Situated on a rocky promontory, the Prince’s Palace of Monaco (Palais Princier) is the official residence of the ruling Prince of Monaco: Prince Albert II (born 1958) and has been the home of the Grimaldi dynasty since the end of the 13th century.
The Palace of the Prince of Monaco: A bit of history
The modest size palace was originally edified as a Genoese fortress in 1191. In 1215 the defensive system of the castle was upgraded with the construction of a rampart with four towers and a curtain wall.
The palace underwent heavy and continuing restoration from its creation to the 20th century. The Grimaldis upgraded the castle into a royal residence in the 15th century. The Italian Renaissance aspect of the palace in the courtyard and its interior was added in the 16th century by hired artists from Italy.
During the French Revolution, the palace was confiscated by the revolutionaries and became a military hospital and poorhouse. It was restored to the Grimaldis in 1814 under the Treaty of Paris. In the 19th century, the succeeding Princes worked on restoring the palace and retrieving the furnishings and works of art that had been dispatched during the French Revolution.
Situation Map of the Prince’s Palace of Monaco
LEGEND: A: Entrance; B, C: State apartments, double loggia, and horse-shoe stairs; D: chapel; E:Swimming pool, F: All Saints Tower; G: Serravalle; H: South Tower; K: Middle Tower; M: St Mary’s Tower; N: Administrative and domestic offices.
Exterior of the palace
In Place du palais, sentries and cannons guard the entrance to the palace. The white-uniformed guards are changed outside the palace at 11.55am each day. This event is called ‘la relève de la garde’ (the changing of the guard).
The external aspect of the palace is a blend of medieval fortifications and Renaissance features. Unlike other royal palaces (Versailles, Buckingham…) it lacks symmetry as it was originally built as a defensive castle to protect Monaco and its coastline from piracy.
Although its façade has a defensive appearance, the crenellated square towers that rise behind the classical façade seen from Place du Palais were actually rebuilt during the 19th century.
The Baroque entrance to the palace was added by Prince Louis I. Executed by Antoine Grigho, it features a large arch surmounted by a broken pediment containing the Grimaldi’s coat of arms.
Interior of the Prince’s Palace of Monaco
In the court of honour, a horseshoe-shaped staircase inspired by the one in Fontainebleau leads to the main entrance of the palace and the open Gallery of Hercules.
Then on the way to the throne room, visitors walk along an enfilade of rooms and galleries: the long Mirror Gallery which was inspired by the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles is followed by the Officer’s Room and then by the Blue Room, a large drawing room decorated with blue brocade.
The ultimate room at the end of the ceremonial route is the Throne Room with ceiling frescoes painted by Orazio de Ferrari depicting the surrender of Alexander the Great. The throne was made in the Empire style and is placed beneath a red silk canopy topped with a gilt crown. The throne room has host state ceremonies since the 16th century.
The state apartments feature lavish furnishings and expensive works of art, marble floors and stairways, Renaissance ceiling frescoes, and panelled walls.
The state apartments and the throne room can be visited on a guided tour.
(f) for féminin, (m) for masculin, (adj) for adjective and (v) for verbs
- Alps = Alpes (f,p)
- castle = château (m)
- changing of the guard = relève de la garde (f)
- court of honour = cour d’honneur (f)
- French Riviera = Côte d’Azur (f)
- fortification = fortification (f)
- guard = garde (f)
- harbour = port (m)
- marina = port de plaisance (m)
- Maritime Alps = Alpes Maritimes (f,p)
- Mediterranean Sea = Mer Méditerranée (f)
- micro-state = micro-état (m)
- Mirror Gallery = Salle des Glaces (f)
- old town = vieille-ville (f)
- palace = palais (m)
- Prince = Prince (m)
- Principality = Principauté (f)
- port = port (m)
- rock = rocher (m)
- state apartments = appartements d’état (m,p)
- throne room = salle du trône (f)