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Royal Sex Scandal Stuns Usually Placid Principality

September 11, 1996 GMT

MONTE CARLO, Monaco (AP) _ Princess Stephanie wants to divorce her unfaithful husband after he was photographed cavorting naked with a stripper, her lawyer was quoted today as saying.

Published pictures of an August tryst showing Daniel Ducruet and Miss Nude Belgium have heaped scandal on one of Europe’s oldest royal families and tarnished the image of their fairy-tale principality.

Making matters worse, the Italian magazine Oggi published a series of photos of a bald and bone-thin woman it identified as Stephanie’s older sister Princess Caroline. London’s Daily Mail tabloid spread the pictures across an entire page today.

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``Princess Stephanie of Monaco will very certainly move toward divorce,″ the couple’s lawyer, Thierry Lacoste, was quoted as telling Nice-Matin newspaper.

However, he noted that ``in a case like this, where feelings can fluctuate, where the position of one day may not necessarily be that of the next.″

It would not be the first divorce in Monaco’s royal family. Caroline divorced French playboy Philippe Junot, although their marriage was annulled by the Vatican after she remarried.

Paparazzi have followed every move of Stephanie _ the wild child of Prince Rainier and the late American actress Grace Kelly _ and her working-class husband since they disclosed in 1992 that they were expecting a baby. They were married in 1995.

On Aug. 28, Italian magazines published 40 pages of photos showing Ducruet, 32, and Fili Houteman, 26, cavorting naked at a private estate outside Monaco.

Some of the pictures are so explicit that even racy European gossip sheets won’t reprint them, and Ducruet has threatened to sue to make sure they don’t.

The purported pictures of Caroline, taken at a secluded villa in southern France, show the woman wearing earrings and baggy trousers which make her ``almost look as if she just came out of a concentration camp,″ wrote Oggi.

``Nervous exhaustion? A new look or a mysterious disease?″ the magazine asked.

The palace had no immediate comment on Stephanie’s intentions to divorce or whether the photographs in Oggi are indeed of Caroline.

Even worse than Ducruet’s infidelity, some say, is that he has tarnished the image of the Grimaldi dynasty as it prepares to celebrate 700 years of rule in this Mediterranean principality smaller than New York’s Central Park.

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In cover stories this week, Paris Match and other popular French magazines liken the affair to Britain’s royal divorce and to the sex scandal that just forced Dick Morris, an adviser to President Clinton, to resign.

News media reports say Rainier, readying for next year’s commemoration of his family’s ascension to power in 1297, is furious with his son-in-law and is pressing Stephanie to divorce.

Last week, Stephanie appeared in public with Ducruet and let photographers snap away as the couple laughed and kissed. They have two children, 3-year-old Louis and 2-year-old Pauline.

The Grimaldis have had their share of heartache.

Princess Grace was killed in a 1982 car crash that also injured Stephanie, then 17. Rumors put Stephanie behind the wheel, but the palace insists Grace was driving. Caroline’s second husband Stefano Casiraghi was killed in a boating accident eight years later.

Many Monagasques, as Monaco’s citizens are known, think the pictures were a publicity stunt by Houteman. Others believe it was royalists trying to discredit Rainier for grudgingly allowing his daughter to marry Ducruet.

Some whisper that Rainier himself may have been involved, hoping to get rid of Ducruet, a onetime pet shop clerk who now sells fish wholesale in nearby Menton, France.

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