His Serene Highness Prince Rainier III (Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand Grimaldi), generally known as Prince Rainier, presently rules the tiny independent principality of Monaco, which is being ruled by the Grimaldi family of Monaco continuously for more than 800 years. It is surprising to learn that a member of this family has been in power in Monaco as its hereditary sovereign since it was established in 1297. Rainier succeeded his grandfather, Prince Louis.
Rainier was born on 31 May 1923 to Prince Pierre and Princess Charlotte. The prince studied at St. Leonards-on-Sea and at Stowe, a prestigious private school in England, Switzerland and at a university in France. He then joined the French army as a foreign serviceman – artillery officer in World War II in 1944. But Princess Charlotte renounced the throne in 1944, leaving him to succeed his grandfather on 9 May 1949.
He married the acclaimed Oscar-winning American actress Grace Kelly on 18 April 1956 and Princess Grace bore three children Caroline, Albert and Stephanie. His son Albert (46) is next in line to the throne. Princess Grace died tragically in a car accident on 14 September 1982 after suffering a stroke while driving. Prince Albert, is the heir to the throne. Prince Albert is not married yet. If Prince Albert does not have children on his death, the throne will pass to his sister, Princess Caroline according to changes made to the constitution in 2002. Next in line are her children.
When Rainier took over as ruler of Monaco, he started modernising the tiny (less than one square mile) kingdom. He was responsible for Monaco’s new constitution in 1962 that considerably reduced the power of the sovereign. The changes ended autocratic rule, placing power with the prince and National Council of eighteen elected members. He is also credited with modernizing the principality and building it into a banking centre and financial haven for the wealthy.
Initially Monaco relied heavily on tourism. The policy now aims to rely less on income from tourism and from the casino. Today, many in Monaco credit their “builder prince” for turning the nation into an internationally recognized financial centre, which is home to more than fifty banks managing more than $12.5 billion. The Principality’s tax-free status has fired growth, making residency hard to get.