When Oleg had come to stay with the Kellys, the paterfamilias had just ignored him. So, by Kelly standards, this was
almost a benediction. He had at least got Pa Kelly’s attention, while Ma Kelly was even quite excited by the idea of
the wedding (until she heard that it would be held in Monaco rather than at the bride’s home, as was the American
way). Nor was Jack Kelly at all minded to put up a $2,000,000 dowry. The suggestion elicited a predictably outraged
response. “My daughter doesn’t have to pay any man to marry her,” he fumed. Eventually, as the father of the bride,
he acquiesced to paying $2m dollars for the wedding, and among the entertainments it was noted that the London
Festival Ballet had been booked for six performances.
The Kellys’ concerns can hardly have been assuaged when jewels, which according to The New York Times “were estimated
to be worth $50,000”, and belonging to one of their guests, were stolen from a suite at the Hotel de Paris by what
the paper called ‘Riviera thieves’. At least these Riviera thieves could have stolen another set of jewels, those
purchased by Prince Rainier’s National Council as a wedding present — they were apparently terrible. “Anybody,” said
Rainier, “could see that these were old jewels. They were mounted in an old-fashioned way, and had very little
appeal.” But when they tried to return the jewels, the council had difficulty getting their money back and a lawsuit
Then, in a plot twist that even Hitchcock would have found too far-fetched for the Riviera thriller that Grace had
starred in, Prince Rainier’s mother turned up for the wedding with her driver (and so it was said lover), ‘a
gentleman cracksman’ and jewel thief called Rene la Canne (‘Rene the Swagger Cane’). Jack Kelly’s reaction was in
character, branding his future in-laws “a bunch of god-damned degenerates”.
Meanwhile, the reformed jewel thief (whose tight white uniform did little to disguise him) was soon recognised by the
press, who, failing in their efforts to bribe guests to take pictures inside the palace, were thrilled to have
something to write about. Grace’s mother-in-law-to-be explained to newspapermen: “I thought the air and sun would do
him good. His health is delicate after his years in prison.”
Not that there was much sun on those April days. It poured with rain, and when photographers already unhappy at being
soaked became so upset at being held back from the entrance to the Monte Carlo Sporting Club that they got into a
punch-up with police, it seemed that Jack Kelly began to sympathise with his son-in-law and was reported to have
said: “I guess the prince is going to have to roll with the punches.”
At last the couple made it to the altar. She looked gorgeous in a dress of champagne lace and he in a dashing uniform
bedizened by medals. But even this moment, the most important for the young glamorous couple, was marred, as the
prince later recalled. “Another thing that astonished me when we actually stood together in the cathedral was the
fact that during this wedding, in front of the altar, there were cameras and microphones everywhere,” he said. “Such
lack of solitude and dignity. Reflecting on this afterwards, we both agreed that we should really have got married
somewhere in a little chapel in the mountains. That is the sort of impossible desire one has after these
Even their honeymoon got off to a stormy start. They had intended to set off to Mallorca on the Royal yacht, the Deo
Juvante, but as they left the port the boat was rocked by an enormous swell and the captain advised that they pull
into the bay of Villefranche and sit out the bad weather.
It may have been a difficult start, but as they finally sailed off to start their honeymoon and begin their married
life, the modernisation of Monaco had begun.
Once, when trying to explain the level of local apprehension that attended his marriage, Prince Rainier was able to
say as late as 1966: “You have to understand that quite a lot of the local people here have hardly been out of
Monaco in their lives. I have heard of many Monégasques dying at the age of 70 who had only been once as far as
Joining the swarm of helicopters that took to the skies after the grand prix, I cast a glance back at this very
cosmopolitan little city-state, and reflected just how much had changed.
Originally published in Issue 41 of The Rake.
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