Monaco is a constitutional monarchy ruled, until 2002, by the hereditary princes of the Grimaldi line. Prior to constitutional changes made in 2002, if the reigning prince were to die without leaving a male heir, Monaco, according to treaty, would be incorporated into France. Because Prince Rainier III's son Albert was a 43-year-old bachelor in 2002, without male heirs, and his own health was failing, Rainier changed Monaco's constitution to allow one of his two daughters, Caroline or Stephanie, to inherit the throne and preserve the Grimaldi dynasty.
On 7 January 1911, Monaco's first constitution was granted by Prince Albert I. On 29 January 1959, Prince Rainier III temporarily suspended part of the constitution because of a disagreement over the budget with the National Council (Conseil National), and decreed that the functions of that body were to be assumed temporarily by the Council of State (Conseil d'État). In February 1961, the National Council was restored and an economic advisory council established to assist it.
A new constitution was promulgated on 17 December 1962. It provides for a unicameral National Council of 18 (now 24) members elected every five years (now 16 by majority vote and 8 by proportional representation); it shares legislative functions with the prince. Executive operations are conducted in the name of the prince by a minister of state (a French citizen) with the assistance of the Council of Government, consisting of three civil servants who are in charge of finances, public works, and internal affairs, respectively. All are appointed by the prince.
Women were enfranchised for municipal elections in 1945, and participated in elections for the National Council for the first time in February 1963. Until 2003, suffrage was exercised only by trueborn Monégasques of 21 and over. Naturalized Monégasques were granted voting rights in 2003 and the voting age was reduced to 18.