It’s not often that you see someone go from being an actress to a princess. However, back in the 1950s, that’s exactly what Grace Kelly did when she married Prince Rainier III of Monaco. Tying the knot with this man changed her life forever, but unfortunately, that wasn’t necessarily for the better.
A man worth admiring
Throughout her life, money was never something that Grace really had to worry about. She was born into a relatively wealthy family, with her father responsible for his own brickwork contracting company.
John B. Kelly Sr. lived quite the life, with the man also a three-time Olympic gold medalist who almost became the mayor of Philadelphia. He had quite a reputation to live up to, although his life seemingly paled in comparison to that of his daughter’s.
There was no doubt in Grace’s mind that she’d become an actress one day. She had big dreams for the future since day one, and she worked hard to make them come true. The chances of becoming a star weren’t exactly high, but that didn’t stop Kelly from giving it her all.
She began performing in plays as soon as she could, with one of her earliest productions happening in 1942 when she was just 12. It was nothing monumental, but it was the start that her career needed.
It runs in the family
Grace’s desire to become an actress perhaps wasn’t too surprising given the theatrical connections in her family. Two of her uncles had ties to the industry, including Walter C. Kelly. The man was renowned for his work in the vaudeville scene, including the drama film The Virginia Judge.
Funnily enough, Walter worked on some of his movies with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), the same media company that later helped his niece find success. Unfortunately, he never got to see how much she achieved because he passed away in 1939.
Lacking their support
Considering that two of Grace’s relatives both found success in Hollywood, you might have thought that her parents would embrace her desire to be an actress. However, that wasn’t the case. When Kelly first revealed her dream to be a star, neither her mom nor her dad was particularly supportive.
They came around to the idea eventually, especially after they saw how much talent their daughter had. However, during the early days, it took some convincing for them to let her follow her dreams. Thank goodness they changed their minds.
Starting in the theater
When Grace was still trying to make a name for herself as an actress, she mostly focused on working in the theater. Not only was it easier to get involved in, but Kelly was also incredibly passionate about being on the stage.
The actress wasn’t even in her twenties when she landed her first role on Broadway – the naturalistic tragedy The Father. The play offered Grace an excellent start to her career, and it was only a few years later that her talent brought her to the big screen.
Her first film role
The actress’ first feature film role came in 1951, when Henry Hathaway chose her to appear in Fourteen Hours. Although Kelly’s part wasn’t a particularly big one, she still earned herself that all-important screen time.
Being in that noir film was all it took for the actress to start building up a fan base, with people from all over the United States apparently seeing something special in the star. Unfortunately, the critics didn’t pick up on it back then, so the movie didn’t become the big break that she’d hoped for.
Giving it up for him
Thankfully, Grace’s luck soon turned around when she landed a handful of major movie roles. The ‘50s ended up being an amazing time for her, although her acting success didn’t last as long as she’d expected.
It wasn’t that people didn’t want her around anymore, though, but rather that she was too busy being married to a prince. Kelly couldn’t have pictured that in the space of a few years, she’d go from Hollywood icon to doting wife. However, as she eventually realized, nothing in life is ever predictable.
Regretting the sacrifice
Marrying the Prince of Monaco forced Grace to give up everything, something that she’d figured was worth it at the time. However, it seems that after being with Rainier III for a few years, it came to be something she deeply regretted.
Rumors suggest that the Princess’ marriage was not a happy one, with their relationship seemingly more about money than anything else. The Prince supposedly only married the actress to bring more wealth to his country, rather than because Grace was the woman that he couldn’t live without.
Still not enough
With that in mind, things probably would have turned out very differently for Grace if she’d continued to underwhelm the critics. Her second major movie role – the Western film High Noon – also didn’t earn her great reviews, despite being considered one of the greatest films ever made.
The picture may have received multiple Academy Awards and become one of Kelly’s best-known roles, but it didn’t paint her in the best light. According to Alfred Hitchcock, she still needed time to blossom before she could become a real star.
Taking it seriously
Even though High Noon brought her a great deal of attention, Grace wasn’t happy with the direction her career was going in. The critics were underwhelmed with her performances, and she believed them when they said she could give more.
So, she took some acting lessons to try and improve her craft. She was serious about being an actress, and she didn’t want to let so many great opportunities pass her by. Luckily, taking the time to work on her skills paid off, because she soon landed herself a contract.
Her luck turned around
After seeing what she was capable of, MGM offered her a seven-year contract. At $850 a week, the salary they were offering wasn’t much compared to others in the business. However, Grace wasn’t about to turn down the opportunity to become a star.
She was right to agree to the contract because within a year, she’d already started winning awards. The first of these came with the romantic adventure movie Mogambo, for which Kelly snagged the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. She’d finally made it in the industry.
Following on from Mogambo, the big roles just kept coming in. This included features in the mystery thriller movie Rear Window, the crime mystery film Dial M for Murder, and the romantic thriller To Catch a Thief. All of these pictures were directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
It seems that after finally finding her feet in the industry, Kelly was considered to be his perfect leading lady. It wasn’t just Hitchcock films that she appeared in, though. Grace also starred in movies like the musical The Country Girl.
This was her moment
After a few false starts in the ‘50s, 1954 was the year that things finally took off for Kelly. She appeared in a total of five movies that year, with her appearance in The Country Girl helping her win the coveted Best Actress accolade at the Academy Awards.
Grace faced some tough competition from the likes of Judy Garland and Audrey Hepburn. However, it was her acting that impressed people the most. That film also earned her a Golden Globe and a National Board of Review Award too.
The biggest name around
By the mid-’50s, few women in Hollywood were more famous than Grace Kelly. Despite a shaky start, she’d proven to people that she had what it took to be a star in the industry. She’d only been around for a few years, and already she’d achieved so much.
Unfortunately, the end was fast approaching for her acting career. No-one could have predicted that she’d give it all up in a few years, so there was nothing they could do to stop her. There’s no controlling someone who’s in love.
Over too soon
It was only five years after Grace had her first film role that she bid farewell to Hollywood. Her final movie came in the form of the musical rom-com High Society, where she starred alongside Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.
Kelly’s fans weren’t ready to say goodbye to the actress, but they didn’t have much say in the matter. After all, 1956 was also the year that Grace found herself a husband. She’d hardly known her other half for long, but that didn’t stop her from tying the knot with him.
At the film festival
Although becoming the Princess of Monaco meant that Kelly had to give up acting, it was actually because of her career that she met her husband. Grace was in France for the Cannes Film Festival when she was asked to have a photo session with the monarch.
The actress didn’t know at the time that she was agreeing to meet her future husband, but she said yes, regardless. She wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity to have her likeness immortalized alongside that of someone in a Royal Family.
Seeing someone else
From the moment that Grace met the Prince, she was enchanted by him. She didn’t envision herself becoming his wife during that meeting, but she wouldn’t have turned down the opportunity. Of course, the actress wasn’t actually single at the time.
She was reportedly in a relationship with fellow actor Jean-Pierre Aumont, although he didn’t stand much of a chance against Rainier III. After the monarch made his intentions towards Kelly apparent, it was clear who had the better chance of winning her heart. She went with the Prince.
Wasting no time
Celebrities rarely waste time when it comes to getting married. If they’ve decided that they want to be with someone, then they tie the knot as soon as possible. That’s apparently something that’s been the case for decades, judging by Grace and Rainier III’s wedding.
The pair became husband and wife just a matter of months after that meeting in Cannes, with their union becoming one of the biggest talking points of the decade. People expected nothing less, given how famous Kelly was at the time of her marriage.
The wedding of the year
Nowadays, we’re somewhat accustomed to royal weddings being a big deal. When people like Charles and Diana or William and Kate tied the knot, millions of people tuned in at home to watch them.
Of course, TVs weren’t as readily available in the ‘50s, although that didn’t stop a reported 30 million from seeing Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly become husband and wife. The event was considered unmissable, with the wedding featuring many reputable guests. Apparently, the likes of Cary Grant and Ava Gardner were on the guest list.
Causing a frenzy
The couple’s wedding is now considered one of the earliest examples of the media going into overdrive over a celebrity. Given Grace’s standing as a Hollywood icon, and the fact that getting married meant giving up her career, it was inevitable that she’d generate press interest.
However, the frenzied response was unprecedented at the time, with almost every publication talking about the special moment. Again, this is something that’s come to be expected with royals, particularly in the modern era. However, it was more unheard of back in the day.
Walking away from everything
If given a choice, it’s unlikely that Grace would have ditched her acting career when getting married. However, becoming a royal has its sacrifices, and this was one of them. Kelly had to decide what meant more to her at the time, and despite her immense success, it was Rainier III who came out on top.
Of course, it wasn’t just her career that the actress had to walk away from. She also had to pack her bags and move to Monaco, abandoning her American citizenship in the process.
Checking her fertility
Not only was Kelly forced to leave her old life behind, but she also had to abide by certain rules. This included taking a fertility test before she and Rainier III even tied the knot. The Prince wanted to ensure that his bride could provide him with an heir, something that’s important to most people in the monarchy.
They want to pass on their genes and ensure that the Royal Family continue to thrive. Luckily for Grace, she had no fertility issues, so Rainier III gave her the green light.
It comes at a price
Perhaps the most outrageous thing Kelly had to do before getting married was to pay her husband a dowry. If Grace wanted to become the Princess of Monaco, she had to offer the right price. It was hardly the most romantic proposition a groom had ever made, but what choice did the actress have?
The Prince could easily find someone else to marry if Kelly wasn’t willing to pay up. Obviously, given her fame and her family’s wealth, money wasn’t an issue. However, that didn’t make Rainier III’s expectations right.
A father’s concerns
One person who wasn’t amused by the Prince’s demands was Grace’s father. After learning that the man expected a dowry, he showed some hesitation. In his eyes, his daughter shouldn’t have to pay someone to love and respect her the way she did for them.
However, despite his objections, the man didn’t stand in the way of Kelly’s marriage. In fact, he handed over $2 million to Rainier III just so his daughter could be happy. If the Prince was who she wanted, who was he to say no?
Obviously, paying a royal for the chance to marry them isn’t something that’s common in every monarchy. However, the Prince felt he had no choice in the matter. When he and Grace met, his country was experiencing a great deal of money trouble.
When Rainier III took over the throne in 1949, he discovered that Monaco’s wealth had suffered after the war. Although the country had once boasted a booming gambling scene, this began falling apart when France established itself as a rival. The Prince desperately needed a solution.
Just when he was at a loss for what to do, Rainier III received some advice from Aristotle Onassis, the future husband of Jackie Kennedy. The man advised the Prince to find a bride with a Hollywood background.
He apparently believed that tying the knot with someone so famous would improve Monaco’s image. More people would visit the country, thereby helping it replenish some of its lost fortune. Rainier III reportedly first set his sights on Marilyn Monroe before turning to Grace after the other star allegedly rejected him.
The plan worked
If that was indeed the Prince’s motivation behind marrying Kelly, then it worked a treat. Having 30 million people tune in to watch the two of them get married was more than Rainier III could have ever dreamed of.
With few women in Hollywood more famous than Grace at the time of their wedding, he couldn’t have picked a better bride. Of course, a marriage built on financial gain alone isn’t enough to sustain a happy life together. Without love, there was no chance of these two working out.
A disillusioned princess
Becoming the Princess of Monaco might have been a thrilling prospect at first, but as time wore on, Grace soon grew tired of her position. She reportedly became incredibly unhappy in her marriage, likely because her husband was not as affectionate as she’d once thought.
He probably made an effort to woo her during their courtship, but once that ring was on her finger, he didn’t need to maintain the illusion anymore. If he really did only care about the money, then he’d already gotten what he needed from her.
Her greatest challenge
Pretty much everyone in Grace’s life knew that her marrying the Prince would change things forever. One of her friends – fashion designer Oleg Cassini – reportedly said that her reason for doing this was because it was “the best script that you[‘ve] ever received in your life.”
It was seen as an exciting new challenge for the actress who’d proven her talent on the big screen. In some ways, she’d already achieved everything during her short time in Hollywood, so now it was time for her to do something different.
Nothing like she’d expected
Unfortunately, while joining the Royal Family of Monaco might have seemed like a glamorous idea at the time, Grace soon realized she’d been fooled. Throughout her engagement, she’d seen the world through rose-colored glasses.
However, as soon as she tied the knot, those were snatched off her face, forcing her to acknowledge what she’d gotten herself into. Apparently, within months of getting married, her husband had already racked up three mistresses, leaving the Princess feeling completely humiliated. That’s according to a book by Wendy Leigh, biographer to the stars.
Behind the illusion
If Grace thought she’d had her greatest acting challenges in Hollywood, she was sorely mistaken. Judith Balaban Quine once claimed that being the Princess of Monaco forced Kelly to “create more illusion than she had as an actress.”
Every day, she had to play the loving wife and loyal Princess, especially when in public. However, the truth behind the scenes was allegedly nothing like what the rest of the world saw. Even having three kids with her husband didn’t change that. In a way, it just made things worse.
Distant from her children
According to the Princess’ children, Grace wasn’t the most loving mother on the planet. Caroline, the oldest of the three offspring, admitted that she typically spent more time with the nanny than her mom.
This wasn’t necessarily out of the ordinary for royals back then, with hands-on parenting only a relatively new concept to the monarchy. However, that doesn’t mean Kelly’s kids appreciated her distance. Caroline especially didn’t like the fact that most of the time she spent with her mom involved her getting punished for one reason or another.
Even Grace herself admitted that she was something of a disciplinarian when it came to her kids. Her own mom had been draconian, so she was simply following in her footsteps. Prince Albert, the couple’s middle child, got off relatively lightly when it came to punishments.
According to the actress, all it took was a “sharp word” to control his behavior. However, Caroline was allegedly spanked “every other day,” with Kelly even saying, “I should have been beating her like a gong long ago.” Talk about extreme parenting.
Offering a second chance
Considering how poised and elegant Grace always seemed, her apparent anger towards her children is certainly quite shocking. Perhaps she was just diverting some of the pain she felt from her marriage onto them. If the rumors are true, then Kelly definitely had a reason to be upset with her situation.
That’s especially given the fact that her husband supposedly stopped all of her attempts to return to acting. Hollywood tried to lure Grace back, but the Prince allegedly wanted her to leave her career firmly in the past.
Hitchcock was one of the people who reportedly tried to approach the actress with a new film offer. He apparently wanted her to play the lead in the psychological thriller film ‘Marnie,’ released in the early ‘60s.
Kelly was said to be excited about taking Alfred up on his offer, but the idea was frowned upon by people back home. There was allegedly such a massive outcry over it that Grace had to back out. Judging by what’s been said about Rainier III, her rejection no doubt appeased him greatly.
Firmly in the past
The Prince of Monaco was apparently so adamant about his wife staying away from Hollywood that he banned her films from being shown in his country. He supposedly wanted her to forget about who she’d been in the past because it wasn’t particularly dignified.
She was a princess now, and so she was expected to act like one. Spending her days on a film set was allegedly considered a waste of time for someone in her position. It’s no wonder that Kelly reportedly wasn’t happy being married to the Prince.
Straight off the road
Hollywood didn’t give up hope that Grace would one day return to do more films. Unfortunately, any chance of her making a comeback vanished entirely in September 1982. The star had been driving home with her youngest daughter, Princess Stéphanie, when she allegedly had a stroke.
Being behind the wheel at the time, Kelly lost control of the car and drove off the side of the road. Her daughter made it out relatively unscathed, but her mother wasn’t quite so fortunate. She ended up on life support in the hospital.
Time to say goodbye
Given the damage that had been done to Grace’s brain, things didn’t look hopeful for the actress. So, the day after the accident, Rainier III chose to take her off life support. It can’t have been an easy decision, regardless of how strained his marriage had allegedly become.
However, considering the extent of her injuries, it was the kindest thing he could do for her. Of course, the loss of a Hollywood icon was hard for the rest of the world to swallow, and her passing sent millions into mourning.
Less than she deserved
For things to end the way they did was far less than what Grace deserved. She should have lived a long and fruitful life, rather than bowing out after being on life support. Of course, there’s no knowing how much worse things might have gotten at home if the accident had never happened.
It’s a shame that her marriage allegedly turned toxic, especially given that Kelly thought the Prince was her only shot at happiness. She supposedly didn’t believe that any other man would be able to handle her fame.
Nothing without love
On the surface, these two seemed like they were the perfect couple. She wanted someone who wouldn’t be intimidated by her popularity, while he wished for a partner who could help finance his country. Their marriage should have been a win-win situation.
However, relationships can only last if there’s real love behind them. From the sounds of it, Rainier III’s affections for his wife were not as strong as hers were for him. That may have been what tore them apart and made their marriage one that’s better off forgotten.