Princess CharlenePrincess Charlene

Princess Charlene (born January 25, 1978 in Bulawayo, Rhodesia [now Zimbabwe]) is the consort (2011-) of Albert II, Prince of Monaco. She had previously been a champion swimmer.

When Wittstock was 12 years old, her parents, a sales manager and a swimming instructor, relocated her and her two boys to South Africa. She began swimming competitively there, guided by her mother, and won the national championship in 1996. Wittstock competed for South Africa in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, swimming one leg of the women’s 4 × 100-meter medley relay team, which finished fifth. Two years later, she won three World Cup gold medals and a silver medal in the Commonwealth Games’ women’s 4 x 100-meter medley relay. Outside of the water, she worked as a teacher.

Wittstock met Prince Albert in 2000, when she traveled to Monaco to compete in an international swimming competition, winning gold in the 200-meter backstroke. The couple first appeared in public together during the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy, and a few months later she joined him at a charity ball in Monaco. Despite qualifying to compete for the South African team in the 2008 Beijing Games, she retired from sport in 2007.

That same year, Princess Charlene officially relocated from South Africa to an apartment in Monaco. Rumors about the royal romance circulated swiftly as she began to learn French and Monegasque and became involved in charity organizations such as the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Giving Organization Trust, where she was named co-patron in 2011. Albert, a guy 20 years her senior with at least two children born out of marriage, had long been known as an international playboy. In 2002, amid speculation that Albert might never marry, Monaco’s parliament amended the constitution to include female siblings and their heirs in the line of succession, placing Albert’s elder sister, Princess Caroline, first in line for the kingdom if he died without a natural heir. Wittstock’s arrival on the scene boosted expectations that Albert would marry after all, and in June 2010, Charlene and Albert ended the speculation by announcing their engagement. The children of the marriage would be first in line of succession to the crown.

The two-day royal wedding—the first for a reigning European monarch since Albert’s father, Prince Rainier III, married former American actress Grace Kelly in 1956—began on July 1, 2011, with a civil ceremony in the palace throne room. The following day, a religious ceremony was held in the main courtyard of Palace Square. On December 10, 2014, the couple welcomed twins Jacques Honoré Rainier and Gabriella Thérèse Marie. Jacques became crown prince in accordance with Monaco’s succession rules, despite the fact that Gabriella was born first.

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