SO many people have a fascination with celebrities. And we mean genuine figures, not those searching for their 15 minutes of fame on television reality shows, or tell-all magazine beat-ups.
It is so different with statesmen and women such as Britain’s Sir Winston Churchill and Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi or the likes of Einstein and Marie Curie. Even courageous athletes, revered artists and legendary musicians. Yes, and legitimate stars of Hollywood and members of royalty.
Grace Kelly charmed the world when acting on the silver screen, winning an Oscar nomination in the process. She then went on to become a real-life princess, the consort of Prince Rainier III of Monaco.
This week residents of the tiny Mediterranean principality paid tribute to the late Princess Grace. They do so each year on the anniversary of her death - September 14, 1982 - after her car plunged 36 metres off a mountain road overlooking the capital Monte Carlo.
Many tourists joined members of the Monégasque community after their daily Mass and queued to file solemnly past her last resting place and that of Prince Rainier in the compact Cathedral of Saint Nicolas in the centre of the city. But many more visited the Princess Grace Memorial Rose Gardens in nearby Fontvieille Park, one of the most popular attractions in the principality.
It is in an area reclaimed from the sea because, at 2 square kilometres, Monaco is so small there is no more room for such luxuries as lawns and gardens. Indeed, in the whole world only the Vatican is a smaller country, and Monaco is the most densely populated.
The park was commissioned in 1984, by the prince to honour her interest in horticulture, especially the breeding of roses. Rose growers from around the world have created many unique blooms for the garden. They are named after her children, famous people such as pop legend Elvis Presley, former French President Charles de Gaulle, and one after the famous Orient Express luxury railway. Two years ago the garden was extended to its current 5000sqm and has 8000 rose bushes of 300 different varieties. The scene in this tranquil precinct is as serene as the princess was herself.
As her friend and fellow Hollywood superstar James Stewart said in his eulogy: “I just love Grace Kelly. Not because she was a princess, not because she was an actress, not because she was my friend, but because she was just about the nicest lady I ever met”. “Grace brought into my life, as she brought into yours, a soft, warm light every time I saw her.”
As tourists will attest – the garden does likewise.