Here's How Olivia de Havilland Introduced Grace Kelly to Prince Rainier of Monaco

Annie Goldsmith
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

From Town & Country

Imagine being the mastermind behind one of the greatest fairytale love stories of all time. That was but one of actress Olivia de Havilland's accomplishments during her long and legendary life. The Gone with the Wind star, who passed away this weekend at age 104, played a key role in the marriage of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco.

Though de Havilland had never met Kelly, by sheer coincidence, the two movie stars found themselves on the same train in the spring of 1955, headed from Paris to Cannes for the eighth Cannes Film Festival. De Havilland was recently married to Paris-Match editor, Pierre Galante.

It was actually Galante who first came up with the idea to set up Kelly and Rainier. After seeing Kelly on the train, Galante broached the suggestion at dinner with de Havilland and Paris-Match editor-in-chief, Gaston Bonheur.

“My husband had been born in Nice on the Cote d’Azur,” de Havilland told People. “He suggested the meeting between Grace and Rainier at dinner with [Bonheur,] en route to Cannes—an idea immediately and enthusiastically accepted by Gaston.”

Photo credit: Central Press - Getty Images
Photo credit: Central Press - Getty Images

Thus, the plan was set in motion. But, the only people left to convince were Kelly and Rainier themselves. That piece was up to de Havilland, who proceeded to approach Kelly on the train.

“Grace struck me on the first encounter as a rather reserved, self-possessed, well brought up young woman,” de Havilland said, recalling their impromptu meeting “on the small platform between the dining car and the next carriage when I overtook her to ask if she would agree to a meeting with Prince Rainier.”

“She immediately agreed but made the highly professional proviso that such a meeting must first be approved of by the studio sponsoring her visit to Cannes: MGM,” de Havilland noted.

Photo credit: Keystone-France - Getty Images
Photo credit: Keystone-France - Getty Images

After receiving approval, Galante set to work on Rainier. The pair relayed to Kelly an invitation to the palace. Though there was some scheduling back-and-forth, Kelly agreed to visit the palace that Friday.

However, little did she know that Friday would be filled with one unlucky incident after another. The electricity in Kelly's hotel was out, leaving her without a hairdryer, lights, iron, or elevator. Then, Kelly got into a fender-bender on the way to the palace, resulting in even further delays.

Despite the trouble, Kelly did arrive at the palace, and she and Rainier took a tour of his private zoo, conversing the entire time.

According to De Havilland, who saw Kelly later that evening at the festival cocktail party, "She was in a state of enchantment."

After this fateful meeting, Kelly and Rainier kept in touch, even when she returned to America. Just seven months after their first encounter, Rainier traveled to ask for Kelly's hand in marriage.

Photo credit: Reg Burkett - Getty Images
Photo credit: Reg Burkett - Getty Images

The rest, of course, is history. Though de Havilland was invited to the so-called "wedding of the century" between Kelly and Rainier, she was expecting the birth of her daughter, so was unable to attend. However, she would always remember that momentous day on the train.

“I’m tempted to think it was destiny,” de Havilland said.

You Might Also Like

More From