A welcome return visit to the hidden gem that is the Princess Grace Irish Library on the Rocher in Monaco-Ville. A treat to visit in itself but also as it is a stone’s throw from the Prince’s palace through the cute narrow streets with spectacular views over Port Hercule to the east and Fontvieille to the west.
My first visit to the library was way back in November 2018. This time I had the great pleasure of meeting the new director Paula Farquharson.
Paula has now been the director for nearly 2 years. She arrived during the pandemic period which offered immediate issues for the library as it is essentially a social space where people mix. Thankfully those days are becoming a memory so Paula can now move forward in planning for the future. Coming from a commercial public relations background into a very different world requiring the same talent to promote and develop the library’s scope has been very challenging and rewarding.
The very popular sell out talks will continue with Irish authors and historians. Well known people such as Carol Drinkwater, Irish by ancestry, have spoken at these events. Talks are held in a dedicated room that holds around 45 people seated; however, there are often more than that who willingly stand to listen to the fascinating talks. Drinks and nibbles are provided in the ante room for these occasions. The idea is that the evenings are friendly and informal as you would expect from somewhere Irish.
There are some unique items sprinkled about. I am always intrigued by the sheet music collection that Princess Grace owned, there is something so cheerful about the titles and lyrics. A wonderful first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses is on display and if you look hard you can find a copy that can be read in no time at all (so tempted to say ‘at all at all’, but I won’t) as it is a publishers hardback sample – it has only blank pages! In addition there are many photos and other memorabilia from Princess Grace and her family. An amazing facsimile of the 9th century Book of Kells is open to marvel at is on display.
The library offers a lovely inviting space dedicated to children. Children are encouraged to learn about Ireland irrespective of whether they have Irish blood or not. Ireland is becoming attractive for Europeans wishing to study, the library is good place for future students to find out more about Ireland and its culture. Paula will be continuing to onward develop the support it can provide through the foundation and other mechanisms such as bursaries and residencies.
For architecture buffs – The library is on the first floor of a house that was originally the home of Felix Gastaldi who was mayor of Monaco (1821-1906). The layout remains as it was in his time as do the main features such as the painted ceilings.
The Princess Grace Irish Library at its heart is a lending library. Books can be borrowed by members paying a small annual subscription. However, anyone can visit and find a place to read. It is not in any way stuffy or you need to be ultra quiet, it is an appealing, restful, calm and welcoming space to tickle that inner leprechaun everyone has, Irish or not!
Princess Grace Irish Library
9 rue Princesse Marie-de-Lorraine
MC 98000 Principality of Monaco
Tel + 377 93 50 12 25
All photos courtesy and © Mike Colquhoun
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