April 22, 2011

{Did You Know?} No. 2: "Before Diana, It Was Grace"

[This continues the Did You Know? series which is randomly-regular blog additions highlighting facts and folklore about brides, weddings & courtship.]

Did you know that before 750 million viewers tuned in to watch Prince Charles marry Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, becoming the largest media event in the world, the wedding of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier held the record? In 1956, 30 million people watched the wedding of the film icon and the prince of Monaco on live television. And this was only because the private  Kelly and Grimaldi families had to agree to allow MGM to film the wedding so they would release Grace from her movie contract. 

Air travel was not readily available at the time, so Grace, with her poodle and over 60 members of the wedding party, left New York Harbor on April 4, 1956 on the ocean liner the SS Constitution for the French Riviera. Arriving in Monaco eight days later, 20,000 people lined the streets (there are only about 3000 residents of Monaco) to welcome the future princess consort. 

The pre-wedding days of parties, sightseeing, budding romances, and members of the press attempting to land a story were accompanied by not one, but two cat-burglars making off with expensive jewels of wedding guests. Real life repeats the movies! (Grace's movie co-starring Cary Grant and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, To Catch a Thief, had just been released the year before!)

Known as "the wedding of the century" until Charles and Diana's nuptials almost 30 years later, the Monaco wedding, an elaborate Catholic Mass, was attended by over 600 guests. Guests included Ava Gardner, Cary Grant, David Niven, Aga Khan, Gloria Swanson, Aristotle Onassis as well as heads of state, diplomats and wealthy business friends of the Kelly family. 

The day before, Grace and the prince were officially wed in a small civil ceremony in the palace which, it was reported, the bride preferred to the stiff, under-harsh-lights atmosphere of the public ceremony in Saint Nicholas Cathedral.

There is a wonderful "falling in love" story about the ocean crossing of Grace, her family and friends, along with members of the press corps, that I've recounted in my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride. ~

[Another post in the series Did You Know? will appear soon! You can find past additions highlighting facts and folklore about brides, weddings & courtship by clicking on "Did You Know?" in the Labels list below.]

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