Prince Rainier of Monaco

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End of the House of Monaco? | The Curse of the Grimaldis
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      PRINCE Rainier III of Monaco - who died yesterday aged 81 - should have lived out his final years in fairytale bliss.

    Source | The Sun 7th April 2005

    His late wife was Hollywood beauty Grace Kelly and he ruled over the chic Riviera principality on France's Cote D'Azur surrounded by glamour and wealth.

    Yet the last decades of the once dashing prince of the Grimaldi royal family were marked by tragedy and scandal, mirroring that of Britain's Windsors.

    It was as if the fabled Curse of the Grimaldis which is said to have haunted the family for more than 800 years had struck again.

    First, Princess Grace died in a mysterious car crash in 1982, leaving the forlorn prince to end his days alone.

    The following 23 years were plagued by his wayward children's seemingly never ending crises. There were family rifts, torrid affairs and messy divorces.

    And his beloved principality of Monaco which after his succession Rainier had turned into a glitzy billionaire's playground was accused of being a sordid laundering factory for sleazy Mafia cash.

    Rainier, who was Europe's longest-reigning monarch, started his reign over the tiny Mediterranean kingdom with such hope in 1949.

    A mild-mannered person who enjoyed collecting stamps and vintage cars, he set about reversing Monaco's fortunes.

      Monaco - the world's second smallest state - was then a fading gambling spa which had lost much of its allure. But that all changed when the prince met stunning actress Grace Kelly at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival.

    He whisked her to his royal palace perched high on a rocky cliff above the sea and gave her a tour of his private zoo.

    When she returned to Hollywood, she sent him a thank you note. By Christmas the shy Rainier had followed her to her home in Philadelphia and proposed.

    The marriage of the prince to a Hollywood princess gave Monaco the glitz which turned it from crumbling casino town to a haven for the super-rich and famous.

    Monaco became a billionaire's playground and tax haven and the cash flooded in.

    The royal couple produced three children Albert, Caroline and Stephanie and the fairytale seemed complete.

    But the Curse of Grimaldi was lurking in the shadows.

    It dates back to 1297 when the first Grimaldi, Francesco the Spiteful, tricked the principality's defenders by disguising himself as a monk seeking sanctuary, only to slaughter them all.

    Legend says the curse then plagued the family for generations.

    In 1515 Claudine of Monaco fuelled the jinx when she warned on her deathbed that no Grimaldi should ever ally himself with a foreign power.

    That was exactly what Rainier did when he took American Grace Kelly as his bride. She loved being royal, yet pined for the life of an actress. She suffered from eating disorders and a series of miscarriages.

    The curse seemed to be exacting a terrible revenge on her. But worse was to come.

    On a fine November day in 1982, Grace, aged just 52, was driving with 17-year-old Stephanie along the cliffs of the 480-acre principality. It was the spot where Grace had once made the movie To Catch A Thief with Cary Grant. Mysteriously their car plunged over the cliffs on to the road below. Grace was killed instantly, while Stephanie escaped with neck injuries.

    In the years after the tragedy, Rainier seemed to age rapidly and might have abdicated had his children been more reliable.

    Caroline, now 48, shot to fame as the world's first topless princess when she stripped off as a teenager at the principality's Monte Carlo Beach Club.

    Against her parents' wishes, she married Philippe Junot, a Parisian who was 17 years her senior. The marriage lasted just two years.

    She was married again, in 1983, this time to Italian industrialist Stefano Casiraghi. Caroline's happy family life was shattered in 1990 when Casiraghi was killed while defending the World Offshore Powerboat Championship. Crippled by grief, she retreated from all public functions. She is now married to Prince Ernst of Hanover. once the husband of a long-time friend.

    Second daughter Stephanie. 40, has had a succession of lovers, ran away to the circus, gave birth to three children out of wedlock and was divorced twice.

      She has dated ex-Manchester United goalkeeper Fabien Barthez, Hollywood actors Rob Lowe and Jean-Claude Van Damme.

    Meanwhile, Albert's lovelife has been just as rocky. He has escorted most of the world's beautiful women, including Sharon Stone, Princess Diana and Claudia Schiffer.

    However, the "playboy prince" fights shy of marriage and starting a family, which may explain Rainier's decision in 2002 to change Monaco's constitution.

    Previously, in the absence of a male heir, the principality would have become part of France. But Rainier had the law changed so that, in the event of 47-year-old Albert remaining childless, Caroline and Stephanie can succeeed their brother. Albert was proclaimed regent and took over his father's royal duties last week.

    The once handsome Rainier, who never remarried, was left shattered by the loss of his princess Grace.

    "I still feel her absence. It was a marriage of love," he said 17 years later.

    Rainier suffered several bouts of bronchitis and had several operations in recent years before he was taken to hospital for the last time on March 7 with heart and kidney problems and a lung infection.

    After at least a week's mourning, he is expected to be finally reunited with Princess Grace by being buried at her side.

    His family, and the people of Monaco, pray the Curse of the Grimaldis will be laid to rest with him.

    Prince Rainier Dies | David Niven & Grace Kelly
    End of the House of Monaco? | The Curse of the Grimaldis
    Shop | Grace Kelly | Princess Caroline | Princess Stephanie

    Prince Rainier | Shop

    Princess Caroline of Monaco Book
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    Caroline and Stephanie Book
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    Once Upon a Time: Behind the Fairy Tale of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier Book
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    The Royal House of Monaco: Dynasty of Glamour, Tragedy and Scandal Book
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    Prince Rainier Dies | David Niven & Grace Kelly
    End of the House of Monaco? | The Curse of the Grimaldis
    Shop | Grace Kelly | Princess Caroline | Princess Stephanie

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