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Prince Rainier III of Monaco, 1923-2005 06 Apr 2005

L to R: HSH Prince Rainier, Winner Alain Prost, 3rd place Ayrton Senna and Keke Rosberg on the podium. Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, 11 May 1986. World © Sutton

Prince Rainier of Monaco, long-time champion of the Principality’s famous Grand Prix, has passed away at the age of 81.

The Prince, Europe’s longest-reigning monarch, died at 0635 local time (0435 GMT) on Wednesday, after several weeks in hospital suffering from heart, lung and kidney problems.

Born in 1923, Prince Rainier inherited the throne in 1949, succeeding his grandfather, Prince Louis II, and his marriage to Hollywood legend Grace Kelly in 1956 boosted Monaco’s already glamorous reputation still further.

He was a huge car fan and was well aware of the prestige that motorsport brought to the Principality, in particular the Monte Carlo Rally and the Monaco Grand Prix, where he became a much-loved presence in the podium ceremony.

Prince Rainier will be succeeded by his 47-year-old son, Prince Albert, whose coronation is expected to take place sometime before this year’s Grand Prix on May 22, when his father will be sorely missed by the Formula One community.