Is Princess Charlene’s fairy tale ending?
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Mon dieu! There was no amour lost for Princess Charlene of Monaco this week as talk of a multi-million pound impending divorce from her husband, Prince Albert, reached a crescendo on the French Riviera.
A runaway princess, a playboy prince fighting yet another paternity battle, a palace in a playground for the filthy rich - theirs is a real-life fairytale made for Hollywood. Rather apt for the son of late American screen icon Grace Kelly.
Having fled the highest room in the tallest tower at the uber-opulent Grimaldi Palace for the far less regal town of Benoni, east of Joburg, six months ago, Charlene’s prolonged absence from the sovereign state - where 32 percent of the population are millionaires - for “medical reasons” is being dismissed as a ruse for deep-seated martial issues.
The princess jetted out of the principality, leaving behind her young twins, Jacques and Gabriella, as Albert prepared to wage a court battle against a third explosive paternity claim.
He also has two other illegitimate children who he supports.
The current case against him was lodged by a Brazilian woman who claims to have given birth to a daughter after a passionate affair with the prince in 2004. Such was his enamourment, he took her to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, she alleges.
The woman’s claim cut particularly deep for Charlene as Albert was already involved with her by this time. The couple met in 2000, and by 2004 the notoriously naughty prince should have had the crown jewels safely locked in the royal vault.
In fact, the outwardly forlorn princess’s decision to shave her head into a punk- rock style in December, prior to her leaving Monaco, was said to be a reaction to her frustration and anger at the state of affairs.
Pauvre, Charlene. Benoni must have seemed like heaven.
Her Serene Highness’s initial reason for coming to SA was a conservation mission but her return date grew indeterminate after she underwent surgery due to a serious ear infection, common to competitive swimmers. This week she told a radio host she was unable to fly back home due to medical reasons and could not hasten healing.
However, sources now claim she may never return to Monaco and speculation is rife about a multi-million pound divorce.
What Albert lacks in hair and looks, he makes up for in sheer wealth; he is one of the richest royals in the world, with assets to the tune of $1 billion, which include property in Monaco and France.
His 2011 wedding to Charlene cost a whopping $70m - even though memories of grandeur fade into the background when one thinks of the tearful bride being chided by her groom to “stop crying”.
The reason? Charlene had found out about an earlier paternity claim against her betrothed during a dress fitting in Paris just days before the wedding. And she wanted out.
It was reported that palace insiders did quite a job convincing Charlene to go ahead with the wedding and locked her into a “producing-an-heir” agreement, and assured her she could leave once this was done.
Sacré bleu! Keeping up with the Windsors much?
This week, Stéphane Bearn, the most high-profile and trusted royal commentator in France, wrote an “impeccably sourced” piece in the Paris Match about the Monégasque royal couple’s separation.
He said subjects in Monaco have become increasingly angry about their runaway princess, as they criticise everything from Charlene's mood swings to her appearance.
“In Monaco, since the departure of Charlene, tongues have loosened,” Bearn wrote.
“In the whirlwind of a hard-nosed court, her fine shine is rubbing off. Her sad looks are regarded as haggard.”
Bearn went on to say that Charlene’s claim of being unable to travel due to medical reasons was unbelievable.
“The Palace had to invoke a suffering Princess so often that the Monegasques today find it hard to believe. By crying wolf, the mother of Jacques and Gabriella would have discredited and isolated herself.”
Another Monaco source suggested the medical excuse was “sounding very thin, especially considering how many times it has been reeled out”.
She added: “Patients with very serious problems are flown to other parts of the world all the time.
“The princess has the finest medics in the world looking after her - making a flight home extremely safe and comfortable would not be that difficult.”
Adding fuel to the fire are rumours that Charlene has been spotted house hunting in Benoni, to be close to her family and friends.
Charlene has been notably absent from every flagship event in the tax-haven principality this year - the Monaco Grand Prix in May, the Fashion Awards hosted by her own charitable foundation later the same month and, more recently, the Tokyo Olympics, where Albert cut a forlorn figure supporting Team Monaco.
While the princess has spoken passionately about missing her family - “I miss my husband, my babies - Jacqui and Bella - and my doggies terribly, but I can't force a recovery of bone and membrane, it takes time.” - her claims have now worn thin on the Riviera.
Referring to Albert and the twins visiting Charlene in SA in June, another Monaco-based source said: “It was assumed Charlene would travel back to Monaco with the princes and princess but when that didn’t happen, alarm bells started ringing particularly loudly. Yes, Charlene is saying all the right things about Albert on social media, but it all sounds a bit hollow and distant – almost like she does not want to be depicted as the bad guy in all this.”
Bearn concurred, writing in reference to Jacques and Gabriella: “By causing the break-up, Charlene would lose what she always said was most dear to her.”
This article was first published in Sunday Insider on August 8, 2021.