The monarchy of Monaco during the 20th century constitutes one of the most glamorous - and tragic - stories of any Royal Family of the time, featuring a displaced Hollywood starlet and a fatal car accident which left lasting emotional scars. This emotional scarring is on a par with that of the Spanish Royal Family albeit for very different reasons.
Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, was born on 31st May 1923 - the first prince born in a Monaco palace since 1758 - to parents Princess Charlotte of the Grimaldi dynasty and Count Pierre, who had married into the Monaco royals.
Prince Rainier’s school life saw him travelling the world as an international student, attending schools in England, Switzerland and France before joining the French army in 1944. He served under General de Monsabert as a second lieutenant and saw action in the Second World War when he fought against the German counter-offensive in Alsace.
On 31st May 1944 - Prince Rainier III’s 21st birthday - his mother Princess Charlotte renounced her claim to the throne, thereby paving the way for Rainier to succeed his grandfather - and then ruler of Monaco - Prince Louis II. Prince Louis II died on 9th May 1949 in a Monaco palace, and Prince Rainier III became the 31st hereditary ruler of the principality at the young age of 25.
Left with a rather empty treasury after years of Monaco’s financial neglect, Prince Rainier III sought to turn around Monaco’s fortunes by modernising the principality. Rainier set about promoting Monaco as a tax haven - for which it remains well known today - as well as promoting it as a hub for business, property development and tourism.
Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis gained control of the company that owned the Monte Carlo Casino - among other leisure establishments - and sought to rebrand Monaco solely as an international gambling resort. However, Prince Rainier wrested control of Société des bains de mer de Monaco from Onassis in 1964 and was thereby able to ensure he had control of Monaco’s future - although it remains a prominent gambling resort to this day.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Rainier’s modern tastes were also reflected in his personal life, as he courted a major star of the silver screen: French actress Gisele Pascal. The relationship came to an acrimonious end, however, and it was an even more famous actress who won his hand in marriage.
Prince Rainier III met the renowned American actress Grace Kelly in 1955 while she was in Monaco promoting Alfred Hitchock’s To Catch A Thief, waiting to take part in a photocall at a Monaco palace in preparation for her trip to Cannes Film Festival. After a year-long courtship - and some considerable hesitation on the part of Grace Kelly - she agreed to marry Prince Rainier and become Princess Grace of Monaco. Learn more about Princess Grace in True Royalty TV’s