must pass through Monte Carlo and pay there a terrible toll. An immense sum was lavished in making the place the delightful paradise it has become. Beautiful gardens, cafes, concert and gaming-saloons, constructed with all the fascinating skill and taste that money and art could accomplish, were added to its natural attractions. The best of music and artistes procured, journalists bribed to advertize its advantages as a “health resort,” men and women of fashion drawn hither.

Nice became an adjunct. The proprietors of the Monte Carlo Tables support the gaieties there, giving prizes at the races, and other inducements, to render it more attractive to visitors, the majority of whom would invariably find their way to Monte Carlo. And thus the “owner of the tables” became exceedingly wealthy, and married his daughters to foreign princes—one to Prince Roland Bonaparte, and the other to Prince Radziwill. The Prince of Monaco shares the profits, amounting in the gross to some fourteen millions of francs annually. The people of his principality are relieved of all taxes, even for gas and water—which secures their gratitude and silence: the profits from the gaming-tables pay for all. I believe it pays the entire expenses of the municipality, so that the prince has simply to draw the remainder of his share.


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