"I don't think they would be as smiling and happy as they are if she weren't as good a mother as she is," the royal tells PEOPLE
Credit: Lionel Cironneau/AP

Royal twins Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella turn 1 on December 10, and Monaco’s Prince Albert is heaping praise on their “great mother,” his wife, Princess Charlene.

“She’s very eager to be with her children at all times,” Albert, 57, tells PEOPLE. “She’s up with the kids at 6, 6:30 and takes them through the morning. Every day. And she continues work for her foundation and her personal workouts, keeping up with her swimming.

“But really,” he says, “I don’t think they would be as smiling and happy as they are if she weren’t as good a mother as she is.”

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In the first year of her children’s lives, the princess, 37, has been less visible, and even an occasionally absent public figure, excusing herself from several expected appearances to tend to her kids. Her priority has been her children’s health and welfare, says a friend: “She’s very hands-on and absolutely dedicated to them.”

Born a few weeks premature, “that’s scary for any parent,” adds the friend. “As they’ve grown, her confidence has developed. They’re in great form now, you can see that and you can see a difference in her.”

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With her children’s first birthday approaching, the princess – whether most recently rolling the twins in their double stroller for Monaco’s Ecology Walk, addressing a Vatican Healthcare Conference or saluting Monaco’s National Day celebrations – has dramatically re-embraced her public role.

“Mostly because of the children,” adds Albert, “she’s had to organize a number of things a little differently during the past year. She’s had to organize several household moves this year as well (the couple have been living away from the palace during its renovation) and that has been a big task for her, but she’s shown herself to be incredibly organized and a great mother.”