Plenty of marriages end in tears, says Joseph Bullmore in Air Mail. But it’s not a great sign when a union begins with them. In 2011, the three-day wedding of Prince Albert of Monaco was overshadowed by the “damp eyes” of his bride, Charlene Wittstock, over rumours of a love child. That was another on top of the two already bestowed upon him by an American waitress and a French-Togolese flight attendant. Days before the wedding, Charlene reportedly tried to escape back to her native South Africa but was intercepted and returned to the palace – and her Armani Privé wedding dress adorned with 40,000 Swarovski crystals – by palace officials. “The moment I met Albert,” she once told Tatler, “I knew he was ‘the one’.” The happy couple spent the first few days of their honeymoon in separate hotels, 10 miles apart.
In May this year, Charlene flew home to South Africa without her husband or two children. She has not set foot in Monaco since. It’s reported she’s unable to fly back because of health problems, but “court chitter-chatter” has turned to the infamous “Grimaldi curse”, said to deny any member of that dynasty a happy marriage. The past century has seen brutal divorces, a fatal speedboat accident, affairs with bodyguards, elephant trainers and circus acrobats – and the cliff-edge car crash that killed Prince Albert’s mother, Grace Kelly.
Albert, keen to quash whispers of a split, briefly flew out to South Africa with their children at the end of August to play happy families for the cameras. But the “strained cheek-to-cheek portraits” have all the warmth of a “disgraced, pie-fingered politician” embracing his long-suffering wife. AA Gill once described Monaco as “a waiting room for purgatory”. For Charlene, it was a “sunlounger in hell”.