GRACE KELLY was present when Princess Diana made her royal debut in 1981 – and the Princess of Wales “poured her heart out” to the Princess of Monaco, who had some chilling words for the young Diana, according to a royal biographer.
Grace Kelly’s grandson, Louis Ducruet, is set to tie the knot today with his bride Marie Chevallier in the same cathedral where his grandmother had her royal wedding. The American movie star became one of the most famous princesses in the world after she married Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956. She met another of the most famous women of the 20th century, Lady Diana Spencer, shortly before she became Princess of Wales in 1981.
Diana and Charles were attending their first public engagement together after they announced their engagement in February 1981, at the Royal Opera House in London.
Biographer Andrew Morton in his 2011 book “William and Catherine”, about Diana’s son William and his wife Kate, delves into the occasion in March 1981, where the Princess of Monaco had some chilling words for the Princess of Wales.
Mr Morton wrote: “She chose a black ballgown with plunging, gravity-defying décolletage, which had commentators wondering if she had exposed more than she should, for a charity gala in the presence of Princess Grace of Monaco, the former Hollywood star Grace Kelly.”
Mr Morton reported how the Princess of Wales later told him: “It was a horrendous occasion.
“I didn’t know whether to go out of the door first.
“I didn’t know whether your handbag should be in your left hand not your right.
“I was terrified, really – at the time everything was all over the place.
Mr Morton added: “Sensing her discomfort, Princess Grace took her aside and listened as she poured out her heart.
“‘Don’t worry,’ Princess Grace had joked, ‘it will get a lot worse’.”
Mr Morton also wrote about how Kate Middleton’s entrance into royal life was markedly different from Princess Diana’s experience.
Speaking about Diana, he said: “She had moved away from her family and friends to live with the Queen Mother at Clarence House until the wedding day.
“As a result, she had felt isolated and alone, unsure how to act and whom to ask for help.
“If anything, her first official public appearance had been even more of an ordeal than the engagement day.”
This is backed up by royal author Penny Junor, who writes in her 2017 biography “The Duchess”: “It was intimidating stuff for someone who had never been in the public eye.
“Diana was scrupulously polite but she found the pressure unbearable.”
Diana later said of this period: “I cried like a baby to the four walls. I just couldn’t cope with it.”
Ms Junor comments: “Because she was just a girlfriend, there was no mechanism to protect her.”
The landscape has changed significantly for Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, who both enjoyed protection before they officially joined the Royal Family upon their marriages to Prince William and Prince Harry respectively.
Indeed, Prince Edward’s wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex was key in paving the way for the modern-day Duchesses.
Royal biographer Ingrid Seward, in her 1995 book ”Prince Edward”, explained: “Both Sarah and Diana had moved into the Palace, but not until they were formally engaged.
“Those strictures were set aside for Sophie. She was free to stay with Prince Edward wherever and whenever she wanted to.
“That the Queen should allow it to happen under her roof marked a significant change in attitude and approach.”