Prince Albert of Monaco is facing growing calls to reveal whether his marriage to Princess Charlene is on the rocks after he attended a ball alongside his former mistress and their love child during his wife’s extended stay in South Africa.
Images have now emerged online showing Albert’s, 63, former mistress Nicole Coste and their love child Alexandre Grimladi-Coste, 18, attending Monaco’s the Red Cross Ball alongside the royal in July, which came during Charlene’s leave of absence from the country.
Mother-of-two Charlene, 43, was last seen in Monaco in January and has been in her home country of South Africa for months after contracting a ‘serious sinus infection’. Two weeks ago she underwent a ‘four-hour operation under general anaesthesia’, although it was not made clear whether this was linked to the sinus infection.
The absence of Charlene from Monaco, which has involved missing a string of high-profile events, has led to speculation around the state of her marriage, after news emerged that Albert is facing a paternity suit over a love child born in the early years of their relationship.
Charlene and Albert reunited last week for the first time in months after Albert and their children flew to South Africa, but photographs of the pair embracing were branded ‘awkward’ by a body language expert.
In recent weeks, lifestyle magazines across Europe have speculated feverishly that the royal couple could be headed for divorce. French magazine Madame Figaro stating the images ‘failed to convince the Monegasques’ amid reports Charlene is looking for a house in Johannesburg.
Prince Albert, 63, and Princess Charlene of Monaco, 43, are facing growing calls to reveal whether their marriage is on the rocks after spending months apart
French royal commentator Stéphane Bern pointed out that in Charlene’s absence, Albert had allowed Nicole Coste, an air hostess with whom he had an affair, to attend the Red Cross ball in July (pictured, Albert at the event)
Images have now emerged online showing Albert’s former mistress Nicole (left) and their love child Alexandre (right) attending the ball alongside Prince Albert
According to The Telegraph, the magazine asked: ‘How long can she remain away from her children, her duties?’
‘How long will the fight against rhinoceros poaching remain the Princess of Monaco’s top priority?
‘How long will Albert II of Monaco go on bearing this affront, which is becoming ridiculous?’
Historian Philippe Delorme said that ‘lots of people got the impression it was an arranged marriage’ between Charlene and Albert, adding: ‘Albert chose a wife who resembled his mother, and Charlene clearly felt very ill at ease in this Grace Kelly role they wanted her to play’
And according to The Times, French royal commentator Stéphane Bern has stated Charlene rarely stayed in the royal palace with Albert while living in Monaco and instead lived in a flat over a luxury chocolate shop.
He pointed out that in Charlene’s absence, Albert had allowed Nicole, an air hostess with whom he had an affair, to attend the Red Cross ball.
In photographs shared online, Nicole can be seen wearing an elegant purple gown to the event with dangling diamond earrings, while the son she shares with Prince Albert (right) opted for a blue suit
In May 2005, just before he was enthroned as Prince of Monaco, Albert confirmed he was the biological father of Alexandre, 18, whose mother was Nicole, a former Air France flight attendant from Togo (pictured together in 2002)
Former Olympic swimmer Charlene reportedly tried to flee Monaco for her native South Africa on three separate occasions before the royal wedding after discovering Albert had allegedly fathered a love child – his third – while they were together. She was seen in floods of tears on her wedding day in 2011 (pictured)
The couple recently reunited for the first time in months after Albert and their children flew to South Africa, but photographs of the pair embracing were branded ‘awkward’ by body language expert Judi James
The son who was born of that affair, Alexandre, 18, also attended the event in July.
In May 2005, just before he was enthroned as Prince of Monaco, Albert confirmed he was the biological father of Alexandre, whose mother is Nicole, a former Air France flight attendant from Togo.
Neither Alexandre nor his half sister Jazmin can claim the throne of Monaco, according to negotiated financial agreements.
The line of succession instead favours Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella, who have just turned six, and who frequently appear in their parents’ social media posts.
Nicole previously said that after Albert married Charlene, the royal distanced himself from his son.
She told the Mail On Sunday in 2014: ‘The truth is that, I’m sorry to say, Albert hasn’t seen Alexandre since a brief visit last September. It has become impossible since he married that girl.
‘I suppose as a new wife, how would one feel? But she should think about my innocent child.
‘I don’t want to attack her but I think it is just jealousy and I don’t know why. I have been through hell in my fight for my son’s name and future.’
The mounting speculation about the couple’s marriage comes days after Charlene shared professional photographs of her reunion with Prince Albert online, saying she was ‘thrilled’ to have her family back.
Last week, she shared a series of photos cuddled up with her kids in South Africa with the caption: ‘I am so thrilled to have my family back with me (Gabriella decided to give herself a haircut!!!) Sorry my Bella I tried my best to fix it,’ referring to her daughter’s choppy fringe.
However a body language expert told FEMAIL Princess Charlene showed ‘no emotional bond’ towards her husband Prince Albert in the images.
Judi James said that rather than being the loved-up reunion photo one would expect of a couple surrounded by split rumours, the royals’ poses suggested ‘no signs of connection between awkward-looking Albert and Charlene’.
Albert and six-year-old twins Jacques and Gabriella will stay with former Olympic swimmer Charlene while she recovers, the palace previously announced, although it is not clear how long their stay will be, but the princess will not return to Monaco until at least the end of October.
Charlene has been in South Africa since at least March, with media reports suggesting she is looking for a house there.
The prince, who already supports two illegitimate children, is alleged to have been in a relationship with a Brazilian woman which resulted in a daughter in 2005.
The claim, which his lawyers dismissed as a ‘hoax’, is particularly painful as he was dating Charlene at the time, having met in 2000.
However, Charlene has publicly supported her husband, and the palace have reiterated she is only in South Africa because she’s unable to fly.
On August 13, the Monaco palace released a statement saying Charlene was to undergo surgery.
It read: ‘Princess Charlene will undergo an operation today, Friday, August 13, for four hours under general anaesthesia.
On June 3, Charlene shared photograph of her family on safari in South Africa as her twins and husband flew to South Africa to celebrate her niece Avia’s fifth birthday.
In a snap showing the last time they were seen together, Albert, Jacques and Gabriella, were joined in an open top car by Charlene’s brother Sean Wittstock, 37, and his children. She captioned it with a simple heart emoji.
In earlier snaps, the family gathered around a birthday cake with Sean, his wife Chantell, 34, their eldest son Raigen, 7, and the birthday girl.
‘Happy 5th Birthday, Aiva! Love, Auntie Charlene,’ she wrote.
‘Prince Albert and their children, Crown Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella will join her during her recovery period.’
The princess will not return to Monaco until at least the end of October.
Princess Charlene, who has been well enough to conduct interviews from South Africa and has been seen out and about, has used the time to promote her anti-poaching initiative, Chasing Zero
Charlene’s last formal engagement was on January 27 when she joined Albert for the Sainte Devote Ceremony in Monte Carlo. She has not been seen at home since.
Instead she has been keeping followers updated through social media posts and media interviews, in which she has spoken candidly about missing her children and described her husband as ‘her rock’.
Speaking to South Africa Radio 702’s host Mandy Wiener last week, the royal said: ‘[It’s] very frustrating, terribly frustrating. I can’t wait to get back to them, I can’t wait to see my children.’
Charlene revealed: ‘It’s the longest period I’ve actually been away from Europe, let alone my children, but I’m FaceTiming them most days and they’ve been here and will be returning to see me again after my procedure.
‘It’s an amazing opportunity [to be here] but I’m very sad I can’t be with my children this summer in Europe.’
She added that she was initially only supposed to be in her native South Africa for ten to 12 days for a conservation trip with her Princess Charlene of Monaco foundation.
However, the royal had a problem ‘equalising her ears’ and was told by a doctor that she was suffering from a serious sinus infection.
‘It’s taken time to address the problem that I’m having,’ explained Charlene. ‘I cannot go into full detail, but I cannot force healing so I will be grounded in South Africa until the end of October.
‘The reason being I cannot fly above 3,000 metres otherwise I’ll have a problem with my ears.
‘I feel well, I feel good, it’s just obviously a waiting game for me, but I’ve had a great opportunity to understand a little bit more about South Africa, the environment, the needs and it’s been wonderful to be back in South Africa, and I think at this time it’s crucial that people are aware of certain things via my foundation.’
The family flew out to be with Princess Charlene in South Africa as she recovers from a mystery operation
Charlene, 43, who was last seen in Monaco in January, shared professional photographs of their reunion on Instagram (pictured). She joked her daughter Gabriella (left) had given herself a haircut
Mummy’s boy: Princess Charlene poses with her son Jacques, who is heir to the Monaco throne. She said she was delighted to be back with her family. The family were last together at the start of June, when Albert and the children flew out to South Africa to be with Charlene
Play time! Twins Jacques and Gabriella climb a tree in one of the photos shared on Instagram. Albert and six-year-old twins Jacques and Gabriella will stay with Charlene while she recovers, the palace previously announced, although it is not clear how long their stay will be
Charlene joined the video interview from bush country in the KwaZulu-Natal region.
She has also shared videos released by the Monaco royal palace to mark her and Albert’s 10th wedding anniversary, which took place in July. The couple spent the milestone thousands of miles apart.
But royal sources have suggested the princess has ‘no plans’ to return soon.
A palace source told Paris Match: ‘The Princess has, for the time being, in reality, no intention of returning.’
The separation is also affecting Charlene’s relationship with the people of Monaco.
Stéphane Bearn uses an impeccably sourced piece in the latest Paris Match to discuss the torturous separation.
Last Monaco outing together: Charlene and Albert were last pictured together at an official event together in January at the Sainte Devote Ceremony in Monaco. Albert has made a few visits to South Africa since
Last seen together: Albert and the twins paid a brief visit to South Africa in early June (pictured), the Palace has confirmed, but they otherwise keep in touch via video link. They are pictured with Charlene’s brother brother Sean Wittstock, 37, and his son Raigen, seven, and daughter Aiva, five
He describes subjects in Monaco becoming increasingly angry about their runaway Princess, as they criticise everything from Charlene’s mood swings to her appearance.
‘In Monaco, since the departure of Charlene, tongues have loosened,’ Mr Bearn writes.
‘In the whirlwind of a hard-nosed court, her fine shine is rubbing off. Her sad looks are regarded as haggard.
‘Disappointed Monegasques talk about her anger, her whimsical moods, which are as changeable as her hair.’
The former Olympian, 43, has not been seen in Monaco since January and has spent the last few months holed up in her native South Africa while she receives treatment for a ‘serious sinus infection’ she developed while on a solo visit trip to the country (pictured)
Referring to the couple’s twins, who until now have remained in Monaco with their nannies, Mr Bearn writes: ‘The Palace had to invoke a suffering Princess so often that the Monegasques today find it hard to believe.
‘By crying wolf, the mother of Jacques and Gabriella would have discredited and isolated herself.’
During her trip, Charlene also debuted a dramatic new shaved hairstyle.
She showcased the ‘French crop’ hairdo – featuring a longer strip on top of the head and dramatically shaved back and sides – in snaps shared on her charity’s Instagram page in late May.
The royal first stepped out with a dramatic half-shaved head in December 2020 but has since gone even shorter and bolder with the cut.
Charlene and Albert’s marriage has been plagued with rumours from the start.
The couple met at the Mare Nostrum swimming competition in Monte Carlo in 2000, announced their engagement in 2010.
Former Olympic swimmer Charlene reportedly tried to flee Monaco for her native South Africa on three separate occasions before the royal wedding after discovering Albert had allegedly fathered a love child – his third – while they were together.
Monaco officials were said to have coaxed her back by brokering a deal between the Prince and his reluctant bride, saying she could leave once she had provided him with a legitimate heir.
One source said at the time: ‘Charlene will provide an heir, then if things don’t go well, she will receive a generous divorce settlement once she’s served a decent amount of time.’
Charlene was seen in floods of tears on her wedding day in 2011.
Just one year after their wedding, it was reported that Charlene was ‘depressed’ at her failure to provide her husband with a legitimate heir.
Her pregnancy was announced in May 2014, and in December that year she gave birth to twins Princess Gabriella and heir to the throne Prince Jacques.
In the 10 years since, Charlene has rarely spoken publicly of her experience.
In 2017, the Princess made an emotional return to Africa, where she spoke about how much the continent means to her.
‘I am African and this is my heritage. It will always be. It’s in my heart and in my veins,’ she told Eyewitness News.
Last year she admitted life was ‘very painful’, saying: ‘I have the privilege of having this life, but I miss my family and my friends in South Africa and I’m often sad because I cannot always be there for them.’
It’s been a tumultuous start to the year for the royal, after news emerged that her husband is facing a paternity suit over a love child born in the early years of their relationship.
The 34-year-old claimant – who cannot be named for legal reasons – says she had a passionate affair with Albert, leading to the birth of their daughter – whose name is also classified – on July 4, 2005.
Albert received a handwritten letter from the child, who is now 15, in September last year reading: ‘I don’t understand why I grew up without a father, and now that I have found you, you don’t want to see me.’
Legal papers were also filed, as lawyers for the claimant called on Albert to undergo a DNA test – just as he did before finally being identified as the father of two illegitimate children born in the 1990s and early 2000s.
In January, Charlene spoke publicly for the first time since the allegations, telling Point de Vue: ‘When my husband has problems, he tells me about it. I often tell him, “No matter what, no matter what, I’m a thousand percent behind you. I’ll stand by you whatever you do, in good times or in bad.”
The mother-of-two went on to say she also often tells her husband she will ‘protect him’ and will ‘always be by his side.’
Charlene, who was raised in South Africa and represented the country at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, travelled to Thanda Safari in KwaZulu-Natal in January to learn more about being done by the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation South Africa to help save rhinos from poachers.
The princess took part in conservation operations including rhino monitoring and tracking, deployment with the Anti-Poaching Unit, educational wildlife photography sessions, and a White Rhino dart and dehorning exercise.