Inside the curse of the Grimaldis

As rumours swirl around the marriage of Prince Albert, Harry Shukman dives into the Monegasque Royal Family's alleged curse...

When AA Gill visited Monaco he said it was a “mangrove swamp of avarice”, a greasy hellscape devoid of “taste and a sense of the collective good”. It was “deeply depressing, so comprehensively devoid of any amusement, expectation or glamour, so utterly tacky, witless, empty and sad”. Psychological research tells us that geography affects personality, so is it any wonder that the House of Grimaldi, the family that rules the naff microstate of Monaco, is said to be cursed?

Talk of the 700-year-old Grimaldi curse has been revived this summer as Prince Albert II, the philandering monarch, and his marriage to Princess Charlene is rumoured to be on the brink. She has not been seen publicly in Monaco since January, when she decamped to her home country of South Africa for a “conservation trip” in aid of the endangered white rhino. She missed her ten-year wedding anniversary with Albert, 63, who in vain has tried to dampen rumours of an impending split with the claim that doctors have advised Charlene, 43, from flying back to Monaco after complications from a “serious” ear, nose, and throat infection. Last month, Albert said his wife had an operation and was “resting”.

The Grimaldi Family in 1973. Prince Albert is second from right, arm-in-arm with his mother

She collapsed a fortnight ago and was admitted to hospital, and intends to return to Monaco in October – although her husband told People magazine he hoped to “cut that time frame a little short”.

The prince, who has an estimated fortune of $1 billion, visited at the end of August to stage a photoshoot with Charlene and their two children. Royal watchers said pictures of the couple hugging looked awkward and uncomfortable. As well they might. The Prince already supports two illegitimate children, and late last year he was hit with a paternity suit for a third. A Brazilian woman alleges she had an affair with Albert and gave birth to their daughter in 2005 – while he was together with Charlene. The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is now 34 years old. At the time of the affair she would have been about 18 or 19. Albert would have been 47. 

In his time, Albert has been romantically linked to an entire fashion show’s worth of famous women, including Brooke Shields, Naomi Campbell, Kyle Minogue, and Lisa Marie Presley. If that is surprising considering his portly physique and middle management accountancy demeanour, one journalist who interviewed him insisted that he is “much better looking in person than he appears in photographs”.

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