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For decades, Grace Kelly’s life was considered the stuff of real-life fairytales; a story which a certain generation could tell their children about: the Hollywood actress who became a princess. The rare beauty and stunning self-possession that propelled Grace Kelly into the Hollywood pantheon, onto the Best-Dressed List, and ultimately to Monaco’s royal palace were more than captivating—they were completely genuine.

Background and early life
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Grace Patricia Kelly was born on November 12, 1929, at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to an affluent and influential family. Her father, Irish-American John B. Kelly Sr., had won three Olympic gold medals for sculling and owned a successful brickwork contracting company that was well known on the East Coast. As Democratic nominee in the 1935 election for Mayor of Philadelphia, he lost by the closest margin in the city's history. In later years he served on the Fairmount Park Commission and, during World War II, was appointed by President Roosevelt as National Director of Physical Fitness. His brother Walter C. Kelly was a vaudeville star, who also made films for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Paramount Pictures, and another named George was a Pulitzer Prize–winning dramatist, screenwriter, and director.

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Grace with her mother

Kelly's mother, Margaret Katherine Majer, had German parents. Margaret had taught physical education at the University of Pennsylvania and had been the first woman to coach women's athletics at Penn. She also modeled for a time in her youth. After marrying John B. Kelly in 1924, Margaret focused on being a housewife until all her children were of school age, following which she began actively participating in various civic organizations.

Kelly had two older siblings, Margaret and John Jr., and a younger sister, Elizabeth. The children were raised in the Catholic faith. While attending Ravenhill Academy, a reputable Catholic girls' school, Grace modeled fashions at local charity events with her mother and sisters. In 1942, at the age of 12, she played the lead in Don't Feed the Animals, a play produced by the East Falls Old Academy Players. Before graduating in May 1947 from Stevens School, a socially prominent private institution in nearby Chestnut Hill, she acted and danced. Her graduation yearbook listed her favorite actress as Ingrid Bergman and her favorite actor as Joseph Cotten.

Career

Despite her parents' initial disapproval, Kelly decided to pursue her dreams of becoming an actress. John was particularly displeased with her decision; he viewed acting as "a slim cut above streetwalker". To start her career, she auditioned for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, using a scene from her uncle George Kelly's The Torch-Bearers (1923). Although the school had already met its semester quota, she obtained an interview with the admissions officer, Emile Diestel, and was admitted through the influence of George.

Kelly worked diligently, and practiced her speech by using a tape recorder. Her early acting pursuits led her to the stage, and she made her Broadway debut in Strindberg's The Father, alongside Raymond Massey. At 19, her graduation performance was as Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story. Success on television eventually brought her a role in a major motion picture.

After embarking on an acting career in 1950 when she was 20, Kelly appeared in New York City theatrical productions and more than 40 episodes of live drama productions broadcast during the early 1950s Golden Age of Television. From 1952 to 1956 she starred in several critically and commercially successful films, usually opposite male romantic leads 25 to 30 years older than her. In October 1953, she gained stardom from her performance in director John Ford's African-filmed adventure-romance Mogambo, starring Clark Gable and Ava Gardner, which won her a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. In 1954 she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her deglamorized performance in the drama The Country Girl with Bing Crosby. Other noteworthy films in which she starred include the western High Noon (1952), with Gary Cooper; the romance-comedy musical High Society (1956), with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra; and three Alfred Hitchcock suspense thrillers in rapid succession: Dial M for Murder (1954), with Ray Milland; and Rear Window (1954), with James Stewart.

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To Catch a Thief (1955)

Kelly flew to the French Riviera to begin work on her third, and last, film for Alfred Hitchcock, To Catch a Thief. Lent by MGM to Paramount Films for the fifth time, Kelly plays the role of a temptress who wears "luxurious and alluring clothes", while Cary Grant plays the role of a former cat thief now looking to catch a "thief who is imitating him". Kelly and Grant developed a mutual admiration. The two cherished their time together for the rest of their lives. Years later, when asked to name his all-time favorite actress, Grant replied without hesitation: "Well, with all due respect to dear Ingrid Bergman, I much preferred Grace. She had serenity."

Princess of Monaco

Kelly headed the U.S. delegation at the Cannes Film Festival in April 1955. While there, she was invited to participate in a photo session with Prince Rainier III, the sovereign of the Principality of Monaco, at the Prince's Palace, about 55 kilometers away from Cannes. After a series of delays and complications, she met him at the Prince's Palace of Monaco on May 6, 1955. At the time of her initial meeting with him, she was dating the French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont.

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After a year-long courtship described as containing "a good deal of rational appraisal on both sides", Prince Rainier married Kelly in 1956. The Napoleonic Code of Monaco and the laws of the Catholic Church necessitated two ceremonies – both a civil ceremony and a religious wedding. The 16-minute civil ceremony took place in the Palace Throne Room of Monaco on April 18, 1956, and a reception later in the day was attended by 3,000 Monégasque citizens. To cap the ceremony, the 142 official titles that she acquired in the union (counterparts of her husband's) were formally recited. The following day the church ceremony took place at Monaco's Saint Nicholas Cathedral. The wedding was estimated to have been watched by over 30 million viewers on live television and was described by biographer Robert Lacey as "the first modern event to generate media overkill". Her wedding dress, designed by MGM's Academy Award-winning Helen Rose, was worked on for six weeks by three dozen seamstresses. The bridesmaids' gowns were designed by Joe Allen Hong at Neiman Marcus. Kelly and Rainier left that night for their seven-week Mediterranean honeymoon cruise on his yacht, Deo Juvante II.

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The couple had three children:

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• Princess Caroline, born January 23, 1957
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• Prince Albert, born March 14, 1958, current Prince of Monaco
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• Princess Stéphanie, born February 1, 1965
Later years

Hitchcock offered Princess Grace the lead in his film Marnie in 1962. She was eager, but public outcry in Monaco against her involvement in a film where she would play a kleptomaniac made her reconsider and ultimately reject the project. Director Herbert Ross tried to interest her in a part in his film The Turning Point (1977), but Rainier quashed the idea. Later that year, she returned to the arts in a series of poetry readings on stage and narration of the documentary The Children of Theatre Street. She also narrated ABC's made-for-television film The Poppy Is Also a Flower (1966).

Grace and Rainier worked together in a 33-minute independent film called Rearranged in 1979, which received interest from ABC TV executives in 1982 after premiering in Monaco, on the condition that it be extended to an hour. Before more scenes could be shot, Grace died and the film was never released or shown publicly again.

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Death
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On September 13, 1982, Kelly was driving back to Monaco from her country home in Roc Agel when she had a stroke. As a result, she lost control of her 1971 Rover P6 3500 and drove off the steep, winding road and down the 120 foot (37 m) mountainside. Her daughter Stéphanie, who was in the passenger seat, tried but failed to regain control of the car. Kelly was taken to the Monaco Hospital (later named the Princess Grace Hospital Centre) with injuries to the brain and thorax and a fractured femur. She died the following night at 10:55 p.m. after Rainier decided to turn off her life support.

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Princess Stéphanie suffered a light concussion and a hairline fracture of a cervical vertebra, and was unable to attend her mother's funeral. Kelly's funeral was held at the Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate in Monaco-Ville, on September 18, 1982. After a Requiem Mass, she was buried in the Grimaldi family vault. Over 400 people attended, including Cary Grant, Nancy Reagan, Danielle Mitterrand, Diana (Princess of Wales), and Empress Farah of Iran. Rainier, who did not remarry, was buried alongside her in 2005.

Legacy

Acting

Kelly left a lasting legacy as a model, theater artist, television actress (her most prolific work, acting in around 100 TV plays), and an iconic Hollywood film star. Kelly has been cited as one of the "classic Hitchcock blondes", and as one of the most elegant women in cinematic and world history. One author describes her as the "elegant glamour girl of the screen".

Grace Kelly appeared on the cover of the 31 January 1955 issue of the weekly magazine Time. The magazine hailed her as the top movie star who brought about "a startling change from the run of smoky film sirens and bumptious cuties". She was described as the "Girl in White Gloves" because she wore "prim and noticeable white gloves", and journalists often called her the "lady" or "Miss Kelly" for this reason as well. In 1954, she appeared on the Best Dressed list, and in 1955, the Custom Tailored Guild of America listed her as the "Best-Tailored Woman".

In appreciation of her work with Hitchcock in three of his films, Kelly later wrote a foreword to the book The Art of Alfred Hitchcock by Donald Spoto. Spoto also had written High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly.

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(From left to right) To Catch a Thief | 1955, Rear Window | 1954, High Society | 1956 and The Swan | 1956

Philanthropy

During her marriage, Kelly was unable to continue her acting career. Instead, she performed her daily duties as princess and became involved in philanthropic work.

She founded AMADE Mondiale, a Monaco-based non-profit organization that was eventually recognized by the UN as a Non-governmental organization. According to UNESCO's website, AMADE promotes and protects the "moral and physical integrity" and "spiritual well-being of children throughout the world, without distinction of race, nationality or religion and in a spirit of complete political independence." Her daughter, Princess Caroline, carries the torch for AMADE today in her role as President.

Kelly was also active in improving the arts institutions of Monaco, forming the Princess Grace Foundation in 1964 to support local artisans. In 1983, following her death, Princess Caroline assumed the duties of President of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation; Prince Albert is Vice-President.

Following Kelly's death, the Princess Grace Foundation-USA (PGF-USA) was established to continue the work she had done anonymously during her lifetime, assisting emerging theater, dance and film artists in America. Incorporated in 1982, PGF-USA is headquartered in New York and is a tax-exempt, not-for-profit, publicly supported organization. The Princess Grace Awards, a program of the Princess Grace Foundation-USA, has awarded nearly 800 artists at more than 100 institutions in the U.S. with more than $15 million to date. The foundation also says it "holds the exclusive rights and facilitates the licensing of her name and likeness throughout the world."

In 1965, Princess Grace accepted with pleasure the invitation to be an honorary member of La Leche League (a worldwide mother to mother support group that focuses on mothering through breastfeeding) and in 1971 was a speaker at their conference in Chicago, addressing 1400 mothers, 800 fathers and 800 babies. Princess Grace was a known advocate of breastfeeding, and successfully fed her 3 children.

Fashion

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While pregnant with her daughter Caroline in 1956, Kelly was frequently photographed clutching a distinctive leather handbag manufactured by Hermès. The purse, or Sac à dépêches, was likely a shield to prevent her pregnant abdomen from being exposed to the prying eyes of the paparazzi. The photographs, however, popularized the purse and became so closely associated with the fashion icon that it would thereafter be known as the Kelly bag.

Kelly was inaugurated into the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1960.

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Numerous exhibitions have been held of Kelly's life and clothing. The Philadelphia Museum of Art presented her wedding dress in a 2006 exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of her marriage, and a retrospective of her wardrobe was held at London's Victoria and Albert Museum in 2010. The V&A exhibition continued in Australia at the Bendigo Art Gallery in 2012. This famous dress, seen around the world, took thirty five tailors six weeks to complete. An exhibition of her life as Princess of Monaco was held at the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation in Moscow in 2008 in conjunction with Monaco's Grimaldi Forum. In 2009, a plaque was placed on the "Rodeo Drive Walk of Style" in recognition of her contributions to style and fashion.

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After her death, Kelly's legacy as a fashion icon lived on. Modern designers, such as Tommy Hilfiger and Zac Posen, have cited her as a fashion inspiration. During her lifetime, she was known for introducing the "fresh faced" look, one that involved bright skin and natural beauty with little makeup. Her fashion legacy was even commemorated at the Victoria and Albert Museum of London, where an exhibit titled, "Grace Kelly: Style Icon" paid tribute to her impact on the world of fashion. The exhibit included 50 of her legendary ensembles. She is remembered for her "college-girl" everyday fashion, defined by her pulled-together yet simple look.

In 2016, Forbes included her on the list 10 Fashion Icons and the Trends They Made Famous.

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Elsewhere
A rose garden in Monaco's Fontvieille district is dedicated to the memory of Kelly. It was opened in 1984 by Rainier. She is commemorated in a statue by Kees Verkade in the garden, which features 4,000 roses.

In 2003, the Henley Royal Regatta renamed the Women's Quadruple Sculls the "Princess Grace Challenge Cup." The Henley Stewards invited her to present the prizes at the 1981 regatta, expiating the ill will from her father's falling foul of its amateurism rules in 1920. Prince Albert presented the prizes at the 2004 regatta.

Kelly family home
In 2012, Kelly's childhood home was made a Pennsylvania historic landmark, and a historical marker was placed on the site. The home, located at 3901 Henry Avenue in the East Falls section of Philadelphia, was built by her father John B. Kelly Sr. in 1929. Grace lived in the home until 1950, and Prince Rainier III proposed to her there in 1955. The Kelly family sold the property in 1974. Prince Albert of Monaco purchased the property, speculating that the home would be used either as museum space or as offices for the Princess Grace Foundation.

Titles, styles, honors and arms

Upon her marriage to Prince Rainier III in 1956, as the consort of the reigning sovereign prince of Monaco, she was styled "'Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco" until her death in 1982. Today she is alternatively remembered by her maiden name "Grace Kelly".

National honors
Monaco: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saint-Charles

Foreign honors
- Austria: Recipient of the Red Cross Medal
- Belgium: Recipient of the Red Cross Medal
- France: Recipient of the Red Cross Medal
- Kingdom of Greece Greek Royal Family: Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Beneficence
- Iran Iranian Imperial Family: Recipient of the Commemorative Medal of the 2,500 year Celebration of the Persian Empire
- Italy: Grand Officer of the Order of the Star of Solidarity
- Vatican: Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre
- Sovereign Military Order of Malta: Dame Grand Cross of the Order of Merit, Special Class
- Nicaragua: Grand Cross of the Order of Rubén Darío
- Spain: Recipient of the Red Cross Plaque of Honor and Merit

Others

- Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (1960)
- American Film Institute's 13th Top Female Stars of American Cinema (1999)
- She is the first actress to appear on a U.S postage stamp in 1993 (When the U.S. and Monaco simultaneously revealed commemorative stamps.)
- In 2007, Monaco commemorated the 25th anniversary of their princess' death by unveiling €2 coins with Kelly's likeness on the national side.

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On this day, September 14 in 1982, Grace Kelly passed away at the age of 52 at what is now named after her, the Princess Grace Hospital Centre in Monaco. It’s incredibly hard to find the words to express how sad I feel when I think about how tragically cut short her life was. Yet we reflect on and remember her career, her commitment as princess of Monaco, and her heart and care for those around her. What a role model of elegant beauty, class, poise, and fun loving kindness you are to me and so many around the world. May she Rest In Peace. She is someone that can never be forgotten as long as the world is turning.

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(all credit goes to Wikipedia for the information)

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