Life as a trainee princess is not all ball gowns and Vogue shoots, as Charlene Wittstock was to discover when she moved to Monaco in 2006 at the invitation of her beau, Prince Albert.
Holed up in her tiny Monte Carlo apartment, Charlene spent most days "working" that is, intensively studying the language, protocol and history of the Monegasque people.
As a swimmer, Charlene was a perfectionist. "I want to be the best I can be at all times," she has said.
As a royal-in-training, she held herself to the same standard. The work ethic she learned from sport served her well and years of self-sacrifice meant she felt the loss of her freedom less keenly than another woman might have.
Nothing, however, could have prepared her for the loneliness, scrutiny and treachery of Monaco's court.
Charlene's childhood could not have been more foreign to the people of Monaco. Born in Zimbabwe, she was raised by her swimming coach mother, Lynette, and salesman father Michael, in middle-class Benoni, the same South African town that gave the world Charlize Theron.
From age eight, Charlene was single-minded in her focus on swimming; her career highlight was swimming backstroke in the fifth-placed South African medley team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Charlene was introduced to Prince Albert at a swim meet in the lead-up to the Sydney Olympics. She recalls feeling a sense of destiny "I knew he was the one".
They dated sporadically before beginning a relationship in 2005. They bonded over their Olympic experiences. Albert had represented Monaco in the bobsled in five Games, retiring after the 2002 Olympics.
"Sport is the common denominator of our lives," Charlene has said.
Friends have described Charlene as a down-to-earth, good-natured South African girl, but those attributes have failed to win friends in snobby Monaco.
The 35,000-odd citizens and jealous courtiers have decided she falls well short of their beloved Princess Grace in beauty, poise and warmth ("she is … as cold as an ice cube," said one). She is mocked for her manners, her clothes and her struggle to conquer French. Locals gossip about Albert's affairs and the couple's arguments.
Even after she moved to Monaco as the prince's girlfriend, the Monegasques did not believe their playboy prince, once nicknamed Dirty Bertie, would marry Charlene.
He dated Brooke Shields, Claudia Schiffer and Catherine Oxenberg. His father wooed Hollywood star Grace Kelly. Why, his subjects wondered, would their sovereign marry a South African nobody with so little polish?
Albert, however, was under pressure to marry. If he fails to produce a legitimate heir, the crown will go to his sister Caroline and her children. His subjects want an heir to succeed him without a regent. So, last year, Albert phoned Charlene's father to ask for her hand in marriage.
The extravagant July 1 wedding was supposed to be an advertisement for Monaco, which wants to position itself as a destination for the rich and famous rather than a haven for tax cheats and gamblers (author Somerset Maugham once described it as "a sunny place for shady people").
Instead, it was a public relations disaster, overshadowed by rumours (denied by the palace) that the bride tried to run away because she had learned Albert may have sired an 18-month-old son, who could turn out to be his third illegitimate child.
Charlene looked anxious and Albert impatient. His wedding speech was stiff and their awkwardness was pronounced compared with the easy affection of British newlyweds William and Catherine.
Her Serene Highness, Charlene, Princess of Monaco is now under pressure to produce an heir. And if she does, she will be tied to the Grimaldi family forever. As The Eagles serenaded Monte Carlo on her wedding night, Charlene may have been reminded of a lyric from their song, Hotel California. "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave".
Read more of this story in the August issue of The Australian Women's Weekly.
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Video: Princess Charlene sobs during her wedding