THE MARIA CATERINA BROOCH
During the two days prior to their Wedding Prince Rainier III wanted to give Grace as many of the Royal Jewels as he could. Literally every ten or fifteen minutes he would call her off to the side and give a new piece. Very few came with explanation or the history of the jewels, as the Prince really wasn’t familiar with the background story. A diamond and Sapphire brooch was one of the first given to her, because the Prince knew of Grace’s love for flowers, and the archivist had told him of the time period and of the Princess who owned it. Her name was Princess Maria Caterina and she reigned at the time of the American Revolution. To Rainier, a perfect match for his new Princess. This ‘Piece of History’ belonged to a woman as beautiful as his new Princess.
Maria Caterina Salѐ (1737-1813) was the daughter of Giuseppe Maria Brignole Salѐ, 7th Marchese di Groppoli, of the Republic of Genoa, Italy. As her father was the Genovese ambassador to France, Maria Caterina and her mother frequented the Royal Court of Versailles where Maria Caterina was called "the most beautiful woman in France”.
The Prince of Monaco Honoré III wanted to marry Maria Caterina because of her beauty and dowry and soon seduced her. Her father, however, disagreed because of the bad reputation of Prince Honoré as well as the prospect of the prince inheriting his fortune. He relented only after intervention by French King Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour, giving his consent in 1757, she was 20 years old.
Exactly how and when Princess Maria received this Brooch is lost to history and probably will never be known. But Grace Kelly, soon to be Princess Grace de Monaco, received it on April 16, 1956. On this day, the Brooch was passed from "the most beautiful woman in France” to a woman who was considered “one of the most beautiful women in the World”.
The brooch was worn with long gowns as a formal jewel and was also used for every day wear particularly with a fine scarf. Grace was photographed once, wearing the brooch in her hair.