Princess Charlene of Monaco has sparked concern among fans following her latest appearance online.
The former Olympian, 43, who has been living in her home country of South Africa for much of this year, took to Instagram yesterday to share a photograph of her meeting with Misuzulu Zulu, the present head of the Zulus, on October 5.
However, the snap with the ruler - which comes amid a succession battle between the Zulu royals - has left some of her 351,000 followers worried over her 'tired' and 'frail' look.
On October 8, Zimbabwean-born Charlene underwent a final operation to deal with an ear, nose and throat infection she contracted in May - with a palace source telling AFP that the procedure 'went very well'.
Earlier this month Prince Albert insisted that his wife is likely to return to Monaco by the end of the month - after the pair denied rumours of a rift and insisted Charlene's absence from the principality is due to her contracting the 'serious sinus infection'.
Princess Charlene took to Instagram yesterday to share a photograph ((pictured) of her meeting with Misuzulu Zulu, the present head of the Zulus, on October 5
Earlier this month Prince Albert insisted that his wife (pictured with their children) is likely to return to Monaco by the end of the month
'Thank you for your kindness and support,' Charlene captioned the photograph, which was posted as a video as music played over it.
Dressed in a layered ensemble which featuring a striped cardigan, Charlene sported a beaded cross necklace while folding her hands together.
The mother-of-two, who last week said she 'can't wait to get home to her children', wore a smattering of makeup and styled her fringe to the side.
But her appearance in the social media post concerned fans, with one writing: 'Get well soon, you look so frail, take care, hope you get back to Monaco to your lovely family.'
Another said: 'It’s good to see you looking so beautiful - but build up your strength,' while a third added: 'Too bad to see her so weak. God bless you!'
Reaction: Charlene's snap with the ruler - which comes amid a succession battle between the Zulu royals - has left some of her 351,000 followers worried over her 'tired' and 'frail' look
However, some of Charlene's followers just suggested the royal had shared a 'bad photo'
The princess added an exclamation in Zulu, 'Bayede Nkosi', which roughly translated is thought to mean Salute to the King.
It comes after Charlene offered to mediate in a family dispute between the Zulu royals, despite rumours of her own troubles with Prince Albert.
Key players at the centre of the Zulu succession battle
The first wife, Queen Sibongile Dlamini and her daughters:
Sibongile Dlamini, who married Zwelthini in 1969, has challenged the king's other wives, claiming that she is his only legal spouse and that only her children can ascend the throne.
She is supported by her daughters, Princess Ntandoyenkosi and Princess Ntombizosuthu, who claim in a separate legal action that the king's will was forged.
A handwriting expert has reportedly been hired to try to prove that the king's signature is a fake.
The queen and her daughters are taking their respective cases to Pietermaritzburg High Court in legal battles that are captivating South Africa.
Queen Sibongile Dlamini is demanding half of the monarch's estate, as well as recognition that she is the true 'Great Wife', owing to the fact that she was the king's first bride.
Prince Lethukuthula Zulu
Prince Lethukuthula, the son of Queen Sibongile MaDlamini, died in November 2020.
There was speculation he might have been chosen as heir to the throne.
The 50-year-old was found dead at his home in a Northwold, Johannesburg, in mysterious circumstances. Five people have been accused of his murder.
Some in the monarchy believe his death could have been an attempt to prevent him from ascending to the throne but this has not been proven.
Prince Mbonisi and Princess Thembi
Queen Dlamini-Zulu, 65, was interim leader after the death of her husband, King Goodwill Zwelithini.
She died only a month into her reign in April of an unspecified illness and there is no evidence of foul play.
Amid the family rift over who will become the next monarch, Prince Mbonisi and Princess Thembi have denied rumours that they played a part in the Zulu queen's death.
'People think we're murderers,' Princess Thembi told local media, adding that they were 'not plotting to overthrow anyone' and expressed hurt at the inference.
Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Chief Buthelezi is seen as the late king's traditional prime minister.
He has played a central role in announcing the death of the monarch and the regent.
He has sparked criticism from some princes and princesses for silencing dissent and being a dictator.
Chief Buthelezi has reportedly dismissed Princess Thembi as being 'an illegitimate child of my cousin, King Cyprian.'
The former Olympic swimmer urged Zulus to end their succession battle 'for the sake of unity,' according to South Africa's national broadcaster.
A personal friend of the late King Goodwill Zwelithini, Charlene attended his funeral sat among his wives and children in their ancestral lands at Nongoma, later describing her 'many special moments of the years' with the monarch.
A bitter war of succession has followed the end of Goodwill's 50-year reign, including sensational allegations of poison plots and a forged will, between the feuding relatives.
Misuzulu Zulu, the eldest son of the late leader, was named the heir but some family members have rejected his claim to the throne.
Last week Princess Charlene said she 'can't wait to get home to her children' but made no reference to her husband Prince Albert in an interview given in South Africa.
Charlene, who wed Prince Albert II in 2011, has been living in her home country of South Africa for much of this year, and the extended stay has stoked speculation that the royal couple may be headed for divorce.
However they have denied rumours of a rift and said Charlene's absence from the principality is due to her contracting the 'serious sinus infection' making her unable to travel and forcing her to miss key events, including her 10-year wedding anniversary and her children's first day of school.
In an interview which took place earlier this month and was shared on Charlene's Instagram page last week, the royal said she 'misses her children, Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella, terribly', adding: 'Any mother out there who has been separated from her children for months would feel the same way I feel.'
In the clip, she said: 'I came to South Africa to oversee some foundation projects. I was unwell at the time, unknowingly, with an infection. It was addressed immediately. Unfortunately, it grounded me for some months in South Africa.
'I had my one procedure - it was very successful. I'm well, I'm feeling much stronger. I have one more procedure. Then I cannot wait to get home to my children, who I miss terribly.
Elsewhere in the interview she touched on community in South Africa, saying she would like to impart 'unity and strength.'
She said: 'Obviously I would never like to touch on anything politically. But what can be done, is people need to set their differences aside and think of the generations to come and less of themselves.
'Too much emphasis is put on ourselves and less on the future generations to come. What do they have to look back on? Who is their guide? That needs to be installed.'
Speaking about the anti-poaching work she has been undertaking while in South Africa this year, she said: 'I am determined to come back and continue the work I set out to do as I have done in many countries over Africa and in South Africa.
'Conservation, preservation, restoration and education. That is what my foundation stands for. We save lives.'
The release of the interview came days after a palace source said her final operation to deal with an ear, nose and throat infection she contracted in May 'went very well'.
The operation in South Africa was performed under general anaesthetic, and 'is the last she had to undergo following her ENT infection. She will be under observation for 48 hours,' the source told French news agency AFP.
Earlier this month Albert insisted that his wife is likely to return to Monaco by the end of the month, telling RMC Radio: 'She will be back very soon, we have to talk to the doctors in a few days.'
BATTLE FOR THE THRONE: There is a bitter war of succession being waged within the palace among King Goodwill Zwelthini's five surviving wives and at least 28 children - not just for the title but for the vast wealth and land which goes with it
It comes amid reports that Albert 'applied for sovereign immunity' in his court battle to fight claims he fathered a third love child before marrying Charlene.
The 63-year-old prince, who already supports two illegitimate children, is alleged to have had a relationship with a Brazilian woman which resulted in a daughter in 2005.
The claim, which his lawyers dismissed as a 'hoax', is particularly painful as he was dating Charlene at the time, having met the former Olympic swimmer in 2000.
It was reported last year that the case would go to court in Milan in February, however according to Town&Country, the prince's lawyers pleaded sovereign immunity and the case has been delayed.
It comes amid reports that Prince Albert (pictured) 'applied for sovereign immunity' in his court battle to fight claims he fathered a third love child before marrying Charlene
Lawyer Erich Grimaldi, who is acting on behalf of the woman, said he hopes the judge will reject Albert's plea and he is waiting for the case to come back to court, which he believes will happen 'imminently'.
The 34-year-old claimant – who cannot be named for legal reasons – says she had a passionate affair with Albert, leading to the birth of their daughter – whose name is also classified – on July 4, 2005.
Albert received a handwritten letter from the child, who is now 16, in September last year reading: 'I don't understand why I grew up without a father, and now that I have found you, you don't want to see me.'
Last December, legal papers were also filed, as lawyers for the claimant called on Albert to undergo a DNA test – just as he did before finally being identified as the father of two illegitimate children born in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Zimbabwean-born Charlene, 43, who wed Prince Albert II in 2011, has been living in her home country of South Africa for much of this year, and the extended stay has stoked speculation that the royal couple (pictured) may be headed for divorce
'This was before Charlene and Albert were an item, but the latest case covers a time when she was already in love with him,' a source who works closely with the Monaco Royal household revealed at the time.
'Charlene has had a terrible year, with one family crisis after another including Albert going down with coronavirus, and now she's gearing herself up for this hell.'
The princess, whose maiden name was Charlene Wittstock, was an Olympic swimmer for South Africa when she first met Albert at a Monaco aquatic competition in 2000.
How Charlene and Albert made solo outings in South Africa and Monaco during nine months apart
January 27 - Charlene is pictured with Albert for the Sainte Devote Ceremony in Monaco.
March 18 - Charlene is pictured at the memorial for the late Zulu monarch, King Goodwill Zwelithini at the KwaKhethomthandayo Royal Palace in Nongoma, South Africa
April 2 - Charlene posts an Instagram picture of herself, Albert and their twins Jacques and Gabriella for Easter.
It is unknown where the image was taken.
May 8 - Albert, Jacques and Gabriella attend a Grand Prix event in Monaco without Charlene
May 10 - Albert attends Monaco Gala Awards in Monaco without Charlene
May 18 - Charlene shares her first picture from her conservation trip in South Africa
June 1 - Prince Albert II, Jacques and Gabriella attend event at Oceanic Museum in Monaco
June 3 - New photos emerge of Charlene on her conservation trip
June 5- Charlene puts on a united front as she shares a photo with her family to mark her niece's fifth birthday with her brother's family and Albert and the twins in South Africa
June 7 - Albert and the twins attend the World Rugby Sevens without Charlene
June 17 - Prince Albert attends Red Cross Summer concert in Monte Carlo with his sister Princess Caroline of Hanover
June 18 - Prince Albert appears alone Monte Carlo TV Festival
June 24 - Charlene's foundation releases a statement saying the royal is unable to travel and is undergoing procedures for an ear, nose and throat infection
July 2 - Charlene and Albert mark their 10th anniversary separately. 'This year will be the first time that I'm not with my husband on our anniversary in July, which is difficult, and it saddens me,' Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene said in a statement.
July 3 - Albert appears with glamorous niece Charlotte Casiraghi at the 15th international Monte-Carlo Jumping event, which is part of the Longines Global Champions Tour of Monaco,
July 27 - Prince Albert attends Olympics alone in Tokyo
August 13 - Charlene undergoes a four-hour operation. The reason is not announced
August 25 - Charlene shares photos of Prince Albert, Gabriella and Jacques visiting her in South Africa
August 31 - Speculation mounts in the media about couple's relationship
September 1 - Charlene is admitted under an alias to the Netcare Alberlito Hospital after suddenly 'collapsing'
September 2 - She is discharged, with a statement from the Palais Princier reading: 'Her Highness is closely monitored by Her medical team who said that Her condition was not worrying'
September 23 - Prince Albert attends the 2021 Monte Carlo Gala for Planetary Health
September 29 - Prince Albert is joined on the red carpet by actress Sharon Stone for a first look at the eagerly anticipated James Bond release
September 30 - Charlene releases a stylish video promoting her anti-poaching campaign from her South African bolthole
October 3 - Princess Charlene shares a photograph of herself smiling in front of a bible in her first snap since being discharged from hospital following her health scare
October 5 - Prince Albert attends Sportel Awards Ceremony in Monte Carlo with nephew Louis Ducruet
October 6 - Albert tells RMC radio Charlene is 'ready to come home'
October 8 - Princess undergoes surgery in South Africa. The reason is not announced.
They began dating soon afterwards, before Charlene married into the House of Grimaldi at a star-studded wedding in July 2011.
Their twins – daughter Gabriella and son Jacques – were born three years later and are seen as the family's official heirs.
By this time, Charlene had come to terms with Albert's hard fought legal battles with women who eventually won financial settlements over children they had with Albert – even though he originally denied their claims.
In May 2005, just before he was enthroned as Prince of Monaco, Albert confirmed he was the biological father of Alexandre, whose mother was Nicole Coste, a former Air France flight attendant from Togo.
A DNA test in May 2006 also confirmed Albert was the father of Jazmine Grace, the result of an affair with Tamara Rotolo, an American estate agent he met while she was on holiday in the South of France.
Jazmine was born in the 1990s and Alexandre in 2003. The Brazilian woman says she travelled around the world with the Prince in the 2000s.
Lawyer Grimaldi said he had filed papers with specific details of his client's love affair with Albert, including trips to Brazil, the USA, France and Russia.
While in Moscow, the lovers are even said to have had a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin, who gave the Brazilian 'a warm hug', according to court papers.
Albert's lawyer, Thierry Lacoste, has described the allegations as a 'a hoax', saying: 'There are no intimate photos, no tangible facts surrounding a possible relationship.'
Neither Albert's daughter Jazmin Grace Grimaldi, now 28, nor his son, Alexandre Grimaldi-Coste, 17, can claim the throne of Monaco, according to negotiated financial agreements.
The line of succession instead favours Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella, six, and who frequently appear in their parents' social media posts.
The latest revelations come days after it emerged Princess Charlene's return to Monaco had been further delayed due to further surgery in South Africa.
The royal, who is originally from Cape Town, has been in her native South Africa for at least six months since contracting a 'serious sinus infection' making her unable to travel and forcing her to miss key events, including her 10-year wedding anniversary and her children's first day of school.
A statement from her foundation published on Friday read: 'Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene of Monaco will be placed under general anaesthetics for her final procedure taking place today. The Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation wishes her the best with this final operation and her recovery process.'
The exact nature of the procedure was not revealed, and it remains unclear how long Charlene will remain in hospital.
The former Olympian underwent a 'four-hour operation under general anaesthesia' in August - although it was not made clear whether this was linked to the sinus infection.
Charlene and Albert reunited shortly after for the first time in months after the monarch and their children - six year old twins Jacques and Gabriella - flew to South Africa, but photographs of the pair embracing were branded 'awkward' by a body language expert.
In the last few weeks, Prince Albert has hit back at rumours of marital woes insisting Charlene 'didn't leave in a huff' and remains in South Africa only because of 'medical complications' following a 'severe ear, nose and throat infection'.
The royal told People that the speculation over the state of his relationship with the Olympic swimmer has 'affected' them both, but that he didn't address it early because he 'was concentrating on taking care of the kids'.
In recent weeks, lifestyle magazines across Europe have speculated feverishly that the royal couple could be headed for divorce. French magazine Madame Figaro stated the images 'failed to convince the Monegasques' amid reports Charlene is looking for a house in Johannesburg.
The magazine asked: 'How long can she remain away from her children, her duties?' How long will the fight against rhinoceros poaching remain the Princess of Monaco's top priority?
'How long will Albert II of Monaco go on bearing this affront, which is becoming ridiculous?'
Historian Philippe Delorme said that 'lots of people got the impression it was an arranged marriage' between Charlene and Albert, adding: 'Albert chose a wife who resembled his mother, and Charlene clearly felt very ill at ease in this Grace Kelly role they wanted her to play'.
The mounting speculation about the couple's marriage comes after Charlene shared professional photographs of her reunion with Prince Albert online, saying she was 'thrilled' to have her family back.
She shared a series of photos cuddled up with her kids in South Africa with the caption: 'I am so thrilled to have my family back with me (Gabriella decided to give herself a haircut!!!) Sorry my Bella I tried my best to fix it,' referring to her daughter's choppy fringe.
However a body language expert told FEMAIL Charlene showed 'no emotional bond' towards her husband Prince Albert in the images.
Judi James said that rather than being the loved-up reunion photo one would expect of a couple surrounded by split rumours, the royals' poses suggested 'no signs of connection between awkward-looking Albert and Charlene'.