Prince Albert cut a lonely figure as he attended Monaco’s National Day at Expo 2020 in Dubai without his wife Charlene, days after she returned from a 10 month trip to South Africa.
The mother-of-two, 43, arrived back in Monaco last week after flying by private jet from the South African city of Durban to Nice, France, and posed for snaps with Albert, 63, and their two children Jacques and Gabriella.
The mother-of-two, who underwent several surgeries while in South Africa and was taken to hospital after collapsing in September, still looked frail on her return to Monaco.
In the days that followed, it quickly emerged Princess Charlene of Monaco may not live in her husband Albert’s palace following her return home and does not plan to immediately resume public engagements.
And today, Albert attended the Expo in Dubai without his wife, instead appearing with his sister Princess Stephanie and her son Louis Ducruet.
Prince Albert cut a lonely figure as he attended Monaco’s National Day at Expo 2020 in Dubai without his wife Charlene, days after she returned from a 10 month trip to South Africa
The mother-of-two, 43, arrived back in Monaco last week after flying by private jet from the South African city of Durban to Nice, France , and posed for snaps with Albert, 63, and their two children Jacques and Gabriella
Expo 2020 is a World Expo currently hosted by Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, and was originally scheduled for 20 October 2020 – 10 April 2021.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Arab Emirates, the new dates are 1 October 2021 – 31 March 2022.
It comes days after Chantell Wittstock, Charlene’s sister-in-law and PR for her charitable Foundation in South Africa, said not only that it is ‘unclear’ whether the princess will be living full-time in the Palace, but also that her return to formal duties is dependent on her recovery from a mystery illness.
Before she left in January, Charlene had raised eyebrows in Monaco by living in a modest two-bedroom apartment above an old chocolate factory about 300m away, rather than in the 12th Century Palace itself. It is thought she could return to living at the property.
Despite posing for snaps with Charlene earlier this week, Prince Albert attended the event with his sister Princess Stephanie and her son Louis
Albert wore a red facemask and dark sunglasses throughout the event on Monaco’s National Day at Expo Dubai 2020 (pictured)
Asked whether the Princess would now return to the arm’s-length arrangement the couple had before her departure, Ms Wittstock, married to Charlene’s brother Sean, who is on the board of her charitable foundation, said: ‘Oh, we don’t know yet. She’ll probably be commuting between the two, wherever she’s comfortable.
‘And none of that is clear yet where she’ll be settling or anything like that. I mean, she only just arrived back, so it’s everybody finding their feet. The Princess is very excited to see her kids and they’re very excited to see their mom again.
‘So we’ll see where she’ll be settling. But it will be with her husband and her children.
Ms Wittstock, asked about media stories focusing on the state of her sister-in-law’s marriage to Prince Albert, added: ‘It is absolutely not something I can comment on. But what I can say is the princess is back in Monaco with her husband and children that should say it all.’
The claims will inevitably cast a shadow of doubt over the staged photocall earlier this week when Charlene was reunited with Albert, 63, and their children after a 10-month absence from Monaco.
Charlene spent months without her family in her native South Africa while she recovered from surgery following a sinus infection she contracted during a solo charity trip earlier this year.
Separate lives? Before she left in January, Charlene had raised eyebrows by living in a modest two-bedroom apartment above an old chocolate factory about 300m away, rather than in the Palace itself, as illustrated. There is debate over whether she might return to the property
Low-key: Instead of enjoying palatial rooms overlooking the Mediterranean, and a domestic staff including butlers and cooks, the apartment, pictured, is a pared back apartment
The reunion, shared on Instagram, was eyed with scepticism by French commentators amid feverish speculation about the state of the Grimaldis’ marriage.
Charlene’s time away followed fresh allegations last December that Albert had fathered a love-child (which would be his third, if proven) with an unnamed Brazilian woman during the time when he and Charlene, a former Olympic swimmer for South Africa, were already in a relationship.
On the question of Charlene’s return to public engagements, she sounded equally equivocal, saying: ‘She absolutely will – if everything goes well, if she is definitely still healing and recovering.
‘That doesn’t just happen overnight. She’s definitely going to be taking it easy. And yeah, her main focus right now will be spending time with her children and her family.
Grand return: Charlene spent months without her family in her native South Africa while she recovered from surgery following a sinus infection she contracted during a solo charity trip earlier this year. Pictured, the princess arriving in Monaco on Monday
Carefully choreographed: Albert, 63, was waiting for her at the Monte Carlo helipad, along with their six-year-old twins, Princess Gabriella and Prince Jacques. The family were joined by a hand-picked photographer inside the Palace walls for the ‘reunion’ photos, pictured
Hidden message? Posting a snap of the reunion on Instagram, Charlene wrote: ‘Happy day today. Thankyou all for keeping me strong,’ but did not name check her husband
Delighted to be reunited: Charlene’s sister-in-law said she is thrilled to be back with her children. Pictured, Charlene with her son Jacques on her return to Monaco on Monday
How Charlene and Albert made solo outings in South Africa and Monaco during nine months apart
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.
It is unknown where the image was taken.
May 8 – Albert, Jacques and Gabriella attend a Grand Prix event in Monaco without Charlene
May 10 – Albert attends Monaco Gala Awards in Monaco without Charlene
May 18 – Charlene shares her first picture from her conservation trip in South Africa
June 1 – Prince Albert II, Jacques and Gabriella attend event at Oceanic Museum in Monaco
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 7 – Albert and the twins attend the World Rugby Sevens without Charlene
June 17 – Prince Albert attends Red Cross Summer concert in Monte Carlo with his sister Princess Caroline of Hanover
June 18 – Prince Albert appears alone Monte Carlo TV Festival
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.
July 3 – Albert appears with glamorous niece Charlotte Casiraghi at the 15th international Monte-Carlo Jumping event, which is part of the Longines Global Champions Tour of Monaco,
July 27 – Prince Albert attends Olympics alone in Tokyo
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
August 31 – Speculation mounts in the media about couple’s relationship
September 1 – Charlene is admitted under an alias to the Netcare Alberlito Hospital after suddenly ‘collapsing’
September 2 – She 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 23 – Prince Albert attends the 2021 Monte Carlo Gala for Planetary Health
September 29 – Prince Albert is joined on the red carpet by actress Sharon Stone for a first look at the eagerly anticipated James Bond release
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 5 – Prince Albert attends Sportel Awards Ceremony in Monte Carlo with nephew Louis Ducruet
October 6 – Albert tells RMC radio Charlene is ‘ready to come home’
October 8 – Princess undergoes surgery in South Africa
November 8 – Charlene arrives back in Monaco
‘All we can say right now is all of her procedures in South Africa were a success. So medically the doctors have cleared her to fly back. And that’s why she’s obviously back in Monaco with her kids.’
She said the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation, which promotes water safety and wildlife conservation in Africa, would soon expand to cover the whole continent.
‘The main reason for coming to Africa in the first place was to launch more Foundation projects, which is when she fell ill and the Foundation team in South Africa absolutely carried on with all of those, making sure that everything happened exactly the way she wanted it.
‘Even during recovery, in between procedures, the princess still tried to be completely hands-on and on the ground and work with us. The foundation will also be expanding into the whole of Africa as of next year.
‘As far as Charlene goes. The outlook is is positive and you know she’s going to get back to full strength and be full steam ahead. It’s not going to happen overnight.’
The new development will certainly add fuel to the intense speculation over the future of the marriage of Charlene and Albert.
Monday’s photos were greeted with a hefty dose of scepticism by the French media.
Albert was waiting for her at the Monte Carlo helipad, along with their six-year-old twins, Princess Gabriella and Prince Jacques. The family were joined by a hand-picked photographer inside the Palace walls for the ‘reunion’ photos.
But there was already doubt cast over the couple’s living arrangements.
‘Reunion of Albert and Charlene of Monaco: but where exactly do they sleep?’ was the headline question in the respected French celebrity outlet Gala on Tuesday.
And Voici – another popular magazine read widely across Monaco and France – ran with: ‘Charlene of Monaco back: the Princess breaks the silence and forgets to mention her husband’.
This was a reference to Charlene using a social media video to thank everybody who had helped her through months of ill-health, without name-checking Albert at all.
In the streets in the shadow of the 12th century Prince’s Palace, people could not conceal their concern for Charlene this week, having seen the photos of her looking so obviously frail.
‘We are glad to have her back, but she doesn’t look well and it feels we don’t yet have the full picture,’ said one cafe owner on the Rock, in his 50s, who asked not to be named.
He admitted that in years past, he like many Monegasques, had expressed frustration at the way Charlene has been less visible than other royals.
‘There was a while when there was a sense that she was a reluctant princess,’ he said, ‘but this is different – there’s obviously something not quite right either with her or the marriage and for whatever reason we’re not being told what.’
There certainly appears to be a wall of silence around Charlene, especially since she retreated behind the ramparts of the Palace, at least for the time being.
Her Palace press officer said she could not return calls from MailOnline and did not reply to a list of questions we sent her.
Doubts about the central relationship of Monaco’s royal family are not new of course. Several residents living in the narrow medieval alleys of Monaco Ville confirmed to MailOnline that before she left for South Africa Charlene was spending most of her time outside the Palace at the Chocolate factory apartment.
‘We often saw her outside the Palace and she would usually be alone or with a bodyguard,’ said one source, ‘but she was never with Albert – it was obvious she chose to spend most of her time in the apartment rather than the palace.’
Another Monte Carlo source who knows the couple well told MailOnline: ‘The way to stop all the friction and put an end to the speculation about their marriage is for Charlene to proudly move back into the Palace and start living like a proper Princess.
‘That’s what the people of Monaco want, because they love their Royals, and don’t want them living separate lives.’
Charlene came in for criticism before she travelled to South Africa for dividing her time between several properties outside the Palais, the official residence of the Sovereign, Albert II.
Instead of enjoying palatial rooms overlooking the Mediterranean, and a domestic staff including butlers and cooks, Charlene chose the Chocolate Factory.
Charlene, who wed Prince Albert II of Monaco in 2011, has been living in her home country of South Africa for much of this year, and the extended stay has stoked speculation that the royal couple may be headed for divorce. Albert took their children to visit in August
Last Monaco outing together before her departure: Charlene and Albert were last pictured together at an official event together in January at the Sainte Devote Ceremony in Monaco
It only had two bedrooms, and had been used in the past by Albert’s sister, Princess Stéphanie.
Stéphanie, 56, led an extremely turbulent personal life herself that included two divorces and high-profile affairs with security guards and an elephant trainer.
Princess Charlene’s trials and tribulations in the Monaco royal family
1987 – Bea Fiedler, a German topless model, claims her son Daniel was the prince’s son.
1992 – An American national files a paternity lawsuit against the Prince, claiming that he was the father of her daughter, Jazmin Grace.
2000 – Princess Charlene meets Prince Albert at the Mare Nostrum swimming competition in Monte Carlo
2005 – In May, a former flight attendant claims that her youngest son, whom she named Alexandre Grimaldi-Coste, was Prince Albert’s child. She states that his parentage had been proven by DNA tests requested by the Monegasque government.
On 6 July, a few days before he was enthroned on 12 July, the Prince officially confirms via his lawyer Lacoste that Alexandre was his biological son.
2006 – After a DNA test confirmed the child’s parentage, Albert admitted, via statement from his lawyer, that he is Jazmin Grace’s father.
2010 – Princess Charlene and Prince Albert announce their engagement
2011 – Princess Charlene was said to have bolted two days before the royal wedding after hearing Prince Albert had a third love child during their relationship. It was alleged that Charlene tried to flee home to South Africa three times before her ‘arranged marriage’, at one point taking refuge inside her country’s embassy in Paris.
Monaco officials were said to have coaxed her back by brokering a deal between the Prince and his reluctant bride that she provide him with a legitimate heir. After that she would be free to leave of her own free will.
During the wedding, Charlene was in floods of tears, while her husband looked on impassively. Later in the year, Princess Charlene confessed she felt ‘very lonely’ in Monaco
2012 – Princess Charlene was reported to be ‘depressed’ at her failure to provide her husband with a legitimate heir.
2014 – Pregnancy was announced in May. In December Charlene gave birth to twins Princess Gabriella and heir to the throne Prince Jacques.
2017 – Princess Charlene visits Africa, tells media: ‘I am African and this is my heritage. It will always be. It’s in my heart and in my veins.’
2019 – In a rare interview, Princess Charlene confessed it is ‘sometimes hard to smile’ and said the year had been ‘very painful’In another interview, she said she found motherhood ‘exhausting’
2020 – Charlene debuts a shocking half-shaved hairstyle. It is announced Prince Albert of Monaco will appear in court in the new year to fight explosive claims he fathered a third love child with a secret girlfriend before marrying his now wife Princess Charlene.
2021 – January 27 – Charlene is pictured with Albert for the Sainte Devote Ceremony in Monaco. It is the last time she has been seen in Monaco this year.
Charlene also escaped Royal protocol by staying at Roc Agel, a mountain retreat on the outskirts of Monaco originally restored for Albert’s late mother, the Hollywood star Grace Kelly who became Princess Grace before her tragic death in a car crash on the treacherously steep road approaching Roc Agel.
Charlene was also a frequent visitor to a holiday home owned by friends on the Mediterranean island of Corsica.
Paris Match, the celeb bible, has always had particularly close ties with the Grimaldis – the ancient dynasty now headed by Albert and Charlene.
‘Charlene and Albert on the Verge of Breaking Up?’ was the lead headline in an edition of Match in August.
‘There will be no photo for their 10th anniversary wedding anniversary,’ it noted.
All the high-end French publications – the kind that Albert and Charlene would normally grant fawning interviews to – concurred.
The upmarket and very conservative Madame Figaro ran with the stark headline: ‘Are Charlene and Albert II of Monaco on the verge of divorce?’
Historian and author Philippe Delorme told the magazine: ‘Lots of people got the impression it was an arranged marriage, it’s true.
‘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.
‘As Karl Marx put it: History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.’
The 2011 wedding itself was an ostentatious three-day event featuring a concert by the Eagles. But onlookers were concerned by photos of the bride in tears with her husband appearing distant, but Charlene insisted later she was just emotional.
Charlene has been notable by her absence from every single flagship event in the tax haven principality this year.
They have included the Monaco Grand Prix on May 23, and the Fashion Awards hosted by the Princess’s own charitable foundation on May 18.
Charlene infamously shaved half her head in the style of a punk rocker last December.
This was seen as the first public sign of a worsening crisis that could end in a multi-million pound divorce.
Charlene’s exile in South Africa began a month after it emerged last December that Albert was facing yet another paternity suit.
A Brazilian woman who cannot be named for legal reasons said her 15-year-old daughter was the result of an affair with Albert in 2004.
Albert and Charlene were not yet engaged at this time, but they had known each over for four years after meeting at a swimming gala in Monaco in 2000.
Lawyers for the claimant were scheduled to demand a DNA test from Albert at a court in Milan earlier this year, while his own counsel branded the action ‘a hoax’.
Neither party is now commenting, suggesting some kind of generous settlement may have been reached, as happened with Albert’s earlier love children.
They are Jazmin Grace Grimaldi, who is now 29 and the result of Albert’s affair with an American estate agent, and Alexandre Coste, 17, whose mother is a former Togolese air hostess.
Both children were struck off Monaco’s line of succession in return for vast financial settlements.