It was on this day in 1949 that His Serene Highness Rainier III became Sovereign Prince of Monaco, succeeding his grandfather Louis II. It was an unfortunate coincidence that the death of Rainier III came so close to that of Pope John Paul II which naturally overshadowed all else. Were it a different time the media might have taken a little more time to reflect on the eventful life and reign of Rainier III. He often seems to be a somewhat forgotten man. Everyone knew who he was, yet few really knew much about him and he was outshined by his fascinating wife Princess Grace.
We know from the accounts of his children that Rainier III was a kind man who would make pancakes for his family for breakfast and also a man with a temper, his son Albert said they all knew when to give 'Papa' his space. He could play the suave, debonair Mediterranean prince and yet he did not desire the party and jet-set lifestyle but was devoted to the hard work of running the family 'business' of Monaco. His country, his family and his faith were all very important to him and he zealously defended the unique position and independence of his tiny principality. He was also an extremely brave man which many people are not aware of. He fought in the French artillery in World War II and earned the Cross of War and Bronze Star for his heroism under fire.
Rainier III was not an absentee head of state but a very hands-on monarch, he diversified the economy, brought the country back to lavishness from the poverty of two world wars and brought fame and attention to Monaco with his marriage to Princess Grace (and I don't think the effects of that were lost on him) and he re-negotiated the laws of succession with France when he began to fear that Albert would never marry so that the throne could one day pass to his grandson Andrea Casiraghi. The independence of Monaco and maintaining the Monegasque monarchy were paramount to him. He was a very savy and world-wise CEO, a loving father (stern at times and often driven to distraction it must be said) and also a very affectionate grandfather when that time came. Rainier III seemed to be the right man, in the right place at the right time for Monaco and I have often wondered if HSH Albert II ever looks skyward and wonders what his father would do. He did his best and he left his country stronger and more prosperous than he had found it and he found it 60 years ago today.