At the age of 25, Prince Rainier III had ascended to the throne of the Principality of Monaco, a tiny independent state on the French Riviera, in May 1949. Unfortunately, the young man soon discovered that Monaco’s treasury was alarmingly bare. The thinking around the royal court was that perhaps the right marriage might help the principality’s – and by extension the Prince’s – finances. And that is where the Hollywood star Grace Kelly makes her grand entrance in the Monaco story.
In addition to being made rich and famous by Tinseltown, Grace Patricia Kelly had been born into a very affluent Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, family in November 1929. Her Irish-American father, John, owned a successful brick company which had made him a millionaire many times over. He had also excelled at sports as well as business, having been a champion rower who had won three Olympic gold medals – two in 1920 and a third in 1924.
Meanwhile, Kelly’s mother, Margaret, was of German stock and before marrying John had been a physical education instructor at the University of Pennsylvania. But it was perhaps other members of Kelly’s family who gave some indication of her future fame. Interestingly, given her chosen career, the star’s uncle on her father’s side had been a stage actor who had appeared in early Hollywood movies, while another paternal uncle was a director and screenwriter.