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Friday, 23 June, 2000, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
Ernst von Hannover: The Prince and the Pee
By Caroline Frost of the BBC's News Profiles Unit

When Princess Grace of Monaco was scanning the royal houses of Europe for suitors for her daughters, her favourite candidate for Caroline was Prince Ernst August von Hannover, a man of wealth, impeccable breeding and hopefully a "stabilising influence".

More than two decades later, Grace's wishes have been granted. Ernst and Caroline are married, and the noble Houses of Hanover and Grimaldi are united.

Official wedding photo of Ernst and Caroline
Princess Grace's wish granted: Caroline married Ernst in January 1999

But Ernst's erratic behaviour has long-since earned him the contempt of the German tabloids. And his actions this week have left Grimaldi family observers wondering if he were quite the figure of respect Grace intended for her daughter.

He has hurled a legal barrage at the best selling German tabloid Bild Zeitung, after it published a photograph it claimed to be the Prince urinating onto one of the pavilions at the Expo 2000 fair in Hannover. He denies the photo is of him.

Last July the same newspaper published a much clearer photo of the Prince urinating outside a hospital in Austria.

After this latest alleged indiscretion, the volatile Prince telephoned the newspaper's Editor-in-Chief Anne-Kathrin Berger and launched into a tirade of threats and abusive expletives against her.

The paper responded by publishing the transcript of the conversation. It also traced the call to a clinic specialising in drug and alcohol addiction.


He should be disqualified from the circle of German nobility

German aristocrat Phillip Graf Waldersdorff

Now, the Turkish Embassy in Berlin has accused the Prince of "insulting the Turkish people". It was their pavilion that he allegedly soiled.

The large Turkish community in Germany is predictably outraged. "He's a Prince and should be intelligent enough to realise when his actions will become political ones," one observer noted.

The Prince and the newspaper are suing each other, and the Prosecutor's office in Hannover is busy studying the tape recordings of the Prince's outbursts.

Ernst with football scarf
Ernst: The manners of a football hooligan

This is not the first time the beleaguered patriarch of one of Europe's oldest ruling families has reacted badly to media intrusion. In 1998, he was fined 30,000 after breaking the nose of a TV cameraman outside his Hannover ancestral pile.

In June last year, he was bound over for 12 months at a London court following a fight with a freelance photographer. As recently as March, he was before the courts for insulting a police officer. Scuffles with bartenders around the world seem to be a regular occurrence.

Princess Caroline's office admits that "he has been tired lately, overdoing it by helping organise Expo 2000."

Caroline, it has emerged, has visited her chubby-cheeked, chain-smoking husband in the exclusive 600 a day clinic on the River Mosel.


Even five year old children know they just can't stand in a corner and pee where they want to

Dr Yasar Bilgin, Turkish Embassy, Berlin

None will welcome his recovery more than Prince Rainier, still smarting from the loucheness of another son-in-law. Princess Stephanie was divorced from her former bodyguard Daniel Ducruet, after he was photographed in a flagrant embrace with Miss Naked Belgium.

It is something of an embarrassment to the British royals, too. The Queen's cousin, Ernst is head of the House of Hannover, which gave Britain five kings and Queen Victoria. He has more royal blood in his veins than the Prince of Wales.

Caroline and Ernst with their child Alexandra
Caroline and Ernst with their child Alexandra

For all his status, impeccable contacts and access to one of Germany's oldest fortunes, Ernst has this week discovered that, as far as Bild is concerned, manners maketh man.

Tabloids have played on the "curse of the Grimaldis" for years, but Ernst will undoubtedly have to learn to control his more reckless impulses if he is to prevent a curse on both his Houses.

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