The Monegasque Retriever
I take for granted that you all can keep a secret?
For many years I was quite frequently in touch with HSH Princess Antoinette of Monaco.
Sounds impressive, but it all happened via the Fabulous World of Show Dogs and Dog Shows.
For years the International show in Monte Carlo was part of a Mediterranean circuit that included a few shows across the border with Italy. I think the show was started by the initiative of her mother, HSH Princess Charlotte, who actually was an enthusiastic breeder of Wire Fox Terriers. A fact that itself indicates nothing but good taste and class!
The Casino de Monte-Carlo.
To judge at this show was always considered very prestigious. The hospitality was outstanding — and included VIP tickets for the famous casino as well as other institutions.
The Princess had a tradition that she tried to follow every year: The Best in Show judge at Crufts for the year also was given the same honor at the Monte Carlo show.
Which of course the majority of judges grasped with both hands.
Liz Cartledge was one of the Princess’ favorite people; she absolutely adored her for her sense of humor and general uncomplicated view on life in general. (Her own words.)
Liz had for decades worked to achieve what had been the brain child of her late husband, the lovely Joe Cartledge: to introduce and establish Junior Handling (Junior Showmanship in your world ) at all major championship shows, including an international final at Crufts!
The final at Crufts happened for the first time in 1984 — and I was the judge-elect. So shortly after the invitation to judge at Crufts had arrived, so did the bonus: to judge the Monte Carlo event, which was a surprise even to Liz, I believe.
I have to add here that my outstanding winner of that year’s competition at Crufts was, as I have already shared with you, a young American named Tracy Laliberte, who outshone any competitor by miles. And the winner in Monte Carlo was an outstandingly capable young Dane named Michael Kristensen, who had already won under me in Denmark. (Still very much in the picture with Cockers as well as American Cockers.)
After the first show I kept in touch with the Princess, found that we had mutual friends, and I was back at the show a few times, both as a judge and a few times just visiting. And for years we were regular pen pals. I also had the pleasure of meeting one of her best friends, the very stylish Corgi breeder from Scotland, Elsie Montgomery, who is also the mother of another famous lady, the lovely Anne Macdonald, breeder of great Salukis under the Mabrooka prefix in addition to being a prominent figure in The Scottish as well as The Kennel Club. Mrs. Montgomery acted as the Princess’ lady in waiting at her Crufts visits!
The day prior to one of the Monaco shows, a local journalist got in touch with the Princess’ secretary and requested the privilege of an interview, to which she so generously agreed.
The interview started with her family’s interest in dogs and animals in general — and then also her mother’s breeding of Wire Fox Terriers. Of course the main subject was the dog show itself, even touching on the purpose breeding purebred dogs and why it was necessary to “import” all these specialists to assess them. As you would expect, the journalist, very politely and attentively, was frantically scribbling down all these current and historic details. It was very obvious from the start that he had no idea or real interest in the subject.
Monaco palace on The Rock, birthplace of the Monegasque Retriever.
Princess Antoinette also owned a few rescue dogs of various apparitions, and just as he was about to leave, the journalist turned to HSH and asked: “What about those dogs over there? What breeds are they?”
Whereupon she looked him straight in the eye, and said: “If I reveal this to you, you must promise not to share it with anybody.” Which he immediately promised!
Smooth-Coated Monegasque Retriever Ch. Flying Cinders of Bout du Monde.
“This is an old breed that has been part of the family for generations,” she continued. “They are simply Monegasque Retrievers, bred to protect The Rock” — where the palace is located — “from any invasions from the sea. They come in two varieties: Curly Coated fawn and Smooth Coated Black.
“You see the black variety over there, having the right ear pricked in order to protect the palace” — which is on The Rock bordering the Mediterranean — “from north to south.
“The Curly Coated has the left ear lifted to have the same job from south to north!”
Curly Coated Monegasque Retriever Ch Laddie M’boy of Bout du Monde.
His request to photograph these rare species was politely denied!
The journalist kept his promise: There was no mention of this exclusive breed in the next day’s article.
As the journalist left, Princess Antoinette laughed and commented: “And he believed every word!” (This is the edited version!)
But very kindly she accepted my request: Photos of the two dogs plus a description of their history — and even an abbreviated standard.
History of the Monegasque Retriever.
I don’t know if the quality of the photographs she then sent me, plus her handwritten history and standard, are of quality possible for printing in this paper, but at least I have been able to share with you a secret known only to a few select individuals.
That her interest in dogs in general was beyond any doubt, and her constant interest in what happened in the U.K., was proved as she followed what happened by reading Dog World every week. And also Our Dogs, according to the one and only Joe Braddon ….
When we as breeders/owners were the first in history to win the coveted title “Pup of the Year” (for the second time!), a telegram arrived with our postman, saying:
“Three Cheers for Hillary!” Signed: Antoinette de Monaco.
And similar responses on a few other occasions when we had some notable wins.
We then “stole” the name from the Fox Terriers and named a Greyhound puppy Hubbestad Three Cheers! She later ended up with the famous Misteaves in Scotland, where her litter sister Ch. Hubbestad The Morning After had such major influence.
The Monaco Kennel Club is still going strong — now in the hands of her daughter Baroness Melanie-Antoinette de Massy — and if you need an excuse to visit Monte Carlo, the show this year is scheduled for April 22.
This was a lot of useless trivia /information, which proves that wherever you come from, this weird interest in dogs and dog shows can result in friendships and relationships that would never have happened without this shared passion! And finding out that sharing a special sense of humor can create a special bond is probably not a surprise to anyone! Without that gift, I doubt “The World of Dogs As We Know It” would be an enjoyable environment for anybody …
And as I keep repeating: Dogs are the reason we first got involved in this very special sphere. But I think the chemistry and relationship with fellow enthusiasts is what makes us stay put and never leave!
Until next time …