Prince Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand Grimaldi III, Crown Prince of the Sovereign Principality of Monaco.
Born 31 May 1923, Rainier III is the son of Prince Pierre and Princess Charlotte of Monaco. His mother was an illegitimate child, the daughter of Rainier's grandfather (Prince Louis II of Monaco) and Juliette Louvet, a singer. His father, the Count of Polignac, gained his royal title by marrying the later legitimized Charlotte.
Rainier studied in England and Switzerland, and then went to university in France. He also continued his family's tradition of serving in the French Army. During World War II, as a Second Lieutenant, his bravery at the battle in Alsace earned him the Croix de Guerre (the Bronze Star). He also received the rank of Chevalier in the Legion of Honor.
World War II also resulted in Rainier fighting a battle at home. His grand-father, the then-Crown Prince Louis II, supported France's Vichy government, led by an old army pal, Marshall Petain. Rainier, on the other hand, was a fierce supporter of the Allies. A third side to the issue emerged when the Monegasque people, many of Italian descent, sided with Moussolini's regime; after it fell, the Nazis invaded the principality. Only then did Louis give secret orders to his police to warn Monegasque Jews before the Gestapo came to arrest them.
Rainier's mother, Princess Charlotte, had decided to cede her right to succession to her son, so on 9 May 1949, Rainier took power from his grand-father. Rainier began focusing on expanding the country's economy. He is given credit for expanding the banking system. Monaco lacks income tax laws, so the principality has turned into a haven for the wealthy and their money. (On a related note, these same banking protection laws have irritated the Bush administration, as Monaco has refused to freeze the assets of those that the U.S. suspects of supporting terrorism.)
On 18 April 1956, Prince Rainier married the American screen actress Grace Kelly, and the couple had three children: Princess Caroline, Prince Albert (the heir apparent), and Princess Stéphanie.
Rainier was also responsible for the Principality's new constitution (written in 1962), which reduced the power of the prince. Specifically, a National Council was created, consisting of 18 elected members, which shares power with the Prince. Other advancements that were the result of Prince Rainier or have taken place during his reign include the elevation of the Bishop of Monaco to Archbishop status, Princess Grace created an Art Festival, Princess Caroline formed a ballet troupe, and the Prince started the country's television station and the annual TV Festival.
In 1982, Rainier's wife, Princess Grace, died of injuries sustained in a car accident. There has been much debate as to the circumstances of the crash; what is known is that Princess Grace and Princess Stéphanie were returning from a party. Both were probably intoxicated, and there were reports that they were arguing. The official version of events put Princess Grace at the wheel, but for quite some time, there was speculation that the then 17-year-old Stéphanie (under the legal driving age) was at the wheel. Recently though, Stéphanie has denied those allegations.
Recently, Prince Rainier has taken part in the celebration of 700 years of Grimaldi rule, as well has the 50th anniversary of his rise to the throne. He has reduced his public appearances, probably due in part to health problems. Despite this, though, he still resides in the Principality, and has continued making appearances at public events, such as the Monte-Carlo Grand Prix. He also succeeded, in 1993, in having Monaco admitted to the United Nations.
Although Prince Albert has not married, both of Rainier's daughters have, several times, and Rainier has seven grand-children. This, though, did not come about without a fair bit of scandal. Princess Caroline married, and quickly divorced French playboy Philippe Junot. She then married Italian real-estate mogul Stefano Casiraghi, and had three children (Andrea Casiraghi, Charlotte Casiraghi, and Pierre Casiraghi) before his death in a speed-boat accident in 1990. She later married Prince Ernst August of Hanover, and had one daughter, Princess Alexandra of Hanover. Princess Stéphanie has been in relationships with many men, and had two children (Louis Ducret and Pauline Grace Ducret) with her bodyguard, Daniel Ducret, before marrying him in 1995. The marriage ended a year later after compromising photographs emerged showing Ducret with "Miss Bare Breasts of Belgium". In 1998, she had another child out of wedlock (Camile Marie Kelly) and has refused to name the father. On 12 September 2003, she married a Portuguese "juggler and handstand expert", Adans Lopez Peres, and it is rumored that she was pregnant at the time of the marriage.
Prince Rainier died on 6 April 2005 after suffering from heart, lung, and kidney problems. He was succeeded by Prince Albert. After Albert, the order of succession is Princess Caroline, followed by her children (Andrea, Pierre, and Charlotte), and Princess Stéphanie, followed by her children.
See also: Monaco (and its history), and the Grimaldi family tree.
Credit to: http://www.who2.com/rainieriii.html, http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainier_III_of_Monaco, http://www.geocities.com/monaco70s/stephanie.htm, http://www.monaco.mc/monaco/700ans/grimaldi.html, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3115982.stm, CatherineB's related nodes.