Princess Stephanie of Monaco

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As the youngest child of a luminescent screen goddess and the sovereign of a glamorous Mediterranean principality, Stephanie of Monaco seemed to be blessed with all the makings of a storybook princess. However, as she weathered the tragic loss of her mother in her teens, struggled to find her career niche and left behind a series of failed relationships – all the time watched by the world's media – it became clear Stephanie's life was anything but a fairy tale.

Born on February 1, 1965, Princess Stephanie spent her early years growing up in the Palais de Monaco, dreaming of studying fashion design. Then, in 1982, her life suddenly changed when her mother was killed as the two travelled on a winding mountain road in Monaco. "Not only did I go through the horrible trauma of losing my mother at a very young age, but I was beside her at the moment of the accident," she said in 2002, after a 20-year silence about the tragedy. "Nobody can imagine how much I've suffered, and still suffer."

And it was in the years following the crash that Stephanie, who these days sports at least three tattoos, began to earn a reputation as a royal rebel. "I realised how lucky I was to have life," she said later. "I had my arms open to the future and I said to myself, 'This could be all over tomorrow.' Nobody has really tried to understand me or my behaviour, which just reflected my decision to enjoy life to the full."

For Stephanie, enjoying life "to the full" involved embracing a glamorous lifestyle and dating a string of high profile men as she tried her hand at modelling, fashion design and pop singing. "I'm quite happy to perform my official duties," she said as she launched an eponymous perfume in 1989. "But on the other hand, I've always wanted to be independent and to have my own career." Acknowledging she had "tried everything", she added: "I've had an unusual career path for a princess."

And she seemed to approach her love life with the same enthusiasm. By the time she was in her mid-20s, she had left behind a series of colourful beaus – including race car driver Paul Belmondo, a twice-divorced disco owner, a record producer and Hollywood star Rob Lowe – as well as a broken engagement with a French real estate developer. Then, in 1991, she courted controversy when she began dating her former bodyguard Daniel Ducruet, whose ex-girlfriend was six months pregnant with his child.

The romance was not well-received by Prince Rainier, and the rift between them further deepened in May 1992 when the princess announced she was expecting. (Baby Louis was born later that year.) However, soon after the birth of the couple's second child, Pauline, in 1994, father and daughter were reconciled, and Daniel and Stephanie married the following year.

Thrilled with motherhood – "Being a mother is the only true meaning in my life. It's everything," she said – Stephanie wasn't so lucky in love. Eighteen months into their marriage, the couple divorced after Daniel was photographed in a compromising situation with Miss Nude Belgium.

Three years later, Stephanie's independent streak landed her in the headlines once again, when she announced she was expecting her third child out of wedlock. Camille Marie Kelly was brought into the world on July 15, 1998; the baby's father was a mystery, though reports named him as bodyguard Jean-Raymond Gottlieb.

Never one for convention, Stephanie surprised few when in 2001, aged 36, she enjoyed a romantic liaison with married elephant trainer Franco Knie and moved, along with her three children, into a Swiss caravan to live the circus life. However, that relationship came to an end in 2002, and Stephanie and her little ones returned to the Monegasgue fold. Then in September 2003 she wed circus performer Adans Lopez Peres in a private ceremony in Switzerland.

Despite the unusual decisions she's made in her life – she was said to have been banned from the principality's 2002 traditional Red Cross Ball due to her relationship with Richard – Stephanie doesn't feel she's the black sheep of the Grimaldi clan. "I don't see myself as a rebel… but of course it all depends on what you consider normal," she says. "The most important thing is to feel happy with what you yourself decided."

So in the end, perhaps Stephanie would not have been satisfied had her life been nothing but a fairy tale. "Though I may be a princess," she points out, "above all I'm a human being."

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