Prince Rainier Dies | David Niven & Grace Kelly
Prince Rainier Dies | David Niven & Grace Kelly
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COULD THIS BE THE END OF THE HOUSE OF MONACO?
Prince Rainier is not yet cold in his grave and his dysfunctional children are already squabbling over his millions...
Source | Daily Mail 7th April 2005
For the first time in more than 50 years, the principality was without the guiding presence of the extraordinary little man who had modernised and, by his marriage to Grace Kelly, spectacularly glamorised this square mile ofRuritania on the Mediterranean.
At Rainier's hospital bedside when he finally succumbed to longstanding ill-health was his only son, the 47-year-old bachelor who will become Prince Albert II.
On Albert's shoulders will rest not only the fortunes of the increasingly embattled, often tragic, House of Grrimaldi, but the stubbornly shady reputation and status of the tax haven principality in the 21st century.
And there lies the rub. In his 56 years in charge — which made him Europe's longest-reigning monarch as well as its last constitu- tional autocrat — Rainier's grasp of affairs of state was never less than calculated, and very often steely.
Albert, his shy, diffident playboy son, is a different proposition, particularly with Caroline and Stephanie, two sisters whose dizzying succession of marital and romantic calamities had driven their father to fury and despair, clamouring in the wings.
Reports yesterday suggested that the three siblings were already heading for an unseemly legal wrangle over the terms of Rainier's win.
Stephanie has been told that her own inheritance has been cut from £500 million to the hardly insubstantial £17 million.
'The sums are astronomical,' said a source. 'There seems no possibility of everything being sorted out smoothly.'
This will not surprise many Monegasques, who feel that their future after Rainier is about as predictable as a spin on one of the roulette wheels at the famed Monte Carlo casino.
Yet to those who have carped or despaired over the behaviour of the late prince's children, there should be a reminder that Rainier himself was merely a salubrious blip in a very long line of libertine Grimaldis.
EUROPE'S oldest royal family can trace its position back to the 13th-century Italian pirate Francesco the Spiteful, who seized the citadel of Monaco by disguising himself as a monk.
For centuries, the Grimaldis ruled thanks only to the tolerance of larger neighbours, most obviously France.
Indeed, until the late 19th century the Monegasque constitution said that if a Grimaldi ruler died without a direct blood heir to succeed him, then the principality would be swallowed up by its giant neighbour.
The Stowe public school-educated Rainier succeeded to the title thanks to a subsequent clause which allowed a childless prince to adopt an heir in order to continue the Grimaldi line. Rainier's grandfather. Prince Louis
II, had used this to adopt his own illegitimate daughter by an Algerian washerwoman. She became Princess Charlotte and, in May 1923, gave birth to Rainier.
Prince Louis's close ties with the French Vichy government during World War II did little for Monaco's standing in post-war years. And by the time Rainier came to the throne in 1949, Monaco was a pale shadow of the chic gambling resort to which Europe's elite flocked in the 19th century.
Within a decade, that had all changed.
At a photo-call for Paris-Match magazine at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival, Rainier met the American actress Grace Kelly, who was at the height of her worldwide fame as an ice-cool Hitchcock blonde.
Less than a year later they had married, and the fortunes of the faded speck on France's southern rump were turned on its head.
Hollywood could not have bettered this fairytale romance and, with Princess Grace's well-heeled fellow Americans flocking to pay court, Monaco was, once again, Europe's most fashionable playground.
That is not to underestimate the economic, constitutional and eyen geographic changes made by the dynamic young prince.
He took on President de Gaulle over France's 'protectorate' role in Monaco's affairs and its tax demands, and redrew the Monegasque consti- tution while retaining absolute power in the hands of the Grimaldis.
He also saw off an attempt by Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis to buy the casino, and directed the reclamation of large areas of land from the sea, in order to build a new harbour.
Rainier realised that Monaco could not survive on gambling alone. By the time of his death the royally orches- trated diversification into manufac- turing industry, banking and other tourism had seen casino cash accounting for little more than 4 per cent of Monaco's revenues.
Not that these figures were published in a country of financial shadows and secrets, where none of its 7,800 citizens pays income tax (the other 25,000 are expatriates and the French among them still have to pay revenue to their own government).
It is estimated, however, that Monaco's annual turnover was approaching £500 million at Rainier's death.
BUT IF his marriage to Grace was the cornerstone of the highly-lucrative Mone- gasque myth, then Caroline, Albert and Stephanie, the three children she bore him, were both his joy and a constant source of worry and embarrassment.
Caroline had barely left the Sorbonne when against her parents' wishes, she married the playboy French banker Philippe Junot, who was 17 years her senior. That union lasted barely two years.
Then, in 1982, came the death of Grace in a car accident, which also left the 17-year-old Stephanie seriously injured.
Whatever the cause — and many say it was actually Stephanie who was driving, illegally — the crash defined the later years of Rainier's rule and could perhaps be said to have brought the halcyon days of the principality to an end and heralded the most extraordinary dysfunction among the children.
Stephanie said of the crash: 'Everybody wanted her to survive. Instead it was me.* Thereafter, her love life has been almost wilfully bizarre, by the standards of any social strata, let alone European monarchy.
Among her sometime partners were a circus owner, a trapeze artist, an elephant trainer, a con- victed sex offender and at least two of her bodyguards.
It was reported recently that she was having a fling with a barman. These relationships have produced three children, all born out of wedlock.
Caroline seemed to have found some kind of happiness following the death of her mother when she met and married Italian business- man Stefano Casiraghi.
They were together for seven years before the so-called 'Curse of the Grimaldis' struck again and Casiraghi was killed in a powerboat race.
Caroline retired from public life and settled in France, only to re-emerge in 1996 on the arm of the playboy Prince Ernst of Hanover who, alas, was married to someone else.
While they have since married and had a daughter, Rainier, a devout Roman Catholic whose only transgression as a young man was an affair with a French actress, witnessed this carnival with distaste. No one, however, could accuse his son Albert of entering into embarrassing liaisons.
But then the problem with Albert was that, in spite of being seen on the arm of a number of single and singularly glamorous young women, he has never even suggested that marriage is a possibility.
Indeed, there are those who are sure he is what is known in polite circles as a 'confirmed bachelor'.
THIS MAY have been what moved Rainier to tinker once again with the constitution in 2002. Albert could not adopt because he has not married, so Rainier abolished primogeniture and made Caroline second in line tb the throne, with her 20-year-old son, Andrea, third.
Andrea, a handsome student, spent much of his childhood in France and was recently voted by an American magazine one of the world's most beautiful 50 individuals.
Whether he will follow the path of the young Rainier or of his aunt Stephanie remains to be seen.
In the meantime, Albert faces some major challenges, not least in proving the doubters wrong. Among them were his own father, who once questioned whether Albert was 'sufficiently tough'.
The problem dogging the principality is the accusation that it is a haven for 'dirty money' from Russia and other organised crime centres around Europe.
The Organisation For Economic Co-operation And Development (OECD) has defined Monaco as being an unco-operative tax haven and the EXJ has urged it to become more transparent in its financial affairs.
France, the hungry giant on its shoulder, continues to pose a threat to its long-term sovereignty.
Can Albert, who has so far led only the Monegasque Olympic bobsieigh team, cope?
A dissenting voice amid those doomsayers is Jeffrey Robinson, writer of the authorised biography Rainier & Grace. He told the Mail last night that he believed Monaco's future was assured under Albert.
'When Rainier took over in 1949, he wasn't living in Monaco, had not grown up there and rarely visited. In other words, he was completely unprepared when his grandfather died and he was thrown into it.
'Albert grew up in Monaco and, for the past 25 years since college, has been Rainier's right-hand man in Monaco pie. He is much more prepared than his father was.
'Albert once asked me: "How do you follow my father and mother?" and the answer is you don't. No one can follow Rainier and Grace and what they did, but Albert will cope.'
Time will tell. But Albert, without his father and without a wife, is very much on his own.
DID Prince Rainier of
Monaco, who died
yesterday aged 81, pass
away still believing actor
David Niven's assurance that lantern-jawed chanteuse Gracie Fields was the
greatest lover of her era? Niven recounted
in his memoir, The Moon's a Balloon,
how, when he met the
prince during his
engagement to Grace
Kelly, Rainier asked
him which of all the
female stars was the
best in bed. 'Grace, of
course,' replied Niven,
who'd had an ardent
affair with Miss Kelly.
shocked. 'Er, Gracie
Fields,' added Niven
nimbly, referring to
the altogether less
beguiling singer (pictured), saving the
day, and very probably
the costly wedding
DID Prince Rainier of Monaco, who died yesterday aged 81, pass away still believing actor David Niven's assurance that lantern-jawed chanteuse Gracie Fields was the greatest lover of her era? Niven recounted in his memoir, The Moon's a Balloon, how, when he met the prince during his engagement to Grace Kelly, Rainier asked him which of all the female stars was the best in bed. 'Grace, of course,' replied Niven, who'd had an ardent affair with Miss Kelly. Rainier looked shocked. 'Er, Gracie Fields,' added Niven nimbly, referring to the altogether less beguiling singer (pictured), saving the day, and very probably the costly wedding arrangements.
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