Princess Grace

Princess Grace lingers in memory

Moving on from Princess Diana, it's time to remember an American princess, Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco, who also died in a car crash, 25 years ago this week.

The tiny European principality with an outsize reputation as a glamour destination commemorates its lost princess this fall with exhibits, a first-ever auction of her frocks, and book and magazine tributes. In keeping with her influence as a fashion icon, there will be window displays in New York and a new "Princess Grace Coral" lipstick by Estée Lauder.

"It seemed the right time to bring to the land of her birth some of the special things that made her such an iconic and memorable figure," says Maguy Maccario-Doyle, Consul General of Monaco in New York.

Americans under 40 might be forgiven for not knowing much about the former Grace Kelly — not even that she is the Kelly in the much-prized Hermès "Kelly bag." She went from Philadelphia Mainliner to Hollywood star to fairy-tale princess in the 1950s, when celebrity coverage was less pervasive, even polite compared with today. She went to her death, from a twisty corniche road in Monaco, just as celeb madness was about to explode.

On Sept. 13, 1982, Grace, then 52, was driving to her family's palace from their country home when she had a stroke, lost control of her car and plunged down the mountainside. She died the next day; her younger daughter, Princess Stéphanie, suffered minor injuries. Grace's royal funeral in Monaco's St. Nicholas Cathedral (where she married Prince Rainier in 1956 and where his funeral was held in 2005) was watched by an estimated 100 million people around the world.

Before Diana, there was Grace — just as beautiful, just as fabled a wedding, just as fashionable, just as much a royal philanthropist, just as tragic a death.

Except Grace had the added cachet of Hollywood glamour —she had an Oscar. And she was well-mannered in an era in which stars never appeared in public without underwear and princesses never blabbed to the media. Grace helped shift the international perception of Monaco as a "sunny place for shady people" to the financially successful tourist mecca it is today.

"What came through was her kind, good soul," says Jamie Niven, 61, vice chairman of Sotheby's. The son of actor David Niven, he knew Grace when he was growing up.

Tributes to Grace include:

Exhibits.The Grace Kelly Years has drawn tourists in Monaco all summer and wraps up Sept. 23. A free exhibit, Grace, Princess of Monaco: A Tribute to the Life and Legacy of Grace Kelly, will be at Sotheby's in New York Oct. 15- 26. Items include dresses, jewelry, letters and photos.

Auctions. On Oct. 25, at the annual Princess Grace Awards gala in New York, Sotheby's will auction two outfits. Proceeds will go to her foundation.

On Oct. 24, Sotheby's and Wynn Resorts will co-host a silent auction for six one-of-a-kind outfits created by American designers "inspired" by Princess Grace; they'll be on display in the windows of Saks Fifth Avenue in New York Oct. 22-26.

•Publishing. Available now: Remembering Grace: 25 Years Later (LIFE Books, $10.99), a selection of intimate photographs from the archive of Grace's favored photographer, LIFE magazine photojournalist Howell Conant. Upcoming: The Grace Kelly Years (Skira/Rizzoli, $55) and Grace Kelly: A Life in Pictures (Pavilion; $27.95).

Media.Town & Country magazine will feature rare photographs in its November issue. WQXR radio in New York will broadcast a special edition of Making Music in Monaco, with music by her favorite musicians and her poetry readings Oct. 15-26.

Awards. At the gala, trophies will go to emerging artists in theater, dance and film.