When Princess Grace died in a 1982 Monaco car crash, her elder daughter Caroline blossomed into the tiny principality's new first lady. At the request of her father, Prince Rainier, she took on a number of high-profile roles, including those she holds with the Princess Grace Foundation and the Red Cross.
"After Grace's death a miracle happened," said Prince Rainier the following year. "Princess Caroline stepped into her mother's shoes. She has the same spirit as her mother. The way she is handling the jobs I have given her is a source of great satisfaction to me."
Caroline, who was born January 23, 1957, was very aware of her responsibilities from early on in life. "I was raised with a sense of duty, obedience and
guilt," she once said of her childhood. "What I had to do always came before what I wanted to do."
It was an approach which the Sorbonne-educated princess presumably drew upon as she hit her first major hurdle in life, the demise of her short-lived marriage when she was just 21. Six hundred guests, including her mother's old friends Gregory Peck and Frank Sinatra, had attended her lavish wedding to Philipe Junot on June 28, 1978 fairy-tale nuptials for a couple that hoped to live happily ever after. However, the two divorced in 1980. Calling herself "young and in love" she reflected after the split: "Everything happened too quickly. Since I had been little, everybody wanted me to get married." Sources, however, say Grace had disapproved of the union.
Caroline was soon overcome by an even greater tragedy in the form of the death of her beloved mother soon after the split. But on December 29, 1983, she once again found contentment when she wed 23-year-old Italian Stefano Casiraghi, the son of a wealthy businessman whom she'd met a year earlier at a Monte Carlo disco. "Happiness has finally returned to a family which recently has had its share of personal tragedies," said a palace spokesperson after the 15-minute civil ceremony.
The low-key, last-minute nuptials the wedding was officially announced by the palace ten days before it took place led to speculation that Caroline was pregnant. And sure enough, Andrea Albert Pierre was brought into the world on June 8, 1984. The young boy, named after a friend of his father who had died in an accident, was followed in 1986 by a sister, Charlotte Marie Pomeline, named for Rainier's mother, and, one year later, a brother, Pierre Rainier Stefano.
However, Caroline's delight in her growing family was cut short on October 3, 1990, when avid sportsman Stefano, aged 30, was killed in a speedboat racing accident. The young widow decided to retreat with her children to Saint-Remy in France, "to move away from the gossip and hoopla of Monaco" explained Prince Albert. There the family lived quietly in a rented villa for years during which time Caroline's first marriage was annulled until a controversial romance put the princess back in the spotlight.
Prince Ernst-August of Hanover, a direct descendant of King George III, was a married father of two when rumours sparked of a secret relationship between him and old friend Caroline. The gossip was confirmed in 1997, when the multi-millionaire divorced his wife of 16 years and became the princess' constant companion.
Ernst and Caroline wed in a quiet civil ceremony on her 42nd birthday in January 1999, making the Monegasque royal a Princess of Hanover, to be addressed as Her Royal Highness, a title which outranked her former Her Serene Highness. Caroline's fourth child, Alexandra, was born that June.
Unlike the subdued Caroline, the prince who was said to be one of Princess Grace's choices as a match for her daughter years before has demonstrated a volatile personality. In the past he has drawn his share of media attention with a number of public outbursts, including breaking a TV cameraman's nose with his umbrella in 1998 and admitting that he assaulted a disco owner in Kenya two years later.
Despite the intensive media coverage of her life, from the death of her mother through her husband's public antics, Caroline has focused elsewhere, primarily on her continuing duties with the Red Cross and the Princess Grace Foundation. She has rarely given interviews, preferring to let her philanthropic work speak for itself. In 2003 Caroline was chosen as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, in recognition of her "personal commitment to the protection of children and the family".Click here for more information on the Monegasque royal family