A Beautiful Beginning
Grace Patricia Kelly was born into a very wealthy Pennsylvanian family in November 1929. Kelly’s Irish-American father, John, established an incredibly successful brick company which had earned him millions. The dashing head of the family was also a champion sportsman. The former rower had won three Olympic gold medals in the early 1920s.
Kelly’s German-born mother, Margaret, was a beautiful physical education instructor at the University of Pennsylvania. Young Grace inherited her mother’s beauty and seemed destined for stardom. Hollywood was in her veins; her maternal uncle was a theatre actor while her paternal uncle was a well-known screenwriter and director.
As a young girl, Kelly acted in various school productions. Despite her father’s stern disapproval, Kelly was determined to pursue her acting ambitions. She longed for the glamour, prestige and splendor of Hollywood.
Big City Lights
After finishing high school Kelly travelled to New York City and enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, later graduating at the age of 19. Appearances on Broadway soon led to starring roles in a string of TV dramas. It was not long before the beauty gained the attention of Hollywood. In 1951 she landed a minor role in her first feature film, Fourteen Hours.
Success Comes Knocking
Kelly’s big breakthrough role came that same year, the young actress was offered the lead female role alongside Gary Cooper, in the western High Noon. Following the movie’s success, Kelly went on to sign a seven-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer with a salary of $850 per week.
A Star is Born
A string of big hits followed for the budding actress. She soon starred in Dial M for Murder and Rear Window, both released in 1954 and both directed by renowned and world-famous director, Alfred Hitchcock. Hollywood fell in love with the blue-eyed blonde bombshell. With her acting talents, flawless beauty and spectacular elegance, Kelly continued to fascinate moviegoers.
The Final Act
No-one could have predicted it, but Kelly would soon star in her very last Hollywood film. The actress’s third movie with Hitchcock, 1955’s To Catch a Thief was shot in the South of France. By chance, Kelly found herself in Monaco for a photo call with the charismatic young Prince Rainier of Monaco.
A New Love
At the time of her first meeting with the Prince, the actress was dating French actor and war hero, Jean-Pierre Aumont. Despite her existing romance, Kelly’s introduction to Rainier eventually led to a spectacular courtship, and then a high profile marriage which marked the end of her acting career.
Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand Grimaldi was born in May 1923 in Monaco’s Prince’s Palace to Prince Pierre and Princess Charlotte, the Duke and Duchess of Valentinois. Rainier was the royal couple’s only son and thus, the natural heir to the throne. The Prince would reign for almost 56 years, making him one of the longest ruling monarchs in the history of Europe.
A Difficult Period
During his childhood years, Rainier was sent to a prestigious boarding school in England in the countryside. The future heir to the throne did not have an easy time amongst the English schoolboys. His cruel and envious peers dubbed him “Fat Boy Monaco.”
An Official Heir
Rainier went on to finish his tertiary education in Switzerland and France, receiving an Arts degree from the University of Montpellier in 1943. The following year, the young Prince became the official heir after his mother, Duchess Charlotte, abruptly renounced her claim to Monaco’s throne.
The Call of Duty
In 1944, Rainier joined the Free French Army to fight a harrowing guerilla campaign against the devastating forces of Nazi Germany. World War II raged on with Hitler’s occupation of France established in 1940. Rainier served with distinction and his relentless courage was recognized by his award of the Croix de Guerre – France’s military cross. After his grandfather’s tragic passing in 1949, Rainier succeeded to the Monegasque throne.
The Prince’s new royal status brought with it a host of unexpected troubles. Monaco’s wealth had once depended on the success of its world-famous casino, but rival gambling hotspots in France began to take their toll on the earnings. Many of the wealthy aristocratic gamblers found themselves in grave financial circumstances following the end of the war, without the luxury of taking to their favourite casinos.
A Cunning Plan
Prince Rainier was forced to find innovative ways to make fast money for his republic. He developed a strategy to turn Monaco into a tax haven to attract both foreign investment and tourists. The move attracted the obscenely wealthy Aristotle Onassis, who would later wed Jackie Kennedy. Onassis would soon offer the Prince some dark advice.
A Plan is Made
The Greek tycoon and fast friend of the Prince had a cunning plan to ease Rainier’s financial battles – he suggested the prince find a Hollywood beauty to marry. Onassis believed the media publicity would put Monaco on the world map, attracting investment opportunities and making the principality a more alluring destination for tourists.
Searching for a Star
Rainier set out to find his future wife. Legendary sex symbol Marilyn Monroe was on the top of the Prince’s list of desired women. Monroe adamantly refused but reportedly added, “Give me two days alone with him and of course he’ll want to marry me.”
The Question of Money
In 1955, Rainier spent three days with Grace Kelly and promptly proposed marriage to the blue-eyed beauty. The wedding date was set for April 1956, but before the ceremony could be planned there were still some pressing financial details to discuss. The Prince’s burning question was asked: How much money could Grace bring to the partnership?
Her Father’s Hesitation
Kelly’s father was understandably hesitant for his daughter to move forward with the marriage. Kelly was one of the most loved and respected young actresses in Hollywood. According to The Daily Telegraph obituary, the protective millionaire declared, “My daughter doesn’t have to pay any man to marry her.”
A Poodle in Tow
Eventually a dowry figure was settled, Kelly’s father would pay the Prince a hefty sum of $2 million. With the wedding day approaching, Kelly and her family sailed to Monaco, accompanied by 80 pieces of luggage and Oliver – Kelly’s beloved pet poodle. A reporter from The Boston Globe wrote, “Never have so many women brought so much luggage to such a small country for so few days.”
The Day Arrives
Kelly’s wedding party actually had to arrive prepared for two events, a civil ceremony on April 18, and a more intimate religious affair to take place the following day. The first wedding reception was attended by over 3,000 distinguished guests. The world watched on in awe as the beloved blonde beauty became a princess in what appeared to appear a real-life fairytale.
A True Spectacle
Only 700 attended the second, more intimate, ceremony. Despite its small size, the wedding-list number included some of Hollywood’s most famous faces, including Ava Gardner and Cary Grant. The event proved to be one of the most iconic weddings in history. Kelly, dressed in white billowing white lace, was the picture of bridal beauty.
A Miserable Marriage
Prince Rainier and his Princess were married for 26 years, but many have claimed the couple were never happy. Celebrity biographer Wendy Leigh publicly stated that Kelly’s marriage to the Prince was a prison of misery for the fragile former star. Shortly after the wedding ceremony, it was made clear that the union had little to do with love and everything to do with money for the calculating Prince.
A Trapped Bride
In 2007, following the release of Leigh’s revealing book, True Grace, the author shared, “Grace was humiliated and she was extremely unhappy,” she explained. “She was surrounded by decadence and Rainier’s disreputable friends.”
A Fruitful Partnership
Yet some claim that Rainier and his chosen bride enjoyed a relatively happy marriage. They went on to have three beautiful children – Princesses Caroline and Stephanie and Prince Albert II. Kelly busied herself with the joy of motherhood and extensive charity work.
An Undeniable Success
The cunning strategy of promoting Monaco with a Hollywood marriage proved to be a raging success. The principality received the undivided attention of the world and its press. Roughly 30 million people tuned in to watch the royal wedding between the Prince and the Hollywood beauty.
A Tragic End
Regardless of the widespread speculation, the union would end in undeniable tragedy and devastation. On September 13, 1982, the Princess of Monaco was driving herself and her daughter Stephanie back to the principality after a vacation at the family’s holiday home in France.
The Horrific Accident
Without warning, Kelly suffered a stroke at the wheel of the car. The Princess lost control of the vehicle and violently veered off the road. The car plunged 120 feet off a cliffside. News of the tragedy would soon shock the world.
Stephanie soon recovered from her injuries but the Princess was not so fortunate. Grace Kelly died the following day, at the age of 52. The world mourned the loss of an icon, a Princess and a beloved beauty. Over 400 people attended Kelly’s funeral, including Cary Grant, Nancy Reagan, Diana, Princess of Wales and Empress Farah of Iran.
Laid to Rest
After a lengthy bout of illness, Prince Rainier died in April 2005 at the age of 81, having ruled over the principality for 56 years. He was buried next to his late wife. The sinister truth behind his marriage and demanded dowry went to the grave with him.