No royal has ever shown as much spunk as Princess Stéphanie of Monaco. A rebel straight from childhood, this enfant terrible’s wild streak constantly made headlines worldwide. But could you really blame her for her behavior? Surviving traumatic loss, heartache, and even a family curse, this tumultuous princess frequently found herself thrust under the media microscope. But as we shall soon see, the ordeals of her life would have been difficult for anybody to handle…
Born on February 1, 1965, at the Prince’s Palace in Monaco, Princess Stéphanie Marie Elisabeth Grimaldi is the youngest child of Prince Rainier III of Monaco and famed American actress-turned-princess, Grace Kelly (her older siblings are Princess Caroline and Prince Albert II). Little did she know, her parents were some of the most beloved royals of the era.
Princess Stéphanie’s dad, Prince Rainier III, was an interesting fellow. I mean, the guy ascended the throne of Monaco, wifed an uber-famous American actress, and somehow became one of Europe’s longest-reigning monarchs despite smoking 60 ciggies a day. Not bad, buddy. His most enduring achievement, though? He spruced up Monaco’s economy by—get this—making it a tax haven. That’s right, guys: Rich people getting richer is partially his fault.
Needless to say, the dude intrigued people from all walks of life. Just like Stéphanie’s mother…
Princess Stéphanie’s father may have been born a public figure, but her mother had to strive for a career in the public eye—and she succeeded. Grace Kelly was a prominent Academy Award-winning actress with a long list of credits to her name. To put it simply, the woman was iconic. So much so that even long after her passing, Grace Kelly still served as the influence for Betty Draper’s character on Mad Men. That’s some serious staying power, right there.
So, you can imagine what happened when she got together with Prince Rainier III.
As if being a member of the ruling class didn’t make her conspicuous enough, Princess Stéphanie’s parents weren’t your regular run-of-the-mill royals: They were celebrity royals (think Prince Charles and Princess Diana pre-divorce). Their intent to marry generated an enormous amount of hype, with the media even dubbing their impending nuptials as the “world’s most anticipated wedding.”
In fact, their wedding generated so much public interest that the event itself turned into a giant spectacle. After their private civil ceremony, the royal couple broadcast their religious ceremony on live television the following day. The viewer turnout was enormous; more than 30 million people worldwide tuned in to watch the “wedding of the century.” Yeesh. Talk about pressure at the altar.
And Princess Stéphanie’s parents weren’t her only esteemed relatives…
It turns out that Princess Stéphanie comes from a large family of notables. Besides having a sovereign ruler for a father and an Academy Award-winning mother, many of her relatives are/were Olympic athletes. Her maternal uncle and maternal grandfather were Olympic medalists in rowing; her big brother became an Olympic bobsledder, and her sister-in-law is a former Olympic swimmer.
Imagine life in THAT family.
Many kids struggle to live up to their family’s expectations, and Princess Stéphanie was probably no different. She may not have been first (or even second) in line for the crown, but her overachieving family still expected her to excel. So, she received a fancy French education and studied many extracurriculars, including classical dance, piano, gymnastics, and horseback riding.
At this point, it seems likely that she was facing a lot of familial pressure. And that’s exactly the kind of pressure that tends to inevitably backfire.
Princess Stéphanie wasn’t the best-behaved little tyke. Although she was warm, witty, and intelligent, she quickly earned a reputation for being an absolute wild child, or—as her mother referred to her in French—an enfant terrible. Now, being the baby of her family, this may have been your average case of Youngest Child Syndrome. Or, maybe she was simply rebelling against the bounds of her elite childhood.
Whatever the reason, Princess Stéphanie’s mother disapproved of her conduct, which got more and more unruly as she got older.
Princess Grace was a stern disciplinarian and often used corporal punishment to correct her children’s behavior. Although sharp words were enough to keep her son, Albert, in line, Kelly allegedly spanked her daughter, Caroline, every other day. But in Stéphanie’s case? “I should have been beating her like a gong long ago,” she was quoted as saying.
Regardless, Princess Stéphanie’s wild-streak absolutely exploded after her life took a tragic turn.
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On September 13, 1982, Princess Stéphanie’s life turned upside down. The 17-year-old girl and her mother, Grace Kelly, were driving home together from Roc Agel when her mother suddenly suffered a stroke, causing her to lose control of the car she’d been driving. Although Stéphanie tried to regain control of the vehicle from her passenger seat, their car veered off the slope of a 37-meter (120-foot) mountain and crashed.
Real-life isn’t like in the movies, and when your car swerves off a mountain, you don’t exactly get to stroll away unscathed while a cool ball of fire explodes behind you. This car accident was extremely bad, and Princess Stéphanie got pretty banged up. In addition to suffering a hairline fracture of her cervical vertebrae, she also wound up with a mild concussion.
However, her mother's condition was much, much worse.
Although the crash badly hurt both mother and daughter, Kelly got the worst of it. Suffering from injuries to her brain, thorax, and femur, the Monaco Hospital doctors found it necessary to put her on life support. Sadly, her injuries were beyond healing, and Princess Stéphanie’s father made the heartbreaking decision to turn off her mother’s life support the following night.
But there's one cruel detail about that night that most people don't know.
Unbelievably, no one immediately broke the news to Princess Stéphanie about her mother’s tragic fate. There’s no doubt that she knew her mother’s injuries were terrible, yet, for two whole days after the crash, her family and medical staff allegedly left her to stew in probable anxiety while she waited for word about her mother’s condition. Like, what in the actual heck!? That’s just plain awful.
And to add insult to injury...
Princess Stéphanie wasn’t able to attend her mother’s funeral. Although it took place five days after the accident, she couldn’t go because she was still recovering from her wounds. So, for anyone keeping track: A horrific crash injured the poor girl and her mother; then, no one told her when her mother passed. Now, Princess Stéphanie’s injuries were robbing her of her final opportunity to say goodbye to her mom—a perfect triple whammy. Could things get any worse?
Yes. Yes, they could. Her waking nightmare continued.
Physically and mentally, the accident and its repercussions had really put Princess Stéphanie through the wringer. In fact, the experience completely traumatized her. She’d explain her feelings in an interview years later, saying, “Not only did I go through the horrible trauma of losing my mother at a very young age, but I was beside her at the moment of the accident. Nobody can imagine how much I’ve suffered and still suffer.”
The rumors that were circulating about her didn’t help either…
The public widely adored Princess Grace, so naturally, the shocking news of her sudden death left the world reeling. That’s when the gossip began. Despite the official accident report’s confirmation that her mother was driving the car, a nasty rumor spread that young Princess Stéphanie was the car’s actual driver and that SHE was at fault for causing her mother’s death!
The rumor caught on like wildfire.
Now, you would think that Princess Stéphanie would have the support of her family to rally behind her at such a difficult time. You’d THINK that SOMEONE would want to set the record straight, to stand up and say something like, she’s just a kid. She’s been through something horrible. Stop and leave her alone! But nope. Instead, her family chose to remain silent, leaving the poor 17-year-old to deal with the haters alone. Not cool, fam.
Whether it was because she didn’t know how to handle her trauma or simply because she’d chosen to take the high road, Princess Stéphanie initially refused to speak publicly about the deadly accident, let alone address the gossip surrounding her mother’s passing. In fact, it would take seven years for her to feel ready to discuss the rumors openly.
In the meantime, she needed to move on with her life.
After recovering from the accident, the independently-minded young woman opted to pursue her career interests in the world of fashion. Flitting from one endeavor to the next, she apprenticed at Christian Dior before trying her hand at professional modeling and swimwear design. Eventually, she’d even launch her own perfume brand, called Stéphanie.
But not everyone was pleased with her ventures.
It seemed that Princess Stéphanie’s father allegedly didn’t like that his royal baby girl was cashing in on her good looks, and he wanted her to stop. His tactics started simple enough: He took away her allowance. When that didn’t work (probably because she was earning her own money at this point), he kicked it up a notch by threatening to take her passport away.
So, the spunky princess changed careers…
It may seem unusual for a princess to attempt a pop music career, but Princess Stéphanie was young and talented, so hey—why not? It turned out that she wasn’t half-bad, either. Her French song, “Ouragan” (and her English version, “Irresistible”), were both international hits, with “Ouragan” becoming one of the best-selling singles of all time in France.
However, her success wouldn’t last for long…
Despite her earlier musical triumphs, her career floundered after her last album, Stéphanie, received negative reviews and poor sales. To make things even worse, Princess Stéphanie lent her voice to Michael Jackson’s worldwide hit song, “In The Closet,” but received no acknowledgment for her contribution. Instead, the song credited her as “Mystery Girl,” which meant that no one even knew she had anything to do with it for years.
Okay, body art is really no big deal by modern standards; bajillions of people have tattoos nowadays. But back in the days of yore, the very notion of a princess getting inked would shake all the fuddy-duddy pearl-clutchers to their very core. In any case, Princess Stéphanie reportedly has three tattoos: a motif on her back, two dolphins on her foot, and a floral bracelet.
But whatever gossip that might have generated, it was still the old gossip that she was far more concerned about…
In 1989, Princess Stéphanie finally decided to address the rumors about the accident. She (rightly) refuted all claims that she’d been driving the car and revealed how hurtful those lies had been to her. She explained, “There was a lot of pressure on me because everyone was saying that I had been driving the car, that it was all my fault, that I’d killed my mother...It’s not easy when you’re 17 to live with that.”
No kidding. Her physical injuries may have healed, but it’s the mental ones that tend to linger.
The birth of Princess Stéphanie's third child spawned yet another scandal. Why? This time around, she wouldn’t identify the father. The princess’s Head of Security, Jean Raymond Gottlieb, was immediately pegged as the likely suspect (not that it was anyone’s business), and sure enough, Camille herself has since acknowledged this guy as her dad.
Of course, that’s not to say that Princess Stéphanie’s family formally acknowledged Camille.
Through no fault of her own, Princess Stéphanie’s youngest got the short end of the family stick thanks to some crazy, old-fashioned rule. Unlike her older half-siblings, Camille has zero succession rights to Monaco’s throne because her parents never married. Truthfully though, her exclusion might be a blessing in disguise if it spares her from the scrutiny of the public eye.
Unlike with her mother...
Always on the move, the unlucky-in-love Princess Stéphanie soon fell in love with another man, an elephant trainer named Franco Knie, in 2001. The couple hit it off after meeting at Monte Carlo’s annual International Circus Festival, and even though Knie was already married, the two began a love affair. But that wasn’t even the most eyebrow-raising part.
Princess Stéphanie continued to push the boundaries of the ordinary in favor of living a more colorful life. It wasn’t long before she moved herself and her three young children into Knie’s caravan to travel with him and his circus. She even let her daughter, Pauline, perform in some of the acts! But alas, the relationship didn’t last, and she and her kids returned to Monaco the following year.
Even though 13 years had passed since Princess Stéphanie last refuted the rumors about the accident that claimed her mother’s life, they bafflingly continued to circulate. So, in 2002, she addressed her detractors once again. Claiming that she couldn’t take the rumors anymore, she pleaded with the public, saying, “I just want to say, ‘Stop! Let me raise my children in tranquillity, and go forward with my own life in serenity.’”
But the mental harm was already done.
One would think that as a born member of the Grimaldi dynasty, Princess Stéphanie hit the cosmic jackpot…but did she really? Because it’s possible that a dark and twisted incident from her family’s past is what’s causing all her life’s misfortune. You see, according to legend, the entire Grimaldi family is cursed. Like, furious-witch-seeking-epic-revenge cursed. Why? Well…
Apparently, sometime during the 13th century, Prince Rainier I kidnapped and assaulted a beautiful maiden who (for obvious reasons) was really, really angry about it. So angry, in fact, that she supposedly turned to witchcraft to aid in her revenge. As the story goes, the witch cursed the prince, his entire family, and all subsequent generations—Princess Stéphanie included. So, what was this curse?
In a nutshell, the witch essentially doomed the love-lives of the entire Grimaldi line by declaring, “Never will a Grimaldi find true happiness in marriage.” This might explain Princess Stéphanie’s rough track record in the love department because, supposedly, the curse is causing all her romances to fail. Tough break. Fortunately, she still has the rest of her life to figure it out.
Funnily enough, if Princess Caroline hated the idea of her sister dating a married butler, she must’ve absolutely blown a gasket when she learned that Princess Stéphanie started dating yet another circus performer. Less than a year later, Princess Stéphanie fell in love with Portuguese acrobat Adans Lopez Peres. But unlike her controversial affair with the butler, this relationship would prove a lot more than a mere fling.
Much to her sister’s probable chagrin, Princess Stéphanie married the acrobat on September 12, 2003. Even more interestingly, her new husband was a member of the same circus ensemble as her ex, Franco Knie. Um, awkward. But in any case, their joy would be short-lived. The couple divorced the following year in 2004.
And there was even more heartache on the horizon.
Nearly five months after her second divorce, Princess Stéphanie lost her father on April 6, 2005, following a long bout of heart, kidney, and lung complications. His children buried him in the family plot next to their mother at the Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate. It was the same church where their parents got married in 1956.
And, as if losing her father wasn’t difficult enough, Princess Stéphanie would soon feel the sting of his final wishes.
For whatever reason, Prince Rainier III all but excluded Princess Stéphanie from his will. Instead, he gave the majority of his fortune to her older siblings, Princess Caroline and Prince Albert. Reportedly, it was worth billions. But don’t worry, her father didn’t leave her entirely empty-handed: He left her one percent of his estate. Ouch.
And speaking of inheriting poor fortunes...
Princess Stéphanie experienced her fair share of relationships in her youth (no judgment, it’s a free world). Still, it was her relationship with her bodyguard, Daniel Ducruet, that really hit the headlines. The princess and Ducruet began dating in 1992, and before long, the pair were in love. Unfortunately, this would be no fairytale romance.
It would seem that Ducruet wasn’t entirely single when he began dating Princess Stéphanie. As a matter of fact, Ducruet had a girlfriend—who was six months pregnant with his child. Yikes! Whether she knew about it or not, he doesn’t exactly sound like a very stand-up guy. So, it’s really no wonder Princess Stéphanie’s father disapproved of their relationship.
Before long, Princess Stéphanie decided that she wanted to marry Ducruet and asked her father for his permission. Except that Prince Rainier III really didn’t like this guy; his spidey-sense was tingling hard, and he told her no way. Of course, his headstrong daughter wouldn’t take no for an answer, so she persisted. But her dad wouldn’t budge.
Regardless, her father’s dissent didn’t stop Princess Stéphanie from carrying on with the romance anyway.
In the course of their relationship, Princess Stéphanie had two children with Ducruet: Louis (born only 10 months after Ducruet’s jilted ex gave birth to his first son, Michaël) and Pauline. Unfortunately, because their parents weren’t married, the law considered both children illegitimate and excluded them from the line of succession to the throne.
Luckily for them, though, a change of heart was coming…
Princess Stéphanie never gave up on the idea that one day, her father might change his mind about letting her marry Ducruet. It’s hard to say what finally swayed him: his daughter’s constant nagging, the cherubic faces of his sweet little grandchildren, or the double bypass surgery he underwent around this same time. In any case, Prince Rainier III eventually relented, and Princess Stéphanie married Ducruet on July 1, 1995.
Although the point of a wedding is to, you know, get married, this particular ceremony did much more than just joining Princess Stéphanie and Ducruet together as husband and wife—it also legitimated their children. This meant that the succession line to the Monégasque throne now legally included both Louis and Pauline. Hurray!
Everything was finally coming together for Princess Stéphanie. But then, just as quickly, it all fell apart.
As the saying goes, “Once a cheater, always a cheater,” and Ducruet ultimately betrayed his new wife’s trust. In 1996, the paparazzi caught Ducruet canoodling with a woman named Muriel “Fili” Mol-Houteman, AKA “Miss Bare Breasts of Belgium” (classy, right?). Once the photographs of their little tryst surfaced in the Italian tabloids, the proverbial cat was out of the bag…
Now, Ducruet likely had it pretty good as the husband of a princess, and he probably panicked when the news of his affair first broke. So, he did what cheaters always do: He denied the whole thing and claimed that he got set up. Little did he know, the paparazzi took more than just photographs. There was also a 90-minute video.
Once that story hit the headlines, there was no denying it anymore…so he ran away to Morocco. Dude, really?
Having fought so hard for the right to marry Ducruet, there’s no doubt that the scandal must have crushed Princess Stéphanie. But her dad’s initial instincts about him had been right on the money, and he doubtlessly whispered a secret “I told you so” into the wind as his daughter submitted her written request for a divorce.
The pair were officially splitsville on October 4, 1996.
As you’ve probably already figured out, Princess Stéphanie’s romantic endeavors tended to cause a lot of tension between her and her family. Sure enough, her next beau would prove no exception. What was the issue this time? Well…the princess was dating her father’s butler, Richard Lucas. Or, better to say, her father’s married butler.
She had dated married men before, but this time, her sister was downright aghast.
Right or wrong, whoever someone dates should be nobody else’s business but their own, right? Right. But when you’re a public figure representing a royal family, people tend to take notice. Especially said royal family. In particular, Princess Caroline was fed up with her 37-year-old sister’s exploits and allegedly accused Princess Stéphanie of dragging their family name through the mud with her romantic fiascos. SHOTS FIRED.
Then, Princess Caroline gave their father an ultimatum.
Although the Grimaldi family typically attended an annual gala called the Red Cross Ball together, things changed that year. Mere hours before the event, the still-indignant Princess Caroline supposedly told her father that she refused to go to the gala if her sister would be there. Naturally, this caused quite the debate, as Princess Stéphanie had every intention of making an appearance.
But in the end, Princess Caroline won out, and the family forbade Princess Stéphanie from attending the ball. How Cinderellaesque of them.
While interviewing with a French magazine in 2002, Princess Stéphanie made a devastating confession: She acknowledged that she’d always be responsible for the loss of her mother in the eyes of the public. But what she said next was truly heartbreaking. She stated that she had nothing to feel guilty about because she’d done nothing wrong—with one exception: “Unless, perhaps, the fact that I am still here, and that it was I who survived.”
Seriously, someone give the poor woman a hug.
Regardless of her portrayal as an enfant terrible (which is really not the best nickname in the world), Princess Stéphanie doesn’t actually consider herself a true wild child. She once explained, “I don’t see myself as a rebel, but of course, it all depends on what you consider normal. The most important thing is to feel happy with what you yourself decided.”
In other words, she’s just trying to live her best life, as we all should.
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