Prince Albert of Monaco and his bride Charlene spent the first few days of their marriage sleeping in separate hotels 10 miles apart, his palace has confirmed, continuing the honeymoon drama that appears to have the newlyweds in more royal trouble than wedded bliss.
In the latest twist to the saga behind their glamorous marriage, after arriving at their honeymoon destination of South Africa, the 53-year-old prince immediately moved into the Hilton hotel in Durban.
His 33-year-old bride, Charlene Wittstock, moved instead into a suite at a hotel some 10 miles away, in the seaside town of Umhlanga Rocks.
The explanation is that he wanted to avoid the traffic in the morning to get to early meetings," Peter Allen of the UK's The Daily Mail told ABC News. "So he stayed there, leaving poor old Charlene 10 miles up the coast at a seaside hotel."
A Monaco palace official confirmed the unusual sleeping arrangements.
"The Prince was in a meeting at the Hilton with members of the International Olympic Committee from July 5 to 9. For practical reasons, it was better to sleep there," a Monaco senior courtier said to the Daily News.
"You have to ask, why couldn't Charlene have stayed in Durban?" Allen said to ABC News. "It's a mystery."
The separate time apart may have given the royal couple, married just weeks ago in an extravagant $55 million, three-day royal wedding, time to think about their future.
Ever since the couple left Monaco after their July 2 wedding, bound for Wittstock's native South Africa, their honeymoon has been overshadowed by headlines that Wittstock was demanding a paternity test to determine if her new husband had cheated on her during their five-year courtship.
Albert already has two confirmed illegitimate children, and rumors of a third love child were widely suspected to be behind Wittstock's reported attempts to escape their marriage.
Days before their fairy-tale wedding that set Monaco abuzz, news reports surfaced that Wittstock, a former Olympic swimmer for South Africa, had bolted for the airport, some reports saying as many as three times, with a one-way ticket to her family's South African home.
The U.K.'s Daily Mail reported that Wittstock is "desperate" to know whether Albert cheated on her and fathered a child during their courtship.
Albert has reportedly undergone the DNA tests demanded by his bride during their honeymoon, but is unlikely to release the results while the couple is in South Africa for fears that Wittstock would flee while away from the constraints of her marriage in Monaco.
The couple is also under siege from the French press, questioning whether their wedding was a sham, a secret deal to allow Wittstock a lavish, royal lifestyle and produce a legitimate heir to the throne for Albert.
"You have to consider why they've gone through with what looks like a pretty painful event," said the Daily Sun's Allen. "And in the end the speculation is all that the reason for the marriage is to produce this heir, that they will do all they can to produce this heir and then we will see what happens."
Neither of Albert's two children, a 7-year-old son named Alexandre with a former flight attendant, and a 19-year-old daughter, Jazmin, with a U.S. real estate agent, can become a legitimate heir to the throne under Monegasque law because they were fathered out of wedlock.
Bride's Father Calls Rumors 'Scandalous'
Charlene's father, Mike, a photocopier salesman in South Africa, who has said marrying his daughter to a prince was like winning the World Cup, says the current rumors that his daughter's marriage is a fraud are "scandalous."
"I don't know where the rumors are coming from," he told South African newspaper, Die Burger. "'I am disappointed in the media. South Africans should be supporting Charlene rather than spreading nasty rumors."
Prince Albert and Charlene's trip to South Africa was publicly labeled as a honeymoon, but the pair have spent little time alone together since arriving last week.
The couple hosted a wedding party at the luxury Oyster Box hotel on Umhlanga beach before mingling at multiple cocktail parties and formal events alongside Olympic officials in town for the committee's week-long annual conference that took Albert away from his new bride.
The formal body language and tepid affection displayed by the royals on their honeymoon matches what was seen at the couple's royal wedding in Monaco.
Wittstock was in tears throughout the wedding ceremony, while her husband looked on, and Prince Albert had to formally ask his bride for a kiss, a request caught on camera for the world to see.
Royal watchers commented Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene, as Wittstock is now formally known, looked more like "Her Miserable Highness" than a blushing new bride.
In South Africa, Wittstock left Albert behind in Durban to travel to Cape Town to tour a series of charity projects with the country's leaders.
"The only time she was seen to smile was at a charity event for Archbishop Desmond Tutu, where she was by herself, without her husband," Toby Shapshak, editor of South African magazine Stuff, noted to ABC News.
Despite reports Prince Albert and Charlene had already returned to Monaco, the Palace says the couple has now headed off on a "secret" honeymoon where they will not be under the watchful eyes of the media, and skeptics.