Princess Charlene Addresses Rumors Around Her 'Painful' Recovery for First Time: I'm 'Still Fragile'

Princess Charlene shot down reports of a rift between her and husband Prince Albert, calling him her "protector"

Princess Charlene of Monaco is speaking out for the first time about her year-long health battle, admitting it has been "long, difficult and so painful."

The royal, who stepped out on Tuesday night with her 7-year-old daughter Princess Gabriella at a Monte-Carlo Fashion Week event, told local media that she remains "fragile" since her return to Monaco in March after a four-month stay in a Swiss clinic, where she received treatment for profound emotional and physical exhaustion.

"When I returned to the Principality, I focused all my energy on my children, my husband and my health because they are my priority," Princess Charlene told Monaco Matin.

"My state of health is still fragile and I don't want to go too fast. The road has been long, difficult and so painful. Today I feel calmer," the continued.

Princess Charlene of Monaco, Princess Gabriella of Monaco
Monaco's Princess Charlene and Princess Gabriella.

Charlene first became ill while in South Africa in May 2021 for what was planned as a brief 10-day visit to her home country. However, complications from a previous ENT procedure grounded her for six months. A series of painful corrective surgeries and a subsequent relapse delayed her return to Monaco until mid-November.

Princess Charlene of Monaco, Princess Gabriella of Monaco
Monaco's Princess Charlene and Princess Gabriella.

In early November, Charlene voluntarily entered treatment in a professional facility. The choice of a clinic outside of Monaco, her husband Prince Albert told PEOPLE exclusively at that time, was her personal decision supported by family members.

While Albert and the couple's children — 7-year-old twins Princess Gabriella and Prince Jacques — visited Charlene on several occasions, her prolonged absence from Monaco caused the princess to miss her 10th wedding anniversary and gave rise to numerous reports concerning a rift in the couple's marriage, as well as speculation concerning the true nature and degree of her medical issues. The couple consistently denied these tabloid reports.

Prince Albert II of Monaco and Princess Charlene of Monaco
Prince Albert and Princess Charlene of Monaco. PLS Pool/Getty Images

Since her return in March, new rumors have swirled around the couple, with reports suggesting Charlene plans to leave Monaco and has bought a home outside Geneva. Charlene directly addressed the rumors on Tuesday, telling reporters: "You want to talk about rumors of divorce or my new home in Switzerland?"

"I still find it regrettable that certain media peddle such rumors about my life, my relationship," she said. "Like everyone else, we are human beings and like all human beings we have emotions, weaknesses, only our family is exposed to the media and the slightest weakness is relayed."

Princess Charlene of Monaco, Princess Gabriella of Monaco
Monaco's Princess Charlene and Princess Gabriella. David Niviere/ABACA/

She went on to praise her husband of 10 years, calling him her "protector" for repeatedly speaking out against the rumors. Describing him as "very supportive," she told the newspaper, "We discussed these malicious articles together and he did everything to protect me and our children."

Throughout the past year, Princess Charlene consistently expressed her desire to return to Monaco and resume her royal responsibilities. In reaffirming this on Tuesday, she acknowledged the support she has received from the people of Monaco.

"I'm very happy to be back home in Monaco and with my family. I received so many positive and warm messages when I was away from Monaco and I thank them for their support," she said.

Princess Charlene of Monaco, Princess Gabriella of Monaco
Monaco's Princess Charlene and Princess Gabriella.

Tuesday's outing at the MCFW Fashion Awards Ceremony was a special occasion for Charlene and her daughter Gabriella as it marked the 7-year-old's first official event alongside her mother.

Asked whether she shares her love of fashion with her daughter, Charlene smiled and replied: "Like all little girls her age, Gabriella loves princess dresses, doing her hair and even trying on my lipsticks. Gabriella has her own style and I like to encourage that individuality."

Of Gabriella's big moment on stage, Charlene told Monaco Matin, "This mother/daughter fashion outing for the Monte-Carlo Fashion Awards delighted me and for the first time, we went on stage together. She was not nervous at all, rather amused and she could have even walked the show on stage!"

The appearance marked Charlene's third public outing since her return in March and she intends to continue to resume her royal commitments and charity events as she takes things day by day. She has several appearances lined up in the coming weeks, including her charity foundation's Riveria Water Bike Challenge and the annual Red Cross Ball, which she will chair in early July.

Prince Albert II of Monaco, Princess Charlene of Monaco, Princess Gabriella and Hereditary Prince Jacques attend the ABB FIA Formula E Championship - Monaco E-Prix Round 6 on April 30, 2022 in Monaco, Monaco. Eric Mathon / Courtesy of Prince's Palace
Princess Charlene, Prince Albert, Princess Gabriella and Prince Jacques. Eric Mathon / Courtesy Prince's Palace

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But first comes Monaco's Grand Prix event this weekend, which will also celebrate the princess's official return.

"Grand Prix is one of the most important events of the year," she said. "It's a special weekend, with special excitement. I'm very happy to experience these moments with my family."

"And this year, Jacques will be doing the lap of honor with his dad for the first time," she shared. "That will be a source of great pride for us."

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