Princess Charlene of Monaco stepped out in Milan yesterday without her engagement ring after denying divorce rumours with her husband Prince Albert.
The 44-year-old Olympic swimmer looked casual in a beige jumper as she made her way into the Four Seasons hotel without her dazzling three-carat ring, which she does not frequently wear.
French magazine ROYAUTÉ recently claimed the royal couple – who wed in 2011 – are in the process of separation – a rumour that gained momentum when the article was repeated by gossip sites, which in turn sparked speculation on social media.
However, the Palace’s press office said they ‘formally deny the malicious rumours peddled by the magazine’.
A spokesperson said: ‘I would like to formally deny the malicious rumours peddled by the French magazine Royauté. Please disregard this article which is totally unfounded.’
Princess Charlene of Monaco stepped out in Milan yesterday without her engagement ring after denying divorce rumours with her husband Prince Albert
The pair’s relationship timeline has hardly been smooth sailing; rumours about the state of their marriage began to swirl after Charlene was absent from Monaco for most of 2021 while having medical treatment in her native South Africa.
The mother-of-two was admitted to a Swiss clinic to be treated for exhaustion on her return – but is now back in full swing with royal duties and public appearances.
Charlene and Albert – who share eight-year-old twins Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella – married in July 2011 after the prince proposed with a handcrafted pear-cut diamond flanked by smaller diamonds designed by Paris-based Italian jeweller Repossi.
Later, during the wedding service, the couple exchanged 18-carat white gold platinum rings by Cartier, with Charlene laughing as she placed the ring on her husband’s finger.
However there have been reports of a rift between the prince and princess ever since their high-profile marriage.
Here, as Charlene, 45, and 65-year-old Albert’s relationship faces scrutiny once again, FEMAIL delves into their tumultuous romance…
FROM THEIR FIRST MEETING TO THEIR ENGAGEMENT
Their first public appearance as a couple: Prince Albert with Charlene in Turin for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games
It would be in 2000 that Albert first met swimmer Charlene Wittstock in Monaco where she was representing South Africa and would go on to win gold. But no one was expecting a romance to blossom.
Their lives were very different. Sports-mad Charlene was 20 years his junior. Her father Michael was a photocopier salesman, and her mother Lynette a competitive diver.
But the pair allowed their relationship to develop slowly outside the public eye, and they did not make a public appearance until February 2006.
The occasion was the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics. French journalist Philippe Delorme said at the time: ‘She was on his arm for the entire ceremony and they made no attempt to hide their affection for each other, sharing kisses and other tender gestures.’
Then, in June 2010, their engagement was announced. Albert proposed with a pear-cut diamond ring.
‘People could hardly believe it,’ Delorme added. ‘For four years, since they had first been seen together, the Monegasques had been holding their breath.’
Charlene was required to convert to Catholicism — she was raised a Protestant — and had to learn both French and the Monegasque dialect.
Delorme told the Daily Mail in 2011 that Albert finally meeting someone was a tale of Hollywood proportions: ‘If the Princess Grace story was a movie, then Princess Charlene is the remake.
‘The reality is that Albert is 52, a bit overweight, and much less fabulous and glamorous than his father was. It feels a bit like a love story of an old man and a young woman rather than a story of two young lovers.’
In her first interview after the royal wedding was announced, Charlene spoke of the challenges she faced making the transition from the life of an athlete to that of a future royal bride.
she admitted to experiencing ‘jealousy’ among some members of Monaco’s social elite. ‘The people I mixed with in Monaco didn’t relate to my South African mentality or humour,’ she told Tatler.
‘Of course I’ve been subject to jealousy, but that comes with the territory. Although I have met some wonderful people since I’ve been living in Monaco, I regard them all as acquaintances. I only have two people I consider friends here.’
CHARLENE DUBBED THE ‘RUNAWAY BRIDE’
The couple shared a seemingly awkward kiss during their religious wedding ceremony on July 2, 2011 in Monaco
Cried and groom: Charlene had been accused of trying to run away three times before she married
Who are the Monaco Royal Family?
Rainier III had three children with wife Grace Kelly
Rainier III ruled Monaco for almost 56 years, making him one of the longest ruling monarchs in European history.
He was crucially responsible for the transformation of Monaco economy, shifting from its traditional casino base to its current status as a tax haven and cultural destination.
He also coordinated the substantial reforms of Monaco’s constitution, which limited the powers of sovereign rule. He wed US film star Grace Kelly in 1956, with generated global media attention.
They had three children, Caroline, Princess of Hanover, Prince Albert and Princess Stéphanie.
Caroline served as first lady of Monaco until her brother married Charlene in 2011. She regularly attends important social events in Monaco, such as the National Day celebrations, the annual Rose Ball and the Red Cross Ball.
She married French banker Philippe Junot in 28 June 1978, before divorcing in 1980, before marrying Stefano Casiraghi, with whom she had three children Andrea Albert Pierre Casiraghi, Charlotte Marie Pomeline Casiraghi and Pierre Rainier Stefano Casiraghi.
Stefano was killed in a speed boating accident in 1990, with Caroline going on to marry Prince Ernst August of Hanover, Duke of Brunswick in 1999, and have one daughter Princess Alexandra Charlotte Ulrike Maryam Virginia of Hanover.
Meanwhile Princess Stéphanie has been a singer, swimwear designer and fashion model.
Tragically, on 13 September 1982, while returning home from their farm in Rocagel, France, Stéphanie and her mother had a car accident. Grace died the next day, on September 14, while Stéphanie sustained a fracture of a neck vertebra.
She began a relationship with Daniel Ducruet with whom she had two children, Louis and Pauline. She gave birth to her third child Camille Gottlieb in 1992.
Prince Albert II ascended to the throne after the death of his father, Prince Rainier III, on 6th April 2005. He is one of the wealthiest royals in the world, worth an estimated $1 billion.
He married former Olympic swimmer Charlene in 2011 and gave birth to twins Princess Gabriella and Prince Jacques in 2014
The children are often seen at royal events alongside Princess Charlene and Prince Albert, including on the balcony at Monaco’s National Day celebrations on 19th November every year.
At the time of their wedding, Charlene was dubbed the ‘Runaway Bride’ by the French media after allegedly trying to flee before the ceremony, but the reports were always denied.
A Parisian news magazine reported that Charlene had been stopped at Nice airport after allegedly learning a ‘distressing’ revelation about her future husband’s private life.
A senior Monaco detective claimed at the time: ‘Charlene had her passport confiscated so that the Prince’s entourage could persuade her to stay’.
The rumour mill in France went into overdrive. Charlene had, it was suggested, heard talk of another illegitimate child, conceived when she was dating Prince Albert in 2005, and who would bring his tally of children born out of wedlock to three.
But the Princess would go on to dismiss the ‘hilarious’ rumours. She said: ‘Why would he go through all this effort to have our dearest friends come join us, for us to be reluctant?’
On June 30, 2011, Charlene, then 33, and 53-year-old Albert’s three-day wedding, thought to cost around £53million, went underway.
The Eagles kicked off festivities with a concert, before a civil ceremony took place the following day in the Throne Room of the Prince’s Palace.
Charlene wore a custom-made aquamarine Chanel suit that was matched to the colour of her eyes. And the newlyweds posed for some seemingly very awkward photos, no doubt the runaway rumours hanging over their heads.
Then finally there was the religious ceremony. The bride’s silk wedding dress was designed by Giorgio Armani, had a six-metre train and was studded with 40,000 Swarovski crystals and 20,000 mother of pearl tear drops. It took a total of 2,500 hours to make.
Guests included the then-French President Nicholas Sarkozy, Carla Bruni, Naomi Campbell, Roger Moore, Philip Green, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, as well as Prince Edward and Sophie Wessex.
But Charlene appeared serious and in floods of tears during the ceremony prompting much speculation.
Speaking about her big day, Charlene said later in an interview: ‘Everything was just so overwhelming and there were all the mixed emotions because of the rumours, and obviously the tension built up and I burst into tears [immediately after the ceremony].
‘And then I burst into tears some more because I was thinking “Oh no, now the whole world has seen me cry”’.
She continued: ‘I think I kind of went into Olympic mode. I was in the zone, and I don’t think anything was affecting me at that time. When all the rumours had started and people were questioning this and that, I just totally ignored it.’
Since her wedding day, the royal has often gone without either ring – and on occasion even worn different rings on her wedding finger.
In the early days of marriage, the royal was often spotted showing off the dazzler, but since 2017 she’s seldom been seen pictured wearing the rings – even at formal events.
Photos of her at the Monaco National day Gala concert in 2012 show her wearing the ring, while she was seen wearing it again to greet the crowd from the Palace’s balcony during the Monaco National Day Celebration in 2017.
But during the same celebration in 2019 she was without the ring as she stepped out of the palace on the arm of Albert to greet crowds.
Several times throughout 2019 and 2020 she was in public without her engagement ring or wedding band.
THE ROYAL COUPLE’S TWINS
The royal couple went on to have two children, eight-year-old twins, Jacques and Gabriella (pictured at National Day 2022 at the Monaco Palace)
Prince Albert with his ex, Nicole Coste, 50, and their son Alexandre Grimaldi-Coste
The actress and singer Jazmin Grace Grimaldi didn’t meet her father until she was 11 but has a close relationship with him now
In 2014, the couple announced their ‘immense joy’ that Charlene was pregnant. Twins Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella were born on December 10 in 2014.
Gabriella Thérèse Marie was born at 5:04pm and Jacques Honoré Rainier two minutes later.
Despite being the younger sibling, Jacques took precedence in the line of succession reflecting the priority given to males by Monaco’s laws.
Their twins are seen as the family’s official heirs, despite Albert having fathered two illegitimate children before he dated Charlene.
In May 2005, just before he was enthroned as Prince of Monaco, Albert confirmed he was the biological father of Alexandre, whose mother was Nicole Coste, a former Air France flight attendant from Togo.
A DNA test in May 2006 also confirmed Albert was the father of Jazmin Grace, the result of an affair with Tamara Rotolo, an American estate agent he met while she was on holiday in the South of France in 1991.
THIRD PATERNITY SUIT AGAINST ALBERT EMERGES
Prince Albert and Princess Charlene of Monaco (pictured in November 2022 in New York City) have formally denied ‘the malicious rumours’ that they are separating after almost 12 years of marriage
The past few years have been particularly rocky for the couple, as they have been hit with rumours about their marriage.
Albert was hit with a legal claim for cash by an alleged illegitimate child in December 2020, and soon afterwards Charlene shaved half her head in the style of a punk rocker.
There were allegations that Albert had fathered a love-child with an unnamed Brazilian woman during the time when he and Charlene were already in a relationship.
The woman said she met the Prince in a nightclub in Rio de Janeiro in 2004, and that their daughter, who is now a 16-year-old Brazilian schoolgirl, sent a handwritten note to Albert.
In turn, Albert’s legal team branded the allegations ‘a hoax’, and they never went to court – prompting speculation that the case was settled privately.
The Prince has admitted fathering two other children out of wedlock – Jazmin Grace Grimaldi, who is now 30 and the result of Albert’s affair with an American estate agent, and Alexandre Coste, 18, whose mother is a former Togolese air hostess.
Both children were struck off Monaco’s line of succession in return for financial settlements.
CHARLENE’S HEALTH BATTLES
Charlene first fell ill in South Africa (pictured) in May 2021, during what was meant to be a 10-day visit
Charlene first fell ill in South Africa in May 2021, during what was meant to be a 10-day visit.
Complications from a sinus operation led to her staying in her native country for 10 months, and there have been rumours about the state of her marriage ever since.
There had been claims by leading French media that Albert had signed an ‘ultra-confidential contract’ to pay his wife more than £10million a year to fulfil her Royal duties.
She returned to Monaco but was there for a matter of days before leaving for a Swiss treatment facility. The exact nature of her condition was not made public but Albert said she was ‘exhausted’.
Photographs of their reunion were greeted with a hefty dose of scepticism by the French media.
Prince Albert said he was ‘hurt by the vicious rumours’ peddled about his marriage following his wife’s absence and said that it’s the ‘most beautiful thing’ to have her back with him.
The Royal Palace announced in March last year that Charlene had returned and would make a gradual reintroduction to public life.
She has since made full a handful of public appearances with her husband and children, including appearing at the late Queen Elizabeth’s funeral in September.
Major French outlets that specialise in celebrity news said Charlene’s sudden re-appearance was welcomed by all Royal watchers.
In December, she told local newspaper Monaco Matin she felt ‘so much better’ than she has in recent years.
Complications from a sinus operation led to the royal (pictured with her husband) staying in her native country for 10 months, and there have been rumours about the state of her marriage ever since
Revealing she has ‘less pain and much more energy’, she said she ‘is continuing to recover, to rebalance herself.’
She added: ‘My family and those I love are my rock. I approach the future, step by step, one day at a time.’
Meanwhile Prince Albert has also spoken out in praise of his wife publicly. The royal has said she has ‘turned it around in an incredible way’ after a long-running health battle.
Speaking in December, the royal told People he was ‘really proud of my wife,’ adding: ‘Charlene’s doing really well.’
He continued: ‘As you know, last year was a very tough year for her – and the beginning of this year.’
He also seemingly put rumours of any marital turmoil to one side when he confirmed the two would be attending King Charles’ coronation together in May.
Earlier this year, MailOnline revealed that Charlene’s father, Mike, 76, and mother, Lynette, 63, had moved more than 8,000 miles from their home in the suburbs of Johannesburg, to live permanently in the Monaco area to be as close to their daughter as possible.
They have moved into an imposing property in La Turbie, a French village next door to the tax haven principality where their daughter lives in regal splendour between a range of properties.
‘It has made the world of difference,’ said a palace source in Monte Carlo who has known Albert and Charlene since before their wedding.
‘The Wittstocks have moved into a house that’s just a few minutes’ drive away from Charlene, and they meet all the time. They make her feel safe and secure, and remind her of the far more carefree life she enjoyed in South Africa before becoming a Monaco princess.’
Charlene’s brother, Gareth, 42, first moved to Monaco to ‘make sure his sister was being looked after’ a decade ago, and her second brother, 40-year-old Sean, is ‘on the phone every day from South Africa,’ said the source.
Another Monaco-based source said: ‘Serious illness and other personal problems, including marital issues, have prompted Charlene to turn to God as much as she can.
‘She is inspired by Catholicism, and it has helped her through some very dark times.’
A tumultuous two years for Princess Charlene that saw her spend 10 months in South Africa away from her children, admitted to a treatment facility in Switzerland and strike a rumoured £10 million a year deal with Albert
2021: HEALTH ISSUES, 10 MONTHS IN SOUTH AFRICA AND ADMISSION TO A SWISS TREATMENT FACILITY
January 27 – Charlene is pictured with Albert for the Sainte Devote Ceremony in Monaco.
March 18 – Charlene is pictured at the memorial for the late Zulu monarch, King Goodwill Zwelithini at the KwaKhethomthandayo Royal Palace in Nongoma, South Africa
April 2 – Charlene posts an Instagram picture of herself, Albert and their twins Jacques and Gabriella for Easter from an unknown locatoin.
May 8 – Albert, Jacques and Gabriella attend a Grand Prix event in Monaco without Charlene
May 18 – Charlene shares her first picture from her conservation trip in South Africa
June 3 – New photos emerge of Charlene on her conservation trip
June 5 – Charlene puts on a united front as she shares a photo with her family to mark her niece’s fifth birthday with her brother’s family and Albert and the twins in South Africa
June 24 – Charlene’s foundation releases a statement saying the royal is unable to travel and is undergoing procedures for an ear, nose and throat infection
July 2 – Charlene and Albert mark their 10th anniversary separately. ‘This year will be the first time that I’m not with my husband on our anniversary in July, which is difficult, and it saddens me,’ Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene said in a statement.
August 13 – Charlene undergoes a four-hour operation. The reason is not announced
August 25 – Charlene shares photos of Prince Albert, Gabriella and Jacques visiting her in South Africa
September 1 – Charlene is admitted under an alias to the Netcare Alberlito Hospital after suddenly ‘collapsing’
September 2 – Charlene is discharged, with a statement from the Palais Princier reading: ‘Her Highness is closely monitored by Her medical team who said that Her condition was not worrying’
September 30 – Charlene releases a stylish video promoting her anti-poaching campaign from her South African bolthole
October 3 – Princess Charlene shares a photograph of herself smiling in front of a bible in her first snap since being discharged from hospital following her health scare
October 6 – Albert tells RMC radio Charlene is ‘ready to come home’
October 8 2021 – Princess undergoes more surgery in South Africa
November 8 – Charlene arrives back in Monaco. Prince Albert said within hours it became clear she was ‘unwell’
November 13 2021 – Prince Albert attends Expo 2020 in Dubai without Princess Charlene. Following his return from the trip, Prince Albert holds an intervention with Charlene’s brothers and a sister-in-law in which Charlene ‘confirmed’ she would seek ‘real medically-framed treatment’ outside of Monaco
November 16 – Royal household confirms Princess Charlene will not attend National Day celebrations on November 19
November 17 – Prince Albert reveals Princess Charlene has left Monaco and is recovering in a secret location
November 19 – Prince Albert reveals Charlene is in a treatment facility ‘elsewhere in Europe’ after a family intervention
November 25 – Sources tell Page Six Princess Charlene ‘almost died’ after sinus surgery and ‘lost nearly half her body weight’ due to being ‘unable to swallow’. They also said it was ‘unfair’ to portray her as struggling with mental health issues
December 11 – Royal breaks her silence on Instagram to wish her twins Jacques and Gabriella a happy seventh birthday
December 24 – Princess Charlene of Monaco is still ‘months from recovery’ but will reunite with Prince Albert and their twins Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriela for Christmas at treatment centre
2022: ROAD TO RECOVERY
January 25 – Princess Charlene celebrates her 44th birthday alone: Royal shares slideshow of snaps from happier times featuring Prince Albert, their children and her swimming career as she continues to receive treatment outside of Monaco
March 14 – Palace announces that Charlene is back in Monaco but will take time to ‘further strengthen her health before gradually resuming her official duties’
April 17 – Charlene is pictured for the first time in a family portrait to celebrate Easter
April 30 – Charlene makes her first public appearance since leaving a treatment facility as she attends Monaco E-Prix with Prince Albert
May 7 – The royal makes her second public appearance at the Sainte Dévote Rugby Tournament
May 10 – French media claims Prince Albert has agreed to pay his wife £10million a year to make sure she fulfils her consort role
May 25 – Princess Charlene continues her return to public life at Monte Carlo Fashion Awards with daughter Princess Gabriella
May 28 – Princess Charlene continues her return to public life as she joins Prince Albert at F1 in Monaco for the first time since 2019
June 6 – Prince Albert says he was hurt by the ‘vicious’ rumours about his wife’s absence from Monaco and his family ‘missed the princess a lot’
June 16 – Princess Charlene appears sombre in all-black ensemble for Catholic festival
June 18 – Princess Charlene of Monaco looks glamorous in all-green ensemble as she steps out with Prince Albert for the Monte Carlo TV Festival opening ceremony
June 23 – Albert and Charlene attend a science exhibition opening with their children in Oslo – her first overseas visit since returning to public duties
July 4 – Albert and Charlene! Monaco royals hold hands in new portrait to mark 11 years of marriage
July 5 – Charlene visits the Princess Grace Hospital Centre in her first solo engagement since her return to Monaco
July 9 – Albert attends Monaco’s Rose Ball without his wife, despite it being the highlight of the social calendar
July 18 – Royal joins Prince Albert at the 73rd Red Cross Gala in Monte Carlo
July 20 – Couple visit The Vatican for a private audience with Pope Francis
September 4 – Charlene joins Prince Albert and their children Gabriella and Jacques for a rare family appearance at traditional picnic in Monaco
September 6 – Princess Charlene and Prince Albert of Monaco take their twins Jacques and Gabriella, 7, to class for their first day back after the summer holiday
September 12 – Couple attend a memorial service for the late Queen Elizabeth II
September 19 – Princess Charlene attends the Queen’s funeral in London alongside her husband Prince Albert
October 4-5 – Princess Charlene wows on a solo surprise visit to Paris Fashion Week
October 21 – Princess Charlene of Monaco makes emotional solo visit to an animal shelter as she sends ‘all her love’ to fans following her return to royal duties
November 8 – Royal couple attend the annual Princess Grace Awards in New York
November 16 – Princess Charlene attends Monaco’s Red Cross Christmas gift distribution with Prince Albert
November 19-20 – Princess Charlene attends Monaco National Day celebrations with Prince Albert and presents awards at 2022 World Rugby Awards ceremony
December 2 – Princess Charlene takes her seven-year-old twins to Monaco Christmas village along with her model niece Charlotte Casiraghi
December 13 – Attends Monaco’s Red Cross Christmas gift distribution with her husband Prince Albert
December 14 – Family attend Christmas tree ceremony in Monaco
December 15 – Princess Charlene of Monaco reveals she feels ‘much better’ and has ‘much more energy’ after lengthy health crisis in an interview with Monaco Matin – the first since returning to royal duties
December 21 – Royals release a stylish family Christmas card
December 23 – ‘Proud’ Prince Albert praises Princess Charlene for ‘turning it around in an incredible way’ after lengthy health crisis, saying she had a ‘very tough year’
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk