Princess Charlene of Monaco’s parents has given rare insight into their daughter’s lengthy health battles that have kept her out of the media spotlight and unable to attend royal duties.
After health complications left the Zimbabwe-born royal stranded in South Africa for 10 months, rumours began to intensify.
One source told Page Six the 43-year-old “almost died” due to a severe ear, nose and throat infection that arose after a surgery.
“It is unfair that she is being portrayed as having some kind of mental or emotional issue,” they said.
“We don’t know why the palace is downplaying that she almost died in South Africa.”
Speaking to South Africa’s YOU magazine, the Princess’ parents, Mike and Lynnette Wittstock, said their daughter’s had health suffered greatly.
“I also didn’t want to possibly infect her because she’d been through so many medical procedures and was vulnerable,” Mr Wittstock said.
However, he was confident his daughter would eventually recover.
“My daughter used to swim 20km a day,” he said. “Based on the way she used to train, I know she’s tough and will get through this and come out much stronger.”
Princess Charlene of Monaco and Prince Albert II of Monaco with their children, Princess Gabriella of Monaco and Prince Jacques of Monaco, greet the crowd from the palace balcony during the Sainte Devote Ceremony on January 27, 2020. Photo / Getty Images
Princess Charlene's mystery illness
While it’s understood the Princess’ health concerns have been severe, their origins remain vague.
Official communication from the palace in May 2021 confirmed she was suffering an ENT (ear, nose, throat) infection during a wildlife conservation mission in South Africa which prohibited her from travelling back to Europe.
Then in November, after returning to Monaco, Charlene’s husband, Prince Albert, spoke to People, saying his wife was suffering from severe “exhaustion, both emotional and physical”.
“She was clearly exhausted, physically and emotionally. She was overwhelmed and couldn’t face official duties, life in general or even family life,” he said.
He also dashed speculation which suggested her disappearance was a result of “plastic surgery or facial work”, cancer, Covid-19 or linked to a relationship breakdown between the two.
“Obviously, there were consequences of her different surgeries and the procedures she underwent in the last few months,” Prince Albert said. “That certainly was a factor, but at this point I prefer not to comment further. I can say she was suffering incredible fatigue.”
He went on: “She hadn’t slept well in a number of days and she wasn’t eating at all well. She has lost a lot of weight, which made her vulnerable to other potential ailments. A cold or the flu or, God help us, Covid.”
Another statement from the palace on November 19 confirmed the Princess would continue to be out of action for the considerable future. Missing a scheduled appearance for Monaco’s National Day, an official statement said the former Olympic swimmer was recovering from a “state of profound general fatigue”.
“Having battled with poor health over the past few months, the Princess is currently convalescing and will continue to do so for the coming weeks,” it read.
“In order to protect the comfort and privacy essential to her recovery, the Princess’s location will remain strictly confidential.”
In Charlene’s absence her 6-year-old twin children, Princess Gabriella and Prince Jacques, were seen holding signs which read, “We miss you Mommy” and “We love you Mommy”.
Parents dash marital rift rumours
Initially, Princess Charlene’s disappearance from public life had inflamed rumours of a potential rift between her and Prince Albert. But multiple sources have denied these claims.
Their marriage has been plagued by scandal, from the Prince’s alleged illegitimate love children and affairs to Princess Charlene herself admitting to The Times she felt “very lonely” in Monaco.
But, in his November interview, Prince Albert stressed to People his wife’s prolonged absence has “nothing to do with our relationship”.
“I want to make that very clear. These are not problems within our relationship; not with the relationship between a husband and wife. It’s of a different nature,” he said.
The Princess’ sister-in-law, Chantell Wittstock, has also nixed the rumours.
“Albert loves and supports Charlene 100 per cent” she said, speaking to You Magazine.
“Their marriage is strong and they fully support each other.”