Princess Charlotte of Monaco: the illegitimate heiress to the Grimaldi family
The Grimaldi family, who have ruled the tiny principality of Monaco for hundreds of years, have a chequered past. But one of the most interesting characters is Princess Charlotte.
In the 1890s, the ruler of Monaco was Prince Albert I. He was a fascinating chap and his particular interest was the emerging study of oceanography. He was very much a pacifist but his only son,Louis, was quite the opposite – he enlisted in the French Foreign Legion as soon as he was able and was sent to serve in North Africa, at Constantine in Algeria.
For Louis, this was a way of escaping from his father.
There, he started a relationship with the daughter of the woman who laundered his clothes. The girl, Marie Juliette Louvet, was a cabaret singer. She had two children from her former husband – a photographer who specialised in ‘naughty pictures’.
Almost inevitably, the result of the liaison between the prince and the cabaret singer was an illegitimate daughter, Charlotte Louise-Juliette in 1989. Louis wanted to marry Marie but his father would not even consider the matter.
Louis continued to serve gallantly in the army but in 1908, he returned to Monaco leaving his mistress and child. Once World WAr One began however, he returned to the army to fight.
After the First World War, Louis and his father came to a realisation. Louis was unmarried and his father had no other son. If they were both to die, there was no heir to the throne other than an unsatisfactory German cousin. This would never do.
Therefore, the illegitimate Charlotte Louise-Juliette was officially legitimised.
To make this seem even more regal, in 1920 she married Count Pierre de Polignac – a marriage that had been arranged by her father, Louis. The deal as far as the count was concerned was that he would be created a prince of Monaco. So now the illegitimate daughter of a cabaret singer was a legitimate princess and countess. When his father died in 1922 and Louis became the ruler, she was also the heir to the throne.
She had two children. Her first child was a daughter; her second was a son, Rainier. Yes, that Rainier – when he married in the nineteen fifties, Charlotte – the illegitimate daughter of a cabaret singer – became Grace Kelly’s mother-in-law.
Charlotte was notoriously eccentric though. In 1930 she left her husband to live with her Italian lover. Then along came the Second World War and her father, Louis, made himself unpopular by allowing Nazi money to be laundered in Monaco. The citizens of Monaco weren’t happy with him as their ruler but they didn’t think much of his eccentric and rather flighty daughter either.
She renounced her claim to the throne in favour of her son Rainier, who with his wife, Grace Kelly, revitalised Monaco and its reputation.
This was just as well because in later life Charlotte took another lover – a notorious French jewel thief.
What an interesting life for the illegitimate daughter of the prince and the cabaret singer.