Monaco is notorious for four things:
- The Monte-Carlo Casino (which is a block from my apartment)
- Gigantic yachts and the exotic cars (I’ve seen an entire Bugatti store within the first three hours!)
- The tax-haven status for the world’s richest (I’ll explain more on this later)
- Every American woman’s dream of becoming a Princess, aka Grace Kelly
The tax-haven stuff is a pretty big reason the entirety of Monaco even exists. Let me explain:
“The Rock” of Monaco, or Monaco-ville, was the very beginning of this city. It’s basically a huge, protective fort built into the highest cliff wall, and it’s the oldest part of Monaco even though you could walk from end to end in less than ten minutes.
The Grimaldi family (the royal family overseeing Monaco) have had their palace here for safety within the fort and this whole neighborhood is extremely well-protected because of their personal police force. But, the fact that there’s Port Hercules right next to The Rock (and the fort) made this space highly sought after in the Dark Ages.
This area remained under control of the Roman’s generally after the Roman Empire fell in 476 and was always populated by Ligurians, or people of Italian Riviera. That's why the Monégasque language is closer to a dialect of Italian rather than French, even though it’s surrounded by France, and also why so many Italians live in Monaco today.
But June 10, 1215 is known as Monaco’s modern “birth,” when Fulco del Cassello started to construct the fortress the Grimaldi’s live in today on top of The Rock. In an attempt to lure people from Genoa, Italy and other surrounding cities to build up the settlement, they offered land grants and tax exemption to any new settlers in town. Apparently this rule hasn’t changed for the past 800 years and the people of Monaco today still don’t have to pay taxes, which is why the uber-rich love living here.
Then Mr. Francesco Grimaldi seized control of The Rock in 1297 and started his dynasty. I think it’s pretty incredible that one family has controlled this small town for more than 720 years. Since then, there have been a bunch of treaties signed and agreements made between France and Monaco stating that the French military force will protect this little sovereign city-state if Monegasque policies aligned with whatever political, military, and economic interests France has. So far, so good!
Today, if you are of direct Monegasque decent (meaning your ancestors were some of the first settlers of Monaco or you marry into a family that has these ancestors) you get even more special privileges for living here.
For example (this is what I’ve heard): I know a family here where the father is Monegasque and Egyptian and the mother is English and French. I was told that because she married into a historically Monegasque family, anytime they have another child and they choose to stay in Monaco, they automatically get a new apartment with another bedroom, plus a bedroom for the nanny, and their rent never goes up.
They also never pay for electricity, water, heat, or air conditioning. There are also a certain number of special spots saved for Monegasque families when it comes to big events or if you’re trying to sign up your child for activities after school. Additionally, you generally get help faster when it comes to plumbing issues, electrical issues, or car repairs.
Talk about a life of luxury!