Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Royal Proposal at Park Avenue and 50th Street, NYC

A good read!

I recently finished Once Upon a Time: Behind the Fairy Tale of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier by J. Randy Taraborrelli. I thought it was well done, especially considering I have now read a few books dissecting their marriage. One fact Taraborrelli included that I have not read anywhere else describes where Rainier actually proposed to Grace. I had always thought he proposed to her at her parents’ house in Philadelphia right before Christmas in 1955, when he made a visit to the United States, but Taraborrelli actually has a different story and one that involves New York City!

Rainier had arrived in the U.S. officially claiming he was going to have a physical check up, even though he traveled with his own medical team, including Dr. Donat (who was actually brought along to determine if Grace was capable of having children if she accepted Rainier’s proposal of marriage).

Rainier & Grace on the day their engagement was announced, January 5, 1956.

Rainier and Grace both had (separate) rooms in the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. On December 28, Rainier had intended to propose to Grace at dinner there but when he didn’t find the right time to do it he asked Grace to join him for an evening stroll in Central Park. Here’s how Taraborrelli describes it:

The two descended in the Waldorf elevator. Unfortunately for Rainier, when the elevator reached a lower floor, in walked Dr. Donat and his nurse, Leanne Scott. While making small talk, Grace invited them to join her and Rainer on their stroll through Central Park. Once again, the Prince’s plans were foiled.

Outside of the hotel, Rainier must have known that he couldn’t propose in a caravan of four, because he took drastic measures. As the group waited to cross Park Avenue at 50th Street, the Prince decided to put a bit of distance between the two tagalongs and his would-be fiancĂ©e. Just before a long stream of traffic, Rainier grabbed Grace’s wrist and yanked her out into the street. Horns blew, but the two made it safely to a grass-covered median that lay between Park Avenue’s north-and southbound lanes. Through the rush of traffic, Donat and Scott saw Rainier reach into his pocket and present Grace with something. “She let out a small squeal,” says Leanne Scott. “And she said, ‘Yes, yes, yes, I will marry you’ so loudly that the others, who hadn’t crossed, could hear her. At that point, the doctor and his friends crossed over and caught up to them. 

“‘What’s all the fuss about?’” Dr. Donat asked.

“‘Why, the Prince asked me to marry him,’ Grace told him, her face flushed pink with excitement. On her finger, she flashed what would be a temporary ring: a band set with diamonds and rubies. ‘And I said yes,’ Grace continued, ‘I would love to marry him.’”

“He told me that Grace seemed happy, and that the Prince was grinning from ear to ear. They then locked in an embrace and kissed, right there on the sidewalk in front of everyone. He and everyone who observed the kiss did the only thing they could think of to do: They applauded.”

The median where Prince Rainier proposed to Grace Kelly!

The photos above and below show this exact corner and the median Taraborrelli refers to. I took this picture back in April so the beautiful pink tulips were at their height. The Waldorf-Astoria closed this past March for renovations. When it reopens in three years it will have been partially converted into apartments. Imagine saying that you live at the Waldorf-Astoria!

A closer shot.

Below is a rare photo of Grace wearing the ruby and diamond ring Rainier gave her, before she received the 10.47 diamond engagement ring from Cartier that is far more famous.

Grace wearing the first ring Rainier gave her.

If you already knew this story about Grace & Rainier let me know. I have never read about it until now!


GSL said...

How times change. The Waldorf (built by descendants of John Jacob Astor)once so synonymous with Grand Hotel glamour & luxury that even small town schoolboys would cite it is now owned by the Chinese. Nowadays every sporting event has broadcast up on the jumbotron some young schmuck proposing to his sweetie as 50,000+ look on prior to it being uploaded onto youtube with hopes that cheesy act will go viral to tens of millions.

Not to cast cynicism on this charming anecdote but heard Ari Onassis suggested to Rainer that marrying Grace Kelly would put tiny little Monaco on the map and bring in many millions of tourist rev and while that may have been his original intention GSL suspects that 10 seconds within point-black range of her charm & beauty would slay any man.

Jill said...

Hi GSL, you are right on all accounts--I read in real estate articles that a Chinese company bought the Waldorf-Astoria. I have seen those proposals you are talking about too--at Rockefeller Center on the ice rink on Valentine's Day, there was three proposals in one night! I felt bad for the second and third guy, kind of took away the romance to see it happening several times in one night!

As for Ari, yes, several bios about Grace mention that he was all for the marriage. He was a shrewd businessman, no? The Taraborrelli bio did talk about how very fetching she looked the night Rainier proposed--she wore a long gown, fur coat, diamond earrings. I'm sure Rainier was absolutely slayed the moment he saw her that evening! I love the idea of the two of them having a big kiss right on the median.

I hope you are staying cool! x