two monaco questions

The death of Prince Ranier prompted two questions

  1. Why is he just a prince if he was the leader of his country?
  2. How did Monaco survive all those hundreds of years. Why wasn’t it swallowed by Italy or France?
  1. He’s a prince because Monaco is a principality, not a kingdom. It’s really just a semantic difference these days, but historically it implied that the nation was somehow subsidiary to another, or part of an empire, or some similar arrangement.

  2. I suspect it was in the interests of the French monarchy to have a little corner of the country where they had no official control.

Short answers:

1: Monaco is a Principality not a kingdom.
2: They have an agreement with France regarding their independance. Albert needs to produce a male heir within a specific period of time or the territory does revert to French possesion.

That’s no longer true - they changed the law a couple years ago to say that the monarchy can pass to Albert’s sisters if he doesn’t produce a male heir. (Presumably because they’re worried he’ll never settle down and have kids.)

I don’t know the answer to Question 2, but as for Question 1:

He’s a prince just because that’s what he is. A principality is a country reigned over by a prince, and that’s what Monaco is. As for honorifics and status, his children, and perhaps other relatives are also Princes, but their exact style and title no doubt makes it clear that they are not the Prince.

Liechtenstein is also a principality, and Luxembourg is a Grand Duchy. IIRC that country is bigger than Monaco and Liechtenstein put together–not that that’s saying much – and its ruler only gets to be a Grand Duke. Interestingly, the Duke’s children, presumably since they are the heir and potential heirs, are Princes, while Dad is a Duke. Go figure.

  1. Have fun with the classification system for royalty vs. nobility, but within the old Holy Roman Empire, a Prince could be, in addition to the relative of a King, the head of a royal house which ruled a Principality. (Furst and Fursttum, with the U’s umlauted, in German). There are two surviving independent principalities: Monaco and Lichtenstein, both microstates. (Luxembourg, though larger, is a Grand Duchy.)

It’s worth noting, in passing, that just as the eldest son of the King or Queen in the U.K. is (usually) the Prince of Wales, the eldest son of the Holy Roman Emperor was the King of the Germans. And Napoleon’s son was King of Rome. So even “King” is not necessarily “monarch” as opposed to “non-ruling member of a royal family.” In this case, the monarchial rank is “Prince” although his relatives are also Princes and Princesses.

  1. The Grimaldi line were Genoese nobility who seized Monaco in 1297, before the surrounding area was brought under the rule of France. They negotiated treaties with France preserving their independence as Royalist France assumed suzerainty over the surrounding countryside. Those treaties were later confirmed by the French Empire and Republic. Website devoted to the Grimaldi family.

Well, I can’t offer any help at all to the second question, but to the first I’ll suggest that the head of country’s title can be pretty abitrary. Heck, Qadafi’s a jackbooted dictator and unquestioned leader of his country and he never made it past Colonel.

In England, a prince is the child or other relative of the monarch, but this is not the original, nor the most common, nor the most important definition of “prince.”

“Prince” comes from Latin “princeps,” meaning “first.” A prince, in general, is a hereditary sovereign ruler of a state known as a “principality.”

Wrong. A prince could be subsidiary to another hereditary ruler, but that’s no different from any other royal title, such as “king.” There is nothing in the title “prince” that implies that the holder of the title answers to another nobleman.

There’s nothing intrinsic in the titles “duke” or “prince” that mean that one should be higher than another. They are both hereditary noblemen. Indeed, “duke” is usually the highest title of nobility. The title of “prince” when not given to a sovereign ruler could be either higher or lower than a duke. Indeed, most English “princes” (i.e., the ones who aren’t sons of the queen) are lower than dukes.

Minor correction: it’s Fürstentum

The Master’s take on the issue: Why Can’t Prince Ranier become King?

Incidentally, this is a matter causing somewhat confusion among Germans (who, as a nation whose monarchical tradition ended in 1919, are not as familiar with nobility as other countries in Europe). In German, the translation for Prince in the sense of Prince Rainier is “Fürst,” but for Prince in the sense of a ruling monarch’s child or relative, it’s “Prinz.” Sometimes it’s not 100 % clear how to translate a foreign term, especially if the person in question is a monarch’s relative, but the title is styled (symbolically) as the ruler of a region in the particular country.


So “Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales,” might be translated as something 'ike “Prinz Karl, der Fuerst von Walis”?

Monaco’s laws must already have allowed inheritance through the female line, since Prince Rainier himself inherited the “throne” in 1949 from his grandfather, via his mother.

Is anyone else idly wondering how the Grand Duchy of Fenwick stacks up? (Unfortunately, the movie might not have the definitive answer for that question.)

'Tis a peculiar place, the ‘Duchy. I suspect it’s blighted by centuries’ worth of intensive inbreeding, as everyone there bears a distinct resemblance to Peter Sellars!

Great movie, far too rarely seen today.

A Kingdom is ruled by a king.
A Principality is ruled by a prince.
A Duchy is ruled by a Duke
A Barony is ruled by a Baron


An Abby is run by an abbot or abbess.
A Priory is run by a prior or prioress.

And a junkie is run by his junk. :slight_smile:

I noticed, too, that “Fürst” was used in the German translation of Lord Of The Rings where the word “Lord” was used in the original. Farimer is referred to as a “Fürst” several times, well before he was given the land of Ithilien to be his princedom, and he became an actual Prince.

Besides the Grimaldi family website linked in by Polycarp, another good read on the subject is:

The Princes of Monaco, by Francoise de Bernardy, published by the Archives du Palais de Monaco, 1961; transl. from French to English by Len Ortzen, published by Arthur Baker Ltd., 1961. It covers the whole saga of the Grimaldis, and includes plates of their portraits as well as genealogical tables.

The genealogy of the Grimaldis can be found on-line here:

Incidentally, Monaco used to encompass somewhat more territory than it does today. It extended north/east along the coast to include Menton, which is about 5 miles from Monte Carlo and roughly midway between MC and Ventimiglia.

On the matter of courtesy titles, to his father’s Prince of Monaco, Albert was Marquis de Baux.

On another related matter: I heard on NPR this morning that, as Albert is 47, single and childless, the “constitution had been amended” to allow his nephew Andrea (his sister Caroline’s older son) to succeed him. Given that Monaco is (or was?) an absolute monarchy, would this be what JerH alluded to?

Lastly, the Romans used the word princeps to mean “first citizen”, and this was how they referred to the Emperor i.e. they took care not to describe him as royal (rex, basileus) as such. To balance the reality of Empire and trappings of Republic, SPQR, and all that.

P.S. Just saw The Scrivener’s post as I previewed, and cracked up. We did The Mouse That Roared as our senior class play; what a riot.

Which had me idly wondering something else entirely. A sense of delicacy prohibits me from being more explicit, but let’s just say that a Google search on “Prince Albert Monaco gay” turned up 48,900 hits. (I’m almost surprised it wasn’t more, given what “Prince Albert” has come to mean in certain circles.) :eek: :smiley: