"She's coming into her own now," he tells PEOPLE. "I think she's found a good space"

By Peter Mikelbank
Updated July 10, 2015 10:40 AM
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VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty

Monaco’s Prince Albert and Princess Charlene have weathered their share of rumors since their wedding four years ago. Now, as Albert celebrates 10 years on the throne, he says his wife has grown more at ease in her public role.

“She feels a little more comfortable with the media now, and to be quite honest she got there on her own,” the royal, who is poised to mark his decade-long reign with a grand celebration this weekend, tells PEOPLE exclusively.

Since the birth of their twins in December, the stunning South African-Monégasque former Olympic swimmer, 37, has continued to emerge as a rising royal star.

“She’s coming into her own now,” adds her husband, 57. “I think she’s found a good space.”

Although Albert and his sisters, Princesses Caroline and Stephanie, grew up in the spotlight as the children of film star Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier, he says it was impossible to understand the pressure his wife experienced even before their 2010 engagement.

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“She was accustomed to the press in a way before, because she was an athlete and she was sought by local media in her home country,” he says, “but this is a whole new ballgame. I think I underestimated her. She surprises me.”

Of reports that Charlene wanted to break things off before the wedding, he says, “I was always so flabbergasted. The truth is she made two trips away from Monaco, which these stories were based on. One was to open the Special Olympics in Greece. The other, she took her mother shopping to look for a wedding dress in Paris because she thought it would be more special. These stories were baseless.”

In addition to expanding work with her foundation, “Her Serene Highness,” as she is known in Monaco, has also proven herself to have a fairy-tale sense of style.

“At every occasion she’s had to attend she’s tried to bring something extra,” says Albert.

Next up: a glamorous family wedding and a summer getaway – as a couple.

“We intend to make time together this summer,” he says. “I need to take her away for a private dinner.”

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