Grace Kelly transforms into Princess Grace in what was the first ‘televised’ wedding of the century. Rare wedding video footage remains in archives like these silent movie clips:
The wedding of Grace Kelly to Prince Rainier was covered by all the media of the day. News outfits created their own news within the media circus – like this recently republished article from the Vancouver Sun:
On April 18, 1956, Grace Kelly of Philadelphia married Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand Grimaldi of Monaco.
It was a big deal. So big that The Vancouver Sun dispatched its consumer columnist, Penny Wise, to Monaco to cover the nuptials in her “colourful style.”
Wise arrived a few days early and found the “happy, heir-expecting, tax-free people of Monaco” turning their tiny principality “inside out and upside down” to greet Kelly.
“They wanted to present (Monaco’s) most beautiful face to ‘la belle American,’ upon whom the hopeful Monegasques pin all their faith of remaining the carefree country they are at present,” Wise related.
Wise was referring to a popular belief that Monaco would lose its independence and revert to French sovereignty if Prince Rainier did not produce an heir. The tiny, two-square-kilometre principality had been independent for centuries, funded by Europe’s most famous casino.
The marriage of a Hollywood star to a European prince was dubbed “the marriage of the century” in the U.S. But the cynics in the British press were less impressed, noting how most European royalty chose to attend a rival royal wedding in Seefeld, Germany, between Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and Countess Helen of Toerring-Jettenbach.
“Anybody who is anybody in Europe — including 84 princes and princesses, 14 dukes and two duchesses, four archdukes and countless other titled heads — attended the Seefeld affair,” said a wire story.
The lack of royal guests at the Kelly/Grimaldi wedding led the British press to dub it “the snub of the century.” But the shortage of bluebloods at local hotels was covered by a horde of 1,800 newspaper types.
Wise didn’t manage to land an interview with Grace or Rainier, but she did talk her way onto Aristotle Onassis’s yacht, where she was dazzled by his first wife Tina (Athina Livanos). “Despite reports that a driving accident disfigured her for life, her face is positively lovely, not only in feature but its expression of softness and understanding,” reported Wise, whose real name was Evelyn Caldwell.
On the Onassis yacht, Wise met Winston Churchill’s son Randolph.
“As amiable as his father, the son posed graciously for a picture with me and Aristotle Onassis while watching some noisy speedboat races in Monaco harbour from the yacht,” said Wise.
The picture of Wise with Onassis and Churchill doesn’t seem to have run in the paper. But there was a great shot of Wise trying on one of the giant gilt crowns that were mounted on poles along the streets.
Grace and Rainier actually had two weddings — a small civil wedding at Rainier’s palace on April 18, and a larger church wedding for the masses at the Cathedrale de Monaco on the 19th. Penny Wise talked her way into the latter.
“Rainier III, true prince of Monaco, took Grace Patricia Kelly, top-notch movie star of the U.S.A., to be his wedded wife in the eyes of the church as well as the law today,” Wise wrote. “At one moment, tears coursed uncontrollably down Grace’s cheeks. (But) neither the ethereal bride nor her princely groom permitted themselves the customary indulgence of even one smile as they walked down the aisle after the 70-minute Roman Catholic nuptial ritual.”
“Grace was almost too beautiful for description,” said Wise. “Her left hand, ungloved, lay calmly on the wrist of her father and her eyes were demurely down, faintly veiled by the tulle draping from her Juliet cap of rose-point lace wreathed with orange blossoms and embroidered with tiny pearls.
Guests included Hollywood stars Ava Gardner, Gloria Swanson and David Niven, author Somerset Maugham, hotelier Conrad Hilton and future French president Francois Mitterrand. MGM broadcast the ceremony around the world, where it was watched by an estimated 30 million people.
The Sun ran two pages of photos along with Wise’s stories. It also put together a map to show how small Monaco is — the principality fit into the bottom half of Stanley Park.
Here is an unreleased home movie saved from the dust of a private collection. It was shot on the 19th April 1956 and it shows the day a family spent in the French Riviera, mostly in Monaco, to be present at the wedding of the century.