Did Curse Put the 'Grim' in Grimaldi?


April 15, 2005 — -- The scene will be a familiar one as Prince Rainier III is laid to rest today beside his wife, the former movie star Grace Kelly. The Grimaldis know how to do grief all too well.

Legend has it that back in the 13th century, Prince Rainier I kidnapped and raped a beautiful maiden, who became a witch to get her revenge. She cursed the prince's family for generations to come, saying, "Never will a Grimaldi find true happiness in marriage."

Looking at the marital histories of certain members of the clan, it's hard to say the witch was wrong. In fact, some believe her curse has gone beyond its original scope.

The family's most shattering tragedy occurred in 1982, when Princess Grace died of injuries sustained in a car accident. She was just 52.

For Monaco, the death of the popular princess was a terrible blow. For the Grimaldis, it was an incalculable loss.

The worst-hit was her youngest child, Princess Stephanie, who had been in the car when the accident occurred. She would be haunted by rumors that she, not her mother, had been the one behind the wheel.

"I was not driving, that's clear," Stephanie said in an interview with the French magazine Paris Match 20 years after the fatal crash.

The princess said she had had to bear the double trauma of "losing my mother at a very young age, and being at her side at the moment of the accident.

"You cannot imagine the suffering I have endured, and that I endure still," she said.

Since the accident, Stephanie, now 40, has been through a series of scandalous romances. In the 1980s, she made several stabs at a career -- as a model, fashion designer, pop star -- but nothing took.

Then, in 1991, she became involved with her bodyguard, a former fishmonger named Daniel Ducruet. They had two children -- Louis and Pauline -- before marrying in 1995. Her father had been very reluctant to give his consent, and reportedly took steps to prevent his new son-in-law from getting his hands on any of Stephanie's money if the marriage didn't work out.

And it seems father knew best. A year after walking down the aisle, Stephanie headed for divorce court after tabloids published photos of her husband cavorting with a lady who had formerly held the title of "Miss Bare Breasts Belgium."

Stephanie gave birth to a daughter, Camille, two years later, but this time she didn't marry the father. Or even disclose who he was.

The outré behavior didn't stop there. Stephanie took up with a married elephant trainer, moving her three children into a trailer so they could follow the circus. When that ended, she married Adans Lopez Peres, a Portuguese acrobat nearly 10 years her junior, in September 2003. Less than a year later, the man on the flying trapeze had been given the heave-ho.

Stephanie's older sister has had to cope with as many or even more calamities in her life. Princess Caroline, much to her parents' dismay, married a French playboy named Philippe Junot in 1978. The princess bride was just 21; the groom was 17 years older. After two tumultuous years, they divorced.

On the death of her mother, Princess Caroline took over many of the duties of first lady of Monaco. And in 1983, she married Stefano Casiraghi, son of an Italian businessman. Their three children -- Andrea, Charlotte and Pierre -- were still very young when Casiraghi was killed in a speedboat racing accident.

In 1999, Caroline would marry again. This time the groom was Prince Ernst August of Hanover. Their daughter, Princess Alexandra, was born six months later.

The marriage boosted Caroline from Her Serene Highness to Her Royal Highness. A descendant of England's King George III, Ernst boasts an impressive lineage, but he also has a reputation for hot-headed behavior. He allegedly broke a TV cameraman's nose with his umbrella in 1998 and was later fined for beating a disco owner in Kenya.

As she mourned the death of her father, Caroline, 48, was hit with more trauma. "Caroline, the Ordeal," ran a headline in the French magazine Point de Vue. "After the death of her father, the hospitalization of her husband."

Prince Rainier, 81, died on April 6. A day earlier, his son-in-law had been admitted to the intensive care unit of Monaco's Princess Grace Hospital. Doctors said the 51-year-old prince was in serious condition with an acute case of pancreatitis. Some reports even said he was in a coma.

Over the past week, Ernst's condition is said to have improved, but one can only feel for Princess Caroline as she copes with her husband's illness and the loss of her father -- the linchpin not just of the Grimaldi family, but of his tiny state.

"Today we are all orphans of this great man," his 47-year-old son, now ruling as Prince Albert II, said in a televised address Sunday.

And it seems that the patriarch is still trying to protect his orphans. Rainier's will divides the bulk of his fortune between his two oldest children. Reports have said it is enough to make both Caroline and Albert billionaires.

Princess Stephanie, however, was left just 1 percent of Prince Rainier's estate. Perhaps Rainier, after years of watching his youngest daughter becoming embroiled with increasingly unsuitable men, felt she had to be protected from her own bad choices.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events