Charlene Wittstock had no clue that her days as an Olympic athlete would one day lead her to her royal destiny. Unfortunately, being a princess isn’t always what it seems, and the rumors about her are nothing short of scandalous. From chilling family curses to her horrific wedding day, Charlene of Monaco has a story tailor-made for tragedy.
1. Her Destiny Sparkled
Born on January 25, 1978, Charlene Wittstock was a far cry from becoming a princess. Her parents, Michael and Lynette Wittstock, a sales manager and swimming coach respectively, raised Charlene and her two younger brothers in the city of Bulawayo. This might sound like the standard white picket fence scenario, but little Charlene was destined to tread a remarkable path.
2. Her Life Changed Forever
When Charlene was 12 years old, a huge change rocked her world: Her parents uprooted their family and moved to South Africa. It was at this time she developed an interest in competitive swimming. Her mother, a former competitive swimmer herself, coached Charlene in the ways of the athletically gifted. Charlene gave her entire heart to competitive swimming—and it paid off big time.
3. She Was A Champion
In 1996, at the age of 18, Charlene won the national championship in swimming. But that was only the beginning. She reached the podium again in 1999, picking up a whopping three gold medals and a silver at the All-Africa Games in Johannesburg. However, her greatest accolades were yet to come—both professionally and romantically.
4. She Was Oblivious
The year 2000 changed the course of Charlene’s life forever. To her delight, she earned a spot on the South African Summer Olympic team. With several championships under her belt, she became laser-focused on her Olympic debut in Sydney, Australia. Preoccupied with her work, she could never have foreseen that a royal romance lay just around the corner.
5. She Caught The Eye Of A Prince
Charlene’s overwhelming talent was exactly what made her stand out from the crowd. Shortly after the Olympics, she flew to Monaco for another competition—and she did not disappoint. She took home the gold medal for the 20om backstroke. What’s more? Her impressive feat intrigued the likes of royalty—namely, Prince Albert of Monaco, who asked to meet her.
6. She Was A Lioness
Described as statuesque with a long neck and high cheekbones, 5’11″ tall Charlene is hard to miss when she walks into a room. Vanity Fair has described her as having “the level gaze of a lioness.” Combined with her sense of humor, self-deprecating stories, and outgoing personality, it’s no wonder she fascinated Prince Albert. However, he’d have to wait to see if she felt the same.
7. She Met Her Destiny
Charlene felt smitten with the prince upon their first meeting. Although she was extremely young and driven, something shifted when she met Albert in Monte Carlo. She later described their fateful encounter: “I wasn’t in the emotional place for a relationship. But the moment I met Albert, I felt a profound sense of destiny. I have been quoted as saying I felt weak at the knees. That is a slightly trite way of phrasing it, but it is true—I knew he was the one.”
8. Her Passions Secured His Admiration
Despite the 20-year age difference between Charlene and Prince Albert, the two found common ground fairly quickly. Their passion for the environment, humanitarianism, and, of course, the Olympics (yes, Prince Albert is a former Olympian) secured their undeniable connection. Soon, their initial meet-cute transformed into something far more serious.
But was Charlene prepared for everything that came along with dating a prince?
9. She Had A Prince Following Her Around
As tempting as it would be for Charlene to give up everything for a high-flying life on the Côte d’Azur, she decided to focus on training. So, back to South Africa she went…and Albert followed. Their time alone allowed them to nurture their relationship. But their moment in the sun was painfully brief. In retrospect, this may have been the only happy honeymoon she’d ever get.
10. Her Dating History Is Impressive
Prior to meeting Prince Albert, Charlene was no slouch in the dating department. Princess Charlene of Monaco dated fellow competitive swimmers Massimiliano Rosolino, Lars Frölander, and Robin Francis; as well as André Snyman, a fellow South African and rugby player. That said, the woman certainly had expectations. Charlene was about to find out if Albert would meet her standards, or if he just looked good on paper.
11. She Chose A Romantic Red Flag
Sure, Albert’s princely title surely attracted Charlene—but what if he was informally known as the “Playboy prince”? Although Charlene had her own dating history, Albert notoriously wined, dined, and dated numerous glamorous women. Prior to Charlene, Albert was rumored to have dated Janice Dickinson, Claudia Schiffer, Brooke Shields, and Catherine Oxenberg, among others.
That said, his many liaisons came back to haunt Charlene in a terrible way.
12. She Gave It All Up
With the goal of training for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Charlene remained focused as rumors about her new relationship swirled. And then disaster struck. Injuries to her ankle and shoulder forced her into early retirement. Charlene claimed giving up swimming was one of the hardest decisions she ever had to make, “I was not emotionally prepared to retire or for the change of life that it entailed.” Oh, and what a change it was!
13. She Stepped Out Of Hiding
After years of hiding their relationship, Charlene and Albert finally emerged as a couple in 2006. Charlene joined the prince at the Turin Winter Olympics and again at a charity ball in Monaco. The world became fascinated by the statuesque and beautiful Charlene who had stolen the heart of the Casanova Prince. But her newfound fame came with a price.
14. She Took Things To The Next Level
In 2007, Charlene finally agreed to move closer to Prince Albert permanently—their relationship definitely heating up. Charlene packed her bags and moved into a tiny apartment in the principality of Monaco, one of the wealthiest and most expensive places in the world. It was the start of something new and exciting—but she was not prepared for the culture shock.
15. She Had Jealous Rivals
Charlene’s laid-back approach, mentality, and humor were in stark contrast to that of the Monégasque nationals. In addition to moments of loneliness and solitude, she had to face ruthless competition within her new social circle. Many of the women expected the prince to choose one of them as his consort. As Prince Albert was the regent of Monaco, Charlene faced the jealousy of her wealthy rivals.
Unfortunately for the haters, Charlene crushed their dreams in one fell swoop.
16. She Tamed The Playboy Prince
The public, witnessing the seemingly strong relationship between the couple, clung to the hope Charlene would soon be the First Lady of Monaco. In June 2010, Charlene and Albert put everyone at ease with their engagement announcement. But it wasn’t as clear-cut as it seemed. Charlene had one stipulation before making it official.
17. She Had One Stipulation
Before releasing an official engagement announcement to the public, Charlene made one demand of Albert: She needed the prince to get her father’s blessing first. Luckily for the couple, Charlene’s father, engrossed in a World Cup match, quickly gave his consent. But perhaps he should have given his decision a little more thought.
You see, Charlene was about to marry into a family with a very dark history.
18. She Inherited A Curse
According to legend, Prince Rainier I kidnapped a Flemish woman, who subsequently cursed him. Keeping in line with traditional 13th-century curses, she managed to fit his descendants in as well—and that included Charlene’s beau, Prince Albert. The curse was extreme: “never will a Grimaldi find happiness in marriage.” And considering the recent Grimaldi history, this seems pretty accurate.
Although Charlene may have been oblivious to the 700-year-old curse, she was not exempt from its clutches.
19. Her Mother-in-Law Was Famous
Charlene was not the first foreign-born non-Monégasque to marry into the Grimaldi family. In fact, she was about to step into the shoes of Princess Grace Kelly. Prince Albert’s mother first garnered attention as a leading Hollywood actress. She met and married Prince Rainier III, forsaking her acting career to carry out her duties as a princess and mother.
Like Princess Grace, Charlene was marrying into a whole new world. But would it lead her to a “happy ever after”?
20. She Received An Unexpected Surprise
Prince Albert’s Casanova past came back to haunt Charlene not long after their relationship began. In 2005, the prince dropped one heck of a surprise and admitted to having an illegitimate child, Alexandre, born in 2003. Oh, but that wasn’t all. In 2006, news of a second illegitimate child born in 1992 emerged—a daughter named Jazmin.
This was devastating news to Charlene, but the drama didn’t end there.
21. She Faced More Drama
Still coming to terms with news of her fiancé’s two children, Charlene faced another excruciating hit. Weeks before their wedding, a woman accused the prince of fathering her child. While it may not be newsworthy, the fact that he was with Charlene when this supposedly occurred, is. Blindsided by this disturbing piece of information, Charlene decided to do something about it.
22. Her Reaction To Rumors Was Rom-Com Worthy
Fittings are perhaps one of the highlights for most brides—but Charlene wasn’t like most brides. During her bridal fitting in Paris, news broke of Prince Albert’s possible third child. In response, Charlene chose to sequester herself in the South African embassy, refusing to return to Monaco. She was eventually coaxed into returning—but she had no plans on staying.
23. She Didn’t Give Up
Undeterred by her first failed attempt, rumors stated that Charlene made two more attempts to leave Monaco. The second alleged attempt was during the Grand Prix. However, it was her third alleged attempt that was the closest she got to making a break for freedom. Apparently, she made it to the airport in Nice, France before her passport was confiscated so “the prince’s entourage could persuade her to stay.” Things did not get any better as the wedding day neared.
24. She Allegedly Made A Deal
With rumors running rampant, a wedding just days away, and the royal family’s reputation at stake, something needed to be done. How the prince managed to convince Charlene to marry him has been heavily speculated. Some rumors go as far as saying that they made a disturbing pact—that she could leave the marriage after producing an heir.
Of course, that wasn’t the only thing she’d have to do for the prince.
25. She Embraced Her New Role
Stepping into her new role was not an easy feat for Charlene. She recognized that her role came with new responsibilities and took it upon herself to make adjustments. This included converting to Roman Catholicism, becoming acquainted with European court protocol, and learning French and Monégasque dialects. But perhaps this was just a distraction from what was going on behind the scenes.
26. She Gave Everyone Two Days Off
The wedding was a two-day affair held at the Prince’s Palace of Monaco. Both civil and religious ceremonies were held on July 1 and 2, 2011, respectively. To celebrate, a public holiday took place for the duration of the wedding. Guests included royalty, heads of state and government, entertainers, and sportspersons. However, none of the guests were as noteworthy as the actual ceremony.
27. She Didn’t Run Away
On July 2, 2011, the world waited with bated breath to see if Charlene Lynette Wittstock would indeed walk down the aisle. She did—and in a custom-made Giorgio Armani dress, and 1,237 diamonds, no less. All eyes were on her as she walked towards Prince Albert and into her royal future. However, the bride’s reaction to the whole affair was absolutely shocking.
28. She Couldn’t Contain Her Emotions
Charlene, notorious for her stoic and composed expressions, cried throughout the entire ceremony. What should have been the happiest day of her life looked to be the most miserable. This only added fuel to the fire of the rumors about the rocky relationship between Charlene and Albert. But this horror show of a wedding still wasn’t over.
29. A Horrifying First Kiss
Royal Prince, beautiful dress, romantic setting—check, check, check. All the makings for a cheesy Hallmark moment. Except the prince had to continually whisper encouragement to Charlene by repeating “don’t cry, don’t cry.” The stage was set for Charlene’s first kiss as a married woman, which was both dramatic and super cringeworthy.
30. She Made Her Feelings Known
Prince Albert, being the consummate royal, stuck to the script. Charlene was, let’s say…less convincing. Upon being announced man and wife, Prince Albert had to formally ask Charlene to give him a kiss. And when he kissed her, she recoiled. This set an unfortunate tone for what was supposed to be their fairytale ending.
31. She Had A Depressing Wedding Night
Shrouding secrets has always been a Grimaldi family specialty. That didn’t stop the rumors swirling about what sounds like an unromantic wedding night. News traveled fast, claiming the newly crowned princess stayed in a separate hotel from her new husband for “practical reasons.” If that wasn’t bad enough, she was supposedly under heavy guard.
Oh, but the sad fallout of this union only continued to spiral.
32. Romance Didn’t Interest Her
The newlyweds spent the first day of their honeymoon at an IOC meeting for the Olympics. How (un)romantic! Part two of the honeymoon was a trip to Mozambique. Were they happy? If their wedding was any clue to their behind-the-scenes chemistry, then decidedly not. However, this was only the first sensational scenario of many.
33. She Needed To Fill Big Shoes
As the new Princess of Monaco, Charlene took on the responsibilities that came with the job. Prior to Charlene, her mother-in-law Princess Grace Kelly honored the role. Upon her untimely passing, however, Prince Albert’s sister Princess Caroline carried out the duties. But there was drama here too. Rumors spread about a feud between the two women as Charlene sidelined Caroline.
Luckily, however, the palace has since stepped in, stating that the two princesses have forged a strong relationship. At this point, Charlene needs all the support she can get.
34. She Had To Produce An Heir
Although Prince Albert already had two children (possibly three), they were not considered his rightful heirs. For Albert’s legacy to carry on, his child had to be born in wedlock. Princess Charlene was now in the position of having to produce an heir to carry on the royal family name. No pressure or anything. But would a child help close the rumored distance between Princess Charlene and Albert?
35. She Earned A Reputation
The fallout from her wedding day was swift, brutal, and long-lasting. Her stoic disposition and the crying during her wedding earned Princess Charlene the nickname of Sad Princess. Aware of her reputation, Charlene said “People are very quick to say, ‘Oh, why isn’t she smiling in the photos?’ Well, sometimes it’s hard to smile. They don’t know what’s going on in the background.” Well Charlene, what was going on?
36. She Took On The Media
To clear the air about their marriage, Princess Charlene and Prince Albert sued The Sunday Times for libel. The paper published an article claiming that the royal marriage was a sham and that Charlene was hesitant to marry only two days before her wedding. They received an undisclosed amount and sincere apologies. Even so, the rumors continued to follow them.
37. She Fulfilled Her Duty
On May 30, 2014, Princess Charlene fulfilled her most important royal duty: She confirmed her first pregnancy. It was an exciting time as this would be Prince Albert’s first legitimate heir. In October 2014, they added to the happy news by announcing they were expecting twins. The stunning news surely thrilled the principality—but the critics were always out for royal blood.
38. She Became A Mother
On December 10, 2014, Princess Charlene gave birth to Gabriella Thérèse Marie Grimaldi and Jacques Honoré Rainier Grimaldi, the latter who was the heir apparent. She could now add carrying and delivering twins to her CV right below Olympic champion and princess. Surely the arrival of the twins would put the rumors to rest…Right?
39. Her Life As A Mother Exhausted Her
Princess Charlene has described motherhood as “often exhausting” but “is also very stimulating in many areas.” Observers have commended her on her role as a mother, citing her balance of sensitivity and gentle boundaries. Her parenting style allows for children to be seen as equal to the parent. Her strong bond with her children, however, faced a huge challenge.
40. She Tried To Be A Good Stepmother
Living under the pressure of the continuous rumors about the state of her marriage was undoubtedly stressful for Charlene. To find comfort in her new role and new family, Charlene developed a strong relationship with Albert’s other children Alexandre and Jazmin. Their common struggle cemented their connection: They were all outsiders trying to find their place within the Grimaldi family. But was this enough to keep her going?
41. Her World Came Crashing Down
The third illegitimate child made another appearance in December 2020, when a Brazilian woman sued Prince Albert for paternity. Lawyers claimed the lawsuit was a “hoax,” and Charlene appeared to show a united front with her husband. However, not long after this bombshell dropped, Charlene made a drastic decision…with her hair.
The dramatic undercut pseudo-punkish hairstyle Charlene debuted practically screamed “crisis mode.”
42. She Is Charitable
Charlene spent much of her adult life involved in numerous charities. These include the Ladies Lunch Monte-Carlo, Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Special Olympics, Giving Organisations Trust, the Princess Grace Foundation-USA, amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, and Monaco Against Autism. In addition, she created the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation.
In fact, her involvement in charity work has led to the most recent set of rumors.
43. She Seemed To Disappear
In 2021, Charlene traveled to South Africa. However, many Monégasques questioned her prolonged absence. Her mission? To actively raise awareness of rhinoceros poaching. But to her people, this was not a suitable reason for leaving her family for so long. Finally, the truth behind her extended trip came out. The palace revealed that Charlene had become frightfully ill.
An ear, nose, and throat (ENT) infection had delayed her return. However, her next move was tantamount—and it set gossiping tongues wagging about the state of her marriage.
44. They Questioned Her Health
Although Princess Charlene claimed she was unable to travel due to the operations, many found her reasons unconvincing. After surgery in August 2021, she attempted to once again put the rumors to rest with a picture of her with Prince Albert and their children in South Africa. However, it didn’t seem to quell the noise about their rumored separation, especially considering the prince’s paternity lawsuit.
45. She Returned Under A Shroud Of Secrecy
After several procedures, including a medical emergency related to her ENT issues, Princess Charlene returned in November 2021. However just over a week after her arrival, and without presenting herself to the public, she left Monaco again. The palace announced she was experiencing deep fatigue and would not be participating in royal duties. But this only deepened the mystery.
46. She Embraced The Alps
News of Princess Charlene’s relocation to a Swiss clinic began to take hold. Taking charge of damage control, Albert released the following statement, “She was clearly exhausted, physically and emotionally. She was overwhelmed and couldn’t face official duties, life in general or even family life.” Nice try Albert, but you can’t stop a runaway train.
47. She Returned to Monaco (Again)
After her extended stay at the Swiss clinic and receiving the care required to make a full recovery, Charlene returned to Monaco in March of 2022. But she needed further rest upon her return and had to abstain from her royal duties until further notice. After missing her 10th wedding anniversary and disappearing from the public eye, scrutiny was at an all-time high.
48. Her Husband Protests
Prince Albert addressed speculation about Princess Charlene’s absence and their relationship, stating, “I’m probably going to say this several times, but this has nothing to do with our relationship,” the prince said. “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.”
This quote speaks for itself. Your move Charlene.
49. Her Next Move
Charlene Lynette Wittstock has proved herself to be many things: an Olympic athlete, philanthropist, princess, and provider of unsolved royal mysteries. These days, her Serene Highness Princess Charlene of Monaco will soon reclaim her spot on the center stage of the Grimaldi family—700-year-old curse and all—and the world will watch, with bated breath, to see how the drama unfolds.