1956: Grace Kelly Marries Prince Rainier of Monaco
In 1956, Hollywood princess Grace Kelly became a real-deal princess by marrying Prince Rainier III of Monaco. Kelly starred in classic films like High Noon (1952), Mogambo (1953) and High Society (1956), and was one of Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite muses, co-starring in Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954), and To Catch A Thief (1955). As Princess of Monaco, Kelly led a fairly quiet life until it came to a tragic end in 1982. The beloved princess may have left us too soon but she won’t be forgotten.
Before She Was A Princes She Was Hollywood Royalty
It’s an understatement to say that Grace Kelly was famous well before she became a princess. She began acting at an early age when she made her Broadway debut at the age of 19. It wasn’t long before she was acting on television and earning her first film role in 1951’s Fourteen Hours. Over the next five years she went onto star in movies like Mogambo, Dial M for Murder, and High Society, and with only a few years in the industry she was a legitimate superstar. Kelly may not have the lengthy filmography of some actors but the films in which she appears are outstanding.
She Met Prince Rainier III At The Cannes Film Festival
As a part of the U.S. delegation at the Cannes Film Festival in April, 1955 Kelly was invited to a photo session with Prince Rainier III. It’s clear that he was looking for any way to meet Kelly and a photo session seemed like the best way make a connection. She couldn’t drop everything and head to the Prince’s palace in Monaco, which was about 34 miles away, so the meeting took place on May 6, 1955. At the time that they met Kelly was in a relationship with Jean-Pierre Aumont, a French actor who was awarded the Legion de’Honneur. Prince Rainier courted Kelly for about a year and by April 1956 they decided to have two weddings.
Wedding Number One Was Serious Business
Following their year long courtship Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly decided to marry, but the Napoleonic Code of Monaco and the laws of the Catholic Church said that they had to have both a civil and religious ceremony. Their first wedding was the more stuffy official ceremony in the Palace Throne Room of Monaco on April 18, 1956. Following the ceremony there was a reception attended by 3,000 people from Monaco where they watched as Kelly had 142 official titles bestowed upon her -- each title recited one after another, officially making her the Princess of Monaco.
The Second Wedding Was Far Less Formal (Sort Of)
The day after Kelly’s first wedding she and the Price were once again wed, but this was a less formal ceremony or at the very least less formal for a prince and princess. The second ceremony took place at Monaco's Saint Nicholas Cathedral and it was referred to as “the first modern event to generate media overkill.”
Kelly wore a dress designed by MGM's Academy Award-winning Helen Rose and the 700 guests included Aristotle Onassis, Cary Grant, David Niven and Ava Gardner. Frank Sinatra (Kelly's High Society co-star) reportedly skipped the wedding even though he received a royal invite. Following the end of the second ceremony the newlyweds drove through the streets of Monaco waving to the populace and well-wishers who flocked to the country to celebrate with the royals. Following the two day set of nuptials the new couple went on a seven-week Mediterranean honeymoon cruise.
After The Wedding, Kelly Retired
Kelly essentially retired from acting at the age of 26. Six years after her wedding she was offered the lead in Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie, but there was a public outcry in Monaco over the princess playing a kleptomaniac, so she was forced to turn down the role. That was the last time that she seriously considered acting in a major motion picture; even when she was offered a role in The Turning Point in 1977 she didn’t take the role because her husband but the kibosh on the job.
Shortly after their wedding, Princess Grace and Prince Rainier had three children: Princess Caroline, Prince Albert, and Princess Stéphanie.
Prior to her death, Grace and her husband worked on Rearranged, a 33 minute short film that premiered in Monaco in 1982. It was positively received and executives at ABC TV asked that they shoot extra footage to fill it to an hour but Princess Grace passed away before the production could be completed.
Princess Grace passed away in 1982
Kelly’s life came to a sudden end on September 13, 1982. She was driving to Monaco with her daughter Stéphanie when she lost control of her 1971 Rover P6 3500 and careened off of a mountainside. It’s believed that Kelly had a small stroke while she was behind the wheel and either mistook the gas for the brake pedal, or accidentally drove the car off the road. Dr. Jean Chatelain, chief surgeon at the Monaco Hospital later said:
It was an incident which, if it occurred at home—well, she might have sat down and perhaps felt better soon. It could have been relatively benign, but you can't say for sure. It's conjecture. In other circumstances, of course, things could have evolved in a different manner.
Stéphanie walked away with a light concussion and a fracture of the cervical vertebra. Kelly was buried in the Grimaldi family vault following a funeral at the Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate on September 18, 1982. Like her wedding more than 20 years prior it was attended by entertainment luminaries like Cary Grant, Nancy Reagan, and Diana, Princess of Wales.