Last Updated on March 30, 2021 by Claude Boucher
written by Jasmine Grace -High School Intern
Monaco is the second smallest independent state in the world, and its fame is much greater than its size. This 2.1 square kilometer section of land is hilly and rocky, known as a glamorous tourist destination with beautiful beaches, a grand casino, and car races. The House of Grimaldi is the royal family of Monaco and has ruled for over 700 years. Some legends claim a witch cursed their family hundreds of years ago after two of their ancestors performed vile deeds. This tiny nation also claims to be the birthplace of a variation of the crêpe, called Crêpes Suzette. French is the official language of Monaco, and they have a long history with France.
The Grimaldi family began their long rule way back in 1297. They allied themselves with France for most of their history, but from 1524 to 1641 Spain protected Monaco. And in 1793, Monaco was annexed to France. With the fall of Napoleon I, the Grimaldis returned to power. And nearly a hundred years later, the Franco-Monegasque treaty was signed and Monaco regained full independence. In 1918, the relationship between France and Monaco reached a new height, and a treaty was signed stating Monaco would fall under French protection if the Grimaldis ever became extinct.
There is legend the Grimaldi family is cursed. This tale claims two Grimaldi ancestors each did a terrible thing that brought misfortune and misery to the entire Grimaldi line. The first of these ancestors, Francesco Grimaldi, impersonated a monk to sneak into an enemy fortress and capture it. The crimes of the second ancestor, Prince Rainier I, were much worse. He kidnapped an innocent young maiden and forced himself upon her. To exact her revenge, she became a witch and placed a curse on every Grimaldi to come, saying none of them would have happiness in marriage. Although there certainly have been some failed relationships in the family, it is hardly true every marriage has ended in flames. Perhaps the curse has faded with time, or maybe there was no curse in the first place.
Another, more believable, Monaco legend surrounds the origin of Crêpes Suzette. This variation on the classic treat originated in 1895 at the Café de Paris in Monte Carlo, at least according to the tale. It resulted from a culinary accident when a dish served to the Prince of Wales went wrong. But the Prince loved it, and soon the crêpes became very popular. Another delicious Monaco specialty is the country’s national dish: barbajuan (also spelled barbagiuan). These are essentially fritters stuffed with ricotta cheese and swiss chard. Other possible fillings include onions, rice, leeks, spinach, and parmesan. Barbajuan is commonly eaten on November 19th, Monaco’s national day. Besides crêpes and barbajuan, lots of seafood, Italian, and French foods are enjoyed in Monaco.
Beyond the food, Monaco is famous for cars, casinos, and beaches. The Place du Casino is widely known as one of the most luxurious casinos in the world. Charles Garnier, the architect of the Paris Opera House, built it. Monaco is also famous for race cars. The first race was held in 1929, and in 1950, the circuit became part of Formula 1 racing. That same track is still used today!
Although Monaco is many times smaller than the city of Manchester NH , it has the fame and intrigue of a country many times greater.