This is homecoming week for Princess Grace of Monaco. In Philadelphia, where she was born 52 years ago, Her Serene Highness will be aided by old friends Frank Sinatra and James Stewart in popping the cork on a gala retrospective of her movies (among them, The Country Girl, Rear Window, Dial M for Murder). She had appeared in 11 of them when at 26 she abandoned the screen—and her maiden name, Grace Kelly—to wed Prince Rainier in 1956. Since then Grace has often seemed at odds with the media ("There is freedom of the press," she once complained, "but not much freedom from it"). However, before departing for Philadelphia, she granted a rare extended interview at the reigning family's Paris residence to Fred Hauptfuhrer of PEOPLE. Grace settled into a deep-cushioned sofa, a piece of fabric in her lap, and decorously worked needle and thread as she talked.
How do you feel after 26 years as Princess of Monaco?
One day I will write a book about it. Just now, though, I don't have time to stop and look back. I haven't kept diaries, and I won't decide what kind of book it will be until I sit down and write it. You know, men are very logical about things. Women aren't, particularly anyone born under a water sign [Grace is a Scorpio]. We go on intuition impulse. I can't plan. Whenever I plan, I have to change it.
Do you ever wonder what might have happened to you if you hadn't met Prince Rainier?
Everyone is always asking what would you do if this or if that. I don't look back. I haven't had the time. I haven't retired, you know. I think no matter what we do in life we have the same problems to face—problems of our own personality, our own limitations, our own shortcomings. People's lives are going to be pretty much the same because of the people they are. We can cite environment or parents or society only up to a certain point. After you're 25, you do it to yourself.
Are you planning to return to films?
No. I never say "never," and I never say "always." But to go back and pick up a career 26 years later seems, at this moment, very unlikely.
But people keep speculating...
Well, there it is again—the media trying to pigeonhole me. To act, to have a career and do it well, you have to do it completely, and I don't have the time for this. I did enjoy and take pride in my work as an actress, yet I'm bemused by suppositions that my life since has somehow been less fulfilling. That certainly is not the case. Rather the reverse. For me as a woman, it was an easy decision to make and has remained easy to keep. In the last 26 years, I have been more of a producer in the artistic and cultural fields than anything else. But the press doesn't seem to be interested in that side of my life.
You were asked last year to appear in a British production of a play written by the Pope.
Yes, it's about marriage, and something which I'd like to see done. Unfortunately, I just didn't have the time for it.
You do give poetry readings, however.
Yes, for the last six years, mainly in the U.S. and Britain. Poetry reading is something that doesn't take too much time and that I can do occasionally. I get a lot of satisfaction from it, and for the most part I do it for students. Very often, with a charitable evening, those who are interested in the charity couldn't care less about the poetry. I would rather do it for people who enjoy poetry.
Some people see the readings as being your way to test the water for an eventual return to films.
Well, they will just have to wait and see, won't they.
You have long experienced press exposure—professional and personal—and it has not always been pleasant. Where do you draw the line?
Our big problem, as parents, has been those who pursue the children for photos and invent stories about them. I resent individuals making a living off a minor in this way, which is the case with Stephanie at present. Efforts to stop it are often a losing battle.
Do you and Prince Rainier always agree as parents?
My husband is a good father, concerned about his children. His parents were divorced when he was young, so family life has a special meaning for him. On basics, on principles, we are very much agreed. Like many fathers, though, he sometimes is too strict and sometimes too lenient. I have been more in touch with the children for everyday problems and questions of discipline. It's not always the choice role, but somebody has to do it.
How do your two daughters differ?
Caroline is perhaps more literary, Stephanie more mathematical. Both are warm, bright, amusing, intelligent and capable girls. They're very much in tune with their era. Besides being good students, they are good athletes—excellent skiers and swimmers. Both can cook and sew and play the piano and ride a horse. But, above all, my children are good sports, conscious of their position and considerate of others. They are sympathetic to the problems and concerns in the world today.
Do you feel keeping Caroline in boarding school until she was 18 was a mistake?
I am not going to discuss my children, or their lives, or their mistakes.
Do you have any reflections on the failure of Caroline's marriage to Philippe Junot?
Again, I've just told you: No.
How is Caroline now?
All young women go through many changes between the ages of 20 and 25. Caroline hasn't had it easy but she's adjusted very well. Having had two articles published recently, she would like to pursue her writing. She has a talent for it and writes equally well in French and English. Of course, I would like to see her married again one day, with children and a happy family life like I've had. But that is in the future.
There have been reports that an annulment is being sought.
What qualities would you hope for in a son-in-law?
One looks for character first, and certainly someone who can provide for the girls and look after them. Someone who is kind, has a sense of humor and is easy to get along with. And he'll have to like dogs because we have enough of them around our house—eight!
How do you feel about your son Albert's position as heir apparent?
Any young person in a position of responsibility requires a lot of determination and courage and stamina. When Albert went to school and into the Navy, he was pointed out and picked on. He wanted no preferential treatment, but of course he's not really like everybody else. Others won't allow him to be. More is expected of him, and all eyes are on him, waiting for him to make a mistake. Some even try to make traps to pull him down. Albert is a nice, unsuspecting guy with a sweet nature. It's a shame when someone like that has to be put on his guard. Prince Charles has had to do the same.
Albert graduated last year from Amherst College. Why did you send him there?
We wanted Albert to be exposed to the way young people in the States think and to the American way of doing things. He was very eager about it, too. It was also nice to have the campus atmosphere of a small college, which one doesn't get here. There were a few things I was not enchanted with, but you'd probably find them in modern colleges everywhere.
What sort of girl would you like Albert to marry?
Oh, the best. It won't be an easy existence for her. She will have to have her feet on the ground and be adaptable and intelligent.
Is there another Lady Diana around?
Let's hope so. I've met the Princess of Wales, and think she's charming and adorable and couldn't be sweeter.
How do you feel about the projected ABC TV movie biography about you?
Not very happy. I think that no one has the right to exploit what I have done—my name and my life and my career—without permission. All you have is your name and your reputation. When people try to take that away, you are naturally going to resist.
What have you done about it?
Letters have been written to the people involved. They know how I feel but have decided to go ahead anyway. Unfortunately, there is nothing much I can do about it.
What about the casting of Cheryl Ladd as you?
Well, I have never seen her do anything, so I can't judge. I have met her. She is a very pretty girl. When I was a young actress, I was never pretty or cute. She is both. For one thing, my height [5'7] was a great handicap when I was first trying to get jobs.
Cheryl has reportedly said she doesn't want to embarrass you or hunt for "skeletons" in your closet.
I am not afraid of that. Whatever skeletons exist would have been brought out by now. In fact, they would have to make up things because I had a very uninteresting childhood. Dramatically, theatrically uninteresting. Not uninteresting to myself.
One of the producers has said what they plan is actually a kind of fairy-tale story.
That sounds rather icky and revolting. I certainly don't think of my life as a fairy tale. I think of myself as a modern, contemporary woman who has had to deal with all kinds of problems that many women today have to deal with. I am still coping—trying to cope.
How do you stay in shape ?
I walk an hour almost every day—and very quickly—wherever I am. Sometimes I go on long, all-day hikes with friends.
Do you diet?
I try to avoid that as much as possible. A crash diet would make me nervous and bad-tempered. I would have to think about it all the time, and it's just another thing I don't have the time for. I do enjoy good food but try to eat correctly, the right things. I am aware of the importance of having well-balanced meals. We have whole-meal bread and whole rice, and I tend to avoid sugar. There are a lot of other things I know I should avoid, but I don't always do so.
What is that needlework you're doing?
Well, as you can see, I never really sit still. This is going to be part of a wall tapestry. It's a project that our garden club in Monaco is working on. It consists of 24 squares depicting various cactus plants found in the exotic gardens of Monaco. Members of the club have been working on it with me for about a year, and it should be completed in another year.
But how, principally, do you occupy yourself?
In Monaco, I have my foundation, which encourages and assists artisans and craftsmen. There's also the ballet school, the Red Cross and other charities. In Paris, too, I am constantly on the go—at my desk several hours a day, on the phone to Monaco.
Philadelphia is about to honor you.
I am touched, flattered and very pleased, though I find being the center of these things a little embarrassing. I consider this a lovely tribute to the Kelly family as a whole, not just to myself. My father was a great Philadelphian who built many playgrounds in poorer sections of the city and cleaned up the Schuylkill River before everyone was talking about attacking pollution.
How do you feel about aging?
No one likes the idea of getting older. It's a question of facing the inevitable and not getting upset about it. One doesn't feel older until you start getting aches and pains and have to curtail or adjust your activities. That hasn't happened to me—yet. I'm lucky, and am just looking forward to what comes next. Being a grandmother would be an exciting experience.