Monaco’s longest-ruling monarch, reigning for 56 years, Rainier III (1923–2005) won the heart of the nation with his fairy-tale marriage to Grace Kelly in 1956. The legendary Philadelphia-born actress made 11 films in the 1950s, including Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief (1955). The movie took Kelly to Cannes and Monaco for a photo shoot, where she met Rainier. Tragically, she died in a car crash in 1982.
The soap-opera lives on with the couple’s children: Prince Albert (b 1958 and monarch since 19 November 2005), Caroline and Stéphanie. Prince Albert is as well known for his sporting achievements (he’s a black belt in judo and played in the national soccer team) as he is for his two illegitimate children, neither of whom are in line for the throne. Much to the joy of the nation, however, Prince Albert wed South African swimmer Charlene Wittstock – 20 years his junior – in 2011 and in December 2014 presented Monaco with a twin set of heirs, Princess Gabriella and Prince Jacques (a few seconds younger than his sister but first in line to the throne).
Monaco is officially a sovereign state, with its own flag, stamps and national anthem, and although it uses the euro as currency and has no border controls with France, it's not actually a member of the EU (which also means it doesn't have to comply with EU laws or tax regimes).