One might surmise that Grace Kelly’s 700-person royal wedding ceremony to Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956 was the pinnacle of her social legacy. But 13 years later, on Saturday, November 15, 1969, the American movie star-turned-princess threw herself one of the most peculiar and extravagant birthday parties in history.
“The Scorpion Ball,” Kelly’s horoscope-themed 40th birthday celebration, was held at the Hotel Hermitage in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
The actor’s fondness for zodiac signs had long been public knowledge: in 1956, Hollywood astrologer and horoscope columnist Carroll Righter was photographed visiting Kelly on the set during the filming of one of his last films, “The swan”. Shortly after his engagement to Rainier, Righter devoted one of his columns in the Chicago Tribune to defending the couple’s astrological compatibility, providing details of Kelly’s horoscope for “the last few years.” When Righter died in 1988, his obituary listed the Princess of Monaco as one of his many famous clients.
Famous astrologer Carrol Righter was documented to have visited Grace Kelly on the set of “The Swan” in 1956. Credit: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy Stock Photo
Centered around the eighth astrological sign, Kelly’s celebration included a few ground rules: First, a strictly Scorpio-only guest list. Attendees included Swedish actress and model Hjördis Paulina Genberg (born November 10, 1919), Italian actress Virna Lisi (born November 8, 1936), and American movie star Rock Hudson (born November 17, 1919). November 1925). Fortunately, Scorpio spouses were also allowed, as were Kelly’s family members.
Elizabeth Taylor was one of those guests whose attendance was justified through marriage. The famous Pisces was also the wife of Welsh actor Richard Burton, born November 10, 1925. Taylor did not take her acceptance to the event lightly, arriving in a glamorous black Tiziani cape embellished with two diamond scorpions on the front and one in the hood. Years later, the evening cloak sold for $60,000 when auctioned by Christie’s in 2011.
Elizabeth Taylor, a Pisces with a Scorpio husband, was inducted into the event and arrived wearing a black velvet cape with Scorpio motifs. Credit: Jack Garofalo/Paris Match Archive/Getty Images
In addition to mandating a dress code of red and black for their guests, the color palette most associated with the sign of scorpio, the servers at Kelly’s party wore 18th-century-style powdered wigs, red velvet suits embroidered with stars sequined, in keeping with the celestial theme, and carried silver candelabras with red candles.
Kelly herself wore an off-the-shoulder black velvet Balenciaga gown with two black rosettes below each clavicle from the house’s Fall-Winter 1966 couture collection. She further embellished the gown with two diamond-set ruby brooches, detachable flourishes from Rainier’s wedding gift to Kelly, the Cartier Bains de Mer tiara.
Kelly’s off-the-shoulder black velvet dress was Balenciaga’s Fall-Winter 1966 haute couture, adorned with jewels from the Cartier Bains de Mer tiara. Credit: Jack Garofalo/Paris Match Archive/Getty Images
Along the walls of the Hermitage Hotel were portraits of other famous Scorpios, from Edgar Allen Poe to Marie Antoinette. The meticulously planned event was capped off with a gigantic fuchsia cake, reportedly weighing 166 pounds, decorated with a sinister ring of golden scorpions and a giant version of the arachnid. Apparently the cake was so huge that it had to be cut in half to fit through the dining room doors. After all, it was her last birthday, or as Kelly is believed to have said that night: “the last I’ll admit.”