Friends of Princess Charlene of Monaco have given a rare insight into what the royal is reallly like, insisting that the former swimmer is a force to be reckoned with, as she remains in treatment for physical and mental exhaustion.
Tatler has dedicated its January cover to the mother-of-two, 43, after she spent ten months apart from her family this year, declaring her life has ‘more drama than a soap opera.’
In a feature that traces how she went from South African Olympian to the Princess of Monaco, unnamed friends have shared their impressions of the young Charlene, branding her an ‘ambitious’ swimmer determined to be the best at her sport, and a force who should not be ‘underestimated’.
One source rubbished any public perception that Charlene is ‘naive’ and trapped in an unhappy marriage with Albert, saying: ‘I don’t for one second think she did not know what she was doing when she married him.’
Last month, Charlene was admitted to a treatment facility in an undisclosed location within days of her return to Monaco following a 10-month absence in her native South Africa.
Her husband Prince Albert, 63, spoke out to say she is suffering from ‘exhaustion, both emotional and physical’, while friends recently told Page Six that the mother-of-two ‘almost died’ while she was in South Africa.
Tatler has dedicated its January issue to mother-of-two Princess Charlene of Monaco, 43, after she spent ten months apart from her family this year, declaring her life has ‘more drama than a soap opera.’ Pictured with Prince Albert in September 2020
Pictured: Charlene training during her Olympic swimming days, before she married Albert in 2011
Fellow swimmers who trained with Charlene in South Africa in the noughties remembered her as ambitious, laser-focused and dedicated to the sport.
They said Charlene would spend her time practicing when other children would be playing, and could be ‘hard on herself’ when she did not perform well.
But they added she was also ‘goofy,’ never lonely, and a good friend to have around.
Friends who witnessed her meet Prince Albert for the first time admitted they did not think anything suggested they’d have a romantic connection.
Pictured, Charlene looking visibly frail in a photo from October. Friends have expressed concerns over the mother-of-two’s health
The pair reportedly met at a function held by Albert in Monte Carlo after the Mare Nostrum competition.
Media frenzy: Tatler has unveiled Princess Charlene as its latest cover star. Friends told the publication they remembered her to be ‘goofy,’ determined and ambitious, and that she was not to be underestimated
When her relationship with the Monaco prince was made public, her teammates admitted they were surprised.
Despite spending years together in close quarters training and competing, they said Charlene never confided that she was in a relationship with Albert.
They reflected that it showed that Charlene was on her way to becoming royalty and leaving the world of swimming behind.
People who knew the royal in her swimming days told the magazine they still hold her in high esteem today even though she has restricted her social circle.
But one warned the mother of Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella, seven, is not the type to be blindly controlled by the Monaco royal household.
‘Charlene is no Princess Di.’ one said. ‘She may come across as being extremely naïve, but nothing could be further from the truth. She is very good at keeping her smarts under wraps. I don’t for one second think she did not know what she was doing when she married him.’
Friends of the swimmer said they were ‘surprised’ when her relationship with the Monaco prince was made public. Pictured in Italy in February 2006
Princess Gabriella (left) and Prince Jacques (right) with their father Prince Albert hold signs saying ‘We love you Mommy’ during celebrations marking Monaco’s National Day
Princess Charlene – whose frail appearance has sparked concerns – shared controversial photos of the couple hugging in South Africa earlier this year
Princess Charlene was reunited with her family on November 8, with images from a staged photo call shared on the palace’s official Instagram page
For the past year, the Monaco royal’s health has gripped the attention of international media.
A source spoke to Page Six last week and slammed the ‘portrayal of mental health issues’, claiming that the extent of her health complications are being ‘downplayed’ and the mother-of-two has lost ‘half of her body weight’.
Speaking to the publication, a source described as the royal’s friend said: ‘It is unfair that she is being portrayed as having some kind of mental or emotional issue.
‘We don’t know why the palace is downplaying that she almost died in South Africa.’
Explaining that the royal had a severe ear, nose and throat infection, which resulted in ‘severe sinus and swallowing issues stemming back from an earlier surgery’.
They added: ‘She has not been able to eat solid food in over six months because of all the surgeries she has since gone through. She has only been able to take in liquids through a straw, so she lost nearly half her body weight.’
Timeline: Prince Albert and Princess Charlene’s 10 months’ apart
January 27 – Charlene is pictured with Albert for the Sainte Devote Ceremony in Monaco.
March 18 – Charlene is pictured at the memorial for the late Zulu monarch, King Goodwill Zwelithini at the KwaKhethomthandayo Royal Palace in Nongoma, South Africa
April 2 – Charlene posts an Instagram picture of herself, Albert and their twins Jacques and Gabriella for Easter.
It is unknown where the image was taken.
May 8 – Albert, Jacques and Gabriella attend a Grand Prix event in Monaco without Charlene
May 10 – Albert attends Monaco Gala Awards in Monaco without Charlene
May 18 – Charlene shares her first picture from her conservation trip in South Africa
June 1 – Prince Albert II, Jacques and Gabriella attend event at Oceanic Museum in Monaco
June 3 – New photos emerge of Charlene on her conservation trip
June 5- Charlene puts on a united front as she shares a photo with her family to mark her niece’s fifth birthday with her brother’s family and Albert and the twins in South Africa
June 7 – Albert and the twins attend the World Rugby Sevens without Charlene
June 17 – Prince Albert attends Red Cross Summer concert in Monte Carlo with his sister Princess Caroline of Hanover
June 18 – Prince Albert appears alone Monte Carlo TV Festival
June 24 – Charlene’s foundation releases a statement saying the royal is unable to travel and is undergoing procedures for an ear, nose and throat infection
July 2 – Charlene and Albert mark their 10th anniversary separately. ‘This year will be the first time that I’m not with my husband on our anniversary in July, which is difficult, and it saddens me,’ Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene said in a statement.
July 3 – Albert appears with glamorous niece Charlotte Casiraghi at the 15th international Monte-Carlo Jumping event, which is part of the Longines Global Champions Tour of Monaco,
July 27 – Prince Albert attends Olympics alone in Tokyo
August 13 – Charlene undergoes a four-hour operation. The reason is not announced
August 25 – Charlene shares photos of Prince Albert, Gabriella and Jacques visiting her in South Africa
September 1 – Charlene is admitted under an alias to the Netcare Alberlito Hospital after suddenly ‘collapsing’
September 2 – She is discharged, with a statement from the Palais Princier reading: ‘Her Highness is closely monitored by Her medical team who said that Her condition was not worrying’
September 23 – Prince Albert attends the 2021 Monte Carlo Gala for Planetary Health
September 29 – Prince Albert is joined on the red carpet by actress Sharon Stone for a first look at the eagerly anticipated James Bond release
September 30 – Charlene releases a stylish video promoting her anti-poaching campaign from her South African bolthole
October 3 – Princess Charlene shares a photograph of herself smiling in front of a bible in her first snap since being discharged from hospital following her health scare
October 5 – Prince Albert attends Sportel Awards Ceremony in Monte Carlo with nephew Louis Ducruet
October 6 – Albert tells RMC radio Charlene is ‘ready to come home’
October 8 – Princess undergoes surgery in South Africa
November 8 – Charlene arrives back in Monaco. Prince Albert said within hours it became clear she was ‘unwell’
November 13 – Prince Albert attends Expo 2020 in Dubai without Princess Charlene
Following his return from the trip, Prince Albert holds an intervention with Charlene’s brothers and a sister-in-law in which Charlene ‘confirmed’ she would seek ‘real medically framed treatment’ outside of Monaco
November 16 – Royal household confirms Princess Charlene will not attend National Day celebrations on November 19
– Prince Albert attends a Monaco Red Cross event without Princess Charlene
November 17 – Prince Albert reveals Princess Charlene has left Monaco and is recovering in a secret location
November 19 – Prince Albert reveals Charlene is in a treatment facility ‘elsewhere in Europe’ after a family intervention
Charlene returned to her husband and twins Jacques and Gabriella in Monaco earlier this month following a 10-month absence, while she recovered from surgery following a sinus infection she contracted during a solo charity trip to her native South Africa earlier this year.
In the days after her arrival, Charlene’s sister-in-law Chantell Wittstock, told MailOnline the princess may not be returning to the palace and did not plan to immediately return to public engagements, although she later retracted the remark.
Charlene’s time away followed fresh allegations last December that Albert had fathered a love-child (which would be his third, if proven) with an unnamed Brazilian woman during the time when he and Charlene, a former Olympic swimmer for South Africa, were already in a relationship.
Photographs of their reunion earlier this month were greeted with a hefty dose of scepticism by the French media.
Albert was waiting for her at the Monte Carlo helipad, along with their six-year-old twins, Princess Gabriella and Prince Jacques. The family were joined by a hand-picked photographer inside the Palace walls for the ‘reunion’ photos.
Albert said the family reunion in Monaco last week after she spent six months in her native South Africa initially went ‘pretty well’ in the first few hours, but it then became ‘pretty evident’ that Charlene was ‘unwell.’
He said the former Olympian ‘realised she needed help’, adding: ‘She was overwhelmed and couldn’t face official duties, life in general or even family life.’
Albert explained: ‘I’m probably going to say this several times, but this has nothing to do with our relationship. 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.’
He went on to tell the magazine her current state was a result of ‘several factors which are private’.
Albert continued: ‘She hadn’t slept well in a number of days and she wasn’t eating at all well. She has lost a lot of weight, which made her vulnerable to other potential ailments. A cold or the flu or God help us, COVID.’
He said it is ‘not cancer-related or personal relationship issue.’
He later confirmed Charlene has been admitted to a treatment facility for undisclosed medical issues, as she works through a period of ill health. The location of the facility was not confirmed, though several sources claim it is in Switzerland.
The prince also said rumours around the state of his marriage ‘don’t bother him too much’.
Doubts about the central relationship of Monaco’s royal family are not new.
Several residents living in the narrow medieval alleys of Monaco Ville confirmed to MailOnline that before she left for South Africa Charlene was spending most of her time outside the Palace, living in a modest two-bedroom apartment above an old chocolate factory about 300m away, rather than in the 12th Century Palace itself.
‘We often saw her outside the Palace and she would usually be alone or with a bodyguard,’ said one source, ‘but she was never with Albert – it was obvious she chose to spend most of her time in the apartment rather than the palace.’
Princess Charlene met Prince Albert in 2000 during a swimming competition in Monaco and the pair married in 2011, before welcoming twins Gabriella and Jacques in 2014.
Born in Rhodesia- a previously unrecongised state in Southern Africa colonised by the British, she relocated to South Africa aged 11.
She had a successful swimming career and went on to win three gold medals and a silver medal at the 1999 All Africa Games in Johannesburg, as well as representing South Africa at the 1998 and 2002 Commonwealth Games and winning a silver medal in the 4 × 100 m medley relay in the latter competition.
However the pair’s marriage has made numerous headlines over the years, with a third paternity suit emerging last year.
Soon afterwards Charlene infamously shaved half her head in the style of a punk rocker last December.
This was seen as the first public sign of a worsening crisis that could end in a multi-million pound divorce.
Charlene’s exile in South Africa began a month after it emerged last December that Albert was facing yet another paternity suit.
A Brazilian woman who cannot be named for legal reasons said her 15-year-old daughter was the result of an affair with Albert in 2004.
Albert and Charlene were not yet engaged at this time, but they had known each over for four years after meeting at a swimming gala in Monaco in 2000.
Lawyers for the claimant were scheduled to demand a DNA test from Albert at a court in Milan earlier this year, while his own counsel branded the action ‘a hoax’.
Neither party is now commenting, suggesting some kind of generous settlement may have been reached, as happened with Albert’s earlier love children.
They are Jazmin Grace Grimaldi, who is now 29 and the result of Albert’s affair with an American estate agent, and Alexandre Coste, 17, whose mother is a former Togolese air hostess.
Both children were struck off Monaco’s line of succession in return for vast financial settlements.