Charlene celebrates new life on National Day
Princess of Monaco keeps adoring eye on her twins
PRINCESS Charlene of Monaco lives life at a whirlwind pace. The former South African Olympic “golden girl” comes speeding up the drive in a golf cart at the private royal retreat, Roc Agel.
I am there with a royal photographer and his assistant and the princess leaps out, full of energy and I get a warm hug.
I am in the principality by invitation for National Monaco Day and have been granted an exclusive interview with Princess Charlene.
We are vetted by security before following her down the drive to her home, which was bought by Prince Rainier II for his wife Princess Grace (former US actress Grace Kelly).
It’s early in the morning and mist curls through the large weathered trees. To the left, I spot a couple of Indian elephants in a field. They were rescued from a zoo by Princess Stephanie (Prince Albert’s sister) and are called Nepal and Baby.
The cars sweep to a stop and we are led inside. There’s immediately a sense that this is a home and not a palatial residence.
The Christmas decorations are already up and a fire crackles in the grate of a fireplace in the lounge. An old dog follows us, with an almost resigned air of having to escort yet more visitors.
Coffee is laid out and as we start the interview, Princess Charlene fetches her twins, who are trying to take baby steps.
Both have huge blue eyes which follow mom’s every movement.
“This is the biggest role in my life and I want to be with them as much as possible. Jacques is very much a little boy and enjoys using his hands, Gabriella is every inch a little princess.”
She is also keen to exchange news from home – her Foundation’s Southern African operation based in Ballito is doing well, and the Sharks didn’t have a great season. She clearly misses the humour that only South Africans can share and we discuss Trevor Noah’s debut on US television on The Daily Show.
She has also set up a rugby day for children, which is to be held annually in Monaco and which is attended by a number of countries.
“This year, we had teams joining us from South Africa. It was great fun. We make sure every child has time on the field,” she says.
I tell her I’m staying at the Port Palace hotel, along Rue JF Kennedy, which is be part of the grand prix circuit.
It’s certainly a room with a view – the magnificent yacht mall, Port Hercule is below the palace, which sits atop the formidable Rock, from where the Grimaldi dynasty has ruled for over 700 years.
National Monaco Day or Fête du Prince (Prince’s Day) celebrations are traditionally marked with a massive fireworks display on the evening of November 18, but this year, the show was cancelled in solidarity with the French after the Paris terrorist attacks.
The national holiday started with the morning service at St Nicholas Cathedral, also known as Cathedral of our Lady of Immaculate Conception, which was attended by a number of heads of state, dignitaries and aristocracy, while the world’s paparazzi gathered outside.
Interesting to note, the paparazzi were all men in black, with the exception of one other female journalist.
Pictures were shot at high speed when the royal family emerged from the church after the service.
When the action moved to the palace, Prince Albert and Princess Charlene appeared on the balcony with Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella, creating a frisson of excitement through both the camera crews and the Monegasque citizens and tourists gathered below.
It is only the second time the royal babies have appeared in public and a quick survey indicated that local residents are delighted with the new heirs to the Grimaldi throne.
The princess confirms her stunning outfit in plum is by Swiss designer Akris.
We discuss the opera Tosca, to which I had been fortunate enough to be invited the evening before. That’s where the power players mingle and the diamonds definitely impress. The atmosphere had been heady with Christian Dior and Yves St Laurent and not a cellphone in sight the entire evening.
Opera stars Martina Serafin ( soprano) and Marcello Alvarez (tenor) were magnificent, portraying that renowned sense of passion for which Italian opera is so famous. It’s easy to see that the princess has a hectic schedule from early morning to late at night.
It’s time to wrap up the interview. Prince Albert comes in, he’s relaxed and easy to talk to. For a few moments we discuss the Rugby World Cup – the difference in the Springboks game against Japan to the two-point loss against the All Blacks.
The prince is both a sportsman and adventurer, as well as being a committed environmentalist. He enjoys rugby and is passionate about football.
We finish our coffee and the princess quickly checks through her speech for a conference at the Vatican that she’s leaving for in the afternoon, it is clear she has a well laid out plan – and it is working nicely.
‘This is the biggest role
WATER SPIRIT: Princess Charlene of Monaco arrives at the Vatican last weekend, where she addressed a conference on saving children's lives through education on water safety.
SECURITY: The 112 carabinieri are the official guards for the royal family.