Caroline Louise Marguerite Grimaldi, Countess of Polignac, Princess of Monaco was born on January 23, 1957, the first child of Reigning Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace of Monaco. At the time it was not expected she was not expected to rank very high in the succession but following the reforms of 2002 she became Hereditary Princess of Monaco and next in line to the throne in the absence of any legitimate issue by her younger brother Albert. She was a very precocious child and one in whom great hopes were placed. She once recalled walking in on her mother leafing through the Almanach de Gotha looking for a suitable husband for her. In her youth she was educated in France, went on to a prestigious Catholic girls school in Ascot and then the Sorbonne in Paris where she earned a degree in philosophy with minors in psychology and biology. In the cosmopolitan fashion of Monaco she can also speak French, English, Spanish, German and Italian fluently.
Like any teenage girl she went through her own rebellious period and even at 21 was complaining about the high expectations her mother had for her. As she matured she was considered quite the prize by every young man of the jet-set crowd and plenty of tongues wagged when she became a pair with the much older Philippe Junot, a Parisian banker with a reputation as a playboy. Princess Grace did not approve but told her daughter, after some time, that she must marry him or break things off. Princess Caroline and Junot were married in Monaco on June 29, 1978. Princess Grace predicted that it would not last two years and mother must have known best for the couple divorced on October 9, 1980.
In 1982 even more pressure was heaped on Princess Caroline with the death of her mother. Although the two had their typical mother-daughter squabbles Caroline adored her mother and reveres her to this day. However, many people unfairly expected Princess Caroline to somehow take the place of Princess Grace as the leading lady of Monaco. Obviously, the shoes of someone like Princess Grace could never be filled, but to her credit Princess Caroline did some fast growing up and began taking on more and more duties and did her best for Monaco and the Monegasque monarchy like a real trooper. Things looked up for even more when she married Italian businessman Stefano Casiraghi in Monaco on December 29, 1983 though in a civil marriage only as the Catholic Church still considered her married to Philippe Junot.
By most accounts Stefano was, for Caroline, the love of her life and over the succeeding years; 1984, 1986 and 1987 the couple had three children; Andrea, Charlotte and Pierre. For the first time in her life Princess Caroline seemed to be enjoying domestic tranquility with her husband and children. A devoted mother, her father Prince Rainier also fell into the part of grandpa with considerable zeal and gave all the attention he could to his grandchildren. Because of all this it came as the most terrible blow when Stefano was killed in a boating accident on October 3, 1990 at only 30 years old. Princess Caroline was all but crushed by his loss and many believed her spirit would finally be broken by the trauma of it all. She may have come close, but those who made such predictions underestimated the inner strength of Princess Caroline. It took time to work through her pain, but once she did, she pushed back her shoulders and carried on in the best aristocratic style. Her mother would certainly have been proud of her.
Throughout her life Princess Caroline has used her position to support a number of charitable and cultural causes, work she has long done and will continue. Among her many interests and causes are the ballet, the symphony, opera, gardening, charities for children, the disabled and supporting the arts. Family friend Prince Dmitri of Yugoslavia said that Princess Caroline is one of the most brilliant people he knows, someone who can be at ease talking to anyone and on virtually any subject from art and music to politics and metaphysics. So, to be succinct, she has displayed all of the best qualities one would desire in a modern European princess. In her private life, which despite her best efforts never remains entirely private, boyfriends would occasionally come and go and the world wondered if she would ever marry again. Religiously, she became free to do so as in 1992 the Roman Catholic Church formally annulled her previous marriage to Philippe Junot which only made the marriage speculation and rumors increase.
Those rumors were put to rest when she married HRH Prince Ernst August V of Hanover in a civil ceremony in Monaco on January 23, 1999. A religious ceremony followed a few days later in Germany though it was agreed that Princess Caroline would not renounce her Catholic faith and that any children would be raised in the Catholic Church. All of this required the couple to receive the permission of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain before they could wed. The current line of the British Royal Family being the former monarchs of Hanover, the Queen is still the senior member of the family and by marrying a Catholic princess, Prince Ernst August would lose his rights of succession to the British throne. Of course, the Queen had no objection and the marriage went through without incident. The royal titles of Hanover are not recognized by the Federal Republic of Germany but the Principality of Monaco does so and Princess Caroline is therefore Her Royal Highness the Princess of Hanover, technically the only royal member of her family. On July 20, 1999 Princess Caroline gave birth to the only child of the couple, Princess Alexandra of Hanover, in Austria.
In 2002 changes in the succession laws of Monaco made Princess Caroline heir to the throne, and her children after her, in the absence of any legitimate issue by Prince Albert II; giving Caroline the title of Hereditary Princess of Monaco. She continues to enjoy the admiration of the people of Monaco and her many adoring fans around the world, however, she has also in recent years had to share some attention with her children, particularly Andrea and Charlotte whose good looks have ensured their place on mountains of magazine covers. Princess Caroline has tried to protect her privacy, and that of her family, as best she can and in 2004 actually won a lawsuit against Germany for violating her privacy in the European Court of Human Rights.
In spite of the less glamorous consequences of her royal status Princess Caroline has carried on doing her duty and has been recognized for her work on numerous occasions. In 2005 she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of Cultural Merit for support and encouragement of the arts in Monaco and in 2006 she was given the Children's Champion Award by UNICEF for her years of charitable work on behalf of children around the world. She also continues to be the President of the Princess Grace Foundation, the Prince Pierre Foundation and numerous other organizations. She continues to be active in all of these areas and last year was guest of honor at a special dinner to raise money for the children of the African nation of Niger. Through it all there are few who could not be impressed with the life of Princess Caroline, the hardships she has endured, the obstacles she has overcome and the unmatched devotion she has displayed to her people, her country and countless less fortunate around the world.