When Princess Grace Kelly suffered a fatal car crash on Sept. 13, 1982, no one was more affected than her husband and three children.
“It was a shocking moment, you’re not quite sure what to think, and of course, you think that things are going to improve and it’s not as bad an accident as you thought it was,” recalled her son Prince Albert II of Monaco to Graham Bensinger Tuesday. “And so those few hours there were very tense and very emotional.”
The Hollywood actress, who became a royal when she married Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956, suffered a stroke while driving back to Monaco from the family’s country home with her 17-year-old daughter Stephanie. Consequently, she lost control of the car and drove off a steep mountainside.
The New York Times reported at the time her car burst into flames and Kelly suffered multiple fractures, including a broken thighbone, collarbone and ribs. Stephanie suffered a concussion and fractured vertebra.
When paramedics arrived, the 52-year-old was in critical condition. However, she would later die at the hospital.
Albert was having breakfast when his father told him about the deadly accident.
“Basically, he said that we had to go down to the hospital because mom and Stephanie had an accident,” he recalled. “And so, I didn’t think twice about it and went down with him and [my sister] Caroline as well… It wasn’t until later that evening that it became apparent that the outcome was not going to be a good one.”
Albert said his father suffered a broken heart for the rest of his life.
“He was deeply affected and he wasn’t quite the same man as he was before the accident,” he explained.
Stephanie, who survived the crash, remained haunted by that fateful day she lost her mother.
“It took a very long time for her to recover from this, and it was a very painful recollection for her,” said Albert. “It took a number of years for her to come to terms with that — the pain of being in that car with our mother and not being able to pull her out or to have a different outcome. It was a traumatic experience and would be for everybody.”
Albert added he relied on his family for support to cope with his own grief.
“It always takes a while, you recover thanks to your other family members and to your friends and to people who are dear to you who can provide comfort. It also takes a few years to really come to terms with it,” he admitted.
Prince Rainier died in 2005 at age 81.
But Albert insisted Kelly’s legacy lives in. While many fans still remember her many collaborations with filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, Albert said her spirit thrives in her adopted home of Monaco.
“She was a great ambassador for Monaco,” he said. “It was her personality and generosity of heart and spirit that charmed people and made them want to come and visit and engage with Monaco.”