Thursday, May 6, 2010

Monaco and the Grimaldis: The Early History

The settlement of Monaco as we know it today began on June 6, 1215 with a Genoese man named Foulques de Castello. He entered the port of Hercules with three galleys full of soldiers and a number of other transport ships carrying construction workers and building materials and immediately went to work building a fortress on The Rock; 37 sections of ramparts guarded by four large towers. The Republic of Genoa also encouraged settlement with a message promising free land for all who would be willing to relocate to Monaco to establish a Genoese presence there. They would not have to pay taxes or rent, a fact which many subsequent historians have pointed to as proof that Monaco, from the very beginning, even before Grimaldi rule, was something of a tax-haven.

It should be noted that among the Genoese moving to Monaco, the Grimaldi family was not among them. It is seldom the well-established who pack up and move to new lands to start over and the Grimaldis of Genoa were certainly well established even at that early date. At least by 1133 this was so as Otto Canella (founding father of the Grimaldi clan) was made a consul of the Republic of Genoa. This same office was held three times by his son, Grimaldo Canella, and it was because of his prominence that the family itself came to be known by the name Grimaldi starting with his son Oberto Grimaldi. The office of consul was held by four families in rotation and they are among the most famous in the history of the Mediterranean area; the Spinolas, the Fieschis, the Dorias and the Grimaldis.

However, Grimaldi family members were leaders in areas other than politics. Some were merchants and over time became major trade tycoons, others got into finance and became leaders in the banking industry but the most famous were the soldiers. Gabriele Grimaldi was a naval commander in the service of Charles d’Anjou, Comte de Provence. Luchetto Grimaldi was fighting Venetians in Acre and then in Armenia in the competition between the maritime empires of the two aristocratic republics. Two of my personal favorites were Carlo Grimaldi, also a naval commander, who fought with his galleys in the distant Black Sea and Gentile Grimaldi who doubled as a diplomat, mediating between the opposing forces of the Bulgarians, the Ottoman Turks and the Mongol Empire. So, we see that the Grimaldi dynasty was already known all across the Mediterranean when the first major settlements and fortifications were being built on Monaco. It would not be long before the paths of the family and the country would cross and lead to even greater accomplishments and notoriety in the future.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...