trouble in paradise

Charlene Cold Shouldered in Monaco as Deal to Provide Albert's Heir Goes Sour

Eric Gaillard / Reuters-Landov

Prince Albert of Monaco’s glamorous wife Charlene Wittstock is being cold-shouldered by Monaco society, the Daily Beast can report.

“People are embarrassed by her,” one court insider told the Royalist. “There was a hope that she could introduce some glamour, but now most people just feel she is tacky.”

Another recent visitor to Monaco said that society figures have taken to 'pre-emptively apologising for' Charlene.

Last year, Charlene, a former Olympic swimmer who was forced to deny rumors that she attempted to run away from Monaco back to her home country of South Africa before her wedding, gave an interview in which she said she only had two real friends in Monaco. “Now, she doesn’t even have that," the insider said.

Scandal is swirling around the house of Grimaldi again after Voici magazine in France reported this week that she was coaxed back from Nice for the wedding after she struck a deal that if she provides Albert with an heir, she can get divorced and receive a generous financial settlement.

The 34-year-old, whose post-nuptial kiss with Albert was astonishingly awkward, is now 'depressed' at her failure to get pregnant, the magazine added.

Albert, who previously dated Claudia Schiffer, has two illegitimate children - eight-year-old son Alexandre with Togolese air hostess Nicole Coste and daughter Jazmin, 20, with American estate agent Tamara Rotola - but neither can claim the throne as they were both born out of wedlock.

Voici magazine said: 'Charlene has made the subject of pregnancy a taboo topic around the Royal palace. She might have a smile on her face at official functions, but inside she is stressed and frustrated. This subject is weighing more and more heavily on her shoulders.'

Charlene denied stories that she made a break for Nice airport two days before her marriage in July last year after hearing rumours Albert had a third love-child during their relationship (the rumors remain just that). But according to reports published in French newsmagazine L’Express at the time, the bride attempted to bolt just days before the ceremony, after discovering that "the private life" of Albert was "not as exemplary as she had imagined."

According to L’Express, Charlene fled to Nice airport, and, one-way ticket in hand, attempted to board a flight back home to her home in South Africa, before Monaco police caught up with her and persuaded her to stay (she denied the events happened), offering the unseemly deal that if she would provide him with a legitimate heir, she would get a substantial cash divorce settlement.

To be fair, you’d need some recompense for marrying Albert. For a noted playboy, he is distinctly lacking in charisma; balding and overweight, he speaks in an alienating and unattractive Mid-Atlantic English drawl. He has struggled with a stammer for his whole life. Fascinatingly, the stammer is far worse when he speaks in French, the language he used to communicate with his terrifying father, Prince Rainier, than when he speaks in English, the language he spoke to his mother.

Charlene’s story could not be more different from Albert’s. She was born in the town of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and the family later moved to South Africa. Her father is an IT entrepreneur and her mother is a former competitive diver who won medals in the Commonwealth Games in the 1970s. She has two brothers, Gareth and Sean, and her uncle was once a captain of the South African rugby team, the Springboks.

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They met when she attended a swimming event in Monaco, and she later told a paper in Johannesburg: "We sat in the back of the Rolls-Royce, and he told me about his passion for sports and swimming. He was training for the biathlon. I think he was even qualified for the Winter Games. He was charming, a true gentleman."

The couple made their first public appearance on February 10, 2006, at the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics.

Albert took the throne in July 2005 after the death of his strait-laced father, Prince Rainier. The driven Rainier had built the sleepy Mediterranean port into a tax haven for the rich and created a glittering financial center.

In the year he took the throne, Albert acknowledged that he had fathered a boy, Alexandre, out of wedlock by a former flight attendant. The following year, he also acknowledged an American daughter, Jazmin Grace Grimaldi, born to a California woman. Neither can assume the throne because they were born out of wedlock.

Most Monegasques won’t speak on the record, but Patrick Middleton, the Irish-born editor of the expat website Riviera Reporter, is one of the few to have publicly expressed doubts.

At the time of the wedding he told the Beast: "Monaco looks like a paradise from the outside, but as Grace Kelly found out, it is also a prison," he says. "It is a police state. Phone calls, for example, are regularly monitored, and if they don’t like you, or you make trouble, they just kick you out. It can be a very unpleasant place to actually live. And, unlike Princess Grace, Charlene won’t really be able to just quietly zip off to her apartment in Paris for a month and do what she wants—the world’s media will be watching."

"She’s known the prince for 10 years, so presumably she knows what she is letting herself in for, but I think she will be very unhappy," Middleton continues. "The big problem is that she will become bored and there will be a lot of pressure on her to play the part of the happy princess, the new Princess Grace, the mother of the Monegasque people. It is so unlike the outdoor, free life she knew in South Africa.

"Monaco is a combination of the sinister and the ridiculous. The thing to remember is that it is only the size of New York’s Central Park, so it is a very incestuous community with enormous rivalries not just in the wider society itself, but also within the palace itself, which is a nest of vipers. There are a great deal of very rich, idle trophy wives who have nothing better to do than criticize each other."