Princess Caroline Louise Marguerite was born in the Princes Palace in Monte Carlo, the capital of the small sun-kissed principality of Monaco, on 23 January 1957. The eldest child of Their Serene Highnesses, Rainier III, Prince of Monaco and Grace, Princess of Monaco, she bore the title of Hereditary Princess of Monaco from the time of her birth until the birth of her younger brother, Prince Albert, on 14 March 1958. The family was rounded off on 1 February 1965 with the birth of a second daughter, Princess Stéphanie.
Princess Caroline is a legitimate descendant of the Dukes of Polignac through her paternal family, and as such belongs to the historical French nobility. Through her mother, she is of Irish and German descent. Before the birth of Princess Caroline, the United States consul in Nice, France, requested that the U.S. State Department make a ruling on the citizenship status of the three children. It was reported that the consul was told that the Princely children would be dual citizens of both the United States and Monaco upon their birth.
Caroline was raised in Monaco, but in her youth, the Princess spent some of her time at the home of her maternal grandparents John B. Kelly Sr and Margaret Major in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In an interview for People Magazine in April 1982, shortly before her death, Princess Grace described Princesses Caroline and Stéphanie as “warm, bright, amusing, intelligent and capable girls. They’re very much in tune with their era. Besides being good students, they are good athletes – excellent skiers and swimmers. Both can cook and sew and play the piano and ride a horse. But, above all, my children are good sports, conscious of their position and considerate of others. They are sympathetic to the problems and concerns in the world today.” As a child, Caroline took ballet lessons at the Marika Besobrasova School of Dance in Monte-Carlo and studied flute, as well as piano.
Princess Caroline passed the French General Certificate of Education (baccalauréat) with honours in 1974. She was also educated at St Mary’s School Ascot in the United Kingdom before continuing her studies at the Sorbonne University in Paris, where she received a diploma in philosophy and minors in psychology and biology. The Princess is fluent in five languages: French, English, German, Italian and Spanish.
Princess Caroline was romantically linked to several famous and eligible men in the late 1970s, including Mark Shand, the younger brother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; Guillermo Vilas; Sebastian Taylor, who had previously dated Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia; Jonathan Guinness, the son of Jonathan Guinness, 3rd Baron Moyne; Henri Giscard d’Estaing, the son of former President of France Valéry Giscard d’Estaing; and French singer, Philippe Lavil.
In 1978, Princess Caroline became engaged to a wealthy Parisian banker, Philippe Junot (who was 17 years her senior), and they were married civilly in Monaco on 28 June 1978 and religiously the following day. Their lavish religious wedding service was attended by some 65 guests, including Hollywood stars Ava Gardner, Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra, who were friends of the bride’s mother. The union was unhappy, and the couple divorced two years later on 9 October 1980. Later, the Princess petitioned the Vatican for an annulment and, after much wrangling back and forth, a formal annulment was finally granted by Pope John Paul II in 1992.
In 1979, Princess Caroline was appointed by her father and her mother to become the President of the Monegasque Committee for the International Year of Children. The Princess is sympathetic to the needs of distressed youth, and in 1981, she founded the association Jeune J’Ecoute (Young People, I am Listening). The association has set up a ‘youth hotline’ where troubled youngsters can talk about their problems on the telephone with qualified people trained in dealing with all sorts of problems that are facing children today.
Since April 1983, Princess Caroline has been the Honorary President of the Guides de Monaco, which became the l’Association des Guides et Scouts de Monaco in 1992. The Guides are the equivalent to the Brownies, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. As a youth, the Princess herself participated in the Guides and benefited from their activities and her experiences with the association.
Outside of Monaco, Princess Caroline has also extended her high patronage to the ‘Peter Le Marchant Trust’ located in England, which organises free barge trips for the handicapped. Prince Rainier III appointed Princess Caroline by decree on 17 December 1982 as the President of the Garden Club of Monaco, President of the Organising Committee of the Festival of Monte-Carlo Arts and later renamed the Printemps des Arts de Monte-Carlo (Springtime Arts of Monte-Carlo) in 1984.
Following the death of Princess Grace in a car accident in 1982 (an accident which also almost took the life of Caroline’s younger sister, Princess Stéphanie), Her Serene Highness became the de facto first lady of Monaco alongside her father and would devote herself to this role until her brother, Prince Albert, married Olympian Charlene Wittstock in 2011. It was following the death of his wife that Prince Rainier appointed Princess Caroline as President of the “Princess Grace Foundation” in 1984.
Following her divorce from Philippe Junot, Princess Caroline was briefly engaged to Robertino Rossellini, the son of Roberto Rossellini and actress Ingrid Bergman; however, the marriage never went ahead. The Princess went on to marry Stefano Casiraghi, an Italian sportsman and heir to an industrial fortune. They were married civilly in the Prince’s Palace of Monaco on 29 December 1983. The couple went on to have three children: Andrea Albert Pierre (born on 8 June 1984); Charlotte Marie Pomeline (born on 3 August 1986) and Pierre Rainier Stefano (born on 5 September 1987). Despite their parents’ not having married in the Church as required for legitimacy under church law, the children were legitimised by Pope John Paul II in February 1993, eight months after their mother’s marriage to Philippe Junot was annulled in June 1992. Stefano Casiraghi was killed in a speed-boating accident in 1990, aged 30-years-old.
During a press conference in Paris in 1985 Princess Caroline officially announced the creation of the Ballet of Monte-Carlo realising the wishes of her late mother, Princess Grace. Then on 4 March 1988, Prince Rainier III appointed Her Serene Highness by decree as the President of the Board of the Prince-Pierre Foundation. She has also been the President of the Literary Board of the same foundation since 1988. In 1992, she was appointed the President of the Artistic Board of the Prix International d’Art Contemporain (International Contemporary Art Prize).
In April 1993, Princess Caroline was appointed the President of l’AMADE Mondiale (Association Mondiale des Amis de l’Enfance) or (Worldwide Association of Children’s Friends), a charitable organisation in 1963 to protect children from physical and psychological abuse.
In 1999, Princess Caroline married His Royal Highness, Prince Ernst August of Hanover, Duke of Brunswick and head of the House of Hanover, which lost its throne in 1866. As a legitimate male-line descendant of King George III of Great Britain, Ernst August is subject to the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, and thus had to request permission from Queen Elizabeth II in order to marry the Catholic princess. Without the Queen’s Royal Assent, the marriage would have been void in Britain, where Prince Ernst August’s family own substantial property and where he holds dual citizenship.
Likewise, the Monégasque court officially notified France of the Princess’ proposed marriage to Prince Ernst August and received assurance that there was no objection, in compliance with Article 2 of the 1918 Franco-Monégasque Treaty. Despite obtaining the official approval of the governments of France, Monaco and the United Kingdom, upon Her Serene Highness’ marriage to Ernst August he forfeited his own place in Britain’s line of succession as a consequence of His Royal Highness being subject to the British Act of Settlement of 1701. The pair were married in Monaco on 23 January 1999. Upon her marriage, the Princess’ style was elevated from Serene Highness to Royal Highness. The couple has one child together: Her Royal Highness, Princess Alexandra of Hanover (born on 20 July 1999).
On 2 December 2003, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura appointed Her Royal Highness the Princess of Hanover as UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador in recognition of her personal commitment to the protection of children and the family, and of her contribution to the promotion of UNESCO’s programmes for the education of girls and women.
The Princess has always had a difficult relationship with the press, and on 24 June 2004, Her Royal Highness obtained a judgement from the European Court of Human Rights condemning Germany for non-respect of her right to private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The case concerned, for instance, the publication of pictures of Princess Caroline taken secretly at the Beach Club in Monte Carlo, but the lack of implementation of the European Court of Human Rights judgement in Germany led to the second round of proceedings before the Strasbourg Court. This time five Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) filed their observations in support of paparazzi and the Princess lost her case.
Following the death of her father, Prince Rainier III and the accession of her brother, Prince Albert, to the throne of Monaco in 2005, Princess Caroline once again became The Hereditary Princess of Monaco, being the heiress presumptive. However, with the birth of Prince Albert II’s twins, Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella on 10 December 2014, the Princess once again lost her status as heiress presumptive to the Monégasque throne.
In 2009, it became apparent that, despite originally appearing happy together, Princess Caroline and Prince Ernst August had separated, and the Princess was now living in Villa Clos St Pierre in Monaco-ville with her youngest child, Princess Alexandra. The couple remains married, however.
On 20 May 2014, Mrs Aurélie Filippetti, Minister of Culture and Communication, promoted Her Royal Highness The Princess of Hanover to the rank of Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters, one of the most prestigious distinctions among the French Republic’s four ministerial orders. On 3 July 2014, Army General Jean-Louis Georgelin, Grand Chancellor of the Légion d’Honneur, conferred the insignia of Commander of the Order of Agricultural Merit upon Princess Caroline.