Sunday, October 24, 2010

Early Troubles for Grace

Everyone knows the story. A famous American movie star, a Mediterranean prince, a glamorous little monarchy on the coast, vacation spot for the rich and royal and a genuine romance. It all sounds wonderful doesn’t it? Of course, all of that is true and all of that was wonderful but, of course, there was more to it as there always is and life was not all cakes and ale for Princess Grace of Monaco when she arrived in her new home on the Riviera. She married, first of all, into a family in conflict, something she got the first hints of when she arrived for her wedding. Prince Rainier filled in the details on their honeymoon. His mother did not get along with his father, Rainier did not get along with his sister Antoinette and Princess Antoinette didn’t get along with anyone. Aristotle Onassis was in a subtle struggle with Rainier over control of Monaco and very few were enthusiastic about Princess Grace at the outset.

Prince Rainier was attacked on behalf of Grace with accusations that the whole match had been nothing but a publicity stunt on his part and there was prejudice against Grace because of her American background and as yet imperfect French. Family and staff would often speak French when Grace was around knowing she could not understand them; making snide remarks. Princess Grace tried to make herself a part of the circles of her husband but she was treated rather coldly in the beginning. When she began redecorating the Princely Palace there was plenty of criticism about her taste. Too American they said, too Hollywood they said. However, grumbling was about all they could do as Prince Rainier took the side of his wife in everything. She was to have things the way she liked it and that was that. However, Prince Rainier was extremely busy, the weight of ruling a country on his shoulders, and he had less time to devote to his wife than either of them would have liked.

Princess Grace was often lonely in these early days. She took time to study the history of Monaco, the House of Grimaldi and was particularly interested in the previous American Princess of Monaco and took her as something of an example to follow at least so far as bringing art and culture to Monaco. While her husband devoted himself to the business of government she would devote herself to adding style, class and refinement to Monegasque life. Still, with the other high society ladies giving her the cold shoulder, it was difficult to get started. It is to her credit that she never let it show in public how much this bothered her. She accepted the situation and went ahead as she thought best. If there were those who would criticize her in any event, she would not bother with them. She even did her best to smooth relations amongst the Grimaldi family, keeping the lines of communication open even after the rivalry between Princess Antoinette and Prince Rainier reached its apex in what some have described as an attempted palace coup.

In time, Princess Grace carved out her niche in spite of the ill will of many around her. Supporting the opera, the theatre and the ballet while also developing new ways to help the less fortunate Princess Grace made charity fashionable. However, even after she had settled in, had two children and achieved a level of domestic tranquility, criticism came from her own homeland. When Prince Rainier suspended the constitution in 1959 the claims that the Prince was being a tyrant from the press in the United States hurt Princess Grace deeply and she did not hesitate to defend her husband, pointing out that the Prince was ruling on his own for a short time only to put things in order, make necessary changes and that it would all ultimately lead to a more free and beneficial society in the future. Of course, she was right. It is also fairly well known that there were problems for the Princely couple over the desire of Princess Grace to resume her film career, at least to some limited extent. In this, Prince Rainier is often portrayed as the ‘bad guy’ but he finally gave in to the wishes of his wife and it was the Monegasque public that was more opposed to the idea than even he was. This was not out of any malice toward Princess Grace, who had by this time become quite popular (though the ordinary folk had mostly loved her from the start) but simply out of a natural selfishness. They did not want to share their princess with anyone.

In the end, of course, Princess Grace triumphed over them all. Steadily, quietly but firmly, she charted her own course and with her and Rainier supporting each other she asserted her authority as the first lady of the country. Perhaps people had become too used to consorts who came and went or were rarely seen at all. Whatever the case, it says a lot that Princess Grace was treated rather coldly at the start by the society elites in Monaco and yet went on to become probably the most beloved Princess of Monaco in all the seven centuries of Grimaldi rule. Things were not always easy for her, nor was she spared her share of troubles and heartaches, yet she succeeded more brilliantly and completely than any and all others who had gone before her; becoming quite literally a legend in her own time.


  1. It might surprise some that even a princess as beloved as Grace encountered hostility in certain circles.

  2. And it will be bigger challenges that will face Charlene Wittstock -- the very idea of taking over Grace whom the Monegasques have not really gotten over yet. I hope she will find the strength and courage to be the best wife and Princess she can be, and make her own mark as the Princess of Monaco.

  3. whom the Monegasques have not really gotten over yet. I hope she will find the strength and courage to be the best wife and Princess she can be, and make her own mark as the Princess of Monaco.


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