The narrative of a love match between Prince Albert of Monaco and his bride, former South African Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock, so relentlessly marketed by the tiny principality, has long struggled to maintain credibility when confronted with reality.
Even before their wedding, there were extraordinary stories that Charlene tried to thrice flee the statelet only to be intercepted and brought back to the palace by the local security service.
One of her escape attempts saw her reportedly taking shelter at the South African embassy in Paris. Her subdued appearance at the wedding itself, concluding with a hideously awkward public kiss on the balcony, made global headlines. Unluckily for the new Monagesque royal couple, their apparent misery was all the more noticeable for the striking contrast in mood with the nuptials of William and Kate, which had taken place just a few months before.
The years that followed have been blighted by rumors of affairs on the part of His Serene Highness, a known playboy, who had already admitted to having fathered two illegitimate children before their marriage.
Now, those rumors from the early years of their marriage are coming back to haunt the couple as Albert is reportedly facing a paternity suit over claims he fathered yet another illegitimate child in 2005. He was not married to but was wooing Charlene at this time. He has furiously denied the claims as a “hoax” and blackmail attempt.
The mere allegation, however, was sufficient to thrust rumors of infidelity, that had once circulated largely in the yachts and drawing rooms of the European social elite, into newsagents and supermarket shelves, with European tabloids reporting on the alleged infidelity of Albert, 63.
The offending magazines are voraciously consumed in neighboring France, but are not generally available in the tiny tax haven of Monaco. This polite custom on behalf of the vendors has made no practical difference to the dissemination of the stories in the enclave.
In March of this year, Charlene, 43, left Monaco, heading for her native South Africa on a conservation trip, which was then extended, apparently on the basis that she needed to have surgery on her ear. The ear condition, a legacy of a youth spent in the pool, it was said, meant she couldn’t fly back and forth. She missed the two marquee events of the Monaco season, the Grand Prix and the Red Cross ball.
Her and Albert’s 6-year-old twins, Princess Gabriella and Prince Jacques, stayed in Monaco. The family were thus separated for their tenth anniversary on July 1. Their official Instagram account released a video to mark the anniversary, heavy on fantasy and fairy tale.
Albert and the children finally made it out to South Africa last week, and the pair once again took to Instagram to showcase their alleged happiness. The resulting pictures, in which the couple look strained and awkward, has done little to convince the viper’s nest that is Monaco that all is indeed well.
It did at least mark the first time the couple have been pictured together since Jan. 26.
Now, the Telegraph reports, Madame Figaro, a conservative women’s weekly, has become the first non-tabloid-minded publication to address the issue, asking: “How long will the fight against rhinoceros poaching remain the Princess of Monaco’s top priority? How long will Albert II of Monaco go on bearing this affront, which is becoming ridiculous?"
The London Times reports on an article by Stephane Bern, a French government cultural adviser, in Paris Match headlined: “Albert and Charlene on the verge of splitting up?”
Bern’s Paris Match piece said that Albert allowed Nicole Coste, the air hostess with whom he fathered a son, now 18, to attend the Red Cross ball in Charlene’s absence. His son also attended, the report says.
Charlene continues to project a narrative, via her Instagram account, that all is well, but whether this will be enough to quieten the gossips of Monaco remains to be seen.