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Monaco palace, home to Prince Albert.
Monaco Cathedral. Scene of many Monaco royal weddings.
Princess Stephanie, her daughter and Charlene Wittstock are pictured at the circus in Monaco: http://www.hellomagazine.com//royalty/2008/01/23/princess-stephanie/
The Royal Family of Monaco
Nestled on the Mediterranean Sea, the principality of Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, measuring approximately one-half mile in width and three miles in length. Only the Vatican City is smaller than Monaco.
Monaco’s Early History
Despite its small size, the country has the longest ruling royal family in Europe. The House of Grimaldi has ruled Monaco for over 700 years, beginning in 1297, when Francois Grimaldi seized the fortress protecting Monaco. Legend has it that he dressed as a monk, and because of his disguise, he was able to overcome the opposing troops. This event is so important in Monaco’s history that it is depicted on their coat of arms.
After the French Revolution of the 1700’s, the Grimaldi family was exiled for over 20 years. They returned following the Treaty of Paris.
Twentieth Century Monaco
During the 20th century, Monaco was ruled first by Prince Albert I then, starting in 1922, by his son Prince Louis II. Unsuccessful in his attempts to keep Monaco neutral during World War II, the country was occupied first by the Italians, and later by the Germans. Eventually Monaco was liberated by the Allied forces.
Prince Rainier III became ruler of Monaco in 1949, succeeding his grandfather, Prince Louis II, after his mother, Crown Princess Charlotte, renounced her right to succession in favour of her son. Prince Rainier worked diligently to repair the war-torn country and expand her interests beyond gambling. Indeed, Prince Rainier succeeded in making Monaco a leader in banking, financial services, and other business.
In 1956, Prince Rainier brought international interest to the tiny country when he married American actress Grace Kelly. Fascination with Monaco only increased as three children were born to the couple: Princess Caroline in 1957, followed by Prince Albert II in 1958, and Princess Stephanie in 1965.
Tragically, Princess Grace died in a car accident in 1982 at the age of 52. Princess Stephanie was seriously injured in the same crash. Physically recovered, she has admitted that the crash still haunts her.
Prince Rainier died in 2005 at the age of 81, after 50 years as the country’s well-loved ruler.
The Royal Heirs
During their younger years, the royal offspring were known for their independent and headstrong ways.
In 1978, despite the disapproval of her mother, Princess Caroline married Philippe Junot, an older man with a reputation as a playboy. The marriage wasn’t happy, and in 1980, the couple divorced.
In 1983, Princess Caroline married Stefano Casiraghi, an Italian businessman with whom she had three children. Sadly, Stefano died in a boating accident in 1990, leaving behind a grieving family.
Princess Caroline did not marry again until 1999. She was expecting her fourth child when she married His Royal Highness Prince Ernst August of Hanover, following his divorce from his first wife.
Princess Stephanie rebelled at an early age, and has stated in the press that she was determined to enjoy life to the full. Her romantic liaisons have been bumpy and widely chronicled.
In 1991 she began dating her bodyguard, Daniel Ducruet. She had two children with Daniel before marrying him in 1995. The couple divorced in 1996.
In 1998, Princess Stephanie gave birth to a second daughter, rumoured to be fathered by another bodyguard. In 2003, Stephanie married Adans Lopez Peres, a trapeze artist, but the union lasted less than a year.
Prince Albert II succeeded his father as Sovereign in 2005. He has never married, but like his sisters, his love life has been closely watched by the press. He has two illegitimate children, but no legitimate heirs. For this reason, in 2002 Monaco changed its laws to ensure the continuation of the Grimaldi family rule. If Prince Albert dies without producing a legitimate heir, Princess Caroline, followed by her children, will succeed him.
Internationally known for their independent thinking and perseverance in the face of adversity, the Grimaldi family is as much a part of Monaco as the rock on which the country is built. For over 700 years, they have enjoyed a close relationship with the people they rule, and this unique and fascinating relationship will undoubtedly continue for generations to come.