5) Princess Charlene Wittstock, Monaco
There are few women princesses who fill out a Speedo quite as impressively as Charlene Wittstock. A former champion swimmer, this bodacious blond powered South Africa’s 4 x 100 medley team to a fifth-place finish at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Wittstock’s flawless physique soon caught the attention of Monaco’s Prince Albert II, and the pair embarked on a fairy-tale romance, culminating in their engagement on June 23, 2010. They are now scheduled to make waves all around the world with a lavish wedding scheduled for July 8, 2011.
Charlene, Princess of Monaco is born on 25th January 1978, She is an South African former Olympic swimmer and since 2011 the wife of Albert II, Prince of Monaco. Charlene is the daughter of Michael and Lynette Wittstock. She was born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to a family of German and English descent by way of South Africa and Rhodesia. Her family relocated to Transvaal, South Africa, in 1989, after living in Zimbabwe for several years. She represented South Africa at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, with her team finishing fifth in the Women’s 4×100 m Medley. She retired from competitive swimming in 2007.
Charlene met Prince Albert at the Mare Nostrum Monte Carlo, Monaco in June 2001. They were first seen together in 2006, and she has accompanied the prince on many of his official duties since then. They announced their engagement in June 2010, and were married on 1 July 2011.
Charlene was born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia. She is the daughter of Michael Kenneth Wittstock (born 1946), a sales manager, and Lynette Wittstock (née Humberstone, born 1957), a former competitive diver and swimming coach. Charlene has two younger brothers: Gareth (born 1980), a computer technician, and Sean (born 1983), a sales representative. Her family relocated to South Africa in 1989, when she was 11 years old. Charlene attended Tom Newby Primary school in Benoni, near Johannesburg, from 1988 to 1991.
The Wittstock family is of German origin; Charlene’s great-great-grandparents Martin Gottlieb Wittstock and Louise Wittstock (née Schönknecht) emigrated to South Africa from the Pomeranian village of Zerrenthin in northern Germany in 1861 to escape hardship. In South Africa, the Wittstocks worked as handymen, and unsuccessfully prospected for diamonds. Gottlieb’s son, Heinrich Carl Wittstock would marry Olive Florence Caldwell, of English origin. Their son Dudley Kenneth Wittstock, Charlene’s paternal grandfather, married Sylvia Fagan Nicolson, also of English origin.
Michael Wittstock announced in April 2011 that he was considering moving the family from Benoni to Monaco because of the increasing crime rate. Charlene was a member of the South African women’s 4×100 m medley team at the 2000 Summer Olympics, which finished fifth. She finished sixth at the 2002 FINA Short Course World Championships for the 200 m breaststroke. She left her Durban-based team (the Seagulls) to join the Tuks Swimming Club at the High Performance Centre of the University of Pretoria. She never enrolled in classes. The Club sponsored her by providing her with free access to their pools, free coaching, accommodations, and gymnasium access.
She decided to leave Pretoria in January 2005, and returned to Durban; she then went to the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal, where she joined a former University of Pretoria swimming coach, Brannislav Ivkovic. On 13 April 2007, Charlene regained her title as South Africa’s 50 m women’s backstroke champion when she completed the 50 m backstroke final at the Telkom SA National Aquatic Championships in 30:16 seconds, to finish third behind Australia’s Sophie Edington and Brazil’s Fabíola Molina.
Over the years she has won several national titles. She planned to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics in China, which she said would be her swansong, but she did not qualify. Previously she had been out of competitive swimming for 18 months with a shoulder injury. Charlene said she would be swimming in Europe in the near future, hoping to better her times. “I have a year left of competitive swimming, and I just want to be the best I can be in that time. After that I want to get involved in charity work, and development work with athletes’ commissions.”She has recently commented that her swimming days are behind her, enabling her to concentrate on her role as Princess of Monaco.
On 27 May 2011, the Special Olympics announced that Charlene had become global ambassador for the movement, charged with promoting respect and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities to a worldwide audience. Charlene has said that the Special Olympics movement is close to her heart because, as a former athlete, she values its role in “using the power of sport to change lives”
Charlene met Albert II, Prince of Monaco, in 2000 at the Mare Nostrum swimming meet in Monaco. They were first seen together at the opening ceremony of the 2006 Winter Olympics. Charlene moved in with Albert in 2006. She accompanied him to the weddings of the Crown Princess of Sweden in 2010 and of the Duke of Cambridge in 2011. On 23 June 2010, the palace announced the engagement of Charlene and the Prince. Charlene, who was raised a Protestant, converted to Roman Catholicism, even though this is not a requirement of the Constitution of Monaco. The future princess was also instructed in the French language and the Monégasque dialect, and became familiar with European court protocol. The Prince presented her with an engagement ring featuring a pear-shaped three-carat diamond at the center and round diamond brilliants surrounding it. This engagement ring was reported to be created by Parisian jeweler Repossi.
The wedding was originally scheduled for 8 and 9 July 2011, but was moved forward to prevent a conflict with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Durban on 5–9 July. The couple had invited members of the IOC, including president Jacques Rogge, to their wedding. The couple attended the IOC meeting; hence Charlene’s first foreign visit as Princess was to her childhood home, South Africa.
During the week before the wedding, the palace denied reports that Charlene had been getting cold feet. French weekly L’Express reported that Charlene tried to leave Monaco on Tuesday, 28 June, after rumors surfaced that Albert had fathered a third illegitimate child. The report claimed Monaco Police intercepted her at Nice Côte d’Azur Airport, confiscated her passport, and that it took “intense convincing” by Albert and palace officials for her to stay. The palace called the stories “ugly rumors” born out of jealousy.
The couple were married in a civil ceremony on 1 July 2011 at the Throne Room in the Prince’s Palace. The Nuptial Mass on 2 July, was a lavish affair. Only days after the beginning of the couple’s honeymoon in South Africa, several newspapers from Spain, Britain, and elsewhere reported that Charlene and Albert were not staying at the same hotel, but were in fact booked in different hotels several miles apart. These reports fueled rumors about the couple’s marital crisis that was sparked off even before their wedding.
As Monaco’s first lady, Charlene presides over the principality’s National Day celebrations, the Monaco Grand Prix, the Rose Ball (Bal de la Rose) held to raise funds for the Princess Grace Foundation, and the annual Red Cross Ball. Princess Charlene is known for her elegant fashion style, patronizing designers Akris and Armani. She wore an exclusive Giorgio Armani Prive wedding dress, and attended the
Titles and styles
- Miss Charlene Lynette Wittstock from 25 January 1978 to 1 July 2011.
- Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco from 1 July 2011 to present:
- Upon her marriage, Charlene became Princess consort of Monaco; the previous incumbent being her mother-in-law, Grace Kelly, who died in 1982.
- Monaco: Grand Cross of the Order of Saint-Charles (17 November 2012)
- Poland: Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland (18 October 2012)