Before Charles and Diana, William and Kate, or Harry and Meghan, there was another royal coupling that was lauded around the globe: that of the Hollywood megastar, Grace Kelly, and the dashing European prince, Rainier III of Monaco. Theirs was a somewhat unlikely union: introduced via mutual friends during the 1955 Cannes Film Festival, they had very little in common. After all, she was from a middle class American background, raised in Philadelphia and earning her living on the screen, while he was the head of state for a tiny, at that time largely forgotten, principality. Yet something clicked, and a year into their romance, the couple announced that they were engaged.
The Kelly effect was immediately evident in Monaco. Upon her arrival, she was greeted by 20,000 well-wishers — out of the 23,000 who lived in the principality. Ever stylish, she came with 80 pieces of luggage, full of chic ensemble after chic ensemble for her new role as a princess. The first major look she debuted was at the civil ceremony, wearing a suit custom-made for her by long-time collaborator Helen Rose, a costume designer for MGM Studios. Featuring delicate floral embroidery in a cream and pink hue, it epitomized the elegant, refined style that would be her royal signature. Later that evening, the couple celebrated at the Monaco Opera, with Kelly slipping into a silk Lanvin gown, in a nod to her new French neighbors.
On April 19, Hollywood stars and high society gathered en masse at Monaco’s Saint Nicholas Cathedral, including Aristotle Onassis, Conrad Hilton, Egypt’s former King Farouk, Randolph Churchill and Ava Gardner, while 30 million viewers watched it live from home. Her gown, another designed by Helen Rose, has gone down in history as one of the most inspirational wedding dresses ever. Featuring a high-neck and long sleeves, with a 10.5-foot long train, its bodice was made using Brussels lace, with pearl-encrusted buttons, while the skirt was taffeta. In a break from royal bridal tradition, Kelly did not wear a tiara: instead, she secured her veil with a Juliet cap.
During the wedding breakfast, guests were treated to lobster, caviar and a six-tier wedding cake by the Hotel de Paris’s pastry chefs, from which two live turtle doves were released after Rainier sliced through it with his sword. The couple then left in a Rolls-Royce, a gift from their subjects, and sailed away on their honeymoon on board Deo Juvante II, a gift from Aristotle Onassis.
Originally published in Tatler.com