Princess Charlene and Prince Albert: Rumours of a royal split get louder

Princess Charlene and Prince Albert of Monaco

Stephane Cardinale – Corbis / Corbis via Getty Images

The Times reports today that France, Monaco’s neighbour, is swirling with rumours of the demise of the marriage of the principality’s sovereign, Prince Albert, and his Zimbabwean-born wife, Princess Charlene. The newspaper reports that for weeks, stories in tabloid magazines and newspapers have speculated that their relationship might be crumbling – but now, the rumour is being given weight, as respected commentators are contributing to the growing chorus.

Prince Albert and Princess Charlene were last publicly seen together in Monaco on 26 January. Two months later, Charlene left for South Africa, her home country and where she was a champion swimmer before falling in love with Albert during the Sydney Olympics in 2000 – ultimately leading to their marriage a year later.

Princess Charlene was only due to spend a couple of weeks there to work with her foundation, which has the twin goals of teaching children to swim and ending the hunting of the white rhinoceroses, but she has remained in situ since.

Speaking to South African radio stations, she has talked about developing a sinus infection that prompted doctors to ban her from traveling. On 13 August she had a four-hour operation which was announced via a statement from the Monégasque royal palace. It read: ‘Princess Charlene will undergo an operation today, Friday, 13 August, for four hours under general anaesthesia. Prince Albert and their children, Crown Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella will join her during her recovery period.’

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Princess Charlene, now absent for three months, has missed the crème de la crème of Monaco’s royal events – like the Grand Prix and Red Cross ball – as well as her tenth wedding anniversary.

The Times writes that Princess Charlene’s version of events has been reported faithfully by Monaco’s media. But Stéphane Bern, France’s well-respected royal commentator, has his doubts. He wrote an article for Paris Match magazine pointing out that with Charlene stuck in South Africa, Albert had allowed Nicole Coste, an air hostess with whom he had an affair, to attend the Red Cross ball. Similarly, Alexandre Coste, the son born of that relationship and one of two children Albert has recognised as having fathered before his marriage, was there, too.

Princess Charlene and Prince Albert II of Monaco on their wedding day, 2011

Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

Bern also reportedly said that even before leaving Monaco, Charlene had rarely stayed in the royal palace. She preferred a flat over a luxury chocolate shop made available to her by Albert’s sister Princess Caroline. The article went on to say that Monaco’s residents were exasperated by her long absences, her reluctance to speak French and her often dispirited-looking countenance at public occasions. A glossy German magazine, Bunte, has similarly fuelled anger in Monaco with a claim that the princess was looking for a property in Johannesburg to become her main home.

Prince Albert and Princess Charlene of Monaco in South Africa

Instagram: @hshprincesscharlene

Of course, all these reports are rumours – none of which are confirmed. As promised in the palace’s statement, Prince Albert and their twins returned to South Africa to help Princess Charlene in her recovery. Yet the picture of the reunited prince and princess sharing a tense embrace only served to fuel doubts about their marriage further still.

It is still not known when Princess Charlene will make her return to Monaco – we can only guess, all the while, speculation rages on.

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