Rainier of Monaco: How his first meeting with Grace Kelly’s family went

After their meeting orchestrated on The Rock, Prince Rainier III, who should have celebrated his birthday this Tuesday, May 31, went to the United States to celebrate his engagement to Grace Kelly, whom he immediately fell under the charm. During his American stay, the Monegasque sovereign also had to get acquainted with his family-in-law…

Rainier III of Monaco longs to find his future princess. After an electric meeting during the Cannes Film Festival in May 1955, then an appointment arranged a few days later in the Principality, the Monegasque sovereign could not get Grace Kelly out of his thoughts. Like other men who crossed paths with the American actress before him, Prince Rainier was “subjugated” by her beauty, says Philippe Delorme in his book Charlene et ces drôles dames de Monaco published in 2010. Thus, it is quite natural that he counts the days and weeks before embracing his future wife. While his better half still finds him “shy” for a prince, he wants to prove to her that he is not who she claims. That he can surprise her. “Flanked by the indispensable Father Tucker and a doctor friend, Dr. Robert Donat, he arrived in the United States on December 15, 1955. The official pretext is a health check-up. In reality, the clever chaplain contacted Father Cartin, a confidant of the Kellys, and arranged a meeting.”

ABACAL Prince Rainier III of Monaco and Grace Kelly, surrounded by Margaret Davis, John Brendan Kelly, Margaret Kelly, John Jr. ‘Jack’ Kelly and Elizabeth Anne Kelly Levine, in Philadelphia, U.S., January 6, 1956.

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The sovereign took his courage in both hands and decided to go and visit Grace Kelly on a shoot in North Carolina. At the time, the actress was held in Ashville, where she was shooting in The Swan, alongside Louis Jourdan and Alec Guinness. Ironically, the film tells “the story of a beautiful heiress who will marry Prince Albert … of Ruritania!”, notes Philippe Delorme in his book. After “a long conversation face to face”, the couple takes the direction of Philadelphia to spend the Christmas holidays with the family of Grace Kelly. Faced with Prince Rainier, those close to the actress held their breath: “We were obviously all a little nervous. Should we say to the prince ‘Your Highness’? Should we curtsy to him?”, wonders Lizanne, Grace Kelly’s sister, at the time. Questions that also crossed the happy chosen one to his beginnings with the monégasque sovereign…

How did Prince Rainier III behave that day

Rainier III, who is a man before being a prince, is keen to put everyone at ease. “Call me Rainier”, he immediately launches to his in-laws who seem embarrassed. And Lizanne confided her first impressions of her future brother-in-law: “He seemed very handsome and a little shy (…) The dinner was cheerful and warm.” Prince Rainier, seated next to Grace Kelly, also takes time to let go: “At first, they were both a little shy, but as the hours passed, they relaxed,” explains the sister of the actress who tragically died on September 14, 1982. Prince Rainier III finally stayed two days with the Kellys, before asking for their daughter’s hand in New York.

There again, the surprise is total for his in-laws: “I did not suspect anything yet. It was easy to see that they were well together, but I did not know how serious it was. I didn’t suspect anything until Grace said, ‘Lizzie, I’m getting married.’ I was stunned,” Lizanne says. This stay at Grace Kelly’s house reinforced Rainier of Monaco in his choice to get engaged to his dear and sweetheart: “The show of the Kelly family contributed to confirm this instinct (…) The father was absolutely the boss. I liked that. That’s how I wanted my wedding to be.” The couple’s engagement would be publicly announced a few days later…

Photo credits: SIPA

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