Monday, April 18, 2011

Royals Behaving Badly: Prince Ernst August of Hanover

Twelve years ago this past January, the people of Monaco rejoined that their Princess after years of heartache (a divorce, widowhood, broken relationships) had finally seemed to find love.  Her groom was HRH Prince Ernst August, Prince of Hanover, Duke of Brunswick, Prince of Great Britain and Ireland.  And none too soon, their daughter Princess Alexandra showed up in July of 1999! The marriage seemed a dream come true, not only was Princess Caroline marrying up (going from Her Serene Highness to Her Royal Highness) but she was also marrying the man that her mother had once thought would make an ideal husband for her headstrong daughter. At the time of the wedding, Princess Caroline's father Prince Rainier declared, "Thank God, at least he is one of us."

The couple had a rocky start, Prince Ernst was still married to his first wife, Swiss heiress Princess Chantal, who was a good friend of Princess Caroline's.  At first the couple claimed just to be friend, even after it was reported that they were seen on holiday together in Thailand and Burma. The stress caused Princess Caroline's hair to fall out, she brought back the turban into fashion during this time. Princess Chantal was incredibly vocal that she considered that Caroline had stabbed her in the back, taking her husband. Not a great way to start off a marriage. Since Prince Ernst at the time was something like 35th in line to the British throne, he had to ask Queen Elizabeth II's permission to marry (Ernst is a direct descendant of Sophia, Electress of Hanover and mother of George I, he's also a first cousin of Prince Philip, Queen Sophia of Spain, and King Constantine of Greece.  According to Wikipedia, he could petition the British government to restore his title of Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale). Since Caroline is Catholic, he had to renounce his right to the throne, although his daughter with Caroline, HRH Princess Alexandra is being raised Protestant.

Things started to go wrong for Ernst when he was spotted publicly urinating on the Turkish Pavilion at the Expo 2000 event in Hanover, which caused a diplomatic incident. The Turkish government accused him of insulting the Turkish people. Clearly he didn't learn from that incident because the tabloid Bild-Zeitun also photographed him urinating outside of a hospital in Austria. Seriously, they do have actual bathrooms in Europe! The next year the Prince, who was rumored to have a drinking problem, was fined over $300,000 and given an eight month suspended sentence for threatening behavior, verbal abuse, and causing bodily harm in 2001, in three seperate incidents. Not very Prince-like behavior.  Especially someone who is supposedly worth over $10 billion dollars in property and investments. Even Prince Philip, who has made his share of gaffes over the years would be appalled.

But it wasn't just the violence, which included kicking a female photographer in Austria, and hit a bar owner on a Kenyan holiday island with a pair of brass knuckles (one has to wonder why he was carrying brass knuckles!). The German tabloid Bild accused his family of being Nazis, claiming that Ernst's grandfather had profited by Hitler's plunder of Jewish businesses in the 1930's. The tabloid also claimed that his grandfather had urged his loyalists in Northern German to follow the Fuhrer, and that Ernst's own father had joined the SS (Prince Philip had to deal with this same issue, his older sisters all married German aristocrats who had Nazi ties. None of them were invited to his wedding to the Queen in 1947).

One has to wonder what Princess Caroline saw in this boorish Prince. He must have some sort of personal charm besides just his title. Reports say that although Prince Caroline loved him, she was getting increasingly disturbed by the dark side of his nature. Friends say that his drinking was exacerbated by the media spotlight that has been trained on the Grimaldis ever since Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier in 1956. 'Unfortunately, Ernst found living in teh Grimaldi spotlight almost impossible to bear," says one of his circle. "He's become obsessed with his privacy and his drinking just got worse." In 2004, he missed the wedding ceremony of Prince Felipe of Spain because he'd been partying so hard the night before. He only turned up later during the reception. How much worse became apparent when the Prince ended up in the hospital in 2005 suffering from acute pancreatitis.  He was put into a medically induced coma to help his body recuperate. At the same time,  Prince Rainier died.

After Ernst came out of the coma, things seemed to have settled down between the couple, but the first signs of a problem occurred when it was noted that they only appeared together in public 3 times in 2009. By that Christmas, Caroline was off skiing, and Ernst was photographed in Thailand in a compromising position with an unidentified woman. But Caroline had already moved out of their Fontainebleu home in September of that year, moving back to Monaco with their daughter Princess Alexandra while Ernst was off celebrating the 40th anniversary of Colonel Khaddafi's reign in Libya (nice friends he has!).  A spokesperson in Monaco told reporters that the Palace had no comment.  Still, people speculated it was only a matter of time before Princess Caroline filed for divorce from her wayward husband who had done nothing but embarass her during the 12 years of their marriage.

Last fall when Ernst was spotted with a 22 year old former nightclub dancer named Simona from Romania who models for brothels in Austria in northern Italy, there was still no formal declaration of seperation or divorce. Royal watchers believe that the couple have come to an 'understanding', that they are both free to live seperate lives but no divorce.  That might seem a little strange, particularly in America where celebrities get divorced after only a few months, but a divorce would mean that Ernst would have to pay Caroline a significan chunk of change. Call me madcap, but Prince Ernst doesn't look like someone who finds it easy to part with a farthing. For Caroline, a divorce would make her a three time loser at love. She's already had one divorce, and been widowed once (although there is speculation that if Stephano Casiraghi had lived, there might have been a second divorce).  Her sister Stephanie has already been married and divorced twice, and had a child out wedlock.  Her brother is finally getting married at the age of 53, after having two illegtimate children. By all accounts Caroline doesn't want to add to the list. Nor does she want to add credence to the myth that the Grimaldi's are cursed when it comes to love.

Of course, who knows what the future holds? If Ernst continues to be a liability ro an embarassment, Caroline may just have to cut the marital chord.

Sources:  Vanity Fair (10/2/09), People (1/7/10), Daily Mail (4/16/05, 10/28/10)


Anonymous said...

Ernest was never at any point "35th" in line for the English Throne. Also, how is he first cousins with The Duke of Edinburgh?

Since when was Wikipedia a solid source for information?

The_Editrix said...

Goodness, you are not going to say that the divine Grace Kelly was wrong about Ernst August being THE bridegromm for her daughter Caroline?

Prince Rainier must have had a sense of humour. After all, he described EA as being at least "one of us" when he himself had married an actress who was known to be not overly shy when it came to her relationships with the opposite sex. Maybe the "Grimaldi curse" is nothing but bad taste when it comes to the choice of one's spouses.