11 Scandals The Monaco Royal Family Can Never Erase

The principality of Monaco is rife with scandal. Nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and France's southern border, this independent region is known for its world-renowned casinos — and all the baggage that comes along with it. Indeed, the glamour and grift of Monaco are so famous that the principality has inspired a number of Hollywood films over the years, with masterpieces ranging from "To Catch a Thief" to "Monte Carlo." That being said, no movie may be quite as scandalous as the true story of Monaco's royal family.

According to legend, this elite family has been cursed since the 1200s. At that time, Monaco's ruler was said to be so violent and irresponsible that he unlocked the rage of one of his own subjects. As the story goes, Prince Rainier I actually kidnapped and sexually assaulted a young maiden, who later transformed into a witch. Full of anger, the woman used her magical powers to put a spell on the whole royal family, declaring: "Never will a Grimaldi find true happiness in marriage" (via ABC News).

Regardless of the veracity of this tale, the fact remains that Monaco's royal family has long seemed to be unlucky in love. Whereas other elites have spun stories of fairy tale romances, the most famous family in Monaco has been bogged down by drama. With a history of offensive political romances (including an almost-engagement with a Nazi officer), infidelity, and even love children, Monaco's royal family has found itself enshrouded in scandal.

The Monégasque royal family collaborated with the Nazis during WWII

During World War II, the principality of Monaco was said to be neutral, but the reality was far more complicated than that. As noted by History, few of the European states that were supposedly "neutral" maintained true neutrality in practice. Portugal, for example, claimed not to choose sides, even while allowing the British to set up a military base on its soil. Switzerland, meanwhile, was one of Germany's biggest trading partners throughout the conflict. When it came to Monaco, the microstate's definition of "neutrality" tended toward the Nazi side of things. In fact, The Guardian reported that the region's authorities went so far as to collaborate with the Germans, rounding up 66 people of Jewish faith and sending many of them to die in Nazi concentration camps.

In 2015, Prince Albert apologized for his country and his family's role in these proceedings. In a public statement, the prince relayed: "We committed the irreparable in handing over ... women, men and a child who had taken refuge with us to escape the persecutions they had suffered in France ... We did not protect them."

Back in the day, however, the Monegasque royal family was much less apologetic for its relationship with Axis powers. In fact, Albert's aunt, Princess Antoinette, enjoyed a romance with a Nazi officer during the war. She even asked the reigning monarch, Prince Louis II, for permission to marry him, but her request was refused. 

Princess Antoinette tried to steal the throne from Prince Rainier

Over the years, Monaco's royal family has been embroiled in one scandal after the other, and Princess Antoinette managed to get involved in a few of them. After dating a Nazi officer during World War II, Antoinette tried to stage what was effectively a coup against her younger brother, Prince Rainier. The reason for this odd choice was that, in Monaco, the line of succession prioritizes gender over age. In practice, this means that a first-born daughter will never inherit the throne, so long as she has a younger male sibling. Back in the 1940s, Antoinette apparently felt that this rule was unfair. Thus, she hatched a plan to steal the throne from Rainier's grasp.

Antoinette closely examined her brother's life, searching for weak spots. To her, the most obvious thing to exploit was Rainier's non-existent family life. Indeed, by the time the prince stood to inherit the throne in 1949, he remained unmarried and, therefore, heirless. Antoinette, in contrast, was already the mother of two healthy babies — including a boy. 

Desperate to snatch the throne right out from beneath her brother's bottom, Antoinette began to spread rumors about Rainier's love life. She alleged her brother's longtime girlfriend, Giselle Pascal, was infertile and, therefore, unable to provide the principality with an heir. Antoinette even claimed that a doctor had verified her claims. Ultimately, though, the princess' plan failed, and Rainier took the crown.  

Prince Rainier married Grace Kelly, only to cheat on her

Partially due to Princess Antoinette's meddling, things between Prince Rainier and Giselle Pascal did not exactly work out. The pair split, prompting Rainier to search for a suitable bride. Given the situation, the prince needed to quickly tie the knot with a woman who could not only provide him with an heir but also put a definitive end to his sister's rebellious shenanigans. In 1955, Rainier met the American movie star, Grace Kelly, at the Cannes Film Festival, leaving the actress — as fellow Hollywood star, Olivia de Havilland, would later tell People — "in a state of enchantment." Seven months later, the two were engaged. They tied the knot on April 18, 1956.

In many ways, Grace was the perfect royal bride. She brought a sense of Tinseltown glamour to Monaco, bestowing a sense of international fame on the principality and the royal family alike. As the French TV personality, Stéphane Bern, told Town & Country, the American princess drew the country out of relative obscurity, noting that prior to the royal wedding, "Grace Kelly's mother ... had never even heard of Monaco." 

Despite everything Grace contributed to the principality, her marriage with Rainier was rocked by scandal. Writing in her book, "True Grace," royal biographer, Wendy Leigh, noted that the prince was unfaithful to his wife as soon as she got pregnant. For Grace, this situation was humiliating to the point of unbearable. 

Grace Kelly was also unfaithful to Prince Rainier

As a result of Prince Rainier's frequent infidelities, Grace Kelly had a difficult time adjusting to life as a member of the Monegasque royal family. Apparently, the royal bride was relatively vocal about her struggles. At one point, it is believed that Grace even told her staff how she really felt about Rainier's mistresses. As royal expert, Wendy Leigh, relayed in the biography, "True Grace," the actress once turned to her hairdresser and confessed: "I know my husband has affairs with other women. That's very frustrating to me and makes me very unhappy" (via the Mirror).

Although Grace took issue with her husband's persistent cheating, she eventually started having flings of her own. Toward the end of her life, the Hollywood actress-turned-princess began going out with Robert Dornhelm, a television director who was 18 years younger. Speaking to the Sunday Mirror (via The Free Library), Philippe Junot — who was once married to Princess Caroline of Monaco — revealed that Grace's dalliances with Dornhelm were an open secret. 

"Dornhelm was often present when I went to get Caroline. I don't know if they were lovers, but let's just say I'd be very surprised if they weren't ... When I was going out with Caroline there was never any sign of Rainier. Sometimes we would go out together as two couples, Caroline with me and Grace with Dornhelm," Junot shared. In that sense, Grace's personal relationships added more scandal to Monaco's royal family.

Princess Stéphanie ran away with an elephant trainer

If Prince Rainier and Princess Grace lacked luck in love, their children did not do much better. Their youngest daughter, Princess Stéphanie made a massive scandal of her romantic life when, in 1999, she met an elephant trainer named Franco Knie. Far from being considered the ideal royal groom, Knie did not provide the princess with any sense of stability. Instead, he traveled Europe with the circus — which did not seem to deter Stéphanie whatsoever. 

As revealed in the Channel 5 documentary, "The Curse of Grace Kelly's Children," Stéphanie was so desperately in love with Knie that she ditched royal life and traded it in for a life on the road. The princess moved into Knie's caravan and began traveling from town to town with her new beau. Moreover, she reportedly brought all three of her children along on this grand adventure, pulling them out of school and throwing them into a situation that was hardly considered appropriate for a brood of young royals. Speaking in the documentary, royal expert, Phil Dampier, opined: "Obviously it was not ideal for her children, it was very difficult for them to get educated" (via Insider).

Ultimately, Stéphanie and Knie separated, but, in 2001, history repeated itself. The princess fell for yet another circus performer — this time a Portuguese acrobat named Adans Lopez Peres. The couple married, only to divorce shortly after. 

Prince Albert became the playboy prince

Princess Stéphanie was not the only member of the Monegasque royal family to lead a scandalous love life. Her older brother, Prince Albert, seemed to have just as much trouble locking down a stable girlfriend, choosing instead to enjoy a number of lighthearted flings. Over the years, Albert went out with plenty of well-accomplished women, including supermodels like Brooke Shields, actresses like Cecilia Peck, and ice dancers like Marina Anissina. However, he showed no signs of settling down, earning himself the title "the playboy prince."

While the prince's dalliances might seem harmless to some, it is important to keep in mind that — unlike his younger sister — Albert was the heir to the Monegasque throne. As a result, he was under considerable pressure to produce an heir of his own. To make matters worse, during most of Albert's carefree youth, Monaco's constitution stipulated that the region would become part of France if a crowned prince failed to produce an heir. Thus, Albert's tumultuous love life was not just scandalous — it was also a constitutional crisis. 

In an interview with ABC News' "Good Morning America," royal expert, Robert Lacy, evaluated Albert's situation: "He's got too many girlfriends, pretty blondes. And I think the people feel the sooner he settles on one of them, the better that will be." Ultimately, though, Albert married Olympic swimmer, Charlene Wittstock — but not before his father altered Monaco's constitution to broaden the rules of succession.

Prince Albert had two children out of wedlock

It's no secret that Prince Albert got around during his "playboy" era. And for decades, rumors about Albert's girlfriends — and their possible love children — circulated through Le Rocher. As one of the prince's friends, Stéphane Bern, told Town & Country, this sort of gossip was so frequent that "one day Albert told me, 'Oh, if I listened to all the claims, I would have more children than anybody else in the world.'" 

Jokes aside, though, Albert has fathered at least two royal love children over the years. In 1991, the prince had a romantic encounter with the California-based real estate agent, Tamara Rotolo, while she was vacationing on the French Ivory Coast. Nine months later, Rotolo gave birth to a girl, who she named Jazmin Grace Grimaldi after Albert's mother. For years, the prince refused to recognize the paternity of his daughter, dodging Rotolo's attempts to secure a DNA test. In fact, it was not until the young woman turned 14 that Albert finally agreed to publicly admit that Jazmin was, indeed, his child.

A similar situation took place in 2003 when an Air France flight attendant, Nicole Coste, gave birth to a boy, Alexandre Grimaldi-Coste. Although Albert and Nicole had been seeing each other for five years prior to the boy's birth, it took months for the prince to claim paternity. In fact, he only did so after Nicole leaked news of the boy's existence to the press.

Rumor has it that Princess Charlene tried to run away from Albert before their wedding

On July 1, 2011, Prince Albert finally kissed his bachelor status goodbye for good. The former playboy prince walked down the aisle with the Zimbabwe-born Olympic swimmer, Charlene Wittstock, after three days of celebrations. The couple's blow-out wedding included a concert by The Eagles, a ball with 3,500 guests, and an Armani Prive gown adorned with 40,000 Swarovski crystals. All seemed well in Monaco until, at the end of the religious ceremony, the newly-dubbed Princess Charlene burst into tears. 

Almost inevitably, Charlene's scandalous outburst fueled pre-existing rumors that the Monegasque royal family was pressuring her to go through with a marriage that she did not really want. Indeed, leading up to the big day, the French publication, Le Journal du Dimanche, claimed to have obtained evidence that Charlene had tried to flee Monaco three times before the wedding. 

In line with a story previously published in L'Express, the outlet alleged that Charlene had, at one point, sought asylum in the South African embassy in Paris. Later, she was said to have tried to escape during the Grand Prix. Shortly before the wedding, the royal bride was reportedly stopped at a helipad, where she was allegedly planning to flee Monaco for Nice. Apparently, though, the princess' escape attempts were halted for good when, on her final try, the local police collected her passport. The wedding went smoothly until the princess cried at the very end.

Prince Albert might have a third love child

As if Prince Albert's single days haven't already brought enough scandal to the Monegasque royal family, rumors about a third love child began to circulate in 2021. In fact, a Brazilian woman known simply as "Mariza S" filed a lawsuit against the prince in an Italian court, asking him to acknowledge a daughter, Celia, who was allegedly conceived after a 2004 fling. Per Mariza's account, she met Albert in a Rio de Janeiro nightclub. The prince apparently told her that he was a Canadian diplomat, and then took her to travel with him to Lisbon, Milan, and Moscow. When Mariza realized that she was pregnant, Albert was said to stop speaking to her. These days, Mariza's lawyer, Erich Grimaldi, told Town & Country, all the woman wants is for Albert to take a paternity test.

Although a DNA test may seem like a fairly simple request, obtaining one from the playboy prince is apparently easier said than done. Albert has fought against Mariza's claims every step of the way, with his lawyers dismissing them as a "hoax." However, a handwritten letter to the prince from Celia demonstrates that at least one person has taken these allegations seriously. "Dear Daddy," the girl addressed Albert. "When I was five or six years old, I kept asking my mother where you are ... 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."

Princess Charlene moved out of the palace

Prince Albert's party days have brought a great deal of scandal to the Monegasque royal family, and his wife, Princess Charlene, knows it. As time has gone on, though, the princess seems to have grown tired of her husband's indiscretions. After all, it has been reported that Charlene no longer shares a bedroom with Albert. What's more, it is understood that the princess has moved out of the Prince's Palace of Monaco, forgoing a luxury residence for a more simple abode.

Indeed, Charlene is believed to have left Albert's castle — and all the butlers, cooks, and maids that come with it. Instead, she has reportedly taken up a more normal two-bedroom apartment, located just a short walk from the palace. The residence, which is located above an old chocolate factory, was previously the home of Albert's little sister, Princess Stéphanie.

Interestingly, Charlene's choice to trade palace life for a bit more normalcy has become public knowledge. The Monegasque people seem to be aware of the distance that has grown between the princess and her husband. As one local told the Daily Mail: "We often saw her outside the Palace and she would usually be alone or with a bodyguard, 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 added that Charlene and Albert seemed to be leading "separate lives."

Charlene left her family in Monaco for months

Prince Albert and Princess Charlene's marriage has long been rife with scandal. Thanks to Albert's love children and Charlene's choice to reside alone, there have been whispers that all is not well with the Monegasque royal family. And in 2021, these rumors gained more traction when Charlene departed on a week-long trip to South Africa, only to delay her return for months.

The palace explained Charlene's absence as the result of an ENT issue gone south. Apparently, the princess developed a severe infection following a botched dental implant procedure, preventing her from returning home. In an interview with South Africa Radio 702, Charlene addressed her medical issues, stating: "Initially I was supposed to be here for 10 to 12 days, unfortunately, I had a problem equalising my ears, and I found out through the doctors that I had a sinus infection and quite a serious one" (via People).

That being said, not everybody believed that the princess was being 100% honest about the full extent of her issues. When Charlene did finally return to the principality months later, one Monegasque local told the Daily Mail that the public did not fully buy the royal family's official storyline. "We are glad to have her back, but she doesn't look well and it feels we don't yet have the full picture ... There's obviously something not quite right either with her or the marriage and for whatever reason we're not being told what."