The principality has a club football team, AS Monaco, who compete in the French Ligue 1 and have become French champions on multiple occasions. A center of research into marine conservation, Monaco is home to one of the world’s first protected marine habitats, an Oceanographic Museum and the International Atomic Energy Agency Environment Labs, which is the only marine laboratory in the United Nations structure.
In 1419, the Grimaldi family purchased Monaco from the Crown of Aragon and became the official and undisputed rulers of “the Rock of Monaco”. In 1612 Honoré II began to style himself “Prince” of Monaco. In the 1630s, he sought French protection against the Spanish forces and, in 1642, was received at the court of Louis XIII as a “duc et pair étranger”.
The princes of Monaco thus became vassals of the French kings while at the same time remaining sovereign princes. Though successive princes and their families spent most of their lives in Paris, and intermarried with French and Italian nobilities, the House of Grimaldi is Italian. The principality continued its existence as a protectorate of France until the French Revolution.
In 1793, Revolutionary forces captured Monaco and until 1814 it was occupied by the French (in this period much of Europe had been overrun by the French armies under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte). The principality was reestablished in 1814 under the Grimaldis, only to be designated a protectorate of the Kingdom of Sardinia by the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Monaco remained in this position until 1860 when, by the Treaty of Turin, the Sardinian forces pulled out of the principality; the surrounding County of Nice (as well as Savoy) was ceded to France. Monaco became a French protectorate once again.
Before this time there was unrest in Menton and Roquebrune, where the townspeople had become weary of heavy taxation by the Grimaldi family. They declared their independence, hoping for annexation by Sardinia. France protested. The unrest continued until Charles III of Monaco gave up his claim to the two mainland towns (some 95% of the principality at the time) that had been ruled by the Grimaldi family for over 500 years.
These were ceded to France in return for 4,100,000 francs. The transfer and Monaco’s sovereignty were recognized by the Franco-Monégasque Treaty of 1861. In 1869, the principality stopped collecting income tax from its residents—an indulgence the Grimaldi family could afford to entertain thanks solely to the extraordinary success of the casino. This made Monaco not only a playground for the rich, but a favored place for them to live.
Until the Monégasque Revolution of 1910 forced the adoption of the 1911 Constitution of Monaco, the princes of Monaco were absolute rulers. The new constitution, however, barely reduced the autocratic rule of the Grimaldi family and Prince Albert I soon suspended it during the First World War.