She was widely considered to be the world's most beautiful woman in the 1950s. The legendary Alfred Hitchcock made her into a star. She made James Stewart and Cary Grant fall for her on the movie screen and later went on to become the Princess of Monaco. The name Grace Patricia Kelly (Nov 12, 1929 – Sep 14, 1982) reminds people the world over not only of a Hollywood icon and Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning actress but also of the Princess of Monaco. This September will mark 40 years since her passing.
Grace's life, personal style, as well as her legacy remain subjects of fascination to this day. Her story inspired both documentaries and movies that recounted it like a fairytale. Throughout her life, she was known as a prominent fashion icon with a penchant for elegance. She showcased her talent by playing several different characters during her studies. Despite having her initial success on Broadway, the movie screen was to be her destiny. She appeared in numerous movies, received prestigious awards, and met the love of her life – Prince Rainier – at the Cannes Festival.
Grace first stood in front of a camera in the year 1950 but her worldwide fame only came after working with the legendary Alfred Hitchcock. She was signed by MGM and appeared in movies alongside legends such as Clark Gable and Ava Gardner. In the 1954 movie "Rear Window", she portrayed James Stewart's lover in a way that resonated with film critics and audiences alike. In 1955, she earned the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in "The Country Girl". She ended her acting career in 1956 with the musical "High Society" after getting engaged to Prince Rainier III. Grace Kelly stepped back from the movie industry and entered the world of aristocracy.
Princess of Monaco
The wedding of the actress and the prince in April 1956 became a media sensation. More than 30 million people watched, glued to the TV screen, as Grace Kelly walked down the aisle wearing a wedding dress designed by Helen Rose. Her first years adapting to a new homeland and the title of Princess of Monaco were not the easiest. Her French was lacking and on top of that, she had to learn to navigate the intricacies of her representative role. Her sense of style, charm, and natural air of nobility helped her gain the respect of the people of Monaco. She had three children with her husband – current Prince of Monaco, Albert II, and daughters Caroline and Stéphanie.
Philanthropist even from beyond the grave
Alongside her representative duties, she engaged in many charitable activities as part of her foundation, which helps hospitalized children and their families to this day. When Princess Grace died, Prince Rainier III entrusted his daughter Caroline, Princess of Hannover, with leading the foundation. Another group that Princess Grace cared strongly about were fledgling artists. Princess Caroline followed in her mother's footsteps and so the foundation provides financial aid to young artists from the Academy of Rainier III, dancers from the Princess Grace Academy in Monaco, and many others. The foundation also manages the Princess Grace Irish Library, established in 1984 from the princess' private collection. The American film academy honored Princess Grace by including her in the list of top movie actresses. Another part of her legacy is the annual Princess Grace Awards ceremony where exceptional young artists are recognized. Today, the foundation is led by Princess Charlene, wife of the current Prince of Monaco, Albert II.
Sudden death that shocked the world
Time stopped in the Principality of Monaco on September 14, 1982. Grace was coming back from the family country home in Roc Agel with her then-17-year-old daughter Stéphanie. On the coastal Route de La Turbie, she drove off the road. According to an interview with Stéphanie, who survived the accident, her mother lost control of the car due to jammed brakes and the car swerved off the cliff. The princess was transported to a hospital where she died as a result of a stroke combined with the injuries she sustained, aged 52. The people of Monaco had the chance to say their goodbyes to Grace in the palace chapel for three days. The princess was buried in the Notre-Dame-Immaculée Cathedral. "You know, I just love Grace Kelly. Not because she was a princess, not because she was an actress, not because she was my friend, but because she was just about the nicest lady I ever met. Grace brought into my life as she brought into yours, a soft, warm light every time I saw her, and every time I saw her was a holiday of its own. No question, I’ll miss her, we’ll all miss her, God bless you, Princess Grace," said American actor, James Stewart, at her funeral.
Heady smell of roses
Numerous admirers of the beautiful Hollywood actress visit Monaco, which has not forgotten about its famous princess. The special Princess Grace trail tells passersby her story through information posts with photographs. Her resting place in the cathedral is always adorned by fresh flowers, her favorite roses. A heady smell often also comes wafting from the nearby rose garden, planted in 1984 to commemmorate the princess. More than three hundred types of roses grow in this park and the total number of plants there is around 6000. Visitors may also admire a bronze sculpture of the princess made by Dutch sculptor, Kees Verkade, who spent a large part of his life in Monaco. Princess Grace undoubtedly played a pivotal role in Monaco's worldwide renown, which stretches far beyond its image of a gambling paradise.
Grace Kelly with James Stewart in Alfred Hitchcock's movie "Rear Window" (1954).
The movie "Grace of Monaco" by French director, Olivier Dahan, tells the story of Grace Kelly as a fairytale. It is far removed from reality. Dahan's rebirth of a Hollywood star as a heroine stateswoman flopped, not even the star-studded cast (Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth) could save it. The movie was received coldly by both the critics and the royal family, which has distanced itself from the film officially.
Royal couple Rainier III and his wife Grace Kelly with their children Caroline, Albert, and Stéphanie in 1966.