"The past year has definitely hit me hard," says the royal mom of 5-year-old twins
princess charlotte magazine

Princess Charlene often seems sad in photos — and she knows it.

In an end-of-year cover story with South African magazine Huisgenoot, Monaco’s princess tackles the issue, explaining, “people are very quick to say, ‘Oh, why isn’t she smiling in the photos?’

“Well, sometimes it’s hard to smile,” acknowledges the mother of 5-year-old twins Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella. “They don’t know what’s going on in the background.”

In the interview, the usually press-shy princess, who is married to Monaco’s Prince Albert, offers surprisingly candid insights.

Noting that “the past year has definitely hit me hard,” she explains that it has been an “incredibly painful” year marked by the deaths of two friends within 10 days and concern over the health of her father, who underwent surgery in her native South Africa.

Monaco royals Christmas party
Princess Charlene and Prince Albert on December 18, 2019.
| Credit: Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty

At the root of her sadness, she says, is homesickness. Although her brother Mike Wittstock and his family also live in her adopted country of Monaco, the princess regrets being at distance. “I have the privilege of having this life, but I miss my family and my friends in South Africa and I’m often sad because I cannot always be there for them,” she says.

Prince Albert II of Monaco, Princess Charlene of Monaco, Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriela stand at the Palace balcony during the Monaco National Day Celebrations on November 19, 2019 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco
Prince Albert, Princess Charlene, Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriela during the Monaco National Day Celebrations on November 19, 2019.
| Credit: Arnold Jerocki/Getty

“I’d dreamed of taking them there for a long time, showing them South Africa, certainly, but also Benoni, the city where I grew up,” she said recently. “The children were impatient to see Grandpa and Grandma. On the plane, when we arrived, we were all three looking through the porthole and Jacques cried, ‘Wow, this is the country where you come from, Mom? It’s so big!’ It was very moving for me.”