This book was not an easy read, but definitely a book worth savoring. Perhaps one might compare the experience to receiving a bottle of fine wine which is to be sipped, not gulped, and that is how I approached it, reading a section or two at a time.
My Days With Princess Grace of Monaco is the story of two women, one of Princess Grace and her life with Prince Rainier, the other of Joan Dale with her husband Martin. Joan led a fascinating life, first as a diplomat’s wife, then as the wife of the Privy Counselor to the Prince of Monaco, and finally as the wife of a successful business man, as her husband switched jobs over their twenty-five years of marriage. Her experiences reflect the excitement of life in the royal palace. The story focuses on the six or so years that Joan and Grace maintained a close, sisterly relationship, and continues on through correspondence and visits between the two until Grace’s untimely death in 1982. There are numerous excerpts of letters and photographs to assist in making the past come alive. Joan Dale, a wonderful storyteller, fills this biography with interesting anecdotes of her life and that of her best friend, The Princess of Monaco.
Originally this book was written as a family history, but after Joan’s death, her daughter Pamela Grace decided to publish this work for the benefit of the public. If a biography could have an objective, this one’s goal would be to demonstrate the gracious kindness that Princess Grace exemplified as well as reflect her love of the arts and her desire to use her place of privilege to help others. “I wish to be remembered as a decent human being, and a caring one.” is a comment the Princess made in her last public interview with Pierre Salinger on 20/20, and it is repeatedly demonstrated in the author’s narrative.
What I found most compelling about this work is not the minute details Joan Dale has included, but the fact that I grew up in that same era and so was familiar with many of the names and dates mentioned. Joan kept extensive journals which, along with her newsy letters home to her parents, described the jewelry and outfits worn by the rich and famous as well as the lavish meals served at the numerous extravaganzas the Dales attended with the royal couple. The reader is able to vicariously experience the grandeur (along with the tedium) of life in the public eye filled with dazzling parties, incredible jaunts to amazing locales, and the flashing bulbs of the ever present paparazzi. Monaco seemed to be the go to place of many of the world’s leading entertainers and bureaucrats, perhaps because of the beauty of the Rivera or the appeal of the casino at Monte Carlo. Actors, such as David Niven, had summer homes in Monaco where the residents lived tax free. Now, if you don’t recognize world renowned individuals such as David Nivon, Frank Sinatra, and Cary Grant, or Aristotle Onassis and Charles DeGaulle, or if you’ve never heard about the marriage of Grace Kelly to Prince Rainier, then you probably won’t appreciate the minutiae within this book. I, however, am familiar with many of the names and events relayed as Joan tells her story, which greatly enhanced my enjoyment.
Next to Diana’s wedding to Prince Charles, the wedding of Grace to Rainier was the event of the 20th century. Everyone was in love with the beautiful actress Grace Kelly and when she accepted Prince Rainier’s proposal to become the Princess of Monaco, it was a fairy tale come true. Grace loved planning and attending parties which was fortunate since her life was a whirlwind of social events filled with performances by world famous artists. Joan Dale was in the unique position to share this lifestyle with us.
An eye opening story which I am tempted to retell, but I’ll let you discover for yourselves. Please pick up and read this four and a half star book and transplant yourself back to life in the late fifties and early sixties.
A special thank you to Netgalley, Inlightning, and Pamela Dale (Joan’s daughter, as well as the god daughter of Princess Grace) for allowing me to download a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.