Prince Rainier and Princess Grace have been married 15 years now, and they have proved a complete disappointment to gossip columnists who were eagerly waiting for what they hoped would be juicy developments in the Prince Charming Gets Movie Star story. Instead the royal couple have played another part. The one that starts “Once upon a time”… Now Princess Grace talks freely of what it’s like to be a princess, as well as a mother and a wife.
By Hebe D’Orsey (July 28, 1971)
THE first thing to understand about Princess Grace is that die is not cool. But she is short-sighted. This, coupled with her proud, erect bearing, has made her seem remote. The Princess has corrected that muddle. Now when she enters a room she automatically wears that nice-to-see you half-smile. When she is not In the public eye, it’s even simpler. Her Princess wears her glasses. Her Highness is also a pro. If she promises to pose for pictures she is on time. So at 11 a.m. sharp the Princess arrived in the Salle des Glaces, a grandiose, mirror-lined room done in gold-and-white Napoleon III and trimmed with all the proper decorum: a full-length, official portrait of Her Highness in white lace, painted by Ralph Cowan; gold brocade chairs and curtains, gold console, huge crystal chandeliers and assorted souvenirs, including Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gift, a gold tray.
Fortunately, the stiff grandeur was relieved by a big open fire, fresh flowers, and also by the Princess, covered with diamonds and rubies, and laughing the whole thing off. “Not exactly my Wednes day morning attire”, she said pulling those long white gloves.
The Princess is straight, simple, and direct. She posed by the flowers— “Here, how do you want me?”—and chatted about fashion. She was wearing a brown silk jersey evening gown with that unmistakable flow signed by Gres. “I buy a lot from Madame Gres since she’s hired a fitter from Balenciaga,” she said. “But I go mostly to Dior because they send me the sketches. It makes my shopping easier.” But she is no label fiend, and also buys clothes from Marie-Therese, a couture house in Nice, and has simple things, such as skirts and hlouses, made at home. I’m very lucky in having a few women here who sew very well”, she said.
Somebody mentioned the recent Clay-Frazier title fight and the Princess got very excited. “We saw it on television. It was thrilling,” she said. “It’s such a joy to see two people who are the best in their profession perform.” Asked whom she would have bet for, she said, “Frazier, of course. But, then, he is from Philadelphia. My brother has been one of his backers for years, you know.”
From the Salle des Glaces, the Princess led the way to her private apartments, in the new wing that she and Prince Rainier had built a couple of years ago. It was like another world. One forgets the gingerbread, 200-room palace, perched proudly on the rock which for 669 years has served as a fortress for the Grimaldis. Some personal touches include a blue petit-point pillow with “Stephanie” embroidered on if (made by the Princess for her youngest daughter) and shaggy flower and fish sculptures done by the Prince. Under a huge, red coromandel screen is a long rustic table. On it is a portrait of Princess Grace cuddling one of her children, which could be a “mother and child” study. Next to it, a portrait of the Prince’s father, the late Prince Pierre de Polignac, with “Dearest Love to Grace, Pierre,” written on it. There’s also a hi-fi, books (“Architectural Design“ and “Les Coquillages”), a butler’s tray all set for drinks, and a mountain of walnuts in a huge olive-wood tray.
Stephanie came hack from school, slightly dragging her feet, the way all six-year-olds do. “Bonjour, mademoiselle,” her mother said, adding in English: “Hello, sweety pie.” Stephanie, the Princess explained, has school at home with four little friends.
Princess Caroline, 14, goes to the convent of Dames de Saint Maur and Prince Albert, 13, goes to the Lycee. “Caroline,“ the Princess said, “is very good at school”. What about Albert? “Oh! He’s good at certain sub¬jects,” she said “the ones he likes, such as geography or natural sciences. But he’s not so good at spelling or mathematics. Boys are lazy, on the whole,” she noted, “but then they have such a heavy schedule.”
Like all mothers the Princess has a problem. “I find myself eluding him con-stantly: Have you done your homework? Come on, you’ll be late for school. It’s not really fair,” she said with an indulgent smile. And what does she do about those subjects that he is not so good at? The Princess came up with the perfect, philosophical answer: “I’m going to wait until he realises it”, she said. Three dogs were running in and out and two exotic birds kept up a constant chatter. One of the birds sang the Monaco national anthtm while the other one shrilled: “Coco.” “Knock it off”, the Princess said with a touch of laughter in her poised, disciplined voice. “My husband keeps promising to take them out,” she said, “but they’re still here. They really belong in the garden.”
“What is it, my bunny?“. The Princess patted Stephanie on the head. “Yes, we spend a lot of time with the children”, she said. “On weekends we’re together, of course. But there are so few weekends, unfortunately. We have lunch with them when we don’t have company. In the evening they have dinner before we do, but we always spend an hour together.” The Princess didn’t mention that, even when she is getting ready for a big party, she still sees her children. For instance, one evening while Alexandre was doing her hair for a 21-people, black-tie dinner party, the Princess wasn’t paying a bit of attention to her curis. She was too busy helping Caro¬line with her homework.
Asked whether she approved of sex education in schools, the Princess laughed. “But they already know everything.” Then she added forcefully: “I’d rather it came from home than from the outside. There’s an awful lot of people I wouldn’t care to have explain sex to my children. B it there’s no problem. We always have lots of animals around. Of course,” she added, laughing again, “they’ll pick up the juicier bits from their little friends.”
The Princess also talked openly about abortion. Commenting on a recent newspaper article which emphasised the psychological trauma resulting from abortion, she said: “I certainly feel that way. Doctors tend to think that it is over in half an hour. It’s not that simple. The psychological consequences last for many years afterward.”
Changing into another Gres midi-dress for lunch— “This seems to be my Gres day” — the Princess went back to fashions. She liked the midi and intends to stick to long skirts. “I was glad to get out of the short skirts,” she said. “I never really liked them.” It follows that the Princess is not keen on shorts. “I find them rather vulgar,” she said. “They are fun to a point, but it’s a craze that’s gone out of proportion. I’m sure they’re nice for young kids to wear at discotheques, but I’m certainly not about to walk down the street in shorts.” Her daughter, however, will. ‘‘Caroline is mad for them,” the Princess said.
Is Princess Caroline fashion-conscious? “What do you mean?” the Princess laughed. “They’re all fashion-conscious these days. You should hear the little one saying: ‘Oh! But I can’t wear those shoes with that dress!’ ”
The Princess, who admits that protocol dictates a lot of her wardrobe but that her personal taste tends to relaxed clothes and “riding boots,” has a no-nonsense, highly individual approach to fashion. “I want to buy what’s good for me,” she said. “I found out what that is, and I want to stay with it. “What is that? Very simple, really.” The Princess smiled. “What’s good for me,” she said, “is what shows off my good points and hides my bad points.”
After lunch, the children went back to school. Princess Grace, looking impeccable in a black mink midi-coat, with her hair tied into a neat chignon, was whisked off in her grey Rolls-Royce to the Red Cross, a comfortable, cheerful villa where she was being shown a film on various Red Cross activities. “Everybody knows what the Red Cross does in war-time, but very few’ think of it in peacetime.” The Princess may sound low-keyed, but she is quite a doer. The Red Cross list of activities covers just about everything: first-aid, blood transfusions, help to old people, handicapped people, poor people, retarded children.
The Princess has put her own touch to this fairly classic role and made it a highly personal, deeply-involved affair. She is personally responsible for introducing volunteer work in old people’s homes. “It’s fantastic how those women have been able to change the atmosphere,” she said. “Old people won’t play, you know. They get very indolent. They won’t go to a movie, do anything unless the volunteer women do it with them.” She has also developed a school bus system which created quite a problem at first. When we started, eight years ago, the mothers were very worried,” she recalled. “I had to go in the bus the first time.”
Time to move on. The Princess was to join her husband to attend a lecture by academician Maurice Druon. And that brought about the question of marriage. How did she manage to make hers such a success? “Marriage is a constant effort. I think religion enters into it a great deal. It’s a very strong link between two people. Each marriage has its bad moments, you know.” She smiled again. “But you go on. Then you don’t even remember why you got mad in the first place.”
Copyright © 1971 – The Australian Women’s Weekly