Hollywood's Grace Kelly and Monaco's Prince Rainier III met in the summer of 1955 when the elegant young actress posed for photos with the dashing young prince at the Cannes Film Festival. Cameras caught the flying sparks that resulted in their engagement at the Kelly family home in Philadelphia seven months later.
At 26, Kelly was already a successful actress. She had won a Best Actress Oscar in 1954 for The Country Girl and starred in the Alfred Hitchcock classics Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, and To Catch a Thief. She gave it all up for her prince, finishing her final film, High Society, with a dazzling 12-carat diamond ring on her finger. When she boarded a ship bound for Europe trailed by paparazzi, her starring role on the world stage was only beginning. A commoner by birth, Kelly was America's answer to aristocracy. She dressed, moved, and spoke with the poise and polish of a true royal.
As Monaco law required, the couple wed in a French civil ceremony on April 18, 1956. But the main event was a religious ceremony the next day (both bride and groom were devout Catholics) at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Monte Carlo, where the 600 guests included Cary Grant and Ava Gardner. As befit Hollywood royalty, Kelly wore a high-necked, long-sleeved gown sewn by MGM costume designer Helen Rose, and MGM filmed the proceedings for release as a movie back in America, a concession that released now-Princess Grace from her seven-year contract with the studio.
The royal couple settled in Grimaldi Castle, enjoying long rides through the hills of their five-square-mile kingdom. They had three children -- Albert, Stephanie, and Caroline. In 1982, at the age of 53, Princess Grace was killed in a car accident on the winding roads leading from France into the tiny principality; a grieving Rainier seems to have never fully recovered from his tragic loss.
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