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Princess Caroline and Princess Charlene: how many are too many first ladies?

Princess Caroline of Monaco turns 65 this year and does it while walking one of the toughest tightropes. 

Princess Charlene has been a part of Prince Albert’s life for almost two decades now. The two met in 2000 at the Mare Nostrum swim meet in the principality and officially revealed their relationship to the world at the 2006 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony in Turin, Italy. 

Since their wedding in July of 2011, Princess Charlene has taken her place next to her husband in all of Monaco’s most important events, from national festivities to gala occasions. 

And yet, Princess Caroline has held that role for a longer time. Since her mother’s death in 1982, she has been the de facto first lady of the principality, first next to her father and then for her brother. 

It was rumoured that the relationship between the two sisters-in-law was not easy. Princess Caroline felt deprived of her role, and Princess Charlene felt sidelined. 

The Princely Palace tried to put those rumours to rest by highlighting that the hairpiece Princess Charlene wore on her wedding day was a loan from Princess Caroline, a clear sign of a good relationship between the two. Princess Caroline even got involved, through her patronage of the Monte Carlo Ballet, in designing the dresses for Charlene’s flower girls, a gesture that was intended to symbolise the acceptance of the new Princess by the entire family. However, that didn’t work. 

However, if the rumours were ever true, they never showed in public. Princess Caroline continued attending most of Monaco’s royal events and simply took a step back. 

She relished in her role as grandmother and continued carrying on her patronages and charities, including the Presidency of the Monte Carlo Ballet and the Arts Festival of Monaco. 

She seemed content with her more low profile role. And yet, the rumours of a rift between the two sisters-in-law never really went away. 

They instead reignited in 2021, when Princess Charlene was forced to spend six months in South Africa, stranded hundreds of kilometres away from the principality by an infection that prevented her from flying. And when she finally made the journey back, it was only a few days before she was away from Monaco once again, checking herself into a treatment facility to recover from a mysterious illness. 

Princess Caroline quietly stepped up once again, regaining her spot next to her brother but always aware that it does not carry the same weight. She is not the next in line of succession to the throne anymore, and her niece and nephew have almost always been next to her. 

She never showed any signs of superiority, instead bending down to take care of her brother’s children during official ceremonies and appearing to be every inch the doting aunt. 

Princess Caroline seems to know well how to deal with this situation; after all, when she first had to occupy her role, the memory of her beloved mother was still fresh in everyone’s mind, and she knew she had to carry out her job discretely, while also being seen. 

It is a delicate balance to strike, but Princess Caroline and Princess Charlene seem to have found their way of navigating the issue.