By DAVID HALBERSTAM
MONACO, April 9, 1966 – Even people who inhabit fairy tales have their problems.
Ten years ago, Grace Kelly of Philadelphia and Hollywood forsook her film career and married a foreigner with his own country and embarked on what the rest of the world judged to be a fairy tale existence. Her marriage with Prince Rainier III of Monaco on April 18, 1956, was a major journalistic event of that year.
This week, on the eve of her 10th wedding anniversary, looking very much the handsome young matron, coolly casual, Princess Grace granted a rare interview. The beginning, she noted, “did not seem very much like a fairy tale to us. It was bedlam, absolute chaos. Everyone blamed us. We were at the bottom of everyone’s list. I don’t know how anyone survived.”
Everyone survived. In particular the Grimaldi line, then in doubt, survived. The Prince and Princess provided their principality with Albert, the hereditary prince, which means that Monaco, all 370 acres of it, can retain its tax-free draft-free status under a 1918 accord with France. They also have two other children.
Princess Grace is 36. Ten years seem only to have improved her looks. The complexion is still magnificent, the eyes striking. In addition she has a singular elegance. “You can sit behind her at a dinner,” says one subject, “see only the back of her neck and still be struck by her beauty.”
The other children are Princess Caroline, 9 and Princess Stephanie, 1. The parents speak English to each other and Princess Grace speaks English to the children.
The children attend the local Catholic schools, where French is the language, and speak French to each other. They have, according to friends, the background and the manners of the old world, but some of the vitality of the new as well. “There is a little American in them,” says one friend of Rainier.
Rainier himself would like to continue this blend by sending the children to some American schools. Recently a visitor discussed possible colleges in the United States for Albert and mentioned Harvard. “You don’t think that’s too far left?”, asked the Prince.
Both the Prince and the Princess, by all accounts, including their own, take the business of being Their Serene Highnesses of Monaco very seriously. She is perhaps even more serious than he. One who has watched the Princess closely commented: “She was after all an actress, and now this is the one role she is playing.”
The early adjustment to the life of official responsibilities and different traditions was difficult for the Princess. “It was more than moving from an American life to a European life and from a single life to a married life,” recalls her husband. “Most women doing that have at least the privacy of their own homes. But she did not even have this. She had a palace, but no house of her own.”
She describes herself as no longer entirely american, but not yet entirely Monégasque. Her marriage is entirely European. “Here the man is definitely the master of the house and there are no two ways about it. My husband is still shocked by the way some of my American friends behave in front of their husbands, contradicting them. We would never do that here.”
She says she visits the United States too infrequently, once every two years or so. “You know you’ve lost touch when you no longer understand the jokes in The New Yorker.”
She is frequently seen in public, and this pleases the Monégasque. The children, unlike those of past rulers, are sent to the local school and this is considered both a nationalistic and democratic act. When local citizens speak to her they often use English and she makes a point of answering in french. She is the president and driving force behind the Monaco Red Cross. But some of her other activities are more controversial. For instance, she is deadly serious about Monaco’s color schemes, and what she terms “its harmony.”
She has decided that there is already too much gray in the buildings, and she is trying to start a cutback on grays. Similarly, in recent days one local builder finished a handsome apartment house and installed blue awnings on all the windows. But the Princess decided the awnings clashed with the sea, and there will soon be new awnings. But even the Princess is quick to admit that she has been less successful in an attempt to outlaw billboards in Monaco.
Rainier’s popularity at the moment is high, thanks, as much as anything, to his struggle with Aristotle Onassis for control of the Société des Bains de Mer, which has the gambling concession and other rights in Monaco. Mr. Onassis has a controlling interest in the concern, but so far has refused to modernize the casino, or to sell his interest. In the battle, Rainier is viewed by the Monégasque as the local boy with the country’s interest at heart, taking on the very rich foreigner.