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  #621  
Old 07-13-2013, 09:25 AM
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Edited from The Times 13th July
Charlene of Monaco - the unlikely princess.


About Roc Agel
“We have two elephants arriving next month,” says the 35-year-old Princess in the broad South African accent that still sounds incongruous in this European city state where French, with a special Monégasque lilt, is spoken. “We rescued them from a circus. Our kids are going to grow up saying they had elephants in their back garden. I just need lions roaring and I will feel really at home.”

Background
Charlene is often mentioned in the same breath as Kate Middleton, not least because both women married into royalty within months of one another. However, Charlene’s background was much less comfortable. Plain Charlene Wittstock was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), in 1978. Her mother, Lynette, was a swimming teacher and her father, Michael, sold photocopiers for a living.

Meeting Albert
The family moved to the South African town of Benoni when she was 12. By her teens she was a world-class swimmer, who would go on to swim for South Africa in the 2000 Olympics It was Wittstock’s talent for swimming, aided by her statuesque 5ft 11in frame, that gave her a way out of her upbringing – and an introduction to her future husband. He telephoned the swimmer’s manager to orchestrate a date.

“It was incredibly flattering,” she recalls of their first encounter. There was an immediate bond over sport – Albert was a former member of Monaco’s bobsleigh team. They spent, she says, the whole evening “laughing and talking”. But the couple did not meet again for five years. They started dating soon after. Their long-distance relationship culminated in Charlene, moving to Monaco.

Pre Wedding
Charlene, an unassuming South African with her no-nonsense approach and raucous sense of humour, tried to ensconce herself [into Monaco society]. It was a testing time. I remember her telling me sadly, “The people I mix with in Monaco don’t relate to my South African mentality or humour.”

Lacking any official status, unable to speak French, she lived alone in a small apartment with few friends to support her. She was far away from home, isolated and forced to endure the froideur of the Monaco beau monde who had hoped that if Albert did get round to marrying that he’d choose one of its own as his wife.

Nevertheless, her tenacity paid off when, in June 2010, they became engaged. A little over a year later, and having converted to Roman Catholicism, Charlene Wittstock became Her Serene Highness the Princess of Monaco.

The Wedding
Just days before the former Olympian was due to walk down the aisle, the French weekly newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche published unsubstantiated allegations that Charlene had made three attempts to flee. It claimed that the distraught bride-to-be had sought refuge at the South African embassy in Paris, where she was being fitted for her wedding dress in May, then again tried to leave the country during the Grand Prix and finally, less than a week before the wedding, was stopped from boarding a helicopter as officials coerced her to stay.

The story captured the attention of the international media and Charlene became the world’s most famous Runaway Bride since Julia Roberts. Headlines such as “Doubts Swirl around Monaco’s $68 million wedding”, “Rumours Cloud Royal Celebrations” and “Royal Wedding Overshadowed” appeared on many front pages.

The newspapers told one story, yet the scene I witnessed while Charlene was getting ready in a suite in the Hermitage Hotel was one of standard pre-wedding chaos. Maids of honour fluttered in and out, hairdressers, seamstresses and make-up artists took turns to attend to both the bride and her classic bespoke Armani gown. In the midst of them all, Charlene remained contained, helped, she said, by drawing on the kind of focus that an athlete utilises before an Olympic event. Yes, she was angry about the ferocity of the rumours, but she appeared to be just a bride determined to make the most of the day.

Two years on, Charlene is ready to talk. “Everything was just so overwhelming and there were all the mixed emotions because of the rumours, and obviously all this tension built up and I burst into tears [immediately after the ceremony],” she says. “And then I burst into tears some more because I was thinking, ‘Oh no, now the whole world has seen me cry.’” Despite the “categorical lies” that marred her wedding, Charlene maintains she has happy memories of the experience. “It was such a wonderful three days. Even months afterwards I would get flashbacks and think, ‘Oh, my goodness, did I really have the Eagles playing at my wedding?’ I think back and wonder how we managed to pull it off.
“There was a lot going on,” she says, summing up the day. “It was beautiful."

Royal life
Charlene has since made inroads into royal circles and forged a close relationship with Queen Máxima of the Netherlands. “Máxima has been unbelievably supportive if I need any help with anything. Because she came from Argentina and moved to Holland, we have made similar lifestyle choices. She has given me advice that I identified with.”

Charlene, as do Royals the world over, has set up her own charity. The Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation aims to teach children to swim. “My cousin drowned when he was five years old. Thousands of people drown in France every year, and I would say the number is close to millions globally. I want to spearhead this water safety project of mine, giving people access to someone to teach them to swim free.”

Fashion
Charlene has successfully navigated her transition from beach babe to appropriately attired Royal. “Finding my fashion feet has certainly been the biggest challenge,” she told me before her wedding, recalling her first Monaco Red Cross ball in 2007. Fresh from playing volleyball on the beach, she borrowed a friend’s green dress and hurriedly painted her nails red. “I must have looked like a Christmas tree,” she said afterwards.

As a result, for a while she was terrified of meeting a head of state in an inappropriate outfit and began dressing more conservatively according to cautious advice from palace officials. Over time, however, her own sense of style has returned. In May, she hosted a Dior show on a custom-built waterside catwalk. “I worked for two years on that. I had this vision to arrange a fashion show in between Cannes Film Festival and the Grand Prix, because everybody is here,” she says. “ I’m still smiling about it.”

Progress
Over a friendship that has lasted six years, I’ve realised that Charlene Wittstock/Charlene, Princess of Monaco is a complex mix. There’s the side to Charlene that loves to party. This is the woman I spent time with at her leather-and-lace-themed hen night in New York, who was in her element telling her trademark repertoire of self-deprecating tales.

But there’s another side, too – less at ease, wary. At the time of her wedding, Charlene was castigated for her diffident manner and anxious demeanour. But, two years on, she seems gradually to be assimilating into the Monégasque community and beginning to form friendships.

“I have made two close friends in Monaco. They’re very supportive; their husbands are businessmen and they’re good friends of Albert’s,” she says. “We hang out when I have the time – I have good company.”

A palace insider testifies to her growing confidence, noting, “In private, she is blunt and direct – she speaks very frankly to people. She tells Albert, ‘I want this; I don’t want that.’ ”

“When they are together they’re very much the typical couple – drinking with friends, watching a sports game and arguing about the result. Charlene is crazy about Albert,” says a friend. “There’s nothing more she wants than to make him happy. She wants to be a good wife and make him proud.”

She has rejected many of the more rigid formalities of her royal role. She rises at 8am most days, when an alarm clock, not a servant, wakes her. She makes her own coffee and breakfast. On a rare night when she and Albert do not have an official event to attend, they order in pizza and watch a DVD.

Children
The conversation shifts towards the subject of having children. Charlene has previously been cagey about baby-related issues. Asked during a pre-wedding interview with the veteran French TV journalist Patrick Poivre d’Arvor whether she wanted to have children, she broke with protocol and said to Prince Albert, “Hey, won’t he just give us a break!” But today she is more pragmatic.

“Look, I’m not going to put myself under any pressure. I just got married. I’m just settling in to this enormous place and getting used to having huge responsibilities,” she says firmly. “I’m finding my feet. I’m trying to place good, supportive people around me. That’s more important right now, and being confident and being really, really happy with the situation. I’ve got to conserve my energy. You know, we travel a lot, so it’s going to take a little bit of time. But as I said, I’m not going to put myself under any pressure. It will happen; it will happen.”
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  #622  
Old 07-13-2013, 09:53 AM
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Thanks, cepe!!! A very good article on a very modern princess. I thought her words on the pre-wedding rumors were very interesting, and it makes me sad that she had to spend the days leading up to her wedding dealing with that nonsense.

Also, it's interesting what happened with her fashion choices.
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  #623  
Old 07-13-2013, 09:56 AM
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^^^previous. Wow, cepe, thanks a lot for summarizing and posting the article! She seems to be doing quite a few interviews lately. And saying mostly the same things: taking time to settle into her new role before they start a family, being excited about her Foundation, very much in love with her husband, them being a regular couple...
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  #624  
Old 07-13-2013, 09:57 AM
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Lovely interview, and I think it sort of matches with the impression that we got...that she was not quite at ease with her new role in the beginning and is now very gradually trying to find her way into this new life...

Let's be grateful she gets the time to adjust and to still remain herself
and if we must compare, we might compare the situation to P.Masako in Japan who also had a hard time adjusting and maybe didn't have the chance to be herself anymore...

just my 2 cts ofcourse...
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Old 07-13-2013, 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by AdmirerUS View Post
Photo link works, and it is gorgeous.
I agree - the one of her in the long dress is stunning.
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  #626  
Old 07-13-2013, 10:14 AM
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I can only see one pic: the Princess on the cliffs above Monaco. Are there more?
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Old 07-13-2013, 10:35 AM
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There are 4 others. on line you can scroll through all of them but here they are

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/multim...9__430044c.jpg

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/multim..._a_430048c.jpg

2003 pix of Charlene swimming in World Cup final

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/multim..._a_430050c.jpg

May 2013 with CEO of Dior and his wife

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/multim..._a_430055c.jpg

taken in 2006
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  #628  
Old 07-13-2013, 10:42 AM
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Thank you so much cepe!!!!! I really enjoyed reading it!
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Old 07-13-2013, 10:43 AM
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Thanks again, cepe. Lovely pics, and how young she looks in the last one...
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Old 07-14-2013, 04:55 AM
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Cepe, Thanks for posting the summary of the article and the photos. Charlene is my favourite royal and I wish all the best in the world for her and her husband.
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Old 07-14-2013, 05:15 AM
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Thank you Cepe for posting the summary of the article of Times.It was very nice you took the times to do the summary for us.

An article of this interview in the D Mail

Monaco's Princess Charlene finally addresses THOSE runaway bride rumours | Mail Online
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Old 07-14-2013, 06:31 AM
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Thanks Cepe! I found it particularly interesting that Maxim befriended Charlene. Glad she has that kind of support.
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Old 07-14-2013, 07:21 AM
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Lovely article, it clears up some misconceptions. She sounds like a lovely lady.
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Old 07-14-2013, 09:57 AM
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I must admit the Maxima connection did surprise me. If she had mentioned Sophie Wessex I would have thought OK, but Maxaima never crossed my mind. Good for her though to have made such a friendship.
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Old 07-14-2013, 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by NGalitzine View Post
I must admit the Maxima connection did surprise me. If she had mentioned Sophie Wessex I would have thought OK, but Maxaima never crossed my mind. Good for her though to have made such a friendship.
An interesting and informative article, thank you Cepe for sharing! The relationship with the new Queen of the Netherlands speaks to what I believe is her great talent for empathy and to her background as a child of the New World. Argentina and South Africa have more in common than with England (even the language is problematic, as the Times article noted with hautain her 'broad South African accent!
You go Charlene!
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Old 07-14-2013, 12:01 PM
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It just annoys me that people say she cried at/during her and PA's wedding ceremony. On the contrary, she was very composed and focused. The tears came much later, when she laid her bouquet at the Saint Devotee Church, and it was a very emotional moment (that beautiful song sang by a mother and daughter made me cry too). Anyways, PC is so unique and true to herself -- I really admire that. She's doing a great job and being a worthy role-model too of what a modern day princess should be: a woman in her own right. She's not going to wear the tiaras and the bling and the colours we want her too; instead she's asserting her own individuality. She does things at her pace, when she feels ready (for it). Nobody is going to bully her into anything.
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Old 07-14-2013, 03:06 PM
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Wow. That was a good article. It answers alot of questions that I know I have had for some time now. I understand her more now than I did. I suppose Maxima would be a good fit for Charlene since they have a similar scenario that happened in their lives. I have to say she has done a great job with her new status as Princess of Monaco. She has blossomed into quite a unique woman.
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Old 07-14-2013, 03:29 PM
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Just wanted to observe that I would never describe Princess Charlene as having a 'broad' South African accent! Perhaps the reporter was unaccustomed to nuances of South African pronunciations. I heard her speaking in a video someone was kind enough to post here, and found her to speak in a most cultivated and cultured accent, with a lovely tone of voice also.
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Old 07-14-2013, 05:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Valerie Rose View Post
Just wanted to observe that I would never describe Princess Charlene as having a 'broad' South African accent! Perhaps the reporter was unaccustomed to nuances of South African pronunciations. I heard her speaking in a video someone was kind enough to post here, and found her to speak in a most cultivated and cultured accent, with a lovely tone of voice also.
You are quite correct. Often Afrikaans speaking South Africans are described as having a 'broad' accent, not English speakers such as P Charlene. This is mainly because sounds in English are softer and more rounded whereas sounds in Afrikaans, being a Germanic language like Dutch or German, are harder and flatter. I do not think that P Charlene, having grown up in Zimbabwe and later in Durban, would have picked up a 'broad' accent. I agree with you, her accent is cultured and soft...
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Old 07-14-2013, 05:49 PM
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Very interesting article! Thanks a lot (:
I am really glad to hear that she is friends with Maxima!
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