MONACO – Prince Rainier III, whose marriage to American film star Grace Kelly brought elegance and glamour to one of Europe’s oldest dynasties, died today at the hospital treating him for heart, kidney and breathing problems. He was 81.
Rainier’s royal palace announced his death nearly a full month after, because of a lung infection, he was first admitted to a heart and chest clinic that overlooks Monaco’s glittering, yacht-filled harbor.
He had been Europe’s longest-reigning monarch.
Rainier, who assumed the throne on May 9, 1949, also endured the tragedy of his famous wife’s death and relentless scandals – including international criticism of the principality’s tax laws – that plagued the final two decades of his rule.
The leader of Europe’s longest-ruling royal family, the Grimaldis, Rainier suffered recurring health problems in recent years. The silver-haired, portly prince underwent heart surgery in 1999. He had two operations the following year, including having a nodule removed from a lung, and was hospitalized in 2002 for fatigue and bronchitis.
Recurrent chest infections put him in the hospital on numerous occasions. Most recently, he was hospitalized March 7 at Monaco’s Cardio-Thoracic Center with a chest infection. He was placed in intensive care two weeks later with heart and kidney failure and hooked up to a respirator.
Prince Rainier’s public appearances grew increasingly rare as his health deteriorated, although he attended Monaco’s top social event, the Red Cross Ball, in August 2004.
Monaco had been preparing for the demise of its prince for several years.
Rainier’s heir is Crown Prince Albert, who is unmarried and has no children. Monaco changed its succession law in 2002 to allow power to pass from a reigning prince who has no descendants to his siblings. Albert has two sisters, Princess Caroline and Princess Stephanie, both of whom have children.