Meet Princess Charlene and the Monaco Twins' New Dog Khan, a Family Favorite Going Back to Grace Kelly

Monaco's royal twins, Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella, have a new family member

When Princess Charlene returned to Monaco after a six-month stay in South Africa, she didn't come home empty-handed.

According to the local newspaper, Charlene introduced Prince Albert and their 6-year-old twins, Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella, to the newest member of their royal family: a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy named Khan!

Closely resembling the Hungarian pointer (the Vizsla) or a Weimaraner, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a hybrid hound breed that sprang to life as European settlers' dogs mixed with the pets of indigenous Khoikhoi nomads in South Africa and Zimbabwe more than 200 years ago.

In the past, Charlene has favored pocket-sized pets, including a pair of Yorkies named Monte and Carlo, and two chihuahuas called Thula and Wena. (One palace source tells PEOPLE that the princess, 43, decided to welcome Khan into the family after one of her chihuahuas died unexpectedly three weeks ago.)

princess charlene
Princess Charlene and the family shortly after she arrived back in Monaco. Eric MATHON/Palais Princier

The Ridgeback owes its name to the unmistakable ridge of fur growing along its back in the opposite direction to the rest of its coat, which is in an earthy red color called "wheaten" that's named after the hue of wheat field.

Ridgebacks are self-aware pets, sometimes even a bit aloof, but they are just as comfortable at home with children as they are tracking lions out in the African bush (undoubtedly helped by the fact that they rarely bark). In the U.S., Old Hollywood leading man Errol Flynn sparked a wave of popularity when he raised the affectionate pooches as show dogs in the 1930s.

Prince Rainier III, Princess Stéphanie, Princess Grace and Princess Caroline
James Andanson/Sygma via Getty Images

This particular breed is also something of a tradition for Monaco's royal family — one going back more than 60 years, in fact.

Prince Albert's parents Prince Rainier and Princess Grace were the first to bring a Rhodesian Ridgeback into the Monégasque pack. Though it's well-known that Grace arrived in Monaco with a poodle and a Weimeraner (the latter of which had been a wedding gift from her brother, Jack Kelly, and reportedly was not housebroken), Rainier himself owned a Ridgeback.

Grace was such a dog lover that she threw puppy birthday parties, including hats, canine-friendly snacks and doggie bags for prizes. Princess Caroline, who was about 10 or 11 when the festivities took place, shared her memories with Rainier & Grace author Jeffrey Robinson, saying, "They loved it! But then who doesn't love a birthday party?"

Prince Rainier
Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier in 1956. Keystone/Getty

Before that, the family Ridgeback had a hand (or a paw, as it were) in helping decide Albert and Caroline's nanny when they were babies.

In November 2018, Maureen Wood recalled her introduction to Prince Rainier after her sister had secretly written to the royals to recommend her. Clearly the letter caught the eye of Princess Grace, who personally wrote to Wood to invite her to Monaco for a job interview.

"I spent an afternoon in the nursery with Princess Grace and with Caroline, who was in her playpen and Albert was in his lace covered cot, fast asleep," shared Wood.

"We had a lovely afternoon and then [Princess Grace] said, 'My lady-in-waiting will take you out for dinner tonight in Monte Carlo and then the Prince would like to see you in the morning.' I had a lovely dinner in Monte Carlo with the lady-in-waiting and I suppose, looking back, it was probably to see whether I could hold my knife and fork properly," she noted.

She continued, "Early the next morning, I was duly put in their little sitting room and the door flung open and in came Prince Rainier and this Rhodesian Ridgeback, who put his paws on my shoulders. And Prince Rainier said, 'I hope you like dogs,' and I said 'Of course monseigneur, of course I do" and we had a long chat."

Wood was hired and stayed on as the royal menagerie — including Oliver the poodle, a wedding present from Cary Grant — expanded at the royals' Monaco home of Roc Agel.

Can't get enough of PEOPLE's Royals coverage? Sign up for our free Royals newsletter to get the latest updates on Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle and more!

Prince Rainier III, Princess Grace, Princess Stephanie, Princess Caroline and Prince Albert
Tony Kent/Sygma via Getty Images

The Grimaldis have also often taken their brood (and breeds) to their Chateau Marchais hunting outpost. These days, the estate in northern France even features a garden-side study decorated by Princess Caroline to showcase dozens of photo portraits of the family and their dogs, all the way up to the current generations of children and grandchildren.

Surely it'll be no time before Khan joins Jacques and Gabriella in an upcoming family portrait.

Related Articles