Monaco's history is very much a case of Reality Is Unrealistic. The site of a temple to Hercules in ancient times, the area became a colony of Genoa at the end of the 12th century. In 1297, Francesco Grimaldi (il Malizia, "the malicious one") arrived from Genoa dressed like a monk, with a group of men also wearing monk outfits. Welcomed to the local fortress as guests, Grimaldi and his "monks" instead seized the fortress. He was kicked out a few years later, leading to an almost century-long struggle between the Grimaldi family and the Genoese, which played out among larger battles between Genoa and other Mediterranean alliances. Finally the Grimaldis purchased the land in 1419 and set up the current state, though the next few centuries saw Monaco bounce between independence and being a protectorate of its neighbors.
In 1848, two towns (Menton and Roquebrune), angry over having to pay taxes to the Grimaldis, seceded from Monaco and eventually became part of France. Faced with a loss of revenue (as well as almost 95% of the Principalitys territory), Princess Caroline (a French actress who married into the Grimaldi family) came up with an idea: legalize gambling and build a casino. Opening in 1856, the casino was such a success that by 1861 Monaco was able to negotiate a treaty with France that finally gave it full sovereignty. After the casino permanently relocated to the area of Monte Carlo, Monaco made so much money from it that income taxes were abolished in 1869.
The casino is one of two big reasons why Monaco has survived as an independent nation. The other happened in 1956, when another actress married into Monaco's royalty: Grace Kelly wed Prince Rainier III and became Her Serene Highness Princess Grace. The notion of a glamorous movie star leaving Hollywood to be part of a "Real Life Fairy Tale" was irresistible to the world news media, guaranteeing Monaco constant attention.
Monaco is a constitutional monarchy. The current Sovereign Prince, Albert II, still has veto power, preventing it from being considered a full democracy. Albert took over upon Rainier's death in 2005. He has been married to South African Charlene Wittstock since June 2011, and has twin children by her (born December 10, 2014)Princess Gabriella, older by two minutes, and Hereditary Prince Jacques, now his heir apparent. Albert already had two illegitimate children: Jasmine Grace (mother: actress Tamara Rotolo) and Alexandre Coste (mother: Nicole Coste). He has two sisters: Princess Caroline, heir presumptive to the Monegasque throne until being superseded by the births of Albert and Charlene's twins, and Princess Stéphanie. Read all about the Princely Family of Monaco here.
Population is about 32,000. Most which are foreigners in the million/billionaire's club, as the country is a notable (or notorious, depends on who you talk to) tax haven. The native Monegasque are actually a minority in their own country, numbering only around 8,000 or so. These "subjects of the Prince" are the shop-workers, administrators, teachers and health-care workers of the nation, and are thusly protected by Prince Albert and are allocated, should they need it, with rent-controlled accommodation and employment in a country that most ordinary working people could only dream of living in. Monaco is the most densely populated country in the world, as well as having the highest per capita police force (1 officer per 62 people) and virtually no crime.
Per an agreement with France, Monaco cannot extend its borders into French territory in order to expand, but as compensation, their defense is fully provided by the French Armed Forces if war ever comes to the Principality. In terms of expansion, this has been achieved over the years by creating new, artificial areas through land reclamation out into the sea, and the tiny nation has grown in size by approximately one third in the last hundred years by doing so. The entire district of Fontvieille was constructed on land reclaimed from the sea in the 1970s, for example.
Monaco uses the euro as its currency. What, you thought it had a choice?
Monaco is particularly well known for its role in the Formula One Grand Prix series, with the Monaco Grand Prix actually occurring on the streets of the city. Despite the rich history of the race, the prestige of having the trophy presented by the Prince himself, and the challenge it presents for drivers as they let loose on a tight, twisting, intimate track, the race also has its fair share of negatives. The 'extremely' narrow track makes any true overtaking extremely difficult (meaning most of the time, the person in pole position is essentially doing time trials by Lap 30), the crowd and buildings' proximity to the track can make even so much a 'scrape' to a car throw Engineers into panic mode, and with the addition of several new street circuits in the US, Asia, and Europe itself have made both Monaco lose its distinction and Formula One contemplate keeping it on the calendar.
Monaco also has a professional Association Football club, AS Monaco, who play in the French league system. They've actually been quite successful, winning 8 league championships and making it to the UEFA Champions League Final in 2004.
Famous Monégasque people:
- Grace Kelly, very famous Hollywood star, who married Rainier III and became his consort. She met Rainier right after To Catch a Thief was filmed there.
- The whole Grimaldi family, too.
- Charles Leclerc, a Formula One driver who made his debut in 2018.
- Sir Roger Moore called Monaco home since 2002, stating it's "the only place in the world where you can park a Bentley without someone coming along with a key and scratching it". He is buried there.
- Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief was set and filmed there, as mentioned above.
- GoldenEye: Bond has a night at Monte Carlo where he first meets Xenia Onatopp.
- In Hetalia: Axis Powers, Monaco's Moe Anthropomorphism is an elegant young woman with glasses and dark blond hair.
- She's also described as good with gambling, reflecting the large presence of casinos and high-rollers in the country.
- Surprisingly, for such a small (though undoubtedly iconic) country, there are two Monegasque characters in the Fighting Game genre:
- The King of Fighters 1997 iteration features a stage set on the famous Fairmont hairpin in Monaco during the grand prix, complete with stands of cheering crowds, the elaborately-carved steps up to the casino district, and a yacht-filled Port Hercule in the background.
- An episode of Archer takes place here.
- The Monte Carlo Casino is briefly visited in Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.
- Monaco is unsurprisingly set there.
- Erich von Stroheim's silent classic Foolish Wives is about three con artists who have set up operations in Monte Carlo and wind up targeting the wife of the U.S. envoy to Monaco.
- The Gran Turismo series had Monaco as its second real life track after California's Laguna Seca and the last one introduced before 4 made them commonplace in the series. Due to it being the only regular Formula One track in any of the first three games, Polyphony did not seek the rights to use any of the common names for the race, instead calling it Côte d'Azur. While later tracks would all use their real names, Côte d'Azur was grandfathered in when kept in later games.
- The last movie in Stuntman is shot there. (It's a James Bond inspired film titled Live Twice For Tomorrow.) The first two scenes are shot in the mountains while the last three are shot in Monte Carlo itself.
- In Iron Man 2, Tony Stark/Iron Man competes in the Monaco Historic Grand Prix, and gets attacked by Ivan Vanko/Whiplash there amidst the race.
The Monégasque flag
- Capital: Monaco
- Largest quarter by population: Monte Carlo
- Population: 38,300
- Area: 2.1 km² (0.81) (193rd)
- Currency: Euro () (EUR)
- ISO-3166-1 Code: MC
- Country calling code: 377
- Highest point: Chemin des Révoires (161 m/528 ft) (192nd)
- Lowest point: Mediterranean Sea (5,267 m/17,280 ft) (-)