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Crowning Blow

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Prince Charming—or Prince Alarming? Ernst August of Hanover, who married Princess Caroline of Monaco a year ago, has been looking more like the latter recently. The volatile Ernst August, 45, made headlines Jan. 14, when, witnesses allege, he repeatedly punched Josef Brunlehner, the owner of a nightclub near the prince’s vacation home on the Kenyan island of Lamu, where he and Caroline, 43, were staying with their 6-month-old daughter, Alexandra. “I had the great pleasure of giving the man a left and a right,” he told the German wire agency dpa. His reason: “Every night there was music [coming from the club] until 5 in the morning.”

After the international media reported that Brunlehner was hospitalized with internal injuries, however, the prince changed his tune. In a full-page ad in several European papers, including France’s Le Journal du Dimanche on Jan. 23, he denied the “altercation” had caused Brunlehner’s injuries. He also claimed he had been helping neighbors, who disliked the noise. “The papers have been lying,” says a pal of his. “He has to make things clear.”

Sadly for Caroline, her third husband’s violent outburst was nothing new. “When he’s calm he’s unbelievably nice, but he has a bloody temper,” says a veteran Grimaldi-watcher. Ernst August broke a photographer’s nose in 1998, a misadventure that cost him $52,500. This year’s stunt could have harsher consequences: Brunlehner has indicated he may sue the “punching prince,” as he has dubbed him. And if Kenyan and German officials bring charges, he could face up to 10 years in prison (although probation is more likely).

In the meantime, “Prince Rainier is not happy,” says a friend of the couple’s. “He doesn’t like scandals.” Though royal observers say the two are very much in love, Caroline is clearly concerned about Ernst August’s bully-boy tendencies toward others. Says one observer: “Sometimes she looks at him with a look you can easily describe as fear.”