To Catch a Prince: the Grace Kelly story

He was the heir to the Grimaldi dynasty; she was the American granddaughter of an Irish immigrant. And fittingly for such a fairytale romance, they met at the movies.

Grace Kelly had already made her name as an actress in High Noon, and had recently starred in three films by master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock: Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, and To Catch a Thief.

The last of these was filmed on the Riviera, so it was no surprise to find Grace heading the delegation to the 1955 Cannes Film Festival. While there she was introduced to Prince Rainier of Monaco, and within a year they were married in a sumptuous affair which was rightly dubbed ‘The Wedding of the Century’.

An estimated thirty million viewers worldwide watched the ceremony, while the six hundred guests proved an appropriate mix of old world and Hollywood aristocracy, Cary Grant, David Niven and Ava Gardner rubbing shoulders with King Farouk, the Aga Khan, and Aristotle Onassis.  And as far as wedding presents go, it would be hard to beat the Greek shipping magnate’s gift to the newlyweds: a beautiful yacht, the Deo Juvante, on which the royal couple enjoyed their Riviera honeymoon.

That blend of two worlds was evident, too, in the bride’s appearance. Princess Grace’s dress was a gift from MGM Studios, while her ring, of rubies and diamonds, reflected the red and white colours of Monaco, whose first lady she would become for the next quarter of a century.

Defying the expectations of some, Grace Kelly brought to her role as Princess all the poise and dignity which would be expected of someone who had been born into the role. But this was more than just another stage appearance.  Throughout her life, she showed consummate support for other human beings, just as she had for black singer Josephine Baker in 1951, when the performer was refused service at a club in New York.

As a patron of the Red Cross and president of the organizing committee of the International Arts Foundation, it was clear that she would combine her interests in her own Princess Grace Foundation. Founded in 1964 in Monaco in order to encourage young dancers and musicians, it went on to become an important humanitarian organization, giving assistance and support to the families of unwell children.

Her tragic death in 1982 while driving through the Monagesque landscape she had come to love as her own thus deprived the world not only of an icon of elegance and beauty, but also of a woman whose heart had been deeply touched by the circumstances of others. Like Diana of Wales, who was to share a similar fate, Grace will be remembered for being more than just a princess.