Monaco's late Prince Rainier III celebrated in funeral ceremony at cathedral where he married Grace Kelly

Prince Rainier III was celebrated at a funeral ceremony Friday in Monaco's cathedral that closed the circle on a fairy tale that started nearly 50 years earlier with his marriage in the same spot to Hollywood beauty Grace Kelly.

The pomp-filled yet somber funeral ceremonies for Rainier, who ruled Monaco for 56 of his 81 years, started with a farewell from palace servants carrying single stemmed roses of red or white, the colors of the principality's flag.

The day was to end with a private and intimate family ceremony Friday night when Rainier will be buried alongside Princess Grace, who died in a car accident in 1982.

In between were tears, prayers and farewells from family and VIPs for a man who poured his energies into remodeling his tiny sun-kissed Mediterranean principality.

Their children - son and heir Prince Albert II, and Princesses Caroline and Stephanie - blinked back tears as Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings" mournfully echoed through the 19th-century cathedral overlooking the sea. The same dramatic passage had been played at the funeral of Princess Grace in 1982.

Shops and Monaco's fabled Monte Carlo casino were closed and even parked cars were removed from the streets, where only black-garbed mourners and white-gloved policemen were seen.

Rainier was Europe's longest-serving monarch. The royals, nobles and other VIPs who flew in for the funeral underscored how Rainier helped Monaco overcome its reputation as a "sunny place for shady people" and a haven for tax evasion, money-laundering and gambling, and oversaw its modernization.

In his tribute, Monaco Archbishop Bernard Barsi noted that Rainier was affectionately known as the "builder prince" who oversaw a 20 percent expansion in Monaco's territory by land reclamation from the sea. It still remains, however, no bigger than New York City's Central Park.

"For all of us, the prince was, of course, the sovereign, but he was also a friend, a member of the family," Barsi said. "His family cries for him."

But it was Rainier's 1956 marriage to Kelly that became Monaco's true claim to fame. Kelly was a Hollywood star when she met Rainier during the Cannes Film Festival in 1955. They were engaged months later. Rainier, who never remarried, often cut a lonely figure in his latter years without the princess at his side.

The archbishop said they formed "an exceptional couple, united by the heart and spirit" and that Rainier "bore with dignity the terrible ordeal of the brutal death of his wife."

"We are convinced that those who were united here below by the fidelity of their conjugal love are forever united in the fullness of God's love," he said.

The funeral ceremonies started in the palace perched on a cliff from where Rainier could survey his domain. Members of the 170-strong staff first bore his coffin from the palace's 17th-century Palatine Chapel where he had lain in state since his death April 6 of heart, kidney and breathing problems.

In accordance with Rainier's wishes, soldiers from the Prince's Company of Carabineers, red and white plumes on their blue hats shuddering slightly in the breeze, then carried his coffin out of the palace via the palace's Gate of Honor. They beat drums covered with black cloth.

Albert - flanked by his sisters, who wore black mantillas covering their heads, as well as some of Rainier's grandchildren and other members of his close family - walked behind the coffin as it was carried to the nearby cathedral.

Rainier's 6 1/2-year-old dog Odin, a present for the 50th year of his reign, formed part of the funeral cortege, limping slightly.

The Gate of Honor was closed symbolically after Rainier's body was carried out.

Some of the VIPs waiting for the cortege in the cathedral bowed their heads as the coffin was carried up the aisle. Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld's white hair and dark sunglasses made him easy to spot. Rainier's coffin was set down at the foot of the altar, below a canopy of violet cloth topped by a golden crown. A sword was placed on the coffin.

Around Monaco, mourners watched the ceremony live from big-screen televisions set up in a half-dozen churches, where attendance spilled out onto the sidewalks.

"I'm so sad," sobbed Christine Rousguisto, 79, seated in a pew at the Sainte Devote church, her trembling fingers gripping a handkerchief. "It hurts. It hurts so much."

Many here considered the long-serving ruler a father figure.

"He was like a grandfather for the people of Monaco," said Nadine Billaud, one of hundreds who watched the funeral cortege pass outside the palace.

Rainier's coffin was draped in a white and red flag bearing the coat of arms of his Grimaldi family. It includes the royal motto "Deo Juvante" - with God's help - and two monks brandishing raised swords, a reminder of how the Grimaldis seized this rock in 1297 when Francesco Grimaldi of Genoa led a group disguised as monks seeking shelter. They knocked at the fortress that forms part of today's palace and when let inside, slaughtered their hosts.

Barsi, opening the service, said Rainier had "entered into the sleep of death" and had been a father "both loving and loved."

More than half a dozen heads of state, and other dignitaries from some 60 countries traveled to Monaco. They included French President Jacques Chirac, Irish President Mary McAleese, Belgium's King Albert II, Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia and royalty from Sweden, Luxembourg and elsewhere.

"I like this family .... It's thanks to Rainier that Monaco became what it did," said Arthur Alves, 60, who works in Monaco's thriving building sector. "It's a bit the soul of Monaco, its image around the world that we are saying goodbye to today."

An empty slab of marble beside Princess Grace's resting place in the family crypt had been waiting to be engraved with Rainier's name.

Security was at a maximum in this enclave usually devoted to fun and making, spending and banking money. Some 1,300 police were on hand, and even funeral wreaths were scanned for bombs. Monaco's air and sea space were closed.

Matches at the Monte Carlo Masters tennis tournament were delayed until 2:30 p.m. (1230GMT) out of respect for the prince's funeral.

Only Rainier's close family were to attend his burial Friday night in the private ceremony. The family crypt also holds the remains of Rainier's three immediate successors: Prince Charles III, who ruled from 1856 to 1889; Prince Albert I, who ruled from 1889 to 1922; and, Rainier's grandfather, Prince Louis II, who ruled from 1922 to 1949.

JOCELYN GECKER, Associated Press Writer Associated Press writer Thierry Boinet contributed to this report.

On the photo: the late Prince of Monaco Rainier III

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