MONACO — Below the gilded dome of the Cathedral of Monaco lies the body of Princess Grace. Flowers are arranged over the marble slab of her tomb, and a wooden plaque instructs visitors: “Silence and Respect.”
In the two decades since her death on Sept. 14, 1982 — she died at 52 of injuries suffered in a car crash — silence and respect have been hard to come by.
Monaco, once a sleepy resort favored by European royalty, is now a popular tax haven with celebrities, bankers and sports figures.
Streets once known for elegance and wealth are now clogged with trinket shops and tourists, and the lives of the princess’ royal children are tabloid fare.
Palace officials say there are no special plans to mark the 20th anniversary of her death on Saturday; only the annual private ceremony at the palace chapel.
But Prince Rainier III — who married Hollywood actress Grace Kelly in a fairy-tale wedding in 1956 — is determined to keep her memory alive.
He dedicated this year’s palace yearbook to Grace, filling it with her photographs and testimonials extolling her good works. The portrait of the princess on the cover is displayed on roadside billboards all over the principality.
“Princess Grace is always present in our hearts and in our thoughts,” he wrote in the preface, praising her for “carrying out to perfection her role as spouse and mother.”
The Princess Grace Foundation, now led by her daughter Princess Caroline, funds a classical dance school, medical research, children’s hospitals and charities.
Streets carry her name, the National Museum houses roses bred in her honor, and the Princess Grace Irish Library has 8,500 books, including signed works by James Joyce.
“She was very attached to her Irish roots,” said library administrator Judith Anne Gantley. “It’s a way of contributing to her memory, but in a living way.”
Princess Grace brought elegance and charm to an already glamorous principality. Her prestige heightened with the energy she devoted to her philanthropic enterprises — and stars such as Frank Sinatra, who were attracted to the palace.
Most media attention in recent years has been on the lives of Princess Caroline and Princess Stephanie, the eldest and youngest of her three children, and Grace’s son, Prince Albert.
Caroline’s third husband, Prince Ernst August of Hanover, has been in trouble for attacking a German photographer and beating a hotel owner.
Stephanie’s 18-month marriage ended when her husband was photographed romancing a Belgian stripper, and she has had two children out of wedlock.
Meanwhile, Prince Albert has played the bachelor well into his 40s. The principality had to change its succession law to allow one of his sister’s sons to take the throne should he fail to produce an heir.
A few yards from the tomb of Princess Grace, two vending machines sell pamphlets on the cathedral — in several languages — and cathedral “souvenir medallions.”
“The principality is the principality,” said visitor Paqui Moreno, when asked about scandals. “That doesn’t change what’s here — the views and everything are still here.”