René la Canne Attends Grace Kelly’s Wedding

“René Girier, known as ‘René the cane,’ was a French hoodlum,” his Wikipedia France entry begins. In 1956, the infamous jewel thief accompanied Princess Charlotte, Duchess of Valentinois (known as “Mamou”) to the wedding of her son Prince Rainier III and the American movie star Grace Kelly.

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La Canne, sans cane, and his then-wife in 1948

On the eve of the wedding, an American guest and one of the bridesmaids announced that $58,000 worth of jewelry had been stolen from their rooms at the Hôtel de Paris. Attention turned to the mother-of-the-groom’s infamous companion, who had already published the first of his autobiographies, Dog of Life. Robert Lacey described the Edward Albee-esque festivities in his excellent 1994 biography of the princess, Grace.

“The jewel thefts in the Hôtel de Paris had enraged Rainier for a very personal reason, since his headstrong mother had moved on from her Italian doctor– Mamou had tried to shoot her lover during one of their romantic disputes– to strike up a series of bizarre relationships with criminals who had been paroled from prison. The princess had come to see it as her mission in life to give of herself to redeem these fallen men, and the companion whom she had brought to Grace’s wedding, dressed in a tight-fitting white uniform and accompanying her, officially as her chauffeur, was René Girier, a jewel thief who flaunted his walking stick and went by the name of ‘René la Canne.’ 

René la Canne and Mamou attend the civil ceremony of Their Serene Highnesses

As news of the missing jewels circulated, ‘the Cane’ was the obvious suspect. He was on parole from a sentence for robbery, and Ranier insisted that he should leave the principality immediately. But Mamou refused to be parted from her chauffeur, and the row broke into the open when Prince Pierre joined battle on behalf of his son. At one of the prewedding receptions, the Kellys were amazed by the sight of the groom’s two elderly and long-separated parents quarreling bitterly in front of the entire party, exchanging none-too-subtle insults which, in the case of Prince Pierre, traded on the fact that his ex-wife had been born illegitimate.”

Grace, Robert Lacey, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1994.