Times Princess Charlene Broke Royal Protocol

When Princess Charlene was a little girl, she wasn't particularly interested in plastic tiaras or bright pink tutus. If anything, she kind of disliked them. Speaking to the South African outlet, Top Billing, Charlene confessed that princess culture was never truly an interest of hers, stating, "Actually, I avoided princess parties, and it was hard to keep me in a dress." Instead of running after makeup and thrones, the young Charlene dreamed of danger and adventure. She explained, "My hero was Zorro, so I wanted to be him."

Nevertheless, Charlene grew up to be the very thing that she spent so much of her early life trying to avoid. On July 1, 2011, she walked down the aisle with Prince Albert — who was, by then, the crowned prince of Monaco. Following a religious ceremony the next day, Charlene ceased to be known as Charlene Wittstock, the sixth fastest backstroker in the world. From that moment forward, she was a royal woman — a princely consort — whose fame was tied to the man she had married.

Part of Charlene's transformation was, inevitably, impacted by royal protocol. As Albert's wife, the former Olympic swimmer could no longer behave in the spontaneous and carefree way that she had for years. Due to her new position, Charlene was expected to follow protocols on everything from smiling to curtsying to the way she walked through a door. Over the years, though, she inevitably made mistakes, as respecting royal rules proved incredibly challenging.

When Princess Charlene redecorated the palace

Shortly after getting married, Princess Charlene was tasked with renovating and redecorating the Palace of Monaco. Due to the historical nature of the building, this responsibility proved difficult. While Charlene was asked to respect the palace's most traditional pieces, she also needed to make her own mark on the space. As one inside source told People at the time, the final results were expected to reflect the princess' personality. Prince Albert largely concurred with this assessment, telling the outlet, "As far as decorating the apartments, I've had some input of course, but I've let my wife decide things."

Unfortunately for Charlene, walking the fine line between respecting the palace's past and bringing it into the present was not easy. As royal expert, Arlene Pinsloo, noted in her book, "Charlene: In Search of a Princess," the newly-crowned royal was criticized for her design choices — especially those that gave the palace a common touch. In the view of traditionalists, a princess' job was to respect the monarchy's glorious past. Adding elements of middle-class décor was a huge breach of protocol.

Fascinatingly, Charlene's late mother-in-law, Grace Kelly, went through something similar some six decades prior when she was decorating her children's nursery. As Pinsloo relayed, "Charlene had the same challenges that Princess Grace faced when she moved into the palace and was ridiculed by Monaco society for having the nursery painted in yellow and decorated with the Disney motif of 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.'"

She snapped at the press over questions about babies

As the newlywed consort to Prince Albert of Monaco, one of Princess Charlene's biggest responsibilities was to provide her husband with a healthy male heir. To some, this dynamic might sound outdated. However, the truth is much of the Monégasque elite continued to hold this view as recently as 2014. As a result, when the princess did not get pregnant within the first two years of her marriage, she was subject to criticism from European tabloids and royal fans alike. At the time of these whispers, The Daily Beast quoted a Monaco-based insider who said of Charlene, "People are embarrassed by her."

Perhaps somewhat inevitably, it was reported that the princess grew increasingly preoccupied with her ability to produce an heir. The French publication, Voici, claimed that Charlene was even struggling with mental health, feeling "depressed" about the issue (via The Daily Mail). For this reason, pregnancy became a "taboo topic" in the palace, as people did not want to upset her even more.

Thus, when the French reporter, Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, publicly humiliated the princess by asking whether or not she even wanted to have children, Charlene was livid. As explained in Arlene Pinsloo's "Charlene: In Search of a Princess," the royal bride did not hesitate to fire back, "Hey, won't he just give us a break?" Unfortunately, though, this hotheaded response was not considered very princessly. As Pinsloo observed, "Charlene lost her cool and broke with protocol."

When she wore a lacy green dress

Learning how to maintain one's composure is one of the most essential parts of being a princess. But, as important as it is for royal brides to know how to hold themselves in public, they must also learn to dress themselves for public events. Unfortunately, Princess Charlene learned this lesson the hard way.

Back in 2006, shortly after she and Prince Albert officially became boyfriend and girlfriend, Charlene was invited to attend Monaco's annual Red Cross Gala. Even though this was to be Charlene's first royal event, she was not particularly nervous about it. As the gorgeous blond would later tell Vogue, she didn't spend the hours leading up to the party at the hair salon or beauty parlor. Au contraire, she was just chilling at the beach. Reflecting on that day, Charlene revealed, "I had been playing beach volleyball all day, painted my nails red, and threw on a green dress." For what it's worth, she added, "I thought I looked great at the time."

While there was nothing inherently wrong with Charlene's outfit, it did not necessarily reflect the fashion expertise expected of a potential royal consort. As Charlene herself would later observe in an interview with Tatler, dressed in her long sparkling green gown, "I looked like a Christmas tree." For the Monégasque elite, this sort of fashion faux pas would have majorly broken protocol. Charlene recalled, "My first Red Cross Ball was a baptism of fire."

The times her curtsy led to a wardrobe malfunction

Even once Princess Charlene got used to wearing fancy dresses, she struggled to curtsy in them. Years after walking down the aisle with Prince Albert, Charlene admitted that all the protocol surrounding the process was still totally confusing. As South African journalist, Arlene Prinsloo, revealed in her book, "Charlene: In Search of a Princess," the royal gave a rare interview to the Afrikaans-language publication, Rapport, back in 2019. In this conversation, Charlene spoke more candidly than ever about royal life, confessing that "I address royals incorrectly, or often curtsy to those I shouldn't be curtsying to, or I forget to curtsy." 

Of all these breaches of protocol, however, the most challenging seem to occur when the princess bobs down ... only to end up with a wardrobe malfunction! As Charlene reportedly told Rapport, "The seam of my dress has split while curtsying and I've also lost an earring in my blouse while curtsying."

These sorts of incidents are understood to be extremely disheartening for Charlene, who likely gets tired of making mistakes. When asked by the Afrikaans publication if the palace environment ever got irritating, the princess replied, "Irritating? It's frustrating." At the end of the day, adjusting to royal life is hardly as smooth as a scene from "The Princess Diaries." As Charlene herself divulged in an interview with Paris Match, "No one gave me a handbook describing how to become a princess" (via People).

After her wedding, Princess Charlene dragged her feet on royal duties

Being a princess is more than just carrying a title. In most cases, it also comes with some serious responsibilities. When Princess Charlene tied the knot with Prince Albert in 2011, it was assumed that she would begin to perform some royal duties. This was especially true considering her history as a professional athlete. Hardworking and determined, Charlene was viewed as the perfect candidate to join the family and get to work. As the princess herself told Tatler before her wedding, "In many ways, the life of an athlete and the life of a princess draw on the same reserves. My stamina as a sportsperson will stand me in good stead for my duties as a princess."

Despite these relatively high expectations for Charlene's working future, she did not start performing her royal duties right away. If anything, the royal bride dragged her feet on the matter. Three months after the royal wedding, Charlene headed to Paris Fashion Week, where the Telegraph's Luke Leitch confronted her on this apparent breach of protocol. 

In this interview, Leitch pointedly asked Charlene if she ever planned to become a full-time working royal. Her initial answer demonstrated her understanding of the situation: "I think that would be expected of me in the near future." However, after the tabloid craze that was her wedding, Charlene seemed a bit burned out. She even recognized, "But I have just taken a bit of a break." 

During her wedding ceremony when she fumbled the ring

If Princess Charlene was still feeling exhausted months after her wedding, it was no surprise. Leading up to the grandiose event, the European tabloids kept busy printing rumors about the royal bride and her princely beau. As Charlene prepared for the biggest day of her life, there were whispers that she had no interest in marrying Prince Albert — and that she had even tried to escape from Monaco on multiple occasions. To make matters worse, some people questioned if Albert had perhaps been unfaithful to his fiancee, dooming the couple's marriage before it began. Others yet claimed that Albert and Charlene's union was an arranged one.

Regardless of whether or not any of this was true, the fact remains that Charlene was incredibly tense on her wedding day. In fact, her nerves were so high that she even broke protocol by fumbling her ring. 

Reflecting on this awkward moment to People, the princess recalled, "I was so absolutely exhausted that after about three hours we're putting the rings on the finger and this is one thing I remembered, that I was like so nervous — not that I had energy to be nervous — but I was aiming for the wrong hand when it came time to actually put the ring on." Apparently, Albert caught her mistake, saying, "Babe, it's this hand." Looking back on the chaos, Charlene said, "I wish I could have done this better."

When her friend, Chad le Clos, won the Olympics

Just because Princess Charlene became a royal consort does not mean that she ever stopped being a swimmer at heart. When her friend and fellow South African, Chad le Clos, earned a gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics, Charlene was over the moon. As she watched le Clos compete in the 200-meter butterfly, the princess slowly lost her composure — and it is no wonder.

Throughout the race, it was hard to tell whether le Clos truly had a chance against swimming legend, Michael Phelps. In this nail-biter of a competition, the famous American medalist took the lead until the last second when le Clos touched the wall of the pool with remarkable speed. In the end, the South African champion beat out Phelps by just five-hundredths of a second, according to the Olympics. Charlene could not help but go wild.

Photos of the event published in The Daily Mail showed the princess breaking protocol and cheering le Clos on. Far from the image of royal composure that high-ranked families like to convey, Charlene was pictured throwing her arms up in the air and screaming. After the race was finished, the South African national anthem played in honor of le Clos' win, prompting Charlene to break protocol once again by shedding tears of joy. And, when she celebrated the win with her old friend and his family, she was even photographed kissing the gold medal.

Upon shaving her head

On December 16, 2020, Princess Charlene waltzed into the palace's annual Christmas party — and left the guests in shock. Rather than wearing the traditional gown expected of most princesses, Charlene sported a camouflage-inspired top. What's more, she departed from protocol completely by revealing her brand-new half-hawk haircut. A far cry from the more feminine styles expected from women of her stature, Charlene's half-hawk showed much of her scalp. To the surprise of onlookers, the princess was rocking a more alternative look, and she looked good doing it, too.

Not long after the debut of her rebellious new hairstyle, Charlene told the French publication Point de Vue that it was really no big deal: "This haircut was my decision. It seems that it has provoked all kinds of comments. But it turns out that I wanted it for a long time, the style pleases me. That's all" (via People). She added that her kids get a kick out of the cut, stating, "What counts is that Jacques and Gabriella adore seeing their mother with her new style."

Interestingly, when asked about issues of protocol, Charlene brushed those concerns aside. "The remarks of 'But what is she doing?' and 'But it's not royal!' — I know these all too well. And I have nothing to say to them, except that we're in 2021 and that in these times which are so troubling, so difficult, there are other, much more important subjects which deserve our attention."

When Princess Charlene shared an NFT of herself behind bars

The Monégasque royal family has never really taken to the British mantra of "never complain, never explain." Over the years, Prince Albert and Princess Charlene have fought quite a bit with the press, suing tabloids for unsubstantiated reports and defending themselves against rumors. That being said, it's one thing to complain about the press and another to actually complain about royal life. Thus, when Charlene posted an unusual bit of artwork to her since-deactivated Instagram, fans were concerned.

As reported by Evoke, the incident occurred when the princess shared an NFT made by Junaid Sénéchal-Senekal to her social media. The piece was essentially a representation of Charlene's face that appeared to be broken apart into a dozen or so tiles. Depending on how you look at the image, you can see the princess' likeness posing behind the bars of a cage.

Naturally, royal fans began to wonder if this post was some kind of royal #FreeBritney moment. Considering the rumors that have circulated about Charlene's overall sense of unhappiness, the post seemed like a cry for help. And, while any sort of royal SOS would almost certainly break protocol, many of the princess' fans would support this move. In the end, though, Charlene never confirmed what — if anything — that post meant. Even so, it was a very strange thing for a woman of her stature to share.

The time Princess Charlene declared that she would make her own protocol

At the end of the day, it may seem like Princess Charlene breaks protocol a lot. But, the princess is likely just searching for her own sense of balance amid the pressures of royal life. And, in some ways, it seems that Charlene is intent on casting certain aspects of protocol aside when it comes to raising her adorable twins, Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella.

As the South African journalist, Arlene Pinsloo, revealed in the biography, "Charlene: In Search of a Princess," the Monégasque royal has not been afraid to critique these royal rules — at least, not when she is speaking in Afrikaans. According to Pinsloo's report, Charlene used this common South African language to tell the local outlet, Rapport, what she really thought about protocol, declaring, "I'm creating my own [rules]. It's time to move ahead."

Apparently, one of the reasons motivating the princess' decision is the way that the spread of information has changed in the last decades. Back in 1956, when Grace Kelly was crowned Princess of Monaco, she could go out to lunch or even take a bad photo without thousands of people finding out about it the next day. As Charlene told Rapport, "We live in an era of WhatsApp, where information is available at your fingertips. So ... I'm creating my own protocol regarding myself and my children."