The Palace Guards, whose history is closely linked to that of the Royal Family, is the successor to several guards, dating back to the Middle Ages.
The birth of the GRIMALDI dynasty and its guards in the Middle Ages
On 8 January 1297, François Grimaldi seized Monaco by stealth, earning himself the nickname "Malizia" (meaning "the Malicious"). This key event, immortalised in the Grimaldi House coat of arms, marks the settling of the dynasty in Monaco.
During the first half of the fourteenth century, Charles I definitively established the authority of the Grimaldi Family. He adopted the title of seigneur (lord) in 1341 and expanded Monaco’s territory by purchasing Menton and Roquebrune.
The seigniory of Monaco was highly coveted due to its strategic position from both a military and a commercial point of view. The presence of a guard to protect the seigneur, the fortress and Monegasque territory proved necessary.
The first mention of such a guard dates back to 1395, at which point it was already under the command of the seigneur of Monaco, who could also count on the support of France. King Charles VIII of France recognised Monaco’s sovereignty in 1489. At that time, the guard was made up of men from Monaco, Menton and Roquebrune, as well as French and Italian mercenaries. It was around 100 or 200 strong, and distinguished itself during a long siege in 1506–1507, when it succeeded in driving back invaders from Genoa.
"STAFFIERI" and "CARABINI": The guards in the modern era
In the sixteenth century, Monaco called on support from Spain, replacing that which it had enjoyed from France. A Spanish protectorate was established following signature of the Treaty of Burgos in 1524 and then the Declaration of Tordesillas. The security of the territory and the fortress was guaranteed by a company of Spanish infantry, but protection of the seigneur was entrusted to a personal guard. Made up of around fifteen soldiers, it is mentioned from 1604 under the name staffieri or estaffiers, in other words armed servants.
The seigniory of Monaco became a principality in 1612 when Honoré II adopted the title of Prince. The fortress, which had undergone gradual improvement over the previous century, became a Palace.
In the seventeenth century, Monaco once again placed itself under France’s protection. In 1641, the Treaty of Péronne marked the end of the Spanish protectorate. As a replacement for the company of Spanish infantry and then the estaffiers, King Louis XIII of France made 150 French soldiers available to the Principality in 1643. This unit had a number of names, such as Gardes du Prince (Prince’s Guards) and Carabini, and continued to operate until 1792, meaning that for nearly 150 years, the Carabini guaranteed the security of the Prince, the Palace and the Principality.
Prince Honoré V (1819–1841) and the creation of the Palace Guards
As a result of the French Revolution, Monaco was incorporated into France under the name Fort-Hercule in 1793. The Principality regained its independence through the Treaty of Paris in 1814, and the Grimaldis were able to return to the throne. Monaco’s armed forces, which were disbanded during the Revolution, were reorganised by Hereditary Prince Honoré, the future Prince Honoré V. From 1815, the safety of the Prince and the Palace were ensured by the "Canotiers de la Garde" of His Serene Highness. This was a corps of sailors numbering around 120 men. In Menton, from 1815 public order was maintained by the Garde de Police, which was renamed the Palace Guards on 8 December 1817. This date marks the actual founding of the Palace Guards.
In 1822, Prince Honoré V entrusted the Palace Guards with the privilege of replacing the "Canotiers de la Garde".
The Palace Guards in the mid-nineteenth century
During the reign of Prince Florestan I (1841–1856), Menton and Roquebrune decided to declare themselves "free towns" and unofficially separated from the Principality in 1848.
The split was officially confirmed by the first Franco-Monegasque treaty in 1861. The area of the Principality was then reduced to the city of Monaco alone. To rescue the economy, Prince Charles III decided to establish a casino. With gambling prohibited or restricted in the neighbouring countries, success was immediate, bringing Monaco influence it could previously only have dreamed of.
The Palace Guards during the reign of Prince Charles III (1856–1889)
From 1870 onwards, the Palace Guards were tasked with ensuring public order in the Principality.
They are still called upon during the major events that punctuate life in the Principality, such as Monaco’s National Holiday.
To provide an honour guard for the Palace, the Prince Charles III then founded the Company of the Prince’s Guards, made up of French soldiers. However, the latter were mobilised to serve in the Franco-Prussian war that same year, and had to leave Monaco in haste. They were therefore replaced by Papalins, who were soldiers from the former pontifical army of Pope Pius IX, which was disbanded in 1870.
Prince Albert I (1889–1922) and the creation of the Palace Guards
The uniform took on its current appearance at the turn of the twentieth century with the wearing of the colonial white helmet in 1898 together with a lightweight, “mixed” uniform, and a colonial blue helmet in 1903, combined with a winter uniform.
Satisfied with the police services provided by the Palace Guards, the Prince Albert Ier ordered their return to the Palace to replace the Papalins. The Company of Prince’s Guards was dissolved on 26 January 1904 and replaced by the current Palace Guards
Although Monaco was neutral during the First World War, 80 out of 86 Palace Guards were mobilised and eight of them died for France.
The Palace Guards during the reign of Prince Louis II (1922–1949)
During the reign of Prince Louis II, the "mixed" uniform was replaced by a white summer uniform. Although some were involved in the Resistance, the Palace Guards were not mobilised and continued their work in the Principality. In addition to guarding the Palace and guaranteeing the Prince’s security, the Palace Guards provided numerous honour guard and surveillance services in the city, including on Place du Casino and at the Exotic Garden.
The Palace Guards during the reign of Prince Rainier III (1949–2005)
A visionary, Prince Rainier III modernised the Palace Guards during his reign. While maintaining the police service on Place du Palais, He gradually withdrew them from guard duty in the city and created a number of specialist functions: a motorcycle troop, a first-aid team, musicians, a postmaster, protection drivers, scuba divers, etc. The Palace Guards were entrusted with new roles, such as security for visits to the Palace (from 1949) and security for the Prince’s estate at Rocagel starting in the 1960s.
With pride in its history and commitment to its values, the Palace Guards today serves Sovereign Prince Albert II and His Family with honour, loyalty and devotion, as illustrated by its motto.