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Prince Rainier

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Prince Rainier

"Prince Rainier" redirects here. For the Hungarian nobleman, see Prince Rainier of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Rainier III
Rainier in 1961
Prince of Monaco
Reign 9 May 1949 – 6 April 2005
Predecessor Louis II
Successor Albert II
Spouse Grace Kelly
Issue
Caroline, Princess of Hanover
Albert II, Prince of Monaco
Princess Stéphanie of Monaco
Full name
Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand
House House of Grimaldi
Father Prince Pierre, Duke of Valentinois
Mother Princess Charlotte, Duchess of Valentinois
Born (1923-05-31)31 May 1923
Monaco
Died 6 April 2005(2005-04-06) (aged 81)
Monaco
Burial Saint Nicholas Cathedral
Monaco-Ville, Monaco

Rainier III (Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand Grimaldi; 31 May 1923 – 6 April 2005) ruled the Principality of Monaco for almost 56 years, making him one of the longest ruling monarchs of the 20th century. 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 only approximately three percent of the nation's annual revenue today; when Rainier ascended the throne in 1949, it accounted for more than 95 percent.[1]

Early life

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 Marie Juliette Louvet; she was later legitimized through formal adoption and subsequently named heiress-presumptive to the throne of Monaco. His father was a half-French, half-Mexican 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, Princess Antoinette, Baroness of 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.

Rainier was first sent to study at Summerfields School in St Leonards-on-Sea, England,[2] and later at Stowe, a prestigious English public school in Buckinghamshire. From there, he went to the Institut 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, in contradiction with the very Germanophile position of his grandfather Louis II, Rainier joined lately the Free French army in September 1944 as an artillery officer. As a second lieutenant, he fought during the German counter-offensive in Alsace. He received the French Croix de Guerre (Cross of War) with bronze star (representing a brigade level citation) and was given the rank of Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor.

On 9 May 1949, Rainier became the Sovereign Prince of Monaco on the death of Prince Louis II, his mother having renounced her rights to the throne in his favour in 1944.

In the 1940s and 1950s, the prince openly lived with the French film star Gisèle Pascal. The couple reportedly separated when it was rumoured by an aspirant to the throne that a doctor declared her to be infertile, a diagnosis later disproved when she married and had a child.

Actions as Sovereign Prince

After ascending the throne, Rainier worked assiduously to recoup Monaco's lustre, which had become tarnished through neglect (especially financial) and scandal (his mother, Princess Charlotte, took a noted jewel thief known as René the Cane 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, 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 was also 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 living head of state, ranking just below King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand.

Marriage and family

After a year-long courtship described as containing "a good deal of rational appraisal on both sides" (The Times, 7 April 2005, page 59), Prince Rainier married Oscar-winning American actress Grace Kelly (1929–1982)[3] in 1956. The ceremonies in Monaco were on 18 April 1956 (civil) and 19 April 1956 (religious). Their children are:

His wife Grace died in a car crash due to what was initially thought to be a mechanical (brake) failure 1982, but it was later determined that she actually suffered a stroke which caused her Rover to go off the hillside with daughter Stephanie (who survived). Rainier then may have been romantically involved with his second cousin, Princess Ira von Fürstenberg, a former movie actress turned jewellery designer, who is also a Fiat heiress and the former sister-in-law of fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg. Unfounded, unverified and alleged circumstantial evidence and rumors have persisted as to the actual cause of Princess Grace's car crash. Princess Ira, like him, is a great-grandchild of Lady Mary Victoria Hamilton, the Scottish-German wife of Prince Albert I of Monaco, though by Lady Mary's second marriage.

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.[4] On 7 March 2005, he was again hospitalized with a lung infection. Rainier was moved to the hospital's intensive care unit on 22 March. One day later, on 23 March, it was announced he was on a ventilator, suffering from renal and heart failure. On 26 March, 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".[5]

On 31 March 2005, following consultation with the Crown Council of Monaco, the Palais Princier announced that Rainier's son, Hereditary Prince Albert, would take over the duties of his father as regent since Rainier was no longer able to exercise his royal functions.[6]

On 1 April 2005, the Palace announced that Rainier's doctors believe his chances of recovery were "slim";[7] on 6 April it announced that Prince Rainier had died in Monaco at 6:35 am local time at the age of 81. He was succeeded by his only son, who became Prince Albert II.[8]

He was buried on 15 April 2005, beside his wife, Princess Grace, at the Saint Nicholas Cathedral, the resting place of previous sovereign princes of Monaco and several of their wives,[9] and the place where Prince Rainier and Princess Grace had been married in 1956.[10]

Because his death occurred shortly after that of Pope John Paul II, Rainier's death was overshadowed in the media.[10] As a mark of respect, his family did not attend that year's Monaco Grand Prix, a Formula One race.

Titles, orders, decorations and medals

Titles

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).

Orders:

Private Orders not Conferred by a National Government:

  • Olympic Order in Gold
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Equestrian Order of Saint-Martin

Decorations

Military Medals

  • France Cross of the Voluntary Combatant 1939–1945
  • France Combatant's Cross
  • France 1939–1945 War Commemorative Medal

Non-Military Medals

Philately


Rainier created a postal museum in 1950 by using the collections of Albert I and Louis II. Since 1996 this museum has been called Musée des timbres et monnaies.

Creator of the philatelic Club de Monte-Carlo in 1997, he organized with its members some exhibitions of rare and exceptional postage stamps and letters.

Throughout his reign, Rainier surveyed all the process of creation of Monaco stamps. He liked stamps printed in intaglio and the art of engraver Czesław Słania.

Commemorative coin

Honouring the Prince on his death in 2005, a high value commemorative coin was minted with his effigy on it, the €10 gold Prince Rainier III commemorative coin, minted also in 2005. On the obverse the effigy of the late prince is depicted; while on the reverse the Grimaldi's Coat of Arms is shown.

Ancestry

References

External links

  • Prince's Palace, Monaco, official website
  • Cardinal Ratzinger sends condolences to Monaco on Prince Rainier's death
  • The Monte Carlo Royal Palace – 360 degree QTVR
  • Prince Rainier III of Monaco – Daily Telegraph obituary
Rainier III, Prince of Monaco
Cadet branch of the House of Polignac
Born: 31 May 1923 6 April
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Louis II
Prince of Monaco
1949–2005
Succeeded by
Albert II
Monegasque royalty
Preceded by
Charlotte
Hereditary Prince of Monaco
1944–1949
Vacant
Title next held by
Caroline
Duke of Valentinois
1977–2005
Succeeded by
Albert II
Preceded by
Louis II
Marquis of Baux
1944–1958

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