If there is one member of the Grimaldi princely house who has created more than her share of controversy it is Princess Stephanie, the youngest child of Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace; the one even at a young age whom Princess Grace referred to as her wild child. Some of her actions may have caused gasps from the faint of heart and raised a few eyebrows, but Princess Stephanie has also displayed an abundance of creativity, a restless energy and a down-to-earth way of connecting with people and helping people. She is living proof that it is often those who are considered outcasts at times who most sympathize with and most help the outcast and most downtrodden of their fellow man. Throughout her life Princess Stephanie has been a model, fashion designer, singer, mother and patron of charitable causes. She has gained a great deal of wisdom over the years from the many ups and downs in her life but she has never lost her rebel spirit and her mischievous but always compassionate heart.
Few people who have not had the misfortune to experience it can imagine the pain and emotional suffering that goes along with surviving an accident that takes the life of someone else. I am among those fortunate ones, but members of my family I am very close to have and I am painfully aware of the hurt it causes. Not only did Princess Stephanie go through such trauma, but it was made worse by the fact that it was her own mother and at her age losing a parent would be traumatic enough without being in the same accident and having to face the feelings of guilt that arise from the fact the you walked away and your beloved mother did not. Even with this worst of scenarios there was even more hardship heaped on the young princess with the thoughtless and hurtful rumors that she had really been driving the car and that the palace had covered it up. It was all totally untrue of course, Princess Grace had been driving, had suffered a stroke and thus lost control of the vehicle. However, just imagine what an extra amount of torment Princess Stephanie had to endure by being subject to the whispers that she was responsible for the death of her own mother. Add to all this the fact that she spent a long time afterwards going through the physical pain of her injuries and it was not until the following year that she had completely recovered; from the physical wounds at least. It would take some time for her to work through the emotional issues associated with the whole incident.
February 1986 saw Stephanie release her first single, the hit "Ouragan" or "Irresistible" as it was titled in English. It was a great success, quickly rocketing to the International Top 10 and ultimately selling some five million copies. In September she released her first full album with many new songs including the smash hit "Flash" (in English "One Love to Give") which sold over two and a half million copies. In 1987 she released another single with the profits donated to UNICEF. That same year, to continue her music career and move in with her boyfriend-of-the-month Mario Oliver, Princess Stephanie moved to Los Angeles, California. Unfortunately, Princess Stephanie learned how fickle the music industry could be. After five years her next album was finally released and was greeted with lackluster sales and poor critical reviews. The open-minded liberals of LA seemed more obsessed with punishing a Princess than giving her music a fair hearing. They prefer their artists to be starving heroin-addicts from out of the gutter after all. Princess Stephanie ended her musical phase with an anonymous part in a Michael Jackson album.
Among the many bad boys Princess Stephanie has been associated with was a man convicted of car theft, an alleged rapist and a convicted con man who had served time in prison for fraud and theft. She also had flings with a Spanish singer, a French actor, a record producer, American actor Rob Lowe whose lack of French language skills ended his future with the Princess, a football star, and Belgian bodybuilder and actor Jean-Claude Van Damme. In 1992 Stephanie began a relationship with her bodyguard Daniel Ducruet by whom she had two children; Louis Ducruet born in 1992 and Pauline Ducruet born in 1994. The couple finally married in Monaco on July 1, 1995 which legitimized their children in Monegasque law and put them in the line of succession. This might have been the start of a more calm period of happy family life for Princess Stephanie, but heartache found the rebel princess again when photos came out of Ducruet frolicking with a Belgian stripper. He was promptly expelled from the upper echelon of Monaco society and a divorce was granted on October 4, 1996. Princess Stephanie had been robbed of wedded bliss and her romantic misadventures were set to continue.
In 2000 Princess Stephanie began a relationship with the Swiss circus owner and elephant trainer Franco Knie who she met a festival in Monte Carlo when awarding him a prize for Best Animal Tamer. Unfortunately, Monsieur Knie was married and the affair only became known publicly in 2001 when Knie announced that he was leaving his wife for Princess Stephanie. For several months thereafter Princess Stephanie and her children traveled with the circus, living in less than luxurious conditions, and her daughter Pauline became so infatuated with the elephants that Knie included her in the act. However, by the next year that relationship was over as well.
Recently Princess Stephanie has taken on some more traditional royal duties. The death of Prince Rainier was a terrible blow to her. Despite their differences over the years she was very attached to him and her father had been her rock of stability throughout her many trials and ups and downs. However, she has said that his memory is with her constantly and she has become very involved in the fight against AIDS and helping AIDS victims around the world. She has become a UNAIDS ambassador and set up her own foundation, called Fight AIDS Monaco, to help the victims of the disease and to fight against the stigma that often goes with it. In this she seems to have found a niche for her particular talents, being a very loving person and also as someone who has been treated as something of an outcast by many she has more sympathy for these, the least of her brethren, than others might.