On Wednesday, March 15, Prince Albert II met with five Midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy (USNA) at the Monaco Yacht Club Library. The Midshipmen presented their USNA Challenge Coin to Prince Albert.
Prince Albert, who is Commander-in-Chief of the Palace Guards (the Compagnie des Carabiniers du Prince) in which he actively served from 1986 to 2005, returned the gesture by offering the two female and three men Midshipmen his official coin. It is tradition when military and foreign leaders meet to exchange Challenge Coins as a symbol of respect for each other’s commitment to service at a high level.
Additionally, the Prince bestowed from Monaco to the Naval Academy a plaque of the country’s Coat of Arms, as well as a work of art from his private collection, the bronze sculpture “Oceans 11” by local artist Carol Burton, as a symbol of the importance of Ocean Sustainability.
On behalf of the USNA, the Mids had presents for 8-year-old twins Heredity Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella – USNA t-shirts and the USNA goat mascot. And, as Prince Albert celebrated turning 65 the day before, on March 14, he was surprised with a slice of cake as the group sang Happy Birthday. He was gifted a special Top Gun Maverick F-18 Lego to mark the occasion.
During their convivial hour together, the Mids shared stories about determination and dedication to service with His Serene Highness. The Prince recalled the time at age 17 when he took an admissions tour of the Naval Academy with his mother, Princess Grace. He chose instead to attend Amherst College in Massachusetts. (Grace Kelly’s first cousin John Lehman Jr was former Secretary of the US Navy from 1981 to 1987.)
The USNA was honourably represented by Jessica Bakken (Julian, California), Anthony Cervini (Vineland, New Jersey), Richard Kang (Columbus, Indiana), Arianna Lexie Ruiz (Greenville, Pennsylvania) and Nicholas Feaster (US residence, Arlington, Virginia).
Nicholas, 20, was educated in Monaco from a young age (Cours Saint Maur, FANB) and is the first graduate from Lycée Albert 1er to receive an appointment to the US Naval Academy. He was also a member of the choir, the Petits Chanteurs de Monaco, for five years and interned at the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO).
The Mids have been visiting the Principality for five days over spring break and are leaving Saturday. On Wednesday morning, they visited the IHO headquarters on quai Antoine 1er with IHO Director Admiral Luigi Sinapi. They also had the opportunity to meet Monaco resident Keith Chapman, the creator of two blockbuster animation series, Paw Patrol and Bob The Builder, and Bernard d’Alessandri, General Director of the Monaco Yacht Club.
The Challenge Coin event was organised by the US Ambassador for Yacht Club of Monaco President, Susan Feaster.
USNA and other military academies first accepted women in 1976. According to USNA’s website, of the 1,215 graduates in the Class of 2021, 27% were female (327) and 37% minority (451) midshipmen. It is worth noting that there were 16,299 total applications that year. Each USNA candidate must receive a nomination from a member of congress, who are limited to five constituents attending the Naval Academy at any time.
This article was first published on March 16, 2023.