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British RoyalsMonaco

The Rulers of 1952: Prince Rainier III of Monaco

When Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne on 6 February 1952, she joined a large group of European rulers. In this series, Royal Central looks at the men and women who ruled in Europe at the start of the longest reign on the continent in modern times.

Prince Rainier III of Monaco

Prince Rainier III, a man largely responsible for bringing glamour to the tiny principality of Monaco, once rivalled The Queen as they raced up the chart for longest-reigning European monarchs.

Born at the Prince’s Palace in Monaco in 1923, Prince Rainier III’s early life reads like something out of a melodrama. His mother, Princess Charlotte, was the only child of Louis II, but due to her illegitimacy, was formally adopted by her father to prevent a succession crisis. She was formally the Hereditary Princess of Monaco from 1923 to 1944, when she renounced her succession rights in favour of her eldest, Rainier.

Rainier studied in England, Switzerland, and France, and served during the Second World War; he also became the Hereditary Prince of Monaco from his 21st birthday, succeeding his grandfather shortly before his 26th birthday. Upon his accession, Rainier immediately focused on revitalising Monaco despite finding the treasury nearly empty. He ratified a new constitution in 1962 that limited the sovereign’s powers. He also spent considerable time on hobbies like stamp collecting and cars.

At Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, Prince Rainier was represented by his father, Prince Pierre.

In 1956, he married American actress Grace Kelly, putting Monaco on the world map, and together they had three children: Caroline, Albert II, and Stéphanie. After Princess Grace passed away in 1982, he vowed never to remarry, and instead reigned over Monaco alone for the remaining 23 years of his reign. At the time of his death, Rainier was the second longest reigning monarch in the world.

In early 2005, Prince Rainier’s health began to decline following a recurrent lung infection. He was hospitalised on 7 March and by the 23rd, was on a ventilator due to heart and renal failure. His son and heir, Prince Albert, was declared regent on 31 March, and on 6 April, Rainier passed away at the age of 81.

About author

Jess Ilse is the Assistant Editor at Royal Central. She specialises in the British, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish Royal Families and has been following royalty since Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee. Jess has provided commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Jess works in communications and her debut novel THE MAJESTIC SISTERS will publish in Fall 2024.