1. Monaco is one of the smallest countries in the world, second only to Vatican State. It is situated in Europe, on the French Riviera, bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It is surrounded on three sides by France. It occupies about 2 sq. kms.
2. There are four distinct parts or quartiers:
i) Monaco-Ville is the capital. The old town is built on a promontory extending into the sea. This is where the palace is situated.
ii) La Condamine is the port area.
iii) Monte Carlo is the location of the casinos and resorts. There are also residential areas.
iv) Fontvielle is the recently built industrial area.
3. In ancient times, Monaco was an important trading centre, and ships from many parts of the world docked in its harbour. In the early 12th century, the Genoese from Italy gained control over Monaco. The Grimaldi family from Genoa were given the right to govern Monaco. They formed alliances with France. Between 1500 and 1600, Monaco’s history is replete with accounts of palace revolts and assassinations. During the French Revolution, Monaco was annexed by France in 1793, but the Congress of Vienna restored it to the Grimaldi family in 1814.
4. In 1911, Prince Albert I approved a new constitution. Thus far, the reigning prince had held absolute power. In 1918, a treaty was signed with France, assuring Monaco of French protection, but stating that if the royal family did not produce a male heir, Monaco would revert to France. This treaty was amended in 2002. During World War II, when Prince Louis II was monarch, Italian forces under Mussolini invaded Monaco. When Mussolini fell in 1943, the Nazis moved in, and carried out their persecution of the Jews. After the war, Prince Louis II continued to reign. He was succeeded by Prince Rainier III, who married Hollywood film star Grace Kelly, in 1956. The current ruler, Prince Albert II, is their son.
5. Monaco is called a principality because it is ruled by a prince. The prince is Monaco’s representative in all international matters. The prince nominates a Minister of State as his representative. The Minister of State leads a five member Council of Government. The legislative power rests with a 24 member National Council, which is elected every five years.
6. In 1962, the constitution of Monaco was revised. Capital punishment was abolished, a Supreme Court was established and women were granted voting rights. In 1993, Monaco joined the United Nations. It participates in the economic activity of the European Union through France and its currency is the Euro.
7. The residents of Monaco number a mere 32,000 people. Of these, just 19% are Monegasque, whereas 32% are French, and 20% are Italian. The official language is French, though many residents speak Monegasque, which is based on French and Italian.
8. Tourism is the major industry in Monaco. More than a million tourists visit annually, most of them wealthy. The main attractions are the beautiful setting, the mild climate and the casinos. Monaco is the venue for the Formula 1 Grand prix race and Rally Monte Carlo. This is also a draw for visitors.
9. The banking sector is well- developed in Monaco. As income tax is not levied, there are many wealthy clients. Concerns have been raised regarding Monaco’s reputation as a tax haven, and there is now more transparency in financial dealings.
10. Monaco has a rich cultural tradition. It has an opera house, an orchestra and a classical ballet company. There are many museums including the Museum of Pre-Historic Anthropology and the Oceanographic Museum founded by Prince Albert I. Sculptures by famous artists are set in public places for all to admire. There is also a special walkway in Fontvielle where pedestrians can view awe-inspiring sculptures.