Grace Kelly Paid a $2M Dowry Before Marrying Prince Rainier III — Do British Royals Have to Do the Same?

Becoming a princess isn’t like the fairy tales. Although Disney would have you believe that it’s enough to lose or a shoe or fall into a coma, real-life royalty can have much harsher demands. When American Grace Kelly became royal through her marriage to Prince Rainier III, she quickly proved her worth by winning the hearts of the Monégasque people. Still, charm alone did not earn her the crown. A shockingly high dowry was paid first, costing the Kellys millions — and nearly costing Prince Rainier his marriage. 

Princess Grace Kelly was an adored figure in Monaco 

Grace Kelly
Grace Kelly | Herbert Dorfman/Corbis via Getty Images

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When Kelly married Prince Rainier III in 1956, she was a complete outsider to the royal scene. Although Kelly’s prominent position in Hollywood had her accustomed to glamour, her move to Monaco doubtless came with quite a few culture shocks. 

Soon, however, Princess Grace was a staple figure in the monarchy. She did significant philanthropy work through her foundation and hosted an annual Christmas celebration with orphaned children, according to Grace Influential. Her people adored her, and she quickly became an expert in all-things royal. Kelly even famously helped Wales’ Princess Diana navigate her early days of royalty. 

Serving as Monaco’s princess seemed like the perfect role for the former actress. Still, the position came with probably the strangest audition Kelly had ever faced. Prior to her marriage to the prince, Kelly reportedly had to take a fertility test and fork over an enormous dowry. 

The royal crown came at quite the cost

Grace Kelly
Grace Kelly | George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

It’s no secret that royal weddings are expensive affairs. After all, the ring that Kelly would wear on her big day is estimated to be worth $4.6 million — although this price may have become slightly inflated following her early death. Still, the future princess couldn’t have anticipated the cost associated with agreeing to marry her love. 

According to Mental Floss, the Kelly family had to provide a $2 million dowry before the pair could be officially married. Although Kelly’s father had the money, he was — understandably — a little taken aback.

Some sources, like the Chicago Tribune, even report the man refusing to pay. As a testament to Princess Grace’s love for her future-husband, many say that she paid half of the sum herself. 

A $2 million price tag could be a deal-breaker for some, but we think Kelly made the correct choice in pursuing the crown. She and Prince Rainier III went on to have three children: Stéphanie, Caroline, and Albert II. Although she did not live to meet her many grandchildren, she played a crucial role in what has become a beautiful family legacy. 

Monaco isn’t the only monarchy with pocket-draining dowries

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Kelly’s dowry wasn’t just the result of choosing the wrong royals to marry into. Although the tradition may seem old-fashioned, it is still common practice in many monarchies.

The Middleton family made headlines prior to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge’s marriage to Prince William. Vanity Fair reported that the Middleton parents would be contributing six-figures to the cost of the royal wedding, which Gawker called a “six figure dowry.” Though, one could argue it was merely the Middleton family financially contributing to the nuptials.

Still, the practice seems to have been toned down in recent years. As Vaguely Interesting notes, wedding dowries used to include “colossal fortunes or exchanges of land that could change the course of history.” Although it seems odd to say $2 million isn’t a life-changing amount of money, 16th-century royals may argue that Princess Grace got off easy. As for the British royals, there are no official statements or information suggesting the practice is used today.