Under normal circumstances one would expect the first birthday of a twin daughter and son coinciding with their second Christmas to be a time of joy for their mother. Princess Charlene of Monaco, however, has proven time and again that “normal” just isn’t a word that applies to her, her marriage, or any aspect of her life since agreeing, supposedly against her better judgement, to marry Monaco’s ruler almost 5 years ago. Her behavior throughout this recent Yuletide proved no exception. From giving a brief, obviously scripted interview with her husband and children in a corner of one of the great halls at the palace, which had been momentarily converted into a makeshift family room, looking as if she could barely contain her bitterness; to later doling out presents to orphans appearing to be ready to start hurling the bags of gifts at the children at any moment; to posing for a family Xmas card in which she conveys more saltiness and repressed sarcasm than joy, Her Serene Highness proved over and over again throughout the course of last December that it definitely wasn’t what she considered the most wonderful time of the year. The latest rumor out of Monaco is that, while she’s a loving and devoted mother, her recent move to a villa just outside the Principality with her husband and children while their palace undergoes renovation has only exacerbated how empty and passionless their marriage is. Having fulfilled her most important constitutional duty to the throne by birthing an heir and spare in one fell swoop, she’s momentarily given up trying to be the perfect heiress to Princess Grace’s legacy and is happy to pawn off her ribbon cutting, gala attending duties on her rumored more than obliging sister-in-law, Princess Caroline.
Charlene’s in-laws, in general it seems, appear quite happy with her recent self imposed exile. A quick perusal through various snapshots taken of them since January reveal the Grimaldis to be far more relaxed and happy in each other’s company, sans Charlene, than they’ve been in years. Their behavior at this year’s Bal de la Rose, once again without Princess Sourpuss around to spoil their natural high, told its own story. The photos of Prince Albert ll and his older sister dearest smiling naturally together and appearing positively bubbly and unbothered in each other’s presence seemed quite disconcerting, given the alleged previous, although only privately expressed, mutual antipathy shared by these two is so well known that one might ponder if they’d been Cane and Able in a previous life. Rumor out of Monte Carlo states this recent show of sibling solidarity is no act. Albert and Caroline are indeed allegedly getting on better these days with Charlene’s absence obliging the Princess of Hanover to once again take up the lion’s share of First Lady duties. For all her many speculated upon flaws, Albert can at least rely on Frau Hanover to keep up appearances when the going gets rough. He can certainly rely on Caroline more than his mercurial consort.
Indeed, despite his constant protestations to People magazine in the last several months that he and his wife are blissfully happy together, Princess Charlene’s behavior is telling a very different story. In fact, one can now state Tom Sykes’ prediction in his article, Princess Charlene’s Monaco Nightmare, published Sept. 14, 2014 in The Daily Beast has come to pass. In the piece, penned toward the conclusion of HSH’s pregnancy, Sykes wrote that as soon as her children were safely delivered, Charlene would high tail it out of her husband’s realm and lie low for awhile, relieved to no longer be forced to endure the politely hostile company of Albert ll’s subjects. While His Serene Highness has long been notorious for his love of mannish women from middle/working class backgrounds, his fellow Monegasques, particularly his courtiers, are rumored not to share in his affinity, and have been particularly displeased by his choice of spouse. Nicknaming her Princess Barbie, both because of her ill at ease, artificial public demeanor as well as her obvious addiction to plastic surgery, the grandes dames of Monte Carlo are rumored to remain as unimpressed with Princess Charlene as they’ve ever been, and she in turn is happy to remain as far away from them as possible. Her sojourn, however, is rumored to have not brought her the solace she expected it would.
Once again, one must return to the unfortunate December interview conducted at the Palace with Their Serene Highnesses and their infant twins. Conceived as a commemoration of Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella’s first birthday, DVDs of the recorded interview were sent out as Christmas presents to all resident Monagasuques. While many a Grimaldi subject found it quite amusing, they didn’t find the disk entertaining for the reasons Al and Char intended. Once again, their cold awkwardness toward each other was captured perfectly by the television cameras. Perhaps the most telling moment came when Princess Charlene, a former Olympic swimmer, mentioned she was teaching her children how to swim, and how proud she was at how comfortable they were while being nearly submerged in water. Prince Albert then chimed in clarifying that they’d hired an outside instructor to give the children swimming lessons, indicating said coach was doing most of the work while Charlene acted more like a teaching assistant when it came to their children’s aquatic education. Her Serene Highness immediately shot her husband a scathing look that all but declared he’d better get comfortable on the sofa atop which he was perched, for that’s where he’d be sleeping that evening. It’s long been speculated that wherever Albert ll sleeps most nights, it’s typically not in the company of his wife.
This lies at the heart of Princess Charlene’s rumored latest bout of depression. Having successfully escaped, at least temporarily, from Monaco, she can’t escape from the emptiness of her marriage, or that of her life in general. It’s been whispered that even her children aren’t able to fill the void. Unfortunately, her facial expression on her family’s most recent Christmas card only adds fuel to the fires of speculation.
While the author sympathizes with Monaco’s absentee First Lady to a certain extent, he also feels she’s missing out on an incredible opportunity to give her life meaning and make herself internationally relevant at the same time. We’re all aware of the plight of Syrian/North African refugees in Europe currently, particularly concerning their children. We all remember the heart breaking photos of these poor little souls’ lifeless bodies having washed ashore on the beaches of Greece and Turkey. Princess Charlene’s foundation’s specific raison d’être is the teaching of children how to swim! In the midst of this ongoing humanitarian crisis, is this not the ideal time for Charlene to set up a camp to teach these itinerant, Arab and North African tykes how to successfully swim to safety? If the mass refugee expulsions the international press keeps predicting are about to happen all over Europe, it won’t be too much longer before these kids might once again find themselves treading water for their dear little lives in the Mediterranean, so why can’t Princess Charlene, under the auspices of her foundation, set up at least one token camp that adequately prepares them for the inevitable? She might wind up winning a Nobel Prize for this, or at the very least get a citation from the Vatican.
Tongue and cheek hyperbole aside, Princess Charlene is currently failing miserably in her task to prove to the world that she’s even an adequate Princess of Monaco. Those of you who’ve read at least one reputable biography of her late mother-in-law, Princess Grace, are aware that she, too, never quite warmed to life in her adopted country, and at one point in the late 60s began spending the majority of the year at her family’s Avenue Foch apartment in Paris. While ostensibly there to oversee her daughters’ education, who were both attending school in the French capital at the time, many an author has since proved that her real motivation was to spend time away from Monaco’s claustrophobic atmosphere. While it’s understandable that Charlene would want to escape her husband’s less than hospitable realm every now and then, she must face the reality of the life she chose when she married Prince Albert ll those several years ago. Being a princess requires work, an ability to smile in the face of one’s enemies, and a talent for appearing amused even when one is bored out of one’s mind. If she’s not prepared to accept the responsibility of life as the consort of a ruling prince, then perhaps it’s time for her to consider what her life would be like without him. Of course, she’d have to sacrifice her children to her ex-husband in exchange for her freedom. Most onlookers presume that’s now too high a price for her to be willing to pay. If ever there’s a princess in Europe trapped in a real life Catch 22, it’s Princess Charlene of Monaco.