Prince Rainier ruled Monaco for just about 56 years, from 1949 until his death in 2005. “Ruling” is a funny term for running Monaco, the sunny tax-free playground for the rich. Not that it’s easy to do well, but it’s also not exactly like “ruling” a traditional country.
Rainier’s family, the Grimaldis, have run Monaco since conquering the original walled city in 1297. An impressive reign! Also an impressive record of diplomatic cleverness, given Monaco’s tiny size and its position: surrounded by France and next door to Italy during those two countries’ centuries of power.
These days it’s understood that Monaco (while sovereign!) is a subset of France and dependent on it. Monaco’s official site puts it very well:
“Approved in 1919 by the signatory powers of the Treaty of Versailles, this agreement stipulated that France undertook to defend the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Principality. In return, Monaco agreed to exercise its rights of sovereignty in accordance with the overriding interests of France, thus creating a strategic alliance between the two countries.“
That is, don’t expect to see Monaco biting the hand of Paris any time soon.
But back to Prince Rainier III. The emotional highlight of his reign was his 1956 marriage to Princess Grace of Monaco, formerly known as the American actress Grace Kelly. (As seen in the photo above.)
Grace Kelly shot the 1955 Hitchcock film To Catch a Thief in and around Monaco, then met Prince Rainier at the Cannes Film Festival (also nearby) in 1955. They were married less than a year later, on 18 April 1956.
Princess Grace died young, sadly, in a car crash in 1982. Prince Rainier lived another 23 years, but never seemed to have quite the same energy. He never remarried. His son with Grace, Prince Albert, succeeded Rainier and now rules Monaco.
Albert (left) and his family unveiled an unusual statue of Prince Rainier at a Monaco park in 2006, the year after Rainier’s death: