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The Principality of Monaco has a very long history dating back some 300,000 years. Remains found in the caves of the Exotic Garden show that the area was inhabited by various nomadic peoples in prehistoric times. There are even traces of paintings dating back to 1500 BC.
According to experts, the first sedentary people who settled here were the Ligurians from the north-west of Italy, modern-day Genoa. Later, the area was dominated by different civilisations: ancient Phoenicians who built their temple to the god Melqart; in the 6th century BC, the Greeks founded Monoikos, from which the name Monaco probably derives; in the 2nd century BC, the Romans built Portus Herculis Monoeci; in the 1st century AD, it was annexed by Marseilles and Christianised; and, after the fall of the Roman Empire, it was invaded several times, by the Kingdom of Lombardo, the Kingdom of Arles and the Saracens until the Count of Provence expelled them in the 10th century and the Ligurians returned to populate the area.
Soon after, in 1191, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Henry VI, ceded the city to Genoa, from where the Ligurians originated, and, in 1215, the Ghibellines began building a large fortress on the Rock of Monaco. And it was on 8 January 1297 when a Guelph family, and its small army, enemies of the Ghibellines, entered the fortress and captured it. They were the Grimaldis, the descendants of today’s Royal Family. Since then, the Grimaldis have ruled Monaco, except for brief interruptions, for example, from 1524 to 1641, when it was under Spanish sovereignty or during the French Revolution, when it was expropriated by France.
In 1815, it came under the control of France and protection of Sardinia through the Treaty of Vienna, until, in 1861, Monaco regained its sovereignty thanks to the Franco-Monegasque Treaty. It was finally officially independent.
With this treaty, the French railway was allowed to pass through Monegasque territory, which gave Prince Charles III the idea of building a casino, something that would have been illegal in France and Italy. The first casino opened in 1863 and the aristocracy of Europe began to visit, heralding the beginning of Monaco’s rise. Such was its popularity that the old quarter of Spélugues, the location of the first casino, was renamed Monte-Carlo in honour of the sovereign. Later, in 1869, it was decided to abolish property and personal taxes, which heralded a new era of very rapid growth for the state.
In the 12th century, 1911 to be precise, Prince Albert I acceded to the Constitution of Monaco and in 1918 a treaty was signed with France under which Monaco would be incorporated into France if any Grimaldi prince died without a male heir.
The event that probably put Monaco in the public eye more than any other was the wedding of Prince Rainier to the American actress, Grace Kelly. Since then, the principality has become a tourist destination for the world’s elite.
Glamour, gambling, no taxation, elite tourism and the Mediterranean. These are probably the main ingredients of Monegasque success, masterfully cooked up by the Grimaldi family for the last 700 years.