Are Princess Charlene and Prince Albert the latest to fall victim to the 'Curse of the Grimaldis'?
This year should have been one of celebration for Princess Charlene and Prince Albert of Monaco with the 10-year anniversary of their royal wedding.
Instead, 2021 has been plagued by rumours of a troubled marriage after Charlene was forced to spend six months away from Monaco battling complications from surgery in South Africa.
Prince Albert has taken an unusually vocal approach to the scandal by insisting there are not "problems within our relationship" amid gossip involving actress Sharon Stone and billionaire Vladimir Doronin, another paternity suit from an alleged ex-lover and salacious headlines about Charlene never being good enough for the snobs of the Monegasque elite.
READ MORE:Princess Charlene of Monaco: A timeline of her health issues and absence
As Charlene recovers from "profound general fatigue...exhaustion, both emotional and physical" in a private treatment clinic away from the principality, the likelihood of her being there for the birthday of her twins next week, and Christmas, is uncertain.
So it begs the question: are Charlene and Albert the latest to fall victim to the so-called 'Curse of the Grimaldis'?The Curse of the Grimaldis
Happily ever after has seemingly been hard to achieve for many of the Monegasque royals, and even the charm of Hollywood actress-turned-Princess, Grace Kelly, wasn't enough to break the run of bad luck the Grimaldis have had.
The legend of the curse dates back to the 13th Century when the first ruler of Monaco, Prince Rainier I, kidnapped a beautiful Flemish noblewoman and took her for a late-night walk along the picturesque cliffs of Monaco.
She didn't fall for his charm and when Rainer repeatedly tried to force himself upon her, she became a witch to get her revenge.
The woman vowed to die rather than be assaulted by him and threw herself off the cliffs, cursing the prince's family for generations to come, saying, "Never will a Grimaldi find true happiness in marriage".
Looking at the how the House of Grimaldi has fared over the past 700 years or so, it's easy to see why the curse remains a captivating myth. But is it really a myth?Princess Grace of Monaco
The biggest tragedy to hit the family was the untimely death of Princess Grace in a car accident in 1982.
She had come from Hollywood to marry Prince Rainer III after first meeting at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955, an event that would be the start of a great love affair.
Prince Rainier proposed to Grace with a diamond and ruby eternity band by Cartier, to represent the colours of Monaco's flag.
The stones were reportedly taken from heirlooms from the Monegasque royal family and Rainer later gave his bride a bigger ring, also from Cartier, which she wore more than the first.
READ MORE:Princess Grace of Monaco's best jewellery moments
They married in 1956 and Grace instantly became a popular princess, even though she found the adjustment difficult due to the language barrier and the aforementioned snobbery of those living in the exclusive city-state on the French Riviera.
She endeared herself to the people of Monaco through her charity efforts and genuine affection for her husband, though rumours of tension within their marriage were playing out in the background.
According to biographer Wendy Leigh, author of True Grace: The Life and Times of an American Princess, Prince Rainier allegedly had three mistresses within a month of their wedding.
"Grace was humiliated and she was extremely unhappy. She was surrounded by decadence and Rainier's disreputable friends," Leigh wrote.
Princess Grace once warned Princess Diana how isolating being married to a royal could be, but Grace said of her decision to marry the prince: "When I married Prince Rainier, I married the man and not what he represented or what he was. I fell in love with him without giving a thought to anything else".
But there is little doubt the two loved each other and Rainer never re-married after his wife's tragic death.
READ MORE:From screen icon to princess: the story of Grace Kelly's royal marriage
Mystery still surrounds the details of the accident, but the most accepted version is that Grace was driving with her daughter, Stephanie, who was aged 17. She took a sharp turn on a steep mountain road, sending the car tumbling down a slope.
Grace suffered a brain haemorrhage and died in hospital. She was just 52.
However, there have been rumours it was Stephanie who was behind the wheel, something she has denied.
"I was not driving, that's clear," Stephanie said in an interview with French magazine Paris Match 20 years after the fatal crash.
"You cannot imagine the suffering I have endured, and that I endure still," she said.Princess Stephanie
The youngest child of Prince Rainer III and Princess Grace has had her fair share of bad luck when it comes to romance.
The now 56-year-old married her bodyguard, a former fishmonger named Daniel Ducruet, in 1991, against the advice of her father.
Stephanie and Ducruet had two children, Louis and Pauline, born out of wedlock.
A year after the marriage, they divorced when photos of Ducruet cavorting with a woman who had formerly held the title of "Miss Bare Breasts Belgium" appeared splashed across the tabloids.
Stephanie had a third child, Camille, two years later, but never revealed who her father was.
READ MORE:The turbulent love life of Princess Stephanie of Monaco
She later began an affair with a married elephant trainer and moved her three children into a trailer so they could follow the circus.
Stephanie then married Adans Lopez Peres, a Portuguese acrobat nearly 10 years her junior, in 2003, but that marriage ended less than a year later.
However, her older sister Caroline has had — perhaps — more tragedy than her own.Princess Caroline
In 1978, then 21-year-old Princess Caroline married French playboy Philippe Junot, who was 17 years older. After a tumultuous relationship they divorced just two years later.
Caroline appeared to find happiness again with Stefano Casiraghi, the son of an Italian businessman, and married him in 1983.
However, he was killed in a speedboat accident when their children, Andrea, Charlotte and Pierre, were still very young in 1990.
Stefano was defending his world offshore title and the race was supposed to be his final one before retiring from the sport.
READ MORE:Princess Caroline and her 'cursed' love life
In 1999, Caroline married Prince Ernst August of Hanover and they had a daughter, Princess Alexandra, six months later. The marriage saw Caroline's royal title climb from Her Serene Highness to Her Royal Highness.
More sadness was to come, however.
On April 6, 2005, Princess Caroline's father Prince Rainer, died. A day later, her husband was admitted to hospital suffering an acute case of pancreatitis, but some reports claimed he was in a coma.
Ernst later recovered, but his marriage to Caroline did not.
They have reportedly been living apart since 2009 while they are still married, rumours of an impending divorce refuse to go away. He was recently photographed holidaying in Ibiza with Claudia Stilianopoulos.
They are usually described now as "estranged". Caroline lives in Monaco with her daughter while Ernst is in Austria. In March he was given a 10-month suspended sentence after an altercation with the police, and was admitted to a psychiatric ward.
Even Princess Caroline's other daughter, Charlotte, has had her fair share of bad romance.
READ MORE:Why 'scandals' in royal marriages fascinate us - and do we really want that happily ever after?
After a four-year relationship with French actor-comedian Gad Elmaleh, Charlotte went her separate way in 2015. Their son Raphaël is not eligible for the Monaco throne because Casiraghi and Elmaleh never married.
But Charlotte has found love again and in 2019 married film producer Dimitri Rassam in a fairytale wedding in the south of France. Their son, Balthazar, is 12th in line to the throne.Prince Albert and Princess Charlene
in July, the Prince's Palace released a series of videos on social media to celebrate a decade of marriage between Albert and Charlene.
At the time Charlene was in South Africa, where she had become stranded after having surgery for a serious ear, nose and throat infection.
Charlene shared clips from the series on her Instagram account on the anniversary, thanking people for their "love and support" and "generosity" during "this decade of our marriage".
She issued a statement via the palace about missing the event.
"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," Princess Charlene said.
READ MORE:Princess Charlene reveals truth behind the medical condition that has 'grounded' her in South Africa for months
"However, Albert and I had no choice but to follow the medical team's instructions even though it is extremely difficult. He has been the most incredible support to me."
Complications arose from the surgery and Charlene had to go under the knife again for a number of corrective procedures. Doctors forbade her from flying due to the risks with high altitude, meaning she was forced to recover away from her husband and children.
Six months after travelling to South Africa for a wildlife mission in support of The Princess Charlene Foundation, Her Serene Highness was allowed to return to Monaco.
But it seems the return was far from happy, and she was admitted to private health clinic barely a week later.
Charlene's long absence prompted some sectors of the media to speculate about potential marriage woes, citing reports her husband has fathered a third lovechild.
And days after Prince Albert was spotted attending events in Monte Carlo with actress Sharon Stone, Charlene shared a cryptic message to Instagram showing her smiling with the caption, "God bless".
Rather than letting some outlets get carried away and speculate on the state of his marriage, Albert has given several interviews insisting all is well in their relationship.
In September he defended Charlene's long sting away, saying his wife "didn't go into exile".
In November, he told People: "I'm probably going to say this several times, but this has nothing to do with our relationship.
"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."
Instead, Charlene's admission to a clinic came after she was "overwhelmed and couldn't face official duties, life in general or even family life".
Her return to Monaco "went pretty well in the first few hours, and then it became pretty evident that she was unwell" he said.
READ MORE:Royals who have married commoners: 'Why royal weddings to "normal" people fascinate us'
His most recent comments came at the end of November, when Albert hinted Charlene's hospital stay might soon be over.
Speaking about removing Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella from their school to be educated at the palace instead, he said the decision was made with Charlene before she left for the clinic "when we understood that the situation was going to continue".
"[The children] support her in her recovery by sending her a lot of love. They also know that they will have messages from her very soon and that we will go see her as soon as possible."
Their union has been tainted with rumours of scandal since before their lavish wedding in July, 2011.
From her tearful appearance at the wedding ceremony to reports she had tried to flee Monaco in the leadup to the celebrations, Charlene and Albert's relationship has been far from scandal free.
READ MORE:Princess Charlene and Prince Albert of Monaco's royal wedding: The moments kept hidden until now
An early report from the The Journal du Dimanche claimed Charlene first sought refuge in May 2011 at the South African embassy in Paris, where she was being fitted for her wedding dress.
Charlene then again tried to leave the country during the Grand Prix and finally, less than a week before the wedding, was stopped from boarding a helicopter as officials coerced her to stay.
The palace denied the allegations, describing them as "completely crazy".
Speaking to The Times UK about crying at her wedding, Charlene said: "Everything was just so overwhelming and there were all the mixed emotions because of the rumors, 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.'"
Charlene's background as a former Olympic swimmer was also rumoured to be beneath Prince Albert and the people of Monaco, with claims of snobbery, even from her sister-in-law Princess Caroline.
But a friend of Charlene told the The Times, "When [she and Albert] are together they're very much the typical couple – drinking with friends, watching a sports game and arguing about the result. Charlene is crazy about Albert.
"There's nothing more she wants than to make him happy. She wants to be a good wife and make him proud."
Whether Charlene and Albert — and indeed the entire Grimaldi family — are cursed is something that can never be proven.
But their story is an interesting, if not sad, chapter to a legend that will continue to intrigue not only the Monegasque, but those around the world who can't get enough of a fairy tale... and a curse.
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