Monaco: 1215 to 1662
|See Quaternary Era to 1215
The history of Monaco is only known in detail from the thirteenth century. The date of 10th June 1215 marks the birth of the future Principality : on that day, the Genoese Ghibellines led by Fulco del Cassello, who had long since seen the strategic importance of the Rock and was aware of the advantages of the harbor, came there to lay the first stone of the fortress, on whose foundations the Prince's Palace lies today. They had previously obtained from the Emperor Henry VI, the successor of Frederick Barbarossa, sovereignty over the whole country and had acquired the land necessary to carry out their project. The fortress was re-inforced by ramparts which their project. The fortress was re-inforced by ramparts which gradually formed a complete girdle right round the Rock. In order to attract residents, they granted new arrivals valuable privileges such as concessions of land and exemptions from taxes. Monaco thus became, in spite of the small area of its territory, an important place whose possession was to become the subject, during the three centuries which followed, of continual strife, capture and recapture by the representatives of the two parties, the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. The Rock of Monaco was in turn in the hands of the Ghibellines, the Dorias and the Spinolas, supporters of the Emperor and the Guelphs, the Fieschis and the Grimaldis, adherents of the Pope.
Among the families of the Genoese aristocracy belonging to the Guelph party, one of the most brilliant was the Grimaldi family ; its most anciently known ancestor was a certain Otto Canella, Consul of Genoa in 1133, whose son was called Grimaldo. It was a branch of this House of Grimaldi which was, after three centuries of struggle, to gain permanent possession of the sovereignty of Monaco.
1270 : the outpost of Genoese power at the frontiers of Provence, Monaco remained until the end of the thirteenth century under the control of the authorities of the Republic, but bitter civil warfare reigned between the aristocratic factions of Genoa from 1270 onwards. In the course of these internal struggles, Monaco became on several occasions the place of refuge of one of the great families engaged in the conflict, the Grimaldis. From these beginnings, and after two centuries of persevering effort, a new lordship, a new State came into being.
In 1296, as a result of one of these party quarrels, the Guelphs and with them the Grimaldis were expelled from Genoa and took refuge in Provence. They had a small army which they used against the fortress of Monaco.
On 8th January 1297, the Guelphs led by François Grimaldi, known as "Malizia" ("the Cunning"), seized the fortress. According to one chronicler, François Grimaldi penetrated the walls in the guise of a Franciscan monk. This was the first capture of Monaco by the Grimaldis ; the event is commemorated on their coat of arms where the supporters are two monks armed with swords.
In 1301, the Grimaldis lost control of Monaco. They were only to return thirty years later, thanks to the return to power of the Guelph party.
Charles Grimaldi occupied the Rock on 12th September, 1331. In 1341, Charles I acquired the possessions of the Spinolas in Monaco. Historians consider him to be the real founder of the Principality, to which he added land by purchasing the lordships of Menton and Roquebrune, both of which were to remain Monegasque until 1861. Charles I was the son of Rainier I and the father of Rainier II. These three Grimaldis occupied important positions at the court of the King of France and the Count of Provence. Rainier I, who commanded a fleet of galleys, was promoted Admiral of France by Philip the Fair and won a brilliant victory over the Flemish at Zeriksee in 1304. Charles I placed at the service of King Philip IV an army of crossbowmen who took part in the famous battle of Crecy in 1346 and his fleet took part in the siege of Calais. Rainier II, who never entered Monaco, had a glorious career as a sailor in the service of King John the Good and Queen Joan of Naples. His sons Ambrose, Antoine and John were lords of Monaco in 1419 ; after a division of the land between the three brothers, the Rock and the Condamine were allocated to John who remained sole master of them until his death in 1454.
John I campaigned all his life for the independence of his lordship which the Genoese were not prepared to abandon. His son Catalan outlived his father by a mere three years, leaving as heiress a daughter who married a Grimaldi of the Antibes branch, Lambert. The successful policies of this lord led in 1489 to the recognition of the independence of Monaco by King Charles VIII of France and the Duke of Savoy. It had thus taken nearly two centuries for the Grimaldis to establish their indisputable sovereignty over Monaco.
From then on, the attempts of the Genoese to recapture the fortress were limited to a siege which lasted several months and which was finally repulsed by the garrison in 1507. The independence of Monaco was again confirmed five years later by Louis XII who declared that the lordship was held by God and the sword. In 1512, Louis XII recognized by letters patent the independence of Monaco and a perpetual alliance with the King of France. This policy was continued by John II and Lucien until the death of the latter, assassinated in 1523 by his cousin Bartholomew Doria. He left only one son of tender years, Honoré, whose wardship was given to his uncle Augustin, Bishop of Grasse, who was recognized as lord. Augustin did not receive from François I the support that Charles VIII and Louis XII had given to his father and brothers. Following serious disagreements which arose between him and the French authorities, he entered into negotiations with the Emperor Charles V which ended in 1524 with Monaco being placed under the protection of Spain. This was an act whose consequences were to weigh heavily on the financial situation of the country for more than a century. Its instigator, before his death, was able to assess the gravity of the error which he had committed ; the Spaniards only partly fulfilled their undertakings and the garrison which they placed in the fortress remained there almost entirely at the expense of the Monégasques.
At the death of his uncle Augustin in 1532, Honoré had not yet attained his majority. It was a Grimaldi from Genoa, Stephen, known as "the Governor" who was his guardian and had the government of the lordship granted to himself for his whole lifetime. The reign of Honoré was only peaceful towards its end ; those of his two sons, Charles II and Hercules, who reigned one after the other, were also filled with intrigues and conflicts : Hercules was to perish assassinated in 1604. His son Honoré was still a minor ; his wardship was entrusted to his uncle the Prince of Valdetare who exercised it until 1616. It was he who persuaded his nephew to take the title of "Prince" and "Lord of Monaco" (1612), titles which were recognized by the Spanish Court and passed on to his successors.
The reign of Honoré II witnessed the most brilliant period in the history of Monaco. As soon as he had assumed power, the young sovereign adopted as his policy an alliance with France. The discussions which began in 1630 lasted more than ten years. The Prince received the most favorable support from Cardinal Richelieu and he was assisted in Paris by his cousin John Henry Grimaldi, Marquis of Courbons and Lord of Cagnes and by Marshal de Vitry, the governor of Provence. In 1641, in Péronne, King Louis XIII signed a treaty providing Monaco with the friendly protection of France. This agreement confirmed the sovereignty of the Principality, recognized the independence of the country and maintained its rights and privileges.
A French garrison was placed under the direct orders of the Prince who assumed command of it. There remained the problem of the expulsion of the Spanish garrison which continued to occupy the fortress. Several months later, Honoré II managed to organize as a fighting force a certain number of his subjects to whom he distributed arms ; they succeeded in seizing the main posts, thus bringing about the capitulation of the Spaniards. During the course of the following year, the Prince was received at the French Court and obtained all sorts of honors and privileges. The lordships which had been given to his predecessors by Charles V in the Kingdom of Naples were replaced by those which were to become known in the Principality as the "French lands" : the Duchy of Valentinois, the Viscount of Carlat in Auvergne and the Marquisate of Baux with the lordship of Saint-Rémy in Provence. Honoré II returned to the French court twice where he was magnificently entertained by Cardinal Mazarin. The young King Louis XIV was the godfather of his grandson, the future Prince Louis I.
The embellishment of the Prince's Palace during this reign was striking : first came the building of the South Wing, which contains the Great Apartments, today open to tourists. Honoré II gathered admirable art collections in his Palace : more than 700 paintings, many of which were signed by the greatest masters, were hung in the galleries ; sumptuous furniture, precious tapestries, pieces of silverware and valuable ornaments provided a decor of great artistic worth which was the marvel of the eminent people whom the Prince invited to visit his Palace. Numerous events were staged during this reign, including those in the field of the arts such as the French and Italian ballets, balls were held and great religious ceremonies took place in the Church of Saint Nicholas.