The city of Monaco is on top of a rocky promontory on the French Riviera. It is the capital and one of four districts of the Principality of Monaco. An old fortified town, it is the home of Prince Rainier III, Chief of State. Its ancient name is Monoecus.
From the sixth to the tenth century, Barbarians and Saracens occupied the territory. In 1191 Emperor Henry VI granted sovereignty of the country to the Genoese. In 1215 they settled on the rock and began building a fortress. This fortress of Monaco was seized in 1297 by François Grimaldi and his supporters. The Grimaldis allied themselves with France, except from 1524 to 1641 when they were under the protection of Spain. In 1731 Monaco passed into the female line. The heiress, Louise Hippolyte, married the Count of Torigni who took the name and arms of Grimaldi. In 1793 the royal family was dispossessed by the French Revolution, but with the fall of Napoléon in 1815 Monaco was placed under the protection of Sardinia by the Treaty of Vienna and the Grimaldis returned. In 1861 the country was again ceded to France and in 1865 a customs union was formed. The constitution of 1911 made provisions for an elected national council. This was dissolved in 1959 by Prince Rainier III after a dispute over budget and a national assembly was appointed in 1961. Following disagreements with France over tax rules a new constitution was promulgated in 1962. The national council was restored with the hereditary monarch as chief of state. In 1993 Monaco was admitted to the UN and in 1997 celebrated the 700th anniversary of the Grimaldi family.
Tourism is of major importance. The nearest international airport is in Nice with Air Monaco providing a helicopter service to Fontvieille which takes 7 min. It is 20 min by train journey to La Condamine, the business district to the west of the bay. There are regular buses to the surrounding French countryside. Revenue comes from state-operated monopolies on tobacco and postage stamps, from franchises on radio, television and the casinos, and from taxes imposed since 1962. The town is the centre of the Monaco Grand Prix which takes place every May. In Jan. the Festival of Sainte-Dévote celebrates Monaco’s religious traditions. A number of escalators, elevators and steps connect the district to the rest of the principality.
Places of Interest
The Prince’s Palace was built in the thirteenth century. It is the home of Prince Rainier III but 15 rooms, including the Throne Room are open to the public. The changing of the guard takes place every day at 11.55 am. In the south wing, the Musée des Souvenirs Napoléoniens has personal items that belonged to the Emperor. There is also a collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century art. The Saint-Martin Gardens lead to the Museum of Oceanography, founded in 1910. It is considered one of the best aquariums in Europe and has a collection of the work of Jacques Cousteau. The nineteenth century Romanesque Byzantine cathedral, built in La Turbie white stone is found near the Place du Palais. It contains the remains of many former princes and also, Grace Kelly, the American film actress and wife of Prince Rainier III who was killed in a car crash in 1982. Steps down the Rampe Major (ancient fortifications) lead to the port.