By Penny Ward Kevin Dowling
August 30, 1976 12:00 PM

“Jackson Hole! I loved it!” exclaims the poised, handsomely tanned Princess Caroline of Monaco. “I went down the Snake River on a scenic tour with my family and we managed to bust the raft. That’s never happened before. We almost froze to death because we got so wet. But it was beautiful.”

Strikingly self-possessed, with a foot planted on each of two continents, Caroline Louise Marguerite Grimaldi has every reason to regard the world as her oyster. The 19-year-old daughter of the storybook marriage of the ’50s—matching Monaco’s Prince Rainier and his movie-star bride Grace Kelly—Caroline combines her mother’s cool beauty with the Mediterranean sultriness of the House of Grimaldi. Enjoying dual citizenship (Monégasque and American) and fluency in four languages (French, English, German and Spanish, abetted by a passable grasp of Italian), Caroline seems well equipped for the role of swinging cosmopolite.

Inevitably, Caroline has become fair game for Europe’s paparazzi. Even in sophisticated Paris, where she is a student, lensmen trail her to Maxim’s; to nightclubs like L’Alcazar and Jimmy’z; to her favorite discotheque, Castel’s—on the Rue Princesse—and to the fashion houses of Dior and Givenchy. (Five-foot-eight and 125 pounds, the shapely Caroline likes to show off her Latin complexion by wearing lots of white.) Photographers snap surreptitious pictures of the footloose princess skiing near the family chalet in Gstaad, riding in the Bois de Boulogne, playing tennis and driving her small brown Renault—the “in” car that has replaced the even smaller blue Fiat Rainier gave her for her 18th birthday.

Her escorts, also the objects of hard-breathing scrutiny, are an ever-changing princess’s guard. Among them have been Henri Giscard d’Estaing, 19, the French president’s son; British playboy Nigel Pollitzer, 32, and French singer Philippe Lavil, 26, who got the blame when Caroline flunked her finals last year at the Institute of Political Studies. (The princess subsequently rebounded and passed her first-year philosophy exams at the Sorbonne.) Vexed by tales of her adventures, Caroline dismisses talk that she is a party girl. “I only get out to a party once a month—maybe not that often—but the press will sometimes use my head on someone else’s body for a picture,” she explains. “I’ve sued for that.” Has she formed any serious romantic attachments? “Not right now,” she says. “I have a lot of friends and we have a lot of fun. I’m still young.”

Caroline’s recent tour of the Rockies and the Southwest with her parents, her brother Albert, 18, and sister Stéphanie, 11, gave the Grimaldi clan a respite from a rising clamor of speculation. Most of the rumors center around her love life—that she is going to marry Britain’s Prince Charles (she says she has never met him) and that she has had a romance with Swedish tennis star Bjorn Borg (Caroline recently went fishing with him in the Mediterranean).

Caroline normally visits the U.S. for a month to six weeks every year. But barring a trip to California, she had never ventured west of Philadelphia. Her first look at the American West delighted her. “I love New England,” she says, “and Nantucket, which I saw last year and adored. And New Hampshire—I’ve been back there several times. But the West was a new thing. I’d like to go back. I want to make a raft or canoe trip down the Colorado River.”

Her education, however, comes first. Grimmy, as her schoolmates call her, will be a Sorbonne junior next month, pursuing majors in philosophy and child psychology. “I’ll keep going until they stop me,” she says, and the fiery princess is not easily sidetracked. The delectably curved, squarish jaw she inherited from Princess Grace is often set in willful self-assertion, and relatives are reminded of the tempestuous Princess Charlotte, Rainier’s elegant, adamant mother.

Along with Caroline’s steely resolve goes a close relationship with her father, whom she hero-worships. A corollary of this bond, some say, may be a certain friction between Caroline and her mother, who spends half the year in the Grimaldi palace at Monte Carlo and half looking after her daughters in Paris. (To Grace’s reported displeasure, the family’s plush pied-à-terre on the fashionable Rue Foch overlooks not only the Bois de Boulogne but also the night haunts of numerous prostitutes.)

Much of the publicized tension between them, both Caroline and Grace contend, is untrue. “They once said that I said you drove me up the wall,” Caroline told her mother recently. “Even if I thought that, I’d never say it.” Laughs Grace: “I’ve often been tempted to strangle her, but I’ve overcome the desire.” More seriously, Grace adds: “I hope we have love and respect for one another, and I think we are friendly enough that we can discuss almost anything, but your mother’s not going to be your best pal.”

Whatever the future may hold for Caroline, it will not be an acting career like Princess Grace’s. “I tried out for a school play once,” Caroline remembers, giggling. “I made everybody laugh. I forgot my lines, and I ended up pulling the curtains. Acting? Absolutely never. Then I’d be compared to my mother.” As for the isolation of royalty, the princess hardly gives it a thought. “Sometimes my friends will tease me in a friendly way,” she admits. “They’ll say, ‘Oh, Caroline, we feel so sorry for you.’ But I don’t really feel the envy, and I don’t envy anyone.”