ON a May morning in 1961, the telephone rang in Caesar’s hair- dressing and beauty salon on the corner of Oliver Plunkett Street and Marlboro Street in Cork city.
The call was from the manager of the Parknasilla Hotel in Kerry, requesting that a hairdresser and manicurist come to the hotel immediately to look after the needs of their royal guest, Princess Grace of Monaco.
Caesar, the salon owner, had a contract with the Great Southern Hotels, including Parknasilla, so within 30 minutes, he, his wife, and their young trained manicurist, Louise Kinmonth were on the road to Kerry.
Louise was 24 at the time and living on Richmond Hill , the only daughter of Bill and Ettie Kinmonth (nee Jenkins), both of whom were well-known in Cork theatrical circles. Ettie was a member of Fr O’Flynn’s ‘The Loft’, the Cork Shakespearian Company and the Cork Operatic Society.
Upon arrival at the hotel, the visitors were shown to the Princess’s suite, where they were entertained by her private secretary until eventually the Princess entered the room.
The Cork group stood up, only for Princess Grace to smile and motion for them to resume their seats. Louise was struck by the fact Princess Grace looked as beautiful in real life as she did on the screen.
As the Princess chatted amiably with her visitors, tea and biscuits arrived and, when they were finished, Caesar began to work on his royal client’s hair.
When he had finished, Louise sat on a low stool next to the Princess to give her a manicure. During the treatment a door opened and Princess Grace’s four-year-old son, Prince Albert, entered the room and spoke to his mother in French. She replied in the same language and smiled at Louise as the little lad departed the room.
When Louise finished the manicure, Princess Grace handed her a ten-shilling Irish banknote, which she still treasures to this day.
On her mother’s suggestion, Louise later wrote to Princess Grace, asking if she would kindly provide her with a job reference. On the strength of it, Louise landed a job in the Elizabeth Arden beauty salon in Old Bond Street, London.
She met her future husband, Martin Gordon, in an Irish club in the city, four years after he left the priesthood.
While working in England, Louise’s celebrity clients included legendary actresses Joan Crawford (see left), Shirley MacLaine, Ann Bancroft, Susan Hampshire, Adrienne Corri, and Claire Bloom, the ballerina Margo Fonteyn, Italian socialite and wife of Orson Welles, Paola Mori, and Richard Todd.
Many years later, Louise and her husband attended a banquet at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham in honour of Prince Albert of Monaco. She spent a few minutes chatting with the Prince during which she reminded him of the incident at the Kerry hotel.
“Did I behave myself?” he asked.
“You were a well-behaved little boy,” Louise assured him.