Monaco and The Grimaldis

Monday, April 11, 2005

Why is Monaco a country?

From The New York Times

Like Las Vegas, Monaco is really a dream - largely the dream of Rainier III, the prince who ruled it from 1949 until his death Wednesday at 81.

Monaco is little more than a rock on the shore of the Mediterranean near the French-Italian border, smaller than Central Park in Manhattan or the Mall in Washington. Monaco has no mineral resources, arable land, army or income tax, and with 498 police officers for 33,000 residents, practically no petty crime. Its government is named by the ruling prince, now Rainier's son, Albert II, 47, though there is a 24-seat elected Legislature.

Why is it a country? Because, like Luxembourg and Liechtenstein, it is a relic of Medieval Europe that more powerful neighbors allowed to survive. The House of Grimaldi, the clan that seized control of Monaco in 1297, adroitly played Italy, France and Spain against one another over the centuries and remained sovereign - to a degree.

Tourism and gambling, with the kind of gamblers who arrive by yacht, were long the mainstays of the economy. Rainier's great-grandfather, Charles III, started the first of the gambling casinos in the section now known as Monte Carlo in 1863, and the prince is the major shareholder in the company that controls them.

Rainier faced a crisis in 1962, when Charles de Gaulle grew fed up with French citizens' taking residence in Monaco to avoid paying income tax. He threatened to isolate the principality and cut off its supply of French francs, the principality's currency until the advent of the euro. In 1963, Rainier agreed to a treaty that decreed that the French citizens who live in Monaco (currently there are some 12,000) have to pay income tax to Paris.

Prince Rainier's storybook marriage to Grace Kelly in 1956 increased the principality's popularity as a resort, and the prince used low business taxes to lure more than 100 service companies and private banks, mostly foreign-owned. He also built a huge convention center on a landfill in the harbor.

The 5,000 or so native Monegasques who live there (thousands more live abroad) speak, look and act like their French neighbors on the Côte d'Azur. Another 5,000 or so residents are Italian. Among the principality's attractions is the annual Formula I Grand Prix race, from May 19 to May 22 this year.


What Was That?

Thirty-second commercials have been the common currency of television for as long as many viewers can remember. But with the news that Puma plans to begin using 15-second spots on Monday , and following recent Cadillac commercials that last just five seconds, it appears the currency is being revalued.

In the early days of TV, 60-second spots ruled. After cigarette commercials were driven from the airwaves in 1971, however, broadcasters began offering cheaper 30-second commercials to draw new advertisers and replace the lost revenue.

The new format still allowed ad agencies to tell stories using characters, music and humor. But the cost of those 30 seconds kept rising, so that by the late 1980's, companies began trying 15-second spots.

Since then, the advent of commercial-zapping remotes and digital video recorders, which can edit out ads, along with steadily fragmenting television audiences, have raised questions about the value of 30-second spots.

Responses have varied. Last summer and fall, Under Armour Performance Apparel ran a 90-second commercial that it called a MicroMovie to try to make an impact. Ninety seconds is an expensive amount of time on television, though, so more marketers are eyeing quick hits. Agencies specializing in 10-second spots are proliferating. Viewers can only hope that brevity, in this case, will be the soul of wit.


Pius Work for You?

One perk of being pope is that you can pick your own name. This wasn't always the case. Originally, popes kept their given names, but in 532, when a priest named Mercury assumed the throne, he discarded his pagan name in favor of John II. By the early 11th century, new names were the rule. Marcellus II, elected in 1555, was the last pope to keep his given name.

Various popes have rechristened themselves after apostles or other important church figures; many have taken names that project an image, like Pius, Clement or Innocent. Frequently, a pope will name himself for a distinguished predecessor: in 1831, Bartolomeo Alberto Cappellari became Gregory XVI because he particularly admired Gregory the Great (pope from 590 to 604) and St. Gregory VII (1073-85).

Among the 265 popes are 43 whose names have been used only once. The list includes Linus, Eusebius, Agatho, Sisinnius, Formosus, Romanus and the improbable Hilarius. It's unlikely that the next pope will choose any of these. It is also all but certain that he will not fashion himself Peter II, after the first pope, whose name is held sacrosanct.

Generally, modern popes name themselves in deference to a Holy Father who helped them rise through the church's hierarchy or otherwise shaped their careers. Hence, for the last few centuries, the same names have tended to recur.

From 1667 to 1774, 6 of the 12 popes were Clements; after them, 7 of the next 11 were Piuses. In fact, just six papal names - Clement, Pius, Benedict, Leo, Innocent and Gregory - account for every pope from 1590 to 1958, with only four 17th-century exceptions: Paul V, Urban VIII, and Alexanders VII and VIII.

When the reform-minded Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli became John XXIII in 1958, he signaled his break with centuries of tradition by adopting his father's name. In doing so, he also reached back more than 600 years to his papal namesake, John XXII (1316-34).



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