Prince Charlene of Monaco discusses marriage and health in rare interview

Princess Charlene of Monaco has spoken about her health problems for the first time, admitting that the "path has been long, difficult and very painful".

The 44-year-old, who is married to 64-year-old Prince Albert, spent almost a year away from Monaco after falling ill in her native South Africa in May 2021.

She then returned to Monaco in November 2021 and was booked into a clinic in Switzerland for four months.

Throughout the princess has not been present for royal duties, until 24 May when she was seen at the Monte-Carlo Fashion Week with her daughter, Princess Gabriella.

During an interview with the newspaper Monaco-Matin, Princess Charlene said she is determined to overcome her health problems while she dismissed rumours of marital problems.

There have been rumours of a rift between Princess Charlene and Prince Albert since their high-profile marriage in 2011 when she was dubbed the "runaway bride" in the French press after allegedly trying to flee before the wedding and there have also been claims that Albert signed a contract to pay his wife more than £10m a year to fulfil royal duties.

Royal expert Stephane Bern is among those who speculate that her health has been used to try and disguise relationship problems, but the princess has dismissed the rumours, describing her husband as "my protector".

She said: "You want to talk about rumours of divorce or my new home in Switzerland?

"I still find it regrettable that certain media peddle such rumours about my life, my relationship.

"Like everyone else, we are human beings, and like all human beings we have emotions, and weaknesses, only our family is exposed to the media and the slightest weakness is relayed.

"We discussed these malicious articles together and he did everything to protect me and our children.

"I'm very happy to be back home in Monaco and with my family. I received so many positive and warm messages when I was away from Monaco, and I thank them for their support."

During the interview, Princess Charlene discussed her health, which she said is "still fragile and I don't want to go too fast".

She added: "When I returned to the Principality, I focused all my energy on my children, my husband and my health because they are my priority.

"I am very happy to be back home in Monaco and with my family."

The princess fell in South Africa in May 2021 during a 10-day visit and suffered complications from a sinus operation, which led her to stay in her native country for 10 months.

Charlene first fell ill in South Africa in May 2021, during what was meant to be a 10-day visit.