Prince Rainier III, who married American film star Grace Kelly, died today at a hospital treating him for heart, kidney and breathing problems. He was 81.
Rainier's royal palace announced his death a month after he was admitted with a lung infection to a heart and chest clinic that overlooks Monaco's glittering, yacht-filled harbor.
He had been Europe's longest-reigning monarch, having assumed the throne on May 9, 1949.
The silver-haired, portly prince underwent heart surgery in 1999. He had two operations the following year, including having a nodule removed from a lung, and was hospitalized in 2002 for fatigue and bronchitis.
Recurrent chest infections put him in the hospital on numerous occasions. Most recently, he was hospitalized March 7 with a chest infection. He was placed in intensive care two weeks later with heart and kidney failure and hooked up to a respirator.
Rainier's heir is Prince Albert, who is unmarried and has no children. Monaco changed its succession law in 2002 to allow power to pass from a reigning prince who has no descendants to his siblings. Albert has two sisters, Princess Caroline and Princess Stephanie, both of whom have children.
Under Rainier's leadership, the Mediterranean enclave partially shed its image as "a sunny place for shady people" and became a hub for the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries.
But it was his April 18, 1956, marriage to Grace Kelly that put Monaco on the world stage and defined the golden age of his reign.
For many, her death in a car accident on Sept. 14, 1982, signaled the end of Monaco's halcyon days.
Rainier said of his late wife in a 1983 interview: "Let's say ... we worked as a team and the team has been split up."
A full obituary will appear in Thursday's Times.