Prince Albert of Monaco tells PEOPLE about rumors of a rift in his marriage to Princess Charlene: "Of course it affects her, of course it affects me"

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Prince Albert, Princess Charlene
Princess Charlene and Prince Albert
| Credit: ERIC GAILLARD/POOL/AFP via Getty

As Prince Albert awaits the return of his wife Princess Charlene to Monaco, His Serene Highness wants to set the record straight on rumors that have bubbled up in the midst of the Princess's extended stay in her native South Africa.

"She didn't leave Monaco in a huff!" Albert, 63, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "She didn't leave because she was mad at me or at anybody else. She was going down to South Africa to reassess her Foundation's work down there and to take a little time off with her brother and some friends." 

He continues, "It was only supposed to be a weeklong, 10-day maximum stay, and [she is still there now] because she had this infection all these medical complications arose."

Charlene, 43, traveled to South Africa in mid-May and soon began to experience complications related to a sinus lift and bone graft procedure she'd undergone prior to her arrival in preparation for dental implants. As result, she has since had several corrective procedures, including one in late June that caused her to miss her 10th wedding anniversary on July 1, and a four-hour long surgery on August 13.

Albert emphasizes, "She didn't go into exile. It was absolutely just a medical problem which had to be treated."

princess charlene
Credit: Christian Sperka

But as his wife's time away from Monaco and their children — 6-year-old twins Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella — has gone on, it has sparked speculation about the state of the royals' marriage. Now Albert now sees he "probably should have addressed" the rumors sooner.

"But I was concentrating on taking care of the kids," he tells PEOPLE. "And I thought it would just probably go [away]. You know if you try to answer everything that comes out then you're constantly [responding], you're wasting your time."

He does acknowledge that the chatter has taken its toll: "Of course it affects her, Of course it affects me. Misreading events is always detrimental. ... We're an easy target, easily hit, because we're in the public eye a lot."

Princess Charlene
Credit: HSH Princess Charlene/Instagram

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Still, just weeks after a recent family reunion and in the immediate aftermath of a sudden visit to the hospital for Charlene on September 1, the royals are trying to remain positive and focus on the princess's recovery.

"She's ready to come home," Albert previously told PEOPLE, even quipping, "She's jokingly said that she's ready to stowaway on a ship to come back to Europe."