Prince Albert and Princess Charlene of Monaco Win Libel Case Against The UK’s Sunday Times
No word yet on how the Monaco royals will fare againt the French papers, but it looks like they will win that suit as well. This verdict, though, may not be the last word about reporting on the Grimaldi marriage.
In short, on January 15, The Sunday Times was forced in open court to apologize and pay for damages incurred when it libeled Prince Albert and Princess Charlene of Monaco nearly two years ago. The Rupert Murdoch-owned paper will also pay for his court costs.
The Sunday Times published two interesting pieces on July 3, 2011, two days after the royal wedding. Called “The Full Filthy Monte,” and “The Curse of the Grimaldis,” the articles claimed that the marriage between the prince and the former Charlene Wittstock was an absolute sham; that Charlene was a runaway bride who was forced to hand over her passport; that the prince had turned a blind eye to corruption within his government, and that Monaco was a prime site for money laundering. Variations of these stories showed up in the United Kingdom and Europe, and in the U.S. as well.
The Sunday Times also claimed that Princess Charlene had been reluctant to marry after discovering the existence of a love child but agreed to the wedding in return for a payment with a view to obtaining an annulment after a seemly interval.
The Prince sued for damages of £300,000, although the exact amount of the settlement was not disclosed. Rupert Earle, representing The Sunday Times, which agreed to pay the Prince’s costs, said the paper “offered sincere apologies to the claimants for the damage, as well as the distress caused.”
The Prince is also suing the paper, the editor John Witherow (who is expected to be named shortly as the new editor of The Times) and the author of the article Matthew Campbell in the French courts. He is seeking further damages of €100,000 (£83,000) and apologies published in Britain, France and Monaco.
The articles had also claimed that Prince Albert had given residency to certain unscrupulous characters to keep them from spilling details of his private life to the media. In other words, he succumbed to blackmail.
There’s been a lot of traffic to this site since I published my own version of these now-disavowed articles, including observations from the gossip columnist Taki, about the prince and princess of Monaco. And while these stories have been found to be groundless in court, I still think that the marriage may not be happy in certain respects, and I don’t think that it is just because of the media. I think that it is a combination of a lot of things.
For instance, it cannot be easy to wear beautiful, expensive clothes while dripping in diamonds and pearls when your family-by-marriage may—and I emphasize may-–have the knives out for you. Charlene herself was said to admit that she could count her close friends in Monaco on two fingers. One would hope that it would at least be one of her husband’s sisters. Understand that the Hereditary Princess Caroline is heiress presumptive and she has four children, three of them grown with two of them sons. Monaco still has male preference primogeniture, which means that any sons born to the monarch are first in line to the throne regardless of birth order.
Understand that the prince’s father was nearly deposed by his own elder sister, Princess Antoinette, the Baroness de Massy, on behalf of her son, Christian Louis, because Rainier III hadn’t married and produced a child by the time he ascended the throne in 1949. Antoinette even manufactured a rumor that Rainier’s long-time lover, French actress Gisèle Pascal, was infertile. The princess succeeded in engineering the break-up of Rainier’s relationship, but when Pascal married another man, actor Raymond Pellegrin, she became a mother a year before Rainier married Grace Kelly. Princess Antoinette’s continued stiffness and interference towards Rainier and his bride caused Antoinette and her family to be
thrown out of the palace exiled from Monaco for some years. She died reconciled to her brother and her brother’s family in 2011.
Now, I have not read of any problems—yet—that the prince and his wife are having with Princess Caroline. Caroline is still on the way to divorcing her two-timing husband, Prince Ernst August of Hanover. However, in becoming a Royal Highness by marriage, Caroline may also outrank her brother, who is a Serene Highness (it also depends on which country one is from, according to Wikipedia). She is also a distant cousin by marriage to the British Royal Family. In fact, Queen Elizabeth II had to give her permission for Ernst August to marry Caroline, according to the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, despite Caroline being a Roman Catholic. The older Caroline has become, the more she fastens on titles and perquisites, I’ve noticed. And now, in what appears to strengthen her son Andrea’s claim to the throne, Caroline is about to become a grandmother.
If there are no Grimaldi heirs to take up the throne, the little principality reverts to being French territory. That’s the treaty and that’s the law.
I think that I said before that the relationship between the prince and Nicole Coste was denied up and down for years, but she and her son Alexandre turned out to be true. There is something about the previous track records of denial that makes me suspect that there may be a few grains of truth to a couple of these marital breakdowns/spats, but not enough to make a big deal out of it or to lose libel cases over. Rupert’s guys were merely making stuff up out of whole cloth.
I can ascribe some of the princess’ visible discomfort to the fact that she was not born royal, and that she is not used to being on display. But in comparison, her late mother-in-law (who was already a famous actress) and even Diana, Princess of Wales were younger and in Diana’s case, somewhat less prepared for being on the world stage. They soldiered through, or struck out on their own, learned and shone and produced the royal heirs. Princess Charlene seems, at some receptions and state affairs, to be gaining in confidence. Unfortunately, it’s been nearly two years, and no child has yet appeared. Again, in comparison, Grace and Diana did not waste time with their husbands, and produced children promptly. And Charlene is 35.
I have read that some women athletes can lose their propensity to have regular periods and even to have children because of their strenuous training routines. It is not a permanent state of affairs, and eventually they regain their fertility with proper nutrition and exercise, and in one important respect, regaining the body fat needed to have children. But the princess retired from competition in 2007, when she was 29 years old. And she continues model thin.
Vanity Fair published this short, bitingly humorous piece about the Grimaldis a few weeks after Prince William of Wales and his wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge announced that they were having a baby.
The scene: a drawing room in the home of Princess Charlene and Prince Albert of Monaco. Princess Charlene has just returned from one of her daily 13-hour swims to find Albert sitting in a chair, strumming his fingertips on the table.
Princess Charlene: [pretends not to notice Albert a few feet directly in front of her]
Prince Albert: [coughs, calling her bluff]
Princess Charlene: [looks over at Albert, purses lips into tight smile]
Prince Albert: Charlene.
Princess Charlene: Albert, hi. Um.
Prince Albert: Did you happen to catch today’s news?
Princess Charlene: Uh. Yes. Uh, you mean. . . Syria. Terrible.
Prince Albert: [clears throat] Ah, I, uh, no. I mean, yes, an immense tragedy.
Princess Charlene: [looks at Albert, as if daring him to continue]
Prince Albert: No, I uh, was referring to Princess Kate. Pregnant, you know.
Princess Charlene: Yes, it’s just awful about Syria.
Prince Albert: Indeed.
Why do I harp on fertility and babies? Because this was supposedly the reason why Albert was getting married: to produce the legal heir. Albert and Charlene have known each other for nearly 13 years; Charlene moved in with him in 2006 after he ascended to the throne, and they were finally engaged in 2010.
Now, it could be that they are taking their time again. Or they may not wish to have children at all, and wish to enjoy each other. Sometimes love, in any way, shape or form, is enough.
I can only think of the pressures dogging Crown Princess Masako of Japan, who was once known as a young, vibrant, modern Japanese woman, who had to submit to the strictures of the draconian and right-wing Imperial Household Agency. And while she finally produced one child, a daughter, Aiko, the Princess Toshi in 2001, the crown may yet revert to the Crown Princess’ nephew, Prince Hisahito, who was born in 2006. The boy is third in line to the throne after his father, Prince Akishino, and Crown Prince Naruhito.
At 49, her childbearing days over, Crown Princess Masako still suffers from adjustment disorder, but she is not alone. Her mother-in-law, the Empress Michiko, when Crown Princess, also has had problems with the Imperial Household, with other members of the Imperial Family (Empress Nagako, who was born a princess in the Imperial house, reportedly disliked her “lower class” daughter-in-law), and with the pressures of being the first commoner in the Imperial Family. At one point, when the Empress-to-be miscarried a baby in 1963, she had to withdraw to the Imperial villa in the country because of the stress and recriminations from all fronts for her “failure.” The woman actually lost her voice for several months, due to a psychosomatic disorder, a situation that reoccurred in 1993.
Subsequently, all attention is being focused on the more conservative Akishino, and less on the Crown Prince, who is said to be more progressive, democratic, and would like nothing more than to see his daughter as Empress regnant. Princess Aiko, at last report, was being bullied at her private elementary school, probably loaded with sons, daughters, and grandchildren of right-wing courtiers, industrialists, and affiliate members of the Imperial Family. And in Monaco, more attention is being given to the grown Casiraghi young men, 28-year-old Andrea, and 25-year-old Pierre, at each event when the royals entire are expected.
Frankly, half of this mess would not have occurred had the Prince of Monaco had a powerful in-house media arm that would have put the kibosh to all these rumors on the quick time. Buckingham Palace learned the hard way that they had to strike back and strike back quickly, especially after the Princess of Wales was killed in 1997. As many of us found out during and beyond that sad occasion, the British monarchy teetered on the edge of collapse because the mother of the heir to the throne wasn’t given the respect in death the commoners strongly felt that she richly deserved. So silence from palaces these days does not mean silence. Silence no longer suffices as a front. Silence means tone-deafness, anachronism, or worse, an assent that what is written or told is true. And people will run hard with the latter.
As I said earlier, this verdict will not end the speculation about Monaco’s royal couple, but it may at least tamp down the even wilder ones about them. That was the point of the lawsuit. This well is running dry, folks. Move along.
- Prince Wins ‘Sham Marriage’ Libel Suit (abcnews.go.com)
- News Regarding TSHs Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco. (VIDEOS) (royalcorrespondent.com)
- Prince Albert of Monaco and wife Charlene accept damages from Sunday Times for untrue story that claimed she was reluctant to marry him (dailymail.co.uk)
- Princess Charlene of Monaco: Front Row at PFW (celebs.gather.com)