The author has previously published works on Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret, and Countess Tolstoy -- but also on Judy Garland, Shirley Temple, Ronald Reagan, and P.T. Barnum, so the reader may be forgiven for unfounded suspicions of tabloidism. The second half of this workmanlike narrative does, in fact, concern itself mostly with the lively affairs of the current younger generation but the reader may ignore all that (or the reader may try).
For the first half details in sweeping prose the adventurous history of the Grimaldis, "an ambitious, hot-blooded, unscrupulous race, keen to plunder, swift to revenge, and furious in battle." The harbor at Monte Carlo has been strategically important since the Carthaginian fleet anchored there. The Lombards, Arabs, Guelfs, and Genoese all had their strongholds and the Grimaldi family arrived in 1162 as Genoese consuls. One night in 1297, Francesco Grimaldi (known as "the Spiteful") climbed the cliffs with his followers, disguised as monks, and overpowered the small garrison, and the family has ruled the Rock ever since. Edwards makes clear the necessary nerve and tenacity and the willingness to fight, as well as the diplomatic balancing act the princes of Monaco have had to perform in order to survive as a more or less independent state.