Monaco Intelligence Service

It was in a bar—inside Hotel Columbus, owned by race-driver David Coulthard, in Monaco’s Fontvieille quarter—that Prince Albert retained Robert Eringer to be his spymaster. They sat in a booth by the window, his two bodyguards hovering nearby. It was June 16th, 2002, a Sunday, about seven in the evening. The Prince sipped cranberry juice, Eringer a Kronenbourg beer.

Nobody—from Monaco, nor France, which is pledged to protect the tiny principality—had been briefing His Serene Highness on the political situations of countries he visited or heads of state with whom he regularly interacted. Moreover, suspicious persons constantly attempted to penetrate the Prince’s social orbit, and he desired to know more about such individuals and the entities they claimed to represent. Furthermore, the Prince expressed concern that elements of Russian organized crime were worming their way into his domain.

At that meeting, Eringer (right) warned the Prince that he would, in time, grow weary of seeing him; that he would become, by necessity, the bearer of bad news, including unwelcome information about his closest associates. Eringer warned that as his visibility increased others would seek to discredit him—and would urge him to shoot the messenger, a theme recurrent in history.

The Prince determined that Eringer should operate outside the principality’s government structures and report only to him. As such, they conceived an old-fashioned spy service that would function, as intelligence agencies truly should, without official existence. Eringer would be based outside of Monaco and, as much as possible, remain invisible, stealing in and out of the principality for their covert meetings.

Appointed spymaster by Prince Albert of Monaco, Robert Eringer quickly deputized Piers E to assist him with his princely mission. He’d known Piers for over ten years, had sub-contracted private intelligence work to him, and grown to admire his diligence and integrity.

Informally, they referred to the Prince’s retainer as Order of the Monk, a play on Francois “Malizia” Grimaldi, who posed as a monk to seize Monaco from a rival Genovese family in 1297. And, tongue-in-cheek, they devised a Latin motto, which summed up the Prince’s intentions: Apage Malos (Be gone evil). Three years later, after the death of Prince Rainier and Albert’s ascendancy to the throne, they would become the Monaco Intelligence Service.


Eringer’s brief was simple if complex in its execution: To ensure the Prince would be well informed not only during his extensive foreign travels but also about the foreigners, residents, and native Monegasques who surrounded him at home.

His mission statement: 1) to investigate individuals and entities about whom the Prince voiced concern. 2) To keep the Prince apprised of information, which, as his eyes and ears, would come to his attention. 3) To create liaison partnerships with the intelligence services of select countries–with a view to soliciting expert briefings and advice.

Eringer commenced his duties by faxing a quarterly invoice
(July-September 2002) on June 18th to Claude Palmero, the in-house accountant at Palais de Monaco. The Prince intended to pay the cost of Eringer’s service from his own pocket, and indeed such funds were wired three weeks later from Albert’s personal account at Banque Nationale de Paris.

The Prince’s father, Monaco’s sovereign Prince Rainier III, was in ill health, his memory fading and living a near-reclusive existence. He probably should have abdicated in his son’s favor by this time, but two things were happening to prevent this, the first Eringer knew about at the time, the second he did not: 1) Monaco was in the process of re-negotiating its treaty with France, part of which would create a clear line of succession within the Grimaldi family even if Prince Albert did not produce a legitimate heir. 2) Individuals closest to Prince Rainier were dissuading him, despite his inability to govern, from abdicating and allowing Albert to take the reins of power. They did this to perpetuate their own exploitation of the situation, reaping
awards, titles, and financial gain.

As an outsider, Eringer was not aligned with any of the political and commercial factions that wage war within the principality and thus not entangled with conflicts or special interests. He could therefore look upon Monaco as a doctor who studies cancer cells, with emotionless objectivity.

Robert Henry Eringer, born October 5, 1954 (age 66)

Now you know.


Maps of Monaco



Today, Bob Eringer lives in Montecito, CA, sort of between Al Gore and Oprah.


    • Montecito is a really nice place, rich place, no stores to speak of. People shop in Santa Barbara, which is a nice place too. Gore and Oprah have MANY homes. Maybe they spend a week each year in Montecito.

  1. That fount of truth and justice, Wikipedia, tells us:
    Eringer’s Santa Barbara-based bar, Bo Henry’s Cocktail Lounge, closed for five days in March 2015 due to alcoholic beverage sales to a minor. A first offense in the bar’s history, Eringer was not present at the time and chose a suspension over the $200.00 fine to impress upon employees and customers that serving minors would not be tolerated.

    Interesting anecdote. Puts me in mind of a convenience store (beer, lottery tickets, that sort of thing) in these parts. It turned out to be run by Chinese people and in the back was a little kitchen. On weekends they would sell really good and authentic Chinese food for take out. Like waaay better than most restaurants. (Normal food animals like beef, pork, chicken and the occasional duck. No cats, dogs, frogs, bats or other creepy stuff.) Anyway, it was closed down because a Chinese clerk sold beer to not *a* minor, but something like dozens of minors in separate transactions one night. Seems that one kid got the clerk to sell him a six-pack, then group texted basically his entire high school class.

    Needless to say, this was indefensible and the city pulled their booze license. Since most of their profits were booze, they went out of business. I always thought the clerk should have tried the defense of “I can’t tell how old they are by looking at them, and I can’t tell when they are using someone else’s ID – you big noses all look the same to me.” They were screwed anyway, a little chutzpah might have worked. And even if it didn’t, it would have been hilarious.

    • Yes, they should have played the “I’m Chinese if you please – I’m Chinese if you don’t please and I can’t tell one round-eye from another.” It could have been hammed up in court with misc. Chinese witnesses all lamenting very publically as only the Chinese can. Sort of like a Chinese funeral complete with paid mourners and firecrackers – maybe a 100′ paper dragon would make an appearance on the steps of the courthouse.

      I agree with you, that’s how I would have done it.

      • Oh God, like Peking Opera with the horrible nasal caterwauling, gongs, and weird instruments that always droop to a dissonant minor rather than holding a note. I can hear it in my mind’s ear (is that an expression?) now, and it’s making me queasy.

        The only good use of Peking Opera is when my dad dealt with a manipulative roommate in grad school by playing records (got from the university library) nonstop. Not that dad enjoyed listening to that stuff, it was merely a matter of who folded first. But that’s another story.

        • I’ve attended the Peking Opera but I only did it once and I didn’t last through the entire performance. What does that say for my cultural creds?

          I had the same problem with Umm Kulthum, widely regarded as one of the greatest singers in the history of Arab music. Her songs can last an hour or so each. I made it about thirty minutes.

          In each case, I think that you can only appreciate the experience if you’re thoroughly wasted with an escort who can haul you to the limo and dump you in the back seat when the performance has ended, drive you to the hotel and help you to the room.

    • I was in a bar in Mobile Alabama, this was 81 or 82 and a girl’s ID was being checked by the bartender right next to me. The question about the ID was it listed as month/day/year or day/month/year? One way it was her 21st birthday the other she was a month early.
      I asked the bartender about the why so picky? He said that if the booze police came in and found anyone underage the doors would be chained shut and all the workers handcuffed and taken away.
      I guess hard core enforcement will work..

  2. Truly interesting and fascinating to know this actually happened. Not for the fact the Prince thought (and probably for a lot of good reasons,) that he needed this information, but that he could actually find someone he was able to trust in this capacity.

    • Sort of. As people have alluded to above, I’ve been in similar if not nearly identical situations to Eringer. Monaco was and is full of big egos with large dollars. The Secret Intelligence Service there served to deflect the monarch/crown prince from plots and embarrassment. Monaco is in many ways a very small microcosm of what Las Vegas is in the USA. A lot passes through there.

      Eringer had the capacity to reach out to key people in other services who would brief him and support him and his team. These foreign services had their own vested interests in Monaco as a social crossroads. It’s run by the Grimaldi family but it’s surrounded by France, so the Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure, DGSE, would need a chair at the table because you wouldn’t want to be at cross purposes to them. Likewise CIA and Mossad. Agenzia Informazioni e Sicurezza Esterna (Italy), would also need to be involved at some level because there are a lot of common interests and Monaco is a social crossroads.

      From the standpoint of the foreign services mentioned, their stake in Monaco and its small service would be significant enough to warn them and to provide a window on larger issues that touched it through people transiting, which was one of the Prince’s concerns. So not a Machiavelli so much as a manager of sorts, dealing with competing services and keeping confidences so long as they didn’t run afoul of the missions set forth in the text of the blog.

  3. Monaco is in many ways a very small microcosm of what Las Vegas is in the USA. A lot passes through there.

    I’d never really thought of Monaco like that, but I see where it has parallels. I think Monaco is at least an order of magnitude ( or two…) bigger and more complex than Vegas, but your comparison has filled in another corner of my knowledge, which means I’ll start making “connections” about their simularities.

    Is Monaco considered “neutral ground”, a la “The Continental”?

    • All countries need a ‘sin zone’ to blow off and let off steam in a not-quite-legal way.

      We have Las Vegas, Reno and Atlantic city (plus Reservation Casinos everywhere) but then again, we’re big, really big.

      Monaco serves France as a sin zone.

      The semi-autocracy helps.

      • It’s also a zone for Mohammedans who find it hard to sin to the heights of their desire back home (or even Bahrain). A lot of the soiled doves in town are Eastern European and Russian.

    • Is Monaco considered “neutral ground”, a la “The Continental”?

      As in the John Wick series? I think that’s what the monarch would like to see. Come, spend money and go home. Battles over turf are always messy and they don’t want that.

      If you end up drunk, the police pick you up, toss you in a wheelchair in the back of a van and take you back to your hotel. Metro does that in Vegas. It’s all part of the service. If you’re not staying in town, they lock you up or drive you into France and dump you there. Best take a room.

      • Yes, from the John Wick series. The monarch serving the “Winston” role. Come, spend money, make BIG deals and connections, have good time, and don’t wreck the place.

        Don’t think “one coin” would go as far in Monaco, though…..

  4. It’s not the visible spy master, but the spy master no-one knows who gets the job done.

    Prince Albert sounds like a smart cookie. And he understood the peril of people-in-power. Who can you trust? How far can you trust them? What’s lurking in their background that you can use to your advantage.

    Me? I’d make a bad crown prince. Too suspicious of everyone, would want to challenge Vlad for Halloween Lawn Decoration Championship.

    Mr. Eringer sounds like a fun guy to talk to, if he’d ever talk.

  5. First off, I’m not a Bob.
    Second, Al Gore does not reside in Montecito; his ex-wife Tipper keeps a home here.
    Third, I sold BoHenry’s four years ago (with liquor license intact). You can read about it here:
    Fourth, Monaco is not a neutral country; it is a protectorate of France.
    Fifth, Prince Albert, sadly, is not smart; he’s actually rather dim and also lacks a spine.

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