Grace Kelly, the American film star who became Princess of Monaco and died tragically in a car accident in 1982, is still one of the tiny Principality’s star attractions.
Many tourists choose to arrive in royal style with a French Riviera helicopter charter and can be seen, tourist guides in hand, following a walking route that takes in the places Princess Grace loved or influenced in some way.
Twenty-five large outdoor panels along the walking route, display photos of the princess in Monaco over the decades.
Princess Grace, who would have turned ninety this year, was born Grace Patricia Kelly on 2nd November 1929 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Against her parents’ wishes, she studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, and as Grace Kelly, appeared on Broadway, took part in some sixty live television programmes and made eleven feature films.
A dazzling career
Her film career, although brief, was stellar. In the years 1954 and 1955 she won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and three New York Film Critics Circle Awards for Best Actress, as well as a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. Alfred Hitchcock cast her in three films, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window and To Catch A Thief, which was largely shot on the French Riviera.
In 1955 her life changed dramatically. While attending the Cannes Film Festival, she was invited to join Prince Rainier III at the Prince’s Palace in Monaco. Less than a year later, on 18 April, they were married in a televised service watched by an estimated 30 million viewers worldwide, dubbed ‘The Wedding of the Century’.
Within months, Monaco enjoyed a spectacular boost in tourism and business revenues, which was to continue for several years. Film stars, celebrities and jet setters all flocked to the Principality, drawn by the allure of its beautiful new princess.
Although she was offered more screen roles, Grace Kelly, as the new Princess of Monaco, never acted again, choosing instead to serve the Principality and its people.
Princess of Monaco – Charities and culture
In 1958 Prince Rainier transferred his presidency of the Monaco Red Cross to Princess Grace, and during her term, it became, proportionally, the most generous in the world, sending relief to victims of wars and natural disasters.
She started an annual ballet festival, and was deeply committed to retaining the Principality’s last examples of Belle époque architecture, thwarting an attempt to demolish the Hermitage Hotel.
In 1963 she founded AMADE, Association Mondiale des Amis de l’Enfance or World Association of Children’s Friends. Now with Princess Caroline as its president, the association helps over 40,000 of the world’s most vulnerable children with a series of programmes covering education, health, emergency relief and child protection.
One year later saw the Princess Grace Foundation, or La Fondation Princesse Grace, being established, primarily to help children in hospitals throughout France and to support paediatric medical research. Since 1984, under the presidency of Princess Caroline, the foundation also gives financial assistance to arts institutions and to those embarking on careers in the arts, and administers the Princess Grace Irish Library, which promotes Irish literature.
Grace Kelly’s Enduring popularity
Tragically, Grace Kelly, the Princess of Monaco died following a car accident in 1982, but her legacy lives on through her three children. So enduring is her popularity, that many establishments in the Principality, including a hospital, theatre, a cinema and a rose garden, have been named in her memory. More recently, in December 2017, HSH Prince Albert II and Princess Stéphanie inaugurated a spectacular suite named after their late mother at the iconic Hotel de Paris. As the late Prince Rainier III himself once observed, ‘The best ambassador I have is Grace.’
To visit Monaco and enjoy the tangible traces of Princess Grace’s legacy in the fascinating city-state, book a helicopter flight with Monacair, which has taken care of helicopter transport for the Princely Family since 1999.