This upcoming April 29th, at a very early hour for those of us in North America, will be the anticipated nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton. It’s expected to be a very lavish affair that nearly a billion people from around the world will watch on TV. It’s also being touted as the wedding of the 21st century. (Sorry Charles and Camilla, and Harry and whomever you marry – no one really cares about you.)
In the 1900s, the “wedding of the century” was that of William’s parents, Prince Charles and Lady Diana. As we all know, it wasn’t a true fairytale (which is what everyone loves about royal weddings), and unfortunately ended in tragedy with a divorce and Princess Diana dying in a car accident in Paris.
Before Charles and Di, the another “wedding of the century” was that of Prince Rainier of Monaco and Hollywood screen star Grace Kelly, which took place on April 18, 1956 (two weddings of the century?).
Grace Kelly was an American actress who appeared in over 40 television episodes and starred in over 10 major Hollywood films, including three Hitchcock movies – Dial M for Murder, Rear Window and To Catch a Thief. She also won an Academy Award for her performance in The Country Girl. It’s an incredible feat considering she only acted in Hollywood for six years. The reason? She left it all for the princess life.
Unlike Kate Middleton, Princess Grace did not become so via a long courtship beginning in university, but with a film festival and a quick wooing. In April of 1955, Kelly headed to the Cannes Film Festival US delegation to promote her recent films. While there, she was scheduled to participate in a photo shoot at the Palace of Monaco with Prince Rainier III. They met, took some photos and then parted ways.
Kelly went back to the US to film another movie where she portrayed a princess (foreshadowing?). Secretly, she kept in contact with Prince Rainier and began a relationship by means of correspondence. At the time, Rainier was desperate to marry and procreate so Monaco would not have to resort back to France, as per the Monaco Succession Crisis of 1918. He was also smitten with Kelly’s screen presence.
In December of 1955, Rainier made a trip to the US, where he kept his intentions for Kelly under wraps. He met the entire Kelly family and proposed three days later. A few months later, Kelly, her family and guests travelled across the Atlantic Ocean. Apparently over 400 reporters tried to apply to sail with the group, but were turned away (it was so much easier to control the paparazzi in the past).
On April 18, 1956, the civil ceremony took place in the Monaco Palace and was watched by over 30 million people on television. Six hundred guests were invited, including proper royalty from around the world and Hollywood royalty.
Like Princess Diana, as well the future Princess Kate, Kelly relinquished her career and began a life of service and charity. She had three children with Rainer – two girls and a boy. She lived in Monaco with her husband for the rest of her life, which was unfortunately not very long. In September of 1982, at the early age of 52, Kelly was driving home to Monaco from France with her daughter when she suffered a stroke, crashed her car and died.
Princess Diana and Princess Grace were both predominantly in the public eye, both style icons and both passed away much too early – ironically both in car accidents in France. They both had weddings of the century with audience numbers comparable to that of country populations. So far, Kate has become a style icon, has been in the public eye probably more than she likes and will have an audience that will surpass both Diana and Grace’s weddings combined. Hopefully her life does not reach the same tragic end. If I could offer one piece of advice for Kate Middleton, it would be to stay away from driving around in France.
I was not around when Grace Kelly wed Prince Rainier and I was much too young to care about Lady Diana and Prince Charles’ wedding, so I am somewhat looking forward to the upcoming wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. It will be quite the event, and I hope it fulfills the ideal of a royal wedding – not only for the ceremony, but all the way through the marriage as well.
Are you looking forward to the wedding? Do you think there is too much hype? Let us know.