Grace Kelly’s Life In Pictures: The history of Hollywood’s untouchable princess

From actress to princess, trace the rise of the ever enigmatic Grace Kelly

Today Grace of Monaco opens in cinemas, with Nicole Kidman in the title role.

The film has attracted mixed reviews from critics and has been outright slated by the the royal Monégasques, who released the following statement:

“The princely family does not in any way wish to be associated with this film, which reflects no reality, and regrets that its history has been misappropriated for purely commercial purposes.”

So if Nicole Kidman’s doesn’t shed enough insight into one of the world’s most famous and pored-over princesses, who was the seemingly serene woman behind the status and glamour?


Grace Kelly’s rise to royalty wasn’t an endearing rags-to-riches story. She was born to an affluent, happy family in Philadelphia, the third of four children. Her parents were both highfliers;  her mother was the first woman to head the Physical Education Department at the University of Pennsylvania and her father was an Olympic gold-winning sculler, who made his money through his construction company which became the largest such enterprise on the East Coast. Later, President Roosevelt appointed him as National Director of Physical Fitness. Grace Kelly, aged 12 in 1941

So far, so comfortable. Kelly was sent to the best schools, but surprised her parents by deciding to go into acting, which they deemed “a slim cut above streetwalker”. She persevered and started in theatre, before television and eventually film, making her cinema debut with High Noon where she starred alongside Gary Cooper.

A seven-year contract with MGM followed, and director John Ford said that the young actress showed “breeding, quality and class”. She went onto captivate audiences through her performances in High Society, Mogambo, To Catch A Thief and Rear Window. She only featured in 11 films during her entire career, yet still successfully attained icon status even today. Kelly was the reason for Alfred Hitchcock’s love of cool, reserved blondes, captured on screen by the long-suffering Tippi Hedren.

Beautiful, remote and graceful, she remained an enigma, earning her the unfavourable title of ‘ice princess’. Kelly with Clark Cable in 1953 on the set of Mogambo

There has been much speculation over her love life and prior to her marriage. She is rumoured to have had romances with several of her leading men, many of whom were married (allegedly including David Niven and Ray Milland). She also had a dalliance with the debonair Clark Cable, who she met on the set of Mogambo.

“What else is there to do if you're alone in a tent in Africa with Clark Gable?” she once asked.

But then she met Prince Rainier III of Monaco while in Cannes for the film festival in 1955. She was, at that point, a Hollywood star, and Rainier was entranced, so they set into motion a formal courtship. The couple were married in April 1956, with guests including Cary Grant, Ava Gardner and David Niven.

The event was recorded and played in cinemas, which freed her from her acting contract. She dropped film-making altogether in a bid to become a full-time princess. Rainier banned her films from showing in Monaco and she was forced to reject an offer from Hitchcock to star in Marnie after public outcry in Monaco that a princess should do such a thing. Prince Rainier III of Monaco and US actress and princess of Monaco Grace Kelly on their wedding day in 1956

Her marital happiness is also a subject of controversy. There have been rumours of Rainier’s infidelity and of Kelly’s isolation and loneliness: a bird in a gilded cage-type situation. Nothing, however, was ever publicly confirmed.

As far as the facts go, Kelly led the life most respecting royals are seen to – one of abject glamour, decorum and poise, albeit at the cost of total freedom. She busied herself with charity work and became one of the first high-profile names to support and speak on behalf of La Leche League, an organisation that advocates breastfeeding.

As we all know, Kelly’s life ended prematurely in 1982 – in a car accident after she suffered a stroke. Her youngest daughter, Stephanie, was in the vehicle too at the time, although she survived. Kelly’s funeral was watched by 100million around the world. Prince Rainier and daughter Princess Caroline attending the funeral of Kelly on 18 September 1982 in Monaco cathedral

“Grace brought into my life, as she brought into yours, a soft, warm light every time I saw her, and every time I saw her was a holiday of its own,” said actor James Stewart in his eulogy. Prince Rainier III of Monaco, Princess Grace and their children Prince Albert, Princess Caroline (L) and Princess Stephanie (C) in Monte Carlo, 1976

But perhaps the secret to Kelly’s appeal is her mysteriousness; we’ll never find out if she was at heart a promiscuous actress who was suppressed by royalty, or whether she determinedly wanted such status all along. She was as far from ordinary as there could possibly be and few famous faces today manage such elegance and reserve.

Kelly is still, as she was then, untouchable.

Read more: Review: Grace of Monaco
What made Grace Kelly such a star?
Weddings and movie stars: A fairy tale romance?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?