Prince Ernst - The Monster of Monaco
Prince Ernst - The Monster of Monaco
THE MONSTER OF MONACO
Princess Carline's husband is a drunken, thuggish brawler with a taste for brass knuckle dusters who is currently in an alcoholic coma. And, oh yes, but for a legal technicality, he would be sitting on the British throne.
Source | The Daily Mail 16th April 2005
FELLOW diners were horrified. Prince Ernst of Hanover, the Queen's cousin and prominently in line to the British throne, arrived at a fashionable Japanese restaurant in London's West End in a state of inebriation which would have been inappropriate in a football hooligan.
'His three companions were obviously British toffs,' says one who witnessed the scene. 'They arrived drunk, and they carried on drinking until then were practically incapacitated.
'But it was the language that shocked everyone trying to enjoy a quiet meal. I have never heard such appalling effing and blinding.*
Just an average night out, by all accounts for the 50-year-old German prince who is married to Princess Caroline of Monaco.
But such nights have taken their toll: Ernst now lies in a coma and dangerously near death with an alcohol-related illness in the Monte Carlo hospital where his father-in-law. Prince Rainier, died last week. Yesterday, as Rainier was laid to rest in Monaco's cathedral — where 49 years ago he married the American actress Grace Kelly — Monaco's citizens were anxiously asking what the future holds for the tiny Principality with its colourful his- tory and controversial personalities.
Monaco may be barely the size of London's Hyde Park, a Ruritanian irrelevance to most people, yet for those international financiers who live there tax-free thanks to the closed books and draconian rule by its medieval monarchy, the identity of the person on the throne is of immense significance.
And unless Rainier's bachelor son, Prince Albert, finds a bride soon, the next in line will be Princess Caroline, now aged 48 and married to the ungovernable Ernst, and who has the children necessary to ensure the continuance of the throne.
It is hard to think what more can go wrong for the Grimaldis, the oldest royal family in Europe.
For while Ernst may be an HRH in his own right (Grimaldi royals are only Serene Highnesses), on past form it is difficult to imagine that, if he recovers from his current serious bout of pancreatitis, he will make the perfect consort.
These days, multi-millionaire Ernst is not even welcome in his native Germany after he inexplicably urinated in broad daylight against the side of the Turkish government pavilion during a Hanover trade fair, and ended up in a £600-a-day drug and alcohol addiction clinic in the Rheinland.
In the past few years, his violent and unpredictable personality has landed him with fines up to £350,000 and threatened him with jail sentences for grievous bodily harm.
Last year, he kicked a female photographer in Austria, and set upon a bar-owner on a Kenyan holiday island with brass knuckle-dusters. Ernst may be one of the most impeccably bred people in Europe, related to Queen Victoria and worth as much as £450 million, but he is surely also one of the world's most boorish individuals.
The mystery is why Caroline, who after her father's death is worth nearly £1 billion, remains loyal to a prince with more of an attitude problem than Wayne Rooney.
The most compliant of Rainier's three children, three-times-married Caroline has, at least on the sur- face, always taken her royal duties more seriously than her siblings.
RAISED in Monte Carlo's pink palace and educated at the smart English public school St Mary's Ascot, she has described her upbringing as boring but dutiful and, as such, guaranteed to leave her with a sense of guilt if she didn't do the right thing.
Her Irish Catholic mother, Princess Grace, daughter of a Philadelphia builder, always had high ambitions for her eldest child. She dressed her in Givenchy from the age of five and used to read from the Almanack de Gotha, the conti- nental Debretts, as she searched for a husband for her. Grace half hoped it would be Prince Charles.
But though Caroline, who is said to speak six languages, has always been known as Princess Perfect by the 30,000 Monegasques who call the Principality their home, she has also suffered from an identity crisis.
She spent her teen years as Eurotrash's leading bimbo, going topless on the beach and dating a series of unsuitable bon vivants, not sure whether she should follow her mother into the movie business or become a singer, a simultaneous translator or a journalist — she once wrote a feature for Tatler.
She started a course at the Sorbonne then dropped out, deciding to look after maladjusted children. This never happened, and instead she flaunted herself round various Paris nightclubs in the Seventies, finally marrying an older French playboy, Philippe Junot, whom her parents loathed. It lasted barely a couple of years and Caroline was back on the market.
THEN in 1982, her mother was killed in the mysterious car crash on the high corniche between Nice and Monaco, and Caroline became her distraught father's hostess on public occasions.
Many were the pictures of the beautiful princess leading the forlorn figure of her father through a series of public appearances designed to boost the fortunes of the Principality, which Rainier had rescued from its post-war tawdriness on his ascent to the throne.
But Caroline had not quite given up the good life. She was already pregnant with her first child, Andrea, when, in 1983, she married her real love, Stefano Casiraghi, whom she had met at a Monte Carlo disco. Prince Rainier breathed a sigh of relief.
While no profound thinker, Italian-born Casiraghi had extensive property interests and, it was whispered, Mafia connections in a Principality where nobody worries too much about such things.
And finally there was a potential heir to the throne. The couple had two more children, moved into a fairytale house and all seemed set fair.
Yet she was not yet entirely comfortable in her high-profile role, often confessing to confidants, 'if only Albert, my brother, would get married — to someone like Joan Collins — I could retire'.
Tragically, in 1990, her husband Stefano broke his neck in a powerboat accident. The so-called curse of Monaco appeared to have struck again. Moreover, her husband's death posed a string of questions about the reality of the gilded couple's life together.
Not only was Stefano rumoured to have been keeping a mistress, but it also seemed that he had managed to spirit away some of the money that was Caroline's birthright.
Some say that after his death Caroline was forced to take the advice of a former boyfriend working in Wall Street on how to raise money against the value of her jewellery.
Whether from grief or necessity, she sold all Stefano's cars: his £500,000 Ferrari, his Harley Davidson motorbikes and his Rolls Royce.
Was it perhaps also partly a cash-flow problem that caused the young widow and heiress-in-waiting to move away from Monaco and. bring up her children in less than vibrant Saint "Remy in France?
Her companion there for a long while was a Jewish actor, Vincent Undon, a nervy man who blushed whenever he had to deal with strangers, and thus hardly the ideal companion for a princess on permanent show.
Caroline seems to have found life so stressful at this time that she lost all her hair and had to appear at her father's functions wearing a wig.
Then she met Ernst August von Hanover, one of the names her mother had found in the Almanack de Gotha and the next best thing to Prince Charles. For had Britain been subject to Sallic law, in which women cannot inherit, Ernst rather than the Windsors would now be on the British throne rather than Queen Victorians descendants.
Ernst's qualifications were impressive — at least on paper. He had estates in Hanover and Austria, a holiday home in Lamu and a £10 million town house in London.
Moreover, when the Berlin Wall came down, he had also launched a bid to get his hands on all the family property the Soviets had appropriated in 1946.
He met Caroline ten years ago at a London birthday party attended toy ex-King Constantine of Greece and the Duke of Marlborough. They became close on a trip to Thailand and Burma, then holidayed at his island home off Kenya in 1996.
It was the same year that Caroline's father was having to bail his younger daughter Stephanie out of her ill-advised marriage to bodyguard Daniel Ducruet because he had been flaunting himself openly with a nude model.
In the light of the repeated scandals engulfing the hot-blooded Stephanie, not to mention Prince Albert's continuing reluctance to wed, Ernst — a descendant of George III and great grandson of the last Kaiser — must have seemed a lifeline of respectability to the louche Grimaldis.
The only trouble was, he was already married to a Swiss chocolate heiress and the couple had two sons.
This proved only a brief impediment. In 1997, Ernst divorced his wife after 15 years of marriage.
Soon, Caroline had bought the manor house just outside Paris of designer Kari Lagerfeld from which to conduct her new romance. She became pregnant with their daughter Alexandra, now five. While her affair with her hot-blooded suitor progressed, there were a series of unpleasant clashes with the media. Ernst was fined £30,000 for breaking the nose of a TV cameraman outside his ancestral pile in Hanover.
Back in Britain, he punched a photographer on the pavement while Caroline sat cowering in their Bentley. Ernst was bound over for 12 months at a London court. He was in feisty form throughout this entire period, slugging and suing and forking out the compensation.
He finally wed Caroline in January 1999. 'Thank God, at least he is one of us,' Rainier said, still reeling from having just banished the wayward Stephanie from the palace and cutting her inheritance to £17 million because of her unsavoury consorts.
Alas, Caroline's wedding present from Ernst was not the settled, moneyed, aristocratic life she might have imagined would bring credibility to Monaco's 700-year-old throne.
First, Ernst, who is in a state of ongoing warfare with Germany's major tabloid Bild, saw his family labelled Nazis, when the magazine claimed Ernst's grandfather had profited from Hitler's plunder of Jewish businesses in the 1930s.
Bild said Ernst's grandfather had been urging his loyalists in Northern Germany to follow the Fuhrer as early as 1933 and that Ernst's father had joined the SS
Ernst firmly countered these accusations, but lost out in his bid to claim the Prussian estates seized during the war.
Apart from this, the couple had a pretty nice if not exactly dutiful life, skiing, & cruising the Mediterranean and shooting boar.
Even so, Ernst's list of misdemeanours has continued. He has been banned for driving after doing 131mph on a French motorway, and accused of giving an illegal Nazi salute when a German security officer dared to inspect his designer luggage as he boarded a private plane.
Last year, he missed the wedding ceremony of the Spanish crown prince having celebrated too much the night before, only turning up half-way through the wedding feast. Now he is in hospital, very probably as a result of his drinking habits. He is being kept in a medically induced coma to give his body a chance to recuperate.
There are more disturbing rumours, too, that Ernst's record of violence is taking its toll on his wife. After his last appearance in Germany, the press asked: 'Does he hit her, too?'
In Germany, there is a groundswell of sympathy for Caroline. Reports say that although she loves him, she is beginning to hate the dark side that is showing itself more and more.
What will happen if Ernst comes out of hospital is anyone's guess. Friends say his drinking has been exacerbated by the very lifestyle he espoused when he married into the Monaco royals.
'Unfortunately, Ernst has found living in the Grimaldi spotlight almost impossible to bear,' says one of his circle. 'He's become obsessed with his privacy and his drinking has just got worse.'
Caroline, trapped once more between love and duty, can only pray — not for the first time — that either her brother Albert shapes up, or her husband does.
And what of the new generation? So far, her children seem to be following in the same familiar footsteps as the rest of the dysfunctional family and may not provide the dependable line Rainier so longed for.
Andrea, Caroline's 21-year-old son, was last heard of dating a car dealer's daughter, while his beautiful sister, Charlotte, had fallen for a man eight years her senior.
Monaco, it seems, still has many dark shadows on the horizon.
Prince Ernst - The Monster of Monaco
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