Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III: The Wedding of the Twentieth Century


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Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III: The Wedding of the Twentieth Century


In April of 1956, Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III of Monaco in two separate ceremonies; a civil ceremony and a traditional church ceremony at Monaco’s Saint Nicholas Cathedral. Kelly and Prince Rainier had made each other’s acquaintance for the first time the year before when she was heading the U.S. delegation at the Cannes Film Festival. She was invited to participate in a photo session taking place in nearby Monaco at the Prince’s Palace. Though Kelly was romantically linked to French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont at the time, she and Prince Rainier became friends and discreetly began a correspondence. They were engaged by the end of the year.

The wedding itself will go down in the history books as one of the most stunning of all time. Grace Kelly’s peau de soie and lace gown was designed by MGM’s Helen Rose, and was famously the most expensive dress that Rose had ever made. It was created over the course of six weeks by over thirty seamstresses. The ensemble included both a head dress and a veil, and Grace carried a pearl-encrusted lace prayer book down the aisle with her.

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When Prince Rainier initially proposed to Grace, he presented her with a Cartier eternity band of diamonds and rubies. The story goes that he realized quite soon thereafter that, among Hollywood starlets, engagement rings were expected to be slightly more impressive. He replaced it with a 10.47 carat emerald cut diamond flanked by two baguettes, also by Cartier.

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Over 600 guests were in attendance and 30 million people are said to have watched the ceremony on television. Their union captured the public’s imagination back then, and it continues to do so now, because it represented what was seemingly a real fairytale come true. A middle class American girl, born in Philadelphia, became a Hollywood starlet, a Princess, and, ultimately, a legend.

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