The First American PRINCESS

  • 30 Jun - 06 Jul, 2018
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Before Meghan there was Grace Kelly. Prince Albert reflects on his mother’s journey from Hollywood to Royalty

Six decades before Meghan Markle wed Prince Harry, Philadelphia born Grace Kelly left her Oscar winning acting career to marry Prince Rainier of Monaco. Their lavish 1956 wedding was attended by Cary Grant, Ava Gardner and Aristotle Onassis among hundreds of other guests. “It was wonderfully happy day, but there were so many people that she had to meet and had to entertain and feel responsible for,” says the couple’s son Prince Albert, 60. “I remember both Mom and Dad said they were completely exhausted at the end of the day, and they just had a hard time keeping their eyes open.” Given her natural poise and professional training, was Grace nervous for the biggest role of her life? “Oh yeah, she had no qualms about that. Of course she was nervous. She was afraid she would forget her lines.” As for the new American princess on the scene, “I think it brings a more open, inclusive and relaxed sense to things,” says the royal dad, who helps oversee the Princess Grace Foundation-USA to support emerging artistes. “Things evolve in different and of course great ways. I really wish Prince Harry and Meghan the best of marriages.”

How Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly met

Fairy tales might not be real, but Grace Kelly came as close as a person can to truly living one. Why and how did the Rear Window actress turned her back on her booming Hollywood film career to marry a real-life royal, after a whirlwind year of courtship. Well, there likely never would have been a connection between the two without the Cannes Film Festival of 1955. While Grace was there, she was invited to a photo shoot in the Palace of Monaco with Prince Rainier, who had been on the throne of Monaco for six years. Royalty is always an exciting prospect. What Kelly almost certainly didn’t realise was that the treasury of Monaco was nearly empty. After World War II, resort goers didn’t have as much money for gambling in posh casinos as before the war. Prince Rainier was attempting to address the problems in his small principality. That day, despite such obstacles as an electrical strike at Kelly’s hotel, the actress made it on time to the palace, wearing what she later said was a hideous dress with big cabbage roses. However, the prince was running late, proving the old adage about royalty: “a prince or princess is never late; the others simply arrived earlier.” Kelly was about to give up on the meeting and leave, but Rainier appeared just before she left and charmingly apologised to the actress for the delay. Supposedly, the prince escorted Kelly through the formal gardens of the palace, stopping by his personal zoo and impressing her by petting a baby tiger.

As they were taking a tour of the palace, Rainier mentioned his intention to visit America soon, and Kelly certainly didn’t tell him not to.

When she returned to the United States, Kelly started working on a movie titled The Swan, in which she coincidentally played the role of a princess. The movie might have seemed like a message from the universe, telling her that she had finally found a man who wouldn’t be overshadowed by her fame. Allegedly, one of Kelly’s biggest fears was to marry a man who would be referred to as “Mr Kelly.”

Although Prince Rainier never admitted that his tour around the United States was arranged in order for him to meet her again, it was obvious that he had fallen for the stunning actress. Only three days after he met Kelly and her family, the prince proposed. Kelly accepted the proposal, and they began to plan the wedding. On April 19, 1956, Grace and Prince Rainier exchanged their wedding vows before Pope John XXIII at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Advice for Meghan

Navigating protocol is a “pretty tough act. Being an actress [helps], but nothing can prepare you for the constant pace of it,” says Albert.