The fairytale romance between Hollywood beauty Grace Kelly and her handsome prince, Rainier III of Monaco, began in May 1955 when the silver screen star was invited to the royal palace during the Cannes Film Festival to be photographed with the eligible bachelor for a magazine spread. At the time Grace was 26 years old and the prince 32.
Eight months later, in January 1956, it was announced that Grace and Prince Rainier were engaged to be married. The handsome royal proposed with a beautiful Cartier 12-carat emerald-cut diamond ring, which Grace can be seen wearing in the aptly named film High Society – her final screen performance before becoming a princess. Rainier also presented his bride-to-be with a friendship band embellished with rubies and diamonds.
In Monaco, as in France, a civil marriage must take place before a religious ceremony, and so Grace and Rainier held two weddings. On April 18, 1956, the couple were legally wed in the baroque throne room in the Palace of Monaco in a ceremony attended by their close family and friends. Grace wore a beige lace dress and hat, and after exchanging their vows, husband and wife made a brief appearance on the palace's balcony to wave to the 500 members of the public waiting below.
The next day at 9.30am, Grace and Rainier held a religious ceremony at the Cathedral of Monaco, attended by around 600 guests and watched by an estimated 30 million on television. After the event – dubbed the 'Wedding of the Century' – the newlyweds drove through the streets of Monte Carlo in an open-top Rolls-Royce – a gift from the people of Monaco – to wave to the thousands of well-wishers. Notable guests at the religious ceremony included Cary Grant, Aristotle Onassis, Ava Gardner and David Niven.
Truly fit for a princess, Grace's wedding gown was a gift from the MGM film studios and was designed by Helen Rose who worked on it for six weeks with three dozen seamstresses. The dress, featuring a high collar and long sleeves, had a fitted bodice and voluminous skirt and was made of silk taffeta, tulle and 125-year-old Brussels rose point lace. On her head she wore a Juliet cap decorated with orange blossoms and a veil that was reportedly 90 yards long.
Grace carried a small bible and a bridal bouquet of lilies of the valley, and was attended by six bridesmaids, all in yellow silk organdy dresses. Among them was her sister Peggy, who acted as matron of honour. She also had six junior attendants who were all dressed in white. Her groom wore a military uniform he designed himself for the occasion.
To celebrate their union, the newlyweds held a special luncheon at the Palace's Court of Honour attended by 700 guests, where the bride and groom cut their six-tier wedding cake using the prince's sword. The previous day, after the couple's civil ceremony, they hosted a reception for the 3,000 citizens of Monaco to give each the opportunity to shake hands with their new princess.
Now titled Her Serene Highness, Princess Grace and Prince Rainier set sail for a honeymoon cruise around the Mediterranean on board the Deo Juvante II – the groom's wedding gift to his new bride.
Click here to see news coverage of Grace and Rainier's wedding.