She was the darling of Hollywood who became a beloved European Princess.
Yet the fairy tale life of glamorous American film star, Grace Kelly, which often mirrored the plot of a silver screen romance, was cut dramatically short in 1982.
Princess Grace of Monaco had been driving her youngest daughter, Princess Stéphanie, from their country home in Roc Agel to the Palace of Monaco when she suffered a stroke. She lost control of the car and veered off a steep mountainside road at high speed, plunging 100ft down the cliff face.
The princess was rushed to Monaco Hospital, now The Princess Grace Hospital, for emergency treatment but her injuries were too severe. Grace never regained consciousness and the next night, on September 14, she passed away at the age of 52, when her husband, Prince Rainer, agreed to turn off her life support. Her daughter miraculously survived but was unable to attend her mother’s funeral.
The palace initially downplayed Princess Grace’s injuries to the press and so her death sent shockwaves across Monaco and her home country, America. Her funeral was held at the Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate in Monaco four days later on September 18.
More than 400 people attended, including heads of state, royals and celebrities including Cary Grant, Nancy Reagan and Princess Diana, while millions of mourners watched the service on TV. After a requiem mass, the princess was buried in the Grimaldi family vault within the cathedral. The daughter of a former model and a wealthy industrialist, she was born Grace Patricia Kelly in Philadelphia in 1929. She started acting at an early age and made her Broadway debut in 1948, when she starred in The Father by August Strindberg.
Hollywood beckoned and, in 1952, Grace got her big break with a lead role in the hit Western, High Noon. She also appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window as well as Dial M for Murder and High Society. In 1954, Grace won an Oscar for her star turn in The Country Girl, in which she played the long-suffering wife of an alcoholic songwriter opposite Bing Crosby.
The popular film star and fashion icon became Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco after she married Prince Rainier III in April, 1956. The couple met in the French Riviera, where Grace was filming the 1955 Hitchcock film, To Catch A Thief, alongside Cary Grant.
Grace then retired from acting to make time for her royal duties, and even Alfred Hitchcock was unable to lure her back to Hollywood. However, she continued to host her A-list friends at her royal residence, including Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Kirk Douglas, Frank Sinatra and Alfred Hitchcock.
Princess Grace and Prince Rainier had three children, Princess Caroline, Prince Albert, and Princess Stéphanie. Rainier never remarried and was buried alongside his wife in 2005 after a 56-year reign.
Princess Grace used her position as a monarch to pursue philanthropic work, which included the children’s foundation, AMADE Mondiale, and the Princess Grace Foundation, which supports emerging theatre, dance and film artists in both Monaco and America.
In her last interview, just two months before her death, Grace said: “I would like to be remembered as a decent human being, and a caring one.” And she is.
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