This past April 19th marked the 60th anniversary of Prince Rainier lll and Princess Grace of Monaco’s wedding day. If ever a couple dove head first into a so called fairy tale marriage without checking to see if there was any water in the pool before hand, it was these two. Having met during a Paris Match arranged photo shoot at the Grimaldi palace while Grace was hosting the 1955 Cannes Film Festival, and engaged in a passionate on again, off again affair with French actor Jean Pierre Aumont at the time, she and Rainier exchanged letters over the course of the next 8 months until His Serene Highness flew to Philadelphia, Grace’s hometown where she was celebrating Xmas with her family, and proposed after less than 72 hours in her company. Miss Kelly more than willing accepted.
Needless to write, both parties entered into this betrothal with ulterior motives. Perhaps Gore Vidal, who was working as a screen writer at Metro Goldwyn Mayer, Grace’s Hollywood studio, at the time summed up her reasons best for escaping Tinseltown through means of quasi-royal matrimony when he recalled in his memoir, Palimpsest, a conversation they had at a luncheon shortly before her departure for Monaco. He asked her directly why, after having won the Oscar for best actress and clearly now at the height of her career, would she throw away everything she’s worked so hard for just to go marry and live with a man on the French Riviera whose little more than a glorified casino proprietor. Reminding him what a make up call was, i.e. the time an actress arrived at a studio to be cosmetically made up for whatever film she was performing in at the moment, Grace told Gore that, because she was only 26, hers was still at a reasonable hour in the morning. When she was heavy, however, it would usually be moved up 30 minutes. She then went over a list of actresses whose make up calls were earlier than hers until she concluded with Irene Dunne, a Hollywood veteran, who, by the time Miss Kelly arrived at the lot to be dolled up for the day’s shooting, looked as if she’d sat in her chair the whole of the previous night. Grace then declared she was exiting show business before such a fate befell her!
Truth be told, she had a point. For Grace Kelly, despite her recent Academy Award, had never been, and still isn’t, renown for being a great actress. Her primary allure to the movie ticket buying public was her unmatchable beauty and elegance, attributes that would invariably lessen with time. While still considered an important star, as producer David Brown explained to author Wendy Leigh in her book, True Grace, The Life and Times of an American Princess, Grace’s films nonetheless never made as much money as the truly A-list Hollywood actors at that time, such as Marilyn Monroe, and even by 1956 her studio still didn’t feel her box office draw was strong enough for Grace to play the lead in a major film without a more bankable actor staring alongside her.
Furthermore, as several of her friends and former lovers have pointed out to numerous biographers since her death, Grace was a natural romantic who often lost her reason when swept up in the initial stage of a relationship. She was also a fervent Catholic, as Gore Vidal also pointed out in his memoir, who, despite her privately hypocritical tendency to carry on affairs with married men, longed for a husband and family of her own. When one takes all this into account, it’s understandable why Grace would choose to exchange her acting career for life as the consort of a bonafide prince residing in the requisite beautiful palace. In essence, she was leaving Hollywood in order to play the role of a lifetime.
Prince Rainier lll’s reasons for proposing to Grace Kelly, on the other hand, were far more straight forward and mercenary: his country was on the brink of financial collapse, he needed $2 million to bail it out, and he also needed a wife who could provide a legitimate heir to his throne, thus preventing Monaco from reverting to French rule in accordance with its 1919 treaty with France. By the time Rainier plopped his ever widening ass on his country’s diminutive throne in 1949, Monaco had lost most of the appeal that had once made it the gambling resort of choice among the world’s rich and powerful. After Greek shipping tycoon, Aristotle Onassis, surreptitiously purchased the majority of shares in the principality’s largest holding company, which made him Monaco’s de facto ruler, in the early ’50s, he devised a scheme to put the country back on the map by marrying its ruler to an American movie star. His initial choice for a bride was Marilyn Monroe.
Rainier briefly considered the prospective match, even allowing for private emissaries of Onassis to be sent to Marilyn and sound her out on the idea, at least until 1954, when the collapse of Monaco’s largest financial institution put the principality and its prince on the verge of bankruptcy. His criteria for a prospective bride then changed to include a $2 million dowry that would rescue him from princely penury. Less than a year later fate delivered such a prospective dollar princess to Rainier’s literal door step in the form of Grace Kelly, whose father just happened to be a very wealthy real estate developer willing and able to buy a title for his most famous daughter, when they were introduced at a photo shoot at his palace. The rest is history.
Among the army of photojournalists who accompanied the Kelly family and their entourage aboard the cruise ship that delivered Grace to Monaco was a handsome, worldly, glamorous French man by the name of Walter Carone, on assignment for Paris Match. Grace had met him a year before, in the company of his new wife, but became far more intimately acquainted with him during her pre-wedding voyage. She soon became quite fond of Walter, despite Carone hardly speaking a word of English, and even named her new Weimaraner after him, allowing the photographer to snap some photos of her and her new pet alone on the deck. On the second to the last night of her crossing she invited him, alone among the press, to a private, mostly female party she held in one of the ship’s saloons. Later that evening, Grace allowed Walter to snap some intimate shots of her alone in her cabin. His colleagues later marveled at the warmth and intimacy the photos captured.
On the last night of her voyage Grace’s older sister, Peggy, dropped into her cabin to give her a manicure, then a couple of her bridesmaids stopped by to chat briefly. Other than that, Grace spent that last night aboard the U.S.S. Constitution alone. That, at least, is the official version of what happened. According to Wendy Leigh in True Grace, she spent that final evening in the arms of Walter Carone. Leigh cites Walter’s editor-in-chief at the time, Pepita DuPont, as her source for this revelation. Apparently Monseigneur Carone was more lover than gentleman, he kissed and told, and his shipboard tryst with Grace Kelly became an open secret at the Paris Match offices for years to come.
While Madame DuPont is the sole font of information concerning this claim, it should be noted she not only served as initial matchmaker for Rainier and Grace, setting up the photo shoot that would change both their lives, but she’s been cited as a virtually unimpeachable source by various biographers regarding a multitude of celebrity biographies for decades. Although one of Grace’s bridesmaids, Maree Frisby, completely dismissed the notion that Grace had a “final fling” on that ship when asked about its possibility by Leigh, citing that she was constantly busy and hardly ever alone, one should note Grace’s aforementioned passionate nature, her long proven disregard for the marriage vows of her past lovers, among them Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Ray Milland, Clark Gable, and Don Richardson, et. al., and her love of French men. For not only was she about to marry a French prince and had previously been the amour of Jean Pierre Aumont, but she’d also been briefly betrothed to Francophile fashion designer Oleg Cassini. Their ill fated, momentary engagement might also have resulted in a secret abortion.
Taken all together, it would not have been out of character for Grace to secretly devise an assignation whereby she could spread her legs for one final evening of carnal freedom before a man she hardly knew slipped a ring on it.
Wendy Leigh also interviewed Walter Carone’s widow concerning DuPont’s claim. While she didn’t state it happened, she didn’t deny it either, and cryptically added that her late husband got the distinct impression from Grace that she wasn’t all that happy about getting married, and likely wasn’t in love with her fiancé. Such intimate observations are best gleaned through pillow talk.
Judith Balaban Quine, another one of Grace’s bridesmaids, provides an anecdote concerning the next morning in her memoir The Bridesmaids, that adds a further clue to what might’ve transpired between Grace and Walter the previous evening. The majority of the press, including Carone, were supposed to disembark the ship at Cannes the morning of Grace’s arrival. For some mysterious reason, Walter missed the departure and was still on board ship as it steamed into Monte Carlo. Without a moment to lose, he squeezed his lean yet muscular frame through one of the portholes, dived into the harbor, then swam to the small flotilla of boats his magazine had sent for him. His daring feat was immediately applauded by all who witnessed it. Grace then emerged from her cabin and asked Judith what the commotion was about. When informed, she laughed and then praised the passion of Latin men. According to Pepita DuPont, Grace certainly knew all about that subject.
The U.S.S. Constitution shortly thereafter delivered Grace Kelly safely to her awaiting prince and future subjects, and they were duly married in a resplendent ceremony that was mostly paid for by the bride’s former movie studio, which claimed exclusive rights to media coverage of the event. While Princess Grace attempted to remain faithful to her new husband, at least until she’d delivered him a healthy male heir, Prince Rainier, according to Robert Lacey, James Spada, Gwen Robyns and Darwin Porter among others, never took his marriage vows seriously and immediately began cheating on his new wife with the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, various call girls provided by Madame Claude’s venerable establishment in Paris, etc. Grace soon decided two could easily play at that game and, once again according to Wendy Leigh, resumed her on again, off again affair with Frank Sinatra, an extra marital dalliance that was to last, in fits and starts, for the rest of her life. The story of this affair, perhaps the most significant of all of Princess Grace’s extramarital amours, will be the subject of a forthcoming post.
The author would like to thank all of the readers who patiently awaited this completed post, and have stuck by him through his frequent bouts of laziness. He’ll try to do better. 🙂