The first American princess of Monaco who fled the principality

The first absent princess of Monaco: Story of Alice Heine who fled to London after cheating ruined marriage to Albert I is back in the spotlight after Princess Charlene spent most of 2021 away from the principality

  • Alice Heine of New Orleans was the first American princess of Monaco 
  • She wed Prince Albert I 67 years before Grace Kelly tied the knot with Rainier III 
  • And she was also one of the first to flee the principality – despite waiting a staggering eight years to wed her prince charming 

She was a foreigner who married into the Monaco royal family to great fanfare, only to become an absentee princess, and her story bear striking similarities to the case of Princess Charlene who has spent most of the year away from the principality. 

Alice Heine of New Orleans was the first American princess of Monaco, marrying Prince Albert I 67 years before Grace Kelly tied the knot with Rainier III.

Despite waiting eight years to wed her prince charming, the couple grew apart and mutual infidelity ruined their relationship, forcing her to seek solace in London’s high society.

Princess Alice of Monaco, whose father came from a prominent German banking family, became a widow aged 22 following the death of her first husband Duke of Richelieu, before meeting Albert I in the early 1880s.

But she didn’t walk down the aisle again until 1889 because her groom’s father Prince Charles III did not approve of the match and would not permit them to marry. 

Following his father’s passing, Albert ascended to the Monegasque thrown and just seven weeks later wed his bride, who along with two children, also brought an extensive collection of jewels and a substantial dowry of $6 million. 

Her forgotten story has been thrown into the spotlight again by Royal Central, following Princess Charlene’s absence from Monaco, with the mother-of-two having spent 10-months in her native South Africa while she recovered from surgery after contracting a sinus infection.

She briefly rejoined her husband Prince Albert and their twins Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella, both seven, in early November – only to then leave Monaco to be admitted to a European treatment facility.

Alice Heine (pictured) Heine of New Orleans was the first American princess of Monaco, marrying Prince Albert I 67 years before Grace Kelly tied the knot with Rainier III

And she was also one of the first to flee the principality – despite waiting a staggering eight years to wed her prince charming (pictured) – as infidelity ruined their relationship and forced her to seek solace in London’s high society

Her forgotten story comes following Princess Charlene’s (pictured with her husband Prince Albert II) absence from Monaco, with the mother-of-two having spent 10-months in her native South Africa while she recovered from surgery after contracting a sinus infection

Prince Albert revealed last month his wife is suffering from ‘exhaustion, both emotional and physical’, while friends recently told Page Six that the mother-of-two ‘almost died’ while she was in South Africa.

The princess born Marie Alice on February 10, 1858, into a wealth family, grew up at the height of New Orleans society in Louisiana, and spent her early years enjoying the vibrant French quarter of the city. 

Her mother, Amelie Marie Celeste Miltenberger, came from a wealthy family, and her father, Michel Heine, a successful banker and businessman from a well-off German banking family.

Her and her two brothers’ Paul and Isaac’s lives were changed forever when their father moved them from the US to Paris following the American Civil War.

Making good connections in the French capital, 17-year-old Alice was soon walked down the aisle to Armand, Marquis of Jumilhac and the heir to the Duke of Richelieu. 

Jewish by birth, Alice converted to Catholicism for her nuptials and within a year, she had given birth to a son, also known as Armand. 

A daughter, Odile, followed in 1879, the same year that Alice and her husband became Duke and Duchess of Richelieu. 

Yet the new duchess’ happiness was cut short when her husband died in 1880, leaving her a widow with two children at the age of just 22, according to Royal Central. 

Helped by the fortune she had inherited on her husband’s death, Alice started to establish herself in European society.

Soon she met Albert I, heir to the Monegasque throne, while in Portugal. And despite him being ten years her senior, and previously married with a son, the two were eager to get together.

Princess Alice of Monaco (pictured), whose father came from a prominent German banking family, became a widow aged 22 following the death of her first husband Duke of Richelieu, before meeting Albert I in the early 1880s

But Albert’s father Charles III refused to offer his blessing, believing she wasn’t the right fit for his son.

Yet the couple were prepared to wait, and wait they did – not marrying until eight years later, following the death of Charles on September 10, 1889.

Just a month later, Alice and Albert exchanged wedding vows in Paris on October 30, 1889, with the bride bringing an extensive collection of jewels and a substantial dowry of six million dollars.

Alice was hugely popular in Monaco, thanks to the money lining her pockets and her keen business sense.

She set about transforming the principality’s financial state and was credited with helping the economic stability of the nation.

Passionate about the arts, she also brought more theatre and ballet to her new country.

However, as the years went on, the couple realised that most of their interests were different and failed to support one another in them.

Alice liked music, dance and culture, while her husband was a passionate environmentalist and oceanographer.

But she didn’t walk down the aisle again until 1889 because her groom’s father Prince Charles III did not approve of the match and would not permit them to marry. Pictured, Prince Albert I

Eventually, both lived separate lives and reportedly began having affairs. Yet Albert struggled to cope with his wife’s relationship with composer Isidore de Lara. 

Humiliated, Alice left Monaco – and not wanting her to return, her husband allegedly banned her from the principality.

Alice and Albert were granted a separation in 1902 but never divorced. Alice’s father tried to negotiate a return of some part of her large dowry, but the Grimaldi family refused.

While he ruled Monaco, Alice found peace in London, living at Claridge’s and throwing herself into the high society scene.

She even counted Queen Alexandra, wife of King Edward VII, among her friends and would often house glamorous parties for her well-off guests.

The royal became Dowager Princess of Monaco on the death of her estranged husband on June 26, 1922.

She died three years later in Paris on December 22, 1925, at the age of 67. She was buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery in the French capital and her gravestone reads ‘Alice, Princess of Monaco’.

Meanwhile, Prince Albert II revealed last month his wife Charlene had been admitted to a European treatment facility within days of her return to Monaco following a 10-month absence in her native South Africa. 

At the time he ruled out cancer, Covid and plastic surgery as the cause of his wife’s problems.

He said she is suffering from ‘exhaustion, both emotional and physical’, while friends recently told Page Six that the mother-of-two ‘almost died’ while she was in South Africa.   

Princess Charlene (pictured upon her return to Monaco) missed the seventh birthday of her twins Gabriella and Jacques

The royal missed the seventh birthday of her twins Gabriella and Jacques but shared photos of the celebration on Instagram on Thursday, writing: ‘Happy birthday my babies. Thank you God for blessing me with such wonderful children. I’m truly blessed. Love mom.’ 

Speaking to Page Six, a source described as the royal’s friend said: ‘It is unfair that she is being portrayed as having some kind of mental or emotional issue. 

‘We don’t know why the palace is downplaying that she almost died in South Africa.’

The source explained the royal had a severe ear, nose and throat infection, which resulted in ‘severe sinus and swallowing issues stemming from an earlier surgery’. 

The friend added: ‘She has not been able to eat solid food in over six months because of all the surgeries she has since gone through. She has only been able to take in liquids through a straw, so she lost nearly half her body weight.’

Elsewhere friends of Princess Charlene gave Tatler a rare insight into what the royal is really like, insisting that the former swimmer is a force to be reckoned with. 

One source rubbished any public perception that Charlene is ‘naive’ and trapped in an unhappy marriage with Albert, saying: ‘I don’t for one second think she did not know what she was doing when she married him.’ 

But one warned the mother of Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella, seven, is not the type to be blindly controlled by the Monaco royal household. 

Missing their mother: Meanwhile Prince Albert has continued to make public appearances with their six-year-old twins, Jacques and Gabriella, who held up these signs to Charlene during the Monaco National Day celebrations on November 19

‘Charlene is no Princess Di.’ one said. ‘She may come across as being extremely naïve, but nothing could be further from the truth. She is very good at keeping her smarts under wraps.’

Meanwhile Prince Albert has continued to make public appearances with their twins, Jacques and Gabriella. The trio attended a tree planting event in Monaco and the Monaco National Day celebrations, where the children held up heartrending signs saying, ‘Miss you Mommy’ and ‘Love you Mommy’.

In interviews, Albert explained he had stepped up to play a bigger role in his children’s lives as the family copes with Charlene’s ongoing health issues. 

Timeline: Prince Albert and Princess Charlene’s 10 months’ apart

January 27 – Charlene is pictured with Albert for the Sainte Devote Ceremony in Monaco.

March 18 – Charlene is pictured at the memorial for the late Zulu monarch, King Goodwill Zwelithini at the KwaKhethomthandayo Royal Palace in Nongoma, South Africa

April 2 – Charlene posts an Instagram picture of herself, Albert and their twins Jacques and Gabriella for Easter.

It is unknown where the image was taken.

May 8 – Albert, Jacques and Gabriella attend a Grand Prix event in Monaco without Charlene

May 10 – Albert attends Monaco Gala Awards in Monaco without Charlene

May 18 – Charlene shares her first picture from her conservation trip in South Africa

June 1 – Prince Albert II, Jacques and Gabriella attend event at Oceanic Museum in Monaco

June 3 – New photos emerge of Charlene on her conservation trip

June 5- Charlene puts on a united front as she shares a photo with her family to mark her niece’s fifth birthday with her brother’s family and Albert and the twins in South Africa

June 7 – Albert and the twins attend the World Rugby Sevens without Charlene

June 17 – Prince Albert attends Red Cross Summer concert in Monte Carlo with his sister Princess Caroline of Hanover

June 18 – Prince Albert appears alone Monte Carlo TV Festival

June 24 – Charlene’s foundation releases a statement saying the royal is unable to travel and is undergoing procedures for an ear, nose and throat infection

July 2 – Charlene and Albert mark their 10th anniversary separately. ‘This year will be the first time that I’m not with my husband on our anniversary in July, which is difficult, and it saddens me,’ Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene said in a statement.

July 3 – Albert appears with glamorous niece Charlotte Casiraghi at the 15th international Monte-Carlo Jumping event, which is part of the Longines Global Champions Tour of Monaco,

July 27 – Prince Albert attends Olympics alone in Tokyo

August 13 – Charlene undergoes a four-hour operation. The reason is not announced

August 25 – Charlene shares photos of Prince Albert, Gabriella and Jacques visiting her in South Africa

September 1 – Charlene is admitted under an alias to the Netcare Alberlito Hospital after suddenly ‘collapsing’

September 2 – She is discharged, with a statement from the Palais Princier reading: ‘Her Highness is closely monitored by Her medical team who said that Her condition was not worrying’

September 23 – Prince Albert attends the 2021 Monte Carlo Gala for Planetary Health

September 29 – Prince Albert is joined on the red carpet by actress Sharon Stone for a first look at the eagerly anticipated James Bond release

September 30 – Charlene releases a stylish video promoting her anti-poaching campaign from her South African bolthole

October 3 – Princess Charlene shares a photograph of herself smiling in front of a bible in her first snap since being discharged from hospital following her health scare

October 5 – Prince Albert attends Sportel Awards Ceremony in Monte Carlo with nephew Louis Ducruet

October 6 – Albert tells RMC radio Charlene is ‘ready to come home’

October 8 – Princess undergoes surgery in South Africa

November 8 – Charlene arrives back in Monaco. Prince Albert said within hours it became clear she was ‘unwell’

November 13 – Prince Albert attends Expo 2020 in Dubai without Princess Charlene

Following his return from the trip, Prince Albert holds an intervention with Charlene’s brothers and a sister-in-law in which Charlene ‘confirmed’ she would seek ‘real medically framed treatment’ outside of Monaco

November 16 – Royal household confirms Princess Charlene will not attend National Day celebrations on November 19

– Prince Albert attends a Monaco Red Cross event without Princess Charlene

November 17 – Prince Albert reveals Princess Charlene has left Monaco and is recovering in a secret location

November 19 – Prince Albert reveals Charlene is in a treatment facility ‘elsewhere in Europe’ after a family intervention

 

Jacques and Gabriella are homeschooled at the palace after being taken out of the classroom due to Covid.

‘For me, it’s pretty simple – my priority is my family,’ he said in an interview this month. ‘Of course, without neglecting state affairs… I hope everyone understands that. When I can be with my kids, I do it without hesitation.

‘This is an extremely important time in their life – the way they grow up helps them see the world.

‘And if one of the parents is away for medical reasons, the other parent has to be there. I have heard too many friends and acquaintances telling me that they wish they had been there for their children, at a certain age, taken up by their work or their professional life. I don’t want to have these regrets.’

Charlene returned to her husband and twins Jacques and Gabriella in Monaco earlier this month following a 10-month absence, while she recovered from surgery following a sinus infection she contracted during a solo charity trip to her native South Africa earlier this year.

In the days after her arrival, Charlene’s sister-in-law Chantell Wittstock, told MailOnline the princess may not be returning to the palace and did not plan to immediately return to public engagements, although she later retracted the remark. 

Charlene’s time away followed fresh allegations last December that Albert had fathered a love-child (which would be his third, if proven) with an unnamed Brazilian woman during the time when he and Charlene, a former Olympic swimmer for South Africa, were already in a relationship. 

Photographs of their reunion earlier this month were greeted with a hefty dose of scepticism by the French media.

Albert was waiting for her at the Monte Carlo helipad, along with their six-year-old twins, Princess Gabriella and Prince Jacques. The family were joined by a hand-picked photographer inside the Palace walls for the ‘reunion’ photos.

Albert said the family reunion in Monaco last week after she spent six months in her native South Africa initially went ‘pretty well’ in the first few hours, but it then became ‘pretty evident’ that Charlene was ‘unwell.’

He said the former Olympian ‘realised she needed help’, adding: ‘She was overwhelmed and couldn’t face official duties, life in general or even family life.’

Albert explained: ‘I’m probably going to say this several times, but this 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 went on to tell the magazine her current state was a result of ‘several factors which are private’.

Albert continued: ‘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.’

He said it is ‘not cancer-related or personal relationship issue.’

He later confirmed Charlene has been admitted to a treatment facility for undisclosed medical issues, as she works through a period of ill health. The location of the facility was not confirmed, though several sources claim it is in Switzerland.

The prince also said rumours around the state of his marriage ‘don’t bother him too much’. 

Doubts about the central relationship of Monaco’s royal family are not new.

Several residents living in the narrow medieval alleys of Monaco Ville confirmed to MailOnline that before she left for South Africa Charlene was spending most of her time outside the Palace, living in a modest two-bedroom apartment above an old chocolate factory about 300m away, rather than in the 12th Century Palace itself.

‘We often saw her outside the Palace and she would usually be alone or with a bodyguard,’ said one source, ‘but she was never with Albert – it was obvious she chose to spend most of her time in the apartment rather than the palace.’

Princess Charlene met Prince Albert  in 2000 during a swimming competition in Monaco and the pair married in 2011, before welcoming twins Gabriella and Jacques in 2014.

Born in Rhodesia- a previously unrecongised state in Southern Africa colonised by the British, she relocated to South Africa aged 11.

She had a successful swimming career and went on to win three gold medals and a silver medal at the 1999 All Africa Games in Johannesburg, as well as representing South Africa at the 1998 and 2002 Commonwealth Games and winning a silver medal in the 4 × 100 m medley relay in the latter competition.

However the pair’s marriage has made numerous headlines over the years, with a third paternity suit emerging last year.

Soon afterwards Charlene infamously shaved half her head in the style of a punk rocker last December.

This was seen as the first public sign of a worsening crisis that could end in a multi-million pound divorce.

Charlene’s exile in South Africa began a month after it emerged last December that Albert was facing yet another paternity suit. 

Prince Albert revealed last month his wife had been admitted to a European treatment facility within days of her return to Monaco following a 10-month absence in her native South Africa. The royal looked frail in this Instagram post shared from South Africa in October

A Brazilian woman who cannot be named for legal reasons said her 15-year-old daughter was the result of an affair with Albert in 2004.

Albert and Charlene were not yet engaged at this time, but they had known each over for four years after meeting at a swimming gala in Monaco in 2000.

Lawyers for the claimant were scheduled to demand a DNA test from Albert at a court in Milan earlier this year, while his own counsel branded the action ‘a hoax’.

Neither party is now commenting, suggesting some kind of generous settlement may have been reached, as happened with Albert’s earlier love children.

They are Jazmin Grace Grimaldi, who is now 29 and the result of Albert’s affair with an American estate agent, and Alexandre Coste, 17, whose mother is a former Togolese air hostess.

Both children were struck off Monaco’s line of succession in return for vast financial settlements.

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