Monaco is the world’s second smallest country, preceded by only the Vatican. Ruled by the infamous Grimaldi family, it is a picturesque coastal nation, attracting many visitors to its shores throughout the year. As a harbor city, Monaco has had a colorful past, but has settled as a quiet haven for the rich and famous, who enjoy the principality’s tax-free status.
The sheltered harbor of Monaco was initially inhabited by the Greeks in 6 BC, who named it Monoikos. Legend has it that Hercules passed through Monaco and a temple was built to honor him, the Temple of Monoikos. Historically, Monaco was part of France, but in 1215, it became a colony of Genoa through a land grant from Emperor Henry VI. The Grimaldi family settled in Monaco in 1297 and ancestors of the family have controlled the principality for over 715 years now.
In 1419, the Grimaldi family acquired Monaco from the French ruling family of Aragon. Monaco has since been under Spanish, Italian and Sardinian protection. In 1793, French revolutionary troops captured Monaco, keeping it until 1814, when the Grimaldi family returned to power. Today, Monaco is governed by a constitutional monarchy, but is a protectorate of France.
In 1949, Prince Rainier III ascended to the throne of Monaco and married the beautiful American actress, Grace Kelly in 1956. Prince Rainier III played an important role in bringing economic prosperity to the area and his wife played a large part out in promoting the arts and bringing glamour to the small nation. Together, they had three children, Caroline, Albert and Stephanie. The youngest, Princess Stephanie was a tabloid staple for much of the 1980s, being a singer, fashion model and party girl.
Prince Rainier III is credited with reforming Monaco’s constitution, building up the economy and reducing its reliance on gambling from 9 percent of revenue to three percent today. Grace Kelly’s sudden death in a car accident in 1982 was a shock that reverberated throughout the whole world. Prince Rainier III continued to rule Monaco after her death and was a well-respected monarch. He perished in 2005, leaving his son, Prince Albert II, to secede to the throne.
Monaco’s economy has grown from tourism, gambling and banking. The principality’s tax-free status and no income tax has attracted many rich residents. The banking industry and money management, generates 16 percent of revenues and plays an important part in the economy. Monaco is famous for its casinos and visitors flock from around the world to play at the elegant establishments. Tourism generates about 25 percent of revenues and Monaco prides itself on its hospitability and excellent cuisine. The wonderful Mediterranean climate attracts visitors from all over the world to enjoy the beautiful coast.
Monaco’s culture has strong influences from its neighbors, France, Italy and Spain. With the native Monegasque population making up only about 21 percent of the population, the French actually make up the largest group at 28 percent. This means that French influence is huge. The constitution allows for religious freedom, yet Monaco remains a religious nation. The Roman Catholic Church makes up the largest proportion, with 78 percent of the population subscribing to their beliefs.
The ruling Grimaldi family has played an important role in promoting culture and the arts in Monaco. Visitors will find an amazing array of world-class galleries and music performances throughout the year, many supported by the royals themselves. The family has set-up many foundations and charities to promote various causes, which include the Princess Grace Foundation (which also supports Princess Grace Dance Academy), the Prince Pierre Foundation (promoting culture and arts) and Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation (protecting the environment).