Prince Ernst of Hanover, the estranged husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco, has found love with a woman 20 years his junior, it has emerged.
The couple reportedly met in Ibiza in July and have become close, with some European news websites even hinting marriage could be on the cards.
Ernst married Princess Caroline, sister of Prince Albert II and daughter of Prince Rainier III, in 1999 and share daughter Princess Alexandra, 22. They split in 2009 but have never divorced.
Royal romance: Prince Ernst of Hanover has been spotted out and about in Madrid with artist Claudia Stilianopoulos, whose parents were friends with Princess Margaret
Sealed with a kiss: Ernst and Claudia shared a kiss outside a Madrid supermarket in October
Married in Monaco: Ernst married Princess Caroline, sister of Prince Albert II of Monaco and daughter of Prince Rainier III, in 1999. Pictured, the couple at an event in 2000
The royal, who is caught up in a legal battle with his son, Ernst Jr, has dated a number of women in the years since, including glamorous Portuguese socialite Countess Maria Madalena Bensaude.
However ‘none have promised as much’ as his flourishing relationship with Claudia, according to Hola!, the Spanish version of glossy magazine Hello!.
Mother-of-two Claudia is an artist known for her architectural sculptures.
Her parents were José Manuel Stilianopoulos y Estela, known as Mike Stilianopoulos, a Philippine Ambassador to Britain in the late 1970s, and Spanish socialite Esperanza Ridruejo, known as Pitita.
The couple befriended Princess Margaret and offered her use of their villa in Marbella, Spain, for a stay with then boyfriend Roddy Llewellyn in 1979, shortly after her divorce from Anthony Armstrong-Jones.
Mike and Pitita, as they were known, settled in Madrid and became fixtures of the Spanish social scene. Mike died in 2016, his wife in 2019.
Spanish socialites: Claudia’s parents were José Manuel Stilianopoulos y Estela, known as Mike Stilianopoulos, a Philippine Ambassador to Britain in the late 1970s, and Spanish socialite Esperanza Ridruejo, known as Pitita. Pictured, the couple in Madrid in 2012
Royal connections: Mike and Pitita befriended Princess Margaret and offered her use of their villa in Marbella, Spain, for a stay with then boyfriend Roddy Llewellyn in 1979, shortly after her divorce from Anthony Armstrong-Jones. Pictured, Margaret and Roddy together in 1978
A low-key figure, Claudia stays largely out of the spotlight, although she has faced media attention over recent months thanks to her relationship with Ernst.
The couple have been spotted jetting off on holiday together and dining at upmarket Madrid eateries.
Ernst, the great-grandson of Emperor William II, was handed a 10-month suspended jail sentence in Austria earlier this year for drunkenly injuring a police officer and threatening another with a baseball bat.
He was also required by the court to find another home in Austria and attend psychotherapy.
His lawyers explained during the trial that he had undertaken treatment since the incidents, which they said occurred while he had been ‘isolated for years and betrayed by his own son’.
Flourishing romance: A low-key figure, Claudia stays largely out of the spotlight, although she has faced media attention over recent months thanks to her relationship with Ernst, above
Ancient royal lineage: Who are the Hanoverians?
The Hanoverians trace their lineage to the Welfs, also known as the Guelphs, who were once one of the foremost medieval dynasties in Europe.
The ruled over large swathes of what became southern Germany and northern Italy, including Tuscany, Bavaria and Saxony.
Later, they were the electors and kings of Hanover and ruled Britain and Ireland from when George I ascended to the throne in 1714 to the start of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1837, at which point the personal union with the United Kingdom ended.
In 1866 they lost their last German royal title, but held on to a large portfolio of properties, with the 135-room Marienburg castle near Hanover, built in 1867, being the best-known property under their stewardship.
The castle was built between 1858 and 1867 as a birthday present by King George V of Hanover (reigned 1851–1866) to his wife, Marie of Saxe-Altenburg.
It has been likened to the famous Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria, which was built two years later in 1869, which famously served as the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Hola! reports the instructions have since been lifted.
Ernst, the head of a German dynasty of one of Europe’s biggest aristocratic families, has for years been in conflict with his ‘ungrateful’ son, whom he suspects of seeking to squander family properties in Germany, especially land and forests in Lower Saxony.
At the end of last year he filed a lawsuit in a court in Hanover in northern Germany in order to recover the Marienburg castle, which has become a tourist attraction.
Prince Ernst accused his son of ‘going behind his back’ in court papers filed this week.
He had transferred Marienburg castle and the neighbouring Calenburg estate to his son – also called Ernst August – in the mid-2000s.
The Duke of Braunschweig and Lüneberg then flogged the land and in 2018 announced that Marienburg would be sold to the government for a nominal fee.
This may have been more economic than benevolent: the castle required renovations estimated at more than £23 million and had been costing a fortune to keep open to 200,000 visitors each year.
The younger Ernst said it marked an ‘historic turning point’ for the family and would help preserve the Gothic palace for the public.
The Bundestag – Germany’s federal parliament – has already voted in favour of contributing £12 million towards the renovations, while around 100 paintings and other artefacts from the castle have been handed to Hanover’s state museum.
These were worth a total of £2 million, while a further £5 million worth of treasures have been given to an art foundation.
The wrangling Ernst August Sr and Ernst August Jr were due to appear in court on November 25 but the hearing was postponed until March next year.