Inside Princess Caroline's Complicated Relationship With Princess Charlene

At first glance, Princess Charlene of Monaco has a lot in common with her sister-in-law Princess Caroline. Both women care about the principality and perform their royal duties with elegance and grace. Both have struggled with the incessant attention of the European tabloid press. And both have had sons who — at one point or other — stood to inherit the Monégasque throne. 

In spite of these parallels, however, the two women are not believed to get along. As royal expert Arlene Pisloo explained in her book "Charlene: In Search of a Princess," there is one woman who has been called "Charlene's only ally in the Monaco royal family" — and it's not Caroline. Apparently, the younger, more rebellious Princess Stéphanie has been the sole royal woman to offer the crown princess support. Based on this report, one does have to wonder whether Charlene and Caroline have suffered from incompatible personalities, or just a generational gap. After all, Charlene was born in 1978 and Caroline in 1957. In that sense, the lack of closeness between the two women could be attributed to their difference in age.

At the end of the day, though, it is hard to say exactly why the two princesses aren't BFFs. Nonetheless, as the years have gone by, details about their relationship have leaked to the press. From a feud over the coveted first lady position to exclusion from Monégasque society events, things between Charlene and Caroline seem as tense as ever.

Princess Caroline might have felt like Princess Charlene replaced her

One of the reasons why Princess Caroline and Princess Charlene may not get along may actually be tied to wounds of the past — particularly the tragic passing of Caroline's mother, Princess Grace Kelly. On September 13, 1982, the Hollywood-star-turned-royal lost control of her car and drove it off a cliff. She died one day later. 

According to the Express, Caroline reacted to this heartbreaking accident by stepping up and taking over her mother's first lady position. Reflecting on this dynamic, Caroline's father, Prince Rainier, reportedly commented, "After Grace's death a miracle happened. Princess Caroline stepped into her mother's shoes. She has the same spirit as her mother. The way she is handling the jobs I have given her is a source of great satisfaction to me."

When Rainier died and Prince Albert II took the throne in 2005, Caroline remained in this role. At the time, Albert was a bachelor — known by many as the "playboy prince." Because of this, Caroline likely assumed she would always be Monaco's defacto first lady. As royal expert Brittani Barger told the Express, "Albert took quite a while to settle down, so maybe Caroline thought he'd never settle down and she'd have that role forever." Because of this, when Albert did eventually fall for Charlene, tensions supposedly ran high. Barger continued, "When Charlene came on the scene and married Albert, Caroline had to take a step back." This possibly led to resentment.

Caroline potentially thought that Charlene stole the spotlight

When Princess Charlene became the official first lady of Monaco in 2011, Princess Caroline was likely caught off-guard. Not only would Charlene be taking over many of her royal duties, but the newly-crowned royal would also be getting most of the spotlight. Speaking to the Express about this complicated dynamic, royal expert Brittani Barger explained, "You have to remember that when Rainier and Grace's children were young, they were all popular with the media and closely followed." As long as Caroline continued to be the most highly-ranked woman in the royal family, she would continue to receive all sorts of attention.

Unfortunately, though, much of the public's overall interest in Caroline slowed down once it became clear that there was a new princess in town. From the moment that Prince Albert II announced his engagement, Charlene was hounded by the European tabloid press. Articles about her diet, workout routines, and fashion choices popped up left and right. Meanwhile, interest in Caroline just could not compare. The former leading gal was getting lost among newer, fresher faces.

As Barger told the Express, "Caroline was the 'first lady' of sorts for many years until Albert married Charlene. She was the one at this side, getting all the publicity." Losing that sense of relevancy might have been complicated for Caroline. To make things even more tense, rumors of jealousy abounded as the veteran princess made room for the newcomer.

The palace tried to mitigate these tensions at Charlene's wedding

When Princess Charlene and Prince Albert II were getting ready to walk down the aisle in 2011, rumblings about their romance ran rampant. Some claimed that Albert begged Charlene to go through with the royal wedding so that she could eventually give him a legitimate heir. Others yet whispered that the bride had tried to flee Monaco three times leading up to her big day. And, inevitably, there was gossip that Caroline did not support the wedding because she was just too jealous that Charlene would be taking over her first lady role.

At the time, the Prince's Palace of Monaco did everything in its power to combat these narratives — even suing the French tabloid L'Express for perpetuating rumors of a runaway bride. As for the Caroline story, however, it seems that the palace tried to mitigate those whispers in a more subtle way. 

Leading up to the wedding, Charlene told Vogue that, in lieu of a tiara, she would be wearing "some beautiful diamond hair clips" on loan from Caroline. And at least one royal expert believes that the palace orchestrated this stunt to quell rumors of a feud. Commenting on this dynamic with the Express, Brittani Barger hinted that the borrowed hairpiece was supposed to show the world that Charlene and Caroline were fast friends. In reality, though, it is hard to know what the former first lady meant when she lent Charlene her diamonds.

Rumor has it that Caroline and Charlene fought before the royal wedding

If the Prince's Palace of Monaco really did try to stop chatter about Princess Charlene and Princess Caroline's relationship before the wedding, its efforts failed miserably. Diamond hair clips or not, there was no shortage of speculation about Charlene and Caroline's so-called feud. And, apparently, tensions between the women overflowed prior to the ceremony.

As chronicled in Arlene Pinsloo's book "Charlene: In Search of a Princess," the trouble started when South African photographer David Crighton claimed to have obtained footage of the two women fighting. Speaking to the Afrikaans-language publication Rapport (via News24), Crighton alleged that Charlene and Caroline argued over Princess Grace Kelly's engagement ring. Apparently, Charlene had wanted to wear it at the wedding, only to find that Caroline disapproved. Of the supposed altercation, photographer said, "It was just fingers being pointed in faces."

In the end, it is impossible to verify whether or not this argument ever took place. Crighton never released his footage to the press, claiming, "The palace wants to buy my silence." Either way, Caroline has hinted at the discord that plagued the royal family leading up to Prince Albert II and Charlene's wedding. Per Pinsloo's report, Caroline once told People, "There were huge arguments [leading up to the wedding]. Not between us — but with everybody. I think then there was an epidemic among a lot of people that between ourselves we now call 'Monaco Fever.'"

Caroline might have a rude nickname for Charlene

A pre-wedding argument was not the only thing that photographer David Crighton claimed to uncover prior to the wedding. He also alleged that Princess Caroline had come up with a mean nickname to describe her new rival. According to Arlene Pinsloo's biography "Charlene: In Search of a Princess," Crighton claimed to the press that Caroline and her younger sister, Princess Stéphanie, would refer to Princess Charlene as "Princess Barbie" — and it wasn't meant as a compliment. Apparently, the Grimaldi girls' closest friends began using the nickname as well.

Although it is impossible to verify these claims, the reality is that Charlene did not have an easy time adjusting to royal life. When she married Prince Albert II and moved into the palace, the blond royal bride struggled to gain acceptance into Monégasque society. As one royal tipster told the Daily Beast's Royalist, "People are embarrassed by her ... There was a hope that she could introduce some glamour, but now most people just feel she is tacky."

Interestingly, Charlene herself has admitted to having very few allies in her new royal home. In an interview with Tatler, the princess confessed, "Although I have met some wonderful people since I've been living in Monaco, I regard them all as acquaintances. I only have two people I consider friends here." And while one would think that these two friends would be her new sisters-in-law, Charlene did not name Caroline or Stéphanie as her confidants.

When Charlene had kids, the family dynamic changed

If things between Princess Caroline and her sister-in-law started out tense, the dynamic presumably went through a shakeup when Princess Charlene and Prince Albert II had twins. On December 10, 2014, the Zimbabwe-born royal welcomed Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella to the world. While the twins' birth should have been purely a cause for celebration, their existence proved more complicated for Caroline. After all, they indelibly changed the family's line of succession; Caroline and her kids were bumped out.

Before the royal twins entered the picture, Caroline was first in line for the throne, while her son, Andrea Casiraghi, was second. Of course, it is worth noting that Caroline never seemed too keen to wear the crown herself. However, many people believed that she had high hopes for Andrea to one day become the ruling prince of Monaco. Because of this, Caroline may not have been particularly pleased to see Jacques and Gabriella come into the world ... and dash her hopes of seeing Andrea on the throne. 

As royal expert Brittani Barger divulged in an interview with the Express, this dynamic may have increased tensions between Caroline and Charlene even more. Bager explained, "You have to also remember that until Charlene, Caroline was first in line to the throne, followed by her children. Until Albert married Charlene and they had their twins, Caroline stood a real chance to be on the throne."

The two may have feuded over control of Gabriella and Jacques

At the end of the day, though, Princess Caroline appears way less interested in actually ruling Monaco than in shaping the country's next ruler. Since her own son, Andrea Casiraghi, no longer has very good chances of sitting on the throne, Caroline has apparently grown increasingly involved with the new heir, Prince Jacques, and his sister, Princess Gabriella. As one royal insider told Now to Love's Woman's Day, "She's determined to mold the twins, especially Jacques the heir apparent, to her idea of what a little prince should be."

In practice, this means that Caroline has possibly gotten involved with Gabriella and Jacques' schooling — despite Princess Charlene's objections. According to the same royal insider, "Recently, Caroline took it upon herself to call the headmistress of their old school to discuss their socialization... the twins are currently educated at home at Charlene's request." This attempt to override Charlene's parenting choices did not play too well with the twins' protective mother. "Charlene is frantic to see that Caroline is taking over influence on her twins."

Interestingly, it has been suggested that the ruling princess does not want to let her children grow up amid all the pressures of the palace. As the source told Woman's Day, Charlene "worries about how [royal life] might affect her seven-year-old twins who are growing up with all kinds of pressures, tugged in all directions, far from the real world."

Reports indicate that Caroline disapproves of Charlene's taste in music

Much of the rumored friction between Princess Charlene and Princess Caroline is said to pertain to big picture issues — like who gets to perform certain royal duties or educate the next heir. Even so, there seems to be quite a bit of pettiness between the two women. At one point, it was even reported that Caroline supposedly boycotted a gala because she didn't like Charlene's taste in music.

As reported by Page Six in 2014, the trouble started when Charlene was planning Monaco's annual Red Cross Ball. The event, which has been an integral part of the Monégasque social scene since 1948, tends to be a major fundraiser. And Charlene wanted to book a musical guest that the crowds would never forget. Because of this, she thought to invite the jazz pianist and singer Diana Krall to perform at the event.

In the end, though, this choice backfired — no thanks to Caroline. Apparently, the older princess was so opposed to the idea of letting Krall perform at the Red Cross Ball that she decided to scratch the gala from her calendar altogether. As soon as Caroline announced that she would be skipping the ball, a flood of other socialites RSVPed "no." Princess Stéphanie, Charlotte Casiraghi, Lynn Wyatt, and Karl Lagerfeld all followed suit. Speaking to Page Six, an anonymous guest at the Red Cross Ball declared, "It was terrible, a disaster."

Charlene has skipped some of Caroline's pet events

Based on that account of the Red Cross Ball incident, it sounds like Princess Caroline does not always feel the need to attend events organized by Princess Charlene. And, interestingly, she does not seem particularly keen on including Charlene in her own events, either. As reported by the German outlet Bild, Charlene did not attend the 2023 Rose Ball, which is considered one of Monaco's biggest society events. Although it's hard to say exactly why the princess missed this major gala, the outlet hinted that the royal family considers the event "Caroline's territory" — meaning that Charlene was expected to make herself scarce.

Fascinatingly, the Prince's Palace of Monaco was quick to explain away Charlene's absence. As reported by News24, the palace released an official statement, clarifying that the princess was away on a work trip during the festivities: "Charlene was in Dubai where she's currently in the process of setting up her foundation. She's hands-on with it and it's not the first time she's missed the Rose Ball for work. She has the full support of Albert."

That being said, one does have to wonder if Charlene's trip to Dubai wasn't scheduled in such a way that she would conveniently miss her rival's gala. After all, the Rose Ball is considered one of the royal family's biggest events — yet Charlene has skipped it time and time again.

Caroline and Charlene still try to be nice for the cameras

Although Princess Caroline and Princess Charlene seem to be far from being best buddies, the two have tried to improve their public relationship. As reported by the German publication Bunte, 2023 has seen the pair making more of an effort to stand together at royal events. In fact, on May 31 of that year, Caroline and Charlene were spotted standing side-by-side at a memorial for the late Prince Rainier. Per Bunte, this was one of the first times that the duo was seen together in public since 2020. (It is worth noting that Charlene withdrew from the public eye in 2020 after suffering health issues.)

While this event marks one of the few recent instances where Caroline and Charlene had been photographed together, it also stands as a reminder that the two women are both Grimaldis. And, as far as they are concerned, the crown must come before any sort of private problems — including their alleged feud.

In that sense, it was extremely important for the two women to stand together at Rainier's memorial. After all, they showed the world just how loyal they both are to the principality. As royal commentator Laura Jerger wrote for Bunte, "The message behind the appointment: The family sticks together."