The movie Grace of Monaco received poor reviews, which is unfortunate considering that it tried to reimagine the Princess into someone whom the present generation can relate to. Beyond that, I think the Princess, unfettered now by earthly anxieties over protocol, would’ve been keen to know what present-day Hollywood think of the former Grace Kelly. She would’ve been amused. Or, honored to receive undying respect and reverence.
I love historical fiction. Philippa Gregory‘s books, such as The Constant Princess, a fictional take of Catherine of Aragon, comes to mind. Historical fiction invites the viewer or reader to ask what if? and so stretches the imagination toward alternative plots. Depending on one’s mental powers, reimagined stories could be, well, as ‘fantastically silly’ as Olivier Dahan’s.
But far from it. For me, the movie, perhaps without intending to be one, is a case study in peaceful resolution of a national security crisis and the role women can play in peace building. With international state of affairs becoming confusingly and shockingly reminiscent of earlier war-thirsty times, the need is for more countries to have the will and capacity to resolve crises of their own peacefully.
How has Monaco survived without a military and continues to be without one? It’s the elephant in the room, as Tim Roth’s Prince Rainier alongside his team of grim and pensive advisers – their drawing room sessions a visual lesson in how to have a heart attack – mull over alternative solutions to it’s stalled discussions with France that prompted the latter to set up an economic blockade. TIME says the impasse was resolved in the old fashioned way: compromise.
At the same time, Princess Grace is herself experiencing a personal crisis. Who is Grace of Monaco? What are her abilities apart from acting? What’s her role as a Grimaldi being wife to Prince Rainier? What can Princess Grace do for Monaco?
In war, women become it’s spoils. What if, I imagine the movie asking, we hand a woman the power to abate war in her country and so instead of becoming spoil for others become the savior? What if that woman was Grace of Monaco? At this point, I understand the stand of the royal House of Grimaldi. Princess Grace a closet Joan of Arc? Preposterous. But, again, Grace Kelly, the actor, would’ve loved a challenging character. She did consider playing Marnie.
In the Charity Ball for Red Cross of which she was President, her speech, delivered after having come to terms with her role as a Grimaldi, touched the hearts of her audience, significantly, President Charles de Gaulle. The speech, reverberating with humility, honesty, simplicity, clarity, and conviction, had nothing in common with standard speeches of Defense Ministers but it accomplished what the latter couldn’t: France lifted it’s blockade.
Toward the end of the movie, the voice-over, Father Tucker, says of the Princess,
you are the fairy tale…the Serenity to which we all aspire… And peace will come when you have embraced the roles you were destined to play: a devoted mother, a loyal wife, compassionate leader… Up against the task larger than yourself, you will overcome your fear…
What if Grace failed to rise above her fears and self-doubt? What if she decided to go back to Hollywood, the life she left in America? What would’ve been the outcome of the crisis with France? And long before all these concerns, what if Grace refused Rainier when he was courting her?
For Grace Kelly to set in motion her fairy tale story and sustain it she would have to make a series, a lifetime, of choices embracing that. In transitioning from an American film actor to Monagesque Princess, she learns that, being a woman who has ideas of her own and used to speaking out her mind and Rainier allowing her that, and having found peace herself, she can bring a different approach to the war room.
Military men will pooh-pah at soft-as-women approaches to security crises – ‘leave the men to their war rooms and the women to their parlors’ – but in a world where peace has been elusive maybe that is exactly what it needs. In the two world wars and the others after that, women are left at home crying for and worrying over their sons, husbands, lovers, brothers, fathers. Nonetheless at the front women showed themselves as able carers who healed back wounded men. On one hand, there was PM Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands War but that is altogether a special story. There have been other admirable women who were in the position of deciding their countries’ defense strategies, but as I see it these followed the standard path of militarism.
What I’m pointing out is, generally, women, given their nurturing instinct, distinct from men’s, do not want war or killings. That way is not in them. It is naive, but, maybe, real peace is naive. Look at the Infant on Christmas Day. The Greatest Fool, the saints said.
What if women are included in war rooms as decision makers? What if on top of this, countries are demilitarized? What if military schools are re-purposed to teach the arts of peace building instead of learning the arts of war? Is that even realistic? But then did Grace Kelly ever predict it in her stars to live the stuff of fairy tales, one “which we all aspire to”? For her, it all became possible with her ‘yes’.
I don’t know much about Grace Kelly (though I watched her in To Catch A Thief and vaguely remembered a stricken looking Prince Rainier on her funeral which said he loved her very much), or how exactly she became Princess Grace, or her life as royalty, because she wasn’t in my generation, only that I thought the meeting between her and Princess Diana in 1981, a year before her death, was a magical moment. One American, one British. Both enamored the world with imaginings other than war, which was, their fairy tale beginnings and subsequently their personal struggle for purpose within their respective royal Houses. In following their purpose, they gave the title, ‘Princess’, a lot more spark and spine. I thought that it would be a long time again, or perhaps never, when a perfect alignment of celestial bodies would occur.