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Grace Kelly’s Family Paid a Huge Dowry to the Prince of Monaco for their Marriage

Stefan Andrews
(Photo by 3777/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
(Photo by 3777/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Grace Kelly, an epitome of beauty, reinvented her life from a high-class Hollywood actress to becoming Her Serene Highness, the Princess of Monaco, in 1956. She was bestowed with the royal title on her marriage to Prince Rainier III of Monaco at the age of 26; the prince was 32 at the time.

By the time of the wedding, Grace Kelly’s fame was enshrined with pieces such as Fred Zinnemann’s High Noon and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and To Catch a Thief.

Kelly met Rainier on one of her many visits to France. She had fallen in love with the south of the country during filming there for To Catch a Thief. In April 1955, while attending the Cannes Film Festival, Kelly accepted an invitation to appear at the Palace of Monaco for a photo shoot with the prince.

Grace Kelly.

Grace Kelly.

The story goes that her day was a bit hectic. Kelly faced issues with an electrical strike at her hotel and she barely made it on time at the palace. She later also commented that her dress, which had prominent cabbage roses, was a terrible choice of outfit.

Surprisingly, it was Prince Rainier who allegedly showed up late, a moment which occurred once again on their wedding day, a year later. However, on this first meeting, the prince appealingly compensated for being late by giving Kelly a tour around his gardens. He also took her to pet a tiger cub kept at Rainier’s personal zoo.

Grace Kelly in Rear Window. Costume Design by Edith Head.

Grace Kelly in Rear Window. Costume Design by Edith Head.

The pair continued to communicate once Grace Kelly was back in the U.S. There, she resumed her acting duties for a remake of the 1925 film The Swan, which proved to be Kelly’s penultimate role. Perhaps it was a conspiracy of the universe that her character was that of a princess in The Swan.

At the end of 1955, it was now Rainier’s turn to visit Kelly in the U.S. From then on, everything happened fast. It took three days for the families of Kelly and Rainier to agree on a union between two families. The news that Kelly and Rainier were engage was shared in early January 1956 at a special press conference held at Kelly’s estate.

Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace arrive at the White House for a luncheon, May 24, 1961.

Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace arrive at the White House for a luncheon, May 24, 1961.

Plans were quickly forged for the royal wedding day. Marriage has many traditions, and for European aristocracy, it is customary for the bride’s family to pay a dowry. The proposed sum was an astonishing $2 million.

The amount was unbearable for Jack Kelly, Grace Kelly’s father, a self-made millionaire with a lucrative brick manufacturing business and who was known for winning two Olympic golds for rowing.

He was not happy to provide the amount though. According to the Telegraph, he allegedly commented “My daughter doesn’t have to pay any man to marry her.” Grace Kelly persuaded her father to relent.

Another rumor goes that Grace herself covered half the dowry with her own money. The sum was used to settle expenses for the wedding and also set up the Princess Grace Foundation.

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

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

And it was not only the dowry.

Grace Kelly was bringing both fame and fortune to Monaco with the wedding. She helped place the little European monarchy back on the map of the world, in times when its gambling havens overlooking the Mediterranean coast were crippled with losses. This followed increased competition at the Riviera following the end of World War II.

Glamorous Hollywood leading Ladies Quotes.

The royal wedding took place on April 18th and 19th, 1956, with two ceremonies, a civil and religious one. Monaco braced itself for a week full of festivities ahead of the wedding.

Grace Kelly appeared in a pale pink wedding gown for the big day. Her iconic dress, a design of Helen Rose, was a gift from MGM Studios. The royal groom appeared in a traditional gleaming military uniform made specially for the ceremony. Contrary to other royal wedding ceremonies, it was Grace Kelly who arrived first, before the exceptionally nervous Rainier.

The Prince and Princess of Monaco arrive at the White House for a luncheon, 1961.

The Prince and Princess of Monaco arrive at the White House for a luncheon, 1961.

Members of royal families from around the world along with stars of the likes of Ava Gardner were on prestigious guest list. Crowds of people flocked on the streets to see the procession.

MGM was also granted rights to film the entire show, which resulted in the release titled The Wedding of Monaco. It was later shown in theaters, largely contributing to the enduring popularity of the Hollywood-Monaco matrimony.

After the rush and turbulence of the wedding, Kelly and Rainier enjoyed a nearly two-month-long honeymoon yachting their way around the Mediterranean Sea.

Grace Kelly in 1956.

Grace Kelly in 1956.

For a while, royal life suited Princess Grace well. She found meaningful time in supporting charities and a school of ballet. But not everything was milk and honey. By the early 1960s, she had survived two miscarriages and was supposedly tired of her duties as a Princess Consort. And she missed her acting career.

Read another story from us: Little Edie, Jackie Kennedy’s cousin lived 20 years in a mansion isolated from the world

She was close to obtaining a new role, but the plan never came to fruition. In 1962, when Hitchcock offered her a role in his next film, Marnie, Princess Grace accepted (she was allowed to by her spouse), but other fellow Monégasques found it a terrible idea, unfit for royals?

With or without new roles, the partnership between Grace Kelly and her prince endured. And Monaco, the little kingdom on the Mediterranean, was back on its feet, better than ever after the war.