Charlene of Monaco: The hard road to happiness


Writed by - Andy Gocker
  Charlene of Monaco: The hard road to happiness
Charlene of Monaco with her family. © imago/PPE, SpotOn

Princess turns 45

Charlène Lynette Grimaldi, née Wittstock, is the Princess of Monaco. When the wife of the reigning Prince Albert II (64) speaks of her own accord, which happens seldom enough, it sounds stately and meaningful.

'My family is my rock,' she told the Monaco Matin newspaper at the end of 2022. This was followed by the conclusion: 'I am approaching the future, step by step, one day at a time.' Exactly what she meant by this strange abstraction was hard to decipher.

After all: She is again present in public life in the dwarf state of Monaco, the magazine 'Gala' observed: The 'princess who used to seem so closed' talks to fans 'and even lets herself be carried away by selfies from time to time. She seems more relaxed, happier. A sight that the Monegasques had to wait for a long time'.

This gives hope for a more exuberant birthday than in previous years: Charlène will be 45 on January 25th.

serious illness

She's been through a tough time. In the spring of 2021, Charlène fell ill during a trip to her home country of South Africa. According to media reports, she had a serious ear, nose and throat infection, which allegedly even required one or more operations.

The princess could not be transported and had to stay in South Africa for several months. When she returned to Monaco, she only stayed with her family for a short time. This was followed by a stay in a rehabilitation clinic in Switzerland. She didn't come home until spring 2022 - and promptly suffered a corona infection, which was mild.

Speculations about her absence have always been denied. The princess said 'Monaco Matin' in May 2022: 'We are only human.' The only difference is that she and her family are constantly exposed to the media. Any weakness would go straight to the public. Her husband always stood by her during this difficult time: 'He did everything to protect our children and me.'

In fact, the Princess and her family are a kind of favorite target of various media. Since her marriage to Albert of Monaco, she has seemed reserved. Emotional outbursts like 2015 are rare: 'You are the prince of my heart,' she said, according to 'Paris Match' to her husband on the occasion of his tenth anniversary as Monaco's head of state. Apparently that came as such a surprise that Prince Albert couldn't hide his tears of emotion.

It is pointless to speculate whether and how Charlène has changed since her marriage to Albert. Only she knows the answer. One thing is clear: her early life was certainly less complicated than that of a princess and sovereign of Monaco, who has always endured comparisons with her famous sister-in-law, Princess Caroline (65), or her legendary predecessor, Princess Grace Patricia (1929-1982). . Albert's mother died in a traffic accident in 1982 at the age of 52 and since then has seemed to hover over the fateful Grimaldi family as an unattainable vision of an immortal icon.

She was a swimming star early on

Charlène was born in Zimbabwe in 1978 as the daughter of entrepreneur Michael Kenneth Wittstock (77). She grew up with her younger brothers Gareth and Sean from 1990 in Benoni, east of Johannesburg, South Africa. As a young girl she became one of the best swimmers in Africa. In 1999 she won three gold medals (100 m freestyle, 100 m backstroke, 4 × 100 m medley) and one silver (4 × 100 m freestyle) at the All Africa Games in Johannesburg - her greatest sporting success. At the Sydney Olympics a year later, she swam fifth in South Africa's 4 × 100m medley relay.

Charlène met the then Crown Prince Albert at the Mare Nostrum competition in Monaco, where she won the gold medal in the 200 m backstroke. In the years that followed, she was often seen with Albert, including at the opening of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, at the Formula 1 race for the Monaco Grand Prix and at the traditional Rose Ball in Monte Carlo.

After years of public speculation as to whether Charlène would become the new princess after Albert's enthronement, the palace announced the couple's engagement in 2010. Before that, she had to convert from the Protestant faith to the Catholic faith, Monaco's state religion. Then the English Charlene became the French Charlène with the 'accent grave' on the first e. So nothing stood in the way of marriage.

The two-day wedding celebrations began on July 1, 2011 with a specially composed 'Hymn to Princess Charlène'. A two-euro commemorative coin with portraits of the royal couple was also minted. The jubilation was even greater when it became known that Charlene was pregnant with twins. On December 10, 2014, Princess Gabriella Thérèse Marie and Hereditary Prince Jacques Honoré Rainier were born.

By then the transformation from the tomboyish high-performance athlete to the elegant princess had long been completed. The fashion czar Karl Lagerfeld (1933-2019), a close friend of the Grimaldi family and especially of Princess Caroline, is said to have said to her at a private fitting in his Parisian studio: 'You will become a style icon. You will become a breath of fresh air and bring modern glamor to Monaco.' Today she is described by 'Vogue' as 'stylish and ready for the stage in looks that conjure up quiet elegance with a tone-on-tone effect'.

social commitment

Charlène's social commitment has also ensured the respect of the citizens of the second smallest country in the world (after the Vatican), which always seems to be under the scrutiny of the international media. Even before her marriage, she worked to help children from underprivileged families. She also fights for nature conservation in her native South Africa.

After her recovery from the protracted ENT disease, the princess seems to be on the way to normality. At least that's what the TV journalist Bertrand Deckers reported in his documentary 'Albert and Charlène von Monaco: A couple in turmoil' for the French private broadcaster W9. You can see her walking through the streets of Monte Carlo, where she sometimes drinks a coffee, or when she takes her two children to the Catholic private school in the morning and picks them up again at noon.

In addition, the princess is said to have planned a party in the palace for her birthday for family and close friends. Bertrand Deckers: ' Charlène has never been so present... She is officially present but also unofficially'.

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