Inside Prince Albert's Relationship With His Cousin, Melanie-Antoinette Costello De Massy

Prince Albert of Monaco has been known to seriously rely on the women in his life — and, no, we aren't referring to his heyday as the "playboy prince." Ever since Albert took the Monegasque throne in 2005, he has required a number of highly-ranked individuals to advise and support him. Chief among these counselors have been his sisters, Princess Caroline and Princess Stéphanie, who have long propped up the prince.

And, so far, despite their own personal scandals, their efforts have been successful. While Stéphanie agreed to become the godmother of Albert's illegitimate son, Alexandre Grimaldi, Caroline has helped the prince choose who to trust. Speaking to People about the matter, Albert shared, "Every time I've asked [Caroline] about this or that situation or about this person I'm not sure of, she's demonstrated very good judgment."

That being said, there have been times when Albert has required the assistance of a more low-profile family member — someone who does not share Caroline or Stéphanie's history of improper behavior. The prince can count on his second cousin, Mélanie-Antoinette Costello de Massy, to help the royal family without stepping into the limelight. Over the years, Mélanie-Antoinette has silently provided Albert with her assistance, accompanying him to royal events and even occasionally stepping in for him when he has been indisposed. And, ever since Princess Charlene fell ill with an infection in 2021, Mélanie-Antoinette has taken on an even bigger role.

Prince Albert and Mélanie-Antoinette did not grow up together

Even though Prince Albert and Mélanie-Antoinette Costello de Massy are related, they did not exactly grow up together. The reason for this is that Mélanie-Antoinette was born a whole generation after Albert. The gorgeous young aristocrat is technically Albert's second cousin — the daughter of his late first cousin, Elizabeth-Ann, Baroness of Massy. As a result, there is a 27-year age gap between Albert and the much younger Mélanie-Antoinette. 

Despite the generational differences at play, however, Albert's ties to Mélanie-Antoinette can be traced back to the affectionate relationship that he had with the younger aristocrat's mother. Prior to her death in 2020, Elizabeth-Ann was believed to have been quite close to Albert and his siblings. As reported by Hello!, the baroness was known to help Albert out with his royal duties.

Interestingly, Elizabeth-Ann also supported the House of Grimaldi in other ways. For one thing, the baroness was his younger sister, Princess Stéphanie's, godmother. And, for another, she had also been a bridesmaid in Prince Rainier's wedding to Grace Kelly. Because of Elizabeth-Ann's dedication to the crown, it is believed that she taught Mélanie-Antoinette how to advise Albert. And according to Gala, the younger aristocrat has continued her mother's work. 

They don't care about their families' contentious pasts

These days, Prince Albert and Mélanie-Antoinette Costello de Massy are fast friends, but that wasn't always the way things were between their two families. A generation ago, Mélanie's maternal grandmother, Princess Antoinette, tried to steal the throne from Albert's father, Prince Rainier. 

At the time, there was a little bit of drama over who would inherit the crown. As Hello Monaco noted, this was because the previous ruler, Prince Louis II, had left no legitimate heirs... but he had conceived a daughter named Charlotte with his longtime mistress. Thus, Louis named the young woman Hereditary Princess Charlotte — a controversial political move that allowed his two illegitimate grandchildren, Rainier and Antoinette, to enter the line of succession. 

Interestingly, in Monaco, male heirs are prioritized over female ones in the line of succession. As explained in Vanity Fair France, this meant that, even though Rainier was younger than Antoinette, he would become the crown prince, while she would remain in a more symbolic princess position. Perhaps due to a bit of sibling rivalry, Antoinette did not like this arrangement one bit. Thus, the princess took advantage of the confusion already clouding the issue of inheritance and began to spread rumors about her younger brother. Antoinette started to tell people that Rainier would not make a good prince because his long-time girlfriend, Gisèle Pascal, was unable to have children — or a legitimate heir. Ultimately, the princess' plan failed, and Rainier ascended the throne.

Albert shows a great deal of warmth toward Mélanie

In the end, Prince Albert and Mélanie-Antoinette Costello de Massy have moved on from their families' tumultuous histories — and one only need look towards their body language to see this. The pair have demonstrated quite a bit of familial affection in public, with Albert even kissing his cousin's forehead at the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters tennis tournament in 2022. As noted by Gala, Albert and Mélanie-Antoinette attended the event together. Demonstrating the level of love that exists between the two, Mélanie-Antoinette gave her cousin a sweet smile in response.

Compellingly, this gesture was not the only bit of body language that showed just how close Albert and Mélanie-Antoinette really are. Throughout the same tournament, both cousins displayed a sense of comfort and overall contentedness with each other. At the time, Gala pointed out how well the two seem to get along, zeroing in on the warmth they exhibited when interacting.  

This sort of public affection is said to be typical of Albert. In the past, the prince has been spotted sweetly holding hands with Princess Stéphanie as the pair strolled together through Le Rocher. He has also been photographed in a full body hug with his wife, Princess Charlene.

The prince can count on his cousin to perform royal duties

Of course, though, Prince Albert and Mélanie-Antoinette Costello de Massy have a professional relationship in addition to their cousinly bond. The two are believed to spend a great deal of time strategizing about the future of the royal family. Mélanie-Antoinette has been spotted supporting Albert during key moments — chief among these, the period of 2021 when Princess Charlene left Monaco due to a mysterious illness.

As the Daily Mail reported, Charlene spent very little time in the principality, choosing instead to heal in South Africa and later Switzerland. Unfortunately, the princess' absence sparked all sorts of rumors, with some people saying that royal life was too challenging for Charlene. Others yet whispered that Albert and his wife were thinking of getting a divorce, rumors which the palace firmly denied. Regardless of whether or not this gossip was true, however, the princess' absence meant that Albert would have to go to royal engagements alone. And, this was not great for the royal family's public image.

Luckily, Mélanie-Antoinette did not hesitate to take over for Charlene during the time that the princess was gone. She not only performed her own royal duties, but also performed many of Charlene's as well — attending event after event on Albert's arm. In July 2023, Mélanie-Antoinette accompanied the prince to Wimbledon, where she made sure that Albert never sat alone. She also maintained a low profile, giving him the spotlight. 

Mélanie also gets along well with Albert's wife

Prince Albert is not the only Monegasque royal who has received help from Mélanie-Antoinette Costello de Massy. The monarch's wife, Princess Charlene, has also gotten a great deal of support from the loyal aristocrat. It is believed that Mélanie-Antoinette extended herself to Charlene following the princess' illness. As the French outlet Point de Vue reported in February 2023,  "Today, Mélanie-Antoinette appears more and more like a kind of 'grey eminence' [for] Charlène who, little by little, is [regaining] her bearings on Le Rocher."

All in all, this sense of rapport between Charlene and Mélanie-Antoinette could very well indicate just how much Albert trusts his cousin. After all, Charlene's sickness — which Town & Country described as "the worst sinus infection in the history of mankind" — was long a point of scandal for the family. The fact that Mélanie-Antoinette has provided her support in light of this PR disaster just goes to show how integral she is to Albert's reign.

On top of that, Mélanie-Antoinette has been known to accompany Charlene to official events. This was especially true at the beginning of 2023 when Albert was sick with the COVID-19 virus. During this time, the aristocrat stood in for the prince and helped Charlene through her duties. As Point de Vue explained, Mélanie-Antoinette is not only a part of Charlene and Albert's inner circle, but is someone they all but depend on. 

Albert knows that Mélanie-Antoinette will successfully represent Monaco

At the end of the day, Mélanie-Antoinette Costello de Massy is to Monaco what Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh is to Great Britain. Like her English counterpart, Mélanie-Antoinette understands her position in the royal hierarchy and does not seek out a grander role. She avoids giving controversial interviews, behaves in a proper way, and lends her services to the crown out of loyalty and nothing more. 

As one royal insider put it to Point de Vue, Mélanie-Antoinette "has taken over the Country-Club and the Tennis Open as well as the Canine Society and dog show. She seems in particular very committed to the Country-Club. She is intelligent and will know ... her place, probably better than her half-brother Jean-Léonard."

All in all, Mélanie-Antoinette seems to bring a sense of consistency to the table — something Albert almost certainly appreciates. Between Princess Caroline's moving to France to Princess Stéphanie's stint with the circus, his sisters haven't always been the most present. (That said, they have certainly stuck to many of their royal duties.) And, of course, there are all the rumors about the state of Albert and Princess Charlene's relationship that may lead one to assume they aren't exactly on the same page.

He can trust her with his kids

Over the years, Mélanie-Antoinette Costello de Massy has accompanied Prince Albert's children, Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella, to a number of royal events. When Prince Albert was ill with COVID-19 at the beginning of 2023, the aristocrat joined Princess Charlene and the royal twins for a spectacular boat burning ceremony on Saint Devote Day. Photos of the event published in People feature Mélanie-Antoinette as she looked out for the two young royals. In one shot, the aristocrat watched on cautiously as Charlene helped Gabriella light a candle for the special celebration. 

Interestingly, when Charlene was recovering from her illness in South Africa and Switzerland, it is believed that a number of royal insiders helped Albert take care of the kids. At the time, the monarch told local outlet Monaco Matin (via Purepeople), "Of course [Jacques and Gabriella] suffered from the absence of their mother. But they had enough distractions and a family environment that ensured that they were not lacking in affection." Although Albert did not name any names, we have to wonder if Mélanie-Antoinette was one of the people who lended the prince a helping hand. Either way, it is evident that the aristocrat has a soft spot for her cousin's adorable children.