Charlotte wasn’t born a Princess and at the time of her birth nobody probably even imagined the role she would go on to play. She was born as Charlotte Louise Juliette Louvet on 30 September 1898 as the illegitimate daughter of Marie Juliette Louvet, a cabaret singer and Louis Grimaldi, who was at the time the Hereditary Prince of Monaco and Duke of Valentinois. He had wanted to marry Marie and legitimise Charlotte, but his father was having none of that. Charlotte attended a boarding school in France. When the First World War broke out, Louis was swift in moving ” his dear little girl” out of France and into the palace in Monaco.
Louis succeeded his father as reigning Prince of Monaco in 1922, but even before that, they tried to prevent a succession crisis. Louis was unmarried and had no legitimate children or siblings. On 15 May 1911, a law was passed which recognised Charlotte as Louis’ daughter, and she was declared to be a dynastic member of the family. This law was later held to be invalid, but an ordinance was passed on 30 October 1918 adopting her into the dynasty instead. She was officially adopted on 16 May 1919, and her grandfather bestowed the Duchess of Valentinois title on her. She became the Hereditary Princess of Monaco when her grandfather died in 1922.
Before becoming the Hereditary Princess of Monaco, Charlotte was married to Count Pierre de Polignac, who took the surname Grimaldi and became a Prince of Monaco. The couple went on to have two children, despite it being an unhappy marriage. They separated on 20 March 1930 and Charlotte lived with her Italian lover. They were officially divorced on 18 February 1933. Charlotte said of him, “To make love, he needs to put a crown on his head.” Her Italian lover left her for another woman, and reportedly she shot at him with a pistol.
Charlotte would never succeed to the throne of Monaco. She wrote to her father that she wished to renounce her rights, “at the risk of being a disappointment to your hopes and aspirations. I believe I have accomplished my duty which condemned me to remain in a marriage against my wishes, in the name of political interests in which I fear I do not have the force to assume my responsibilities.”
On 30 May 1944, the day before her son’s 21st birthday, Charlotte renounced her rights to the throne to her son Rainier. He succeeded his grandfather in 1949. Charlotte obtained a degree in social work and turned the Château de Marchais estate near Paris into a rehabilitation centre for ex-convicts. She lived at the estate with a French lover named René Girier.
She died on 15 November 1977.1