Even 30 years after her death, Princess Grace of Monaco, otherwise known as the actress Grace Kelly, is as much admired and revered by many as she was in her lifetime. Her life was short (she was only 52 when she died) but it was an extraordinary one. Many biographies have been written about her, in her lifetime and since her death, and some even with Royal approval. We take a slightly briefer look at her life.
This time, the ‘The Wedding of the Century’ and Grace’s royal role.
The week between Grace’s arrival and her wedding were fraught – Monaco was transformed into a media circus and Rainier and Grace had to appear at many official events. Reporters blocked the couple’s path everywhere they went, and one reporter even lay down in the road pretending to have been run over, all to get a picture of the couple. By the time the day of the civil ceremony arrived on 18th April, they were exhausted. As Rainier later said,
“It wasn’t fun then and in the middle of the turmoil Grace kept saying, maybe we should run off to a small chapel somewhere in the mountains and finish getting married there. I wish we had because there was no way either she or I could really enjoy what was happening”
Rainier and Grace were officially married in the Throne Room of the Prince’s Palace with just immediate family and very close friends present. Then they had to re-enact the whole thing for MGM’s cameras. As compensation to MGM, as she would not be completing her seven year contract with them, Grace agreed to grant them the rights to film and televise the civil and religious wedding ceremonies. The result is the film The Wedding in Monaco which was screened around the world. The civil ceremony was followed by a luncheon, and in the afternoon, Grace and Rainier appeared at a garden party for just the Monegasque people. In the evening, the couple attended a Gala at the Opera House.
On the next day, 19th April, was the religious ceremony at the St Nicholas Cathedral. MGM’s present to Grace was her wedding dress, made by the studio’s costume designer Helen Rose. It was outstandingly beautiful and inspired wedding dress design for decades. Grace and Rainier were extremely nervous and in film footage and pictures, the strain from the media presence can be clearly seen on their faces. After the ceremony, they drove in their new car, a gift from the people of Monaco, to the Church of St Dévote, the patron saint of Monaco. Grace left her bridal bouquet at the church in tribute to the saint. It must have been with relief that the couple set off on their honeymoon, a trip along the Mediterranean coast in their yacht, ‘Deo Juvante II’ (a wedding present from Rainier to Grace). They were away for a few months and when they returned, Grace threw herself into her new role as Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco. She had a new language to learn and a nation’s respect to gain. But Grace and Rainier could not even look at photographs of their wedding for a year afterwards, such were the bad memories. As Grace herself said:
“I avoid looking back. I prefer good memories to regrets”.
It was a shame the couple had not been able to have their small wedding in the mountains.
As Princess, Grace became President of the charities AMADE and the Monaco Red Cross and she founded ‘The Princess Grace Foundation’, a charity to support the arts and artists in Monaco. She was a supporter of the La Leche League. With Rainier, she made official visits to the Pope, American President John F Kennedy and French President Charles de Gaulle among others. She and Rainier had three children, Caroline, born in 1957, Albert (now Prince Albert II, Monaco’s ruler) in 1958 and Stéphanie in 1965. For Grace, being a mother was of supreme importance:
“It would be very sad if children had no memories before those of school. What they need most is the love and attention of their mother”.
In 1962, Alfred Hitchcock offered Grace the lead in his new film Marnie. Grace, with Rainier’s agreement, accepted and it was decided that filming would be completed whilst the family were on holiday in America. When the Monegasque people heard about the film, they were very against Grace taking part and so she sadly agreed not to. Her first duty was to her adopted country and her acting career was definitely over. Grace still needed a creative outlet though, so she narrated documentaries such as The Children Of Theatre Street and she took part in poetry readings across Europe. Grace started The Garden Club of Monaco where she could indulge her love of flowers, and wrote My Book Of Flowers with her biographer and friend Gwen Robyns. She also made pressed flower paintings. During a trip to Britain in 1981, Grace attended a reception prior to a music recital at Goldsmiths Hall. Also present was Lady Diana Spencer at her first official event since her engagement. When Grace found Diana upset because she found the protocal a nightmare and wasn’t used to the press attention, she comforted her, laughing ‘Don’t worry, it gets worse!’. Grace knew what it felt like to marry into Royalty. In the same year, Grace and Rainier celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary.
The family had a country home, ‘Roc Agel’, just over the border into France. It was while driving from here back to the Palace in Monaco on 13th September 1982, with her daughter Stéphanie, that Grace suffered a small stroke. It is likely that had this stroke happened when she was anywhere else, Grace would have recovered well, but on the incredibly dangerous, twisty mountain road into Monaco, she lost control of the car and it plunged over the edge of the mountainside. Stéphanie had serious fractures but recovered. Grace, although still alive, probably suffered another, major stroke, and never regained conciousness. She died in hospital in Monaco on 14th September 1982. She was just 52.
The world was stunned, the people of Monaco bereft. She had become very much loved and they appreciated her tireless work for them. Grace’s funeral was held at the same Cathedral where she and Ranier had married 26 years earlier. Rainier, Caroline and Albert supported one another at the Cathedral. Stéphanie was still in hospital, to ill to attend, but watched on television. Britain’s representative at the funeral was The Princess of Wales on her first solo engagement since the birth of Prince William. She had been particularly keen to attend in tribute to Princess Grace, who she had much admired. Following the funeral, Grace was interred in the Cathedral in a private service, and Rainier was buried alongside her after he died in 2005. He had never remarried.
Grace had been a well respected actress in her youth, and her film legacy is testament to that. But her greatest role was that of Princess of Monaco. It was not something that she fulfilled half-heartedly – when Grace did something, she did it to the best of her ability and it showed. The people of Monaco grew to love her as one of their own and it was obvious to them that she wasn’t acting when she became involved in charities, visited the sick and entertained orphaned children. She really did live her greatest ever role.
Oh Ellen….seriously. Google the more honest accounts of that marriage.
Catherine, one need only recall Prince Rainier III’s desolation at His wife’s funeral, to refute any of the ridiculous stories (by the authors of the more-sensational books on the late Princess) that paint the picture of a loveless marriage…affairs, allegedly by both…and that, for the cameras, Grace was the consummate princess, but off-camera, She was miserable. I have read each and all of the books on Princess Grace’s life – including the more-sensational ones written by the various ‘drama queens’, men and women who sacrificed accuracy for the sake of units-sold, as it were. I have seen the home movies showing a couple entirely devoted to each other, Their children, and Their subjects. There is no convincing me – and the available media supports this – that the Prince and Princess of Monaco were somehow mis-paired, unhappy, and/or anything other than a marriage, lasting 26 years until Her death, based on love, devotion, mutual support, faith, dignity and an overwhelming sense of duty. I simply do not buy into the sensationalist detritus by the people who refuse to believe that some things are going to be drama-free.
People just want things to be bad. To be unhappy. And frankly, Google has nothing on the research i have done over the past 17 years. Mike, you are correct – if it had been a marriage of convenience, etc, he would have simply remarried when Grace died – but Rainier was broken by the loss. They did have a lot of distance at times, he worked VERY hard running Monaco. But the Prince and Princess also made a point, especially after dealing with the problems in 1961-2, to spend family time, time with just each other.
Thank you so much for a well-informed comment. I also appreciated this article and the lack of rumors (which is all most “biographies” allegedly about Princess Grace) are based on. Good reportage is based in truth, not the 3rd hand tales from laughable sources, like in the worst book ever written about Grace, the Wendy Leigh thing. So bad it made me laugh.
Prince Rainier III of Monaco as a Young Man had to Break relations to Marry his Girlfriend. She was tested and proved to be Infertile. That was Heart Breaking to His Serene Highness Prince Rainier of Monaco. At that Time of Crisis a Bride in Works was Said to be either” Marilyn Monroe or the Famous Actress Grace Kelly”. During that time in 1962 as Young Man His Highness Prince Rainier Drew up a Constitution greatly needed for the Smallest Country in the World. He arranged that ending autocratic rule and placing Power with the Prince and a National Council of 18 Members. During his Reign His Serene Highness Prince Rainer was in the War 2nd Lieutenant in France Army. He also Made through the International Community Monaco Gambling Capital of The World. In the Meantime Grace Kelly was starting her career at age 20 in New York. She Produced 40 episodes of Live Drama Production. “Country Girl” which was a sad movie but amongst the most Popular in the World gave an Academy Award. Another Filmed in My Home Country where is Was Born was filmed in the Country of Kenya, Nairobi, in East Africa. The Movie was Called “Mogambo” . Which gave her a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in the World. My Favorite Producer was the Famous Alfred Hitchcock. He saw the test Pilot for “Dial For M Murder” a shared optimism between Grace Kelly and Him. Marlon Brando also stared with Grace Kelly “On the Waterfront.” which Gave Her the Boost in the Film Industry as Well as Political Influence. With that and Many Productions she was called to Cannes Film Festival in April 1955. She was told after arriving that His Serene Highness Prince Rainier III wished to talk and have something to eat. She had some Photographs with His Highness Prince Rainer. Both Embarked back to Their Homes ,His Royal Highness Prince Rainer III to Monaco and Grace Kelly to The United States Of America. His Serene Royal Highness Prince Rainier III endowed the Grace Kelly’s Family 2 Million Dollars as a Good Gesture and the Religious Wedding Of True Love was Set for April 19, 1956 The Royal Highness of Monaco , Her Serene Princess Grace Kelly and His Serene Royal Highness Prince Rainier had 3 Children, Princess Caroline of Monaco, Prince Albert of Monaco Princess Stephanie of Monaco. Serene Princess Grace Kelly November 12, 1929 Philadelphia , The United States of America. Death: September 14, 1982 His Serene Highness Prince Rainier May 31, 1923 Monaco-Ville Death: April 6, 2005 Monaco France
Why did you write a biography rather than comment on this existing article? BTW, people, there was no such thing as a “fertility test”, Ms Pascale (sp?) went on to marry and have children. Marilyn Monroe was never considered as a wife for Prince Rainier, that is a silly rumor… doesn’t anyone read books by people who worked with Grace and wrote books about her (and Marilyn! Try Donald Spoto, who knew Grace and wrote books about both women) This is so ridiculous. No money “changed hands”, not from the Kellys or to them. I realize English in not your first language, but please try to read something that is factual.
Grace’s dad passed away in 1960. I have seen his will and he died with “just” a little over a million dollars to be shared by his wife and children, and that was before all the sad taxes we have to pay in the US. Death tax, inheritance tax….
…several historical inaccuracies, here, I’m afraid. but time and lack-of-patience preclude me from addressing them all. But, for one correction: Grace Kelly was not in “On the Waterfront” with Marlon Brando. That actress was Eva Marie Saint, who won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award, the year Miss Kelly won her Best Actress award. And Their Serene Highnesses are just that. Monaco is a principality and not a kingdom – there are no “Royal Highnesses” in Monaco, or any principality.