New Story on Princess Charlene from the New York Post ... and I helped the reporter ...
The prisoner princess
By STEFANIE COHEN
When Charlene Wittstock walked down the aisle in Monaco on her wedding day, she had something old — a groom 20 years her senior — and something new: a custom-made gown by Giorgio Armani Privé. But as she stood at the altar, it became readily apparent that the “something blue” was, very possibly, Wittstock herself.
Wittstock — succeeding the late Grace Kelly to become Her Serene Highness of Monaco — began to weep. As she dabbed away the tears rolling down her cheeks, Prince Albert of Monaco, her betrothed, looked annoyed.
Wittstock’s tears did not look like the happy tears of a blushing bride.
Instead, they looked like a cry for help.
“The expression on Charlene’s face seemed so forced at many points during the nuptials,” says a wedding guest who spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity.
“People were saying that it was one of those weddings where, in 10 years time, the bride will confess on TV that she thought it was all a huge mistake, but she was overwhelmed and felt she had no choice but to go through with it.”
With good reason. The extravagant July 2 church wedding of Prince Albert, 53, to the 33-year-old Wittstock, a South African former Olympic swimmer, capped a dramatic week in which it was reported that the bride had allegedly tried to escape Monaco — and had her had her passport seized by police following rumors that her fiancé had fathered a third illegitimate child, possibly during their courtship.
According to French magazine L’Express, Wittstock allegedly bought a one-way ticket back to South Africa the week before the wedding and tried to leave the country only to have her passport taken away while en route to the airport in Nice, France.
“Charlene had her passport confiscated so that the prince’s entourage could persuade her to stay,” a senior detective in Monaco told the UK’s Daily Mail. The paper also said that she sought refuge in the South African embassy in May, while in France for a bridal-gown fitting. There was an alleged third attempt, also in May, during the Grand Prix in Monaco.
Despite reports of her efforts to become a runaway bride, Wittstock was apparently convinced to carry on with the lavish three-day wedding, whose guests included countless titled Europeans, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Karolina Kurkova, Roger Moore, Naomi Campbell, Karl Lagerfeld and Giorgio Armani.
“There was relief that the bride went through with it; some were insisting until right before the service started that she would get cold feet,” says the wedding guest. “There was an expression being bandied about [at the wedding] in relation to Charlene which cited her swimming background: ‘Elle nage completement.’ She’s all at sea.”
So why did Wittstock go through with the $88 million affair?
Several European newspapers have reported that “an arrangement” was worked out between Wittstock and Albert after the bride returned to the palace.
And yesterday, the couple flew to South Africa together for their honeymoon at the luxurious Oyster Box Hotel in Durban, according to reports. The suite the couple are thought to be staying in, which goes for roughly $7,000 a night, boasts floor-to-ceiling views of the Indian Ocean, a private swimming pool and a private dining room with seating for 10.
They should enjoy the honeymoon while it lasts — because they could return to grim news.
While attorneys for the prince have officially denied all the claims, including that there is a new love child, anonymous palace sources say that His Serene Highness will likely submit to paternity tests to determine if the child in question is his.
It’s hardly an ideal start to a marriage.
But this is familiar ground for Prince Albert, whose romantic exploits have been well chronicled; he has been linked to world-renowned beauties such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Naomi Campbell and Brooke Shields.
And the billionaire bachelor has fathered at least two children out of wedlock, including 7-year-old son Alexandre — the son of former Air France flight attendant Nicole Coste — and 19-year-old daughter, Jazmin, who is now a student in New York at Fordham University. Jazmin is the daughter of American real estate agent Tamara Rotola.
The prince did not admit to fathering the children until one mother sued and the second took her story to the press; DNA tests eventually proved he was the father of both children.
“Charlene is resigned to the fact that Albert has illegitimate children, but she is desperate to know if one was born during their five year courtship,” a senior palace source told the Daily Mail.
Prince Albert’s lavish lifestyle is a far cry from Wittstock’s humble origins; the blond beauty was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, in 1978, the daughter of a swim teacher and a photocopy salesman.
Her family moved to South Africa when she was a girl, and Wittstock earned a spot on the South African Olympic team in Sydney in 2000.
She met Albert, a member of the International Olympic Committee, in 2001 at a swim meet in Monaco.
But while it may have initially seemed like a fairy tale come true, Wittstock has complained of a difficult transition to her gilded cage.
Last year, she told reporters that, since moving to Monaco in 2008, she had only made two friends.
“Most of the Monaco glitterati don’t trust her,” says the anonymous wedding guest. “And it’s not helped by the fact that when they say her name, it sounds like they’re saying ‘Charlie!’ ”
Plus, she is said to be uncomfortable speaking French, which a majority of Monaco residents use. But in the coming months, Wittstock may have to struggle with far more than linguistic concerns if the rumors surrounding her husband prove true.
For now, there’s at least one person in Albert’s corner: his new father-in-law. Wittstock’s father told a South African radio station that the rumors swirling through the tiny country were just that — and denied that his daughter ever tried to flee.
“Charlene took her mom to Paris on Monday to get shoes and a hat for the wedding; that’s the only time she was anywhere near an airplane — and she was there for a day and back,” he said. When describing how he felt about his daughter’s nuptials to Prince Albert, he said, “It feels like we’ve won the World Cup.”
“The wedding was a lavish show but rather a messy business,” concludes the wedding guest.
“A happily ever after scenario would be a nice surprise.”
Thank you to Stefanie Cohen for allowing me to post the article.