A royal soap opera

The antics of the Grimaldis disfigure Monaco

What would happen if you put the cast of Footballers’ Wives in charge of a country? To find out, look no further than Monaco, tax haven and playground of the super-rich, where the House of Grimaldi has ruled since 1297. It is one of just three European states where the monarchy has an active role in politics – including granting that all-important, tax-free citizenship to visiting millionaires.

And what a royal family they are. His Serene Highness Prince Albert II, the only incumbent head of state in the world to have reached the North Pole, can also claim the more dubious honour of having faced three paternity cases. DNA tests and legal battles proved that he had fathered one child by a married Californian, and another by an Air France flight attendant.

As the “playboy prince” is still unmarried, the constitution had to be changed. If he dies without legitimate children, instead of the state reverting to French rule the throne will be occupied by his sister Princess Caroline and her third husband, Prince Ernst August V of Hanover.

But this is tame compared with the antics of youngest sister, Stephanie, whose marriage in 1995 to her bodyguard Daniel Ducruet lasted just a year. A string of affairs included another bodyguard and, allegedly, her father’s butler. She also spent time travelling Europe with the Circus Knie during a tryst with a married circus owner and elephant trainer.

But it doesn’t stop there. After a suspected cocaine dealer, Eskander Laribi, was shot dead in Nice in 2000, the Chevrolet his girlfriend was driving turned out to be Stephanie’s. Diplomatic immunity saved her from questioning.

All in all, it’s hard to imagine the Grimaldis in charge of anything, let alone a country where property is worth $68,000 per square metre. There may be more money than sense flying around, but Monaco has been a member of the UN with full voting rights since 1993.

The mantle will eventually pass to Caroline’s children, Andrea, Pierre and Charlotte, regulars on lists of Hot Young Royals, Beautiful People and Most Eligible. Sickeningly beautiful and dizzyingly rich they may be, but with family like that – really?

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.