Little Bits of History

Grimaldi Family and Monaco

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 8, 2015
Francesco Grimaldi

Francesco Grimaldi

January 8, 1297: Francesco Grimaldi disguises himself as a monk. François (French version of his name) was also known as il Malizia or the Cunning. He was a Genoese leader of the Guelphs and captured the Rock of Monaco on this day. He was dressed as a Franciscan monk and greeted at the gates of Monaco’s castle and then he and his cousin, Rainier I, Lord of Cagnes, led a group of men to capture the fortress. He held the Rock for four years before being evicted by the Genoese. He thus failed to establish permanent rule of the Grimaldi family of Monaco. He was, however, the first to attempt it. He died childless so the current descendants of the Grimaldi family come from the line of Rainier I.

The Rock of Monaco is a 459 foot tall monolith on the Mediterranean coast of the Principality of Monaco. The land’s ownership and rule has been in dispute since the ancient Greeks established the Massilian colony of Monoikos there. They took over the land from the Ligurian tribes who held it even earlier. The Grimaldi family have held sway for over 700 years, stemming from this first attempt of takeover by François. Today, it is the oldest of Monaco’s four quarters and also where the Prince’s Palace of Monaco is located. Old Town is on the Rock as is the Cathedral and the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco.

The Palace was built in 1191 as a Genoese fortress. Since that time it has been the focus of bombardment and sieges. The Grimaldi first ruled the region as feudal lords and since the 1600s as sovereign princes. They maintain a presence by tenuous, at times, agreements with larger and stronger neighbors. Because of this, the palace needed to maintain its primary function as a fortress for far longer than other European palaces, thus it is today, one of the most unusual palaces in Europe. In the 1700s, it finally relaxed the fortress status and the French overran the palace, stripped it of its treasures , and exiled the Grimaldi family for twenty years.

Monaco has a total land area of less than one square mile (0.78 square miles) making it the second smallest entity in the world with only the Vatican City smaller. Because of this small size, this is the only palace available for the Grimaldi family, so they have lived here for centuries. There are about 36,000 people living in Monaco and their currency is the Euro. They have the world’s highest GDP nominal per capita at US $153,177. Their unemployment rate is only 2% and over 48,000 workers enter each day from France. Their major industry is tourism where people from around the world (except for Monaco itself) come to gamble in the many casinos. They are also a major banking center and a tax haven. They have also embarked on some non-polluting industries such as cosmetics and biothermics to expand their economic base. Today, Albert II is the current reigning Grimaldi.

My dream is to have a beautiful old house in Monaco. – Eva Herzigova

I love driving at Monaco but the rest of it, well, I can absolutely take it or leave it. It’s extremely pretentious and really not my cup of tea. – Mark Webber

I must hurry back to my house and my flowers in Monaco. – Lillie Langtry

I live in Paris, yet Monaco, where I spend a lot of time, holds a very special place in my heart. – Alain Ducasse

Also on this day: Genius Personified – In 1942, Stephen Hawking was born.
War on Poverty – In 1964, President Johnson declared war on poverty.
Teeny Tiny – In 1297, the Principality of Monaco gained its independence.
Zero Debt – In 1835, the US government was debt free, but just for a short time.
Defending Home and Hearth – In 1877 Crazy Horse fought his last battle.


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