Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rainier III, Prince of 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 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 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 won the Croix de Guerre and Bronze Star and was given the rank of Chevalier in the 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 romance
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 which she married and had a child.

After a year-long courtship described as containing "a good deal of rational appraisal on both sides" (The Times, 7 April 2005, page 59), in Monaco civilly on 18 April 1956 and religiously on 19 April 1956, Prince Rainier married Oscar-winning American actress Grace Kelly (1929–1982).

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.

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. 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.

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