Grace Kelly is loved for being a movie star icon and a princess. Born in 1929, she came from an upper class Irish family in Philadelphia and was extremely well educated along with her three siblings.
She was the daughter of a self-made millionaire who was a socially enthusiastic brickworks owner and Olympian, Jack Kelly. Grace’s Dad was a champion sculler who won three Olympic gold medals as part of the U.S. rowing team and Grace’s Mom, Margaret, was the first coach of women’s athletic teams at the University of Pennsylvania. Grace displayed talent for performing on the stage instead of the Olympics early on.
Grace became famous in the 1950’s starring in movies such as Dial M for Murder (1954), The Country Girl (1954), for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress, To Catch a Thief (1955), The Swan (1956) and High Society (1956).
She had the right connections and was a muse to many…Hermes even renamed one of its most popular bags “the Kelly” after her. She wore powdery gowns designed by Edith Head and MGM’s costume designer, Helen Rose. The pearls, ladylike clothes and hats (that she had to wear to all public functions) were all part of Grace’s charm.
She had a lot more independence than most women of her time and was hardly innocent. She supported herself early on, lived by herself and chose her movies, friends, social activities and men. She was comfortable with her sexuality and enjoyed the company of most of her costars off camera…and in her bed.
In 1955, Grace was asked to attend the Cannes Film Festival where her film, The Country Girl, would be shown. During her visit in Cannes she was invited to participate in a photo session at the Palace of Monaco with Prince Rainier. There were several complications and delays on route to the Palace but the end results were memorable and the Prince and Grace began a long series of correspondence with letters.
After getting to know each other through their letters, Rainier traveled to Philadelphia and met Grace and her family and friends. He proposed after three days and she accepted. Jack Kelly agreed to pay a two-million dollar dowry to Prince Rainier in preparation for their wedding…”The Wedding of the Century.”
As Rainier’s princess, Grace was forced to give up her acting career.
Her movies were banned in Monaco by the Prince. Besides being Catholic and the love for their three children, (Princess Caroline, Prince Albert, and Princess Stéphanie) they didn’t have very much in common. Grace didn’t speak French and usually remained silent so not to embarrass herself or Rainier. It was an adjustment for Grace to have her life centered around her husband.
Grace was kept on close watch in the Palace by her lady-in-waiting, Madge Tivey-Faucon. Her role was to spy on Princess Grace and watch her every move for Rainier.
Grace began to lose herself and became extremely unhappy. Rainier forbid her to act in what would have been her fourth Hitchcock movie, Marnie. Grace contemplated divorce but their Monaco priest, Father Frances Tucker said, “Your children will suffer most. They are heirs to a European throne. You’ll be lucky to see them again. I suppose the world will also hang its head in disappointment.“ She also consulted an American divorce lawyer but after being advised that she would lose her children, she accepted her life in Monaco.
Princess Grace may have seemed to have a fairy-tale life but she missed the freedom she was used to before marrying the Grimaldi Prince. She missed the closeness of her New York friends. She became more of a loner in the Palace due to being surrounded by Rainier’s disreputable friends.
Rainier was very opinionated and insensitive. He thought Grace’s appearance should remain unchanged. Grace wore low healed shoes so not to appear taller than him. Once she cut her long hair into a bob of the moment, the new artichoke style, and Rainier was so angry that he threw his drink to the floor and stormed off.
Rainier Grimaldi said of his wife, “She had the Irish in her, a mixture of good-heartedness and kindness, combined with strong will.”
The spirit of freedom remained missing from such a beautiful heart, banished as a part of one of the world’s highest profile trades of one life for another. Sadness and happiness often walk along the same road of difficult choices.
I’m looking forward to seeing the movie, Grace of Monaco due to release this year. Have you seen the trailer?
Five things Grace Kelly said:
“Fairy tales tell imaginary stories. Me, I’m a living person. I exist. If the story of my life as a real woman were to be told one day, people would at last discover the real being that I am.”
“It would be very sad if children had no memories before those of school. What they need most is the love and attention of their mother.”
“I’m basically a feminist. I think that women can do anything they decide to do.”
“My real difficulty was to become a normal person again, after having been a movie actress for so long. For me, at the time I was living in New York and Hollywood, a normal person was someone who made movies.”
“I would like to be remembered as someone who accomplished useful deeds, and who was a kind and loving person. I would like to leave the memory of a human being with a correct attitude and who did her best to help others.”