Monaco’s history goes back to the Middle Ages, when the Grimaldi family acquired its port and nearby territory from the Aragon ruling family (Spain) in the early 1400s. From that time until the French Revolution, the territory that became the Principality of Monaco was under the protection of the Spanish, Italians and Sardinians. In 1793, Monaco was occupied by French revolutionary forces until 1814 (when the Grimaldi family returned to power). Since then, it maintained its independence from France, although it’s under the de facto protection of the French state.
Monaco, like other European microstates (Andorra, Liechtenstein and San Marino), was a relatively obscure “postage stamp” country until 1956. That year, Prince Rainier III married American Hollywood star Grace Kelly, which significantly raised the country’s profile. He played an important role in bringing economic prosperity to the microstate, while Princess Grace was influential in promoting the arts and bringing glamour to the small nation. Together, they had three children, Caroline, Albert and Stephanie. The youngest, Princess Stephanie was a tabloid staple for much of the 1980s, being a singer, fashion model and party girl.
Prince Rainier III is credited with reforming Monaco’s constitution, building up the economy and reducing its reliance on gambling from 9% of revenues to 3% nowadays. Princess Grace made tabloid news again when she died in a car accident in 1982, which shocked the world. Prince Rainier III continued to rule Monaco until he passed away in 2005, leaving his son, Prince Albert II, to assume the throne.
Monaco’s economy is diverse (tourism, gambling and banking). The principality’s tax-free status and no income tax has attracted many wealthy residents (making up the majority of the microstate’s population). The banking industry and asset management services generate 16% of its revenues and is a big part of the local economy. Monaco is also well-known for its casinos, and visitors flock from around the world to play at the elegant establishments.
Tourism generates about 25% of revenues, with Monaco hosting a variety of prestigious events – from music awards shows to the Monaco Grand Prix auto race (a time of the year when the world is watching). In addition, Monaco’s enviable Mediterranean climate attracts visitors from all over the world to enjoy its beautiful coast and nearby areas within the South of France (from Nice to Cannes).