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Princess Charlene of Monaco is ‘extremely happy to be back home with her family’

Princess Charlene of Monaco is ‘extremely happy to be back home with her family’ and ‘will be staying with her husband and children’, her sister-in-law has insisted.

The former Olympian, 43, returned to the principality last week following a 10-month absence after she recovered from surgery following a sinus infection she contracted during a solo charity trip to her native South Africa earlier this year.

Arriving back in Monaco after flying by private jet from the South African city of Durban to Nice, France, a ‘frail’ Charlene posed for snaps with Prince Albert, 63, and their two children six-year-old twins Jacques and Gabriella. 

Four days after her return, Chantell Wittstock, Charlene’s sister-in-law and PR for her charitable foundation in her hometown, told the South African outlet News24: ‘The princess is extremely happy to be back home with her family.’

It followed the suggestions that Charlene may not live ​in her husband Albert’s palace following her return home and does not plan to immediately resume public engagements. 

Yet Chantell ‘absolutely’ refuted the claims, insisting her royal sister-in-law ‘will be staying with her husband and children’.

Princess Charlene of Monaco (pictured reuniting with her family last Monday) is 'extremely happy to be back home with her family' and 'will be staying with her husband and children', her sister-in-law has insisted

Princess Charlene of Monaco (pictured reuniting with her family last Monday) is ‘extremely happy to be back home with her family’ and ‘will be staying with her husband and children’, her sister-in-law has insisted

On Saturday, Albert cut a lonely figure as he attended Monaco’s National Day at Expo 2020 in Dubai without his wife Charlene, instead appearing with his sister Princess Stephanie and her son Louis Ducruet. 

Expo 2020 is a World Expo currently hosted by Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, and was originally scheduled for 20 October 2020 – 10 April 2021.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Arab Emirates, the new dates are 1 October 2021 – 31 March 2022.

Monaco’s royal family’s reunion, shared on Instagram, was eyed with scepticism by French commentators amid feverish speculation about the state of the Grimaldis’ marriage.

Charlene’s time away followed fresh allegations last December that Albert had fathered a love-child (which would be his third, if proven) with an unnamed Brazilian woman during the time when he and Charlene, a former Olympic swimmer for South Africa, were already in a relationship.

Last Monday, Albert was waiting for Charlene at the Monte Carlo helipad, along with their six-year-old twins, Princess Gabriella and Prince Jacques. 

The former Olympian (pictured with her husband in South Africa), 43, returned to the principality last week following a 10-month absence after she recovered from surgery following a sinus infection she contracted during a solo charity trip to her native South Africa earlier this year

The former Olympian (pictured with her husband in South Africa), 43, returned to the principality last week following a 10-month absence after she recovered from surgery following a sinus infection she contracted during a solo charity trip to her native South Africa earlier this year

The family were joined by a hand-picked photographer inside the Palace walls for the ‘reunion’ photos. But there was already doubt cast over the couple’s living arrangements.

How Charlene and Albert made solo outings in South Africa and Monaco during nine months apart 

January 27 – Charlene is pictured with Albert for the Sainte Devote Ceremony in Monaco.  

March 18 – Charlene is pictured at the  memorial for the late Zulu monarch, King Goodwill Zwelithini at the KwaKhethomthandayo Royal Palace in Nongoma, South Africa 

April 2 – Charlene posts an Instagram picture of herself, Albert and their twins Jacques and Gabriella for Easter.

It is unknown where the image was taken.

May 8 – Albert, Jacques and Gabriella attend a Grand Prix event in Monaco without Charlene

May 10 – Albert attends Monaco Gala Awards in Monaco without Charlene

May 18 – Charlene shares her first picture from her conservation trip in South Africa  

June 1 – Prince Albert II, Jacques and Gabriella attend event at Oceanic Museum in Monaco 

June 3 – New photos emerge of Charlene on her conservation trip 

June 5- Charlene puts on a united front as she shares a photo with her family to mark her niece’s fifth birthday with her brother’s family and Albert and the twins in South Africa

June 7 – Albert and the twins attend the World Rugby Sevens without Charlene 

June 17 – Prince Albert attends Red Cross Summer concert in Monte Carlo with his sister Princess Caroline of Hanover 

June 18 – Prince Albert appears alone Monte Carlo TV Festival 

June 24  – Charlene’s foundation releases a statement saying the royal is unable to travel and is undergoing procedures for an ear, nose and throat infection   

July 2 – Charlene and Albert mark their 10th anniversary separately. ‘This year will be the first time that I’m not with my husband on our anniversary in July, which is difficult, and it saddens me,’ Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene said in a statement.

July 3 – Albert appears with glamorous niece Charlotte Casiraghi  at the 15th international Monte-Carlo Jumping event, which is part of the Longines Global Champions Tour of Monaco,

July 27 – Prince Albert  attends Olympics alone in Tokyo

August 13 – Charlene undergoes a four-hour operation. The reason is not announced 

August 25 – Charlene shares photos of Prince Albert, Gabriella and Jacques visiting her in South Africa 

August 31 – Speculation mounts in the media about couple’s relationship

September 1 – Charlene is admitted under an alias to the Netcare Alberlito Hospital after suddenly ‘collapsing’

September 2 – She is discharged, with a statement from the Palais Princier reading: ‘Her Highness is closely monitored by Her medical team who said that Her condition was not worrying’

September 23 – Prince Albert attends the 2021 Monte Carlo Gala for Planetary Health

September 29 – Prince Albert is joined on the red carpet by actress Sharon Stone for a first look at the eagerly anticipated James Bond release 

September 30 – Charlene releases a stylish video promoting her anti-poaching campaign from her South African bolthole 

October 3 – Princess Charlene shares a photograph of herself smiling in front of a bible in her first snap since being discharged from hospital following her health scare

October 5 – Prince Albert attends  Sportel Awards Ceremony in Monte Carlo with nephew Louis Ducruet

October 6 – Albert tells RMC radio Charlene is ‘ready to come home’ 

October 8 – Princess undergoes surgery in South Africa

November 8 – Charlene arrives back in Monaco  

Before she left in January, Charlene had raised eyebrows in Monaco by living in a modest two-bedroom apartment above an old chocolate factory about 300m away, rather than in Albert’s 12th Century Palace. It is thought she could return to living at the property. 

‘Reunion of Albert and Charlene of Monaco: but where exactly do they sleep?’ was the headline question in the respected French celebrity outlet Gala on Tuesday.

And Voici – another popular magazine read widely across Monaco and France – ran with: ‘Charlene of Monaco back: the Princess breaks the silence and forgets to mention her husband’.

This was a reference to Charlene using a social media video to thank everybody who had helped her through months of ill-health, without name-checking Albert at all.

In the streets in the shadow of the 12th century Prince’s Palace, people could not conceal their concern for Charlene, having seen the photos of her looking seemingly frail.

‘We are glad to have her back, but she doesn’t look well and it feels we don’t yet have the full picture,’ said one café owner on the Rock, in his 50s, who asked not to be named.

He admitted that in years past, he like many Monegasques, had expressed frustration at the way Charlene has been less visible than other royals.

‘There was a while when there was a sense that she was a reluctant princess,’ he said, ‘but this is different – there’s obviously something not quite right either with her or the marriage and for whatever reason we’re not being told what.’

There certainly appears to be a wall of silence around Charlene, especially since she retreated behind the ramparts of the Palace, at least for the time being.

Her Palace press officer said she could not return calls from MailOnline and did not reply to a list of questions we sent her.

Doubts about the central relationship of Monaco’s royal family are not new of course. 

Several residents living in the narrow medieval alleys of Monaco Ville confirmed to MailOnline that before she left for South Africa Charlene was spending most of her time outside the Palace at the Chocolate factory apartment.

‘We often saw her outside the Palace and she would usually be alone or with a bodyguard,’ said one source, ‘but she was never with Albert – it was obvious she chose to spend most of her time in the apartment rather than the palace.’

Another Monte Carlo source who knows the couple well told MailOnline: ‘The way to stop all the friction and put an end to the speculation about their marriage is for Charlene to proudly move back into the Palace and start living like a proper Princess.

‘That’s what the people of Monaco want, because they love their Royals, and don’t want them living separate lives.’

Charlene came in for criticism before she travelled to South Africa for dividing her time between several properties outside the Palais, the official residence of the Sovereign, Albert II.

Instead of enjoying palatial rooms overlooking the Mediterranean, and a domestic staff including butlers and cooks, Charlene chose the Chocolate Factory.

It only had two bedrooms, and had been used in the past by Albert’s sister, Princess Stéphanie. 

Stéphanie, 56, led an extremely turbulent personal life herself that included two divorces and high-profile affairs with security guards and an elephant trainer.

Charlene also escaped Royal protocol by staying at Roc Agel, a mountain retreat on the outskirts of Monaco originally restored for Albert’s late mother, the Hollywood star Grace Kelly who became Princess Grace before her tragic death in a car crash on the treacherously steep road approaching Roc Agel.

Charlene was also a frequent visitor to a holiday home owned by friends on the Mediterranean island of Corsica.

Paris Match, the celeb bible, has always had particularly close ties with the Grimaldis – the ancient dynasty now headed by Albert and Charlene.

‘Charlene and Albert on the Verge of Breaking Up?’ was the lead headline in an edition of Match in August.

‘There will be no photo for their 10th anniversary wedding anniversary,’ it noted.

All the high-end French publications – the kind that Albert and Charlene would normally grant fawning interviews to – concurred.

The upmarket and very conservative Madame Figaro ran with the stark headline: ‘Are Charlene and Albert II of Monaco on the verge of divorce?’

Historian and author Philippe Delorme told the magazine: ‘Lots of people got the impression it was an arranged marriage, it’s true.

‘Albert chose a wife who resembled his mother and Charlene clearly felt very ill at ease in this Grace Kelly role they wanted her to play.

‘As Karl Marx put it: History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.’

Arriving back in Monaco after flying by private jet from the South African city of Durban to Nice, France , a 'frail' Charlene (pictured with her family in South Africa) posed for snaps with Prince Albert, 63, and their two children six-year-old twins Jacques and Gabriella

 Arriving back in Monaco after flying by private jet from the South African city of Durban to Nice, France , a ‘frail’ Charlene (pictured with her family in South Africa) posed for snaps with Prince Albert, 63, and their two children six-year-old twins Jacques and Gabriella

The 2011 wedding itself was an ostentatious three-day event featuring a concert by the Eagles. But onlookers were concerned by photos of the bride in tears with her husband appearing distant, but Charlene insisted later she was just emotional.

Charlene has been notable by her absence from every single flagship event in the tax haven principality this year.

They have included the Monaco Grand Prix on May 23, and the Fashion Awards hosted by the Princess’s own charitable foundation on May 18.

Charlene infamously shaved half her head in the style of a punk rocker last December.

This was seen as the first public sign of a worsening crisis that could end in a multi-million pound divorce.

Charlene’s exile in South Africa began a month after it emerged last December that Albert was facing yet another paternity suit.

Last Monaco outing together before her departure: Charlene and Albert were last pictured together at an official event in January at the Sainte Devote Ceremony in Monaco

Last Monaco outing together before her departure: Charlene and Albert were last pictured together at an official event in January at the Sainte Devote Ceremony in Monaco 

A Brazilian woman who cannot be named for legal reasons said her 15-year-old daughter was the result of an affair with Albert in 2004.

Albert and Charlene were not yet engaged at this time, but they had known each over for four years after meeting at a swimming gala in Monaco in 2000.

Lawyers for the claimant were scheduled to demand a DNA test from Albert at a court in Milan earlier this year, while his own counsel branded the action ‘a hoax’.

Neither party is now commenting, suggesting some kind of generous settlement may have been reached, as happened with Albert’s earlier love children.

They are Jazmin Grace Grimaldi, who is now 29 and the result of Albert’s affair with an American estate agent, and Alexandre Coste, 17, whose mother is a former Togolese air hostess.

Both children were struck off Monaco’s line of succession in return for vast financial settlements.

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