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The Palace Guards is one of the smallest armies in the world, alongside that of the Vatican. Protection for Prince Albert II and his family is provided by 119 men.

Comprising 119 officers and men, the Palace Guards form the military unit of the Monegasque security forces. Their motto is: “honour, loyalty and devotion to duty”.

Since the unit was established under Prince Honoré IV in 1817, it has been reorganised several times. It was initially conceived as a police force to protect the Principality of Monaco, along the lines of the Italian carabinieri. “When an uprising broke out in Menton in 1821, the guards proved their loyalty to the Grimaldi dynasty.

To reward this loyalty, in 1822 Prince Honoré V entrusted them with the mission of guarding the Palace and the Prince himself,” explains Thomas Fouilleron, Director of the Prince’s Palace Archives and Library. In 1870, this task was temporarily ceded to the Papalins Honour Guard, former soldiers of the Papal States, before returning permanently to the Palace Guards in 1904, during the reign of Albert I. Just like in London, every day tourists can watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony at 11.55 a.m. Over time, this has become one of the Principality’s attractions.

DCIM102GOPRO Monaco le 27 aout 2014 Ambiance Touriste sur la Place du Palais à la relève de La Garde.
© Direction de la Communication - Michael Alesi

The Palace Guards do not have the same kind of defensive role that traditional armies do, because France has guaranteed Monaco’s protection since the Franco-Monegasque Convention of 1918. In addition to protecting the Sovereign Prince and his family, as well as the integrity of his properties and residences, the Palace Guards are also obliged to furnish the Sovereign Prince with an honour guard, ensure that laws are enforced and contribute to maintaining public order.

The Guards work to ensure the Principality’s influence and sovereignty, taking part in official, civil and religious ceremonies, military reviews and parades to mark Monaco’s national holiday, as well as numerous international military events.

With the establishment within the unit of a military first-aid team, the Palace Guards also help to ensure the safety of sporting or artistic events where first aid and evacuation resources are required. The Guards also have a team of scuba divers and a motorcycle troop responsible for escorting the Sovereign Prince and heads of state visiting the Principality. Comprising 26 musicians, all Guards, the Palace Guards Orchestra puts on regular performances and is renowned for its eclectic repertoire.

The Palace Guards are currently under the command of Colonel Tony Varo, Supreme Commander of the Military Force.

© Direction de la Communication - Michael Alesi
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