Prince Albert Of Monaco Lives An Insanely Lavish Life

Being born into a royal family means being born into a world of privilege and esteem. But there are two different types of royalty — there's a big difference between being a sovereign of a wealthy constitutional monarchy, with the force of your national treasury and PR machine backing you, and being the holder of an honored title with no money or power behind it.

Among modern royals, Prince Albert II of Monaco not only falls squarely into the first category, but was destined from the start to lead a high-profile life of glamor and luxury. As the monarch of a stable, wealthy city-state whose very name evokes high-end leisure, his role already comes with extra built-on cachet. But even more notably, he is the product of one of the most celebrated and high-profile marriages of the 20th century: The courtship and marriage of his parents, Prince Rainier III of Monaco and American movie start Grace Kelly (who were introduced to each other by "Gone with the Wind" star Olivia de Havilland) was and is a subject of fascination for royal watchers and romantics. And Prince Albert II has not only assumed his father's former responsibilities, but much of his personal mystique. Let's take a look at his insanely lavish life. 

His lavish royal palace has a rich history

To lead a truly glamorous life, a monarch needs a spectacular palace. And the location the Monaco's Prince Albert II has called home his entire life more than fits the bill. Besides the state apartments inhabited by the royal family (all featuring marble floors and valuable artwork), it contains several towers, a chapel, many galleries (one modeled after the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles). The exterior is guarded by uniformed sentries and cannons. In addition, of course, it contains a throne room featuring ceiling frescoes and an Empire-style throne under a red silk canopy. 

The Prince's Palace also comes with a long and evocative history. It wasn't originally a palace, or even built for the principality of Monaco. Instead, it began its life in 1215 as a fortress for the Republic of Genoa. According to legend, this changed in 1297, when Francesco Grimaldi, an ancestor of Prince Albert II, disguised himself as a monk to gain entry into the fortress, claiming to need a place to stay for the night. He used this ruse to let in his soldiers and give Monaco control of the fortress. Historians dispute this story, but the fact remains that the Grimaldi family rose to take leadership of Monaco — and the fortress — around the end of the 13th century. In the centuries to come, the family gradually converted the fortress into the palace it is today.

Prince Albert II spearheaded the restoration of the 500-year-old frescoes discovered in his palace

If you've lived in a place for a while, it's likely you've had the experience of opening a drawer or closet and discovering some item you'd long forgotten you had. And if you've ever had to help an elderly relative declutter, you soon realize how easily tons of stuff can accumulate, only to be forgotten and unused for years on end. Additionally, if you're Prince Albert II of Monaco and live in a palace inhabited by your family for nearly 800 years, the forgotten treasures you can find in your own home can be genuinely jaw-dropping.

In 2015, he and his staffers got a major surprise: Routine maintenance and restoration work being done on the palace revealed an extensive series of 16th-century frescoes that had been painted over for unknown reasons. Prince Albert II immediately set a crew of restoration experts to work to uncover and restore the frescoes — which depicted the 12 labors of Hercules and other mythological themes — directing the crew to use environmentally-friendly colors and materials in the restoration. It was a project with personal resonance for him. "It is an added bonus in terms of links to my ancestors," he said in a video on the palace's website. "I consider it part of my responsibility as a custodian of this history and heritage."

He grew up with a zoo in his backyard

Many little kids look forward to birthday trips to the zoo or circus. But as a small child, Prince Albert II of Monaco did not have to beg his parents to take him to the zoo — because the Prince's Palace in Monaco already had a working zoo on its grounds. 

The zoo, built by his father, Prince Rainier III, in 1954 (four years before Prince Albert II was born), is modest in size compared to most big-city zoos: It houses around 300 animals of 60 different species, including hippopotamuses, caimans, and lemurs. Many of these animals are rescues, either abandoned by previous owners or intercepted from illegal smuggling efforts. Pressure from animal rights advocates, however, moved Prince Albert II, who's had a long interest in conservation and nature appreciation, to cede its two leopards to the animal welfare group Born Free, which re-homed them in a wildlife reserve in Africa. Wanting to help future generations cultivate a love for animals and nature, Prince Albert II has expressed an interest in turning the zoo into more of a petting zoo so kids could enjoy the animals up close.

He studied at one of the most expensive colleges in the U.S.

With his family's wealth and power, Prince Albert II had every opportunity to obtain a world-class education. He also had every opportunity to skate through with gentleman's Cs, since it didn't really matter what his grades were. But to his credit, he didn't choose the easy way out. He graduated with distinction from Lycée Albert I before pursuing his undergraduate studies at Amherst College in Massachusetts. 

A small, private liberal arts college with a student body of about 1,900,  Amherst is one of the most selective colleges in the U.S., admitting only 11% of those who apply.  It's also quite expensive, with a sticker price of $76,800 per year. Prince Albert II was in the fortunate position of not having to worry about any of this, and instead threw himself into school activities, joining and performing with the school's glee club and participating in numerous varsity and club sports before graduating with a degree in political science. And he credits his time at Amherst for some of his success. "My education has taught me to think on my feet and to think outside of the box," he said in an interview with The Amherst Student. He continued, "This is incredibly necessary in our day and age for any position of responsibility no matter what you do in life — but especially if you're in a position of responsibility like I am."

His many travels include dogsledding at the North Pole and a trip to Antarctica

As a wealthy royal, Prince Albert II has the means and opportunity to travel around the world — and he's taken plentiful advantage of these opportunities, traveling to multiple nations, including Italy, Great Britain, Japan, Russia, and China to meet with heads of state and leaders of industry. But his jet-setting hasn't all been about red carpet receptions: He's also made trips way off the beaten path, including expeditions to the North Pole (via dogsled from a Russian base some 120 kilometers away) and Antarctica.

These trips, however, weren't just for the amusement of a jaded royal. His 2006 trip to the North Pole was intended to both honor the legacy of his great-grandfather, Prince Albert I, an accomplished oceanographer and arctic explorer, and raise awareness of climate change and its potential consequences. His three-week-long trip to Antarctica in 2009 was likewise planned to give him a better understanding of climate change, and he spent much of his time during the trip familiarizing himself with the scientific research being done on the continent. While there, he and explorer Mike Horn also made a film of their travels, "Antarctica 2009, Earth on Alert," which Prince Albert II later presented to the residents of Monaco.

His net worth is jaw-dropping

The tiny city-state of Monaco is nearly synonymous with wealth. Besides the glitzy casino scene at Monte Carlo, known to attract high-rollers from around the world, it's also gained a reputation as a tax haven for the wealthy, who flock there to enjoy its mild Mediterranean climate and shimmering nightlife all while squirreling away their money. Indeed, nearly a third of Monaco's 38,000 residents are millionaires.

If these high-flyers want a monarch they can personally relate to, they have one in Prince Albert II. His own wealth is estimated to be around $1 billion, making him one of the richest monarchs in the world. This wealth comes from a variety of sources, including land and numerous properties in Monaco, France, and the U.S. Additional wealth comes from his shares in the Société des Bains de Mer, the holding company that owns and operates some of Monaco's flagship attractions, including the Monte Carlo Casino, the Monte Carlo Opera House, and the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo. In addition, Prince Albert II inherited, and later revamped, the extensive collection of rare cars acquired by his late father, Prince Rainier III. He was also invested some of his considerable wealth in philanthropic initiatives. His foundation, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, invested nearly $99 million over a 15-year period in projects related to promoting renewable energy and biodiversity, mitigating the effects of climate change, and protecting water resources. 

Revelations of several children born out of wedlock earned him a reputation as a playboy

Even when young, Prince Albert II seemed to take his future mission seriously. Before the start of his college career, he spent a year familiarizing himself with the different branches of Monaco's government and their operations, and later worked with a number of organizations in the U.S. and Europe to learn more about finance, marketing, and communications. 

The one royal obligation he long appeared to neglect, however, was the duty to marry and produce an heir. As his bachelorhood stretched well into middle age, concerned retainers had the principality's rules of succession changed to ensure his older sister could take the throne should he die without an heir. But while Prince Albert II had been uninterested in marriage, he wasn't uninterested in romance. Shortly after his father's death and shortly before his coronation, he admitted that flight attendant Nicole Coste's accusation that he'd fathered her 2-year-old son were true. A few years later, he admitted to fathering another love child, this time through a fling with an American tourist. To further complicate matters, a third woman, a Brazilian who said Prince Albert II met her in a nightclub in Rio de Janeiro, also accused him of fathering her daughter. This time, he emphatically denied the allegations.

His holdings include his mother's childhood home in Philadelphia

Prince Albert II's real estate holdings, along with other properties in which he has financial interests, involve some of the most glamorous properties in the world. These include his home, the 12th century Prince's Palace of Monaco, the 16th century Chateau de Marchais in France, and the famous Monte Carlo Casino. But perhaps the most personally meaningful of his property holdings is far less glamorous: a spacious, but far from palatial, brick home in suburban Philadelphia.

This house is one that Prince Albert II knows well: It was built by his maternal grandfather, John Kelly, Sr., and his late mother, the American actress Grace Kelly, was born and raised there. Thus, for Prince Albert II, it was Grandma and Grandpa's house, and was a place he visited often as a child. He purchased it in 2016 for a price reported to be around $754,000. At the time, his plans for the house were unclear, even to him — he was considering using it for museum exhibits or as office space for his foundation. But sentimental value almost certainly played into his decision. "The house was very beautiful and very special to our family," Prince Albert II recalled to People.

His glamor-filled wedding in 2011 attracted a long royal guest list and lots of speculation

Prince Albert II made it abundantly clear he was in no hurry to settle down. His romances with high-profile women, including supermodel Claudia Schiffer, along with clandestine romances in which he fathered two children, gave him a well-deserved reputation for playing the field. Therefore, when he finally announced in 2010 that he was getting married to South African Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock, it was a very big deal in Monaco. Not only would it be the first time in over 30 years that a reigning European monarch had married while on the throne, but it would be the biggest celebration Monaco had seen in decades. 

No expense was spared in the lavish, three-day celebration, which was said to cost around $70 million. The festivities started with a civil wedding ceremony in the Throne Room of the Prince's Palace. An outdoor religious wedding ceremony followed the next day, and the glamor level was turned up several notches: The bride wore a beaded gown designed by Giorgio Armani, and in attendance was a cast of other royals, including Belgium's King Albert II and Queen Paola, as well as Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia. But all the glitz couldn't hide the swirling rumors that soon-to-be Princess Charlene was getting cold feet and had even booked a one-way ticket back to South Africa. And the fact that she was seen crying several times during the wedding festivities only further fueled public speculation.

Large as his palace is, he claims he's running out of room for storage

Prince Albert II's lifelong home, the Prince's Palace in Monaco, is a grand structure by almost any standards. Originally built as a fort in the 12th century, it was gradually remodeled and embellished over the centuries, becoming a palace in the Italian Renaissance style in the 1500s and adopting architectural influences from French royal architecture in the 17th and 18th centuries. During this time, it also housed extensive art collections, and today it's home to the principality's archives, which include historic documents related to the former fiefdoms that now comprise Monaco's territory. 

Thus, while the palace is so spacious that the stream of tourists passing through apparently don't interfere with royal activities or privacy, it's also filled with lots of old stuff. And because the palace is currently undergoing extensive renovations, meaning there's less room to move around or put stuff than usual, Prince Albert II found himself with an unusual problem: On the eve of his 65th birthday, he worried aloud about getting too many gifts. "People think this palace is big, but our storage is full," he told People. "I'm serious...I don't know where to put things anymore."

He's tight with members of other royal families

For most of us, the lives and problems of royals aren't terribly relatable. But glamorous as their lives can be, the high level of public scrutiny they must endure, along with social pressure to keep up a polished image no matter what, can be difficult to handle. Prince Albert II's wife, Princess Charlene, discovered this after marrying into the royal household: In 2021, she became so exhausted she left Monaco for six months to recuperate at an undisclosed treatment facility. 

But one group of people can relate to these challenges: other royals. They not only meet each other routinely as part of their diplomatic duties, but can sympathize with and understand each other's burdens. Prince Albert II, for instance, has had a lifelong friendship with King Charles III, and the two have bonded over both their similar life trajectories and their common interest in environmental and cultural issues. "I admire his fight for several great battles," he told People. "For the improvement of architecture. For energy sustainability, against deforestation and on a number of environmental issues. These are concerns on which we've frequently exchanged views." Other royals have also expressed their positive views of Prince Albert II. "We have been friends for a very long time.," Princess Camilla, Duchess of Castro, told Euronews, "That's why I asked him to be a witness at my marriage which he gladly accepted. It is a deep friendship one that has come a long way."

He's best buddies with Leonardo DiCaprio

Like many royals, Prince Albert II has the clout to easily access other A-listers, and many have been spotted in his circle. Attending his 2011 wedding to Charlene Wittstock were supermodel Naomi Campbell, designers Giorgio Armani and Karl Lagerfeld, and former French President Nicholas Sarkozy. To top off the evening, the Eagles — a legendary band accustomed to performing to packed stadiums — provided musical entertainment at the reception. 

But his appearances with other famous faces are not just about seeing and being seen. Prince Albert's friendship with actor Leonardo DiCaprio, like his friendship with King Charles III, is based in part on their common passion for conservation and environmental causes. Along with their individual efforts to advocate for the environment, they've made numerous public appearances together at everything from climate change marches to white tie galas, using their combined star power to raise public awareness of the dangers posed by climate change and pollution.