Monaco royal wedding: the precedent

22nd July 2010, Comments 0 comments

When Prince Albert II of Monaco marries his South African fiancee Charlene Wittstock next year, comparisons will inevitably be made with the star-studded wedding of Albert's father, Rainier, over half a century earlier.

Rainier's wedding in 1956 to Grace Kelly, a US film star and the daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia family, was one of the society events of the decade.

It also sealed a durable alliance between a tiny outpost of European royalty, at the time seeking to emerge from the austerity of the postwar years, and American-style wealth and glamour.

Kelly, who was to die in a car crash in 1982, was the daughter of a wealthy Irish-American family who had become a successful Hollywood actress in the early 1950s.

Rainier had been the ruler of Monaco -- around two square kilometres, or less than a square mile of precipitous Mediterranean coastline featuring a palace poised on a rock and a famous casino -- since 1950. His princely Grimaldi family claims roots back to the late 13th century.

The two had met at a photo shoot on the fringes of the 1955 film festival in the nearby French resort of Cannes; Kelly was reportedly invited to meet the prince by a journalist from Paris Match, the glossy French magazine that would later provide regular coverage of princely affairs.

When they married on April 19, 1956, he was 32 and she 26.

Grace Kelly had already made 11 films, the most famous of which were the Western "High Noon" (1952), "Mogambo" by John Ford (1953) and several works directed by Alfred Hitchcock, notably "Dial M for Murder" and "Rear Window", both made in 1954.

In line with practices in nearby France, the wedding involved a civil ceremony, attended only by close friends and during which Grace wore a beige lace dress, followed by a church ceremony at the Monaco Cathedral.

For that she wore a fairy-tale ivory dress designed by the American Helen Rose and made by the props department at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios in California.

Coming four years after the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London, the Kelly-Rainier wedding was televised worldwide, including the tour of the principality in an open car.

Grace Kelly, who thereby became Her Serene Highness Princess Grace, was to give up her film career after the marriage, during which she produced three children: Caroline, born in 1957, Albert, born the following year, and Stephanie, who appeared on the scene in 1965.

It was Stephanie who was with her in her car when it fell off one of the principality's precipitous roads on September 14, 1982.

After Grace Kelly's accidental death, Prince Albert never remarried; he died in 2005.

© 2010 AFP

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