The Rock of Monaco defines why a settlement exists in its present place today. The 459 foot tall rock on the Mediterranean coast close to the French Italian border enabled whoever owned it to control that part of the coast as well as the natural port alongside.
A natural shelter, the rock was used by Palaeolithic settlers and subsequently became a settlement in the hands of the Romans and then the Ostrogoths, Lombards and Franks.
In 1191 the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry VI granted suzerainty of the rock to the City of Genoa just along the coast. The Genoese built a fortress on the rock around 1215 A.D.
In 1297 the Grimaldi family from Genoa seized the rock and in the years following acquired the lands around. By 1633 Honoré II, Prince of Monaco, had achieved recognition for Monaco as an independent sovereignty and it has remained, with the loss of some land, under the Grimaldi family ever since.
There was one period during the French revolution when Monaco was occupied by the French but it was released by them in 1814. Monaco then became a protectorate of the King of Sardinia until 1861 when the Franco-Monegasque Treaty returned its sovereignty.
The Prince of Monaco became an absolute ruler until the Monegasque Revolution of 1910 forced him to introduce a constitution including a constitutional monarchy.
Inevitably Monaco sided with France during World War One. In World War Two the principality tried to remain neutral but was occupied by the Italian army in 1942 and then by the Germans before being liberated in 1945.
From the Second World War the National and Democratic Union dominated the National Council until 2003 when an alliance of three parties called the Union for Monaco won the election and the subsequent 2008 election.
In 1993 Monaco became a member of the United Nations (UN) and since World War Two, because of its climate, Casinos and relaxed atmosphere it has become a magnet for the rich and famous.
Prince Albert I is Head of State.
The unicameral National Council has 24 seats of which 16 members are elected by list majority system and 8 by proportional representation to serve five year terms.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2012 does not provide data for Monaco.