Princess Grace comes to life in Monaco, not Lifetime movie

Nicole Kidman as Her Serene Highness Grace of Monaco in the Lifetime movie about the late movie star. | Photo courtesy Lifetime

MONACO — “Grace of Monaco,” the biopic about the late Hollywood star-turned-princess Grace Kelly, debuts May 25 on Lifetime.

I’ve seen the movie. And I’ve been to Monaco. One of these experiences was enjoyable. The other, not so much.

Starring a miscast Nicole Kidman as the titular glamor queen and Tim Roth as her not-so-charming Prince Rainier III, this melodramatic mess proved to be a royal flop when it opened last year’s Cannes Film Festival. The Olivier Dahan-directed film ended up not getting a U.S. theatrical release, heading straight to cable instead.

Set in the early 1960s, the movie fails to capture the inextricable link between Grace Kelly and this playground for the One Percent. (The city-state of Monaco boasts more millionaires per capita than any city; nearly one in three residents has millionaire status.)

More than 30 years after her fatal car crash on the region’s notoriously vertiginous roads, Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco’s presence is still steeped in every pore of this tiny nation along the French Riviera, where the Philadelphia native arrived by boat in 1956 to wed the House of Grimaldi monarch.

Princess Grace's tomb in Monaco Cathedral. | Photo by Lori Rackl

Princess Grace’s tomb in Monaco Cathedral. | Photo by Lori Rackl

Fresh roses are a constant on the marble slab marking Grace’s tomb in Monaco Cathedral, the same neo-Romanesque church where she and Rainier tied the knot in what was billed as the wedding of the century.

Rainier, who never remarried after his 52-year-old wife died in 1982, passed away at age 81 in 2005. He’s buried by his bride near the altar in the stunning cathedral, where a steady flow of foreigners intermixed with locals pay their respects.

Another royal-related tourist stop is nearby. Then again, in a country measuring less than 1 square mile, everything is nearby.

The Prince’s Palace served as the swanky home shared by Grace and Rainier for more than a quarter century. It’s where they raised their three children, Caroline, Stephanie and Albert II, who carries on the Grimaldi tradition of reigning over the principality from his private residence in the ancient palace perched high above the Mediterranean.

Onlookers file into the palace courtyard every day to catch the regal changing of the guard ceremony at 11:55 a.m. on the nose.

Changing of the guard at the Prince's Palace. | Monaco Press Centre Photo

Changing of the guard at the Prince’s Palace. | Monaco Press Centre Photo

From April to October, 8 euros gets you inside for a look at the lavishly appointed State Apartments where Grace’s interior design skills remain on display. The last commissioned portrait of the royal family hangs in the baroque throne room, the setting for the couple’s civil marriage ceremony.

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Princess Grace was raised in Philly, made it big in Hollywood and ruled over Monaco, but she had an especially soft spot in her heart for Ireland. (Her grandfather emigrated to the U.S. from County Mayo during the 1847 famine.)

Two years after she died, her widower inaugurated the Princess Grace Irish Library near the palace on Rue Princesse Marie-de-Lorraine in 1984. The recently renovated facility, free and open to the public, houses an impressive collection of Irish books and sheet music.

Rainier also commissioned a park to memorialize his late wife, who devoted a lot of her time and resources to local charities.

Located in Monaco’s Fontvieille neighborhood, the newly expanded Princess Grace Rose Garden includes a statue of the Oscar-winning star along with 300 varieties of her favorite flower.

Statue of Princess Grace in the rose garden that bears her name. | Monaco Press Centre Photo

Statue of Princess Grace in the rose garden. | Monaco Press Centre Photo

Probably the best way to get a sense of how widespread Grace’s influence was — and still is — throughout Monaco, put on some comfy kicks and hit the Princess Grace Trail (click here to download the map, titled “Parcours Princess Grace”).

A 1974 photo of Princess Grace dancing with Placido Domingo is posted at a stop along the Princess Grace Trail. | Photo by Lori Rackl

A 1974 photo of Princess Grace dancing with Placido Domingo is posted at a stop along the Princess Grace Trail. | Photo by Lori Rackl

Some of the pathway’s 25 stops have much stronger ties to the trail’s namesake than others. (No. 7: The Oceanographic Museum? Really?)

Informational placards and photos of the late princess are posted at the various stops, each one lending a little more insight into Grace’s huge impact on this small country.

“Grace of Monaco” airs at 8 p.m. Central, 9 p.m. Eastern/Pacific May 25 on Lifetime.

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