Behind the scenes of the scandalized wedding of Princess Charlene and Albert of Monaco
SHE is a gorgeous former Olympic swimmer and the son of royalty-born Hollywood icon Grace Kelly – on paper, the marriage of Charlene Wittstock and Prince Albert of Monaco was the stuff of fairy tales.
But since their elaborate £ 53million wedding 10 years ago – described at the time as the ‘biggest party in the country in 55 years’ – the couple have been dogged by scandal.
Today it emerged that Zimbabwe-born Charlene had the backing of former Naomi Campbell billionaire Vladislav Doronin as she recovered from a mysterious illness after a prolonged absence from public life .
Charlene, 43, spent six months in South Africa battling an ear, nose and throat infection, having traveled there for her philanthropic and conservation work, and missed her 10th wedding anniversary and first their children’s school day.
Her departure reportedly coincided with a split with her husband, 63, amid allegations he cheated, but Albert insisted there was nothing wrong with their relationship.
Last week, the princess missed Monaco’s National Day celebrations and was admitted to a treatment center for unrecognized medical issues and weight loss.
Prince Albert was pictured alone on the balcony of their palace with their six-year-old twins Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella, who were holding up signs saying ‘We miss you mom’.
From the moment they reunited it was not an easy race, Albert confessed to fathering illegitimate love children and rumors circulated that Charlene tried to run away before their wedding day.
Here, we take a closer look at their rocky romance.
Before marrying Charlene in 2011, Albert had a reputation for being a “playboy prince”.
He would have loved a series of beauties, from supermodel Claudia Schiffer and singer Kylie Minogue to Bond actor Roger Moore’s daughter Deborah.
The couple then met for the first time shortly at the 2000 Olympics, where Charlene, then 22, finished fifth in the 4x100m medley relay before winning the 200m backstroke in another event in Monaco.
The two are said to be linked by their love of the sport, with Albert himself having competed on the bobsleigh team at the Monaco Winter Olympics.
They made their romance official in 2006, when they first appeared in Turin 2006, and on June 23, 2010, they announced their engagement, with Charlene wearing a pear-cut diamond engagement ring.
Illegitimate love for children
But Albert’s playboy prince past was starting to catch up with him.
At the start of their relationship, Albert – whose mother Grace, wife of Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, died in a tragic car accident in 1982 – was forced to recognize not one but two illegitimate children in love.
In 2005, he admitted to having a son – Alexandre Grimaldi-Coste, now 18 – with an Air France flight attendant named Nicole Coste.
A year later, it emerged that he also had an illegitimate daughter, Jazmin Grace Grimaldi, now 29, with American real estate agent Tamara Rotolo, who had started filing a paternity claim in 1992.
Last year, the prince faced a third saga when a Brazilian woman was claimed Albert was the father of her 15-year-old daughter – revelations he denies.
The prince asked for “sovereign immunity” in the legal battle to fight the claims, which his lawyers called a “hoax.”
Tears of the wedding day
After announcing their engagement, their wedding day a year later was a lavish three-day event with distinguished guests including Prince Edward and Naomi Campbell.
Photos emerged of the beautiful bride dabbing her cheek with a tissue – but rumors circulated that Charlene’s tears weren’t of joy.
French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche claimed she tried to flee to South Africa – where she grew up – three times before the big day before police persuaded her to return.
Palace officials have denied the suspicions, and a spokesperson told People magazine: “None of this is true, and we believe it stems from total jealousy. “
Charlene later said in an interview with The Times: “It was all so overwhelming and there were all mixed emotions because of the rumors, and obviously the tension built up and I burst into tears. [immediately after the ceremony]. “
Divorce is a “tradition”
Throwing oil on the fire, historian and author Philippe Delorme told French magazine Madame Figaro: “A lot of people had the impression that this was an arranged marriage, it’s true.
“Albert chose a woman who looked like his mother, and Charlene clearly felt very uncomfortable in this role of Grace Kelly that they kept her playing. “
According to The Times, Prince Albert appeared to later admitted that the honeymoon was spent in separate hotels, citing “practical reasons.”
Charlene later admitted to feeling “very lonely” in Monaco.
A source declared to the Parisian news magazine VSD: “Charlene will have to produce a legitimate heir. This is the main reason for this special marriage.
“Once the succession of the dynasty is secured, each of them can once again be free.
“Divorce is a tradition in the Grimaldi family. “
Although the couple have an heir in the form of their six-year-old twins, they have yet to divorce – despite the hapless royal family reportedly plagued by a curse that claims’ never a Grimaldi finds true happiness in the wedding “.
Legend has it that Prince Rainier I kidnapped a Flemish woman in the 13th century, who cursed him and all his descendants.
In December, Charlene made her debut with a new ‘French crop’ shaved hairstyle, which received mixed reactions, even from her husband.
Defending the daring, she said: “Certainly, of all the royals, I’m probably the one who has tried the most different hairstyles, and I’ll keep going. It’s my choice.
“After the initial surprise wore off, the prince got it and now loves her too. “
Shortly after showing off his trendy cut for the first time, it emerged that Albert was facing his latest fatherhood costume.
In March, Charlene traveled to South Africa to raise awareness about rhino poaching but did not return for six months.
She told a TV station: “It has been a difficult time for me. I miss my husband and my children very much.
“What was extremely difficult for me was when my team said that I would not be medically coming home for my 10 wedding anniversary.
It’s been a tough time for me
Princess Charlene of Monaco
“Albert is my rock and my strength and without his love and support I would not have been able to get through this painful time. “
While there are concerns about their relationship, the biggest worry is for Charlene herself, who was admitted to hospital in September after collapsing and was photographed with eerie fragility.
Charlene is now resting in an unknown treatment center outside of Monaco. She last posted on Instagram three days ago, sharing a video of Monegasque flags flying.
Responding to rumors she is linked to billionaire Doronin, Albert insisted that things were going well between him and his wife.
He said: “I’ll probably say it a few times, but it has nothing to do with our relationship.
“These are not issues within our relationship; not with the relationship between a husband and his wife. It is of a different nature. “