Princess Charlene: Who is the princess of Monaco attending King Charles III’s coronation?
As the coronation weekend of King Charles III is set to begin, many European royals have confirmed their attendance at the ceremony, which takes place at Westminster Abbey on Saturday 6 May.
The coronation is expected to be attended by 2,000 guests, from members of the British royal family to foreign monarchs and presidents around the world. However, the King has opted for a more “slimmed-down” service compared to his mother’s coronation, which was attended by 8,000 guests from 129 nations and territories.
The list of European royals invited to the coronation includes His Serene Highness Prince Albert II and his wife, Princess Charlene of Monaco. The reigning prince of Monaco was the first foreign head of state to confirm he would be attending the King’s coronation, most likely due to their long-standing relationship.
In January, Monaco’s reigning sovereign told People that he and his wife, Princess Charlene, will be among the guests at Westminster Abbey. “I’m certain that it’s going to be an incredible ceremony and a very moving one,” the 64-year-old royal said. “We’ve maintained contact since His Majesty became King, but I haven’t talked to him personally since the Queen’s funeral.”
The prince shared that he’s “certain” the King will add his own “personal touches” to the coronation. However, he was unsure whether their eight-year-old twins, Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella, will be invited.
Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco have long been one of Europe’s most high-profile royal couples. From separation rumours to illegitimate children, the Prince and Princess of Monaco have had their fair share of scandal and controversy. Much of Prince Albert’s life has been thrust into the spotlight, his mother being American actor Grace Kelly and his father Prince Rainier III of Monaco. But who is his wife, Princess Charlene?
Charlene, Princess of Monaco was born Charlene Lynette Wittstock on 25 January 1978. She was born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia – now known as Zimbabwe – and relocated with her family to South Africa in 1989 when she was 12 years old.
Her mother, Lynette Wittstock, was a former competitive diver and swimming coach, which led Charlene to begin pursuing her own swimming career. At her first All-Africa Games in 1999, Charlene won three gold medals and a silver medal for the freestyle, backstroke, and medley competitions. She represented South Africa at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, where she won a silver medal in the 4×100 m medley relay. Charlene was also a member of the South African women’s swimming team at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, where she placed fifth.
Soon after her stint at the summer Olympics, the then-Charlene Wittstock met Prince Albert of Monaco at the Mare Nostrum swimming competition that same year. The two likely bonded over their shared Olympic experiences, with Prince Albert having competed in bobsleigh at five consecutive Winter Olympics for Monaco. They made their debut as a couple at the opening ceremony of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
But one year before their public debut, Prince Albert confirmed he had fathered a child with former Air France flight attendant Nicole Coste. In 2005, shortly before he ascended the throne, a French newspaper reported that Albert’s son Alexandre Coste was born in August 2003. Just a few days before he was enthroned on 12 July 2005, the Prince confirmed via his lawyer that Alexandre was his biological son.
While Albert officially acknowledged his son, Monaco’s succession laws stated that Alexandre could not be in line for the throne. The following year, DNA tests confirmed that Albert had a daughter – now known as Jazmin Grace Grimaldi – born in 1992 after his brief relationship with her mother, Tamara Rotolo.
Despite the public scandals, Prince Albert II and Charlene Wittstock announced their engagement on 23 June 2010. They were married in Monaco during a lavish three-day wedding celebration, beginning on 30 June with a concert by The Eagles. Their civil wedding ceremony took place in the Throne Room of the Prince’s Palace of Monaco the following day, in which Charlene wore a custom-made aquamarine Chanel suit. Their final religious ceremony occurred in the courtyard of the palace on 2 July, for which Charlene wore an off-the-shoulder Armani Privé gown embellished with 40,000 individual Swarovski crystals and 20,000 pearls.
Amidst the celebrations, rumours quickly surfaced that then-33-year-old Charlene was getting cold feet leading up to their nuptials, after she was pictured crying on her wedding day. However, she explained in an interview with The Times in 2021 that the tears were actually due to being overwhelmed with emotion. “Everything was just so overwhelming,” she shared. “There were all the mixed emotions because of the rumours and obviously the tension built up and I burst into tears. And then I burst into tears some more because I was thinking, ‘Oh no, now the whole world has seen me cry.’”
On 30 May 2014, the palace announced Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene were expecting their first child. It was later confirmed that the couple was acutally expecting twins by the end of the year. Twins Princess Gabriella and Hereditary Prince Jacques were born on 9 October 2014 at the Princess Grace Hospital Centre in Monaco.
Most recently, much attention surrounding the couple has been placed on Princess Charlene’s health. In May 2021, Princess Charlene was raising awareness about rhinoceros poaching in South Africa when she developed a sinus infection due to complications resulting from a sinus lift and bone grafting procedure earlier in the spring. Due to the complications, she was forced to remain in South Africa under the care of doctors, who described her recovery as a “waiting game”.
“Initially I was supposed to be here for 10 to 12 days, unfortunately, I had a problem equalising my ears, and I found out through the doctors that I had a sinus infection and quite a serious one. So, it’s taking time to address this problem that I’m having,” she told People in July 2021.
Despite addressing her health concerns numerous times during her time in South Africa, the royal’s extended separation from her husband and their then-six-year-old twins unsurprisingly sparked speculation of a possible divorce. In September that year, Prince Albert reiterated that his wife took the trip to work with her foundation and to visit family and friends, and not because of a fight. “She didn’t leave Monaco in a huff!” he told People. “She didn’t leave because she was mad at me or at anybody else. She was going down to South Africa to reassess her foundation’s work down there and to take a little time off with her brother and some friends.”
The prince then added that the extended stay, which was “only supposed to be a weeklong, 10-day maximum stay,” is not due to Princess Charlene going “into exile,” as it is “absolutely just a medical problem”.
Princess Charlene returned to Monaco that fall, but quickly halted her public duties in November 2021 due to a state of “profound general fatigue”.
“A period of calm and rest is necessary to ensure the very best recovery for Princess Charlene’s health,” the palace said in a statement. “Having battled with poor health over the past few months, the Princess is currently convalescing and will continue to do so for the coming weeks.”
It was later revealed that Princess Charlene was receiving treatment at a facility in Switzerland. Her then-six-year-old children, Princess Gabriella and Prince Jacques, were seen holding up drawings from a palace balcony wishing their mother to get well. “We miss you mommy,” Gabriella wrote in her drawing with two large red hearts, while her twin brother told Charlene: “We love you mommy.”
In May 2022, Charlene made her first public appearance in more than a year at the Monaco E-Prix race with her husband and children. That month, she returned to Monaco to resume official duties, though she told the Nice Matin newspaper: My health is still fragile and I don’t want to rush things. It’s been a long, difficult, painful path. Today, I feel more serene.
“I’m very happy to be back home in Monaco.”
Following Queen Elizabeth II’s death, Princess Charlene made a rare public appearance at the Queen’s state funeral on 19 September 2022. She was seen wearing a black, long-sleeved dress as she held the arm of her husband, Prince Albert II.