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Independent principality, southern Europe, on the Mediterranean Sea near the France-Italy border. Area: 0.78 sq mi (2.02 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 35,400. Nearly half of Monaco's population are French citizens; minorities include Italians and Britons; less than one-fifth of the population are of Monegasque descent. Language: French (official). Religions: Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic [official]); also Judaism. Currency: euro. Monaco is a constitutional monarchy with one legislative body; the head of state is the prince, and the head of government is the minister of state, assisted by the Council of Government. Inhabited since prehistoric times, the area was known to the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, and Romans. In 1191 the Genoese took possession of it. In 1297 the reign of the Grimaldi family began. The Grimaldis allied themselves with France except for the period from 1524 to 1641, when they were under the protection of Spain. France annexed Monaco in 1793, and it remained under French control until the fall of Napoleon
, when the Grimaldis returned. In 1815 it was put under the protection of Sardinia. A treaty in 1861 called for the sale of the towns of Menton and Roquebrune to France and the establishment of Monaco's independence. Monaco, situated along the Côte d'Azur
, is one of Europe's most luxurious resorts, known for its Monte-Carlo
gambling centre, international sports-car races, and beaches. In 1997 the 700-year rule of the Grimaldis, then under Prince Rainier
, was celebrated.