What place and what role for Charlene of Monaco, the wife of the Monegasque sovereign, Albert II? Her health problems and her long convalescence in South Africa have crystallized the concerns, maintained the wildest rumors and mobilized those close to the princely couple with sometimes divergent interests …
It has become a story of families, of clans. Complex, always more annoying. The sunsets of Monaco evoke those of Verona. Except that there is no question of separating Charlene and Albert II of Monaco who are no longer the age of Romeo and Juliet, but, on the contrary, to compose in the best interest of each. While waiting for a reunion that is constantly postponed. In spite of the shadows ready to take the light and the poison of the rumor that spreads.
For more than six months, the Monegasque princess has been held in South Africa. Her outbound flight in mid-March to attend the funeral of the King of the Zulus and to supervise an action plan of her foundation against poaching was never followed by her return. It was only at the end of May, when his absence at the Monaco F1 Grand Prix raised questions about the celebrations planned for his couple’s 10th wedding anniversary, that the palace broke its silence.
Infection of the ENT sphere, inability to travel. Albert II and the children flew in early June, before an operation of the princess in the country of her adolescence, at the end of the same month. No festivities on the Rock on the occasion of the ten years of married life of the princely couple, on July 1. The illness was more severe than a simple ear infection, as Charlene confided to the South African media Channel24, a fortnight later: before landing in the southern hemisphere, she underwent a sinus lift and a bone graft for dental implants, with serious post-operative complications. She misses her family, Albert II remains her “rock” in the ordeal, she assures. But leaving her lodge in the Thanda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal province is unthinkable. “The doctors have forbidden me to fly”, “I can’t force my recovery”, Charlene pleads on Channel24. Risk of barotrauma at altitude.
In fact, the princess has already lost a lot of weight. In the photos she releases, it is difficult to recognize the former swimming champion who occupies her convalescence with sewing work for a local nursery and Facetime calls with her twins. A third operation took place in mid-August. New appearance of Albert II and the children at the side of the convalescent princess. The latter was hospitalized again for twenty-four hours in Durban at the beginning of September. In Monaco, the families of the princely couple organized themselves and tried to dispel the unease. Each one in its own way.
On the side of the sovereign, Princesses Caroline and Stephanie have never been so present. With her daughter, Charlotte Casiraghi, the former entertained her nephews, Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella, by taking them to the annual exhibition of the Canine Society of Monaco on September 11. An attention of “Auntie Caroline” that particularly moved Charlene. Especially since her little “Bella” is in a cast and stuck in a wheelchair, following a domestic accident that occurred shortly after she started school. A week later, it was Stephanie who appeared with Albert II, on the sidelines of a golf tournament organized on the Casino square in Monte Carlo for the benefit of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation and Fight Aids Monaco.
The Wittstock clan
The Wittstock clan has been just as active in recent months. Gareth, Charlene’s younger brother and secretary general of her foundation, has maintained and contributed to the media coverage of all the charity events where his sister was expected. Chantell, wife of Sean Wittstock, the princess’ youngest brother, and director of the South African branch of her foundation, has taken to the stage several times to give updates on her sister-in-law’s health and to dispel rumors of a divorce. On September 23, Gareth and his wife Roisin surrounded Albert II, as well as his sister Caroline and his nephews, Andrea and Pauline, on the occasion of his annual gala for the preservation of the oceans.
To make people forget Charlene’s absence, to remind them that she remains Princess of Monaco and mother of the principality’s heirs: two strategies that are difficult to coordinate, while a recent statement in Paris Match by Nicole Coste, mother of Albert II’s eldest son, has added to the confusion… What could be Charlene’s place and role with the Monegasque sovereign in the coming months and in the longer term? What modus vivendi can they reach, while their twins are not yet 7 years old? The personal affair is gradually becoming an affair of state. With many parameters, other than the health of the princess, to take into account…
When will Charlene return to Monaco?
The question has been asked since the beginning of the summer. At the end of August, after a new stay with their children in South Africa and a new operation under general anesthesia of Charlene, Albert II assured the American magazine People: “She is ready to go home.” Cautious, he defers to the advice of doctors. But he is confident about her next return to the Rock: “I know she mentioned the end of October, but that was before her last appointments. I think we will be able to anticipate.” According to the head of the Grimaldi house, his wife is ready to “embark illegally to reach Europe”, “she is in shape”. The hours following the broadcast of these words prove him wrong. On the evening of Wednesday, September 1st, Charlene was found unconscious in her lodge and admitted in an emergency, under an assumed name, to a hospital in Durban. After twenty-four hours of examinations, her foundation evoked “a malaise” linked to her ENT problems. The princess left the hospital, her condition is “stable”, as the palace said, but “she suffered a lot”, said her sister-in-law, Chantell Wittstock.
On the very day of Charlène’s hospitalization, the magazine Paris Match unveiled a teaser of an exclusive interview with Nicole Coste, mother of Albert II’s eldest son Alexandre. Since September 1st, curiously enough, there has been no more talk of an anticipated or postponed return of Charlene to the Rock. Jacques and Gabriella have returned to school without their mother. However, on September 15, the princess gave a sign of life by publishing a strange drawing on her Instagram account: a reminder of her fight against the massacre of rhinos, the work juxtaposes an individual behind binoculars, a dagger, nets of blood and the phrases “when will this war end?”, “the journey can not stop here” or “time is running out” …
Did Charlene take offense at Albert’s children born outside their marriage?
The wife of Albert II has never posed with her eldest children Jazmin Grace and Alexander, aged 29 and 18, even though the sovereign has recognized them. Until this late summer, she had not clarified her feelings towards them, nor reacted to the rumor of another hidden 16-year-old daughter. It was Nicole Coste, long invisible in the media, but increasingly present on the Rock, who took the lead in her interview with Paris Match. In her dizzying confessions, the former stewardess does not only return to her love story with the prince in the early 2000s and the complicity that unites them even today. She formally denies “this story of a Brazilian woman who claims that Albert II is the father of her child”, “yet another scandal to do harm”. About her son Alexandre, whose godfather and godmother are Thierry Lacoste, lawyer of the Grimaldi family, and Princess Stephanie, she does not hide that it was complicated to make him accepted by Charlene, after the engagement of the latter with the prince: “She has, for example, changed my son’s room, taking advantage of the absence of his father to install him in the wing of the employees,” she says. “I don’t like to be compared,” she says. Does she understand her absence from the Rock? “No, and it’s none of my business. It’s her private life,” she dodges, sibylline.
At the beginning of September, the princess’ entourage made a point of making a few corrections to People magazine: “It was really Charlene who brought the whole family together. In a way, she has been the best advocate for Albert’s elders. The princess would have “willingly facilitated” a rapprochement between Alexander and his father, just as she would have “encouraged Albert to invest in his son”. Same clemency towards Jazmin Grace. However, “to say that she wants them by her side all the time would be an exaggeration, because there are still several contentious issues. And then, Charlene has her problems. In recent months, because of her distance and her health, she was not accessible. In the midst of these exchanges, Albert II, all nuance and diplomacy: “Charlene’s position has evolved. She has become more welcoming.
Does Charlene really want to play her role as princess?
Raised in Zimbabwe and South Africa, then accustomed to sprints in chlorinated waters, the former swimmer never hid the fact that Monaco was an “exotic” world for her, with rites and customs to master. Soon enough, her absences and her sad airs became the talk of the town. The wife of Albert II had to deny that she had tried to escape before their marriage. Recall that she sometimes missed her country, that bereavements of friends did not invite her to smile. At the beginning of September, still in People, Albert was annoyed by the slander: no, Charlene “did not leave Monaco in anger”. No, “she did not go into exile”. No, “nothing and nobody pushed her to the limit”. The prince made his mea culpa, he should have reacted “earlier”, so much the venom has affected them. Speaking in turn to People, Charlene’s entourage prefers to draw another portrait of the princess, as a warning: “She’s not a timid little thing”, “she’s an Olympic champion, a tough cookie”. So much for the midget girls fed up with fairy tales: “She never wanted to look like Kate Middleton or Grace Kelly”, “Charlene is Charlene”, “she is an iconoclast”.
It is true that the wife of Albert II has not hesitated to get wet to raise awareness about drowning children. In August, in the greatest secrecy, the prince appointed her vice-president of the Monegasque Red Cross. Her fixation on the protection of wildlife demonstrates other interests, more global, less conventional, than the distribution of gifts to the elderly of the principality. By posting herself as a Zulu warrior princess on her Instagram account this summer, Charlene may have revealed her true nature. And why not?
Is a life away from the Rock possible for Charlene?
Princess by marriage and Monegasque by adoption before her, Grace Kelly failed to reconcile a life on both sides of the Atlantic, between protocol and cinema. Albert II of Monaco is not her father, the uncompromising Prince Rainier. But like Grace, Charlene is the mother of the heir to the principality, the young Prince Jacques. Of the four children of Albert II, he is the only boy born of a marriage. The Salic law, which still prevails in Monaco, has sealed his fate. Like all the heirs of the European kingdoms, he cannot be raised far from the sovereign without the latter’s agreement. The start of the school year of Jacques and his sister Gabriella in Monaco reminded Charlene of this fact.
By giving birth, the princess has not only earned the respect of the Grimaldi family, as one of her close friends told People magazine. She also found meaning in her life: “She sees herself less as the princess of Monaco than as a protective force for the heirs of the principality.” Her absence has been painful for everyone in recent months. But, according to her friends quoted by People, “she is a very invested and incredibly protective mother… very loving, who has sometimes stepped aside to spend more time with her children and make sure they live a relatively normal life.” For those who really know the mother of “Jacqui” and “Bella”, “she will never abandon them”.
Photo credits: Claudia Albuquerque / Bestimage