Monaco's ruler and father to newborn twins opens up to PEOPLE about midnight feedings and palace renovations

Credit: Rex USA

Monaco’s Prince Albert talks about helping out with bottle-feeding and bathing his newborn twins, building his own “man cave” in newly renovated palace apartments and reports of troubles in his marriage to Princess Charlene, which he calls “ridiculous” and “totally false,” in an exclusive interview with PEOPLE.

“It’s totally incredible that we have to justify ourselves all the time,” Albert, 57, says. “It’s ridiculous. It’s just impossible to believe that these stories have come up again. It’s surreal! It’s impossible to believe responsible media would pick up on these totally false stories.”

His comments come after reports that Charlene, 37, was spending time away from her husband in the south of France, with 3-month-old twins Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella.

But the Prince explains it was renovations to Monaco’s Prince’s Palace after the twins’ birth Dec. 10 that prompted him and Princess Charlene to relocate temporarily to a rented villa over the French border. The new parents wanted to spare their babies and themselves the noise and dust of extensive reconstruction – including a makeover of the private family apartments, the Prince tells PEOPLE.

“We’ve been planning to renovate and redecorate for a long time,” he says. “It’s not totally calm and quiet the way you would like to have when there are very young children around.”

“There’s a lot of work going on, lots of noise, a lot of people running about. We thought it was a lot of work to have done around kids.”

The official residence of Monaco’s reigning Grimaldi family since 1297, the “Pink Palace” last underwent substantial renovation 50 years ago when Albert’s father, Prince Rainier, added a second wing. The private family apartments, decorated in 1966 by Prince Albert’s mother, Princess Grace, have remained essentially unchanged since that time.

“If you know the palace,” the Prince says, ‘”the apartments are on the left. That’s the western wing, built in the 1960s, and they need revamping and a great deal of work and technical upgrading. We’re still in the process of clearing things out and then we’re going to start work on remodeling and decoration.”

‘I Need My Man Cave!’

A top priority: Building a new nursery for Jacques and Gabriella. Maintaining family tradition, there’ll be one large nursery, the Prince says.

“My sisters [Princesses Caroline and Stephanie] and I shared one nursery and I know times have changed, but they can get by with one nursery as well I think.”

The remodeled apartments, palace sources say, will strongly reflect Princess Charlene’s taste. The Prince agrees. “As far as decorating the apartments,” he says, “I’ve had some input of course, but I’ve let my wife decide things. And she’s let me have some input.”

“I mean, c’mon, I need my man cave!” he says, laughing.

The couple hopes to return to their apartments “by Easter,” the Prince says, adding “there’ll be work going on in the palace for a couple of years.” The babies’ christening at Monaco’s Cathedral is scheduled for May 10.

A team of 20 master artisans, including stone masons and glass artists, is currently at work in the courtyard, says one Palace source. The workers will take a break over the summer and return in the fall, the source says. That would afford little Jacques and Gabriella a peaceful first summer to enjoy the palace’s private gardens.

“We’re receiving help from French artisans and we’re working on restoring the frescoes and all the stained glass which needed repairing,” the Prince says.

Midnight Feedings and Bath Time

Parenthood, says Prince Albert, has been “a lot of work.” In recent months, Princess Charlene has curtailed most outside appearances, keeping engagements for only her closest charity work. The former Olympic swimmer stays in shape by doing laps in the Monaco pool.

The Prince, who has two other children from prior relationships, says of fatherhood the third time around that he’s “been involved with the children, and with them as much as I can, ever since their birth.”

“I try to help out with their feeding, I give them their midnight bottles, I change and bathe them, and thank goodness we have help because it’s twins. But it’s been an incredible experience.”

At three months, the twins are already displaying distinct personalities. “Jacques is a little more loud and he moves a little bit more,” the Prince says. “Gabriella takes her time, she’s more, well, of a baby. But it changes quickly. It changes in a few days, in a week, they’ve already changed personalities, several times.”