NEW YORK, N.Y. — “It’s not a Job that anyone would really envy. There’s not much time left over for privacy. One has to fight for that! But one accepts that as part of the job. And it is a job!”.
Her Serene Highness, Grace of Monaco, was explaining, in one of her rare interviews, the quality of her life as princess in that faity-tale principality on the French Riviera. Even as actress Grace Kelly, “my private life was much more personal, she said. “Once I married a prince, my private life became public. We fight to keep certain things to ourselves”.
The interview, in the New York apartment of her close friend, designer Vera Maxwell, was granted on the agreement that no questions would be asked about gossip surrounding the royal family. The focus was to remain on the life of the beau¬tiful American movie star who married Prince Rainier Grimaldi 24 years ago — and her passion for flowers. Actually, her love of flowers, and her solitary strolls in search of ones to press for pictures — an absorbing hobby — have given the princess a needed balance to life in a goldfish bowl.
“I LOVE WALKING in the woods, on the trails, along the beaches”, she said. “I love being part of nature. I love walking alone. It is therapy. One needs to be alone, to recharge one’s batteries.” Because Monaco is very small (about 370 acres), it’s like a great big family, the 51-year-old princess said, in an accent that a British interviewer called American, but Americans would identify as British. “The prince is definitely the father figure for his countrymen, no matter what their age. It’s a way of life for them, generation after generation.”
Is she, then, a mother figure? I’m just first lady to my husband. I’m active on the social side, and concerned on the welfare and cultural side”. As such, she is involved in Monaco’s day nursery for working mothers, in the country’s ballet school, in redecorating the hospital, in the Red Cross and the garden club and is on the committee for the arts festival.
“I TAKE A VERY active participation in all Monagasque life. I have a big household to run. a lot of entertaining to do. I am busy all the time attending functions. There is really not enough time to do everything,” she said.
For this reason, the time she has to devote to gardening is very precious. And she does work the soil. Does Princess Grace really get grime under her fingernails? “Oh, and how! There’s no way to avoid it,” she replied. Showing her hands, she said, ‘‘I don’t go in for long fingernails, you see, so it doesn’t really upset my life”. The family maintains a farm, Roc Agel, which overlooks the rocky principality of Monaco. In a clirpate much like California’s, they grow a sorts of vegetables and flowers the yearlong, and, “I’m always planting trees”, the princess said. Then inhere is the garden around the 750-year-old palace that a staff of six maintains.
MOSTLY, PRINCESS Grace loves the end result of gardening, and her first published effort displays this My Book of Flowers, by Princess Grace with Gwen Robyns, an English writer (Doubleday, $24.95), is not a gardening book per se. It Is about the lore of flowers and the artistry of flower arrangements.
Although the princess learned something about gardening when she was growing up in Philadelphia, by tending her own plot in her mother’s garden, she didn’t get hooked on it at that time. She described herself as being somewhat impatient in those days: ‘‘Children want to see instant results. They plant something one day and expect it to . come up the next”. It was not until 1966 that she got interested. At Sthat time Monte Carlo, a part of Monaco, was about to celebrate Its centennial as a resort, and it was suggested that she hold a competition for flower arranging as part of the festivities.
SHE SAID SHE WAS pushed Into the presidency of the newly formed garden club and “was the most Ignorant garden president going. Then I became involved and discovered that gardening is a whole world into Itself. I learned because I was interested. It’s an endless field. It’s incredible”.
Now that she has written one book, will she, write another, perhaps an autobiography? She smiled enigmatically, then answered, “I will, someday’.’ As for all the interviews that quote her as saying categorically that she will never return to film roles, she explained, “I never say anything. People always try to put words In my mouth. I never say never“.
© The Milwaukee Sentinel (January 1, 1981)