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
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.