Founded by the Phocaeans of Massalia during the 6th century, the colony of Monoikos became an important port of the Mediterranean coast. Monoikos, from Greek roughly translates to "single house," enforcing the ideas of sovereignty, self-sufficiency and self-reliance. Ancient myths venerate Hercules as having passed through this area.. To this day there is evidence of an admiration of Hercules: the largest port is named Port Hercule.
Julius Caesar stopped in Monoecus after the Gallic Wars on his way to campaign in Greece.
After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476, Monaco was ravaged by Saracens and barbarian tribes. After the Saracens were expelled in 975, the depopulated area was reclaimed by the Ligurians.
In 1215, construction began on a fortress atop the Rock of Monaco by a detachment of Genoese Ghibellines. With the intention of turning the Rock of Monaco into a military stronghold, the Ghibellines created a settlement around the base of the Rock to support the garrison. To draw in residents from Genoa and other surrounding cities, the Ghibellines offered land grants and tax exemptions to newcomers.
Civil strife in Genoa between the Guelph and Ghibelline families resulted in many taking refuge in Monaco, among them the Guelph family. Son of Otto Canella, Consul of Genoa in 1133, Grimaldo began the House of Grimaldi, the future ruling family of Monaco.
In 1297, François Grimaldi ("Malizia", translated from Italian as "The Cunning") disguised as a Franciscan monk alongside his cousin Rainier I and his men captured the fortress atop the Rock of Monaco.
At his death in 1309, François Grimaldi was succeeded by his cousin, Rainier I.
His son, Charles Grimaldi, who would come to be known as Charles I, is considered by historians to be the real founder of the Principality. He added the areas of Menton and Roquebrune, increasing the size of the Principality. Charles I had an important role in the court of the King of France. Rainier II never entered Monaco, and divided the land between his three sons, Ambrose, Antoine, and Jean.
Jean I, who died in 1454, was succeeded by a son, Catalan. Catalan’s daughter, Claudine, married a Grimaldi of the Antibes branch, Lambert. It was under his rule that Monaco was recognized as independent by King Charles VIII of France in 1489. Almost two centuries after François Grimaldi first captured the fortress atop the Rock of Monaco, the Grimaldi's had achieved indisputable sovereignty over the Principality.
Repeated attempts by the Genoese to recapture the fortress proved unrewarding. Louis XII confirmed Monaco's independence, establishing an alliance between the Princes of Monaco and the King of France.
Then, disputes with the French authorities ended in Monaco being placed under the protection of Spain. This resulted in many financial burdens for the Principality, including shouldering the costs of a garrison Spain placed in the fortress from 1524 for more than a century.
Lambert Grimaldi d’Antibes had three sons, Jean, Lucien, and Augustin. Lucien’s son, Honoré I had two sons, Charles II and Hercule, and enjoyed a peaceful reign towards the end of his lifetime. However, both of his sons ruled one after the other, neither for very long. Prior to this point, the ruler of Monaco was referred to as “Lord of Monaco”. In 1612, Hercule’s son Honoré II, was first given the title of "Prince of Monaco", which became the official title of the ruler of Monaco and would be passed on to his successors.
Honoré II led Monaco through a brilliant period; his chief contribution was re-establishing Monaco's alliance with France, which was only realized after more than ten years of negotiations. In 1641, a treaty was signed granting Monaco the protection of France, and furthermore confirmed the sovereignty of Monaco its independence, rights and privileges. Honoré II was given a French garrison to command, which he used to expel the occupying Spanish garrison that was still in the fortress. The Prince was received at the French Court and was awarded many honors and privileges. Honoré II made additions to the Prince's Palace, as well as decorated the Palace with many paintings, tapestries, and valuable ornaments. Many visitors during this time marveled at the vast collection he had accrued.
Despite a lack of resources, the people of Monaco lived rather well, enjoying extensive maritime commerce and profiting from the taxes imposed on ships on their way to Italy.
However, the suppression of feudal rights, as was voted by the French Constituent Assembly seized all of the Prince's monetary possessions in 1789, placing the royal family in a grave financial predicament.
In 1793, French Revolutionary forces captured Monaco, further exacerbating the situation of the royal family. The vast art collections and all of the possessions of the royal family were sold at auctions. The Palace was converted into a hospital and then into a home for the poor. The Prince's family was imprisoned, freed, and then several members of his family had to enter the French army in desperation. After Napoleon abdicated the throne in 1814, Monaco was returned to its previous state under the new rule of Honoré IV.
However, the Principality was re-established as a protectorate of the Kingdom of Sardinia by the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Monaco remained a protectorate until 1860 when, by the Treaty of Turin at the time of Italy’s unification, Monaco was ceded to France. With unrest in Menton and Roquebrune, the Prince gave up his claim to the two towns (which made up 95% of the Principality at the time) in return for four million francs. Both the transfer of these two cities and Monaco's sovereignty were recognized by the Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861.
In spite of the four million franc indemnity, Monaco's reduced size and loss of the income it would have gained from Roquebrune and Menton prevented the Principality from escaping its difficult financial predicament.
In 1856, Charles III of Monaco (Honore IV grandson) granted a concession to Napoleon Langlois and Albert Aubert to establish a sea-bathing facility for the treatment of various diseases, and to build a German-style casino in Monaco. The initial casino was opened in La Condamine in 1862, but was not a success; its present location in the area called "Les Spelugues" (The Caves) of Monte Carlo, came only after several relocations in the years that followed. The success of the casino grew slowly, largely due to the area's inaccessibility from much of Europe.
The Societé des Bains de Mer (SBM) opened the famous Monte Carlo Casino in 1863. With an ideal location, Monaco provided an enchanting setting for hotels, the theater, and a casino. Even though it was difficult at the time to reach the Principality, the Casino proved to be a tremendous boon to their economy.
The Hôtel de Paris was established in 1864 by Charles III of Monaco adjacent to the casino. It is a hotel in the heart of Monte Carlo. It belongs to the Société des bains de mer de Monaco, and is the first elite palace in Monaco. The hotel has 106 rooms divided into four groups based on type of view, decoration and luxury. The Exclusive City View offers 20 rooms, the Superior Courtyard has 29 large rooms, the Exclusive Sea View 59 and the Exclusive Casino has six.
Economic development was further spurred in 1868 with a railway link to France, resulting in remarkable numbers of visitors to the Principality.
The Opéra de Monte-Carlo or Salle Garnier was built by the architect Charles Garnier as an exact replica in miniature of the Paris Opera House. The auditorium of the opera house is decorated in red and gold and has frescoes and sculptures all around the auditorium. It was inaugurated on January 25, 1879 with a performance by Sarah Bernhardt dressed as a nymph. The first opera performed there was Robert Planquette's Le Chevalier Gaston on 8 February 1879, and that was followed by three more in the first season.
Albert I, previously devoted to scientific research in the fields of oceanography and paleontology, assumed the role of Prince of Monaco in 1889. With an outstanding reputation, a seat in the Academy of Sciences, and various discoveries which are too numerous to discuss, he established the Oceanographic Museum, which is one of the top centers for oceanography to this day. Jacques-Yves Cousteau was the Director of the Oceanographic Museum from 1957 to 1988.
In 1911, Prince Albert I adopted the first Constitution of the Principality, separating the 3 forms of power: executive, legislature and judiciary originally held by the Prince.
Part of the Treaty of Versailles in July 1918 provided for limited French protection over Monaco. This established that the Principality's international policy would be aligned with French political, military, and economic interests.
Attempting to remain neutral during World War II, Prince Louis II’s sympathies were strongly pro-French. Nevertheless, the Italian army invaded and occupied Monaco. After Mussolini's collapse in Italy, Monaco was also occupied by Nazi Germany. Prince Louis used the Monaco police to warn Jewish inhabitants of Monaco that they were marked to be arrested by the Gestapo, allowing them time to escape. Many Jewish people who lived in Monaco at the time were able to escape due to the assistance of Louis II and the Monegasque police. With the German army retreating from Monaco due to the Allied advance, an American contingent liberated the Principality.
Following the death of his grandfather in 1949, Prince Rainier III succeeded the throne as the Sovereign Prince of Monaco. On April 19, 1956, Prince Rainier married the American Actress Grace Kelly. This event focused the world's attention on Monaco, as well as established permanent bonds linking the United States of America with Monaco. They had three children, H.S.H. Princess Caroline, H.S.H. Prince Albert II, and H.S.H. Princess Stephanie.
Proclaimed in 1962, a new constitution provided for women's suffrage, abolished capital punishment, and established a Supreme Court of Monaco, guaranteeing fundamental liberties.
Prince Rainier had an outstanding reign, turning Monaco into a thriving center of international finance and business, as well as maintaining its status as a premier luxury tourist destination. He oversaw the addition of the Fontvieille district; a district completely recovered from the sea which increased the Principality's surface area by 25%. He pioneered many innovative infrastructure improvements, as well as major projects such the Port Hercule transformation, which allows for more ships to dock there as well as large cruise ships, and the Grimaldi Forum Monaco, a futuristic conference and cultural center. The economy of the Principality increased dramatically as a result.
Prince Rainier III established the Principality's status in the international community as well. In 1993, the Principality of Monaco became the 183rd member of the United Nations in 1993 with full voting rights. In 2002 a new treaty between France and Monaco established that if there were no heirs to carry on the Grimaldi dynasty, the Principality would remain an independent nation. In 2004 Monaco was admitted to the Council of Europe. In addition, Prince Rainier III offered His patronage and financial support to various social and humanitarian causes throughout the world. He staunchly supported the work of scientists in resolving environmental issues, and was a foremost supporter of various conservation practices.
On April 6, 2005, Prince Rainer III died after a reign of 56 years. H.S.H Prince Albert II acceded to the Throne.