Charlene Wittstock describes the chilly reception she's received in her adopted home

By Peter Mikelbank Stephen M. Silverman
November 03, 2010 11:30 AM
Amedeo M. Turello/Principality of Monaco

It hardly sounds like a warm welcome: In the time Charlene Wittstock, who is Prince Albert’s fiancée, has been in Monaco, she has encountered envy and made only a couple of friends, she confesses.

“The people I mixed with in Monaco didn’t relate to my South African mentality or humor,” the Rhodesia-born Olympic backstroke swimmer tells England’s Tatler magazine in its December cover story.

“Of course I’ve been subject to jealousy, but that comes with the territory,” she says. “Although I have met some wonderful people since I’ve been living in Monaco, I regard them all as acquaintances. I only have two people I consider friends here.”

Among the trials and tribulations Wittstock, 32, has encountered in her decade of knowing and dating (and, four months ago, becoming engaged to) the 52-year-old son of Prince Rainer and former screen queen Grace Kelly, was the fashion mistake she made at the August 2006 Red Cross Ball – when she arrived in a green, sequined halter-top gown.

The press dubbed her “Albert’s Mermaid.” Says Wittstock today, “I was used to living in a swimsuit and totally clueless about fashion.”

And, in her own defense, she adds, “The day of the ball, I had been playing volleyball all day on the beach and didn’t think about getting ready until late in the afternoon. I borrowed a green dress from a friend, fixed my hair myself and painted my nails red. I looked like a Christmas tree.”

Set to marry next July, Wittstock expresses a hope she can use her influence to help modernize the 900-year-old principality, and would like to see Monaco finally have a Manolo Blahnik boutique and a Starbucks.