On 6th May 1955, Prince Rainier III of Monaco and American Hollywood star Grace Kelly would meet, beginning a love story which would inspire a generation seeking true love. They were to be engaged seven months later, marrying the following April. But how did the pair first meet?
The day that Grace Kelly was to meet Prince Rainier for the first time started rather differently to the fairytale that it is so often painted to be. She was on the France Riviera for the then-fledgeling Cannes Film Festival. She had travelled to present The Country Girl, a film for which she had won the Academy Award for Best Actress just weeks previously.
The Prince had suggested two meetings which the would-be Princess had to decline due to other engagements at the festival. Third-time lucky, she visited the Prince’s Palace of Monaco for a tour and a photocall with Prince Rainier III on the afternoon of 6th May 1955.
That day, a power cut caused by striking workers in Cannes meant there was a power outage in her hotel, the Carlton. With little opportunity to do her makeup or hair, even iron an outfit, she rushed to the Palace, a crowd of paparazzi following her as she went.
The American star and her entourage arrived late to the Palace due to a small road accident along the way, so they toured most of the Palace’s 225 grandiose rooms without the Prince. He arrived in time to take them around his private zoo before Grace Kelly had to return to Cannes for another engagement.
The meeting was immortalised by Michel Simon, photographer for French weekly magazine Paris Match, and the Irish photographer Edward Quinn, who had long been working on the French Riviera. The photographs by these two privileged witnesses were displayed together for the very first time last year on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of Grace Kelly’s birth.
When the Prince eventually met Kelly and her entourage that day, he and the star walked ahead of the group, chatting privately. On the way home, she was said to have described him as “charming”.
Their private correspondence was kept well-away from the press, this first meeting having started a romance which would span the Atlantic. After seven months of writing letters to each other, Prince Rainier sailed across the ocean to propose to Kelly during Christmas 1955. They married just four months later in Monaco.
British Golden-age actress Olivia de Havilland played a role in orchestrating the meeting. Having bumped into Grace Kelly on an overnight train from Paris to Cannes, she suggested the pair meet, as her husband, Pierre Galante (journalist with Paris Match), had a connection with the Sovereign.
“I’m tempted to think it was destiny,” she said in an exclusive interview to PEOPLE magazine. “It was an idea that struck [Pierre] for the first time while dining on the train after he learned Grace Kelly was a fellow passenger. My husband had been born in Nice. He suggested the meeting between Grace and Rainier at dinner with Paris-Match editor-in-chief Gaston Bonheur, en route to Cannes.”
The couple had three children in their 26-year long marriage, ended all too soon after Princess Grace’s untimely death in 1982.