Monday, February 4, 2013
GRACE KELLY UNDERGOES A FERTILITY TEST
Before the engagement of Grace and Rainier could be announced, there were several important hurdles that needed to be cleared. Rainier’s taking a wife was a matter of state, and as such it carried with it certain unavoidable necessities. The first of these was medical assurance that Grace Kelly was physically able to bear an heir to the Monegasque throne. “I must get married and raise a family,” Rainier had told Collier’s. “I told my people recently that I am keenly sensitive to the political implications of my bachelorhood.” Even had Rainier been more cavalier about this very singular example of noblesse oblige, his advisers could not be. The survival of Monegasque life as they knew it hung in the balance; the fertility of a future princess would have to be all but guaranteed—or Rainier would not be allowed to marry her.
This had been made painfully apparent to Rainier in 1953. He had been in love with Gisele Pascal; she had, for several years, lived in his Beaulieu villa where he spent most of his time with her. So entrenched was she in Rainier’s life that the citizens of Monaco thought of Gisele as their “uncrowned princess.” After six years of romance, Rainier wanted to marry Gisele, and the thought of becoming the Princess of Monaco thrilled her. She refused even to discuss the romance, lest she say something wrong; “I am living in a dream and nothing must spoil it.”
Unfortunately for Gisele, something did. When Rainier told his advisers that he planned to marry her, they reminded him that it would be necessary for her to take a fertility test. Instead, Gisele presented a letter from her Paris doctors certifying that she could conceive. This was not sufficient for the Monegasque officials, who insisted that the Prince’s own doctor perform the test. When the first test came back negative, the physician took another, then a third. All indicated that Gisele was infertile. Rainier was told that he would not be allowed to marry her.
Although he seriously considered it, abdication for the woman he loved was not a solution for Rainier, since there was no one to assume the throne; such an action would have the same effect as a childless marriage: Monaco’s seven-century Grimaldi rule would end and the country would become a French protectorate. Bitterly Rainier broke off his relationship with Gisele. The Prince told Francis Tucker, “Father, if you ever hear that my subjects think I do not love them, tell them what I have done today.” (Gisele later married and had a child, and one can only imagine the Prince’s reaction to the news.)
Now Rainier was faced with the same dilemma, and it was as distasteful to him as it had been several years before. He knew it must be done, and by his own doctor. (Hence Dr. Donat’s otherwise inexplicable presence in America; the first reason proffered was that the Prince had come to have a checkup at Johns Hopkins University Hospital and wanted his own doctor along; later it was said that Rainier had brought Donat here to enroll in the school. Neither explanation makes any sense; Rainier didn’t have to travel three thousand miles for a medical checkup, and neither would the Prince of Monaco’s private physician have any compelling reason to attend an American university. But it was necessary to explain Donat’s presence thus, in order to avoid speculation about the real reason. Rainier sensed, correctly, that Americans would neither understand nor sympathize with the need for a fertility test of Grace Kelly before she could marry him.)
Rainier was loath to broach the subject to Grace. “Her family is very religious, very conservative,” the Prince told one of his advisers. “I don’t dare even suggest it to her!”
But it simply had to be done. Father Tucker, who had already spent hours questioning Grace about her religious beliefs, informed her of the need for the test. Faced with the fact that without a test there was no possibility of marriage, Grace agreed.
The test—kept secret from Grace’s family—was performed at a private sanitarium on the outskirts of Philadelphia, because its director was a man Grace knew and trusted. She was terribly anxious about undergoing the examination—not only because so much depended on it, but because Prince Rainier was under the impression that she was a virgin.
During this emotionally charged period, Grace fell back on her intimacy with her former lover Don Richardson, and she telephoned him every day, confiding her innermost thoughts. He vividly recalls her telling him about the fertility test. “They had her in stirrups, taking all kinds of tests to make sure that she could produce an heir for Monaco. She was frantic about the fact that the test would reveal she wasn’t a virgin, because the Prince thought she was. She told me she explained to the doctors that her hymen had been broken when she was playing hockey in high school.”
Could Prince Rainier, a sophisticated man, have actually believed that Grace, a well-traveled movie actress of twenty-six, was a virgin? “You have to remember that this was 1955,” Richardson says, “when twenty-six-year-old virgins were a lot more common than they are today. And that was Grace’s image. People believed she was a nun. Everything about her spoke of virginity and pureness; the Prince knew she came from a ‘good Catholic family.’ When you looked into the face of Grace Kelly, you couldn’t believe she was anything but unblemished, untarnished, and virginal. It’s entirely possible that the Prince, worldly as he was, believed she was a virgin.”