Princess Stephanie Might Be Monaco's Most Fascinating Royal

At first glance, it might seem that most European royal families harbor a passion for the rules of propriety. Princess Marie Chantal of Greece, for one, has been incredibly outspoken about the importance of teaching royal children to dress up for their grandparents. Meanwhile, Princess Charlene of Monaco has been conscientious about wearing clothing that is bold without being risky. And, don't even get us started about all the rules that Queen Elizabeth had her family members follow in the bathroom! Hint: The word "toilet" was completely off-limits.

While it is true that many royals continue to respect the protocols and traditions enforced by their ancestors, there is one princess who lived much of her life challenging these old-fashioned ideas. From the time that she was a young child, Princess Stéphanie of Monaco seemed to rail against the constraints of her royal role. Legend has it that her mother, Grace Kelly, would refer to her as the "enfant terrible" — or "wild child — of the royal family. And, Stéphanie certainly lived up to that name. 

Over the years, Stéphanie lived a fascinating life, making music with Michael Jackson, partying with Rob Lowe, and marrying men who were considered absolutely off-limits for a woman of her stature. At one point, she even left the palace to travel with the circus after becoming enamoured with an elephant trainer. These days, Stéphanie continues to create an unconventional royal legacy.

She did not like her unique role from the beginning

It's no secret that marrying into a European royal family can be challenging. However, for Princess Stéphanie of Monaco, being born into royalty proved no easier. In fact, according to the princess' mother, the American actress, Grace Kelly, Stéphanie and her two older siblings all struggled to come to terms with their royal roles. As Grace told Image in 1979, the three young royals "are different whether they like it or not and, of course, they used to hate being different. When they went to school here in Monaco they wanted to be like all the other children."

However, even as Prince Rainier and Grace tried to emphasize the importance of royal duty to their children, Stéphanie dreamed of a different kind of future. In the same interview with Image, Grace revealed that the young princess longed to be a career woman in her own right: "Stéphanie is mad about animals. She wants to be a veterinary surgeon. She says that if she can't be that, at least she wants to breed dogs."

Unfortunately, though, Stéphanie was destined for a different kind of future — one that had traditionally allowed women much less independence. Speaking in the documentary, "Grace Kelly: The Missing Millions," historian, Kate William, explained that, in Monaco, being "a princess is not about expressing your desires, about doing what you want. It's about serving the royal family."

She was trained to be successful in a variety of fields

Although Princess Stéphanie was originally  a reluctant royal, she was ultimately given a princess' education. Indeed, as her mother, Grace Kelly, told People in April 1982, "Caroline is perhaps more literary, Stéphanie more mathematical ... Besides being good students, they are good athletes — excellent skiers and swimmers. Both can cook and sew and play the piano and ride a horse." This complete education was likely meant to prepare Princess Caroline and Stéphanie, alike, for their future representing the crown.

Naturally, though, the two girls were not just given a wide range of technical abilities — they were also encouraged to be personable. After all, social skills are an essential part of performing one's royal duties, and Grace likely hoped that both of her daughters would know how to hold themselves in public. In the same interview with People, the former Hollywood actress divulged, "Above all, my children are good sports, conscious of their position and considerate of others. They are sympathetic to the problems and concerns in the world today."

This sense of morality and discipline, of course, was something instilled at home. Chatting with Image in 1979, Grace confessed, "We have had to bring them up to be aware of their duties. And perhaps you could say for this reason I have had to be a little sterner than the average mother."

Princess Stéphanie watched her mother die

On September 13, 1982, Princess Stéphanie's royal future was changed forever. On this fateful day, the unassuming princess and Grace Kelly, set off for a drive along Monaco's famously rocky coast. Unfortunately, the American actress lost control of her vehicle, which shot off the edge of a cliff and slammed into the bottom of a ravine. According to People, Stéphanie and Grace's car fell approximately 100 feet. 

Following this tragic accident, both mother and daughter were rushed to the hospital. However, while Stéphanie survived the collision with nothing more serious than a concussion and a fracture in her vertebrae, Grace was not so lucky. The iconic actress suffered a brain hemorrhage and passed away from her injuries the following day.

Stéphanie, of course, was devastated. The then-17-year-old princess struggled to wrap her head around what had transpired and quickly descended into a phase of crisis. Naturally, it did not take long for her to question her royal role and set out on a quest for self-discovery. Stéphanie would later tell the French outlet, Point de Vue, "When I managed to overcome my anger, the feeling of injustice that inhabited me, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I said to myself: 'Wait, logically, you should have disappeared too, if we kept her alive is that there is a reason. You have a place in this world, it's up to you to find it.'"

The press blamed her for Grace Kelly's death

As if losing her mother was not hard enough, Princess Stéphanie suffered a great deal of press scrutiny in the years after Grace Kelly's tragic death. Certain tabloids alleged that Stéphanie had somehow caused the fatal car wreck, with some publications even going so far as to claim that the young princess was behind the wheel at the time of the accident. Other reports relayed that Grace, indeed, had been driving when the accident took place — but that Stéphanie had caused the wreck by distracting her. 

In the end, these rumors did nothing more than create distress for Stéphanie, who struggled to handle all of the negative media attention. As she told the French outlet, Paris Match, in a 2002 interview, the speculation surrounding what happened on the day of her mother's death grew to be too much to bear (via The Guardian). In fact, the only reason that Stéphanie decided to speak to the press was that she became too overwhelmed. Speaking to Paris Match, Stéphanie confessed "I can't take it any more. All these calumnies that have been spoken and written have sustained a non-existent mystery."

In an effort to clear things up for good, the princess shared her memories of the wreck. "I was not driving, that's clear. In fact, I was thrown around inside the car like my mother, who was catapulted on to the back seat."

Princess Stéphanie tried to pursue a non-royal career

In the aftermath of her mother's passing, Princess Stéphanie hardly threw herself into her royal duties. Instead, the princess made a number of attempts to launch a career — any career — as long as it had nothing to do with her relationship to the crown. Over the years, Stéphanie tried to make a name for herself in a variety of fields. As Royal Central editor, Brittani Barger, told Express, "She tried modeling, fashion, tried to make it as a pop star — she released music."

Interestingly, out of all of her professional attempts, Stéphanie was probably the most successful as a singer. Her first-ever single, "Ouragan," dominated the charts in France, where it was the number one most-played song for a whopping ten weeks (via Les Charts). As if that was not a big enough deal, the princess was actually invited to collaborate with Michael Jackson on one of his music videos. Indeed, Stéphanie did some of the voiceovers for "In the Closet" back in 1992.

In the end, though, the princess did not really commit to a musical career. After her second album failed, Stéphanie took a step back from singing and focused on other endeavors. As she confessed at the 1989 launch of her perfume brand, Stéphanie "tried everything." She went on to admit that her path was far from conventional, saying, "I've had an unusual career path for a princess" (via Express).

Princess Stéphanie fell in love with her bodyguard

Over the years, Princess Stéphanie got involved with a number of men — none of whom were necessarily considered appropriate for a royal woman such as herself. This was especially evident when she fell in love with Daniel Ducruet, a former fishmonger, who eventually became her bodyguard. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Stéphanie's father, Prince Rainier, was firmly against this unconventional match. As the renowned journalist, Bidisha Mamata, revealed in the documentary, "The Curse of Grace Kelly's Children," the Monegasque ruler "mistrusted" Ducruet. What's more, Bidisha claimed that, "He began to suspect that his daughter did not have a very solid sense of what was good for her in relationships."

In spite of Rainier's misgivings, Stéphanie was in love — and she was hardly on the hunt for her father's approval. She and Ducruet went on to have two children out of wedlock, a move that likely rocked royal circles. Indeed, the couple welcomed a son, Louis, in 1992, as well as a daughter, Paulina, just two years later. In 1995, Stéphanie and Ducruet decided to make their relationship official by tying the knot in a small civil ceremony at the Prince's Palace of Monaco. Ever the one to push boundaries, the princess wore a dress that Vogue Australia would later call "one of the shortest dresses in the history of royal weddings." Sadly, though, the couple parted ways just a short 18 months after saying "I do."

She had a daughter from an unnamed father

Princess Stéphanie's romance with Daniel Ducruet may have been considered shocking by royal standards. However, it was hardly the most unconventional romance that the princess ever fell into. In 1998, Stéphanie's love life turned heads once again, as she gave birth to a second daughter, Camille — and refused to divulge the name of the baby's father. At the time, this would have been considered a full-blown disgrace. Reeling at the weight of this scandal, Prince Rainier asked Stéphanie to leave Monaco for a time. Speaking in the documentary, "The Curse of Grace Kelly's Children," royal expert, Phil Dampier, shared, "She was actually banished by her father to a ski resort to try and recover while the dust settled from the scandal."

Interestingly, the identity of Camille's dad remained a mystery for years. In the same documentary, the renowned journalist, Bidisha Mamata, recalled, "The father was not named on Camille's birth certificate. And, in fact, it was only revealed decades later by the daughter herself on Instagram." 

Indeed, as reported by the Daily Mail, Camille Gottlieb waited until 2017 to tell the world that her father is, in fact, a former palace security guard by the name of Jean Raymond Gottlieb. At the time that Camille was conceived, it seems, Gottlieb was in charge of Stéphanie's personal security detail. That being said, Stéphanie has remained famously mum about the circumstances surrounding her daughter's birth.

She joined the circus after falling for an elephant trainer

Even after Princess Stéphanie became a mom, the Monegasque royal continued to pursue a string of complicated romantic relationships. One of the princess' most unusual affairs began in 1999 when she met a Swiss elephant trainer by the name of Franco Knie at Monaco's International Circus Festival. Knie was married at the time of this initial encounter — but that did not stop sparks from flying. 

Soon after, Stéphanie decided to join her beau for a shared life on the road, which would mostly entail following the traveling circus. Even more scandalously, though, Stéphanie chose to bring her three children on this adventure along with her. As royal expert, Phil Dampier, noted in the documentary, "The Curse of Grace Kelly's Children," this was hardly a conventional choice for a princess of Stéphanie's generation. Dampier explained, "She moved into his trailer and actually traveled around with the circus. And, obviously, it was not ideal for her children. It was very difficult for them to get educated."

Compellingly, according to relationship psychologist Anjula Mutanda, dating these unusual men might have been Stéphanie's attempt to experience life outside of palace walls. As Mutanda explained in the same documentary, "So, I wonder whether this is her way of experimenting. [As in,] I'm going to go for all kinds of different people that I find exciting because they are opposite to duty and restraint."

She had a secret marriage to an acrobat

In the end, things between Princess Stéphanie and Franco Knie didn't exactly work out, but that didn't stop the royal from continuing her love affair with the circus — literally. After Stéphanie and Knie parted ways, the princess started up a romance with a Portuguese acrobat named Adans Lopez Peres. The pair met in 2001 at Monaco's International Circus Festival and tied the knot just two years later. 

Perhaps to avoid judgment, the couple made their relationship official in a top secret ceremony. Unlike Stéphanie's first wedding, which was a private yet stately event held at the Prince's Palace, this particular ceremony didn't even take place in Monaco. According to the Express, palace officials stated, "It happened in a village near Geneva. It was a private ceremony and neither family was present." Ultimately, however, the hush-hush attitude surrounding Stéphanie and Peres' marriage did nothing to keep the couple together. The pair filed for divorce just fourteen months after walking down the aisle.

Sadly, Stéphanie never found ever-lasting love in her marriages. And, to the dismay of the royal establishment, she didn't find any sort of stability either. Thus, it is believed that Prince Rainier largely cut Stéphanie out of his will as a punishment for her unconventional behavior. As journalist Eva Pollard shared in the documentary, "The Curse of Grace Kelly's Children," Rainier left his rebellious daughter with a mere 1% of his estate. 

She took on the role of an alternative princess

After her failed marriage to Adans Lopez Perez, Princess Stéphanie took a step back from her more rebellious life decisions. She stopped pursuing unconventional relationships and never married again — at least not as of the publication of this article. Most surprisingly, though, Stéphanie finally committed to her royal duties. She began to do charity work and took a particular interest in funding AIDs research. Indeed, she became the president of Fight AIDs Monaco and also a UNAIDs Goodwill Ambassador. 

That being said, just because Stéphanie has taken on an important cause, does not mean that she has become your typical princess. On the contrary, Stéphanie has long continued to challenge the constraints of her royal role — even performing her duties in a more radical way. In 2006, for example, the princess represented Fight AIDs Monaco at the NRJ music tour, where she shocked the crowds with her unusual choice of clothing. Unlike other royal women, who are known to dress to the nines, Stéphanie turned up at the event in embroidered jeans and a flimsy blue tank top. What's more, the princess' shirt revealed her midriff, which was adorned with a sizable belly button ring.

She took a controversial stance on animal rights

In addition to her rebellious style choices, Princess Stéphanie has generated debate with her controversial opinions on animal rights. While the princess has long harbored a passion for animal life, she has been critical of certain animal rights activist groups. Speaking to Monaco Matin in 2021, the princess shared her opinion: "Animalism, veganism, is a fashion above all, but all fashions are running out of steam. I think these people don't respect others. That is to say, they want to impose their point of view on everyone. It is undemocratic."

At one point, the interviewer asked Stéphanie if she was aware that her opinion could earn her some enemies. The princess acknowledged this reality and later went on to double-down on her previous comments. Stéphanie explained, "I fully endorse my beliefs. I don't try to impose my way of thinking on anyone. I will never be vegan, sorry, that's my choice. I want to wear warm wool sweaters and leather shoes that keep my feet from getting wet. Voilà!"