Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Royal Profile: HSH Princess Stephanie of Monaco, Countess of Polinac

Stephanie Marie Elisabeth Grimaldi (aka HSH Princess Stephanie of Monaco, Countess of Polinac) is the third and youngest child of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco and is presently 6th in line for the throne of Monaco after her niece, Princess Alexandra of Hanover, at her birth she was third after her two older siblings. She was born on 1 February 1965 at the Palais Princier in Monte Carlo, Monaco. Princess Grace considered her youngest child “the miracle baby” often favoring her as Princess Stephanie was not only the youngest, but was born after two failed pregnancies and is several years younger than her older siblings are. Her godparents were her Uncle John B. Kelly Jr and cousin Baroness Elisabeth-Anne de Massy.

She was privately tutored until she was four years old, and then attended a private school in Monaco. In the mid-1970s when her sister, Princess Caroline went to Paris for University, Princess Stephanie and her mother followed her there, as Grace feared that Princess Caroline would succumb to the Parisian nightlife. Princess Stephanie received her French Baccalaureat (high school or A level) in 1982 from Dupanloup in Paris. She barely passed high school, and chose not to attend university (another thing that set her aside from her older siblings). During her school years, she studied classic dance and piano.

The Princess moved to Paris when her older sister began to attend University there with her mother in the 1970s. While living in Paris, she discovered gymnastics, a field in which she excelled from 1974 to 1979. In 1978 and 1979, she was the patron of the Grand Prix de Gymnastique de la Ville de Paris. Princess Stephanie also loves swimming, water skiing and downhill skiing.

After a summer of being at odds with her mother, after she passed the Baccalaureat, she and her mother were injured in an automobile accident, coming back to Monaco from a weekend at the family’s country estate in the mountains. Princess Grace died because of her injuries in the September accident; Princess Stephanie survived the accident but was severely injured.

 After her recovery, Princess Stephanie interned at the Haute Couture firm of Christian Dior under the direction of designer Marc Bohan from 1983-1984. From 1985-1987, she designed a collection of swimsuits and swimwear under the name of 'Pool Position".

After a stint as a fashion designer, she recorded self-produced and released her first single with the French label 'Carrere', under the production of Yves Roze in 1986. The song "Ouragan" ("Hurricane") and its English version "Irresistible" quickly reached the international Top 10, reportedly selling more than 2 million copies. In September she released a full album called Besoin reportedly selling more than 1.5 million copies (also released as Stéphanie in some countries) with eight new songs, including "Flash" (in French; its English version "One Love To Give"), which was released as a single and reached the hit parade all over Europe. In January 1987, she released the single "Young Ones Everywhere" to benefit UNICEF. Princess Stephanie moved to Los Angeles to peruse a music career. Partially due to the time span it took to get a second recording released, Princess Stephanie’s music career did not last long after she moved to Los Angeles- her second album was a flop, selling only 3,000 records in the U.S. Her first and only live tour took place in the summer of 1991 in Europe and South America to promote the album called Stéphanie released in the U.S. by Sony Music. U.S. critics gave the album negative reviews. She also recorded "In the Closet" with Michael Jackson under the alias of Mystery Girl for his album, Dangerous. She ended her pop music career a short time after this.

It was during this time that she began her first of many love affairs with family staff, most notably with the princely family security guards and with the palace gardener at one point. The first was Daniel Ducruet. Daniel is the father of her two older children, Louis Robert Paul Ducruet (26 November 1992) and Pauline Grace Maguy Ducruet (4 May 1994). They were wed on 1 July 1995, in private civil ceremony at the Palace Princier in Monaco, legitimatizing the two children, placing them in line for the throne. It was also on this day that Louis and Pauline were baptized and their maternal aunt (Princess Caroline) and uncle (Prince Albert) were both children’s godparents. Princess Stephanie’s wedded bliss to Daniel did not last long-he would be caught with a topless model in Brazil several months later, and Princess Stephanie’s over protective father ordered a divorce for his heart-broken youngest child and the former palace body guard, of which was finalized on 4 October 1996. On 15 July 1998, Princess Stephanie gave birth to an illegitimate child, who she named Camille Marie Kelly, and she refused to name the child’s father on her birth certificate. Sources, including Princess Stephanie’s official biography on the palace website and Camille's private facebook page, claim that Camille’s last name is Gottlieb, implying that Camille’s father is former palace bodyguard Jean-Raymond Gottlieb.

Upon her return to Monaco in the late 1980s, she became active in its affairs-she became President of several associations including Monaco Youth Center, Princess Stephanie Activity Center, Honorary Board member of the Princess Grace Foundation U.S.A. Since 1985, she has presided over the Organizing Committee of the Princess Grace Theatre and the Jury of the Monte-Carlo Magic Grand Prix. Since 2005, she has been the President of the Organizing Committee of the International Monte-Carlo Circus Festival. In 2003, she created the association "Femmes face au Sida" which in 2004 became "Fight Aids Monaco".

After giving her father three new grandchildren, Princess Stephanie grew bored and restless in Monaco and decided to take her three children, who were just 9, 7, and 3 years old at the time, and run away with the circus-quite literally. She and her three children spent the better part of the next two years traveling with a circus, where her daughters both discovered a love for gymnastics. Middle child Pauline even became part of the elephant act! Due to her father’s ailing health, Princess Stephanie and her children returned to Monaco sometime in 2003 or 2004.

On September 10, 2003, Stéphanie married Adans Lopez Peres; the marriage ended in divorce in November 2004. Her children were fond of him, and they still keep in touch with each other to this day.

In November 2005, H.S.H. Prince Albert II awarded her with the insignia of the Grand Cross of the Order of Grimaldi, for her involvement in humanitarian actions through FIGHT AIDS MONACO and for her support of the circus arts through the Monte-Carlo International Circus Festival. The following spring, Princess Stephanie represented Monaco for the first time to the United Nations in New York during a high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS in order to explain the contribution of Monaco and to declare her personal involvement in the fight against the illness. In June of 2010, with the support of her brother and oldest daughter, she inaugurated "Maison de Vie" ("House of Life") in Carpentras (Vaucluse, France). This ambitious project was inspired by her trip to New York in 2006. The Maison de Vie is financed by Fight Aids Monaco: this unique establishment has welcomed since December 2010 persons living with HIV/AIDS in order to enable them to rest, to have a break and to take some time out from the difficulties of daily life, so as to help them restart their lives.

Today, Princess Stephanie remains active in the principality, particularly with FIGHT AIDS MONACO and when the circus comes to Monaco every January. She attends the Red Cross Ball every August in the company of her brother and sister-in-law.

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