Princess Grace's fatal car crash saddened the world a decade ago

In a sense, she always seemed a bit unreal —she had a storybook life and then, out of the blue, a tragic, melodramatic death. It was just a decade ago that Grace Kelly, the patrician American actress who left Hollywood to become Monaco’s white-gloved princess, died at 52 after a violent car crash on the precipitous bluffs near the Grimaldis’ royal palace.

The reports from Monte Carlo were chilling: Apparently suffering a stroke at the wheel of her Rover 3500, she plunged 120 feet down a cliff, while her daughter Stephanie, 17, helplessly tugged at the hand brake. Princess Grace never regained consciousness, and after medical treatment at two hospitals, she was removed from life-support systems the next day. On Sept. 14, 1982, Her Serene Highness was gone.

Grace Kelly had brought luster to everything she touched. By age 26, the reserved Philadelphia society girl had become a Hollywood blue blood after just 11 films. She was Hitchcock’s soignee blond in Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, and To Catch a Thief. While filming Thief on the Riviera, she met Prince Rainier, and married him in 1956.

Ever since mourning bells tolled for Kelly, her family has been plagued by scandal and misfortune. Stephanie became the target of wildly conflicting rumors that she, not her mother, had been driving the car; nothing was ever proved. Over the past decade, Stephanie has charged into romances with the likes of Paul Belmondo and Rob Lowe, and is now unwed and pregnant by her ex- bodyguard. Caroline, 35, who is still trying to have her first marriage (to Philippe Junot) annulled, lost her second husband, Stefano Casiraghi, in a boating accident two years ago. (She is now dating French actor Vincent Lindon.) Despite lower profiles, Albert, 34, and Prince Rainier, 69, have seen their supposed liaisons trumpeted in the tabloids. While talk of a curse may be fanciful, it does seem that since Grace’s untimely death, her survivors have never fully recovered from the blow.