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11 Unanswered Questions About Grace Kelly’s Death

Princess Grace of Monaco (formerly known as Hollywood star Grace Kelly) passed away on September 14, 1982, one day after her car plunged off a mountain pass in her adopted country of Monaco. The sudden loss of the beloved princess left the world not only heartbroken, but begging for answers to a number of haunting questions.

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Who was Princess Grace?

Born Grace Kelly in 1929 in Philadelphia, Princess Grace had a magic about her that, in retrospect, makes it seem she’d always been destined for greatness. Her first major Hollywood role was opposite Gary Cooper in 1952’s High Noon, but she’s probably best known for starring in Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M For Murder and Rear Window. In 1956, after an aborted romance with fashion designer Oleg Cassini, she abandoned Hollywood to marry Prince Ranier III of Monaco, with whom she’d have three children. One of them, Princess Stephanie, was with her that fateful day when her car spun out of control on the treacherous D37 highway in Monaco, plunging 120 feet off the side of a mountain.

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Princess Grace, Monaco

Who was actually driving the car?

One thing we know for certain is the accident occurred while Princess Grace and Princess Stephanie were driving back from their vacation home in Roc Agel in a Rover P6 3500. Who was behind the wheel is not entirely clear. One rumor suggests Stephanie, not Grace, was the driver, which would have been a problem because Stephanie did not have a driver’s license. One witness claimed he’d seen Stephanie driving. In addition, Stephanie was extracted from the driver’s side of the car. But Stephanie has always denied she was driving. Learn about the secret connection between Grace Kelly and Jackie Kennedy.

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Prince Rainier Of Monaco With Wife Princess Grace / Grace Kelly In Car Leaving London Airport 1963.
Silverside/Associated Newspapers/Shutterstock

Why would Princess Grace have been driving?

Another complication about the question of who was driving is that while Stephanie was not a licensed driver, Grace was known to despise driving. Following a car crash in Monaco in the 1970s, she was heard to swear off of driving forever. Thereafter, she employed a chauffeur—except on that fateful day. According to an excerpt from Rainier and Grace: An Intimate Portrait published in the Chicago Tribune, the backseat of the Rover was covered with dresses and hat boxes, leaving no room for Grace, her daughter, and a chauffeur. The chauffeur even offered to make a second trip for the clothes, so then why did Grace insist she would drive anyway, especially given that the road back from Roc Agel was a notoriously treacherous mountain descent?

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VARIOUS 1973 Rover P6 3500 Publicity shot
Magic Car Pics/Shutterstock

Could the brakes have failed?

One witness claimed he saw the car swerving erratically and descending the mountain at an “alarming speed.” With no skid marks, people speculated the car’s brakes had failed. Stephanie later told her sister, Caroline, that as the car swerved out of control, Grace was screaming, “The brakes don’t work. I can’t stop.” But British Leyland, the manufacturer of the Rover P6 3500, gave an official statement that this particular car had been fitted with a dual brake system that is literally “fail-safe.” So if the brakes didn’t fail, then why was the car accelerating down the mountain?

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Could Princess Grace have confused the brake pedal with the accelerator?

If the brakes hadn’t failed, but the car was accelerating, then it’s possible whoever was driving the car had somehow confused the brake pedal with the accelerator pedal. Princess Stephanie, in fact, asked this very question: “Did my mother confuse the brake pedal with the accelerator? I don’t know.” We may never know the truth.

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Former Film Actress Princess Grace Of Monaco (grace Kelly) And Her Youngest Daughter Princess Stephanie Of Monaco Aged 10 At London's Heathrow Airport En Route For A Private Visit To Philadelphia U.s.a.
Bill Howard/Associated Newspapers/Shutterstock

Were mother and daughter arguing at the time of the crash?

Some theorize Grace hadn’t lost control of the car, but rather, of her emotions. That summer, mother and daughter had been engaged in an ongoing argument over Stephanie’s plans to marry her then-boyfriend, Paul, son of French film star, Jean-Paul Belmondo. If the argument had become heated that day, it might explain the “erratic driving.” It could even explain why whoever was driving might have confused the brake pedal with the accelerator. You’ll get chills reading about these people who literally came back to life.

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Grace Kelly House

Maybe it was a stroke?

Doctors who examined Grace after the accident diagnosed her as having had two brain hemorrhages, only one of which was caused by the impact of the crash. As a result, it was speculated Grace had suffered a stroke while driving, rendering her incapable of hitting the brakes. In fact, this is the “accepted” explanation, and Stephanie did recall her mother had complained of a headache. But if Grace had suffered a stroke, how would she have been able to cry out in panic, as Stephanie recalled?

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But why would Princess Grace have had a stroke?

Princess Grace was only 52 at the time of her death, which is on the young side for stroke victims. Some family members claim Princess Grace had been suffering from high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for stroke. But doctors denied she had high blood pressure. In addition, she wasn’t overweight, which is another important stroke risk factor. So, if Princess Grace had a stroke at the age of 52, what would have caused it? Find out the truth about these 14 celebrity death hoaxes you probably fell for.

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Princess Grace Of Monaco With Her Son Prince Albert At The Swimming Pool On Monaco Beach In 1960. Grace Kelly
Daily Mail/Shutterstock

What had been going on with Princess Grace that summer?

“She wasn’t feeling too well,” Princess Grace’s daughter Caroline has noted. “She was incredibly tired. The summer had been very busy. She hadn’t stopped going places and doing things all summer long. She’d done too much. She never mentioned it or complained about it though. But she wasn’t in great form.” Others point out she’d been suffering from menopause symptoms. But what relevance does any of this play into what happened that fateful day?

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RICHARD YOUNG/Shutterstock

Why couldn’t anyone get the story straight?

In the immediate wake of the crash, the Monaco palace never suggested Princess Grace’s injuries were anything more serious than broken bones. But apparently, Grace had lost consciousness and never regained it. Thirty-six hours after the crash, having been told that Grace had suffered irreversible brain damage, her family, including Prince Ranier, elected to terminate life support. Why the miscommunication? Some point out the possibility that Stephanie was driving as a motivating factor. Others point out that perhaps Princess Grace had not received the best medical care. Here are 16 more of the greatest unsolved mysteries of all time.

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The Scene In Monaco Where Princess Grace Of Monaco Died After The Car She Was Driving Crashed In September 1982.
Bill Cross/Daily Mail/Shutterstock

Was it murder?

From the moment of Princess Grace’s death, conspiracy theories circulated, and all these years later, they still continue. Some say Princess Grace had been murdered in an elaborate plot involving the Vatican and the Mafia. Prince Ranier has stated such conspiracy theories are nothing but tabloid fodder. “I can’t for a moment see why the Mafia would want to kill her,” he said. But the lingering questions remain, and we may never know what really happened. Don’t miss these conspiracy theories actually turned out to be true.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York–based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest and in a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction, and her first full-length manuscript, "The Trust Game," was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.