- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 6, 2005

MONACO — Prince Rainier III, who reshaped Monaco and worked to overcome its reputation as “a sunny place for shady people,” died yesterday, leaving the throne to Prince Albert II, his only son with actress Grace Kelly.

In power for 56 of his 81 years, Prince Rainier was Europe’s longest-reigning monarch and the only ruler that many of Monaco’s 32,000 residents had ever known. A veritable father figure, he dragged Monaco into the modern age while preserving much of the Mediterranean charm and royal trappings of his tiny principality.

Before age slowed him, Prince Rainier poured his energies into public works, earning the name “the builder prince.” He put Monaco — which is smaller than New York’s Central Park — on the world map with his April 18, 1956, marriage to Miss Kelly, who gave up Hollywood fame to become Princess Grace.

Yesterday President Bush extended condolences to the people of Monaco.

“He will be remembered as a respected leader who secured the prosperity of Monaco’s people,” he said.

“Monaco and the United States have long had a special bond of friendship. We extend our deepest condolences to His Serene Highness Prince Albert, to the Grimaldi family, and to all the people of Monaco,” he added.

Prince Albert, 47, has been groomed from birth to succeed his father. Multilingual, U.S.-educated and a five-time bobsledding Olympian, he was at his father’s bedside when Prince Rainier died at a hospital overlooking Monaco’s yacht-filled main harbor.

Prince Rainier had been treated there for the past month for heart, kidney and breathing problems. Prince Albert took over the royal powers last week because of Prince Rainier’s ill health.

Prince Rainier’s funeral will be held April 15 at the 19th-century Monaco Cathedral, where he and Princess Grace wed. He is expected to be buried alongside her.

At the traditional midday changing of the palace guards ceremony yesterday, drums were covered with black cloth. The body of Prince Rainier, whose family dynasty took power in 1297, was moved to his hilltop palace where it will in lie in state.

The famed Monte Carlo casino closed in a sign of respect. Monaco’s soccer team postponed a weekend match.

Flags, already lowered for Pope John Paul II, remained at half-staff. Monaco’s TV networks interrupted programming with documentaries on Prince Rainier’s life and reactions to his death.

“Each of us feels like an orphan because the principality has been marked by his imprint over the 56 years” of his reign, said Patrick Leclercq, head of Monaco’s government.

Prince Rainier’s doctors called Prince Albert about 30 minutes beforehand to tell him the end was near, the palace said. The palace did not say whether Prince Rainier’s daughters, Princesses Caroline and Stephanie, were with him when he died.

Christopher Le Vine, whose mother is Princess Grace’s last surviving sibling, said he and other Philadelphia-area relatives will go to Monaco for Prince Rainier’s funeral.

He said the prince had a “unique sense of humor,” but he expects Prince Albert to make his own imprint on the French-speaking principality.

Prince Albert is unmarried and has no children — a source of consternation to Prince Rainier, who worried about continuing the Grimaldi family line.

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