The Grimaldi ascent began one night in 1297, when Francois Grimaldi seized the fortress of Monaco from a rival Italian faction. Disguised as a monk, he successfully led a small army into the fortress reclaiming it in the name of the Pope. The legacy of his daring victory is recorded on Monaco’s coat of arms, which bears two monks brandishing swords.
Over the next few centuries, Monaco prospered as an important port in major maritime trading routes and as a strategic naval base for European military powers that were constantly vying for control of The Rock.
In 1604, Lord Honore II came to the throne and launched Monaco into its “Great Century”. Reflecting upon his accomplishments, he deigned himself worthy of a new title, Prince Honore II. Grimaldi rules have proudly held the title of Prince ever since.
The French revolution took a heavy toll on European royalty, including the Grimaldis. Monaco was annexed by France and members of the Monegasque royal family were imprisoned. The annexation was cut short with the abdication of Napoleon in 1814, however, and all rights of the Grimadis were restored.
In 1861, Monaco relinquished one-half of its territory to France in exchange for cash and independence. On the throne at this time was Prince Charles III. He realized that most of Monaco’s natural resources had been lost with the land and something had to be done to reestablish an economic base in the Principality. He decided that the answer was tourism and gambling. In 1863, he established the Societe des Bains de Mer. The company consisted of a handful of hotels, a theater, and a casino, which would soon flourish and become the foundation of the magnificent district of Monte-Carlo.
Prince Rainier III ascended to the throne in 1949 and later caught the world’s attention with his storybook marriage to actress Grace Kelly. Today, Monaco still stands as a proud monarchy with their son, H.S.H. Prince Albert II as its head of state. In 1997, the Grimaldi family celebrated the 700th anniversary of its reign in Monaco.