Rainier III
Rainier III of Monaco
Prince of Monaco
Reign 9 May 1949 - 6 April 2005

(&1000000000000005500000055 years, &10000000000000332000000332 days)

Predecessor Louis II
Successor Albert II
Spouse Grace Kelly

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

31 May 1923(1923-05-31)



6 April 2005(2005-04-06) (aged 81)



Saint Nicholas Cathedral

Monaco-Ville, Monaco

Rainier III, Prince of Monaco (Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand Grimaldi, Count of Polignac; 31 May 1923 – 6 April 2005), styled His Serene Highness The Sovereign Prince of Monaco, 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.


Rainier III was of French, Mexican, Spanish, German, Scottish, English, Dutch, and Italian ancestry.

Through his great-grandmother Lady Mary Victoria Hamilton, who was briefly Princess of Monaco, he was a descendant of James IV of Scotland (descended from three of his illegitimate daughters). His great-great-great-grandmother was Stéphanie de Beauharnais, the adopted daughter of Napoleon Bonaparte and later the Grand Duchess of Baden. Other ancestors include William Thomas Beckford, the scandalous 18th century English collector, tastemaker, writer, and eccentric.

Rainier was also a descendant of William the Silent of Orange-Nassau, the main leader of the Dutch revolt against the Spanish Empire and ancestor to the current Dutch Royal Family; Hortense Mancini, the Duchess of Mazarin and mistress of King Charles II of England; Gabrielle de Polignac, a favourite of Marie Antoinette; Joan of Kent, the first Princess of Wales; King Charles IX of Sweden; King Frederick II of Denmark and Norway; Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, Claude, Duke of Guise and several doges of Genoa.

Early lifeEdit

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, HSH 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, 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.

Early romanceEdit

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.

Marriage and familyEdit

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) in 1956. The ceremonies in Monaco were on 18 April 1956 (civil) and 19 April 1956 (religious). Their children are:

Prince Rainier has nine grandchildren:

He was a hands-on grandparent, unusual in a monarchy. He was often seen with Caroline and Stéphanie's children.

After his wife's death in a car crash due to an apparent accidental mechanical failure in 1982, he may have been romantically involved with his second cousin, Princess Ira von Fürstenberg, a former movie actress turned jewelery 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.

Actions as Sovereign PrinceEdit

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. During the last two or three years of his life, Rainier was in the custom of asking his valet each morning, "Has Rama survived the night? Or did I just move up in the ranks?"

Illness and deathEdit

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. 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".

On 31 March 2005, following consultation with the Crown Council of Monaco, 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.

On 1 April 2005, the Palace announced that Rainier's doctors believe his chances of recovery were "slim"; 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.

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, and the place where Prince Rainier and Princess Grace had been married in 1956.

Because his death occurred shortly after that of Pope John Paul II, Rainier's death was overshadowed in the media.

Titles, Orders, Decorations and MedalsEdit


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).

  • Colonel in the French Army


  • Grand Master of the Order of Saint-Charles
  • Grand Master of the Order of the Crown
  • Grand Master of the Order of Grimaldi
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour
  • Knight Grand-Cross of Honour and Devotion of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta with Cross of Honorary Professed Member
  • Collar of Merit of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta
  • Member of the Pontifical Military Order of the Golden Spur
  • Member of the Order of Seraphs
  • Knight of the Order of the Seraphim
  • Grand Cordon of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Savior (Greece)
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Order of George I (Greece)
  • Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold (Belgium)
  • Knight of the Order of the Gold Lion of the House of Nassau
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Mohammed Ali
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Karađorđe's Star
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Jose Matias Delgado (El Salvador)
  • Grand Collar of the Order of Manuel Amador Guerrero

Private Orders not Conferred by a National Government:

  • Olympic Order in Gold
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Military Order of Saint-Jacques of the Sword
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Andrew H. Kowalski
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Equestrian Order of Saint-Martin


  • Croix de Guerre (France)
  • Croix de Guerre (Belgium)
  • War Merit Cross (Italy)
  • Lebanese Medal of Merit

Military Medals

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

Non-Military Medals

  • Gold Medal of the American Legion
  • Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile Gold Medal for Motor Sport


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 coinEdit

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.

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