Monaco royal wedding: the precedent

When Prince Albert II of Monaco marries his South African fiancee

Charlene Wittstock next year, comparisons will inevitably be made with the

star-studded wedding of Albert’s father, Rainier, over half a century

earlier.

Rainier’s wedding in 1956 to Grace Kelly, a US film star and the

daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia family, was one of the society events of the

decade.

It also sealed a durable alliance between a tiny outpost of

European royalty, at the time seeking to emerge from the austerity of the

post-war years, and American-style wealth and glamour.

Kelly, who was to die in a car crash in 1982, was the daughter of a

wealthy Irish-American family who had become a successful Hollywood actress in

the early 1950s.

Rainier had been the ruler of Monaco – around two square kilometres

of Mediterranean coastline featuring a palace poised on a rock and a famous

casino – since 1950. His princely Grimaldi family claims roots back to the late

13th century.

The two had met at a photo shoot on the fringes of the 1955 film

festival in the nearby French resort of Cannes; Kelly was reportedly invited to

meet the prince by a journalist from Paris Match, the glossy French magazine

that would later provide regular coverage of princely affairs.

When they married on April 19 1956 he was 32 and she 26.

Grace Kelly had already made 11 films, the most famous of which

were the Western High Noon (1952), Mogambo by John Ford (1953) and several works

directed by Alfred Hitchcock, notably Dial M for Murder and Rear Window, both

made in 1954.

In line with practices in nearby France, the wedding involved a

civil ceremony, attended only by close friends and during which Grace wore a

beige lace dress, followed by a church ceremony at the Monaco Cathedral.

For that she wore a fairytale ivory dress designed by the American

Helen Rose and made by the props department at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios

in California.

Coming four years after the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in

London, the Kelly-Rainier wedding was televised worldwide, including the tour of

the principality in an open car.

Grace Kelly, who thereby became Her Serene Highness Princess Grace,

was to give up her film career after the marriage, during which she produced

three children: Caroline, born in 1957, Albert, born the following year, and

Stephanie, who appeared on the scene in 1965.

It was Stephanie who was with her in her car when it fell off one

of the principality’s precipitous roads on September 14 1982.

After Grace Kelly’s accidental death, Prince Albert never remarried

and died in 2005.


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