"He is confused and a little intimidated. He apologises for being late. Grace looks at him, intimidated as well."
This description of the first moments Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III spent together is from Paris Match journalist Pierre Galante, who witnessed the meeting. His words can currently be read on the wall of the Armoury Room in the Prince’s Palace in Monaco, where photos of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III are displayed. They are part of an exhibition entitled ‘Monaco, 6 May 1955: History of a meeting’, which invites visitors to follow in the footsteps of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier on the day they nearly didn’t meet.
A late arrival
Prince Rainier arrived at the palace an hour later than Grace Kelly and her entourage, who had come to Monaco from the Cannes Film Festival, despite the Oscar-winning actress’s hectic schedule. While they waited for the Prince, they were given a tour of the palace.
Photographers Michel Simon and Edward Quinn, who had come to immortalise the meeting of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier, captured her discovering the place that – unknowingly to her – was to become her home less than a year later.
Life-size photos of the beautiful young actress are positioned around the Palace in the very rooms they were taken in. Personal items, letters, witness accounts and extracts from newspapers and films put the meeting of the star and the Prince into context.
The photos in the Armoury room show Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier together, from the first handshake to their walk around the Palace gardens and the Prince’s private zoo, with its lions and tiger. What emerges from these photos is the couple’s obvious enjoyment of each other’s company. They look natural and relaxed, as if they have completely forgotten the presence of the photographers and other members of the party.
In his book "Grace Kelly: The Secret Life of a Princess", James Spada quotes Pierre Galante recalling “We felt like indiscreet onlookers. Grace’s complexion seemed to acquire a new glow.”
And all because of Paris Match
The meeting between Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III was orchestrated by Paris Match, whose editor was looking for an idea for a photo feature to capture the interest of his readers during the Cannes Film Festival. Pierre Galante, knowing that Grace Kelly was presenting her film The Country Girl in Cannes had the idea of arranging the now mythical meeting between the film star and the Prince of Monaco.
In his biography of Grace Kelly, James Spada recounts how Pierre Galante, who had already been in touch with staff at the Prince’s Palace, was lucky enough to board the overnight train to Cannes with his wife Olivia De Havilland at the same time as his old friend Gladys de Segondzac and Grace Kelly. The two women had struck up a friendship during the filming of To Catch a Thief, for which de Segondzac was wardrobe mistress.
The next morning, as the train approached Cannes, Galante suggested to Grace Kelly that she visit Monaco to escape the frenzy at the film festival. Just a few hours later, Galante was informed that Prince Rainier would be happy to meet actress the next day at 4pm. Grace’s hectic schedule nearly prevented the meeting from happening but Prince Rainier agreed to meet her earlier than planned.
In less than two hours, Michel Simon and Edward Quinn took around 300 photos, just a few of which were used for a double-page spread in Paris Match.
“Monaco, 6 May 1955: History of a Meeting” sees the photographers’ images exhibited for the first time together. In one section of the exhibition, the different techniques and viewpoints the two photographers used are compared and contrasted.
This beautifully designed and curated exhibition is combined with an audio-guided tour of the Prince’s Palace, whose origins can be traced back to 1215. The visit begins in the Italian Renaissance Hercules Gallery, overlooking the Palace courtyard, and ends in the Throne Room, where televised footage of Princess Grace can be seen on screen. She gives viewers a guided tour of the palace, like a very classy Monaco real estate agency owner.
Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier married in Monaco’s St Nicholas Cathedral on 19 April 1956, watched live by 30 million TV viewers. Grace Kelly’s wedding dress, a gift from her film studio MGM, was made of antique Brussels lace, Paduasoy silk and hundreds of tiny pearls. It is still considered to be one of the most elegant wedding gowns of all time.
Staging the exhibition ‘Monaco, 6 May 1955: History of a meeting’in the Prince’s Palace emphasises how the encounter changed the destiny of the Grimaldi dynasty and how, in her role as Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco, the great actress left an enduring legacy.
The exhibition ends on 15 October 2019.