Visiting the Principality of Monaco: witnessing the changing of the military guard at the Palace of the Prince
Round the clock protection of the Palace
Monaco's military and security matters have always been a serious business in the Principality.
In the Middle Ages, by virtue of the Rock of Monaco's isolation and near-impregnability on the Mediterranean coast, its forces were significant in the region and beyond, and ships from Monaco even sacked Southampton, England. By a series of alliances, whether with Spain, Sardinia or France, its historical security was assured.
In the 19th century, when the Papacy lost its temporal power after Italian unification, the Prince of Monaco took on some former Papal soldiers and incorporated them among his personal guards. These men were known as les Papalins .
A road in the Principality is named for these soldiers today.
Palace guard uniforms
The soldiers who guard the Prince's Palace, in Monaco Town today, do so wearing two varieties of uniform. In winter their uniform is blue; in summer, it is while.
On a number of occasions I have witnessed the changing of the guard, which occurs promptly every day at 1155 AM.
Discreet but heavy security
Security around the Palace vicinity may be described as both discreet but vigilant. I have witnessed smart, plain clothed men wearing sunglasses, and was conscious of being the subject of inquiring glances, prior to the sudden appearance of a limousine, through the window of which I glimpsed HSH the then Hereditary Prince Albert.
In fact, the Principality as a whole is among the most heavily policed states in the world. Tight security, both public and privately sponsored, is an ever-present reality, however discreet.
I have come to realize that in Monaco, if I see smartly dressed men aged in their thirties, standing around, apparently not doing very much, their presence represents the serious level with which the Monégasque authorities regard issues of security.
Living symbols of Monaco's sovereignty
The Palace and its military guards attract the considerable attention of visitors to Monaco.
Yet at a deeper level the presence of the guards bears testimony to the nature of the Principality as a sovereign state. The armed, uniformed soldiers guarding their Prince's residence are an ever present, living symbol of that sovereignty.
Also worth seeing
Monaco's cultural treasures and things of great historic value are too numerous to mention properly here, but museums include the Naval Museum (Musée Naval de Monaco ) which is situated in Fontvieille , as is the stamp and coin museum. The Oceanographic Museum (Musée Océanographique ) is situated in Monaco Town , on the historic Rock.
How to get there: Delta Airlines flies direct from New York to Nice, France (Aéroport Nice Côte d'Azur ). Nice airport is a 7-minute helicopter flight from Monaco's heliport (Héliport de Monaco ). There are also bus links from the airport to Monaco. The French railroad company SNCF maintains services to Monaco from Downtown Nice. For North American travellers making the London, England area their touring base, airlines flying to Nice include easyJet, from London Luton Airport. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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