Discreet, mysterious, but also very single-minded, Princess Charlene of Monaco had to face a major challenge by replacing Princess Grace, so popular with the Monegasque people. In a first biography just published in French, we discover the former Olympic swimmer who changed her fortunes by marrying Prince Albert II. A fairy tale full of torment.
Photo courtesy of l’Archipel publishers
The challenge was to replace the late Princess Grace of Monaco, who was so dear to the Monegasque people. Prince Albert II, current ruler of the Principality of Monaco, took a long time to find the rare pearl. Already with two illegitimate children and many romantic conquests – we think of Brooke Shields and Claudia Shiffer among others – the son of American actress Grace Kelly and the late Prince Rainier III. time is short to find a wife and give the principality a princess.
It wasn’t until he was 53 that he decided to marry Charlene Wittstock, a former Olympic swimmer. A real love at first sight at the first meeting.
The lucky winner was born in Zimbabwe. Her family moved to South Africa when Charlène was 12 years old. There she began her career as a professional swimmer. She left school at 16 to pursue her sport. In 2000 she was part of the Olympic swimming team at the Sydney Olympics. His team takes fifth place.
That same year, she first met Prince Albert at a swimming event in Monaco. The prince who runs the event presents her with flowers if she wins two events. She took the next step and called him to offer her condolences on the death of her father, Prince Rainier III. to express in 2005.
A fairy tale
Their relationship remained secret for some time. They can be seen at the 2006 Turin Olympics. It must be said that the prince is a sports fanatic, he has competed in bobsleigh at the Winter Olympics several times.
Dating lasted a few years. Apparently Charlene is worried about the prince’s reputation as a heartthrob, but the swimmer eventually accepts the marriage proposal. The former South African swimming champion was 33 at the time and the prince was 53.
Like any princely wedding, the ceremony that took place in Monaco in July 2011 is magical and watched by millions around the world.
Photo archives, AFP
But a few days before the wedding, a rumor surfaced that messed everything up. According to French media L’Express, Charlène Wittstock, the future princess, would have tried to flee Monaco to avoid her fate. Due to issues within the couple, she would have attempted to take the plane to return to South Africa permanently. She was reportedly intercepted by police at Nice Airport in France at the request of relatives of the royal family. The story was quickly picked up by all the media, even the very serious British Times. We no longer talk about the choice of dress, flowers and guests, but about the risk of breakage. A friend reportedly echoed Charlène’s words: “Even if you’re fast, I’m an athlete, it’s not enough. We don’t laugh with these people. »
The straw that broke the camel’s back would have been the existence of a third illegitimate child.
The charming prince had already established the paternity of a child from an affair with a Togolese flight attendant and another with an American waitress. When Charlene learned of the existence of a possible third illegitimate child as a result of an affair with a Brazilian, her trust in her prince was suddenly shaken.
Prince Albert’s lawyer apparently denied everything and L’Express was threatened with legal action, but the threats came to nothing. The L’Express editorial team has decided to maintain its comments, relying on three different sources, all of which are reliable.
The back of the medal
Charlene is having trouble adjusting to her new life, and there are many reasons for that. There is in particular the lack of privacy due to the many servants, the difficulties imposed on her in learning the French language, the many protocols to be respected and the pressure to become pregnant to give the Grimaldi monarchy an heir whose existence rests on his offspring in order not to be ceded to France. Added to this are the difficulties of living apart from family and friends. In addition, Charlene, like Princesses Diana and Meghan, complains constantly in the crosshairs of the paparazzi.
She repeatedly suffered from depression. When she fell ill with a serious ENT infection in 2021, she chose to leave South Africa and seek treatment close to her family. Divorce rumors resumed. Physically and mentally exhausted, she will go to a nursing home in Switzerland to regain her strength.
Now, at 45, she says she’s still in love with her prince, even if they rarely see each other because of Albert’s travels, but admits she’s still having a hard time adjusting to her life as a princess. She is particularly happy when she dedicates herself to her foundation, which aims to fight against drowning, and of course to her twins Jacques and Gabriella, who were born in 2014.
♦ The author, Arlene Prinsloo, is a South African journalist.
♦ She specializes in royal family news and has worked for various media outlets including Network24. She lives in Cape Town.