On a rise with a view of the Leg of Mutton Lake in County Mayo, Ireland, lay weather-beaten foundation stones that mark where a cottage once stood. Grace and her husband first visited the spot that was her family’s ancestral home in 1961. The couple purchased it along with the surrounding 35 acres in 1976 and planned to build a vacation house there.
When she married Rainier, Grace, then 26, understood that she needed to embrace a new life of duty and devotion, but she hadn’t anticipated the loss of privacy and the loneliness of the role. But true to her name, she handled her heartaches with dignity and drew on her inner strength to grow into her marriage and motherhood.
In the same way that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding became a media affair, 30 million people around the world tuned in to watch the Philadelphia-bred Oscar-winning actress marry the ruler of the tiny European principality of Monaco on April 18, 1956. “When Grace got married, she did it on her own terms,” says Jorgensen. “She waited for the man who was essentially her equal and then became a fairly modern princess.”
But to become a part of the Monaco royal family, Grace had to relinquish her financial independence. A new documentary Grace Kelly: The Missing Millions reveals that she had to pay a $2 million dowry to the House of Grimaldi before her wedding, depleting her acting fortune and her family inheritance. But in time, the To Catch a Thief actress grieved more for the loss of her privacy than her money.
“Even in Hollywood, my private life was pretty much my own,” she once said. “When I married, my private life became public, and I really had no privacy at all, and that was an adjustment to make.” And being Princess of Monaco, despite its European charm, was not very luxurious. “In those days, Monaco was a backwater. The electricity and plumbing were 19th century French. Even the telephones didn’t work,” says Jeffrey Robinson, author of Grace of Monaco: The True Story, to Closer.
After their honeymoon, Grace plunged into busy court life. “There were obligations, and she had to meet people and shake hands. They all spoke French, and she only spoke English. It was a lonely life,” Robinson shares with Closer, as Joan Dale, author of My Days With Princess Grace of Monaco, adds: “I am sure there were times when she felt somewhat like a prisoner in a gilded cage behind the palace walls.”
Learning French and becoming a mother helped a little. Princess Caroline’s birth in 1957 was followed by Prince Albert a year later and then Princess Stephanie in 1965. Still, the High Society star’s royal duties rarely stopped. “Once I had to leave the baby when she was very tiny and travel,” she has recalled. “From the time the train left till it reached its destination, I never stopped crying.”
An opportunity to reclaim a bit of her old life emerged in 1962 when her old friend, director Alfred Hitchcock, invited Grace to star in Marnie — but public opinion in Monaco stopped her from accepting. “Rainier was agreeable to it, but Grace decided because of the big outcry, it shouldn’t be done,” says Jorgensen.
It’s likely that she felt disappointed, but Grace’s sworn duty to her new country, her love for her husband and her happiness over their children occupied her time. Before her death in a car accident in 1982, she even found an outlet for her acting by doing public poetry readings. “She would do these tours to raise money for charity,” Jorgensen recalls to Closer. “Chances are, had she lived, she may have done a lot more and we may have finally seen her in a film again.”
Grace also longed to build her private getaway in Ireland. “Somewhere we can go as often as possible and have complete privacy and spend time walking and exploring that lovely part of Ireland,” she once wistfully said. Of course, it was not to be. The Dial M for Murder alum didn’t live “happily ever after,” although she made the most of her 52 years. “I certainly don’t think of my life as a fairy tale,” she said. “I think of myself as a modern, contemporary woman who has had to deal with all kinds of problems that many women today have to deal with.”
She always felt that her true legacy would be her family, not her time in Hollywood or as royalty. “I think mostly in terms of my children and how they will remember me,” the High Noon actress said. “I would like to be remembered as trying to do my job well, being understanding and kind.”
BY CLOSER STAFF