Well-known and well-recognised for his military work, the man we call the “soldier prince” was, during his reign, faced with some of the darkest events of the 20th century, events from which he endeavoured to protect the Principality. A military man by career who had served in Africa, Louis II fought under the French flag in 1914 and was then heralded many times for his acts of bravery, for which he was awarded the War Cross with distinction.
Soon after his ascension to the throne in 1922, Louis II was faced with the difficulties of being between two wars, and was particularly affected by the economic crisis which came from the United States. During the war, the revenue of the Société des bains de mer dwindled and gambling no longer held such a predominant position in Monaco as it did before. Roulette and trente-et-quarante were authorised in all French casinos in 1933. These games were soon authorised in Italy, where San Remo, a luxury seaside resort, is located, not far from the Principality. Consequently, Louis II put Monaco on the path towards becoming an important centre for tourism and sport. It was on this impulse that the Monte-Carlo rally then the motor racing grand-prix were created. Many international companies, which were attracted by the advantageous tax system, came to establish themselves in the Principality.
During the Second World War, many French Jews found refuge in Monaco, which was occupied by Mussolini’s troops after the Allies landed in North Africa in November 1942. The Principality of Louis II delayed applying Vichy’s policy as long as possible, and many “righteous” people tried to protect persecuted groups of people and to hide them during raids. German troops occupied Monaco in September 1943, after the fall of Mussolini, as they suspected that the Principality was harbouring many Jews. Raids increased from January to March 1944.
After the Liberation, a social welfare system was put in place by the Prince’s Government which, in order to set the monegasque purchasing power up to the French workers', also created the Monaco 5% compensation.
1870 - 1949