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Rainier III, Prince of Monaco

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Rainier III
Rainier III in 1961
Prince of Monaco
Reign9 May 1949 – 6 April 2005
PredecessorLouis II
SuccessorAlbert II
RegentAlbert (2005)
Born(1923-05-31)31 May 1923
Prince's Palace of Monaco, Monaco
Died6 April 2005(2005-04-06) (aged 81)
Cardiothoracic Centre of Monaco, Monaco
Burial15 April 2005
(m. 1956; died 1982)
Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand Grimaldi
FatherPrince Pierre, Duke of Valentinois
MotherCharlotte, Hereditary Princess of Monaco
ReligionRoman Catholic
SignatureRainier III's signature

Rainier III (Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand Grimaldi;[1] 31 May 1923 – 6 April 2005) was Prince of Monaco from 1949 to his death in 2005. Rainier ruled the Principality of Monaco for almost 56 years.

Rainier was born at the Prince's Palace of Monaco, the only son of Hereditary Princess Charlotte and Prince Pierre. During his reign, he was responsible for the transformation of Monaco's economy, shifting from its traditional casino gambling base to its current status as a tax haven and cultural destination. The Prince also coordinated the substantial reforms of Monaco's constitution, which limited the powers of sovereign rule.

Rainier married American film star Grace Kelly in 1956, which generated global media attention. They had three children: Caroline, Albert and Stéphanie. Rainier died in April 2005 from complications relating to a lung infection as a result of frequent smoking; he was succeeded by his son, Albert II.

Early life


Rainier was born at Prince's Palace in Monaco, the first native-born prince since Honoré IV in 1758. Rainier's mother, Charlotte, was the only child of Louis II, Prince of Monaco, and his lover, Marie Juliette Louvet; she was legitimised through formal adoption and subsequently named heiress presumptive to the throne of Monaco. Rainier's father, Count Pierre of Polignac, who was half-French and half-Mexican, adopted his wife's dynasty, Grimaldi, upon marriage and was made a Prince of Monaco by his father-in-law. Rainier had an older sister, Princess Antoinette, Baroness of Massy.[2] His parents divorced in 1933.

Rainier's early education was conducted in England, at the public schools of Summerfields in St Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex, and after 1935[3] at Stowe School, in Buckinghamshire. Rainier then attended the Institut Le Rosey in Rolle and Gstaad, Switzerland from 1939, before continuing to the University of Montpellier in France, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1943, before studying at Sciences Po Paris in Paris.[2]

In 1944, the day before his 21st birthday, Rainier's mother renounced her right to the Monegasque throne and Rainier became Prince Louis's direct heir. In World War II, Rainier joined the Free French Army in September 1944, and served under General Joseph de Goislard de Monsabert as a second lieutenant. As soldier, he witnessed action during the German counter-offensive in Alsace. Rainier received the French Croix de Guerre with bronze star (representing a brigade level citation) and was given the rank of Legion of Honor in 1947. Following his decommission from the French Army, he was promoted by the French government as a captain in April 1949 and a colonel in December 1954.[2]

Rainier became the Sovereign Prince of Monaco upon the death of his grandfather, Prince Louis II, on 9 May 1949, at the age of 25.[2]


Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace arrive at the White House for a luncheon in May 1961.
Silver coin: 50 Francs, 25th Anniversary of Rainier III reign of Principality of Monaco (1949 – 1974)
Silver coin: 100 Francs, 40th Anniversary of Rainier III reign of Principality of Monaco (1949 – 1989)

After ascending the throne, Rainier III worked to recoup Monaco's lustre, which had become tarnished through financial neglect and scandal (his mother, Princess Charlotte, took a noted jewel thief known as René the Cane as her lover). Upon ascension, the Prince found a treasury that was practically empty. Monaco's traditional gambling clientele, largely European aristocrats, found themselves with reduced funds after World War II. Other successful gambling centres had opened to compete with Monaco. To compensate for the loss of income, Rainier decided to promote Monaco as a tax haven, commercial centre, real-estate development opportunity, and international tourist attraction.[4] The early years of his reign saw the overweening involvement of the Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, who took control of the Société des Bains de Mer and envisioned Monaco as solely a gambling resort. Prince Rainier regained control of SBM in 1964, effectively ensuring that his vision of Monaco would be implemented.[4]

During his reign, the Societé Monégasque de Banques et de Métaux Précieux, a bank which held a significant amount of Monaco's capital, was bankrupted by its investments in a media company in 1955, leading to the resignation of Monaco's cabinet. In 1962, Rainier ratified the Principality's new constitution, which significantly reduced the power of the sovereign.[5] He had suspended the previous constitution in 1959, saying that it "has hindered the administrative and political life of the country". The changes ended autocratic rule, placing power with both the Prince and a National Council of eighteen elected members.[6]

At the time of his death, he was the world's second longest-serving living head of state, just below the King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Personal life


In the 1940s and 1950s, Rainier had a ten-year relationship with the French film actress Gisèle Pascal, whom he had met while a student at Montpellier University,[3] and the couple lived at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.[citation needed] Rainier's sister, Princess Antoinette, wishing her own son to ascend the throne, spread rumors that Pascal was infertile. The rumours combined with a snobbery over Pascal's family origins ultimately ended the relationship.[7]

Rainier established a postal museum in 1950: the Museum of Stamps and Coins, in Monaco's Fontvieille district[8] by using the collections of the Monegasque princes Albert I and Louis II. The prestigious philatelic collectors organization, Club de Monte-Carlo de l'Élite de la Philatélie, was established in 1999 under his direct patronage. The club is headquartered at the postal museum, and its membership restricted to institutions and one hundred prestigious collectors.[9] Rainier organized exhibitions of rare and exceptional postage stamps and letters with the club's members.[9]

Throughout his reign, Rainier surveyed all the process of creation of Monaco stamps. He preferred stamps printed in intaglio and the art of engravers Henri Cheffer and Czesław Słania.[8]

Rainier's car collection was opened to the public as the Monaco Top Cars Collection in Fontvieille.[10]

Marriage and family

The Princely Family in 1966

The Prince met Academy Award–winning actress Grace Kelly in 1955, during a photocall at the Palace scheduled to support her trip to the Cannes Film Festival. After a year-long courtship described as containing "a good deal of rational appraisal on both sides," Prince Rainier married Kelly[11] in 1956.

The union was met with mass attention from the public, and was described as the "wedding of the century" and the "world's most anticipated wedding" by the media. The civil ceremony took place at the Palace on 18 April, with the religious wedding being held on 19 April at the Saint Nicholas Cathedral. Rainier wore a military dress of his own design, based on the uniforms of Napoleon Bonaparte. Presided over by Bishop Gilles Barthe, the marriage was broadcast by MGM Studios, and viewed by over 30 million people across the globe. The couple honeymooned in the Mediterranean on their yacht, Deo Juvante II.

Princess Grace gave birth to their first child, Princess Caroline, on 23 January 1957. Their second child and heir, Prince Albert, was born on 14 March 1958. Their youngest, Princess Stéphanie, was born 1 February 1965, with all children having been delivered at the Palace.

In 1979, the Prince made his acting debut alongside the Princess in a half-hour independent film, Rearranged, produced in Monaco. After its premiere in Monaco, Princess Grace showed it to ABC TV executives in New York in 1982, who expressed interest if extra scenes were shot. However, Grace died in a car crash caused by a stroke in 1982, making it impossible to expand the film for American release.[12][13][14] After Grace's death, Rainier refused to remarry.[15] He established the Princess Grace Foundation-USA in 1982 in her honor, to support fledging American artists.

Illness and death

Prince Rainier III (middle) with his son Albert (left) in 1998
The tomb of Prince Rainier III at the Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate
Life-size bronze statue of Prince Rainier III by Dutch sculptor Kees Verkade

Prince Rainier smoked 60 cigarettes a day.[16] In the last years of his life his health progressively declined. He underwent surgery in late 1999 and 2000, and was hospitalized in November 2002 for a chest infection. He spent three weeks in hospital in January 2004 for what was described as general fatigue.[17] In February 2004, he was hospitalized with a coronary lesion and a damaged blood vessel.[18] In October he was again in hospital with a lung infection. In November of that year, Prince Albert appeared on CNN's Larry King Live and told Larry King that his father was fine, though he was suffering from bronchitis.[19]

On 7 March 2005, he was again hospitalized with a lung infection. Rainier was moved to the hospital's intensive care unit on 22 March. One day later, on 23 March, it was announced he was on a ventilator, suffering from renal and heart failure. On 26 March, the palace reported that despite intensive ongoing efforts to improve the prince's health, he was continuing to deteriorate; however, the following day, he was reported to be conscious, his heart and kidney conditions having stabilized. His prognosis remained "very reserved".[20]

On 31 March 2005, following consultation with the Crown Council of Monaco, the Palais Princier announced that Rainier's son, Hereditary Prince Albert, would take over the duties of his father as regent since Rainier was no longer able to exercise his princely functions.[21]

On 1 April 2005, the Palace announced that Rainier's doctors believed his chances of recovery were "slim".[22] On 6 April, Prince Rainier III died at the Cardiothoracic Centre of Monaco at 6:35 am local time at the age of 81. He was succeeded by his only son, who became Prince Albert II.[23] He was buried on 15 April 2005 beside his wife, Princess Grace, at the Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate, the traditional burial place of princes and princesses of Monaco,[24] and the place where Prince Rainier and Princess Grace had been married in 1956.[25] Because his death occurred shortly after that of Pope John Paul II, Rainier's death was overshadowed in the media.[25]





Arms and emblems


Coat of arms of Prince Rainier III
of Monaco

Monogram of
Prince Rainier III

Dual cypher of Prince Rainier

and Princess Grace



See also



  1. ^ Rainier III, prince de Monaco at the Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. ^ a b c d "Obituary: Prince Rainier III of Monaco.", The Times, London, 7 April 2005, p. 58.
  3. ^ a b Von Bergen, Julie. (2017). Rainer III, Prince of Monaco. Great Neck Publishing, 2017.
  4. ^ a b "The House of Grimaldi: Rainier III- The Builder Prince of Monaco". HelloMonaco. 27 September 2016. Retrieved 30 March 2020.
  5. ^ "Monaco Now | Rainier III, the Builder Prince". Monaco Now. 16 December 2019. Retrieved 30 March 2020.
  6. ^ "Prince Rainier III of Monaco". The Daily Telegraph. London. 7 April 2005.
  7. ^ "Obituary: Giselle Pascal". The Independent. 8 February 2007. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
  8. ^ a b "Monaco: Refreshing Rainier". Stamp Magazine. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  9. ^ a b "Museums". Why 100 of the world's top collectors will be in Monaco this weekend. Paul Fraser Collectibles. Archived from the original on 15 August 2014. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  10. ^ "Monaco Top Cars Collection". FIA Heritage Museums. FIA. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  11. ^ 1956: Prince Rainier marries Grace Kelly, BBC: On This Day. Accessed 31 May 2008.
  12. ^ "Rearranged (1982)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  13. ^ "CNN.com – Transcripts". Transcripts.cnn.com. 15 April 2005. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  14. ^ Thilo Wydra (18 November 2014). Grace: A Biography. Skyhorse. ISBN 9781629149677. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  15. ^ Dennis Barker. "Prince Rainier of Monaco | World news". theguardian.com. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  16. ^ Dennis Barker. "Prince Rainier of Monaco | News". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  17. ^ "Prince Rainier moved to intensive care – World news – Europe". NBC News. 22 March 2005. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  18. ^ "Prince Rainier III, 81; Ruler Transformed Monaco, Made Grace Kelly His Princess". Los Angeles Times. 7 April 2005.
  19. ^ Interview With Prince Albert of Monaco, CNN, 18 November 2004. Accessed 31 May 2008.
  20. ^ "Rainier's condition 'stabilises'". BBC News. 27 March 2005. Retrieved 18 August 2008.
  21. ^ Son of ailing Prince Rainier takes over duties, MSNBC, 31 March 2005. Accessed 31 May 2008.
  22. ^ "Rainier's recovery chances slim, doctors say". CBC News. 1 April 2005. Archived from the original on 7 March 2009. Retrieved 18 August 2008.
  23. ^ "Monaco's Prince Rainier, 81, dies". BBC News. 6 April 2005. Retrieved 18 August 2008.
  24. ^ "Monaco Cathedral". Service Informatique du Ministère d'Etat (Monaco Minister of State Information Service). 28 July 2008. Archived from the original on 23 June 2008. Retrieved 18 August 2008.
  25. ^ a b Randall, Colin (16 April 2005). "Monaco's farewell to its sovereign and friend". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 11 January 2022. Retrieved 18 August 2008.
  26. ^ a b Chiavassa, Henri (1964). The History of the Principality of Monaco as Seen Through its Postage Stamps. Monaco: Postage Stamp Issuing Office. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  27. ^ "Grand State Banquet". badraie.com. Archived from the original on 2 March 2004. Retrieved 15 January 2022.
  28. ^ "Le onorificenze della Repubblica Italiana". Quirinale.it. 30 May 1953. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  29. ^ "CIDADÃOS ESTRANGEIROS AGRACIADOS COM ORDENS PORTUGUESAS – Página Oficial das Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas". Ordens.presidencia.pt. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  30. ^ A few dates
  31. ^ Louda, Jiří; Maclagan, Michael (1999) [1981], Lines of Succession: Heraldry of the Royal Families of Europe (2nd ed.), London: Little, Brown, p. 115, ISBN 978-0-316-84820-6
Rainier III, Prince of Monaco
Born: 31 May 1923 Died: 6 April 2005
Regnal titles
Preceded by Prince of Monaco
Succeeded by
Monegasque royalty
Preceded by Hereditary Prince of Monaco
Title next held by
Duke of Valentinois¹
(de facto)

Succeeded by
Preceded by Marquis of Baux
Notes and references
1. Title extinct in 1949.