Her Serene Highness Princess Charlène of Monaco is committed to empowering children to lead fulfilling lives, helping to transform lives through sport and saving lives by putting an end to drowning.
Charlene Lynette Wittstock was born to Michael and Lynette Wittstock on 25 January 1978 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. She has two younger brothers and, when She was 12 years of age, moved with Her family to South Africa.
Her Serene Highness developed a passion for swimming at a very early age. In 1996, at just 18 years of age, She won the South African Championship and in 1999 She took three gold medals and one silver at the All Africa Games. In 2000, She represented South Africa at the Olympic Games in Sydney; Her team finished fifth in the 4x100m medley relay. That same year, She took gold at the “Marenostrum” international swimming meeting in Monaco (200m backstroke); it was at this event that She first met Prince Albert II of Monaco who was presiding over the international competition. In 2002, Princess Charlène won three gold medals at the FINA Swimming World Cup (50m, 100m crawl and 4x100m relay) and took Silver at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester (4x100m medley relay).
On 1 July 2011, Ms Wittstock married H.S.H. Prince Albert II in the Throne Room of the Palace of Monaco during a civil ceremony, to become Princess of Monaco which is comparable with the status of “First Lady”. The religious ceremony followed the next day in the Honor Court of the Palace. She now bears the title “HSH Princess Charlène of Monaco” along with all the historical titles such as Duchess of Valentinois and Duchess of Mazarin, to name just a few. On 10 December 2014, Their Serene Highnesses were delighted to announce the birth of the Princely twins, Crown Prince Jacques Honoré Rainier and Princess Gabriella Thérèse Marie, born at The Princess Grace Hospital in Monaco.
Her Serene Highness has a passion for children and, throughout Her swimming career, She gave swimming lessons to underprivileged children. In 2012, She established The Princess Charlene Foundation which aims to save lives by putting an end to drowning and seeks to raise public awareness about the dangers of water and teach children both water safety techniques and how to swim.
Growing up in Africa gave the Princess a very real sense of some of the problems affecting children in the developing world. Since 2010, She has been associated with the “Nelson Mandela Foundation”. In May 2011, She was appointed Global Ambassador for the Special Olympics, the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. In the same year, She was appointed as a co-patron of the “Giving Organisation Trust”, a group of South African charities which deal with issues ranging from AIDS among underprivileged children to environmental management. In June 2012, She became Patron of AS Rugby Monaco and continues to play an active role in promoting the sport with World Rugby.
The Princess has always been closely affiliated with The International Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) Movement. In July 2016, She accepted to become the Patron of the “South African Red Cross Society”, on the occasion of its 68th anniversary and, in September 2016, as the IFRC’s Global Ambassador for First Aid, She launched World First Aid Day in Geneva.
In her free time, the Princess enjoys music, horticulture and a number of recreational sports including swimming, surfing, paddle boarding and golf.