Grace Patricia Kelly was an Academy Award-winning American film and stage actress and fashion icon; however, she is, perhaps, best known for her marriage to Rainier III, Prince of Monaco in 1956, when she became Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco, or Grace, Princess of Monaco. The principality's current Sovereign Prince, Albert II, is the son of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. Despite this royal marriage, the American Film Institute ranked Kelly #13 among the "Greatest Female Stars of All Time." And, in 1993, Princess Grace became the first U.S. actress to appear on a U.S. postage stamp.
Grace Patricia Kelly was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to John (Jack) Brendan Kelly, Sr. son of Irish immigrants and Margaret Katherine Majer Kelly. She was named after her father's sister, Grace, who died at a young age. Because of low mathematics scores while attending the prestigious Ravenhill Academy, Kelly was rejected by Bennington College in July 1947. To the dismay of her mother, Kelly decided to pursue her dreams of a career in the theater. This decision was based upon her experiences in the theater and as a model. Kelly made her film debut in a small role in the 1951 film Fourteen Hours. Despite offers to star in more films, Kelly turned down these offers to continue with theater. She was performing in Colorado’s notable Elitch Gardens when she received a telegram from Hollywood producer Stanley Kramer, who offered her the starring role opposite Gary Cooper in High Noon. Kelly starred in a total of eleven films, among them three Alfred Hitchcock films - Dial M for Murder, Rear Window and To Catch a Thief.
Kelly met Prince Rainier when she headed the U.S. delegation at the Cannes Film Festival in April 1955. When she returned to America, she began a correspondence with Rainier. Rainier visited the U.S. in December that year, and met with Kelly and her family, and after three days, the prince proposed. Kelly accepted and the families began preparing for what the press called "The Wedding of the Century." The wedding was set for April 19, 1956.
The news was a sensation, as it was assumed that Kelly could not continue with her film career as Rainier's wife. Wedding preparations were elaborate, and the media made it a sensation. In Monaco, more than twenty thousand people greeted her arrival. That same year, MGM released Kelly's final film, High Society.
Princess Grace suffered a stroke on September 13, 1982, while driving with her daughter Stephanie to Monaco from their country home. This stroke caused her to drive her automobile off the road and down a mountainside. She was pulled alive, but unconscious, from the wreckage and died the following day without ever regaining consciousness. Her daughter suffered a serious cervical fracture. Princess Grace was buried in the Grimaldi family vault on September 18, 1982, after a requiem mass in Saint Nicholas Cathedral, Monaco. Prince Rainier, who did not remarry after Kelly's death, was buried alongside her following his death in 2005. Her funeral drew 400 guests and nearly 100 million people worldwide watched her funeral on television.
Image: Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco at Expo '67.