Where Fairy Tales Really Do Come True
Once upon a time in a faraway land, there was a very handsome prince who lived in a storybook castle that clung to the rocks overlooking the bluest of seas. He lived there all alone and was quite sad for he had no one to love. Then, one day, a truly beautiful woman visited his enchanted land. She had hair of gold and a face as lovely as he’d ever seen. She was a famous American movie actress who was adored by all. The prince showered her with love so she came to live in his tiny kingdom as his beloved bride.
The year was 1956. The handsome prince was Prince Rainier. The actress, of course, Grace Kelly. And due to this joyous marriage America’s eyes turned toward the royal couple of Monaco and lived out this dream come true along with their Princess Grace.
Monaco, which covers only a three-mile stretch of the Mediterranean coastline, is a miniature constitutional monarchy whose entire country could fit into New York City’s Central Park. In fact, it’s so tiny it could fit into half of Central Park. During rush hour, buses can travel the full length of the country in a mere 20 minutes.
Like a pearl in the necklace that adorns the Mediterranean Riviera, Monaco has held a fascination for jetsetters and glitterati for generations. It has all the amenities to cater to their every whim: a breathtaking sea, a fantasyland-style palace, a nail-biting Grand Prix, no taxes and a world-famous casino where fortunes are won... and lost.
Many people visit Monaco. Some even stay. However, few can boast they are actual citizens of this playground by the sea. To become a Monegasque citizen is most difficult. Even those born and raised in Monaco are not automatically eligible for this country’s citizenship.
The Grimaldi Reign
Many foreign conquerors ruled this land, including the Phoenicians, Romans and Moors, to name a few. And each ruler left an indelible mark on this fabled city. Then, in 1297, François (The Spiteful) Grimaldi successfully captured this barren area from the established government. He completed this task after escaping the civil war in Genoa, disguising himself as a Franciscan monk and seizing the fortress in Monaco. This deed firmly established the Grimaldi dynasty, which has continued its reign over these eight centuries.
Prince Rainier III was a direct descendant of the Grimaldi family and the thirty-first heir to their monarchy which began at the close of the 13th century. With the Prince’s death in 2005 and the ascendancy to the throne of his son Prince Albert, it is difficult to imagine that the Grimaldis won’t be ruling this land for many generations to come.
The Casino at Monte Carlo
The renowned Monte Carlo Casino was established by Monsieur François Blanc in the year 1863. Its architecture features vaulted and gilded ceilings, crystal chandeliers and trained croupiers as fine as any in the world. Hundreds, even thousands of euros are won and lost over games such as chemin-de-fer, baccarat, trente-et-quarante, boule, craps, roulette, blackjack and vingt et un.
As the celebrated story goes, Charles D. Wells, a British gambler, succeeded in breaking the bank at Monte Carlo. The year was 1891, and in those days individual roulette tables had a fixed bank of money. When the dealer was out of money, the bank was “broken” and the roulette table was then draped in a black mourning cloth for a period of time while the dealer replenished the money supply. It is said that Mr. Wells did indeed cause the tables to be draped, not once but several times. This feat elevated Mr. Wells to a celebrity status and his winnings inspired the song, “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo.”
Curiously enough, all Monegasques are forbidden from entering the casino’s game rooms, and only foreign visitors with passports are permitted in the casino.
Fairy Tales Don’tAlways End Happily
Princess Grace met a tragic death while driving on the Moyenne Corniche in 1982. The Grimaldi family, as well as all of Monaco and America, mourned the loss of their wonderful Princess. In her absence, her husband and three children carried on all official duties required by their royal positions.
Even after the recent death of Prince Rainier, the magic of the land does live on. Today, Monaco is well established on the map of fun-loving, pleasure-seeking, sun-splashed pretty people who flock to this toy kingdom which lies wedged between the Alps and a sea of bobbing yachts. It is truly regarded by all as the gem of the Mediterranean.
Karyn L. Planett