The Real Story Behind Monaco's Royal Family

You may not know of Monaco's royal family considering the British Royal family dominates headlines when it comes to royal news. However, the Monaco family has its own stories that are just as intriguing. This royal family has been around for since the 15th century yet the only thing many know about them is that Grace Kelly married the Prince of Monaco back in the '50s and tragically died in a car accident in 1982, as detailed by Encyclopedia Britannica.


While Grace Kelly's impact on the Monaco royal family cannot be ignored, there's so much more to the royal family's story that many people don't know. According to Fox Business, Monaco is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Following that trend, the head of the family is also one the wealthiest royals in the world and Monaco's royal family as a whole is among the richest royal families throughout the globe.

On the personal side, the family was allegedly "cursed" in the 13th century and while that should be taken with a massive grain of salt, there's no denying that the personal affairs of the royal family are fascinating in their own right. Want to know more? We thought you might. This is the untold truth of Monaco's royal family.


The Grimaldis have been Monaco's royal family since the 15th century

Although they may be more colloquially recognized as the royal family of Monaco, members of the royal family have the surname Grimaldi. The Grimaldi family has been Monaco's royal family since 1419 when, after hundreds of years of fighting between prominent Italian families, they took control of the state, Encyclopedia Britannica explains.


Unlike their British counterparts, the royal family of Monaco isn't simply a symbolic position. According to Hello Monaco, the head of the family (known as the prince since 1659) has been the head of the state, in both title and practice, since Monaco came under Grimaldi rule.

As detailed by Encyclopedia Britannica, the Grimaldis celebrated 700 years of rulership in 1997 and managed to maintain the same monarch, Prince Rainier III, for half a century. Rainier's death in 2005 didn't end the Grimaldis' right to rule, of course. Instead, his son Prince Albert II took over the throne.

The royal family's official residence is the Prince's Palace of Monaco

The royal family of Monaco's main residence is the Prince's Palace of Monaco. Somewhat astoundingly, according to the Palace's website, the foundation of the Palace where the modern royal family resides was built in 1191. Back then, though, the massive structure was meant to fortify the city against pirates. Throughout the centuries, various wings and towers have been added to the structure and rooms have been rebuilt and remodeled to fit the needs of Monaco's royal family.


In 1793, the palace became a victim of the French Revolution. Monaco was taken from the Grimaldi family and annexed by France. Per the Palace's website, part of the royal family's home was turned into a makeshift hospital and poorhouse. By the time the Grimaldi family regained power in Monaco and returned to their family seat, the palace was in a nearly unlivable condition.

According to the Palace's site, the ancient home was transformed thanks in large part to Prince Rainier III. He is credited with returning the estate to its former glory and turning it into the thriving tourist attraction it is today.

Monaco's royal family is protected by a team of 124 guards

Many people are probably familiar with the English "Changing of the Guard" ceremony that takes place every day outside of Buckingham Palace. This ceremony, though, is not unique to the British royal family. The Monaco royal family has their own 124-soldier guard, known as the "Compagnie Des Carabiniers Du Prince," according to the Prince's Palace of Monaco website. The palace guards have their own "Changing of the Guard" ceremony each morning, but this is simply one of their many duties. 


According to the Monaco government, the guards were established by Prince Honoré IV in 1817. Since then, their role has been to guard the royal family and the palace, perform civil duties, and maintain public order. Each soldier is also trained in first aid and provides security for public events. As a unit, each guard fulfills a specific role ranging from IT support to mechanics and so much more, meaning, according to the Prince's Palace of Monaco, the guard is completely self-sufficient.

Monaco's royal family is allegedly cursed

The curse on Monaco's royal family goes like this, according to Irish Independent: Thirteenth-century Prince Rainier I was kidnapped and took advantage of a young woman. In an act of revenge, the woman proclaimed that no member of the Grimaldi family would ever have a happy marriage. While not much credence should be given to centuries-old legends, the fact that the story exists at all is enough for anyone to keep a watchful eye on the marriages of the Grimaldi family.


While there's no concrete evidence, of course, that there is a curse on the royal family of Monaco, their marriages haven't all been happy. According to the book The Pocket Guide To Royal Scandals, the royal family of Monaco has been riddled with affairs, bitter rivalries, and divorce over the years.

In relatively recent years, Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly's children have brought further scandal to the Grimaldi family. According to the book, Princess Caroline has been married twice while Princess Stephanie ran away to a circus and has likewise been unlucky in love.

Prince Rainier of Monaco's royal family was looking for an American wife when he met Grace Kelly

Throughout history, one of the most important jobs of a ruler has been to produce an heir to continue the family line. In Monaco in the 1950s, this was true for Prince Rainier III. According to Once Upon a Time: Behind the Fairy Tale of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier, looking for a wife was one of Prince Rainier III's most important responsibilities. The prince's list of prospects included actresses Gisele Pascal (who, according to that same book, left him for Gary Cooper), Eva Marie Saint, Natalie Wood, and even Queen Elizabeth II's sister, Princess Margaret


According to the Daily Express, Prince Rainier III was looking for an American wife when he decided to woo Grace Kelly. Why? Well, per the book Curse of the Kennedys and Other Powerful Family Tragedies, Aristotle Onassis jokingly told the prince that marrying an American actress would help put Monaco on the map. After a year-long whirlwind romance that began at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955, the two were married.

Grace Kelly was forced to give up her acting career to join Monaco's royal family

While Grace Kelly was just 26 when she married Prince Rainier III, she was already a bonafide Hollywood star, Encyclopedia Britannica states. In 1954, Kelly won an Oscar for her role in The Country Girl and was the top-billed star in 1955's The Swan, but when she married Prince Rainier III the following year, she had to leave acting behind for good, revealed Once Upon a Time: Behind the Fairy Tale of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier.


Furthermore, according to BBC's HistoryExtra, Grace Kelly was later forced to turn down major roles later on in her career, as acting was deemed an unfit career for a Princess of Monaco. In fact, Prince Rainier was frequently discouraged from marrying his previous girlfriend, Gisele Pascal, explicitly because she was an actress.

There was no question that Kelly could never continue her career if she accepted Rainier's proposal. In fact, Kelly's final movie, ironically titled High Society, came out the year she married Prince Rainier, according to IMDb.

Princess Diana felt a special connection to this member of Monaco's royal family

By 1981, Grace Kelly had been a princess for almost 30 years. She was well accustomed to the attention and scrutiny and knew how to behave when brushing shoulders with some of the most prominent people in the world. By contrast, the future Princess Diana was just 19 years old and, according to the Daily Mail, newly engaged to Prince Charles.


At Diana's first public event, she was reportedly overwhelmed by the media and uncomfortable in her dress. Diana claimed the night was a "horrendous occasion." Then, she met Grace Kelly at the Buckingham Palace reception. The Princess of Monaco noticed Diana's discomfort and offered her some words of encouragement, according to the publication, joking, "Don't worry, dear. You'll see — it'll only get worse."

Just under two years later, Grace Kelly tragically died and, according to the Daily Mail, Princess Diana insisted she go to the funeral, where she reportedly told Kelly's daughter, Princess Caroline, she was "psychically connected" to Kelly.

Prince Albert II of Monaco's royal family is worth an estimated $1 billion

According to Business Insider, Monaco is not only one of the wealthiest nations in the world, it is often touted as the "billionaire's playground." It's not entirely surprising then that Forbes listed Prince Albert II's net worth at a staggering $1 billion. That income, according to Forbes, comes from land ownership, palaces, art, a collection of antique cars and stamps, and shares in a Monte Carlo resort. Compare that to Queen Elizabeth II's fortune, which Forbes lists at $500 million. 


In addition to that $1 billion, the taxpayers of Monaco spend millions on the royal family each year. According to CNN World, Monaco's royal family cost citizens $54.4 million in 2020, which, due to the nation's small size and population, evens out to roughly $1,386 per person every year. By comparison, each UK tax payer pays just $1.60 in taxes to the royal family annually.

Princess Charlene met Prince Albert II of Monaco's royal family at a swimming competition

Before the now-Princess Charlene of Monaco met Prince Albert II, she was an accomplished swimmer living in South Africa. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Charlene Wittstock won the 1996 South African national championship and then went on to compete at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Later that year, according to Vogue, she met Prince Albert II in Monte Carlo at a swimming competition.


It wasn't until six years later, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, that Charlene and Albert were spotted together in public. Soon after that, though, she quietly retired from swimming (despite still being a good enough swimmer to compete at the 2008 Olympics), moved to Monaco, and started supporting charities.

Prince Albert was a notorious bachelor before his marriage, which prompted the Monaco government to change the law in the event he never married. However, a decade after their first meeting, Prince Albert and Charlene announced their engagement and were married in 2011.

Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco's royal wedding was an expensive, star-studded affair

Prince Albert II and Charlene Wittstock wed shortly after Prince William and Kate Middleton tied the knot in 2011. Although both weddings were beautiful, royal weddings, the Prince of Monaco's ceremony is among the most expensive royal weddings ever. The lavish and star-studded multi-day event included an Eagles concert free to everyone who lived in the small nation, according to CBS News.


In total, the Los Angeles Times reported the event cost $70 million. To get an idea of where that money went, Princess Charlene's dress took 2,500 hours to make and was embroidered with 20,000 mother of pearls, 30,000 golden stones, and 40,000 Swarovski crystals, according to the Daily Mail. Stars like Karl Lagerfeld, Naomi Campbell, and Giorgio Armani attended the event alongside British royals Prince Edward and his wife Sophie. The Daily Mail noted that members of other European royal families attended as well.

While the wedding of Prince Albert and Princess Charlene likely didn't receive nearly the same attention as William and Kate Middleton's wedding, it's clear it was just as beautiful — and even more lavish.


Prince Albert II of Monaco's past affairs haunted his wedding

While the wedding of Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene was a beautiful three-day event with no detail forgotten, the Los Angeles Times reported that there were rumors the bride almost didn't go through with it — though those allegations were strongly denied.


As the Daily Mail explained, Albert fathered two children during his bachelorhood. This isn't necessarily a huge deal for the average person, but not common among royal families even today. And although this fact was known before the wedding, reports of a third child surfaced just days before the big day, prompting speculation that Charlene tried to call the whole thing off.

One citizen who saw the wedding up close told the Los Angeles Times that "she looked tragic. He looked horrified," and "even outside you could feel the tension." However, officials for the royal family dismissed any rumors that stated Charlene tried to run away to South Africa just days before the couple's nuptials.

Monaco's royal family continues to honor Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III

In September 1982, Grace Kelly and her daughter, Princess Stephanie, were in a car crash. While Princess Stephanie survived with only minor injuries, the Princess of Monaco tragically lost her life, Encyclopedia Britannica explained. In the years since, the royal family of Monaco has made sure to honor the late Grace Kelly in any way they can.


According to Town & Country, Grace Kelly's grandson Louis Ducruet married Marie Chevallier in The Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate in 2010; it was the first wedding held there since Kelly married Prince Rainier III in 1956.

The publication further reported the Cathedral houses Rainier and Kelly's remains, which was the main reason Ducruet wanted to have his wedding there. He told Point de Vue (via Town & Country), "For me it was therefore obvious to get married at the cathedral, so we will be near my grandfather, Prince Rainier III — this will be our way of associating him with our happiness. My grandfather was a man I admired. I was very close to him."

Monaco's royal family was not happy about this erroneous film

In 2014, Nicole Kidman starred as Grace Kelly in the film Grace of Monaco. Ahead of the movie's release at the Cannes Film Festival, Monaco's royal family released a statement criticizing the accuracy of the film, stating it was based on "erroneous and dubious historical references."


The Palace further told BBC News that the film was "by no means a biopic." However, the film's producer responded by saying, "The film is not intended to tell the true story of the principality." 

For what it's worth, Melvyn Stokes of the University College London reviewed the film and, while noting it had large inaccuracies and was based on unsubstantiated rumors, he told BBC's HistoryExtra that the emotions it conveyed were indeed true. According to the reviewer, the film showcased the difficulties Grace Kelly faced adjusting to life in Monaco, a country where she didn't speak the language and was separated from both her home and family.

Princess Charlene of Monaco has been candid about raising children

In December 2014, Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene welcomed their first children, twins Princess Gabriella Thérèse Marie and Prince Jacques Honoré Rainier. In an interview with a French magazine translated by the Daily Mail, Princess Charlene said her twins were "the 'boss' now" and continued, "They are beautiful, adorable, I'm crazy in love with them."


In 2019, Princess Charlene gave an interview to French magazine Point de Vue, where she noted that raising the twins can be "exhausting" (via People). An understandable sentiment, as raising one toddler can be difficult enough at times, let alone two. However, the princess also said of motherhood, "I discover, I learn. I find it marvelous following their evolution, accompanying them on this path." She also noted that Prince Albert II was "a remarkable, wonderful, fun father; a dad who listens and encourages his children."

Princess Charlene seeking treatment at a facility

In late 2021, Prince Albert of Monaco revealed that his wife, Princess Charlene, was admitted to a treatment facility for mental and physical health problems that had been caused by exhaustion. "She was overwhelmed and couldn't face official duties, life in general or even family life," explained the Prince to People. Charlene had just returned to Monaco after spending six months in South Africa. Things "went pretty well in the first few hours" after her return, but then, as the Prince said, "it became pretty evident that she was unwell."


Albert clarified that her time at a facility had nothing to do with their marriage and was only related to Charlene's fatigue. "I'm probably going to say this several times, but this has nothing to do with our relationship," he said. "I want to make that very clear. These are not problems within our relationship; not with the relationship between a husband and wife. It's of a different nature."

Princess Charlene struggled with a series of health issues

Princess Charlene's fatigue was partly due to a series of ongoing health issues that occurred while she was traveling in South Africa. It began in May of 2021 when Charlene contracted an ear, nose, and throat infection that made it impossible for her to travel (via News24). A month later, the palace confirmed that the infection had led to "multiple, complicated procedures." She stayed in South Africa while she was recovering, according to a report from News24.


By July, Charlene was still too unwell to travel, which meant she missed her 10th wedding anniversary. "I miss my husband and children dearly," she said in a statement. "What has been extremely difficult for me was when I was instructed by my medical team that I could not return home for my 10th wedding anniversary. Albert is my rock and strength and without his love and support I would not have been able to get through this painful time."

Throughout September and October, Charlene had several other procedures (via CNN). In November, she finally returned home.