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Friday, 5 June 2015

Visit by the Monaco Royals

In mid-June 1961, Prince Rainier of Monaco visited Ireland along with his wife, Princess Grace. While all visiting royals are given the VIP treatment, the presence of the Irish-American actress formerly known as Grace Kelly whipped media and public excitement into a frenzy.

Grace’s Irish connections were well-known in Ireland, and were a source of pride at a time when Irish-Americans seemed to be grabbing the reins of power in all arenas – JFK being the most obvious example. So when the beautiful young princess landed in Dublin, she was indeed presented with a thousand welcomes.

The royal couple arriving at Dublin Airport
10 June 1961
After the arrival, the royals were taken straight to Áras an Uachtaráin, where they were greeted by President De Valera and his wife, Sinead. The next day included a visit to the National Stud Farm and attendance at the opening ceremony in Croke Park of the Dublin International Festival of Music and Arts, by which time the couple had learned to wrap themselves up well for an Irish summer.

On Monday, the royals spent the morning at an art exhibition in Brown Thomas on Grafton Street before attending separate functions in the afternoon. Princess Grace visited Crumlin Hospital and the Sacred Heart Home for Orphans on the Drumcondra Road. Her own children, Albert and Caroline, were due to arrive that night, but Grace mentioned them to the children on several occasions.

Princess Grace leaving Brown Thomas
12 June 1961
That night, events turned a little sour when a crowd waiting outside the Gresham Hotel on O’Connell Street became difficult to control. A banquet was being held in the royals’ honour in the hotel, but the guests of honour and political figures like Lemass had great difficulties in getting safely through the crowd. Even after everyone had entered the hotel, the crowd remained until Princess Grace made an appearance on a balcony to wave to them.

The crowds outside the Gresham waiting for Grace
12 June 1961
The next day, Albert and Caroline were taken to the Áras for their introduction on what would be the last official day of the family’s state visit. But the Grimaldis would stay in Ireland for another four days, transferring to the west coast for the remainder of their holiday. This allowed Grace to visit her ancestral home, meet several of her relatives and visit Croagh Patrick. The royals did not climb the mountain – Grace’s white suit would not have been the most practical outfit if that had been their intention – but they did pay homage at the first station at the base.

Princess Grace at Croagh Patrick
15 June 1961

This visit to Ireland would be the first of many for Princess Grace, both official and unofficial, as can be seen by the number of times she appears in our archive. She became an important patron of the arts in Ireland, and the people of Ireland always had a lot of affection for her and her family. Her tragic death was mourned deeply across the country, just as had happened when JFK was cut down in his prime. But, when the Grimaldis stepped off the plane in 1961, her glamour and beauty seemed immortal.

All images available @ Irish Photo Archive

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