On Sept. 13, 1982, while leaving Roc Agel with 17-year-old Stéphanie to drive them to the train station on their way to Paris, where the teen was starting school in a few days, Kelly missed a harrowing turn going downhill on a steep, winding road, and they smashed right through a low retaining wall and somersaulted for 120 feet down the hill.
Neither mother nor daughter was wearing a seatbelt.
It was later determined that Kelly had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage behind the wheel of the vehicle, a 1971 Rover P6 3500, though that didn’t stop the JFK-assassination-caliber conspiracy theories from piling up as to who was driving, what really went wrong, etc. Regardless, the next day, Princess Grace of Monaco was taken off life support and died. She was only 52.
Caroline recalled to Jeffrey Robinson for his 1989 book Rainier & Grace: An Intimate Portrait that her mother “wasn’t feeling too well” before the accident. “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.”
Stéphanie told Robinson that her mother complained of a headache during the drive and soon felt a sharp pain in her head. It seemed as if she blacked out for a second, and the car started to swerve. Stéphanie suspected in hindsight that Grace wanted to slam on the brakes but instead hit the accelerator, though it’s also possible she didn’t have feeling in her legs. Investigators found no skid marks at the crash scene.
A gardener working at a property nearby helped pull Stéphanie out of the passenger side window. “‘Please get help, call the palace, I’m Princess Stephanie, call my father and get help,'” she remembered saying.
Nearly 100 million people watched Princess Grace’s televised funeral, which was attended by Princess Diana, Cary Grant, race care driver Jackie Stewart, U.S. First Lady Nancy Reagan and other dignitaries from all over the world.