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Meet the Director of the Princess Grace Irish Library in Monaco

The Princess Grace Irish Library in Monaco welcomes a new director this year, Paula Farquharson-Blengino. Riviera Insider speaks with the Irish-born Niçoise about this “dream role” and the exciting plans the library has to continue the legacy of Princess Grace.

Paula Farquharson-Blengino. Photo: Ed Wright Images

RI: What brought you to the French Riviera?

PFB: This summer I will have been living on the Riviera for twenty years, based in Nice and I have worked in Monaco for ten years. It was a bit of a crazy decision at the time - I had always wanted to live in France so I thought I’d better just do it. I was standing in the Alliance Française in Dublin looking at a map and decided Paris was too big but Nice seemed quite nice with the sun! After spending a few months planning, I went out to Nice for a long weekend and quit my job the day I came back. I graduated from Trinity College Dublin in business with French, so I always had a love of France and the language. I love Monaco as it is so international, it feels like a mini New York, whilst having at the same time a home feeling for so many people.

How did you feel to take over the Princess Grace Irish Library?

It is an honour to follow on from Judith Gantley, who led the library for 25 years. An opening like this doesn’t come along every day. In terms of my experience it felt like a natural step, as I have worked in the corporate world, communications and journalism, so it has been a bit of a full circle, and it means those sides of the job come naturally to me. As a non-profit, we try to achieve a lot with little money, and all the resources we have go towards people who need them. I love that challenge, and seeing collaborations come about as so many people are willing to help and there is a great deal of goodwill. My job is really to facilitate things happening and come up with ideas, but it takes the support of many people.

Have you always followed Princess Grace and her legacy?

Princess Grace is an idol for the Irish. There has always been a love for her. When she first visited in 1961, people went wild and the streets were lined. A beautiful film star turned princess is a real fairy-tale story, but the fact she had Irish roots really enamours her to the Irish. Personally, I admired her for using her celebrity for the good of others. Her foundation to this day continues to do so much good work. She used her talent, beauty and fame for good reasons and to her privileged position to get things started, which is really commendable to me.

Has the link between Monaco and Ireland been strongly maintained since Princess Grace’s passing?

Absolutely. She passed on her love of Ireland to her children. Prince Albert has made several official visits to Ireland. He has been very supportive of the library, attending our St Patrick’s Day celebration this year. We also have links with Villanova University in Philadelphia, where Princess Grace was born. They have an Irish centre, with whom we have a symposium organised for October. So, the roots of her heritage are all interlinked and preserved. There is an Irish community in Monaco who really want their children to maintain the Irish connection, and the library is the perfect place to do it. Children learn to read, appreciate books and Irish music, in an anglophone environment, so it’s a really unique experience.

What have been the highlights of your role so far?

I enjoy the contact with people most, and seeing theirpeople’s love of finding out about Ireland. It has also been a chance to give back. Not being driven by profit but by helping people and expanding the knowledge of Irish culture has been immensely satisfying. I loved seeing the faces of the students who came to perform Irish music on St Patrick’s Day, for example, the sense of empowerment you give them is a real gift. It’s incredibly fulfilling and the days are so varied - from talking to the press, government, Irish writers to being down on my knees with the kids!

What are your hopes for the library going forward?

To keep the door open for the next few weeks! We hope to organise more events in a hybrid format to maintain safety and expand the reach, get a couple of podcasts going and keep up the newsletter. It’s hard to organise talks with Irish writers at the minute, as they understandably want to wait for the situation to allow them to come in person. Eventually getting back to an open library and having people from outside Monaco come again, since we are part of the tourist trail - getting more people here in person!

The Princess Grace Irish Library is located at 9 Rue Princesse Marie de Lorraine, Monaco.

For more information, visit the website:

-Kimberley Mannion

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