Prince Rainier Of Monaco Dead at 81

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

April 20, 1956 photo from files of Prince Rainier III of Monaco after his marriage to Hollywood actress Grace Kelly, right, in Monte Carlo. Prince Rainier of Monaco, Europe’s longest-serving monarch has died aged 81, Wednesday April 6, 2005. Monaco’s royal palace made the announcement Wednesday morning. The Prince has been in intensive care since March 22 with heart, kidney and breathing problems. (AP Photo/PA, fls)

His storybook marriage to the actress Grace Kelly helped promote the transformation of his tiny fief from a pastel postage-stamp fantasy on the Mediterranean into a steel-and-glass tax haven.

Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly in the Throne Room of the royal palace in April 1956.

The couple had three children: Albert, left, Caroline, center and Stephane

Princess Caroline and Prince Albert escorted their father as they follow the funeral procession Princess Grace on Sept. 18, 1982. Princess Grace died of injuries suffered in a car crash in Monte Carlo.

Prince Rainier III, Prince Albert and Princess Caroline leave the cathedral of Monaco, after a mass to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Prince Rainier III’s accession to the throne Sunday, May 9, 1999. He was Europe’s longest reigning monarch.

Prince Rainier III of Monaco died today in a Monaco hospital. He was 81.

Monaco, in Mourning, All but Shuts Down After Its Prince Dies

MONACO, April 6 – This notorious playboys’ paradise and tax haven slowed to a near halt today to mourn the death of its sovereign, Prince Rainier III, Europe’s longest reigning monarch whose marriage to the American film star Grace Kelly captivated romantics around the world.

The prince, who ruled this tiny principality for 55 years, "passed away peacefully" at 6:35 a.m. local time in Monaco’s Cardio-Thoracic Medical Center, according to Monaco’s Archbishop Bernard Barsi.

Since March 7, the 81-year-old prince had lain in the hospital, suffering from progressive heart and kidney failure and hooked up to a respirator. His only son, Albert, 47, was at his side when he died and automatically succeeded him, in accordance with longstanding tradition.

Church bells brought the news to the principality’s residents, which officially number 33,000, though only about 25,000 live here full time. The archbishop, speaking to reporters later in the day, said that Prince Rainier’s body had been moved to a private chapel in the palace for a few days before it is carried to the town’s 19th century cathedral for the lying in state.

The prince will be interred in the royal crypt beside his wife. Princess Grace died in a car crash on a hill above the town 23 years ago.

The funeral is set for April 15 and " It will be a simple funeral in accordance with the prince’s wishes, similar to the one for Princess Grace," the archbishop said.

Along the small port, workers continued hammering together huge viewing stands for next month’s annual Monaco Grand Prix, but few of the harborside restaurants remained open. The renowned Monte Carlo casino was also closed. And on the "rock" overlooking it all, the royal flag was already flying at half-mast from the palace’s clock tower, in honor of Pope John Paul II.

The principality’s television and radio stations interrupted normal broadcasts to air tributes to the prince. Residents gathered silently in the square outside the palace as black limousines bearing friends and family members swept through the gates.

President Jacques Chirac of France issued a statement calling Prince Rainier "a figure who was universally respected and much loved." The prince had a sometimes-strained relationship with his French protectors, resisting France’s attempts in the 1960’s to force it to amend its generous tax laws.

France has yet to ratify changes to its treaty with Monaco that will allow the throne to pass from Prince Albert to one of his sisters if he dies without an heir. The prince is unmarried, while his sisters, Princess Caroline and Princess Stephanie, both have children. The previous treaty allowed only direct successions in order to prevent the possibility that the throne might pass to a German relative.

Monaco amended its constitution in 2002 to allow the throne to pass to siblings, and the treaty was changed accordingly. France’s lower house of parliament has approved the change, while the French Senate is expected to do so in the coming weeks.

Elaine Sciolino of the New York Times contributed reporting for this article.

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