Princess Charlene looks more relaxed, well-rested and self-confident now she is free of the ‘straightjacket’ of Monaco royal life, according to experts.
The former Olympian, 43, has not been seen in the principality since January and has spent the last few months holed up in her native South Africa while she receives treatment for a ‘serious sinus infection’ she developed while on a solo visit trip to the country.
Meanwhile Prince Albert, 63, her husband of 10 years, remains in Monaco with their six-year-old twins Jacques and Gabriella, and continues to carry out royal duties alone. Most recently he was seen watching the swimming at Tokyo 2020.
But despite their separation, Charlene appears more at ease, in control and self-assured than she did on with Albert, according to experts in body language, speech and personal appearance who analysed recent footage and photos of the royal.
‘Princess Charlene is obviously very comfortable in her own skin,’ noted psychologist Dr Becky Spelman, of the Private Therapy Clinic. ‘She looks completely happy and at peace with herself. She looks like she has really found who she is as a person.’
Despite the months-long separation from husband Prince Albert (together in September 2020), Charlene appears to have come into her own and looks more at ease, confident and self-assured than she did when on royal engagements, experts said
Experts analysed recent photos and videos of Charlene including a video interview (pictured) with South Africa Radio 702’s host Mandy Wiener this week. Charlene looks more relaxed and self-confident now she is free of the ‘straightjacket’ of Monaco royal life, experts said
It comes as her husband Prince Albert of Monaco (pictured) made yet another public appearance without his wife at the Tokyo Olympics amid rumours of a rift between the couple
Emma Serlin, of the London Speech Workshop, which delivers communication coaching, added: ‘Charlene seems like someone who was in her element… She seems less worried about the royal protocol, or saying the right thing, or conforming.’
Meanwhile body language expert Judi James said it is as though ‘the veneer of regal elegance had been stripped away’.
This apparent shift is reflected in everything from her clothing choices to her skin, with Dr Ross Perry noting the princess looks more radiant and rested than she did a few months ago.
The transformation of Charlene burst into public view in December 2020 when Charlene debuted a dramatic, punk-inspired haircut at a Christmas event with her husband and children.
The hairstyle, which features a half-shaved scalp, was a way to show she was breaking free from royal protocol and ‘not waiting for permission’ to express herself, Dr Spelman said at the time.
The transformation of Charlene from dutiful royal to an independent, free-spirt bubbled under the surface before it burst into public view in December 2020 when Charlene debuted a dramatic, punk-inspired haircut at a Christmas event with her husband and children
Last public outing together: Charlene and Albert were last pictured together at an official event together in January (left) at the Sainte Devote Ceremony in Monaco. On April 2, she shared a photograph alongside her husband Prince Albert and their children Jacques and Gabriella to mark Easter, although it is not clear where it was taken
Albert and the twins paid a brief visit to South Africa in early June, the Palace has confirmed, but they otherwise keep in touch via video link
Meanwhile royal expert Nigel Crawthorne, author of Prince Andrew, said Princess Charlene wanted to show that she had literally ‘shorn away’ the etiquette that comes with royal life and wanted to signal to the world that ‘something has changed dramatically in her life’.
Body language expert Judi James is less certain of the royal’s intention, saying: ‘Was it a deliberate statement of revolt and a reclaiming of her identity or is it a sign of vulnerability?’
That same month it emerged that Albert was facing yet another paternity suit.
A Brazilian woman who cannot be named for legal reasons said her now 17-year-old daughter was the result of a passionate affair with the Prince 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’.
The former Olympian, 43, ‘can’t wait’ to return to her six-year-old twins Jacques and Gabriella (pictured with Prince Albert in June), but revealed she won’t be back in the principality ‘until the end of October’ as she recovers from a ‘serious sinus infection’
Weeks later came Charlene’s last formal engagement in Monaco. On January 27 she joined Albert for the Sainte Devote Ceremony in Monte Carlo. She has not been seen at home since.
Instead she has been keeping followers updated through social media posts and media interviews, in which she has spoken candidly about missing her children and described her husband as her rock.
Speaking to South Africa Radio 702’s host Mandy Wiener this week, the royal said: ‘[It’s] very frustrating, terribly frustrating. I can’t wait to get back to them, I can’t wait to see my children.’
Princess Charlene’s life in the Monaco royal family
1987 – Bea Fiedler, a German topless model, claims her son Daniel was the prince’s son.
1992 – An American national files a paternity lawsuit against the Prince, claiming that he was the father of her daughter, Jazmin Grace.
2000 – Princess Charlene meets Prince Albert at the Mare Nostrum swimming competition in Monte Carlo
2005 – In May, a former flight attendant claims that her youngest son, whom she named Alexandre Grimaldi-Coste, was Prince Albert’s child. She states that his parentage had been proven by DNA tests requested by the Monegasque government.
On 6 July, a few days before he was enthroned on 12 July, the Prince officially confirms via his lawyer Lacoste that Alexandre was his biological son.
2006 – After a DNA test confirmed the child’s parentage, Albert admitted, via statement from his lawyer, that he is Jazmin Grace’s father.
2010 – Princess Charlene and Prince Albert announce their engagement
2011 – Princess Charlene was said to have bolted two days before the royal wedding after hearing Prince Albert had a third love child during their relationship. It was alleged that Charlene tried to flee home to South Africa three times before her ‘arranged marriage’, at one point taking refuge inside her country’s embassy in Paris.
Monaco officials were said to have coaxed her back by brokering a deal between the Prince and his reluctant bride that she provide him with a legitimate heir. After that she would be free to leave of her own free will.
During the wedding, Charlene was in floods of tears, while her husband looked on impassively. Later in the year, Princess Charlene confessed she felt ‘very lonely’ in Monaco
2012 – Princess Charlene was reported to be ‘depressed’ at her failure to provide her husband with a legitimate heir.
2014 – Pregnancy was announced in May. In December Charlene gave birth to twins Princess Gabriella and heir to the throne Prince Jacques.
2017 – Princess Charlene visits Africa, tells media: ‘I am African and this is my heritage. It will always be. It’s in my heart and in my veins.’
2019 – In a rare interview, Princess Charlene confessed it is ‘sometimes hard to smile’ and said the year had been ‘very painful’In another interview, she said she found motherhood ‘exhausting’
2020 – Charlene debuts a shocking half-shaved hairstyle. It is announced Prince Albert of Monaco will appear in court in the new year to fight explosive claims he fathered a third love child with a secret girlfriend before marrying his now wife Princess Charlene.
2021 – January 27 – Charlene is pictured with Albert for the Sainte Devote Ceremony in Monaco. It is the last time she has been seen in Monaco this year.
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 and June – Albert, Jacques and Gabriella attend several events in Monaco without Charlene, while she shares snaps from her trip in South Africa.
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
July 7 – Charlene says the last few months have been ‘trying’ and says she misses her husband and children
Charlene joined the video interview from bush country in the KwaZulu-Natal region and said she felt well, despite the ‘waiting game’ during her healing process.
The video reveals just how far Charlene has come on her journey from the self-conscious, restricted interviews and public engagements of just a few years ago.
Once perfectly turned out with coiffured hair and a fully made-up face, Charlene wore her hair messily tousled and went without so much as concealer as she spoke directly into the camera.
Her green, camouflage t-shirt is worlds apart from the polished ensembles she was more often seen wearing on royal engagements.
This freeness in her appearance is reflected in the way she conducted herself, noted speech and communication expert Ms Serlin.
‘In previous interviews, Charlene seems more stiff, more self-conscious, more contained within herself.
‘I have no idea what her life was like but it is easy to imagine that she would have had a whole list of strict rules and regulations over what she must and mustn’t do, what she must and mustn’t say, and the impact of that is a containment and a stiffness and a lack of sense of fully aliveness and of spontaneity.’
She compared this mental restriction to a ‘straightjacket’ being placed on the royal that inhibited her speech and spontaneity.
In contrast, the most recent video interview of Charlene shows a woman who has found her voice.
‘She spoke very slowly, almost languidly. Like a lion in the bush,’ Ms Serlin continued. ‘Her voice was full and resonant and engaged and engaging. She seemed like a much more confident, grounded and very different person, in a very different place.
Body language expert Judi James agreed: ‘The poses show a more animated side too, with some angular, splayed poses that looked playful and spontaneous, almost childlike, as though the veneer of regal elegance had been stripped away to reveal woman now looking like and possibly acting more like a teenager, as though she had stepped back in time to recover that more openly emotional and spontaneous young woman she used to be.’
Dr Ross Perry, medical director of Cosmedics skin clinics (www.cosmedics.co.uk), said this lighter, slower way of living has had clear benefits to Charlene’s skin.
‘Princess Charlene looks very relaxed and well rested,’ he noted. ‘South Africa is her home and where she has family and friends so she can be herself.
‘The pressure of royal duties comes at a price. There is very little freedom to be her true self which must be exhausting, especially as she constantly feels she must keep up certain appearances.
‘Royal life offers very little down time to really rest and relax as she has been doing in South Africa,’ he explained.
He noted the royal also appears to have had some ‘tweakments’, such as Botox and filler in her lips to keep herself youthful at 43.
He added: ‘To get skin as tip top looking as this, she clearly has a great skin care regime and likely has regular peels and laser facials which help with sun damage and premature ageing.’
Charlene has revealed she will be in South Africa until at least the end of October, which means two more months away from her husband, children, and royal life.
But royal sources have suggested the princess has ‘no plans’ to return soon.
A Monaco source who knows the couple well meanwhile suggested the excuse was ‘sounding very thin, especially considering how many times it has been reeled out’.
She added: ‘Patients with very serious problems are flown to other parts of the world all the time.
‘The Princess has the finest medics in the world looking after her – making a flight home extremely safe and comfortable would not be that difficult.’
Another Palace source was even more forthright, telling Paris Match: ‘The Princess has, for the time being, in reality, no intention of returning.’
Instead, she has been seen house-hunting near Johannesburg, close to where she was brought up in a modest suburban family home.
The separation is also affecting Charlene’s relationship with the people of Monaco.
Stéphane Bearn, easily the most high-profile and trusted Royal commentator in France, uses an impeccably sourced piece in the latest Paris Match to discuss the torturous separation.
He describes subjects in Monaco becoming increasingly angry about their runaway Princess, as they criticise everything from Charlene’s mood swings to her appearance.
‘In Monaco, since the departure of Charlene, tongues have loosened,’ Mr Bearn writes.
‘In the whirlwind of a hard-nosed court, her fine shine is rubbing off. Her sad looks are regarded as haggard.
‘Disappointed Monegasques talk about her anger, her whimsical moods, which are as changeable as her hair.’
Referring to the couple’s six-year-old twins, who remain in Monaco with their nannies, Mr Bearn writes: ‘The Palace had to invoke a suffering Princess so often that the Monegasques today find it hard to believe.
‘By crying wolf, the mother of Jacques and Gabriella would have discredited and isolated herself.’
It remains to be seen exactly what will happen when Charlene eventually returns to Monaco but, if the experts are correct, she will be more herself than she has been in months.