The Tragic Death Of Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly was one of a handful of American women who married into European royalty, joining the ranks of Wallace Simpson before her, and Meghan Markle after her, among others, when she married Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956.

For a few decades, her life was compared to a fairy tale: a woman of (comparatively) humble origins who married a dashing and handsome prince who, unlike his contemporaries in European monarchies, actually had real political power. Meanwhile, the American actress lived a life of wealth and glamour, jet-setting among Europe's elite, while the tabloids on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean gleefully reported on her comings and goings.

Princess Grace's fairy-tale life came to a tragic end on September 14, 1982, the day after the car she was driving crashed on the mountainous roads surrounding her home. Although the account of her death could read as a straightforward case of a tragic car accident, there may be more to the story.

This is the truth of Grace Kelly's tragic death.

Grace Kelly officially died of a routine car accident

There is little to no ambiguity about how Grace Kelly died.

As Town and Country Magazine reported, on September 13, 1982, Grace and her 17-year-old daughter, Princess Stephanie, were headed to a train station, from which Stephanie was to travel to Paris to begin school. The family's chauffeur had offered to drive the two women to their destination, but Grace declined, noting that it would be a tight fit in the car — an 11-year-old 1971 Rover — with three people and their luggage.

While Grace was navigating the winding and steep mountain roads that surround the border between France and Monaco, for one reason or another, she lost control of the vehicle. Per the BBC, the car fell 100 or so feet down a steep ravine in the mountains, and Kelly suffered multiple severe injuries, as did her then-17-year-old daughter, Princess Stephanie.

The following night, the Princess died of her injuries, surrounded by her friends and family. Stephanie fully recovered.

But was there more to the story?

According to Town and Country Magazine, the general outline of events that took place with regard to Grace Kelly's death is not in dispute. However, what caused Kelly to lose control of her vehicle remains in question to this day. 

One possibility about what caused the crash is the notion that the brakes failed. Stephanie's sister, Princess Caroline, reportedly claimed that her sibling told her that she (Stephanie) heard her mother say the brakes weren't working, and that Stephanie tried to employ the emergency brake, which also didn't work.

Dr. Jean Chatelain, the chief surgeon at the hospital where Grace was treated, would later say that he uncovered evidence that Grace had suffered a "cerebral vascular incident," adding that, had it occurred at home, the princess could have simply sat down and then felt better later. In the car, however, she either confused the brakes for the accelerator, or lost control of her legs and couldn't work the controls.

Similarly, according to BBC News, a witness claimed that he saw the vehicle swerving erratically before the crash.

The palace failed to control the narrative of Grace's death

Town and Country Magazine writer Chloe Foussianes claimed that the Monaco palace sent out a "misleading" series of communiqués surrounding Grace's death, giving the sense that the general public weren't being told the whole story.

For example, for a while the palace tried to advance the narrative that the princess was going to recover from her injuries. Her brother, John Kelly, claims he was certainly given that impression.

"I was led to believe she was out of danger," he said.

Dr. Chatelain, for his part, also didn't put any stock in the palace's reports, calling them "garbage." Similarly, other doctors who were involved also criticized the palace's narrative.

"The communiqués were administrative ones, not medical bulletins," said another doctor.

Meanwhile, rumors popped up that it was Stephanie, not Grace, who was actually driving that day. This is most likely traceable to a witness at the scene, who claimed he saw the young royal emerge from the driver's side. Stephanie, however, would later clarify that she did so because the passenger door was too smashed in to allow her to exit.