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Charlene
Photo of Charlene, Princess of Monaco
Princess consort of Monaco
Tenure 1 July 2011 – present
Spouse Albert II, Prince of Monaco
Full name
Charlene Lynette
House House of Grimaldi

(by marriage)

Father Michael Kenneth Wittstock
Mother Lynette Humberstone Wittstock
Born

(1978-01-25) 25 January 1978 (age 34)

Bulawayo, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)

Religion

Roman Catholic previously Protestant


Charlene, Princess of Monaco (French: Charlène; née Charlene Lynette Wittstock; born 25 January 1978), is the wife of Albert II, Prince of Monaco. She is also a former South African Olympic swimmer.

Charlene is the daughter of Michael and Lynette Wittstock. She was born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to a family of German, English, South African, and Rhodesian descent. Her family relocated to the 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 4x100 m Medley. She retired from competitive swimming in 2007.

Charlene met Prince Albert in 2000 at a swimming event in Monaco. They were first seen together in 2006, and she has accompanied Prince Albert on many of his official duties since then. They announced their engagement in June 2010 and were married on 1 July 2011.

Early lifeEdit

Charlene was born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). 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 hunted 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 said in April 2011 that he was considering moving the family from Benoni to Monaco because of South Africa's crime rate.

Swimming careerEdit

Monegasque Princely Family

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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 at the University of Pretoria. She was never enrolled for any academic courses at the University of Pretoria and therefore never graduated from the University; 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 Tuks 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.

She has won several national titles over the years. 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.

Special Olympics ambassadorEdit

On Friday, 27 May at an Amber Lounge charity fashion show during the 2011 Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix weekend, Special Olympics announced that Charlene has become a 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".

MarriageEdit

Main article: Wedding of Albert II, Prince of Monaco, and Charlene Wittstock

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 Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden, in 2010, and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, in 2011. Dual Cypher of Charlene and her husbandOn 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 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 was forced to deny reports that Charlene had been getting cold feet. French weekly L'Express reported that Charlene tried to leave Monaco on Tuesday, 28 June, after rumours surfaced that Albert had fathered a third illegitimate child. The report claimed Monaco police intercepted her at Nice Côte d'Azur Airport and confiscated her passport, and that it took "intense convincing" by Albert and palace officials for her to stay. The palace called the stories "ugly rumours" 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 rumours about the couple's marital crisis that was sparked off even before their wedding.

Princess of MonacoEdit

As Monaco's first lady, Charlene presides at 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 dress sense, patronising designers Akris and Armani. She wore a Giorgio Armani Prive design for her wedding dress, and attended the Akris show at Paris Fashion Week in October 2011.

In 2015, Charlene gave birth to twins, a boy named Jaques and a girl named Gabriella.

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