Princess Charlene of Monaco joins Prince Albert to meet Pope Francis

Breaking tradition! Princess Charlene of Monaco shows her shoulders in a boat-necked gown with sheer sleeves as she joins husband Prince Albert for a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican

  • Princess Charlene of Monaco, 44, joined Prince Albert to visit the Vatican today
  • Mother-of-two wore an elegant black lace gown as she met with Pope Francis  
  • Royal was born Protestant but converted to Roman-Catholicism in April 2011 
  • Comes amid her return to life in the public eye after an 11 month absence  

Princess Charlene of Monaco bucked tradition today as she showed her shoulders in a boat-necked black gown for a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

The mother-of-two, 44, could be seen bowing her head as she walked through the San Damaso courtyard with her husband Prince Albert, 64, following the meeting. 

Normal protocol for papal audiences require that ladies wear a long black dress with a high collar and long sleeves, and a black mantilla.

However visiting the Vatican today, the royal appeared to wear a strapless black gown with a boat-necked sheer top for the occasion.

The visit came as the royal, who was born and raised Protestant but converted to Roman-Catholicism ‘of her own free will and choice’ in April 2011, continues her return to public life after an 11 month absence last year.

Earlier this week, she joined Albert at the 73rd Red Cross Gala in Monte Carlo  – having previously missed the Monaco Rose Ball, which is one of the highlights of the principality’s social calendar.

Princess Charlene of Monaco donned an elegant black lace gown today as she joined her husband Prince Albert for a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican

Inside the Vatican, Prince Albert and Princess Charlene could be seen speaking with Pope Francis during the private audience 

It’s not the first time she has worn something which bucked the normal tradition.  

In 2016, Princess Charlene visited the Vatican in an all-white outfit as it was revealed she is one of only seven people allowed to don the colour while meeting Pope Francis.

Called le privilége du blanc in French or il privilegio del biacno in Italian, the special tradition is extended solely to designated Catholic queens and princesses and is usually reserved for important events at the Vatican such as private audiences, canonisations, beatifications and special masses.

Princess Charlene is bestowed this privilege, along with Queen Sofía of Spain, Queen Paola of Belgium, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg, Queen Mathilde of Belgium, Queen Letizia of Spain and Princess Marina of Naples. 

Visiting the Vatican today, the royal opted to wear an off-the-shoulder black gown for the occasion

Charlene has long spoken of how her faith has offered significant comfort during challenging periods.

She said last summer that her decision to convert to Roman-Catholicism was because she found strength in the religion and it was part of Grimaldi tradition.

Visitors are required to wear ‘casual but modest dress’ to meet the Pope – but normal protocol calls for ladies to wear a long black dress with a high collar and long sleeves

While a mantilla is considered standard wear for women meeting the Pope, Catholic women often wear them for other religious occasions as well. 

The veil serves several purposes, including covering a woman’s physical beauty ‘so that the beauty of God may be glorified instead,’ according to Catholic Company.

It also serves to emulate Mary, ‘the archetype of purity and humility,’ and to show ‘reverence and piety while in the presence of God.’

Black lace is worn by married or widowed women, while unmarried women and young girls wear white lace.

Mantillas used to be required for women attending Mass; however, since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), they are just encouraged.

While black clothing and a veil are considered appropriate for women meeting the Pope, the official dress code for a papal audience is less detailed.

Explicitly required is ‘casual but modest dress.’ For women, this can include trousers, capri pants, skirts, and dresses, though bottoms must be knee length and shoulders must be covered.


‘Catholicism is the state religion [in Monaco]. But for me, it represents much more. The values of this religion profoundly touch me and correspond perfectly to my spirit,’ People reported.

Charlene’s first state visit to the Vatican was in January 2013 along with Prince Albert. 

The royal couple’s visit marked the 55th anniversary of the meeting of his parents, Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco with Pope Pius XII in 1957.

The royal said the ‘experience was extremely intense and moving for me’.

The couples visit today comes as Charlene continues to slowly re-enter royal life after largely remaining out of the public eye over the last 18 months.

Rumours have swirled that she is receiving £10million a year to appear at her husband’s side at official engagements. 

She spent 10 months in her native South Africa last year after contracting a sinus infection that later required surgery. 

She returned to Monaco in November but was there for a matter of days before leaving for a Swiss treatment facility. The exact nature of her condition was not made public but Albert said she was ‘exhausted’.

Since returning once again, the mother-of-two has made a handful of appearances including a recent solo engagement to a maternity ward.

Charlene and Albert’s relationship has come under enormous scrutiny in recent months. 

Prince Albert said he was ‘hurt by the vicious rumours’ peddled about his marriage following his wife’s absence and said that it’s the ‘most beautiful thing’ to have her back with him. 

Major French outlets that specialise in celebrity news said Charlene’s sudden re-appearance was welcomed by all Royal watchers.

‘But the Princess did not return at any price,’ magazine Voici reported. ‘She would have had her husband sign an ultra-confidential contract.’

The revelations were followed up by rival publication Paris Match Belgium, which wrote: ‘Prince Albert would himself pay a tidy sum to the princess so that she appears at his side at public events.’ 

The Royal Palace in Monte Carlo refuses to discuss specific financial arrangements, but the principality pays out some £40m a year to cover the institution’s running costs.  

Pope Francis arrived in the San Damaso courtyard at the Vatican prior to a private audience alongside a masked driver 

The royal couple appeared in good spirits as they arrived side-by-side ahead of the audience today 

The mother-of-two bowed her head as she arrived at the Vatican earlier this morning for the audience 

Princess Charlene, who converted to Catholicism in 2011, wore a black off the shoulder gown with a nude pair of heels for the outing 

Meanwhile Prince Albert opted for a smart black suit with a pale baby blue tie for the meeting with the Pope 

The couples visit today comes as Charlene continues to slowly re-enter royal life after largely remaining out of the public eye over the last 18 months

As they arrived earlier today, the royal couple were welcomed by Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza, a papal aide

In keeping with tradition, Princess Charlene wore a black mantilla across her short blonde locks for the event this morning 

Royals are not salaried officials, however, meaning that Charlene would be reliant on Albert – a billionaire in his own right – for her own spending money.

A Royal insider based in Monte Carlo told Mail Online: ‘Of course the Princess enjoys huge perks, but ready cash is not guaranteed.

‘She’s been through a very difficult time, so it would make sense for Charlene to try and secure her own guaranteed income.’

Prince Albert said the time apart was ‘a test for his wife’ but they ‘spoke often, despite the distance.

Charlene first had a 10-month absence in her native South Africa, where she contracted and was hospitalised for a serious sinus infection that delayed her return to Monaco. 

Meanwhile the mother-of-two also opted to wear a large cross and set of rosary beads for the meeting 

Prince Albert and Princess Charlene walked alongside one another through the San Damaso courtyard as they left following a private audience with Pope Francis

After her return to the principality in November, Charlene left almost immediately to receive treatment for ‘exhaustion’ at a Swiss clinic. 

The Monaco palace has consistently denied media reports of a rift between Charlene and the principality’s ruler Prince Albert, who were wed in 2011, following the princess’ long absence. 

Speaking to French Sunday paper Journal de Dimanche last month, Albert said the last year was ‘a test for my wife especially, who suffered greatly and lived through difficult times, far from her family. A test also for our children and for myself.

‘We missed the princess a lot. And we were obviously hurt by the malicious rumours that were peddled. But we were able to stay united despite the distance, we spoke to each other often.’

He added:  ‘Today, Charlene is back with us and this is the most beautiful thing which could have happened. She’s better, we can finally spend time together. It is a relief and a joy for all of us.’ 

At one stage, Prince Albert put sunglasses on to avoid the bright glare of the summer sunshine in the courtyard 

Princess Charlene, who has previously spoken of how her faith has helped her through challenging times,  bowed her head as she walked through the courtyard 

The mother-of-two could be seen bowing her head as she walked through the San Damaso courtyard with Prince Albert following the meeting

The mother-of-two appeared pensive following the meeting with Pope Francis earlier this morning (left and right) 

Charlene said last summer that her decision to convert to Roman-Catholicism was because she found strength in the religion and it was part of Grimaldi tradition

Princess Charlene met Prince Albert in 2000 during a swimming competition in Monaco and the pair married in 2011, before welcoming twins Gabriella and Jacques in 2014.

Born in Rhodesia – a previously unrecognised state in Southern Africa colonised by the British, she relocated to South Africa aged 11.

She had a successful swimming career and went on to win three gold medals and a silver medal at the 1999 All Africa Games in Johannesburg, as well as representing South Africa at the 1998 and 2002 Commonwealth Games and winning a silver medal in the 4 × 100 m medley relay in the latter competition.

However the pair’s marriage has made numerous headlines over the years, with a third paternity suit emerging in December 2020.

The couple appeared in good spirits as they waited for their car in the courtyard following the private audience 

Soon afterwards Charlene famously shaved half her head in the style of a punk rocker. Months later she left for South Africa.

The allegations in December 2020 claimed that Albert had fathered a love-child (which would be his third, if proven) with an unnamed Brazilian woman during the time when he and Charlene were already in a relationship.

He has also fathered two other children outside of wedlock. Jazmin Grace Grimaldi, who is now 29 and the result of Albert’s affair with an American estate agent, and Alexandre Coste, 18, whose mother is a former Togolese air hostess.

Both children were struck off Monaco’s line of succession in return for vast financial settlements.

Timeline: Prince Albert and Princess Charlene’s year apart


January 27 – Charlene is pictured with Albert for the Sainte Devote Ceremony in Monaco.

March 18 – Charlene is pictured at the memorial for the late Zulu monarch, King Goodwill Zwelithini at the KwaKhethomthandayo Royal Palace in Nongoma, South Africa

April 2 – Charlene posts an Instagram picture of herself, Albert and their twins Jacques and Gabriella for Easter.

It is unknown where the image was taken.

May 8 – Albert, Jacques and Gabriella attend a Grand Prix event in Monaco without Charlene

May 10 – Albert attends Monaco Gala Awards in Monaco without Charlene

May 18 – Charlene shares her first picture from her conservation trip in South Africa

June 1 – Prince Albert II, Jacques and Gabriella attend event at Oceanic Museum in Monaco

June 3 – New photos emerge of Charlene on her conservation trip

June 5- Charlene puts on a united front as she shares a photo with her family to mark her niece’s fifth birthday with her brother’s family and Albert and the twins in South Africa

June 7 – Albert and the twins attend the World Rugby Sevens without Charlene

June 17 – Prince Albert attends Red Cross Summer concert in Monte Carlo with his sister Princess Caroline of Hanover

June 18 – Prince Albert appears alone Monte Carlo TV Festival

June 24 – Charlene’s foundation releases a statement saying the royal is unable to travel and is undergoing procedures for an ear, nose and throat infection

July 2 – Charlene and Albert mark their 10th anniversary separately. ‘This year will be the first time that I’m not with my husband on our anniversary in July, which is difficult, and it saddens me,’ Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene said in a statement.

July 3 – Albert appears with glamorous niece Charlotte Casiraghi at the 15th international Monte-Carlo Jumping event, which is part of the Longines Global Champions Tour of Monaco,

July 27 – Prince Albert attends Olympics alone in Tokyo

August 13 – Charlene undergoes a four-hour operation. The reason is not announced

August 25 – Charlene shares photos of Prince Albert, Gabriella and Jacques visiting her in South Africa

September 1 – Charlene is admitted under an alias to the Netcare Alberlito Hospital after suddenly ‘collapsing’

September 2 – She is discharged, with a statement from the Palais Princier reading: ‘Her Highness is closely monitored by Her medical team who said that Her condition was not worrying’

September 23 – Prince Albert attends the 2021 Monte Carlo Gala for Planetary Health

September 29 – Prince Albert is joined on the red carpet by actress Sharon Stone for a first look at the eagerly anticipated James Bond release

September 30 – Charlene releases a stylish video promoting her anti-poaching campaign from her South African bolthole 

October 3 – Princess Charlene shares a photograph of herself smiling in front of a bible in her first snap since being discharged from hospital following her health scare

October 5 – Prince Albert attends Sportel Awards Ceremony in Monte Carlo with nephew Louis Ducruet

October 6 – Albert tells RMC radio Charlene is ‘ready to come home’

October 8 – Princess undergoes surgery in South Africa

November 8 – Charlene arrives back in Monaco. Prince Albert said within hours it became clear she was ‘unwell’

November 13 – Prince Albert attends Expo 2020 in Dubai without Princess Charlene

Following his return from the trip, Prince Albert holds an intervention with Charlene’s brothers and a sister-in-law in which Charlene ‘confirmed’ she would seek ‘real medically framed treatment’ outside of Monaco

November 16 – Royal household confirms Princess Charlene will not attend National Day celebrations on 

November 19 – Prince Albert attends a Monaco Red Cross event without Princess Charlene

November 17 – Prince Albert reveals Princess Charlene has left Monaco and is recovering in a secret location

November 19 – Prince Albert reveals Charlene is in a treatment facility ‘elsewhere in Europe’ after a family intervention


January 25 – Charlene celebrates her birthday alone outside of Monaco

January 26 – Prince Albert is joined by his children and sister without Charlene at St Devote’s Day

February 27 – Prince Albert and his two children attend AS Monaco football match without Princess Charlene

March 14 – The royal palace announced Charlene had returned to Monaco. 

April 17 – Palace released Easter Sunday family portrait of couple with their seven-year-old twins Princess Gabriella and Prince Jacques

April 30 – Princess Charlene makes first public appearance at Monaco E-Prix 

May 7 – Charlene joins Albert at Sainte Dévote Rugby Tournament

May 18 – Prince Albert takes twins to Disneyland without Charlene

May 24 – Princess Charlene takes daughter Gabriella to Monte Carlo Fashion Week 

May 29 – Charlene and Albert appear together at Monaco F1 

June 22 – Charlene and Albert take their children to Oslo, Norway 

July 2 – Couple celebrate their 11th wedding anniversary 

July 5 – Charlene makes first solo appearance since her return 

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