The Principality of Monaco, bordering the Mediterranean Sea on the southern coast of France near its border with Italy, is approximately three times the size of The Mall in Washington, DC and the same size as New York City’s Central Park. Monaco is the second-smallest independent state in the world, after the Holy See (Vatican City).
Founded in 1215 as a colony of Genoa, Monaco has been ruled by the House of Grimaldi since 1297, except when under French control from 1789 to 1814. Designated as a protectorate of Sardinia from 1815 until 1860 by the Treaty of Vienna, Monaco's sovereignty was recognized by the Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861. The Prince of Monaco was an absolute ruler until a constitution was promulgated in 1911. Seven years later France and the Principality of Monaco entered into an agreement whereby France would provide limited protection over Monaco in exchange for Monegasque political alignment with French political, military, and economic interests. In 1993, Monaco became an official member of the United Nations with full voting rights .
Prince Rainier III, the ruler of Monaco, acceded to the throne following the death of his grandfather, Prince Louis II, in 1949. The heir apparent, Prince Albert, was born in 1958.
CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes, 2/2005; 10/2004