The misfortunes of Grace Kelly in four acts

Forty years after she died in a car accident, we look back at the life of the actress who left Hollywood to play the role of a princess

Grace Kelly at a reception at Versailles on November 29, 1973.
Grace Kelly at a reception at Versailles on November 29, 1973.- (AFP)

On September 14, 1982, at 52 years old, Grace Kelly lost her life in a car accident. Four decades later, many questions about the incident remain, and the actress remains a subject of great fascination. She left Hollywood behind at the height of her career for Rainier III, Prince of Monaco. And she became the primary tourist attraction for a principality that, in the mid-1950s, few could locate on the map. As with any good story, her biography is full of both light and shadow. These four episodes shaped her life forever.

Rejection from European royalty

Prince Rainier III of Monaco and Princess Grace Kelly on their wedding day, April 19, 1956.
Prince Rainier III of Monaco and Princess Grace Kelly on their wedding day, April 19, 1956.- (AFP)

On January 5, 1956, as soon as their engagement was announced, the couple faced public rejection. On April 19 of that year, a day after their civil wedding, the couple was married in the Monaco Cathedral before 600 guests, 30 million television viewers and almost 1,800 journalists. But none of the representatives of European monarchies made an appearance, due to the morganatic nature of the marriage. They considered the Hollywood star a mere plebeian.

Queen Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, then exiled to her Swiss residence in Lausanne after the death of Spain’s Alfonso XIII, was among the royals who failed to appear. But in later years, she developed a solid friendship with the former actress. During her stays in Monte Carlo, she frequented the Grimaldi residence, becoming one of the couple’s greatest supporters, so much so that, on April 20, 1958, she attended Prince Albert’s baptism as his godmother. Queen Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg invited the couple to the Athens wedding of Spain’s Prince Juan Carlos and Princess Sofia in 1962. During the Spanish couple’s honeymoon, Grace and Rainier organized a party in their honor at the Monte Carlo Sporting Club.

Unsuccessful attempt to return to film

In the spring of 1955, Pierre Galante, a journalist from Paris Match and spouse of actress Olivia de Havilland, organized Rainier and Grace’s first meeting during the American’s time at the Cannes Festival. Kelly had just won an Oscar for The Country Girl, and her career seemed unstoppable. Once she donned the tiara, however, Rainier forced her to retire. He banned the screening of her 11 films in Monaco, including her last work, High Society, in which she showed off her 10-karat diamond engagement ring.

Six years after they married, tired of the straightlaced palace life, Grace expressed her desire to return to the big screen. Alfred Hitchcock, with whom she had worked on Dial M for Murder, Rear Window and To Catch a Thief, offered her the lead role of Marnie. She initially accepted, even receiving her spouse’s blessing. But, according to the official version of the time, she had to reject the offer because the Monacans disapproved of her playing a kleptomaniac. Writer Tony Lee Moral, in his book Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie, pointed out another political factor: in 1962, right when Hitchcock delivered the script to his muse, then French president Charles de Gaulle had decreed a diplomatic blockade of the principality because he wanted residents of Monaco to pay the same taxes as the rest of the French.

Grace filmed one short work with Robert Dornhelm. In Rearranged, she plays herself, and the film includes a cameo by Rainier. The 27 minutes of negative are conserved in the palace.

A series of miscarriages

In the image, Prince Rainier photographs his wife Grace Kelly, in 1957 in Monaco.
In the image, Prince Rainier photographs his wife Grace Kelly, in 1957 in Monaco.- (AFP)

Some biographers point out that, in 1955, shortly before she met Rainier, Grace lost the child she was expecting with Oleg Cassini, the fashion designer who later would create Jackie Kennedy’s image. It wasn’t the only time. Her friend Donald Spoto, in the book Grace Kelly, revealed that she suffered three miscarriages after she became Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco. One of them occurred in 1962. The writer sustains that the incident was the true reason why she decided not to film Marnie, not the opposition of the Monocans. Spoto, who held long conversations with her for decades, promised that he would not expose any of her secrets until 25 years after her death. He kept his promise.

Caroline, the wayward daughter

Grace and Rainier dreamed that their oldest daughter, Caroline, would end up in the arms of a handsome prince. Among the Windsors, Charles – now King Charles III – was still available. But, to their dismay, the 21-year-old fell for the charms of a playboy named Phillipe Junot, 17 years her senior. The son of the president of Westinghouse was more known for his wild nightlife than for his professional accomplishments. Most Monacans believed that the relationship would be a passing fling. But shortly after the paparazzi caught Caroline by his side, topless on a yacht, the couple said “I do” on June 29, 1978. Grace, always a skilled actress, showed off her best smile to the 800 wedding guests. Fortunately, their relationship lasted only two years and 41 days.

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