Princess Charlene's Struggles Mirror Grace Kelly's In An Eerie Way

At first glance, it might seem like the Monegasque royal family lives a charmed life. With luxurious yachts, designer clothes, and a full-blown palace to their name, the Grimaldis appear to be one of the luckiest families in the world. That being said, however, within the principality of Monaco, there are whispers that the family is actually cursed. 

As explained by ABC, many locals of Le Rocher believe that the Grimaldis' fate was sealed back in the 1200s. During this time, Prince Rainier I is said to have sexually assaulted a young woman. According to legend, the prince left this maiden so full of rage that she transformed into a witch and cursed the Monegasque royal family forever. Some people even claim that she uttered the words: "Never will a Grimaldi find true happiness in marriage," condemning all future royals to loveless lives.

While it is impossible to say whether or not this legend is more than ... well, just a legend, we have to admit that many Monegasque royals have had tumultuous marriages. Royal brides, in particular, have been known to struggle to integrate into the Grimaldi family. After the American actress Grace Kelly walked down the aisle with Prince Rainier II in 1956, she was said to feel isolated in her new princess role. Decades later, the Zimbabwe-born Princess Charlene married Prince Albert in 2011, and history seemed to repeat itself. Ultimately, throughout their respective marriages, Grace and Charlene endured loneliness and rumors of their husbands' infidelity.

Both Grace Kelly and Princess Charlene had successful careers before marrying royalty

Before marrying into the Grimaldi family, both Grace Kelly and Princess Charlene were successful careerwomen in their own right. Grace, for one, spent the years before her marriage working as an actress in Hollywood. During this time, the bombshell blond appeared in one hit film after another, starring in serious pieces, like Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window" and even winning an Oscar for her role in the 1954 drama, "The Country Girl."

A generation later, Charlene's strong professional background, in many ways, mirrored that of her predecessor. Like Grace, Charlene made a name for herself, although as a competitive swimmer, rather than an actress. She even represented South Africa in the 2000 Olympics, where she came in fifth in the 4 x 100 meters medley relay. 

Although Grace and Charlene's respective careers would be celebrated in some circles, their professional pasts hardly made them "princess material." As noted in 9Honey, commoners often struggle to marry into European royal families, especially when they hail from professional — rather than high society — worlds. As royal correspondent, Maddison Leach, explained: "Many of the most successful royal spouses come from upper-class backgrounds." Moreover, these people tend to be "high-born" and "far closer to the royal world they married into than their 'commoner' counterparts." Ultimately, this means that career girls, like Grace and Charlene, are viewed as "too common" to be adequately prepared for royal life.

Grace and Charlene had to give up symbols of their past lives

Perhaps as a result of the negative connotations associated with being a "working woman," both Grace Kelly and Princess Charlene were eventually asked to abandon certain symbols of their past careers — ones that reflected their power as independent women. For Grace, this meant relinquishing a large part of her personal fortune. As historian Kate Williams explained in the documentary, "Grace Kelly: The Missing Millions," the actress had to pay Prince Rainier a major sum of money before accompanying him down the aisle. Williams relayed: "The dowry was, we believe, to be $2 million. And that's a large amount of money in the 1950s, valued at about $20 million now." In other words, Grace essentially had to walk away from her financial independence in order to wear the crown. 

A generation later, Charlene was also asked to give up some of her power in exchange for her new role. Although she hardly had a fortune to give the crown, Charlene did have all the athleticism and strength that had earned her international respect as a swimmer. However, in order to marry Prince Albert, the Olympian was asked to give up much of her physical prowess. As Vogue reported after speaking to the former athlete: "In preparation for the perpetual camera-readiness expected of her as first lady of Monaco, [Charlene] has cut out weight training and increased her stretching time to give her body a leaner line."

Grace and Charlene were seen as royal outsiders

Even as they sacrificed the symbols of their commoner pasts, Grace Kelly and Princess Charlene were seen as royal outsiders. This was exacerbated by the fact that neither woman was considered upper crust. In fact, when Grace first met Prince Rainier at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955, the actress' parents were considered so "nouveau riche" that they couldn't gain acceptance by Philadelphia high society — let alone the European elite. 

As noted by Hollywood expert Karina Longworth in her podcast, "You Must Remember This," Grace's parents rallied behind her engagement to Prince Rainier out of a desire for an otherwise lacking social status. Longworth explained: "For the Kelly's, it was worth any price to see that their daughter made such a good match. No one in Philadelphia would be able to look down on the Kelly's as 'new money' once there was a prince in the family." 

If Grace's parents had limited contact with the old-fashioned elite, Charlene's folks had even less. The princess was born to a sales manager and a swimming instructor. Thus, Grace and Charlene didn't fully understand what they were getting into when they married royalty. This became evident when, after her marriage, Charlene famously struggled to dress her royal part, even breaking protocol in red nail polish and a green dress. Grace, too, floundered in her new role, grappling with what Longworth called, "rules and traditions that Grace didn't understand."

Both women had stressful royal weddings

In many ways, it seems that neither Grace Kelly nor Princess Charlene was totally prepared for life behind palace walls. And, unfortunately, signs of these women's respective struggles began to emerge as early on as their royal weddings. When Grace walked down the aisle with Prince Rainier on April 18, 1956, the blushing bride was said to find the event overstimulating — not that we blame her for it. The Hollywood star's wedding attracted so many people from all over Monaco, Europe, and the United States that the French riot police had to come in to control the crowds. Even the people who could not catch a glimpse of the event personally wanted to read about it. As reported by Express, more than 1,500 journalists were present.

Ultimately, Grace struggled to process such a lively affair. As her son, Prince Albert, would tell People decades later: "Mom said it was 'overwhelming.' That 'excited' or the word 'overjoyed' wasn't strong enough to express her feelings." He later added that the wedding "was so exhausting."

Interestingly, during Albert's own wedding to Charlene on July 1, 2011, things did not go down any more smoothly. The bride seemed to find the over-the-top proceedings just as intense as her predecessor once had, even weeping at the end of the ceremony. Speaking to The Times, Charlene later recalled: "Everything was just so overwhelming ... and obviously the tension built up and I burst into tears."

Neither princess had a lot of friends in Monaco

Living in a foreign country is almost never a walk in the park. And, unfortunately, Grace Kelly and Princess Charlene both struggled with feelings of isolation after moving from their home countries to Monaco. This dynamic was accentuated by the fact that the two princesses were native English speakers who didn't understand French — the official language of their new home. 

Grace was understood to have found the linguistic barriers of Monaco especially overwhelming since she confronted the reality of the situation after the wedding. As the actress' biographer, Jeffrey Robinson, told Closer Weekly, the movie-star-turned-princess had to learn a new language just as she was discovering the extent of her royal duties. "There were obligations, and she had to meet people and shake hands. They all spoke French, and she only spoke English," Robinson explained. "It was a lonely life. I am sure there were times when she felt somewhat like a prisoner in a gilded cage behind the palace walls."

Decades later, Charlene admitted to having a similar experience, although she endured the brunt of her own struggle before marrying Prince Albert. In an interview with Vogue, the princess revealed that she didn't speak French when she first moved to Monaco — a fact which limited her social life. Reflecting on that difficult time, Charlene said that the loneliness "was sometimes overwhelming." Indeed, she also told Tatler: "I only have two people I consider friends here."

Grace and Charlene both faced rumors of their husband's infidelity

In addition to the hurdle of learning a new language, Grace Kelly and Princess Charlene had to deal with the salacious rumors that oftentimes swirled around the Monegasque royal family. Unfortunately for both women, this gossip mill frequently churned out stories of their husband's infidelities — something that, we imagine, neither Grace nor Charlene particularly enjoyed. 

In Grace's case, however, it seems that much of the local chatter about Prince Rainier's alleged dalliances was true. As noted in the biography "True Grace" by Wendy Leigh, the American actress suffered greatly due to Rainier's persistent cheating. The prince was said to have been unfaithful to Grace many times over the years, although Leigh claimed that Rainier was especially quick to break his marriage vows (via the Daily Mail). Indeed, the book alleges that the prince was such a womanizer that he arranged three separate mistresses within weeks of his honeymoon with Grace. Speaking with the Daily Mail on this issue, Leigh relayed: "Grace was humiliated."

Decades later, Charlene has also had to confront rumors of her own husband's infidelities. As reported by the Daily Mail, Prince Albert was accused of fathering a love child back in 2005 — while he was already courting Charlene. The news was said to be disturbing for the princess, who was apparently "already in love with" Albert on the date of the alleged affair. Albert, though, has firmly denied these rumors. 

Both princesses seemed unhappy beneath the surface

Almost as soon as they were officially crowned princesses of Monaco, Grace Kelly and Princess Charlene were expected to represent the principality. In practice, this meant attending official engagements, shaking hands, and cutting ribbons, all while maintaining a radiant smile. Sadly, though, beneath their polished public personas, both Grace and Charlene seemed to be hiding feelings of sadness. 

Grace, especially, was said to struggle to adapt to palace life. Speaking in the documentary, "Grace Kelly: The Missing Millions," historian Kate Williams shared: "To suddenly live this life that is, really, very restricted is a huge change. And, I think, you know, it was really difficult for her." In 1981, Princess Diana also recognized the sadness that lingered below Grace's surface. In the book "Diana: Her True Story In Her Own Words," Andrew Morton quoted the British princess saying: "I remember meeting Princess Grace and how wonderful and serene she was -‒ but there was troubled water under her, I saw that" (via Express).

Years later, Princess Charlene would also be said to hide forlorn glances beneath her prize-winning smiles. As body language expert Judi James would tell the Express in 2022: "A problem with Charlene's body language though, and it is a trait that she shares in some way with Princess Diana, is an ability to use fluctuating facial expressions ... Charlene has shown [this] trait since her wedding, when her smiles of joy would slip into something much sadder-looking."

Neither woman seemed eternally in love with her husband

Perhaps as prophesied by the Grimaldi family curse, neither Grace Kelly nor Princess Charlene appeared to be particularly happy in their respective marriages. As the years went on, Grace likely grew so frustrated with Prince Rainier's infidelities that she went on to have her own affairs. According to a 2005 report published in the Sunday Mirror (via The Free Library), Grace sought comfort in the arms of television director Robert Dornhelm in the years leading up to her death. Apparently, the relationship was a happy one. As Dornhelm told the outlet: "I was the exact opposite of all the people she normally frequented. I believe she really appreciated having a friend who told her what he thought." The director was known to accompany Grace on a number of outings — even as her own husband remained MIA.

Interestingly, Charlene is rumored to be quite frustrated in her marriage to Prince Albert, although, it is largely believed that the Olympian has remained faithful to her husband. That being said, at least one body language expert has characterized the princess' interactions with Albert as awkward. As royal nonverbal communication specialist Judi James told the Daily Mail, Charlene seems to do everything in her power to avoid "forced tactile poses" with Albert. James went on to explain that, even at the 2022 Grand Prix: "Any touch rituals seem to have been blocked by the carrying of her bag between them."

Charlene and Grace had to spend time away from their children

On top of the challenges they faced in their marital lives, Grace Kelly and Princess Charlene had a difficult time in the remainder of their family lives. Indeed, both princesses were mothers, albeit not always present ones. Grace had three children, Princess Caroline, Prince Albert, and Princess Stéphanie, while Charlene had the royal twins, Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella. Unfortunately, though, these royal moms were often forced to spend long periods of time away from their kids.

On one occasion, shortly after Caroline was born, Grace was forced to leave the child at home so that she could perform her royal duties. Apparently, this experience was crushing for the new mother. Reflecting on this incident in a 1979 interview with Image, Grace confessed: "Once I had to leave the baby when she was very tiny and travel a long journey by train. And do you know that from the time the train left here till it reached its destination I never stopped crying." 

Charlene has also been known to spend a lot of time away from her children. This was especially clear in 2021 when the princess had to spend months in South Africa seeking treatment for a medical issue. In an interview with South Africa Radio 702, Charlene called the trip "very frustrating, terribly frustrating," adding "I can't wait to get back to them, I can't wait to see my children" (via the Daily Mail).

Grace and Charlene both struggled with their mental health

Stuck in a foreign country with few friends and unhappy romantic lives, Grace Kelly and Princess Charlene both began to struggle with their mental health. For Charlene, though, this challenge has been made particularly public. After all, in November 2021, Prince Albert told People that the princess would be spending a few months in a treatment center. In his words, Charlene "realized herself that she needed help. You can't force anyone to understand that they need treatment, they have to accept that themselves."

According to the prince, this decision was made after the royal family noticed that Charlene "was clearly exhausted, physically and emotionally." Apparently, "she was overwhelmed and couldn't face official duties, life in general or even family life." And, while the palace preferred not to share the details of Charlene's struggle with the outlet, Albert did divulge that the princess "was suffering incredible fatigue" and "wasn't eating at all well."

Sadly, Charlene's struggle has been said to mirror Grace's own mental health battle from decades before. As longtime royal journalist Joel Stratte-McClure revealed in an interview with the New York Post, there were some eery similarities between Charlene's difficulties and Grace's. "Grace had a terrible depression through their first years of their marriage not unlike what is going on with Charlene today," Stratte-McClure explained. "She was very unhappy." Grace's friend, Frédéric Mitterrand, apparently agreed, telling the outlet: "She had a real streak of melancholy."