28 September 2011

Grace Grimaldi née Kelly

Grace Kelly made eleven films, won an Academy Award and then retired from acting to become Her Serene Highness the Princess of Monaco. Her husband, Rainier III, was dubbed “The Builder Prince,” so it’s no surprise that after her tragic death, he erected shrines to his late wife all over the principality. This was undoubtedly done in tribute and as a way for Monacans to remain connected to their princess – but I would be shocked if he wasn’t also thinking of the tourist draw. The Princess Grace rose garden, where this statue stands, is perhaps the prettiest Grace Kelly attraction.
There is a 'Princess Grace Trail" set up around the country, marking significant locations in her life as princess with large information panels and photographs. Where she was greeted by 20,000 people upon arrival for her wedding. Where she cut a ribbon at the opening of this or that. None of them are terribly interesting or offer any incite into her daily life in Monaco, but they are a draw nonetheless. Tour groups walk from one point to the next, snatching up postcards with photos from her Hollywood days - something that’s pretty ironic, considering that her movies are banned in Monaco, a law set into place by Rainier right after the wedding and which remains in place today.
Her grave is the third biggest tourist attraction in Monaco, after the palace and the Monte Carlo. Tourists circle around the very pretty cathedral near the palace, waiting for their glimpse of Grace Kelly. For a lot of people, she’s the reason they even know that Monaco is its own country with its own royal family. If Grace Kelly had married the prince of Liechtenstein, I’m sure more people would be able to point to it on a map. But that was the whole point. Most people believe that Prince Rainier chose her to increase tourism to his little-known and (at the time) cash-strapped country. Mission accomplished.
To free her from her MGM contract, Prince Rainier gave the movie studio exclusive access and distribution rights to their wedding. Like I said, that Rainier was a thinker. The only acting work she was allowed, once princess, were narrations of charity documentaries and the basic theatricality of her royal duties. Nonetheless, a theater was named after her, as well as a foundation to support emerging artists. The Princess Grace Theater is one of the quainter buildings on Port Hercule.
For the record, Princess Grace never actually changed her last name to Grimaldi. She remained Grace Kelly until the end. No matter how hard Prince Rainier tried to erase her former life from her public profile, she remains Grace Kelly, the Hollywood icon first and foremost and The Princess of Monaco, secondarily. Even if she did provide Monaco with the heir it needed in order not to fall back under the French rule (true fact), it simply is not her best known role. But glamor is part of Monaco's cachet, right? And what could possibly be more glamorous than a movie star princess.

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