This is the revealing unknown story behind the iconic marriage of the glamorous Hollywood actress, Grace Kelly, and Prince Rainier III of Monaco. The fairytale marriage that charmed the world may not have been what it seemed…
A Beautiful Beginning
Grace Patricia Kelly was born into a well-known, affluent Pennsylvanian family in November 1929. Kelly’s accomplished Irish-American father, John, began a successful brick company which became an empire, earning him millions.
The dapper patriarch was also a champion sportsman. The rower won three Olympic gold medals in the early 1920s.
Kelly’s German-born mother, Margaret, was a physical education instructor at the University of Pennsylvania. Young Grace inherited her mother’s classic beauty and seemed destined for a bright future amidst Hollywood’s elite.
Her maternal uncle was a theatre actor while her paternal uncle was an acclaimed screenwriter and director.
As a young girl, Kelly acted in various school productions. Despite her father’s growing disapproval, Kelly was determined to pursue her acting ambitions once she finished her studies.
She dreamed of the glamour and prestige of Hollywood.
Big City Lights
Kelly travelled to New York City and soon enrolled at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She went on to graduate with her diploma at just 19 years old.
Appearances on Broadway soon followed, which then led to starring roles in TV dramas. It was inevitable that the beauty would soon gain the attention of Hollywood. In 1951, she landed a minor role in the film-noir called Fourteen Hours.
Success Comes Knocking
Kelly’s major breakthrough role came later that year, the budding actress was offered the lead role alongside Gary Cooper in the classic western High Noon.
The following year Kelly signed a seven-year contract with the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studio with a salary of $850 per week.
A Star is Born
A string of iconic roles followed for the now celebrated actress, Dial M for Murder and Rear Window were both released in 1954 and directed by the renowned and controversial director, Alfred Hitchcock.
Audiences of the world fell in love with the blue-eyed blonde beauty. With her acting talents, magnificent good looks and seemingly effortless grace, Kelly continued to enthral moviegoers.
The Final Act
No-one would have predicted that Kelly would soon star in her very last feature film. The actress’s third movie with Hitchcock, 1955’s To Catch a Thief was shot in the South of France.
By a stroke of sheer fate, Kelly found herself in the principality of Monaco for a photo call with the young, charismatic and dapper Prince Rainier.
A New Love
At the time of the pair’s initial meeting, the actress was involved with the French actor and war hero, Jean-Pierre Aumont.
Despite her existing romance, Kelly’s introduction to the Prince led to a spectacular whirlwind courtship, and then a high profile royal marriage which would mark the abrupt end of her budding 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 couple’s only son, earning the title of the natural heir to Monaco’s 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, Rainier was sent abroad to a reputable boarding school in the English countryside. The future heir Prince had a challenging time amidst the brutal English boarding schoolboys.
His taunting peers cruelly dubbed him “Fat Boy Monaco.”
An Official Heir
Rainier went on to complete his studies in Switzerland and then France, earning 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 the city-state’s throne.
The Call of Duty
In 1944, Rainier joined the Free French Army to fight a harrowing guerilla campaign against the unprecedented and brutal forces of Nazi Germany. World War II raged on in with Hitler’s occupation of France established in 1940.
Rainier was a dedicated soldier and his courage in the face of the enemy was awarded when he received the Croix de Guerre – France’s military cross. After his grandfather’s passing in 1949, Rainier finally succeeded to the Monegasque throne.
The Prince’s new Royal title brought with it a host of unforeseen troubles. Monaco’s wealth had once largely depended on the earnings of its world-famous casino, but rival gambling destinations in France had began to take their toll on the country’s successes.
A Cunning Plan
Prince Rainier needed to find innovative ways to make fast money. He soon developed a strategy to turn Monaco into a tax haven that would attract investors and tourists from abroad.
The move soon gained the attention of the obscenely wealthy tycoon, Aristotle Onassis, who would later wed Jackie Kennedy. Onassis would soon offer the Prince some dark advice.
A Plan is Made
The Greek shipping millionaire and fast friend of the Prince had a cunning plan that would help to ease Rainier’s mounting financial troubles. Onassis suggested the Prince find a recognizable Hollywood beauty to wed.
Onassis believed the resulting publicity would put Monaco on the world map, luring foreign investment and giving the principality’s tourist industry a much-needed boost.
Searching for a Star
Rainier soon set out to find his star. Legendary sex symbol Marilyn Monroe was allegedly at the top of the Prince’s star-studded list of potential wives.
Monroe refused the offer but 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 just three days with Grace Kelly and promptly proposed to the rising star after a brief but intense courtship. A wedding date was set for April 1956, but before the couple could head down the aisle there were still one vital financial detail to negotiate.
The Prince’s key question was asked: How much money could Grace bring to the partnership?
Her Father’s Hesitation
Kelly’s father was understandably hesitant to give his blessing and hard-earned money to the Prince. Kelly was one of the most beautiful and loved starlets in the world.
According to The Daily Telegraph obituary, the protective millionaire maintained, “My daughter doesn’t have to pay any man to marry her.”
A Poodle in Tow
Despite Kelly’s father’s reluctance, both parties soon settled on a dowry figure of $2 million. With the wedding day approaching, Kelly and her family set sail to Monaco, accompanied by 80 pieces of luggage and Oliver – the actress’s indulged 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
In fact, Kelly’s large wedding party had to prepare for two events, an extravagant civil ceremony held on April 18, and a more intimate religious affair set for the following day.
The first wedding reception was attended by 3,000 distinguished and well-respected international guests. The world watched as the actress became a princess in what appeared to be a real-life fairytale.
A True Spectacle
Only 700 attended the second religious ceremony. Despite its modest size, the guest-list included Hollywood royalty like Ava Gardner and Cary Grant.
The event proved to be one of the most iconic weddings in history. Kelly was a magnificent picture of bridal beauty.
A Miserable Marriage
Prince Rainier and his Princess were married for 26 years. Though the marriage was long-lasting, many have speculated as to whether the high-profile couple were truly happy.
Celebrity biographer Wendy Leigh claimed that Kelly’s marriage to the Prince was a prison of misery for the sensitive star. Shortly after the actress said ‘I do’, it was was made clear that the union was a financial ploy by the conniving Prince.
A Trapped Bride
In 2007, following the publication of Leigh’s tell-all biography, 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 sources claim that Rainier and the actress actually enjoyed a relatively happy union. They went on to have three children – Princesses Caroline and Stephanie and Prince Albert II.
Putting her acting pursuits aside, Kelly delved into motherhood and busied herself with extensive charity work.
An Undeniable Success
The strategy of promoting Monaco with a high profile marriage proved to be a raging success.
The principality soon received the attention of the world. 30 Million people tuned in to watch the stunning royal wedding between the Prince and the beloved beauty.
A Tragic End
Regardless of the speculation, the marriage would end in devastating tragedy.
On September 13, 1982, the Princess of Monaco was driving herself and her young daughter, Stephanie, back to their home after a holiday at the family’s country house in France.
The Horrific Accident
Without warning, Kelly suffered a stroke at the wheel. The actress lost control of the vehicle and veered off the side of the road.
The vehicle plunged 120 feet off a cliffside. News of the horrific incident would soon shock the world.
Young Stephanie soon recovered from her minor injuries but tragically, her mother was not so fortunate. The Princess of Monaco died the following day, at the age of 52. Millions around the world mourned the loss of a Hollywood icon, a beloved Princess and a dedicated philanthropist.
Over 400 people attended the star’s funeral, including Cary Grant, Nancy Reagan, Diana, Princess of Wales and Empress Farah of Iran.
Laid to Rest
After a lengthy bout of serious illness, Prince Rainier would pass in April 2005 at the age of 81, having ruled over Monaco for almost 56 years.
He was buried next to his late wife. The dark and secret truth behind his glorified marriage and his demanded bridal dowry went to the grave with him.