From the earliest prehistoric times and Antiquity, the Rock of Monaco and its natural harbour served as a refuge for primitive populations, then navigators who had sailed from the East. It was in the 6th century BC that a Ligurian tribe which had settled in the region gave Monaco its name.
For more than seven centuries, the Grimaldi Family has presided over the Principality of Monaco’s destiny. This remarkable longevity is a good illustration of the national unity between the Princes and the people of Monaco.
Religious and secular traditions are still perpetuated. They sometimes overlap, with religious ceremonies being followed by popular festivities. Religious traditions are however more deeply rooted than other traditions in the collective memory of the Monegasques. They form an integral and exclusive part of their moral and socio-cultural heritage. Furthermore, in spite of its tiny size, the Principality of Monaco boasts a very rich and varied architectural heritage.
An independent sovereign state, the Principality of Monaco faces the Mediterranean Sea and rubs shoulders with several municipalities in the French “département” of the Alpes-Maritimes (from west to east, Cap d’Ail, La Turbie, Beausoleil and Roquebrune-Cap Martin).
Its surface area is about 487 acres, of which almost 100 have been reclaimed from the sea over the past 30 years. Monaco stretches out along a narrow coastal band, occasionally rising almost vertically and culminating at an altitude of 163 metres. Its width varies from 1.05 metres to only 350 metres. Its shoreline is 4,100 metres long.
The Principality is one municipality, Monaco, whose borders are the same as those of the State. The climate is mild in winter and not excessively hot in summer. The average year-round temperature is 16°C rising to 31°C and the Principality benefits from an excellent amount of sunshine.
French is the official language, though English and Italian are also commonly spoken and understood. The Monegasque language is still used by the “old folk” and taught to toddlers in the Principality’s schools.
Monaco lives in tune with the rest of the world, and plays host to 125 different nationalities. 40% of its residents are French, 17% Italian and 5% British.
Since 1st January 1999, the euro has been the currency used in Monaco, and since 1st January 2002, coins and banknotes in euros have been legal currency in the Principality, just like its national coins and notes.
From the earliest prehistoric times and Antiquity, the Rock of Monaco and its natural harbour served as a refuge for primitive populations, then navigators who had sailed from the East. It was in the 6th century BC that a Ligurian tribe which had settled in the region is believed to have given Monaco its name.
After the Phœnicians, from the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD, the Romans moved into the region. They used Monaco’s waterfront, which took the name of “Portus Herculis Monoeci” (Port d’Hercule).
From the early 6th century to the end of the 10th century, the region suffered many invasions. It wasn’t until the year 975 that the Count of Provence succeeded in getting rid of the Saracens, thus marking the start of a new era.
In 1162, Genoa’s authority over the Ligurian coast was recognised by the Emperor Frédéric I Barberousse, from Porto Venere as far as Monaco. In 1191, Emperor Henri VI finally conceded the Rock of Monaco to Genoa, together with its port and adjacent lands. The Genoese installed a colony on the Rock and built a fort (1215), which became the frontier-post west of the Republic.
In 1270, a civil war in Genoa opposed the Guelfes, supporters of the Pope, and the Gibelins, supporters of the Germanic Roman Emperor. Following a victory won by the Gibelins, many Guelfe families were banished into exile, including that of the Grimaldis. By persevering, this powerful family of Genoese patricians outmatched the ruses of History and settled on the Rock of Monaco at the beginning of the Middle Ages.
In response to the exile imposed on the Guelfes, the fortress of Monaco was taken by surprise on 8 January 1297 by a band of them led by François Grimaldi, nicknamed“Malizia”.
Charles Grimaldi, leader of the Guelfes, took possession of the Rock on 12 September 1331, but only assumed the title “Lord of Monaco” in 1342.
In 1346 and 1355, the Grimaldis acquired the seigneuries and fiefs of Menton and Roquebrune. Together with that of Monaco, these seigneuries were to comprise the Principality’s territory from 1633 to 1861.
Before his death in 1454, Jean I made some fundamental arrangements in his will which would constitute the basis for succession in the House of Monaco for the next five centuries. He decreed that male children would succeed by order of primogeniture: if there were no male descendants, only then would women be called upon, on condition that their descendants take the Grimaldi name and coat-of-arms.
During the 15th century, the Seigneurie was recognised notably by the Duke of Savoy and, in 1512, by the King of France: all vassalage to Genoa thus disappeared. Lambert Grimaldi, who was Sovereign Lord of Monaco from 1458 to 1494, was Counsellor and Chamberlain to Charles VIII of France; this privileged relationship at the highest level of State extended the activities of Rainier I and Charles I.
Alliances brought the Lords of Monaco to move closer to France, to fight against Naples, to fall under the protection of Spain from 1524 to 1641, before King Louis XIII of France, in the Treaty of Péronne (1641), finally repositioned the Principality within France’s sphere of influence.
In 1633, the Spanish Chancery recognised the title “Prince of Monaco” which had been used as early as 1612 by Honoré II when signing his notarial deeds. The Treaty of Péronne declared attribution of the fiefs of Le Valentinois, Carladès, Les Baux and Saint-Rémy to Prince Honoré II and his son. In December 1678, Louis I promulgated the legal statutes of the Principality, also known as the “Code Louis”. The attachment of “Fort d’Hercule” to France in 1793 was not to last, as the Princes’ rights and prerogatives were restored to them by the Treaty of Paris in 1814.
Charles III surrendered his rights to Menton and Roquebrune to France on 2 February 1861, in a treaty in which one clause provided for the creation of a customs union between the two States. This was concluded in 1865.
The Société des Bains de Mer was created in 1856, together with the Casino. Several hotels were built on the Plateau des Spélugues which, in 1866, was given the name “Monte-Carlo” (Mount-Charles, after the name of the reigning Prince).
His son, Prince Albert I, nicknamed the “Navigator Prince” or “Scientist Prince”, was responsible for great advances achieved in life sciences at the dawn of the 20th century.
In 1910, Prince Albert I founded the well-known Museum of Oceanography in Monaco, which he bequeathed in his will to the Oceanographic Institute he had founded in Paris.
In 1911, he gave Monaco a constitutional structure. The Institute of Human Paleontology, devoted above all to research, was inaugurated in Paris in 1920.
In 1922, Prince Louis II succeeded him to the throne. Under his reign, the Medico-Legal Committee of Monaco was created in 1933, sketching out the bases for the Geneva Conventions of 1949. In the meantime, on 8 July 1948, the Principality became a member of the World Health Organisation.
In 1949, Prince Rainier III mounted the throne. His reign was one which transformed the Principality the most. He intensified and diversified activities introduced under the three preceding reigns, not only in political, diplomatic, international, economic and social fields, but also in those of education and sport, healthcare, science, culture and communication. He also added an industrial dimension to the Principality.
On 17 December 1962, he endowed the Principality with a new Constitution.
In 1993, he obtained Monaco’s admission as a Member State in the United Nations Organisation.
On 5 October 2004, after proceedings which had lasted for six years, the Principality of Monaco joined the Council of Europe as the 46th Member State of this organisation. At the official ceremony in Strasbourg, Prince Albert II declared, on behalf of his father, Prince Rainier III : “Admission of the Principality of Monaco to the Council of Europe is for me, as for all my countrymen, a subject for legitimate satisfaction and pride”. “I am very happy that Monaco has been admitted to an Organisation inspired by such noble aspirations thanks to the rich diversity of the nations it represents”.