Limerick Leader files: Hollywood fairytale as people throng streets to see royal couple

Sharon Slater, Limerick Chronicle Historian


Sharon Slater, Limerick Chronicle Historian

Grace Kelly starred in film for only five years but in those five years she left a legacy of classics that still stand up today

Grace Kelly starred in film for only five years but in those five years she left a legacy of classics that still stand up today

ON April 18, 1956, the Limerick Leader dedicated a few columns to the wedding of Grace Kelly and Prince Ranier III of Monaco.

The Leader stated that Grace would from this point on be known as “Her Most Serene Highness Patricia”. This name did not catch on and she was known simply as Princess Grace to most. This wedding cost Grace’s family two million dollars in a dowry.

Before becoming a princess, Grace Kelly was a much-admired actress. She won roles in films like High Noon and was Alfred Hitchcock’s favourite leading lady for a time in Rear Window and To Catch a Thief.

The film To Catch a Thief was a constant favourite in the Royal cinema - it was shown several times in the two years after its release.

Nonetheless, Kelly gave up her film career at the age of 26 to become Princess of Monaco and wife to Prince Rainier III, 32 years old.

Five years later, the royal couple and their young children passed through Limerick city on their way to Adare for the evening. The Leader of June 19, 1961 details the scene.

“Limerick people received an unexpected thrill today when Princess Grace, Prince Rainier and the family passed through the city. Thousands of people converged on the car containing the royal couple as they passed up O’Connell Street, shortly before four o’clock, cheering and waving.

“Princess Grace sat in the front, wearing dark glasses, a light fawn coat and carrying a bouquet of flowers. The prince was sitting in the rear with Princess Caroline and Prince Albert. The cavalcade was preceded by a gardai escort. The princess looked radiant and smiled and waved back to the excited crowds.

"All along the route from Shannon Airport where the royal couple paid an unexpected visit, hundreds of people lined the road and gave the royal party a very warm welcome.

“Business was practically brought to a standstill from 2.30pm as shop girls, bank officials and thousands of other employees waited patiently for the distinguished visitors to pass by. Special traffic precautions were taken by the gardai to ensure a smooth passage, but the enthusiasm of the people could hardly be restrained and many hundreds ran on the roadway to get a close-up view of the royal party.

“All along the route to Adare, young and old lined parts of the road to give the visitors a most heartening welcome to this part of the country.

“At Adare, hundreds gathered to greet them. It was stated officially that the party would be guests of Lord and Lady Dunraven at a dinner at Kilgibbin this evening and stay overnight at the Dunraven Arms Hotel, Adare, leaving tomorrow morning for Parknasilla, Kerry.

“Additional gardai for Limerick city and surrounding district were drafted into Adare for the special occasion. They took up duty nearly three hours before the party’s arrival, outside the Dunraven Arms Hotel to ensure that the visitors would not be impeded in any way in getting to the hotel.”

This was not the end of Limerick’s connection with Princess Grace. In 1975 a very unusual letter arrived to the manager of the City Theatre. The Leader of September 6, 1975 told the story of this letter.

“There was a surprise in store for Mr Jack Bourke, director, City Theatre, when he opened his post this week there was a letter from Princess Grace of Monaco complimenting him on his efforts in promoting ‘live’ theatre in Limerick.

“But more important still, there was a donation of 250 dollars from the princess to help keep the City Theatre open.

“Said a delighted Mr Bourke: ‘I am extremely honoured to have received this kind donation from Her Serene Highness and I can tell you that it will be put to good use.’ It would appear that the Limerick Festival of Theatre has friends in high places.

“Princess Grace, formerly film actress Grace Kelly, has a deep interest in the theatre but Mr Bourke is intrigued as to how she learned of the need for funds to keep the City Theatre open.

“The cheque bore the Princess’s signature and the enclosed letter was signed by her personal secretary, Louisette Levy-Soussan.

“Continued Mr Bourke: ‘This is the kind of encouragement that we need and if some local businessmen followed Princess Grace’s gesture the City Theatre could be saved’.”