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The Sunday Telegraph (29/Apr/2007) - The intimate moments that reveal a princess full of grace

(c) Daily Telegraph

They are touching family snaps of which any mother would be proud. However, neither the photographer nor the children pictured could have imagined the scandal and tragedy that would dog their lives.

The pictures of Prince Albert of Monaco and his sisters Caroline and Stephanie were taken by their mother, Princess Grace, the Hollywood actress Grace Kelly who had married into one of Europe's oldest royal families.

They make up part of a remarkable set of unseen private photographs that, along with a series of home movies, will provide an intimate insight into the life of one of the most celebrated and photographed women of the 20th century and which, if talks are successful, could eventually appear at the Victoria and Albert museum in London.

The pictures and footage, much of which was shot by the princess herself, will form the centrepiece of an exhibition being held to commemorate the 25th anniversary of her death in a car crash.

The exhibition is the idea of Prince Albert, the ruler of the principality, who is keen to restore his mother's image in the face of what he believes is damaging and unfounded speculation about the circumstances of her death.

Frdric Mitterrand, the curator, who has spent a year working on the collection, said: "Prince Albert is his mother's son and he has been deeply affected by the trash and the gossip surrounding his mother's death and he does not want her to be lost in that turmoil. He wants to bring back the memory of the woman and mother he knew.

"She has been portrayed as an icon and a saint but she wasn't those things. She was a complex, rich and generous person who was also a housewife and mother."

Although Grace turned her back on acting in the mid-1950s, the exhibition shows that she did not abandon film-making altogether.

Encouraged by Alfred Hitchcock, her movie mentor, she set about creating a unique record of life at the heart of one of Europe's most established families. Birthday celebrations for her children, family holidays and trips to the zoo are among the events she captured on camera.

"Hitchcock would give her advice on the films, so the movies are very good quality," Mr Mitterrand explained. "Her cameo appearances meant they carried her unique signature.

The exhibition, The Grace Kelly Years, which will include more than 700 of the late princess's personal possessions, will be at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco from July. As well as the V&A, other leading European museums are in negotiations to host it.

One of the main attractions will be Grace's wedding dress, worn when she married Prince Rainier in 1956, and which is being flown back to Monaco for the first time in 50 years. More than 150 items of correspondence with figures such as the Queen, Jackie Kennedy and Hitchcock, will also feature.

Grace's death, at the age of 53, has been the subject of fevered speculation amid rumours - always strongly denied - that the 17-year-old Princess Stephanie was driving the car when it crashed.

Despite fathering two illegitimate children, Prince Albert has faced speculation over his sexuality. He has described claims that he is gay as "amusing" but "irritating".

Princess Caroline, who has been married three times, was devastated by the death of Stefano Casiraghi, her second husband, in a powerboat racing accident in 1990.

Princess Grace, who starred in classic films including High Society and High Noon, kept in close contact with relatives in America and many exhibits came from them.

Her niece, Meg Davis Packer, welcomed news of the exhibition.

"We grew up with her knowing that she was famous but at the same time she was Aunt Gracie," she said. "She was lots of fun and there were always games and laughter."

Evelyn Genta, Monaco's consul general in London, believes the show will appeal to a younger generation. "I think her astonishing beauty and her films will carry her through and ensure she is embraced by subsequent generations," she said.