Rainier III, Prince of Monaco

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Rainier III ruled  from  to .  At the time of his death he was Europe's longest-reigning  and one of the world's longest-serving .
Rainier III ruled Monaco from 1949 to 2005. At the time of his death he was Europe's longest-reigning monarch and one of the world's longest-serving heads of state.

His Serene Highness Prince Rainier III (Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand Grimaldi; May 31, 1923April 6, 2005), styled HSH The Sovereign Prince of Monaco, ruled the Principality of Monaco for almost fifty-six years.

Though he was best known outside of Europe for having married American actress Grace Kelly, he was also responsible for reforms to Monaco's constitution and for expanding the principality's economy beyond its traditional gambling base. Gambling accounts for approximately three percent of the nation's annual revenue today; when Rainier ascended the throne in 1949, it accounted for more than 95 percent.

After grave illness in March 2005, Rainier died on 6 April; his son Albert succeeded him as Prince Albert II.


Early life

Of French, German, Scottish, English, Spanish, and Italian ancestry, Rainier was born in Monaco, the only son of Prince Pierre of Monaco, Duke of Valentinois (né Count Pierre de Polignac) and his wife, Hereditary Princess Charlotte, Duchess of Valentinois. Born in Algeria, his mother was the only child of Prince Louis II and his mistress, Marie Juliette Louvet; she was later legitimized through formal adoption and subsequently named heiress to the throne of Monaco. His father was a half-French, half-Spanish nobleman from Brittany who adopted his wife's surname, Grimaldi, upon marriage and was made a prince of Monaco by his father-in-law.

Rainier had one sibling, HSH Princess Antoinette, Baroness de Massy, an unpopular figure generally believed to be meddlesome enough regarding her children's place in the line of succession to have forced Princess Grace to demand that she leave the country.

The prince was a direct descendant of Stephanie de Beauharnais, an adopted daughter of Napoleon Bonaparte, and of William Thomas Beckford, the scandalous 18th century English collector, tastemaker, writer, and eccentric.

Rainier was first sent to study at the Summerfield College in St. Leonards-on-Sea, England, and later at Stowe, a prestigious English public school in Buckinghamshire. From there, he went to the Institute Le Rosey in Rolle and Gstaad, Switzerland, before continuing to the University of Montpellier in France, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree, and finally to the Institut d'études politiques de Paris in Paris.

Rainier's maternal grandfather, Prince Louis II, had been a general in the French army during World War I. During World War II, Rainier served as an artillery officer in the army. As a second lieutenant, he fought so courageously during the German counter-offensive in Alsace that he won the Croix de Guerre and Bronze Star and was given the rank of Chevalier in the Legion of Honor.

On May 9, 1949, Rainier became the Sovereign Prince of Monaco on the death of Prince Louis II. His mother had previously renounced her rights to the throne in his favor.

In the 1940s and 1950s, the prince lived with the French film star Gisèle Pascal (née Gisèle Tallone, 1923–). The couple reportedly separated when a doctor declared the actress to be infertile; in fact, she later married and had several children.

Marriage and family

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Personal standard of Prince Rainier III
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Flag ratio: 3:4 (or 5:6 with gold fringe)

After a year-long courtship described as containing "a good deal of rational appraisal on both sides" (Times of London, April 7, 2005, page 59), in 1956, Prince Rainier married Oscar-winning American actress Grace Kelly (19291982). Their children are:

Prince Rainier has eight grandchildren:

In the years since his wife's death, he was romantically involved with a distant cousin, Princess Ira von Fürstenberg, a former movie actress turned jewelry designer who is also a Fiat heiress and the former sister-in-law of fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg. Like him, she is a great-grandchild of Lady Mary Victoria Hamilton, the ScotchGerman wife of Prince Albert I of Monaco, though by Lady Mary's second marriage.

Rainer III was also a football fan, having followed AS Monaco FC to the 2004 Champions League final. Monaco has for years hosted the European Super Cup.

Actions as Prince

After ascending the throne, Prince Rainier III worked assiduously to recoup Monaco's luster, which had become tarnished through neglect (especially financial) and scandal (his mother, Princess Charlotte, took a noted jewel thief known as René the Walking Stick as her lover). According to numerous obituaries, the prince was faced upon his ascension with a treasury that was practically empty. The holder of 55 percent of the nation's reserves, the Societé Monégasque de Banques et de Métaux Précieux, was bankrupt. The small nation's traditional gambling clientele, largely European aristocrats, found themselves with reduced funds after World War II. Other gambling centers had opened to compete with Monaco, many of them successfully. To compensate for this loss of income, Prince Rainier decided to promote Monaco as a tax haven, commercial center, real-estate development opportunity, and international tourist attraction. The early years of his reign saw the overweening involvement of the Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, who took control of the Société des Bains de Mer and envisioned Monaco as solely a gambling resort. Prince Rainier regained control of the Société in 1964, effectively ensuring that his vision of Monaco would be implemented.

As Prince of Monaco, Rainier III also was responsible for the principality's new constitution in 1962 which significantly reduced the power of the sovereign. (He suspended the previous Constitution in 1959, saying that it "has hindered the administrative and political life of the country.") The changes ended autocratic rule, placing power with the prince and a National Council of eighteen elected members.

At the time of his death, he was the world's second longest-serving Head of State, ranking just below King Rama IX of Thailand.

Illness and death

In the last three years of his life, Prince Rainier's health progressively declined. In early 2004, he was hospitalized for coronary problems. In October he was again in hospital with a lung infection. In November of that year, Prince Albert appeared on CNN's "Larry King Live" and told Larry King that his father was fine, though he was suffering from bronchitis. [1] (http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0411/18/lkl.01.html) On March 8, 2005, he was again hospitalized with a lung infection. Rainier was moved to the hospital's intensive care unit on March 21. Two days later, on March 23, it was announced he was on a respirator, suffering from renal and heart failure. On March 26, the palace reported that despite intensive ongoing efforts to improve the prince's health, he was continuing to deteriorate; however, the following day, he was reported to be conscious, his heart and kidney conditions having stabilized. His prognosis remained "very reserved". [2] (http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-4895421,00.html)

On March 31, 2005, the Palais Princier announced that Rainier's son, Hereditary Prince Albert, Marquis des Baux, would take over the duties of his father as Regent since Rainier was no longer able to exercise his royal functions. [3] (http://msnbc.msn.com/id/7347372/)

On April 1, 2005, the Palace announced that Rainier's chances of recovery were "slim"; on April 6 it announced that Prince Rainier had died at 6:35 am local time. He was succeeded by his only son, who became Prince Albert II.

He was buried on April 15, 2005, beside his wife, Princess Grace, at the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas in Monaco. Built in the 19th century and also known as Monaco Cathedral, the neo-Romanesque structure is the resting place of 17 previous sovereign princes of Monaco and several of their wives; it also is where Prince Rainier and Princess Grace were married in 1956.


Rainier's official shortened title was His Serene Highness Rainier III, Sovereign Prince of Monaco; this does not include the many other hereditary titles acquired by the Grimaldi family (see Prince of Monaco for a complete list).

His other non-hereditary titles and awards included:

External links

Preceded by:
Louis II
Sovereign Prince of Monaco
1949 - 2005
Succeeded by:
Albert II
Preceded by:
Princess Charlotte
Hereditary Prince of Monaco
Marquis of Baux

1944 - 1949
Duke of Valentinois
1977 - 2005

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