This is the story of a 26-year-old charming American actress from Philadelphia at the top of her career and a 32-year-old Prince Gentleman who has been reigning the Principality for six years. Their first meeting, brief but intense, affected the future of Monaco magnificently. On the occasion of the ninetieth anniversary of Princess Grace’s birth, the Princely Palace is being celebrating her iconic figure through an unprecedented photo gallery, letters, testimonials, excerpt of newspapers, movie tracks and other meaningful personal items, all focused on a specific date.
‘Monaco, 6 mai 1955, histoire d’une rencontre’ (Monaco, the 6th May 1955, story of a meeting), held at the State Rooms – Palais Princier from the 14th May until the 15th October 2019, is much more than an interactive exposition. It represents a piece of the Monegasque history as the result of a skilled research by the Monaco Palace Archive and the Audio-visual Institute of Monaco. An intriguing itinerary, officially opened on the 13th May 2019 by H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, leads the visitor to the discovery of the first visit of Grace Kelly to the Princely Palace in a day lapse of time after a set of incredible circumstances started one year before.
Figurehead on the international cinema scene and favourite actress of the renowned filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, Grace visited the French Riviera in 1954 to play in his masterpiece “To Catch a Thief”, co-starring Cary Grant. Soon after, she was awarded the Oscar as best actress in the drama film “The Country Girl” directed by George Seaton, so that she was invited to the 8th ‘Festival de Cannes’ as undisputed “queen” of the silver screen. Despite her busy time, she accepted at the very last moment an invitation from H.S.H. Prince Rainier III of Monaco on the 6th May afternoon. It was undoubtedly a memorable meeting carefully described by the well-known journalist Pierre Galante, at Paris Match, and Jean-Paul Ollivier, journalist at Combat and Nice-Matin and wonderfully depicted with a series of professional master photos of different size, took by two witnesses of exception: Michel Simon, photograph at Paris Match, and the Irish Edward Quinn, ‘habitué’ in the Riviera.
This exposition, based on authoritative sources, focuses the footsteps of Grace Kelly, being firstly guided in the ‘Grands Appartements’ by Michel Demaurizi, major maître d’hotel, in charge of the Napoleon museum commissioned by Prince Louis II, and then welcomed by the Sovereign Prince Himself through a romantic promenade in the Monegasque gardens and the Zoo.
A rendezvous that spread around the world throughout all media and created a fashion trend thanks to the natural elegance of the future Princess. A testimony worth discovering. What about to know more about the expo background? HelloMonaco asked Thomas Fouilleron (T.F.), director of the ‘Archives’ and the ‘Bibliothèque’ at the Princely Palace, co-curator of the exhibition, together with Vincent Vatrican, director of the ‘Institut audiovisuel de Monaco’.
HelloMonaco: Mr. Fouilleron, what has led you to conceive an exhibition of such a specific event?
T.F.: Before any marriage there is of course a first date and sometimes there is no trace of it. In rare instances children can enjoy details and visual portraits about the first meeting between their parents. That is the case for the Princely Family with special regard to H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco. I do believe that this princely rendezvous was triggered by a press report promoted by Paris Match magazine. Grace Kelly was certainly the Star actress of 1955 Cannes Film Festival. Therefore, any newspaper and magazine was competing to report on her visit in the most original way, including a direct reference to the cultural background of the French Riviera. Her choice to attend that iconic festival wasn’t totally random considering her previous brief stay in Monaco on the set of Hitchcock’s crime movie (1954). She was fascinated by the Monegasque environment and expressed her desire to visit the gardens over Port Hercules as pointed out by John Michael Hayes, the screenwriter of that cinema production. The Sovereign Prince at that time was firmly committed to increase through media the visibility of the Principality in the United States, the world most powerful economy after the Second World War. Monaco, in fact, was in need of improving its economy. Within this context, He gladly welcomed the idea to meet her, without thinking that she would become his wife in one year. Grace Kelly’s reputation, in fact, could be an excellent medium to convey a good image of the Principality worldwide. On these basis, we decided to bring that moment to light, stressing the role of both protagonists though the lens of photographic creativity, bringing them to today’s reality.
HelloMonaco: Which was the highlight of her visit?
T.F.: Definitely when she visited the gardens in company of the Sovereign Prince. It is really interesting to notice that twenty minutes were sufficient to change the course of Monegasque history. Besides that, a real myth between reality and fiction was created whereas a young Prince belonging to the ‘old’ Europe started dating such a famous American movie Star. So, to design this exhibit we were inspired by the spirit of John Ford movie, ‘The man who shot Liberty Valance’. Not by chance, headlines around the world used these photos as soon as their engagement was made it official. But just a few of them were used in the end. Hence, a high-quality coverage never ends to surprise and this multimedia exhibition testifies it.