Founded in 1215 as a colony of Genoa, Monaco has been ruled by the House of Grimaldi since 1297, except when under French control from 1789 to 1814. Designated as a protectorate of Sardinia from 1815 until 1860 by the Treaty of Vienna, Monaco's sovereignty was recognized by the Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861. The Prince of Monaco was an absolute ruler until a constitution was promulgated in 1911.
The 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia wrote, "From ancient times until the nineteenth century the port of Monaco was among the most important of the French Mediterranean coast, but now it has lost all commercial significance. Among the notable constructions of the principality are the ancient fortifications, the old ducal palace which contains beautiful frescoes by Annibale Carracci, Orazio Ferrari, and Carlone, the cathedral, built (1884-87) in the Byzantine style, by Prince Albert III, the Casino of Monte Carlo, and the monumental fountain of the public square. Monaco dates from the time of the Phoenicians, who, on the promontory upon which the old town is built, erected a temple to the god Melkarth, called Monoicos, solitary, that is, not connected with the cult of Ashtoreth; whence the town derived its name, which is Moneque, in Provencal. In the early Middle Ages the neighbouring lords often contended with each other for the possession of this important port, which later was occupied by the Saracens; it was taken from them in the tenth century by Count Grimaldi, in whose family the principality remains to this day. Formerly, it comprised Mentone and Roquebrune. The Grimaldis often had to defend themselves against Spanish or Genoese fleets; the most famous blockade of the town was that of 1506, which failed. In 1619 Prince Honoratus II, with the assistance of the French, drove the Spaniards from Monaco, and since that time the principality has been under the protection of France. During the Revolution, Monaco was annexed to France, but the principality was re-established in 1814. A revolution broke out in 1848 against the misgovernment of Prince Honoratus V, who lost Mentone and Roquebrune, these cities declaring themselves free republics, and (1860) voting for their annexation to France."
In July 1918, a treaty was signed providing for limited French protection over Monaco. The treaty, formally noted in the Treaty of Versailles, established that Monegasque policy would be aligned with French political, military, and economic interests.
Prince Rainier III, acceded to the throne following the death of his grandfather, Prince Louis II, in 1949. The current ruler, Prince Albert, was born in 1958 and acceded to the Throne upon the death of his father in April 2005.
A new constitution, proclaimed in 1962, abolished capital punishment, provided for female suffrage, and established a Supreme Court to guarantee fundamental liberties.
In 1993, Monaco became an official member of the United Nations with full voting rights.
The Principality of Monaco is a sovereign and independent state, linked closely to France by the Treaty of July 1918, which was formally noted in Article 436 of the Treaty of Versailles of 1919. The foreign policy of Monaco is one illustration of this accord: France has agreed to defend the independence and sovereignty of Monaco, while the Monegasque Government has agreed to exercise its sovereign rights in conformity with French interests. Since then, the relations between the sovereign states of France and Monaco have been further defined in the Treaty of 1945 and the Agreement of 1963.
Monaco is renegotiating its treaty with France. The revised treaty is expected to enter into force in 2004. It is reported that the terms of the new treaty would assist Monaco in joining the Council of Europe as a full member, and would:
1. Upgrade France's representation in Monaco from Consulate General to that of an embassy;
2. Permit, for the first time, other countries to accredit ambassadors to Monaco; and
3. Formally recognize the succession scheme set out in the 1962 Constitution, which extends eligibility to the Prince's daughters and other family members.
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