Grace Kelly’s family had to pay Prince Rainier III of Monaco a dowry of $2 million for their marriage to proceed

Ian Harvey
Featured image
Getty Images

Before becoming a princess, Grace Kelly was a much-admired actress. She had known early on what she wanted from life and was determined on a career in theater.

Once she began acting in films, she won roles in films like High Noon and was Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite leading lady for a time in Rear Window and To Catch a Thief.

Nonetheless, Kelly gave up her film career at the age of 26 to become Princess of Monaco and wife to Prince Rainier III, 32 years old.

Their story began when Kelly visited the Cannes Film Festival in 1955. While there, she was invited to a photo shoot in the Palace of Monaco with Prince Rainier, who had been on the throne of Monaco for some six years. Royalty is always an exciting prospect. What Kelly almost certainly didn’t realize was that the treasury of Monaco was nearly empty.

After World War II, resort goers didn’t have as much money for gambling in posh casinos as before the war. Prince Rainier was attempting to address the problems in his small principality. That day, despite such obstacles as an electrical strike at Kelly’s hotel, the actress made it on time to the palace, wearing what she later said was a hideous dress with big cabbage roses.

Photo of Grace Kelly.

However, the prince was running late, proving the old adage about royalty: “a prince or princess is never late; the others simply arrived earlier.” Kelly was about to give up on the meeting and leave, but Rainier appeared just before she left and charmingly apologized to the actress for the delay. Supposedly, the prince escorted Kelly through the formal gardens of the palace, stopping by his personal zoo and impressing her by petting a baby tiger.

As they were taking a tour of the palace, Rainier supposedly mentioned his intention to visit America soon, and Kelly certainly didn’t tell him not to.

When she returned to the United States, Kelly started working on a movie titled The Swan, in which she coincidentally played the role of a princess. The movie might have seemed like a message from the universe, telling her that she had finally found a man who wouldn’t be overshadowed by her fame. Allegedly, one of Kelly’s biggest fears was to marry a man who would be referred to as “Mr. Kelly.”

The Kelly family home built by John B. Kelly in 1929, in the East Falls section of Philadelphia. Author: Shuvaev  CC BY-SA 3.0

Although Prince Rainier never admitted that his tour around the United States was arranged in order for him to meet her again, it was obvious that he had fallen for the stunning actress. Only three days after he met Kelly and her family, the prince proposed. Kelly accepted the proposal, and they began to plan the wedding.

Princess Grace and Prince Rainier before Pope John XXIII at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, 1959.

Kelly met the criteria of a princess, with her beauty, poise, culture, and sophisticated manners. Importantly to the royal family of Monaco, she was a Catholic. But there was something else. It’s been reported that Kelly and her family were supposed to provide the prince with a dowry of $2 million in order for the marriage to proceed, providing that amount of money wasn’t a problem for her self-made millionaire father. It was not, and the money was allegedly paid.

Princess Grace of Monaco (1972). Author: Hans Peters   CC BY-SA 3.0

More than 20,000 people lined the streets of Monaco to greet the future princess when Kelly made her way to the palace together with her American family. The wedding was slated for April 19, 1956, and due to the Napoleonic Code of Monaco and the Roman Catholic Church laws, the event had both a civil ceremony and a religious procedure.

The tomb of Grace Kelly. Author: Anneli Salo  CC BY-SA 3.0

Described as “the first modern event to generate media overkill,” the wedding of the century was estimated to have been watched by more than 30 million people.

Read another story from us: John Kelly, Grace Kelly’s father, was one of the most accomplished American rowers

Although the wedding meant a probable end to Kelly’s career, she gave up acting; Kelly became not only a princess but also a wife and a mother of three. Reportedly she was tempted at times to return to acting, and Alfred Hitchcock approached her for the title role of Marnie. But she decided against it. She’d decided to become a princess, and during that time, princesses didn’t act in films.