“Because I am pessimistic, I always expect the worst. When it doesn’t happen, I have a nice surprise.”
She was known for her icy cool blond poise and her ladylike charm, and when she marries Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956, it was seen the world over as a fairytale match — the prince had found his beautiful princess.
Born in Philadelphia to Margaret and John Kelly on November 12, 1929, Grace Patricia Kelly was a leading lady long before she met Prince Rainier. Discovered while modeling in New York, she went on to act in almost a dozen feature films. She won an Academy Award in 1954 for her portrayal of Georgie in The Country Girl.
As the start of such notable movies as High Noon and High Society, she was the epitome of glamour and grace. Director Alfred Hitchcock chose her to star in three of his best-known works: Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, and To Catch a Thief.
Kelly retired from acting upon her marriage to Prince Rainier, and the couple had three children, Caroline, Albert, and Stephanie. Her sudden death on September 14, 1982 in a car accident shook her legions of fans who had not stopped hoping for her eventual return to the big screen.
During her lifetime, Kelly made several trips to Ireland, and bought her ancestral home in Drimurla, County Mayo. Her Grandfather, John Henry Kelly, had left his native Mayo in the 1860’s, landing in Vermont, where he met and married fellow Irish immigrant Mary Costello. They eventually settled in Philadelphia and had ten children, one of whom was John Brendan, the father of Princess Grace and a champion oarsman. “John Kelly, grandson of an Irish pig farmer…won the Olympic gold medal,” his daughter is recorded as saying years later.
Pictured above. Grace Kelly on a visit to her ancestral home.
In 1961 (accompanied by her husband, Prince Rainier Grimaldi III of Monaco) Grace Kelly was reconnected with her ancestral home in Drimurla outside Newport, Co. Mayo.
The couple stayed at the elegant Newport House, and went to Drimurla to have tea with Ellen Mulchrone, who owned the charming two-room thatch cottage that had been the Kelly home. It was from here that Grace’s grandfather, John Peter Kelly, was born in 1857. He left Ireland for Philadelphia in 1887, where he founded a leading construction company.
In 1961, the cottage, that had been given a special whitewash for the occasion that was in it, was still very much a viable dwelling. Grace later purchased the house and surrounding land for £7,500 (Irish punt) from Mulchrone in April 1976. Planning to build a holiday home there, she returned later that year, and again in 1979 with Prince Rainier to oversee architectural plans for the holiday home. She told the local press of her intentions to return in a few years to see the home finished.
However, on Sept. 14, 1982, Grace had a fatal accident when her car left a winding road in the cliffs of Monaco. A wreath of wild flowers, picked around her ancestral home in Drimurla, were sent by local residents to Monaco for the funeral.
Sadly, today, the house is no more than a crumbling ruin.
Read A Celebration of Grace Kelly by author Mary Pat Kelly.