Sixty-seven years ago today, the American actress Grace Kelly became a princess when she married Prince Rainier III of Monaco. While this is technically yet another Wedding Tiara Wednesday without a bridal tiara, there was indeed a tiara worn as part of the festivities! Read on for more…
Fresh off her Best Actress Oscar win for The Country Girl in 1955, Grace Kelly met Prince Rainier III of Monaco during a trip to the French Riviera for the Cannes Film Festival. The two only met briefly, but they began a correspondence that developed into a romance. Rainier made a visit to America during the Christmas holidays that year. He proposed to Grace with a simple Cartier band studded with diamonds and rubies—representing the red and white colors of the Monegasque flag—and she accepted.
But such a simple ring wouldn’t do for a Hollywood actress-turned-princess. Rainier offered his bride-to-be an upgrade, presenting her with a second Cartier engagement ring. This much-larger ring featured a 10.5-carat emerald-cut diamond flanked by a pair of diamond baguettes. Grace wore it during the filming of her final Hollywood movie, High Society, in the early months of 1956. Grace would wear both of the rings often throughout the rest of her life.
The royal wedding celebrations in Monaco were scheduled for April 1956, and prominent citizens of the principality scrambled to procure proper wedding gifts for their new Princess of Monaco.
Initially, Monaco’s National Council commissioned a French jeweler to make a diamond and ruby demi-parure for their new princess. The set included a necklace, a bracelet, a set of clip brooches, and a ring, and it was just part of a large range of diamond and ruby jewels in Grace’s new collection. (You can see the necklace and bracelet above.) But there were strong disagreements about the cost of the suite, and they shelved the idea in favor of another bejeweled wedding gift.
As a replacement, the National Council acquired this classic diamond festoon necklace from Cartier. Today, the necklace is owned by the Palais Princier collection, and it’s frequently loaned out to various museum exhibitions.
The National Council also added one more piece to the national wedding gift: a diamond bracelet set with baguettes and brilliants in a lattice-style pattern. The bracelet was made by Van Cleef & Arpels.
Van Cleef & Arpels also made a demi-parure of pearl and diamond jewelry for the new princess. The suite was a gift from her new husband, Prince Rainier.
The Société des Bains de Mer, one of the most important institutions in the principality, did end up giving Grace diamonds and rubies as a wedding present. They offered her a versatile jewel from Cartier, featuring a trio of ruby and diamond clip brooches that can also be worn on a necklace or on a tiara frame.
Grace wrapped up her film career and attended the Oscars before heading to Monaco to embark on the second half of her life. Her new jewels were waiting there for her, ready to be worn during multiple days of wedding celebrations. The proceedings really kicked into high gear on April 18, 1956, when Rainier and Grace were married in a civil ceremony, required by Monegasque law, in the Throne Room at the Palais Princier.
For this ceremony, Grace wore no significant visible jewelry. She was prim and proper in a pink lace skirt suit by MGM costume designer Helen Rose, who also made the grand gown for her religious wedding ceremony the following day.
But before Rainier and Grace could make their vows at Monaco’s cathedral, it was tiara time. A glittering gala was held in their honor at the Opera Garnier in Monte Carlo on the night of April 18, halfway between the civil wedding and the religious ceremony. Grace looked every inch the princess already, wearing the insignia of Monaco’s highest chivalric honor, the Order of Saint Charles, on her Lanvin gown. She also wore several pieces of her wedding gift jewelry: the Cartier diamond and ruby tiara from the Société des Bains de Mer, paired with the Cartier diamond festoon necklace and Van Cleef & Arpels diamond bracelet from the National Council.
The big show took place the following morning. Rainier and Grace were married by Bishop Gilles Barthe in Monaco’s grand nineteenth-century cathedral. Both of their families, numerous friends, and several Hollywood stars looked on as Grace Kelly of Philadelphia officially became Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco.
The gown that Helen Rose made for Grace to wear during the religious ceremony was a work of art. Grace’s former studio, MGM, offered it to their star as a wedding present. (It wasn’t just an act of kindness—they were also filming the wedding.) More than 30 seamstresses worked for six weeks to complete the elaborate dress, which was made of silk taffeta, silk net, tulle, and antique Brussels lace. The gown would go on to set bridal trends for decades. After the wedding, Grace donated the dress to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Grace chose not to wear a tiara on her wedding day, opting instead for a Juliet cap made of lace that secured her tulle veil.
Other than her new wedding ring, Grace’s only significant jewelry at the religious ceremony was a pair of pearl drop earrings. Interestingly, the earrings are very similar to the ones that she wore when she won her Academy Award a year earlier, as well as the pair that she wore for her finals Oscars appearance in 1956. Maybe she felt that the style was good luck?