January 27, 2015

Princess Charlene Burns a Boat for the Feast of Sainte Dévote

Today is the celebration of the feast day of Sainte Dévote, the patron saint of Monaco (and Corsica, as she was born there). With Monaco being one of the few Catholic nations in the world, today the Monégasque people focus on Sainte Dévote, her story, and celebrate her protection over Monaco.

A little backstory: Sainte Dévote’s name is actually unknown, but she is referred to in this way in an effort to reflect upon her devotion to God. After being martyred in particularly gruesome, torturous ways in Mariana, her body was snuck onto a boat by Christians so that it might receive a proper burial in wherever it landed – because it was certainly not going to get one where it was. The legend says that a dove flew out of her mouth and guided the boat to what is now Monaco, where she was discovered by fishermen and, of course, given the aforementioned proper burial. A small chapel was built in her memory, and still stands today, where flowers are said to bloom on her feast day – today – even in the January cold.

It doesn’t end there: when a common thief unsuccessfully tried to steal her relics over 900 years ago, he was caught and arrested, and his boat was set ablaze by the Monégasque people. Since then, Monaco has invoked the protection of Sainte Dévote, and has given her credit for several victories in its history, including the end of their Plague epidemic and saving Monaco’s independence from various invaders.

Each year on the eve of her feast day, it is customary for the royal family to set a small boat on fire in recognition of their loyalty to Sainte Dévote, and their gratitude for her protection over their Principality. On the 27th, there is of course a Mass said in her honor and a procession of her relics, along with a blessing over the whole of Monaco for her continued and steady protection.

From a religious perspective, it’s lovely to see the country unite in recognition of their patron saint. Religious traditions these days usually take the form of very quiet, civilized ceremonies, losing any vigor or passion that might be at the heart of the traditions themselves. But boat-burning is a delightful shift from the ordinary, a departure from the quiet and dignified to the zealous and passionate. The burning boat on the stones, the cold air breathing life into the fire, the crashing waves of the Mediterranean egging it on like background music: this meeting of the elements certainly make it a sensory feast.

From a non-religious perspective, we are just thrilled to get to see the Princely family involved in something so near and dear to their country’s heart. I love seeing a Princess wielding fire, too – very evocative and powerful, it’s the stuff of history books. Sartorially speaking, Princess Charlene usually chooses mostly muted, sometimes somber, always fashionable attire for the events:

For the boat-burning this year, Charlene looking very chic in a grey coat and black leather boots/accessories. She took my suggestion and cinched the coat this time, hooray! It is actually quite similar to her most recent look when she presented her twins, but with color changes and the cinching, which make it SO much better. I love, love, love this outfit on her! The black offsets the grey in just the right way. Each piece alone is lovely in its own right; together, their power increases exponentially. The one tiny flaw at which I will pick (sorry, I’m a detail person): the popped collar. I’m not a popped collar girl, even when it was en vogue. Charlene can carry it off, but I’d probably still prefer it laying flat. A small quibble in the wake of sheer perfection.

Her hair and makeup looked like perfection too. Anyone else notice that those bangs have mysteriously vanished? I didn’t hate them, but I’m not disappointed to see them gone. I love her eyes, and now we can see them! Speaking of eyes, it’s also worth a mention that the couple doesn’t look nearly as tired as they did a couple weeks ago. Perhaps it’s safe to assume that the babies are starting to do their nights? Every mom out there is crossing fingers and maybe praying for the intercession of Sainte Dévote on that one!

Normally on Sainte Dévote’s day, we see the Princely couple at the Mass and on the balcony; however, the photos that have surfaced show only Albert…it doesn’t look like Charlene was able to make it for either appearance. In case those are updated and somehow Charlene was there, I will certainly update the post! But at least we got to see her set a boat on fire, that’s something.

I hope you all have a wonderful Sainte Dévote’s day! (But do not try the boat-burning at home, ok?)


  1. Jane Barr says:

    This is very cool! I didn’t know any of this–what a fun night! I would love to plan a vacation sometime that coincided with this. The chapel looked familiar, so I Googled it and it is indeed the little church Albert & Charlene visited after their wedding Mass. I should have remembered that without Google… :)
    Charlene looked great; I love grey! Thanks for the post!

  2. Katie Coble says:

    Hi Jane – I had a similar déjà vu (and then Google) experience! Apparently it’s customary for the bride to leave her bouquet at the chapel: Grace Kelly did the same thing. Thanks, as always, for reading and for sharing your thoughtful words!

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