My beloved children,
Another summer is nearly over, and the approach of autumn brings with it nostalgic memories of my childhood and youth, along with the sobering realization that life is finite. I have so much I want to share with you about your American background and relations in the hope that after my death (which, God willing, is a long way off) you will cherish that side of your heritage as you live your lives as European royalty. I am so very, very blessed in having three such wonderful children. Let me try to explain what a very special bond I have with each of you.
Caroline, my firstborn, it is through you that I discovered the intense joy of motherhood. The most beautiful day of my life, as I once told a journalist, was not the day I won the Oscar, nor the day I married your father, nor even the day you were born - it was the day you took your first steps. l will never forget how you walked toward me with your arms extended, to land in my own outstretched arms. I was thrilled by those first signs of independence, but only when you hurried back to me for reassurance did I understand what being a mother really means. That very day, at a subconscious level, I made myself the solemn promise that I'd always let you walk away and find your own path, and you'd be able to return to the comfort and support of your mother. That is when my philosophy of always welcoming you, and by extension all family and friends and the most needy, with "open arms" originated.
How I identified with your first experience of the thrill of public admiration and recognition when you became "the prettiest princess in the Gotha." I thought back to the glamorous days of my career in Hollywood and my early years as Princess of Monaco. It was a source of great joy and pride to see the spotlight shifted from me to you, even though I knew that no transgression of social norms would go unnoticed or unjudged. It is said, Caroline, that you are Mediterranean like your father and the spitting image of your grandmother Princess Charlotte, but I believe that your strong personality is a legacy from your maternal grandparents. Your determination to have your way is not a fault, but unless you take care, it could be a source of conflict. You balked under the strict rules I tried to enforce, but it was the only way I knew of protecting you from the cruelty of the press and public opinion. If I erred on the side of overprotectiveness, it is because I was so afraid of how vulnerable you might be and what harm might come to you.
Neither I nor the Kellys can take credit for it, but I know deep in my heart that you will stand as the model to inspire all future princesses. Although I have been wrongly accused of wanting to marry you off to Prince Charles, it is true that I always believed you were born to become the consort of a prince or a king. Not out of snobbishness, but because from a very early age you embodied all the values traditionally associated with that status. You will rise high, for you take after your American grandfather, who against all odds became not only an Olympic champion but one of the best businessmen of his generation, after your uncle who won a Pulitzer prize as a playwright, and even after your mother who was determined to be the finest possible actress. You have drive, spirit, and backbone, just like the Kellys, and I admire your strength of character and your ability to strive toward an ideal you have already crafted in your imagination with the help of your extensive reading of history and biography. I hope you persist in your successful early efforts at writing fiction (aren't you already compared to Françoise Sagan?), for you have already found your own voice, but if you wish to continue a career in any other field, be it law, diplomacy, politics (God forbid!), or international affairs, I know you will do an extraordinary job in the best Kelly tradition.
Albert, you are my only son, need I say more? Yes, I can say a lot more. Every time I look at you against the background of the Grimaldi portraits, I see my own family passing over the canvas of your face. With your fair complexion and harmonious features, you are (if I may be permitted to brag a little) the most like me and my sister Lizanne, but every expression reminds me of a Kelly: my father, my mother, my brother, my other sisters. A twinkle here, a smile there, a single glance, and suddenly I am surrounded by my family again. You, Albie, are my little piece of home inside the palace. No wonder I am always looking for you, wishing to be close to you, especially when I am lonely and missing my loved ones from across the ocean. You also take after your grandfather and uncle in your love of all sports, your competitiveness, your desire to excel. Who knows, maybe one day you too will compete in the Olympic Games.
As heir to the throne, you are the one with the most heavily invested future, the one who needs the most protection from those who would take advantage of you while at the same time needing to develop your leadership skills. I've tried to encourage you, my most gentle child, to develop these qualities of independence and decisiveness while maintaining your sweet nature and your strong family ties. A tall order for a mother! The two things I fear the most for you are that the lure of the
And Stephanie, my Stephanie, you are my baby, my youngest child. After several failed pregnancies, you were my gift from God, and I have never been able to look at you without knowing that you were sent to me by God's infinite favor. You are my most mercurial child, my elf, my little spirit of air, water, fire, and earth combined. How can the press describe our relationship as difficult? Why don't they talk instead of the special thrill and pleasure of our unique relationship, which could exist only between a mother and a deeply desired child, the one she knows will be her last? In truth, by the time you came along, I had thrown all parenting books to the winds and decided that I would simply enjoy being a mother, rich with the experience of having raised two other children. But it's impossible to explain in an interview that you brought out the inner child in me, that only you called forth the powerful emotions of childhood - the tears of laughter and frustration, the intense anger, a whole world of shared secrets and complicity, of a joy and pain that simply cannot be understood by outsiders.
In you, my darling, there exist other aspects of the Kellys, the more artistic traits. I feel sure that you can do anything in the arts: draw, paint, sing, dance, write, design, act. If you are given the proper guidance, your talent will be recognized, but you must make sure you get that guidance and tame your natural impetuosity into real accomplishments. I don't need to tell you there are a lot of people out there ready to exploit your gifts, and, in this as in other areas of your life, recognizing your true friends may not be easy. But if others find you as irresistible as I have always found you, I have no doubt that you will carry the Kelly name very successfully into the realm of the arts. And speaking of names, my dear, although I am not asking you to, especially since tradition warrants that childrens names should be drawn from the pool of the princely Grimaldi names, the Kellys would be honored if a daughter of yours was named Kelly, even as a middle name. After all, why should only Grimaldi names be given to my grandchildren?
Your American and Philadelphia Roots
Partly because the three of you were born with the titles of Prince and Princess of a European country, I have tried to keep the American side of your heritage very much alive. It is crucial that the Kellys continue to be a part of your life, to complement the royal background that may be so alien to your American side. Remember your grandfather's reaction to Prince Rainier's proposal, "Royalty doesn't mean anything to us," a remark stemming of course from his belief in making something out of yourself based on your own merits, but also on his humiliating rejection from the race at England's world-famous Henley Regatta because he had once been a manual worker and could not be eligible to compete with "gentlemen" at the class-conscious Henley. Even after he had won three gold medals at the Olympics, this snub colored his view of aristocracy, nobility, and protocol, all institutions he found snobbish, outdated, and hypocritical.
I fear that my Philadelphia roots will be more and more lost as time goes by and the Kelly name will cease to have any special meaning in people's minds. But I am a Kelly, and I am proud of it, proud that at least in Philadelphia my father has the same stature as a Kennedy has in Boston, and I hope that my brother Jack's political campaigns provide him with the career and respect he deserves and that Philadelphia will honor him for it, just as it honored my father's Olympic prowess with a statue. I am also proud to have added to the aura and glamour of the Kelly name, thanks to the incredibly talented directors and actors I have had the privilege to work with. Being born an American, I treasure American values and always have. My stubborn, naïve, and indelible Americanness brought me my share of difficulties as the new Princess of Monaco. It took me years to shed the name of "American princess" or, worse, mere "American movie star our Prince married." I tried to bring what I thought was the best America had to offer at the time, but for a while it was criticized and ridiculed. It took a long time for the Monegasques to stop viewing the contributions born of my original culture as the mark of offensive, vulgar American taste. But acceptance, compromise, and cooperation eventually prevailed.
Now, I know all of this sounds like unabashed vanity and self-congratulation, as if I meant to glorify myself for bringing Monaco into the 20th century. That isn't the case at all; I simply wish to acknowledge virtues, values, and characteristics associated with the American stock to which you belong and, in doing so, to urge you to seek out information and knowledge about your American cousins and cousins' children. Since you entered young adulthood, I have been saddened by the fact that you seem to have become distant from the Kelly clan. I know you have acquired more and more duties and responsibilities, but precisely because you are heirs to a throne, it is up to you to ensure that your cousins do not feel excluded. Do you know where they live? What they do for a living? What problems they might have encountered and how they overcame them? What can you learn not only about them but from them? Honestly, do you know how many of them there are, even their names?
I know you remember fondly your summers with your aunts, uncle, grandmother, and cousins in the Kelly family beach house in Ocean City, your summer camps in the Poconos, our trips to Cape Cod, to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where we went river rafting, and to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where we became acquainted with the Native American culture during our stay in a Pueblo Indian community. Albert, you remember of course your undergraduate studies at Amherst and your road trip with your college friends when you stayed in cheap motels along the way and relished your anonymity; and Caroline, I know you cherish your friendship with your cousin Grace Levine, who started visiting Monaco every summer and spent a year in Paris with us, sealing the special bond you shared by asking her to be your one and only witness in the civil and religious ceremonies of your first marriage. Wasn't that just like me asking my Barbizon roommates to be my bridesmaids? If I seem to be waxing nostalgic, it is because I fear that those special relationships between you and your cousins might not persist through the next decades if you don't make an effort to reach out to them. Do you know, Caroline, that in spite of our reservations about your marriage to Philippe Junot, I was always touched and grateful that he visited your aunts and Ma Kelly at the summer house and walked up and down the beach in Margate along with us as if he had always been one of the clan.
Caroline, Albert, Stephanie, it is now your turn to write about the Grimaldi's origin and the Monegasque identity. You are the concrete symbols of continuity, of history, and of memory. Our culture is becoming progressively more interested in diversity, more tolerant and accepting of differences. So charge ahead and blend the two sides of your heritage. Remember your grandfather and always choose inclusion over exclusion, care over indifference, kindness and forgiveness over divisions and rifts. Follow your instincts of openness, and do not retreat behind the walls of wealth and rank. Be courageous, even if it means facing the worst crises head-on. Ask yourselves what your mother would have done. And above all, welcome the little children, for they are the most vulnerable. Stephanie, I particularly rely on you to promote fun, laughter, and warmth, for you are and always have been richly endowed with these qualities.
As proud and grateful as I am to have the privilege of being the Princess of Monaco, I count on the three of you to make your other heritage known, to reawaken the fragile and evanescent memories, and inscribe the history of the maternal side of your family into the books compiling the origins and destiny of the principality of Monaco. As heirs to the throne, you have the power and the means to do that. Now I truly hope I have also given you the will.
With all my love,
Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco, born Grace Patricia Kelly in 1929 in Philadelphia, PA, died in a car accident 25 years ago in September 1982, just weeks after this imaginary letter was written.
Avatars from The Royal Forums avatar gallery.Photo collage by Royal Forums member TheTruth and used with permission.