Not So Serene: Is Charlene the Runaway Bride of Monaco?

Charlene is being paraded through the streets of Monte Carlo like a war trophy by the grim-faced Prince Albert.

By , Columnist

Alpha Press/Daily Mail

Charlene Wittstock and Prince Albert in Monaco today.

On the verge of becoming Her Serene Highness, Princess of Monaco this Friday, Charlene Wittstock is now the subject of speculation with a report that she was seen in the Nice airport with a one-way ticket to South Africa.

The French magazine L'Express claims Charlene was heading for home after hearing new revelations about Prince Albert's private life and that she was stopped at the airport by security forces acting for the Prince.

The story was hotly denied by Prince Albert's attorney but no injunction has been issued against the magazine.  

Prince Albert admits to being the father of two children resulting from prior relationships and he provides them with financial support. They are not in the line of succession for the throne of Monaco because they were born out of wedlock.

The Prince's Palace issued a statement calling the story "madness" and Charlene is now being paraded through the streets of Monte Carlo like a war trophy by the grim-faced Prince Albert.

It is a disconcerting twist in a royal romance that has proceeded at a decorous pace and seemed founded on mutual affection between two Olympic athletes. 

After an introduction at a Monaco swim meet in 2000, the pair kept in touch while Charlene pursued her swimming career. When injury sidelined her from further competition Charlene moved to Monaco. She has lived there quietly for several years, appearing with Prince Albert at charity balls and sporting events. 

The civil wedding is set for Friday with a religious ceremony on Saturday. Yachts filled with wedding guests are cramming the harbor at Monte Carlo and the star-studded guest list includes royalty and film stars.

The Grimaldis of Monaco have a long history of trouble with the French press, and the Prince's sister, HRH Princess Caroline of Hanover, won a landmark lawsuit against intrusive media.

See the gallery for Charlene and Prince Albert in the calmer times of wedding preparations.

View gallery: The Runaway Bride of Monaco -- Charlene Wittstock

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Charlotte Germane dishes the dirt on gardening in newsletters, radio shows, newspapers, and blogs. Follow her on Twitter to get the latest trowel-full of news. She live-blogged the Royal Wedding for The Morton Report and has series of royalty columns here.

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