Rainier III, Prince of Monaco (Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand Grimaldi; 31 May 1923 – 6 April 2005), styled His Serene Highness The Sovereign Prince of Monaco, ruled the Principality of Monaco for more than 50 years, making him one of the longest ruling monarchs of the 20th century. Though he was best known outside of Europe for having married American actress Grace Kelly, he was also responsible for reforms to Monaco's constitution and for expanding the principality's economy beyond its traditional gambling base. Gambling accounts for approximately three percent of the nation's annual revenue today; when Rainier ascended the throne in 1949, it accounted for more than 95 percent. Before his death, he was the world's second-longest reigning monarch with his 56 years of reign.
Through his great-grandmother Lady Mary Victoria Hamilton, who was briefly Princess of Monaco, he was a descendent of James IV of Scotland. His great-great-great-grandmother was Stéphanie de Beauharnais, the adopted daughter of Napoleon Bonaparte and later the Grand Duchess of Baden. Other ancestors include William Beckford, the scandalous 18th century English collector, tastemaker, writer, and eccentric. Rainier was also a descendent of Prince William "the Silent" of Orange-Nassau, the main leader of the Dutch revolt against the Spanish Empire and ancestor to the current Dutch Royal Family; Hortense Mancini, the Duchess of Mazarin and mistress of King Charles II of England; Gabrielle de Polignac, a favorite of Queen Marie Antoinette of France; Joan of Kent, the first Princess of Wales; King Charles IX of Sweden; King Frederick II of Denmark and Norway; Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor; and Claude, Duke of Guise.
Rainier had one sibling, HSH Princess Antoinette, Baroness of Massy, an unpopular figure generally believed to be meddlesome enough regarding her children's place in the line of succession to have forced Princess Grace to demand that she leave the country.
Rainier was first sent to study at Summerfields School in St Leonards-on-Sea, England, and later at Stowe, a prestigious English public school in Buckinghamshire. From there, he went to the Institut Le Rosey in Rolle and Gstaad, Switzerland, before continuing to the University of Montpellier in France, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree, and finally to the Institut d'études politiques de Paris in Paris.
Rainier's maternal grandfather, Prince Louis II, had been a general in the French army during World War I. During World War II, Rainier served as an artillery officer in the army. As a second lieutenant, he fought so courageously during the German counter-offensive in Alsace that he won the Croix de Guerre and Bronze Star and was given the rank of Chevalier in the Legion of Honor.
Prince Rainier had nine grandchildren:
He was a hands on grandparent which is unusal in a monarchy. He was often seen with Caroline and Stephanie's children.
After his wife's death in a car crash in 1982, he was romantically involved with his first cousin once removed, Princess Ira of Fürstenberg, a former movie actress turned jewellery designer who is also a Fiat heiress and the former sister-in-law of fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg. Like him, she is a great-grandchild of Lady Mary Victoria Hamilton, the Scottish–German wife of Prince Albert I of Monaco, though by Lady Mary's second marriage.
As Prince of Monaco, Rainier III also was responsible for the principality's new constitution in 1962 which significantly reduced the power of the sovereign. (He suspended the previous Constitution in 1959, saying that it "has hindered the administrative and political life of the country.") The changes ended autocratic rule, placing power with the prince and a National Council of eighteen elected members.
At the time of his death, he was the world's second longest-serving head of state, ranking just below King Rama IX of Thailand. During the last two or three years of his life, Rainier was in the custom of asking his valet each morning, "Has Rama survived the night? Or did I just move up in the ranks?"
On 31 March 2005, following consultation with the Crown Council of Monaco, the Palais Princier announced that Rainier's son, Hereditary Prince Albert, Marquis des Baux, would take over the duties of his father as Regent since Rainier was no longer able to exercise his royal functions.
On 1 April 2005, the Palace announced that Rainier's doctors believe his chances of recovery were "slim; on 6 April it announced that Prince Rainier had died at 6:35 am local time at the age of 81. He was succeeded by his only son, who became Prince Albert II.
He was buried on 15 April 2005, beside his wife, Princess Grace, at the Saint Nicholas Cathedral, the resting place of previous sovereign princes of Monaco and several of their wives, and the place where Prince Rainier and Princess Grace had been married in 1956.
Because his death occurred shortly after the death of Pope John Paul II, Rainier's passing was overshadowed in the media.
His other non-hereditary titles and awards included:
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