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Ninety years of Grace: Princess Grace’s early years

By Trailer screenshot - High Noon trailer, Public Domain,

In the lead up to the 90th anniversary of Grace Kelly’s birth, Royal Central looks back at her life.

Long before she was the Princess of Monaco or Alfred Hitchcock’s favourite cool blonde leading lady, Grace Kelly was a regular all-American girl from Philly. Here we take a look back on the early years of her life.

Grace Patricia Kelly was born on the 12th of November 1929 at the Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia.

Her father, John Brendan Kelly, known as Jack, was the son of Irish immigrants.

Competitive and driven, Jack was a champion sculler who won three Olympic gold medals as part of the US rowing team.  A self-made millionaire, he founded the most successful brick contracting company on the East Coast, Kelly for Brickwork. 

Grace was named after her father’s younger sister, who had died as a child.

Her mother, Margaret Katherine Majer, also highly athletic, was first women’s sports coach at the University of Pennsylvania after founding a women’s basketball team and had some modelling experience.   

Born to Lutheran German parents, Margaret converted to Catholicism in order to wed Jack.

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Taken home to a house built with Kelly brick in an affluent suburb, Grace met her older siblings, Margaret (called Peggy) and John Jr. Four years later, a new sister Elizabeth would be brought home.

Shy and studious, Grace did not always fit in with her family of extroverted athletes.  She much preferred to stay in her room playing with dolls and reading.

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Inspired by tales of Broadway, told by her Uncle, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, George Kelly, Grace developed a love of the theatre. By the time she was 11, she’d decided to become an actress.

Grace would star in amateur theatrical productions, including playing the leading role in Don’t Feed The Animals when she was 12. She would also occasionally model at local charity events alongside her mother and sisters.

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Grace attended a small private high school, Stevens school, where she made a lifelong friendship with fellow student Maree Frisby Pamp. Maree would later act as a bridesmaid for Grace when she married Prince Rainer in Monaco. Despite the distance, the two maintained their friendship until Grace’s death, making frequent phone calls and travelling together in Europe and Canada.

In the year of her graduation, the Stevens prophecy page of her yearbook, where predictions were made of each of the students read “Miss Grace P. Kelly – a famous star of stage and screen”.

Grace applied to attend Bennington College, but her application was rejected due to low math scores.

Determined to peruse her dreams of being an actress, Grace applied to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

About author

Kylie is a journalist whose words have appeared in some of Australia and New Zealand's best selling magazines including Woman's day, Girlfriend, OK and that's life! and online at Daily Mail Australia. She has a strong interest in anything to do with the Duchess of Cambridge, the Duchess of Sussex, Princess Diana or Grace Kelly. Kylie's personal wardrobe contains over 100 of the same dresses, shoes and clutches, seen on the Duchess of Cambridge. When not writing, you'll find her searching for Sydney's best brunch spot. Follow her on Instagram @theladywallace