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Runaway bride turned runaway wife: The very public life of 'sad princess', Charlene of Monaco.

Much is known of the British Royal Family.

Their dramas and scandals and feuds are front page tabloid fodder, the world over.

But in Monaco, a tiny microstate on the French Riviera known for its Grand Prix and huge wealth, lives a less renowned but equally interesting royal family.

Currently headed by Prince Albert II, the son of Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace Kelly, the Monaco royal family is one of the richest in the world. Albert alone has a net worth estimated at $1 billion.

He is married to Princess Charlene of Monaco in what long looked like a picture-perfect marriage. Together, they share two children.

But the couple have been separated in different nations for months now, showing cracks in a relationship which has long been an interesting ride, featuring illegitimate children, family rifts and - almost - a runaway bride.

Watch: What actually happens at a royal Christmas? Post continues below video.


Video via Mamamia.

Princess Charlene was born in Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe), before moving to South Africa at 11 years old.

With a former competitive diver and swimming coach as her mother, Charlene soon also excelled in the pool.

She represented South Africa at the 1998 and 2002 Commonwealth Games, winning a silver medal in the 4x100 metre medley relay.

In 2000, she was a member of the South African women's 4x100m medley team at the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics, which finished fifth.

Image: Getty. She first met Albert II, Prince of Monaco, that same year at a swimming meet in Monaco. She was 22 at the time, and he is 20 years her senior.

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By this point, Albert was already known as the 'Playboy prince'. He'd dated Janice Dickinson and Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg, and had been linked to Claudia Schiffer, Brooke Shields and many others.

According to Hello Monaco, the pair hit it off. They had sporting careers in common: Albert enjoyed playing many sports, and competed in the bobsleigh at five consecutive Winter Olympics for Monaco.

But it took six years for Albert to convince Charlene to move to the microstate.

In 2005, he succeeded his father as Sovereign Prince of Monaco and the following year he and Charlene made their relationship public at the Turin Winter Olympics.

The palace announced their engagement on June 23, 2010.

Image: Getty. On paper, the wedding was a PR dream, but according to media reports from the time, it appeared to be more of a nightmare for Charlene.

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She reportedly attempted to escape Monaco three times in the weeks leading up to their July wedding.

At the time, there was speculation in local media that Albert had a love child, conceived during the time he was with Charlene.

He already had two children: Jazmin Grace, born in 1992 to American woman Tamara Rotolo, and Alexandre Coste, born in 2003 to Togolese flight attendant Nicole Coste, who Charlene had reportedly embraced.

Grace and her father in February 2020. Image: Getty. When news of a third possible child broke, Charlene was supposed to be attending a bridal gown fitting in Paris in May 2011. 

She reportedly 'took refuge' in the South African embassy in the French capital, according to French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.

Alleged attempt two took place that same month during Monaco's Grand Prix, and there were claims her passport was confiscated by the Prince's entourage.

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Then came attempt three, reportedly just two days before the wedding.

Charlene booked a one-way ticket to South Africa and nearly made it to the nearby airport in Nice, France, before being intercepted and persuaded to stay by Albert's entourage.

Le Journal du Dimanche reported an 'arrangement' was reached between the bride and the groom, but there has never been word on what that looked like.

Whatever it was, Charlene went through with the AU$100 million three-day wedding, but reports from the festivities were mostly focused on her apparent wedding day sadness.

Image: Getty. Charlene "was in tears throughout the wedding ceremony" according to ABC, who added that the bride reportedly recoiled when the groom attempted to kiss her.

The Guardian reported Charlene "emerged from the royal chapel where she laid her bouquet with top lip wobbling and a tear rolling down her cheek. While she dabbed the tears with a hankie, Prince Albert begged in a whisper, 'Don't cry, don't cry.'"

The Associated Press stated the bride and groom's eyes were "mostly downcast" and "tears flowed freely" down the princess's face.

Image: Getty. The couple allegedly spent their wedding night in separate hotels, with Charlene's under heavy guard.

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"None of this is true, and we think it comes from utter jealousy," the palace responded to People magazine.

There has never been official confirmation or denial of a third love child, despite reports Albert had agreed to a paternity test.

The couple attended an International Olympic Committee meeting in South Africa directly after their wedding, before honeymooning away from paparazzi in Mozambique.

Image: Getty. Charlene had been dubbed by media 'the sad princess' due to her wedding tears. In 2019, she said she knew people picked up on the fact she didn't always smile at public events.

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Speaking with South African magazine Huisgenoot, she said people didn't know what was going on behind the scenes.

"People are very quick to say, 'Oh, why isn't she smiling in the photos?' Well, sometimes it's hard to smile. They don't know what's going on in the background."

Charlene, who is notoriously media-shy, admitted she'd had a terrible year in 2019, with her father undergoing surgery and the deaths of two friends within 10 days of each other.

"I have the privilege of having this life, but I miss my family and my friends in South Africa and I'm often sad because I cannot always be there for them," she explained.

Image: Getty. In May 2014, Princess Charlene and Prince Albert announced they were expecting a baby and in October, it was confirmed Charlene was pregnant with twins.

On December 10, 2014, Charlene gave birth to Princess Gabriella and Hereditary Prince Jacques, who is the heir apparent to the throne. Albert's older children are not heirs, as they were born out of wedlock.

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In November 2019, Charlene spoke to French magazine Point de Vue about raising her twins.

Charlene said parenting is "often exhausting" but "is also very stimulating in many areas".

She said her children supported each other unconditionally and were very headstrong, "which allows them [to be] able to say what they think and feel, whatever the circumstances".

"And when all is well, then nothing and no one can stop them," she said.

Image: Getty. Charlene also praised her husband, calling him "a remarkable, wonderful, fun father; a dad who listens and encourages his children". 

"He spends a lot of time with Jacques and Gabriella and takes care of them as often as he can," she said. 

The twins have often accompanied their parents on various royal outings, but Charlene has not been seen in Monaco since January 2021.

Officially, she has been in South Africa since May, but many believe she's been there since at least March, when she appeared at the funeral of her close friend, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini.

On social media, the princess has been documenting her wildlife conservation mission to help endangered rhinos and stop poaching.

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Monaco residents were reportedly frustrated however by the situation, questioning Charlene's absence. 

The palace then came out and said she was suffering from a serious ear, nose and throat infection requiring "procedures" that will keep her there "indefinitely".

"I was instructed by the doctors that I can't fly yet because I'm unable to equalise my ears and therefore cannot fly above 20,000 feet," she told You magazine, adding that this was the longest period she'd spent in her home country since moving in 2007.

"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," she said in the interview.

Charlene underwent surgery in mid-August 2021 and was joined by her family for her recovery, of which she shared images of on Instagram.

"I am so thrilled to have my family back with me," she wrote.

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The royals ending up marking their 10th marriage anniversary separated by thousands of kilometres. The distance added even more fuel to the rumours the pair were estranged. 

But Charlene still celebrated the anniversary, posting on Instagram some videos commemorating her love story with her husband. "Happy anniversary, Albert," she wrote. "Thank you for the blessing of our children."

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But even with multiple reasons on the record for her absence from Monaco, including an infection and mission to help end poaching in South Africa, speculation only grew.

Charlene's 'disappearance' from Monaco came after the Daily Mail reported in December 2020 that a 34-year-old woman claimed she had an affair with Prince Albert, leading to the birth of a daughter on July 4, 2005. 

A hearing was set for a court date in September to determine whether the prince should have immunity from having to take a DNA test, and Prince Albert did apply "for sovereign immunity" in October.

Interestingly, Charlene debuted a new buzz cut and fringe hairstyle around the same time as the rumours were published, and it was quickly labelled the edgiest haircut ever worn by a royal.

Image: Getty. Charlene told Point of Vue earlier in the year, she would always stand behind her husband.

"When my husband has problems, he tells me about it. I often tell him, 'No matter what, I'm a thousand percent behind you. 'I'll stand by you whatever you do, in good times or bad'," she said.

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In an interview with Johannesburg radio station Radio 702, Charlene said she hoped to return to Monaco by October this year. 

And she did return to Monaco in early November. But instead of a happier arrival, it was revealed things weren't going well. Prince Albert shared with the world that Charlene is currently seeking treatment in a facility "outside of Monaco".

Listen to The Quicky. Princess Charlene of Monaco: The ultimate runaway bride? Post continues after audio.


The reports came directly from Prince Albert, telling People Magazine Charlene is dealing with "exhaustion, both emotional and physical," and she will need at least multiple weeks of clinical care.

"She was overwhelmed and couldn't face official duties, life in general or even family life."

The Prince also told People, the decision had been made in an intervention style format, Charlene's brothers and sister-in-law also present at the time of discussing a potential treatment option. 

"I'm probably going to say this several times, but this has nothing to do with our relationship," the Prince said. "I want to make that very clear. These are not problems within our relationship; not with the relationship between a husband and wife. It’s of a different nature."

So far, the only public statement from Charlene has been a post on Instagram, thanking everyone for "keeping her strong".

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"A period of calm and rest is necessary to ensure the very best recovery for Princess Charlene’s health," the Monaco palace also said in a statement to People.

It has been a point of contention however that the royal children, Jacques and Gabriella, have been very publicly involved in this matter.

The duo recently holding up hand-written signs on Monaco's National Day for the entire world and its cameras to see. The signs read, "we miss you mummy", "we love you mummy".

It has raised eyebrows, given the Prince's statement to People asking for privacy, and yet also divulging quite a lot about Charlene's health.

"She needs privacy; as a family we need privacy. Give us the time that we need; give her the time that she needs to heal and get better and be back with her family in Monaco." 

This article was originally published in November 2020, has been updated on August 26, 2021 and also updated on November 22, 2021.

Feature Image: Getty. 

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