jump to navigation

April 19th 1956: Louise de Vilmorin and the Wedding in Monaco April 26, 2013

Posted by bjpayne2003 in Aspen Consular Corps, Consul of Monaco, Consulate of Monaco, Grace Kelly, Las Vegas, Las Vegas Consular Corps, Monaco Royal Wedding, Nevada Consular Corps, Prince Albert II of Monaco, Prince Rainier III of Monaco, Princess Caroline of Monaco, Princess Charlene of Monaco, Princess Grace of Monaco, Principality of Monaco.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
trackback

One of the series of stamps commemorating the wedding

April 19th is certainly one of the most auspicious dates in the history of Monaco. For it was on that date in 1956 that the small Principality became the center of the world’s attention and, essentially, a household word. The fairytale romance between Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III became a reality for the world as the two were married in Monaco’s cathedral.

Covering the story for Marie Claire, contemporary author Louise de Vilmorin put it succinctly when she summed up the world’s fascination for a “queen of Hollywood” giving up her throne to become a Princess.  A resident of Las Vegas from 1925 until 1931, Louise de Vilmorin was one of the preeminent French novelists of the day.  Her famed novel “Madame de-” had just a few years prior been adapted into an acclaimed film.  Having been awarded Monaco’s Prince Pierre Literary Award, named in honor of Prince Rainier’s father one year earlier, She was a highly appropriate choice to pen an article on the wedding of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace.   Back in the US, Louise’s former husband, globe-trotting Las Vegas land baron Henry Leigh Hunt, had just been confirmed as Honorary Consul of The Principality of Monaco in Las Vegas (the very post held by Consul Warren) in January of 1956.

In honor of this anniversary, a look back at some of the photos from the event and a new summarized translation of Louise de Vilmorin’s report, published under the title of “I Was There at the Wedding” has been prepared below.

The famed first images of HSH Princess Grace of Monaco during the religious ceremony

Princes are always effective, but when they are on a throne, they are very effective. Me, for the moment, I’m sitting on a chair in a room of the house called “Santo Sospir” in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. The walls of this room are blank pages on which Jean Cocteau would easily trace drawings. Just now, when I rise, my seat will be empty. This is what differentiates us from reigning princes and kings who can swim, drive or fly, while still on the throne. They are at the same time mobile and immobile.

Privileges intrigue the imagination more than the gifts and we recognize the approval such privileges can win. A young girl marries an artist without becoming an artist, she marries a prince, she becomes a princess. Fairy tales show the possible as you know, you who read newspapers.

Newspapers in recent weeks, are quivering to the point that it is a penalty to read them. You sit, you hold them, mail them, but tremble so hard that you shake like the train.

Marie Clair was first and foremost a fashion magazine and so Grace’s outfits received a fair bit of attention. From left, sailing aboard the USS Constitution, arriving in Monaco, at an awards gala and a dinner party at the palace

Tell me, sir, what is the wind that shakes the leaves?

Well, it is the wind of Monte Carlo…yes, be sure today that it is the wind of Monte Carlo that ruffles the leaves of the world.

The onshore wind, the wind of love on a rock, a storm bringing with it the creation of a household. It has been anticipated by automobiles, diamonds and lace. Among designers, by small hands and itchy fingers: the academicians and their embroidery, the gentlemen of the order of Malta held their red paint and put the cross around their neck, high and noble, ladies, billionaires and snobs feel a reason to dress up and be cakes. They control the pistachio, the mint, the raspberry and they braid their hair with violets of Toulouse, pure sugar. Their shoes are coffee éclairs and their handbags are melting candy. Their husbands, themselves, dress in licorice, whipped cream, and all this is due to the movement of a star. Astronomers do not sleep and the prophets of metro announce the lovely scene. In short, we prepare, we watch, we listen.

At the small palace reception just after the civil ceremony

What a story! Prince Rainier III of Monaco loves a queen of Hollywood and it is love. The event is important. Will she resign? Will she give up her throne? Despise her supremacy, ending her reign and becoming a princess when she was queen? Well, yes she will. She heard a voice, and presto! Her Majesty Grace Kelly was transformed to a Serene Highness. She has left scores of Americans, she waved and followed the voice of the heart. She is a blonde, Grace, slender and graceful, accompanied by a black poodle, surrounded by her parents and sixty courtiers. She navigates a crossing of the Ocean, and tackles the shores of the Principality of Monaco. Suddenly, there was cannon fire. The echo was heard in a Timbuktu, leaves agitated me more and more, so I boarded the train.In the corridors, it is the same as in the dining car, travelers are gazing and talking: You’re to be at the wedding? I’m going. No, I am not going, I am going down to Toulon. If you looked at my feet, you would see that I am going … The foot does not disappoint. I have bought new shoes.

 The city of Monte Carlo is all decorated with flags of Monaco – half red, half white and American flags. The hotels are crowded. It’s raining softly and there are no taxis. All vehicles are requisitioned or locked up. Some carriages, drawn by two horses in macramé bonnets, roll in the city and the Americans walk while breathing the air of another time. It is perhaps by inventing the past they believe they are transported to the time of Grand Dukes.

 One hundred elected officials avoid, or embrace, or nudge in the lobby of the Hotel de Paris. This is the domain of winks and what will be said? We talk about the civil marriage which took place in the morning. It is said that Grace Kelly was not smiling and that the prince was silent, we are awaiting the gala performance at the Opera tonight. Grace, who will be entitled to be called Serene Highness after the religious marriage will be throughout the day of 18th be known as “Madame Grimaldi”, and it is Madame Grimaldi that will appear in the princely box lovely, but fleeting.  All eyes were fixed on the little face of tomorrow’s princess, on her sparkling dress and on her blond hair crowned with a diadem of rubies and diamonds, and the serious face of Prince Rainier.

And then, barely have we seen them as they disappear into a trap.  A moment of anguish …  What has happened?

 Nothing serious, do not worry. Just one thing: they sat and the border of white lilacs and roses decorating the front of their box is so high that the mask the performance altogether. Phew!  I was scared. In the box on the right, I see Prince Pierre, father of the groom: he is very pale, and left in the box, I saw two more tiaras worn by Princess Charlotte and Princess Antoinette, the mother and sister of Prince Rainier. I guess too there are many Kelly family members, but I do not know, I cannot recognize them…

 The room is very beautiful and bears the weight of tradition, we feel that most of the people who are here say, “Since I’m here, I’m surely someone”. This is a reassuring thought. As for the theater stage, it will be from one end to the other a show enchanted by Margot Fonteyn, Yvette Chauviré and Mademoiselle Toumanova.

Prince Rainier III with the new Princess Grace at the reception following the religious ceremony

Prince Rainier III reigns, you know, over vast horizons. However, in recent days, he is very worried. Through the windows of his palace, at the top of the Rock, he sees from one side the gray sea, and on the other side, umbrellas. This is not a sign of good weather and, like us, he wants a blue sky. What to do? Father Tucker, who apparently knows more than a good thing, advised him to offer a dozen candles to Saint Clare … As was said, so it was done: Blue skies, please Holy Lady … The sky lit up and the weather was beautiful when they came to wake me the morning of the wedding.

I slept little: I was haggard and had puffy eyelids. We tend to laugh, but this is not funny. We are hiding under a lovely coat a white satin dress and large white straw hat. We must occupy promptly at 9:30am the seats which have been reserved in the cathedral. On the square in front of the church, there is a triple row of soldiers: French, American and English. The music is French and there is a crowd of gentlemen in licorice suits, crossed with grand ribbons encrusted with sparkling stones, and a crowd of ladies, most of whom, as we know, have made their clothes from pastry. Those who are afraid of melting ice.  That’s understandable, and they will quickly take shelter in the sacred cool, while those in plum pudding cake and have the advantage of being able to relax on the porch. Jean Cocteau watched it all from the top of a balcony overlooking the square. It is actually quite a story. It is claimed he is offended, but this is not true. He had composed in honor of Rainier an ode that the prince was to have heard the previous evening at the Opera. Confusion would hinder this project but without hurting the author of the poem.

A taxi driver said to me, “Prince Rainier is shy and usually, quite reflective. Then he must say: all this is too much for me. He would have surely preferred to marry on his boat in the open sea or the night, in a little mountain Chapel, or with only his friends around. Do you think all these people are interested in him?  No, of course not. But then, he does not like this ‘fluff.’”

The “fluff”, it is there in the Cathedral.  We look, comparing the places, but the music silenced whispers. The preparation of the choir.  Suddenly, after a silence, the music resumes, intensifies and rises, and the bride appears in the arms of her father. They move very slowly, they walk a walk not unknown, yet one would say that they are preserved in emotion. Grace wears a real dress, that is, a dress without a date, a dress that is not fashionable, but is timeless; and the frail bride with her pallor of ivory and white tulle, and lace, the altar is illuminated with flowers, as to an aurora borealis of Enchantment. There’s no procession. The Princess, the witnesses, as the parents of Grace, one by one, followed by their honor service. Preceded by his Chamberlain, accompanied by his bodyguards, Prince Rainier, in a grand uniform, appears last. There the downcast eyes, he almost seems to suffer and we feel a sense of what awaits him, solitary and kneeling in the distant light of the Church.

The iconic image of HSH Princess Grace in her wedding gown

The Church: the moment of the question and the response, the vows, the oath. The spirit changes the mood. It is emotion; you can feel the heart beat and all thoughts are more than a bunch of fervor. The vision of love makes the heart serious. I know and, while the couple exchanged their rings, they receive Holy Communion, nostalgia showed me happiness and I begged God to protect love.

Need I say more? I talked more. I laugh more. I became aware of all the efforts made for the intimate event that became a great party and should remain a beautiful memory deserving of a halo. A respect came to me and I felt remorse.

When the couple left the church, I loved when they showed themselves to the crowd of their little people. I was happy to hear them cheering.

After the wedding, the guests went into the courtyard where two huge buffets were prepared, but no one dared to approach:

– Where are the newlyweds …? Where are the newlyweds?… they said.

– Allow them time to breathe..

“The time to breathe” appeared along with everyone and it was just the time that I envied. What time!  What breath!  What happiness! And it really is in happiness that they both appeared atop a white marble staircase. They finally smiled down the steps. Smiles stopped at a sugar cake two meters tall and weighing ninety pounds, placed in the shade of the stairs.  A cake monument stood in a niche of rare plants, orchids and other exotic wedding flowers, while doves cooed in a wicker cage.

The doves flew.  The lovers, too, are gone. They sail their happiness between sky and water, and when they return to Monaco, the Prince will reign over a state that is already a state of Grace.

The ceremonies over, the newlyweds board the Deo Juvante II for their honeymoon

Comments»

No comments yet — be the first.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: