Hollywood History: Meghan Markel isn’t the First Hollywood Actress to Give up Her Career for Love

Meghan Markle has been in the headlines since day one of her engagement to Prince Harry.  They wed in 2018 but not before Markle gave up her Hollywood lifestyle and career as an actress.  From the start rumors swirled about how well she was adjusting to life as a royal.  Now, in less than 2 years of marriage, Meghan and Prince Harry have moved to Canada, leaving behind their royal titles and duties.

Decades before Meghan, Hollywood actress Grace Kelly gave up her career when she married Prince Rainier III of Monaco.  Unfortunately for Kelly, her prince did not give up his title when things became rocky; but she remained loyal until she died in a car crash in 1982.

Grace Kelly was born in 1929 to an affluent family. Her father and his brothers were all high achievers in their chosen careers. Her father, John B. Kelly Sr., won three Olympic gold medals.  His brother, Walter C. Kelly, starred in films for MGM and Paramount. Another brother, George Kelly, was a Pulitzer Price winning author.

Kelly’s mother, Margaret Majer was also successful. She had a successful modeling career and was the first woman coach at the University of Pennsylvania. As all mothers did in those days, she gave up her career and settled down to be a wife and mother.

Kelly studied acting at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. Her first roles were in the Broadway plays The Father and Philadelphia Story.

The next step for Kelly was live television and she appeared in over 40 productions before making the move to film.

During her film career, Kelly worked with many of the most famous actors of all time including Cary Grant, Bing Crosby and Clark Gable.  She was a favorite of Alfred Hitchcock who made her the star of three of his films, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window and To Catch a Thief.  She won three Golden Globes and one Academy Award.

The 1955 Canes festival is where Kelly met her future husband, Prince Rainier III of Monaco. The two dated for a year before marrying in April of 1956. There were several concessions that had to be made before Kelly was allowed into the royal family.  She had to give up her acting career and take up permanent residence in Monaco. Her father had to pay a $2million dowry and Kelly had to be subjected to a fertility test.

Kelly and her prince appeared to have a blissful life in their small country bordered by France and the Mediterranean Sea. They had 3 children, two girls and a boy.  But, things weren’t as happy as they appeared. Boiling beneath the surface of this happy façade was a marriage in trouble.

Prince Rainier was spending less time with Kelly with each passing day. By the 1970’s they were spending much of their time apart. If the rumors are true the prince had several women he spent time with. Kelly’s transgressions were less public but none the less noted.

Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco, died on September 13, 1982.  She and her youngest child, Princess Stephanie, ran off a steep winding road and crashed. One witness was a truck driver who said that he was behind the pair right before the crash.  He said that to him it looked like Kelly and her daughter were fighting.   The somewhat mysterious circumstances of the accident along with the rumors of marital strife were all that were needed to get the conspiracy theories started. Did Prince Rainer III have his wife killed so that he could be with another woman? Or, did he have her killed over jealousy because she was having an affair? Did Princess Stephanie cause the accident by fighting with her mom in the car? Why did the palace release a statement saying both Kelly and the princess had survived only to say Kelly died less than 24 hours later?

The official report is that Kelly had a stroke while driving.  As a result she lost control of the car. What the witness thought was fighting was actually Princess Stephanie trying to gain control of the car after her mother’s stroke.

Forensic scientists who have studied the autopsy report and the police report disagree on the sequence of events.  There is no dispute that Kelly died from a brain hemorrhage; but what came first? Did the stroke cause the car accident or did the accident cause the stroke? Would Kelly have survived if it weren’t for mistakes made by first responders and doctors?

The emergency response team took Kelly to the wrong hospital. It made sense to take her to Monaco hospital; but it was not equipped to care for someone in Kelly’s condition. Monaco is a small country no bigger than a small city; so their hospital at the time did not have the most modern equipment and training.  It was obvious that she was unconscious; but doctors had no way of knowing what was going on inside of her brain because the hospital did not CT scanners or MRI machines.

The nearest one was in a building without elevator access. Kelly had to be carried up stairs on her stretcher; the movement and the jarring no doubt made her hemorrhage worse. She died less than 24 hours later. She was buried in the family vault in Monaco.  Over 400 people were in attendance including Princess Diana, Cary Grant and Nancy Regan. Princess Stephanie did not attend because she was still in the hospital recovering.

Kelly’s contributions to society go beyond her film catalog.  A fashion icon, Tommy Hilfiger and Zac Posen credit her as an inspiration.  She was a member of La Leche League; a group that promotes the importance of breastfeeding.  She founded AMADE Mondiale, which works to protect the physical, emotional and spiritual well being of children without distinction of race, nationality or religion. The Princess Grace Foundation supports struggling artists.