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Monte Carlo History

It might not look like it, but Monte Carlo is one of the oldest cities in Europe, with evidence of occupation dating back to the Stone Age. The first real settlement came during the Iron Age, with the Ligurian Monoikos setting up home and giving Monaco its name.

In 122BC, the Romans arrived, defeating local tribes and incorporating the territory into the Maritime Alps. Julius Caesar is even said to have sailed from Monaco to fight in Greece. In 1162, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa granted dominion of Monaco to the Republic of Genoa, sparking street battles between the warring Genoese parties of Ghibelline (who were loyal to the emperor) and Guelph (who sided with the pope).

In 1215, the Ghibellines built a fortress on the Rock of Monaco to assert their authority on the region. However, in 1297 Guelph Francesco Grimaldi disguised himself as a monk, entered the castle and captured it, founding the ruling dynasty that continues to hold power to this day. The Grimaldis also acquired nearby Menton and Roquebrune, using them to begin a campaign of pirate-style raids on English towns, helped by the French.

But their plundered riches attracted invaders, with the Grimaldis forced to see off attacks from Genoa and Spain, most notably in 1612 when Honore II Lord of Monaco had to enlist the services of French troops to expel marauding Spaniards from the principality.

Since then Monaco has been under the protection of France, with the exception of the French Revolution when it was actually annexed by its neighbour. The royal family were arrested, their wealth disappeared and the Prince’s Palace was turned into a prison. Monaco was wiped off the map until the Treaty of Paris in 1814 re-established the principality and returned it to the Grimaldi family.

In 1918, the Treaty of Versailles strengthened relations with France, who agreed to defend the principality’s independence, sovereignty and territory. In return, Monaco agreed to exercise its rights in mind of French interests. A new constitution was signed in 1962 and forms the basis of Monaco’s monarchy today.

Did you know?
• James Bond makes the first of many visits to the glamorous Casino de Monte-Carlo the film Never Say Never Again (1983).
• The Romans built the surviving Trophy of Augustus in 6 BC to celebrate their victory over the tribes of the Alps.
• The actress Grace Kelly became Princess of Monaco in 1956 when she married Prince Rainier III.