Monaco is a place which has long exerted a pull on my interest - and I'm not alone; first settled in the Paleolithic era as early as 300,000 years ago, by the sixth century BCE it was the site of a Phocaean Greek colony where a temple to Hercules was built, which temple gave the area the name Monoikos (or 'lone-dweller') from whence its current name is derived. This Mediterranean-adjacent jewel located in the south of France passed from empire to empire until 1191 when it was granted by Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI to Genoa; a fortress was begun atop the Rock of Monaco in June 1215, from which time the modern history of Monaco can be said to begin.
François Grimaldi captured Monaco on this day in 1297, since which time the city state has been continually in the possession of the House of Grimaldi; while Monaco itself has gradually evolved itself into a principality so has its ruling family evolved into a princely one. Nominally under the protection of France - without whom it and its tax-free status could not exist - Monaco has chiefly been ruled by absentee rulers, who preferred their decadent life at Versailles and Paris over a life of despotism in the sleepy, if lovely, village from which their power and station were derived.
The Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861 was the first to formalize this relationship, which has since been refined numerous times, especially whenever the succession has been in question - as it was in 1918. In fact, the parlous state of the Monegasque succession is still a worry, given the propensity of its rulers for philandering and their seeming unwillingness to produce heirs within wedlock.
It was Louis II who first took a hands-on interest in his most important holding, although the modern state is almost entirely the creation of his grandson and successor Rainier III; Prince Rainier did more than diversify Monaco's economy, he put the place front and centre in the world's imagination when, in April 1956, he married the glamourous actress and humanitarian Grace Kelly. Miss Kelly, in fact, did her part to put Monaco on the map even before she'd met the Prince, when she starred in Alfred Hitchcock's 1955 fim To Catch a Thief, opposite Cary Grant.
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