By Jeff Wilson
Monday, June 5, 2006
PALM DESERT, Calif. -- This desert oasis that has long been home to presidents and movie stars now has a touch of royalty.
Her name is Jazmin Grace Grimaldi, and she is the 14-year-old out-of-wedlock daughter of Monaco's Prince Albert II and a California woman who reportedly worked as a waitress.
If it sounds like the plot of a Disney movie, it is -- almost.
Unlike the fictional Mia of "The Princess Diaries," Jazmin won't face the painful decision of whether to take the throne of the 700-year-old dynasty. The royal family of the tiny principality recognized her Thursday but said she will not be in line to the throne. Monaco's constitution requires parents of heirs to the throne to be married.
Jazmin's life quickly took on the trappings of royalty -- namely, the hordes of paparazzi -- after word came from Europe that Albert acknowledged that he was the teenager's father.
Photographers and reporters converged on Palm Desert and watched from across the street at St. Margaret's Episcopal School, where she has been an honor student, and the world media sought details about her and her mother, Tamara Rotolo, 44.
But Jazmin and her mother were nowhere in sight, and police warned a reporter and photographer they would be arrested if they set foot on school property. A bodyguard kept watch after classes began.
The community two hours east of Los Angeles also responded protectively. "Leave that poor girl alone!" a woman yelled from a car stopped at a traffic light.
At the end of the school day, a ponytailed blond girl in a school uniform was escorted to an armored sport utility vehicle registered to a Los Angeles security firm. The girl did not respond to reporters' shouted questions.
The same SUV was later seen leaving a gated country club and resort community with waterfalls and lush landscaping. A security guard turned away a reporter requesting to visit the family.
The area, which includes the towns of Palm Springs, Indian Wells and Rancho Mirage, has long been a playground or retirement area for the rich and heads of state, including former presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and other stars used to golf or party in the area.
Confirmation that Albert was Jazmin's father followed years of rumors about a daughter, and Albert's acknowledgment last July that he fathered a boy out of wedlock by a former flight attendant from Togo.
French media reports said the never-married 48-year-old prince had a fling with the girl's mother in 1991 when she vacationed on the Cote d'Azur in the south of France. The girl's March 4, 1992, Riverside County birth certificate identified the father as Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre Grimaldi of Monaco.
The French media reported that Tamara Rotolo is a former waitress. But she apparently now works in real estate. State records show that a Tamara Jean Rotolo is a salesperson at a realty office in Palm Desert.
Court records show Rotolo was married in 1987 to a man named David Shumaker and they separated two years later. A divorce was finalized in 1992.
Tidbits about Jazmin's life had already made the local paper five times in the years before she became a celebrity. The Desert Sun of Palm Springs reported she was a soloist in the school choir that performed with Barry Manilow. She was also an honor student, science fair winner and student of the month.
Patricia Rotolo, who identified herself as Tamara Rotolo's cousin, talked to the Desert Sun on Tuesday. "All's been handled really well for [the child's] sake," she said.
The prince, who is the son of Hollywood beauty Grace Kelly and has a personal fortune estimated at $1 billion, made the public acknowledgment of the girl through his lawyer, Thierry Lacoste. Albert "officially recognizes a paternity that was legally established a few weeks ago," Lacoste said in an interview published Thursday in France's Le Figaro.
Albert initially planned to keep his parentage of Jazmin secret until she reached adulthood, but "the situation had become untenable for her" in recent weeks amid increasing speculation about her father, Lacoste said.
Lacoste said Jazmin was welcome in Monaco but cannot take the throne, and the royal family does not recognize her use of the Grimaldi name.
Albert's other child, 3-year-old Alexandre, is not in line for the throne either.
Monaco's royal palace refused to comment on the "private affairs of the prince."
According to court records, Rotolo filed a paternity suit seeking child support from Albert in Riverside County, Calif., in 1991. A decade later she sued her own lawyers, claiming they failed to tell her the suit had to have been filed in Monaco before 1994 to preserve her rights.
In the San Francisco suburb of Fremont, Rotolo's father, Sam Rotolo, 75, said the family has known since Jazmin was born that she was the prince's child. He said that Albert has provided financial support.
The retired autoworker said his daughter, Tamara, was raised in his middle-class home. Her mother died in 2002, he said.
"She's a wonderful young woman," Sam Rotolo said.