May 24th 1956: First Eurovision

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The original Eurovision logo

 

On this day in 1956, the first Eurovision Song Contest (then known as the Eurovision Grand Prix) was held in Lugano, Switzerland. The idea for the event came about in a 1955 meeting of the European Broadcasting Union in Monaco, after they were inspired by the Sanremo Music Festival in Italy. The first ever Eurovision broadcast lasted for one almost two-hour show on May 24th, primarily broadcast over radio. The event saw seven European countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland) submit two songs each. The winner was picked by a jury panel made up of representatives from the participating countries who voted for their favourite song in secret.

 

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1956 winner Lys Assia of Switzerland

 

In 1956, the prize went to Switzerland’s own Lys Assia with the song ‘Refrain’. The tradition of the Eurovision song contest continues annually to this day, though the format is very different to how it was in 1956 – most notably the increased number of participant countries (37 took part this year) and the fact that each country only enter one song each. The 2014 Eurovision contest was won by Austria’s Conchita Wurst for the song ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’.

 

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2014 winner Conchita Wurst of Austria

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April 19th 1956: Wedding of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier

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Wedding portrait of Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly, 1956

 

On this day in 1956, the American actress Grace Kelly married the Prince of Monaco, Rainier III. Kelly was a successful established actress, having won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award, when she met Prince Rainier. The couple met at the Cannes Film Festival, stayed in contact, and soon were engaged to be married. It was important for Rainier to marry and produce an heir as a 1918 treaty provided that if there was no heir Monaco would return to France.

 

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Prince Rainier III of Monaco (1923 – 2005)

 

The wedding was an elaborate fanfare, with many calling it ‘the wedding of the century’. The civil ceremony took place the day before the April 19th wedding, but the church affair the next day was the real spectacle, with around 30 million people watching on television. Kelly soon retired from acting to focus on her duties in Monaco and as a mother to the couple’s three children.

 

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Grace Kelly (1929 – 1982)

 

Princess Grace died in 1982 aged 52 after suffering a stroke while driving, which led to her crashing the vehicle. It was a tragedy for Monaco and the world, and her funeral received the same calibre of distinguished guests as her wedding had 26 years earlier. Prince Rainier did not remarry and was buried alongside her when he died in 2005.