Prince Albert of Monaco, now 62 and as slim as Santa Claus, looks relaxed and happy when he is sitting with his children in a red outfit and a festive hat.
Christmas joy is in short supply in photographs of his wife Charlene, a former Olympic swimmer. Her Serene Highness wears a dazzling punk haircut with shaved sides that has amazed the wealthy and conservative residents of Monaco and sparked rumors of a serious crisis in their nine-year marriage.
Her eyes are wearing a Covid mask and look sad and tired.
In a few weeks' time, a sensational court case will reveal exactly what Charlene, 42, is rebelling over and why, according to Monaco sources, she is in “extreme agony” and facing the “greatest crisis” of her life.
A Brazilian woman who now lives in Italy has come forward to accuse Prince Albert of fathering a child of her. She says they met in a nightclub in Rio de Janeiro in 2004 and had a scorching affair around the globe before she got pregnant and was dropped.
Princess Charlene of Monaco will take part in the Christmas gift distribution in Monaco on December 16
According to the records of this newspaper, her daughter, a 15-year-old Brazilian schoolgirl who cannot be named, sent a handwritten note in Portuguese to Albert in the Prince's Palace in the heart of the tiny principality on September 24, 2020.
In an excerpt it says: “When I was five or six years old, I kept asking my mother where you were and why you weren't with us because I have friends with whom both parents can always play, but I got no answer from you. I don't understand why I grew up without a father and now that I've found you you don't want to see me. & # 39;
A first legal battle is to take place in Milan in February.
The multi-billionaire Prince denies that he is the father and says he is being blackmailed.
The affair reportedly started after he met his wife, Charlene, but before they started dating seriously. It will be a third legal lawsuit against Albert for paternity – two former love children were declared his children and their mothers received huge financial settlements. In accordance with a negotiated agreement, neither of them succeed Monaco.
Princess Charlene of Monaco is wearing a protective face mask and wearing her new haircut
With a Covid mask on, her eyes look sad and tired as she participates in the traditional Christmas tree ceremony at Monaco Palace
And now there can be a third. The romance allegedly began in September 2004 when he was on a trip to the United States, but made a detour to Rio to "enjoy social life" according to Italian legal documents.
He then allegedly took advantage of trips to New York to see his new lover before inviting her to Europe.
Prince Albert II of Monaco and his wife Princess Charlene arrive in Monaco on July 26, 2019 for the annual Red Cross gala
The newspapers go on to describe how on her first trip she lost her passport in Lisbon, where she met Albert, and the Monaco consulate in the Portuguese capital helped her deal with the situation.
After Lisbon, the couple flew to Milan, where they received a visa for Russia, but did not use it immediately. Instead, they drove back to Monaco, and Albert booked the woman at the Riviera Marriott in Cap-d & # 39; Ail, just outside Monaco.
The couple later flew from Nice to Moscow, where Albert introduced the woman to President Vladimir Putin, who, according to legal records, “hugged” them. The trip lasted two weeks, and then the woman returned to Rio, where she allegedly learned in November 2004 that she was pregnant.
At the beginning of this year the woman hired an Italian lawyer who, by a bizarre coincidence, is called Erich Grimaldi and bears the same name as the dynasty that Albert presides over. He sent a picture of the Brazilian child and her mother to Monaco posing by the famous statue of Christ in Rio.
Prince Albert II of Monaco and Princess Charlene of Monaco pose on the red carpet ahead of the 2020 Monte Carlo Gala for Planet Health in Monaco on September 24, 2020
"My client is desperate," said Mr. Grimaldi. "Perhaps the photo will help Albert remember her."
The applicant said of her lawyer: “I am not a blackmailer. I never asked Prince Albert for money. I just want a DNA test so my daughter finally knows who her father is. & # 39; She said the allegations of blackmail and fraud against Thierry Lacoste, Albert's old attorney, were "ridiculous".
Is that what made Charlene want to shave her hair? Some believe that the legal action is causing their intense stress.
A source said: "Charlene doesn't want to believe the claims are true, but dealing with them is a nightmare – this is her worst crisis since she married Albert." They first met at the Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) swimming competition in Monte Carlo in 2000. Known as a serial bachelor after romances with Claudia Schiffer and Brooke Shields, the prince was beaten by the statuesque 5ft 11in blonde.
In a 2013 interview, she said that their entire first date "talked and laughed" with a mutual love of sports, and that she found his pursuit "incredibly flattering".
Five years passed before there was a second appointment. They started a long distance relationship and eventually Charlene of South Africa moved into a small apartment in Monaco. She couldn't speak French and was often lonely.
Born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Charlene Wittstock is the daughter of a photocopier salesman, Michael, and a swimming instructor, Lynette.
In June 2010, Albert, 20 years older than Charlene, suggested a Repossi diamond. Comparisons with his mother, Princess Grace, were inevitable. Both were gorgeous New World blondes who joined Grimaldi's home.
But almost from the start there were rumors of friction.
One such period came in the summer of 2011 when, just days before Albert's royal wedding, the French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche published unsubstantiated allegations that Charlene had attempted three escapees. She even claimed that the disturbed bride-to-be tried to seek protection at the South African embassy in Paris.
The story seemed to be confirmed by her tears on her wedding day – Albert could be seen in the church telling her, "Don't cry." However, Charlene said reports that she tried to run away were "categorical lies".
She said the tears were just a result of the pressure. Later, in an interview in Paris Match, Charlene said she left Monaco shortly before the wedding, but not because she wanted to go home. My mother asked me to accompany her to Paris to find a pair of shoes for the ceremony. A whole story was invented here. & # 39;
She has settled into the life of a wife – the two are holding a party on the Friday evening of the Monaco Grand Prix, as well as annual balls and gala dinners.
She started a charity and her brother Gareth moved from South Africa to help her run it.
But what is life like as a princess? She complains of homesickness. & # 39; My mom is my best friend. I miss her all the time, ”she said.
In an interview with the South African magazine Huisgenoot a year ago, she said: "I have the chance to lead my life, but I miss my family and friends in South Africa." She also says that taking care of her six-year-old twins Jacques and Gabriella is exhausting.
Albert spoke about loneliness and boredom and pointed out that her life is not a rose bed.
He told a television documentary earlier that year: “There isn't enough space for spontaneous activities. Spontaneity must also be planned for. & # 39;
They were separated when the prince tested positive for Covid and recovered at the palace. Charlene went with the twins to Roc Agel, their retreat on the mountain top. There are no courtiers inside, only guards at the gates.
In contrast, the atmosphere in the pink Prince's Palace of Monaco is said to be "suffocating". There are courtiers and servants everywhere and, despite the luxury, it can be a very snobbish, restrictive place.
Veteran Monaco royal observer Richard Fitzwilliams expects Charlene to stay in Monaco despite rumors to the contrary. “A powerful royal couple is vital to the image of Monaco, especially given the disordered behavior of individual family members. That is why the wedding of the prince and princess is a source of constant fascination. Given all the rumors that went with the marriage, she did it pretty well. & # 39;
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