By Mahlia Lone

Grace Patricia Kelly was born in 1929 in Philadelphia and aptly named after her paternal aunt, an aspiring actress who had died only in her early 20s. Her father was an ambitious and driven bricklayer by the name of John B. Kelly who was one of ten children born to extremely poor Irish Catholic immigrants.

A naturally very athletic young man, Kelly started practicing crew or sculling in the river. At the advent of the WWI he joined the US Army as a private and started boxing there but broked his ankle before the championship fight. He left the Army at the end of the war as a lieutenant.

As a civilian, Kelly played some professional football and started his own bricklaying contracting business, which grew to be extremely successful. Full of bright ideas, he would block the  chimneys of houses his company  had been subcontracted with a single glass tile. The homeowners would complain of smoke to the house builders who would have to pay Kelly for his work in full before he would rectify the would send his workers to break the glass tile and rectify the problem. What a bright idea to ensure full and timely payment!

Kelly also branded his business at a time when branding was still a relatively rare concept. Two of his brothers also became notable successes: Walter, a vaudeville and silent film star who worked for MGM and Paramount Pictures, and George, a Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist, screenwriter, and director.

In 1920, Kelly gained renown when he applied to row at the Henley Royal Regatta that takes place on the River Thames in England. He was turned down for having worked as a common labourer according to the snobbish British rules. Americans backed him up and he represented the nation at the Summer Olympics that year at Antwerp, Belgium. With something to prove, Kelly won not one Olympic gold medal but three and was later commemorated in his hometown on Philadelphia with a bronze statue. After his Olympic victory, a cocky Kelly sent his racing cap to King George V with the accompanying note, “Greetings from a bricklayer”, for having been snubbed at Henley.

Equally driven in love, Kelly chased and finally married an aristocratic German-descent former model and the first woman to teach women’s athletics at U Penn. Margaret belonged to a noble German family who had since fallen on hard times and immigrated to the U.S. She converted to Catholicism upon marriage and the couple had three daughters and a son, John Jr. who also became a crew champion. While Kelly was gregarious, sociable and a womaniser, Margaret was controlled, cold looking and seemingly emotionless.  She pretended not to notice or comment upon her husband’s infidelities. Even with her children, she believed in tough love.

During World War II, John Kelly was appointed as National Director of Physical Fitness by President Roosevelt. Afterwards, he narrowly lost the election for Mayor of Philadelphia.

Ambitious Kelly’s favourite child was his eldest daughter, while he groomed his son to become a sculling champion like himself. Grace was the least favourite middle child. While her father and siblings were outgoing and athletic, Grace was short sighted, mousey, and not great at sports and had an annoying habit of sniffing. Her father did not expect much from her. It was not until later that she excelled at swimming and tennis as well as bloomed into her gorgeous looks.

While at a prestigious Catholic girls’ school in Philadelphia, Grace and her good looking mother and sisters modeled at local society events. At Stevens School, a socially prominent private high school, though quiet and shy by nature, she acted in drama and was predicted to be a stage and film star. By then, she had blossomed into quite a beauty. Five foot seven with porcelain skin and clear blue eyes, she had a slim, willowy figure. She started to date, and had several boyfriends including a friend of her brother who tragically died after suffering from multiple sclerosis.

Grace was outwardly polite but inwardly headstrong. Bad at math, her college application was rejected  from the college of her choice. Instead, she decided to pursue her dream of becoming an actress much to the dismay of her father who had a significant standing in the community and viewed an actress being “a slim cut above streetwalker.”

Using her Uncle George’s connections, Grace enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. To appease her disapproving parents, she moved into the strict Barbizon Hotel for Women where men were neither allowed in to the girls’ rooms at all nor even admitted into the building after 10 p.m., and strict dress and behaviour rules were upheld for the female residents. To help support herself as her father had put her on a subsistence allowance to discourage her, Grace worked as a model on the side, soon earning over $400 a week. Beneath her cool, blond, angelic exterior lay the steely determination she had inherited from her father.

She had also inherited his passionate nature though from the outside she looked controlled and icy like her mother. In 1948, 18 year old Grace got embroiled romantically with her 27 year old married Jewish acting teacher Don Richardson despite facing severe parental disapproval. When Grace brought him home to meet her family, her father and brother treated him very badly and her mother snooped through his things, finding his divorce papers and lots of condoms. Her parents forbade her from seeing Richardson and forced her to return home until graduation, commuting from Philly to New York for auditions. But she continued to carry on with him on the sly.

An embittered Don Richardson said to a reporter after the affair ended, “She screwed everybody she came into contact with who was able to do anything good for her.”

While working in summer stock, Grace fell for fellow Irish Catholic descent actor Gene Lyons who was in the process of getting an annulment. She dumped him when she realized her was a hopeless alcoholic.

Once she had left the Academy at 19, Grace started appearing on Broadway and then in sixty live TV dramas.  In 1949, she met the thirty year old Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi at the Waldorf hotel when he was on an official visit. He accompanied her half a dozen times on high profile dates to places like the opera where they would be photographed. Smitten, the Shah presented her with three dazzling pieces of Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery, a brooch of a gold birdcage housing a diamond and sapphire bird, a diamond studded gold vanity case, and a gold, diamond and pearl bracelet. He is said to have proposed to her but was turned down because her heart was set on an acting career plus she didn’t want to be married to a conservative Muslim monarch.

Noticed in Hollywood by the matinee idol Gary Cooper who thought she was different from the other actresses at the time, he had her cast in his award winning Western High Noon (1951). In her biography True Grace: The Life and Times of an American Princess, Wendy Leigh stated that at the age 22 Grace had romances with both the film’s 50 year old star Gary Cooper as well as director Fred Zimmermann.

In fact, she fell hard for the married Cooper. Gina McKinnon in her book What Would Grace Do? speculated that “there might well have been a roll or two in the hay bales,” at the least since Grace’s sister Lizanne admitted that Grace was infatuated with Cooper.

Gary Cooper declared, “She (Grace) looked like a cold dish with a man until you got her pants down, then she’d explode.”

Next Grace was invited to audition for director John Ford directed Mogambo (1952) opposite stars Clark Gable and Ava Gardner and she signed a seven-year contract with MGM on a salary of $850 a week. Ford was impressed with Grace’s “breeding, quality and class” that came across on screen. The movie was shot in the wilds of Kenya. Additionally, Grace also got to visit Rome with Ava where they visited a series of brothels. Apparently, Grace even picked up a bordello waiter and took him back with her to her hotel, only reemergingfrom her room three days later.

In Africa, she had an affair with Clark Gable 30 years her senior, as they mated out in the bush. Ava Gardner went on record to admit that Grace and Clark had eyes only for each other on set. Actor Donald Sinden also recalled accidentally stumbling into Gable’s tent on night and finding the two together. Though on screen she cultivated the image of being an “ice princess” on set she was clearly raunchier.

Grace enjoyed drinking, but couldn’t keep up with her hardened older lovers. After skinny-dipping with Clark Gable in Lake Victoria, the two would sit in his tent demolishing bottles of hard liquor, according to biographer Robert Lacey. Despite these shenanigans, Grace won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and her first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for the successful movie.

Alfred Hitchcock who had a thing for his good looking blonde leading ladies then cast Grace in three back-to-back thrillers: Dial M for Murder and Rear Window (both 1954 releases) and To Catch a Thief (1955). Hitchcock said that he was attracted to Kelly’s “sexual elegance,” her reserved but secret, smoldering sexuality. In an interview with Francois Truffaut, Hitchcock explained how he “deliberately photographed Grace Kelly ice-cold and kept cutting to her profile, looking classical, beautiful, and very distant.” For Hitchcock the most interesting women sexually, were those with exterior reserve rather than overtly sexual women. “Sex should not be advertised,” he said. He cast Grace opposite top male stars James Stewart and Cary Grant.

Grant became another admirer claiming of all the actresses, “I much preferred Grace. She had serenity.”

Grace’s relationship with 47 year old Ray Milland nearly cost her career. On the set of Dial M for Murder, the two stars fell hard for each other. When Milland’s wife Mal found out, she threw him out of the house. Besotted, he was willing to call it quits on his marriage of 22 years for Grace. Tabloids started reporting that Grace was a home wrecker. Gossip columnist Hedda Hopper even called her a “nymphomaniac.” The relationship was finally ended by Milland when realized how much it would cost him in a divorce both financially and career wise.

Grace had made a habit of having affairs with anyone who advanced her career. She slept her way through directors, drama coaches, actors, writers, even key grips and cameramen. But to the public she was careful to project an image of wholesomeness. She was the girl next door in whose mouth butter wouldn’t melt. Scandalous silent film star Clara Bow commented in exasperation, “Grace Kelly will get away with having many lovers. Know why? The damn public will never believe it!’

“She had more boyfriends in a month than I had in a lifetime,” mocked Zsa Zsa Gabor. “She went to bed with anyone she fancied at the time.”

Author Gore Vidal, and ex-husband of Jane Fonda commented, “Grace almost always laid the leading man. She was notorious for that in this town.”

Inside Hollywood Grace was seen as a threat by wives and was becoming very unpopular amongst them. The widow of director Henry Hathaway said to a reporter, “I have nothing good to say about her. She had an affair with my best friend’s husband, Ray Milland!” When asked just how many men Grace had seduced, she replied, “Everybody. Yes, she wore white gloves but she was no saint!”

Grace also had a fondness for heavy drinking, stocking champagne in her fridge and consuming entire bottles of it. She was regularly going on and off the wagon.

On a rebound from Milland, Grace had an affair with the charming but again married William Holden while filming The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954). Holden had fallen in love with Audrey Hepburn previously on the set of Sabrina and had been willing to divorce his wife, actress Brenda Marshall. When Audrey discovered that Holden had had a vasectomy after the birth of his second son, wanting children, she broke up with him and married Mel Ferrer. So both heartbroken stars Grace and Bill sought solace in each other’s company.

Meanwhile, Grace’s parents continued to fix her up with “appropriate, non-actor suitors.”

On a career winning streak, Grace fought MGM to lend her to Paramount to do their emotional drama The Country Girl (1954), threatening to quit if they didn’t. She had become a box office draw by then, and the studio made an exception for her.

Her father commented as was his wont  when she was nominated for an Academy Award for the role that he was shocked that Grace was proving to be the one of his children who may take care of him in his old age. Grace felt hurt with the slight.

She had been right to fight for the role. For this film, she won the Oscar for Best Actress at the Academy Awards of ’55, beating Judy Garland in A Star is Born, the hot favourite. Grace had been seeing widower Bing Crosby during this time who got suspicious and visited her hotel room at 3 a.m. “Bing Crosby arrived for a showdown with Grace,” wrote Darwin Porter in his book Hollywood Babylon Strikes Again. “Instead of that, he found a nude Marlon in her bed.” Brando had also just won an Oscar for Best Actor, though she had turned down his movie On the Waterfront. Clearly the two stars were celebrating their respective victories, but Crosby was so incensed since he had lost both the Oscar statuette and his girl to Brando that “fisticuffs” ensued.  It was the end of her affair with Crosby, but Grace’s fling with Brando continued a short while longer.

According to Tony Curtis, he also hooked up with Grace, describing her in very lewd terms. She also had brief flings with married British actor David Niven, then Senator John F Kennedy, Paul Newman and Spencer Tracy.

THE COUNTRY GIRL, Grace Kelly, William Holden, 1954

“Grace’s motivations were inspired by her almost pathological need for her father’s approbation,” wrote James Spada in Grace: the Secret Lives of A Princess. “her ‘father complex’ also left her with an obsessive attraction to older, accomplished, authoritative paternal figures. But her father’s demands for demure obedience backfired and Grace rebelled against the heavy-handed moral strictures forced upon her and became sexually promiscuous. Guilt-ridden about her promiscuity (and reputation in Hollywood) by 1955 Grace “was a restless, dissatisfied and unhappy woman, desperate to win legitimacy in a good marriage.” Additionally, Grace had grown up in her siblings’ shadow and she had realized that her scandalous love life was a way of making her parents pay attention, albeit negative.

Grace was dating the nearly two decade’s older twice married French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont, trying to get over the loss of Ray Milland when she met the Russian descent French born fashion designer Oleg Cassini. Cassini met her in a restaurant in New York with Aumont.  Cassini said he was an “accomplished seducer,” sixteen years older than her. He enjoyed chasing her, recalling later, “It was to be the greatest, most exhilarating campaign of my life.” He sent her a dozen red roses to her home for ten days anonymously “from the friendly florist.” On the tenth day after he had piqued her curiosity, he called her saying he was the friendly florist. Laughing, she agreed to go on a date accompanied by her sister. Grace readily confessed to Oleg that she was still in love with Ray Milland. Confident of his own abilities, Cassini predicted that they would be engaged to him within a year. Grace left for shooting in LA the next day, while Cassini was linked by gossip columnists with stunning movie stars such as Pier Angeli and Anita Ekberg. He didn’t want to appear too eager.

When she had finally broken up with Milland for good, “she sent me a postcard asking me to come to the south of France while she filmed To Catch a Thief. ‘Those who love me follow me,’ she wrote,” recounted Cassini. “Well, I let my dress collections go to hell, and I flew to Cannes. She was warm and funny and caring, also very disciplined about her work. She never stayed out past 11 p.m. Up till now our relationship had been platonic, but we had such a wonderful time that she asked me what my intentions were. I told her I wanted to marry her. We became secretly engaged.”

Cassini said he transformed her style. When they met, Grace dressed “like a school teacher, but he encouraged her to put a little sex in her clothes. I put her in elegant, subdued dresses.” Again, Grace had something to gain from the relationship.

The sticking point was again Cassini’s his past. He was divorced, and open about having been with countless women. Margaret considered he would make a bad husband, while her father though he was too foreign who persuaded her not to marry him.

“Do you realise if my mother hadn’t been so difficult about Oleg Cassini, I probably would have married him?” Grace reportedly said.

Cassini lamented: “Her family regarded her as a prize possession… that must be handled, above all invested, wisely.” Her father was self-made and extremely ambitious for all his children.

At this time, Grace headed the American film contingent to the 1955 Cannes Film Festival where she met Prince Rainier III at a photo session for the magazine Paris Match at the Palace of Monaco as a staged publicity stunt for an article, a meeting that was to prove of momentous importance to both the driven and ambitious actress and royal. Exhausted after a hectic schedule, she nearly cancelled but was convinced when the agenda was a leisurely stroll in the palace gardens with the highlight being his menagerie of exotic animals as the couple was followed around by a journalist, photographer and royal handlers in tow recording their polite conversation. The Prince’s Palace of Monaco built as a fortress in 1191 has been occupied by the Grimaldis, who took it over a century later, for 700 years. So the mood was formal rather than personal.

At the meeting, Prince Rainier said he was charmed with Grace’s freshness, maturity, sensitivity and culture. She also thought that the most eligible bachelor in Europe she found to be “charming.”

Cassini continued, “I thought nothing of it. She said Rainier was nice, but that was it. We came back to New York and Grace was becoming a superstar. Neither of her parents liked me. The weekend I spent in Ocean City was the worst of my life. I had my own room, but I had to walk through her parents’ bedroom to get there. She kept seeing me despite her family’s opposition, even suggesting we get married right away. She told me to find a priest who would marry us. I agreed, but then she got sick and rundown. Once she recovered, she had changed her mind. Her parents had talked her out of it. I didn’t see her again until she called to tell me she was engaged to Prince Rainier.”

Paul Newman
1966 Warner Brothers
© 1978 David Sutton

While back in the States, Grace had been playing a princess in the movie The Swan while corresponding with the real life prince. By December, Rainier followed her to the U.S. Asked by a reporter at a press conference “If you were pursuing a wife, what kind would you like?” Rainier smiled and replied: “The best!”

Born Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand Grimaldi in 1923 at the Prince’s Palace in Monaco, to the illegitimate born Princess Charlotte, Duchess of Valentinois, only child of Prince Louis II of Monaco and a cabaret singer. Princess Charlotte was later legitimized through formal adoption and subsequently named heir presumptive to the throne of Monaco.  A new French law stated that if there was no legal heir to Monaco’s throne, France would take over the country. Rainier’s father Count Pierre de Polignac was half-French, half-Mexican who upon their marriage took his wife’s surname, Grimaldi, and was made a Prince of Monaco by Prince Louis, his father-in-law to ensure his daughter’s line of succession and Monaco’s sovereignty. Their first born was a daughter, Princess Antoinette, Baroness of Massy who would try to supersede her younger brother. The couple was later divorced.

Prince Rainier was sent to public school in England, first to now defunct Summerfields in Sussex, and then to the new, modern and popular Stowe in Buckinghamshire. After this, he was moved to the world’s most expensive boarding school and one of the oldest boarding schools in Switzerland, Institut. Le Rosey. For higher education, he attended the French University of Montpellier and finally to the Institut d’études politiques de Paris. He was a thoroughly well-educated modern prince, suitably groomed for his future role.

On his 21st birthday, Rainier’s mother renounced her right to the throne in favour of her son. She moved to Château de Marchais, the Grimaldi estate outside of Paris, with her lover, a French former jewel thief René Girier, nicknamed René la Canne (René the Cane) and turned the estate into a rehabilitation center for ex-convicts, provoking much public scandal.

Meanwhile, it fell to her son to rehabilitate the family name and prestige. In WW II, Prince Rainier joined the French Army only as a second lieutenant, but receiving the French Croix de Guerre and becoming Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor in 1947, he retired as a colonel in 1954.

Louis II died in 1949, leaving a nearly empty treasury. Monaco had been a gambling hub for wealty European aristocrats who lived in reduced circumstances after WW II. The growing middle classes went to cheaper, newer gambling cities. Being a thoroughly modern young man, Prince Rainier decided to bring about profound changes in Monaco. First, he promoted the city state as a tax haven for the rich and famous and boosted its tourism. It attracted a lot of real estate development t for this reason.

Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis heavily invested in and took control of Société des Bains de Mer de Monaco (SBM) during Rainier’s early reign, and was fully involved in deciding the future of the principality. Onassis suggested to Prince Rainier that he improve the image of Monaco by marrying an American film star, as it would increase tourism. Marilyn Monroe toyed with the idea of marrying the prince, telling Onassis, “Give me two days alone with him and of course, he’ll want to marry me.” Though at first she ludicrously thought Monaco was in Africa. Prince Rainier and his royal advisers felt Monroe lacked a sufficiently dignified public image, but the idea of a glamorous Hollywood movie star wife to polish Monaco’s lackluster image stuck in their minds.

The two controllers of Monaco’s destiny fell out when Onassis demanded a monopoly from Prince Rainier in the hotel and property development business. He wanted Monaco to remain exclusive but Rainier wanted the country to maximize its revenue. There was a power struggle between the two. Rainier outmaneuvered the billionaire after Monaco’s boycott by French President Charles de Gaulle and changed the laws to regain control of SBM and his own vision for Monaco in 1964.

As his second modernizing step, Prince Rainier suspended the principality’s autocratic and outdated Constitution in 1959 and replaced it with a new more democratic one in 1962, even though it reduced his own power as the sovereign. Now the power lay with him as well as a National Council of eighteen elected members.

In his personal life, Prince Rainier had been in a long term live in relationship with the French film actress Gisèle Pascal since meeting her as a student at Montpellier University. They lived together at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France, and intended to marry. His sister, Princess Antoinette, wanting the throne for her son, put it out in the press that the actress was low born and barren. When doctors examined her, Gisele was deemed to indeed be infertile and so the prince broke it off with her. She subsequently married a fellow French actor and had a daughter with him so the doctors turned out to be wrong.

Needing to produce an heir, rehabilitate Monaco’s tarnished reputation and build tourism, Prince Rainier remembered Onassis’ sage advice and looked about himself for a wife that would help him achieve his goals. This is when he met the Academy Award winning glamorous Grace Kelly who “projected refinement and poise in person and onscreen…and refused to include her measurements in press kits or overly expose herself on film,” observed Professor Mark Braude of Stanford University in The Making of a Hollywood Princess. “In her eleven films she played a wife or fiancée in more than half, and in the remainder (save for Rear Window) she was chaperoned by a doting relative. ‘With Grace,’ an MGM publicist told the Chicago Tribune in 1957, ‘we put on a high style, a high line campaign.’”

For Grace, marrying a prince not just in name but one who actually wielded power was a bid to finally gain her father’s approval. Even the Oscar she got for The Country Girl had failed to impress him. “If I’d met the Prince two or three years earlier perhaps I wouldn’t have married him,” she said looking back. “But we came together at the right time… I knew that I was going to do it, even if there was a chance that I was making a mistake.”

On both sides, the marriage was a clearly thought out practical decision more than a love match. In fact, it was the Prince’s Irish-American Royal Chaplain Father Francis Tucker who took it upon himself to act as a go between and arrange the match. He had been specifically assigned by the Vatican as a personal advisor and confessor to Prince Rainier because both France and Italy wanted influence over the prince, so not wanting to offend either nation, the Vatican chose an American.

According to People magazine, Father Tucker was an “American priest who was Rainier’s closest aide and chief talent scout for eligible Catholic girls;” he encouraged the correspondence between the prince and the movie star resulting in their marriage. The Father himself wrote to Grace, thanking her “for showing the Prince what an American Catholic girl can be, and for the deep impression this has left on him.” He told her about the Prince’s serious intentions towards her. Once she assented that she too was interested, the priest whose family had roots in Philadelphia arranged the trip to the U.S. for both of them. In time for Christmas, the pair travelled by transatlantic ocean liner to New York, and then by train to Philadelphia to stay with friends of Tucker, the Austins who were family friends with the Kellys. The Kellys had the whole contingent over Christmas for a week so that the decision could be mulled over. It couldn’t have been more orchestrated.

The Times reported that the courtship contained “a good deal of rational appraisal on both sides.”

After she submitted to an examination to prove she was capable of bearing children, the prince presented her with a 12-carat diamond engagement ring on New Year’s Eve in NYC, her favourite city. The press called it a “fairytale of modern times between the golden girl of the silver screen and her charming suitor, Prince Rainier III of Monaco.”

“Rainier’s advisors had planned for the Minister of State to announce the engagement from the Grimaldi Palace in early January 1956, while issuing an American press release that would include a stock image of the couple. The Kelly family, however,  anticipated that American reporters wouldn’t stand for such a paltry offering, and after some firm words from Grace’s father to the Prince, a compromise was reached. The Minister of State did announce the engagement but on the same day, the Kelly family was allowed to hold a morning press conference in their Philadelphia home,” added Braude.

“Grace remained poised throughout the raucous conference, attended by over 100 journalists, but her future husband was visibly upset, as reporters asked the couple how many children they would have, while photographers stood on the family piano to get a better shooting angle. At one point Rainier reportedly muttered: ‘It’s not as if I belong to MGM.’

A reporter asked Grace about her post-marriage career plans. She offered a measured response: ‘I still have a contract with MGM, and I have to do two more pictures. Of course I’m going to continue with my work—I’m never going to stop acting.’

Rainier at that point interjected: ‘I think it would be better if she did not attempt to continue in films…I have to live in Monaco, and she will live there. That wouldn’t work out…She will have enough to do as Princess.’”

This contentious issue was left to be settled after their marriage.

From Hollywood to Monaco the news of the engagement enchanted everyone. It was quite a story and the press reported on every detail of “the wedding of the century.” There was a century old tradition of American heiresses marrying into hard up European nobility, which reached a zenith this union, but from the outside it was portrayed as a love match to play up to the romantic sensibility in the twentieth century.

Fittingly, in her last movie release before she got married, the musical comedy High Society (1956), Grace wore her own engagement ring and sang a duet with Bing Crosby, “True Love.” Not one to pass up on a leading man, Grace slept with the film’s other leading man Frank Sinatra. Even after her marriage, she reconnected with Sinatra   and shacked up with him in the South of France after fulfilling her responsibility to after producing the heir and the spare.

Meanwhile, negotiations over money took place between the Kellys and the prince. Prince Rainier wanted a $2 million dowry to help cover the cost of the wedding.  “We are not impressed with royalty,” John Kelly replied. “My daughter doesn’t have to pay any man to marry her.”

** FILE ** Prince Rainier of Monaco, top, and Grace Kelly, center, pose with their children Princess Caroline, 8, left, Prince Albert, 7, right, and Princess Stephanie on the occasion of the christening of newborn Princess Stephanie in 1965. Rainier, whose marriage to American film star Grace Kelly brought elegance and glamour to one of Europe’s oldest dynasties, died Wednesday, April 6, 2005 at the hospital treating him for heart, kidney and breathing problems. He was 81. (AP Photo/Look)

Finally, Grace consented to give up $1 million from her inheritance so that her brother and two sisters would not be shortchanged and contributed another million from her own finances. This was what was actually taking place behind closed doors as opposed to “the fairytale romance” the press reported on.

The couple wed in Spring of 1956. Grace and her entourage of 70 people sailed to Monaco from New York on the ship S.S. Constitution with 80 pieces of her personal luggage and her poodle, Oliver, in tow. A Boston Globe reporter wrote: “Never have so many women brought so much luggage to such a small country for so few days.” 1,800 photographers and reporters were waiting at the port for her, as was the Prince.

There were not one but two ceremonies, a civil one including a reception attended by 3,000 citizens of Monaco and a Roman Catholic chapel wedding with a 700-person guest list that included Conrad Hilton, Cary Grant, Gloria Swanson and Ava Gardner. “The look and feel of the religious ceremony that provided the climax to this months-long story owed much to the influence of Kelly’s studio, MGM, which had dispatched a crew of experts to help stage-manage the lavish event. As one of Kelly’s bridesmaids recalled, ‘the day, like the bride-to-be herself, was a creation brought to us through the joint production efforts of enormous willpower, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and God.’ “

American and Monégasque flags flew side by side at the Palace,” wrote Braude. “The studio’s technicians oversaw a dress rehearsal days before the ceremony to ensure proper lighting and sound. A team of MGM hair and makeup staff had accompanied Kelly aboard the Constitution. MGM’s cameras were given prime positioning in the Cathedral of Monaco, alongside four newsreel cameras and four live television cameras.”

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the bride to be later confessed to having a fling during her wedding with her bridesmaid Carolyn Reynold’s husband Malcolm.

In contrast, to reporters Princess Grace was quoted as saying, “When I married Prince Rainier, I married the man and not what he represented or what he was. I fell in love with him without giving a thought to anything else.”

“In the outfitting of the bride and groom, aristocratic luxury mixed with Hollywood glamour. MGM lent out the use of one of its top costume designers, Helen Rose. Kelly’s ivory dress, made up of 450 yards of peau de soie, taffeta, silk net, and lace, and with its enormous train, evoked a legacy of fairy-tale princesses; yet Rose used relatively simple lines that were quite fashion-forward for a 1956 wedding dress, offering an updated version of the fairytale wedding gown. Rainier’s bombastic outfit served as counterbalance to Kelly’s modern dress. Heavily laden with medals, a sash, ostrich plumes, and a scepter, Rainier had designed the outfit himself, basing the design on uniforms worn by Napoleon’s marshals. Showing how effortlessly she could move between worlds, Kelly delivered her vows in French. Not a single crowned head attended the ceremony, a collective snubbing that underscored the dynasty’s lowly reputation among its would-be monarchical allies,” wrote Braude.

The couple spent their honeymoon on Prince Rainier’s yacht, cruising around the Mediterranean.

Princess Grace continued to be hounded by paparazzi everywhere she went. While pregnant with Princess Caroline, she would hold her Hermès Sac à Dépêches handbag in front of her baby bump. The handbag became synonymous with her, even appearing on a 1956 cover of Life magazine, and Hermes named it “the Kelly bag” to cash in on its surge of popularity. Similarly, in 1959, the Princess used her silk Hermès scarf as a sling for her injured her arm at an Aristotle Onassis’s yacht party. She became the epitome of European refined style and grace.

But in their private life, Rainier’s flings sent Grace back into the arms of Sinatra and Brando. She once confided to her hairdresser: “I know my husband has affairs with other women. That’s very frustrating to me and makes me very unhappy.”

According to Wendy Leigh in her biography, True Grace, the 60 cigarettes plus cigar-smoking prince began cheating on  as soon as became pregnant during their honeymoon. “Within months, he had taken at least three mistresses. Grace was humiliated and she was extremely unhappy. She was surrounded by decadence and Rainier’s disreputable friends.”

Princess Caroline arrived on cue exactly nine months after the wedding. Prince Albert was born a year later in 1958 and the baby of the family, Princess Stephanie, in 1965. Grace brought an unaccustomed American informality to the royal family. “The nursery doors were open, and the children were very much a part of the fabric of the day,” said Rita Gam to People magazine. But the constraints of palace life were not always easy for Grace.

In 1962 photographer Eve Arnold who came to Monaco to work on a CBS documentary noted “I got the distinct feeling that Grace Kelly felt trapped. It wasn’t the fairy tale one had expected.”

“But blonde, blue-eyed and with a sultry sex appeal that casting directors compared to Marlene Dietrich, Grace herself was hardly an innocent. She plunged back into an affair with Sinatra lasting several years – they even had a love-nest in Cap Ferrat. Her list of alleged lovers extended to American tennis ace Sidney Wood,” pointed out Leigh.

“Some biographers claim Rainier was violent as well as a control freak. During a tennis doubles match, he allegedly aimed a ball straight at Grace’s face. When it hit her, the friend who was his doubles partner defended him, saying he was just ‘desperate to win’.

Prince Rainier and Princess Grace in formal clothing, Jan. 6, 1955. (AP Photo)

To fill her time, Grace devoted herself to charities and cultural affairs, the allowable occupations of crowned heads. But her husband was against her growing wish to resume acting. When Hitchcock offered her the lead in his 1964 film Marnie, the public furor in Monaco was such that Rainier put his foot down. The part went to Tippi Hedren. “They were living in a gilded cage,” sid her onetime fiancé Cassini. “She wanted to be respected as an actress.” Disappointed that she could never resume her acting career, Grace threw herself in her charity work. Under her presidency, the Red Cross Gala and the Rose Ball opening the Monte-Carlo season each year became much more high profile with Hollywood icons such as Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra and Gregory Peck in attendance.

By the late 1970s, Grace was spending part of each year on her own in Paris. She began to enjoy the company of younger men like Robert Dornhelm, an Austrian film director while Prince Rainier was focused on improving Monaco’s economy. When her daughters, especially the wild child Princess Stephanie started to rock her own scandals, Princess Grace confided to her biographer Gwen Robyns, “How can I bring up my daughters not to have affairs, when I am having affairs with married men all the time?’

Then came the tragic accident on the winding Riviera road perilously hugging the seaside cliff. Grace had told Hedda Hopper, ‘I hate to drive a car…I am not a good driver.’ In September of 1982, she and Stephanie, then 17, were returning from France and were approaching Monaco. On a hairpin curve, the Princess lost control of the car due to a mild stroke. Her Land Rover plunged down a 45-foot embankment, landing on its roof. With severe head injuries, Princess Grace slipped into a coma upon impact; she died the next day of a brain haemorrhage.

Like Princess Diana after her, all of a sudden Princess Grace’s standing in the royal family experienced a shift after her death. As condolence messages poured in from a shocked world, Prince Rainier was genuinely profoundly saddened by the loss of his Princess Consort who had stuck by him and by Monaco through all the issues of her marriage. After Princess Grace’s death, Prince Rainier refused to remarry.

That is not to say that Prince Rainier remained celibate. He had a documented long term relationship with his second cousin, Princess Ira von Fürstenberg, a former actress/jewellery designer/Fiat heiress who is also the former sister-in-law of the famous fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg.

Eventually, the ailing His Serene Highness Prince Rainier III died in 2005 and was buried beside his wife, HSH Princess Grace, at the Saint Nicholas Cathedral, the resting place of previous sovereign princes of Monaco and the place where Prince Rainier and Princess Grace had been married in 1956.

Prince Albert II succeed his father and is now one of the wealthiest royals in the world with assets valued at more than $1 billion so Rainier succeeded in replenishing Monaco’s coffers. Prince Albert finally married former Olympic swimming champion Charlene Whittstock who famously got cold feet and disappeared the day before the wedding and they have twins, a boy and a girl. Albert also has an illegitimate girl and a boy from before his marriage.

Princess Caroline was married three times. Despite being a Roman Catholic, she was divorced from her first husband, for which the Roman Catholic Church issued a special annulment. She then married Italian Stefano Casiraghi, heir to an industrial fortune. They had three good looking children: Andrea Casiraghi married to Columbian descent billionaire socialite Tatiana Santo Domingo with whom he has a boy and a girl; Charlotte Casiraghi who has two children out of wedlock; and Pierre Casiraghi who wed the Italian aristocratic TV personality Beatrice Borromeo and they have one son so far. Tragically, Casiraghi was killed in a speedboat sporting accident aged only 30 as his wife Princess Caroline watched on helplessly. Her third marriage was with Prince Ernst August of Hanover, Duke of Brunswick, a solely honorific title with no duchy. They have one daughter. Princess Caroline, being the eldest, was always considered the sober, mature one who took over her mother’s duties after her death.

Stephanie became the lost princess after her mother’s tragic untimely death. She was profoundly affected by the accident and blamed herself for it. Out of the siblings, she has always been the most scandalous one, even shocking the liberal French. Often photographed topless on the Riviera beaches, after dating a string of actors, Stephanie was in a live in relationship with her bodyguard with whom she had two children. After him, she married a circus elephant trainer and lived with him in his caravan and then a Portuguese acrobat. She is less troubled now. Her son Louis Ducruet recently got engaged to a girl who worked at a checkout counter.

In Monaco, Princess Grace’s legacy lives on with the Princess Grace Foundation that supports young artists. When I visited Monte Carlo, there was a photographic exhibition of the Princess working as a philanthropist put up by Prince Albert at the city’s famed casino. Thus, the image and memory of Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco’s image is still very much a part of the principality thirty five years later.

Good Times


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