"I have no desire to hide myself from reality," Princess Caroline once said. It didn't matter, really; reality has always been determined to seek her out. On Oct. 3, the 33-year-old beauty received the devastating news that Stefano Casiraghi (left, with Caroline in Monaco early in their marriage), 30, her husband of seven years, was killed in a powerboat accident off Monaco's coast. Gathering their three children—Andrea, 6, Charlotte, 4, and Pierre, 3—to her side, Caroline began a period of deep and formidable grief. Once again, Monaco mourns.

The tragedy was even more wrenching because it came at a time when the Princess's life was clearly on course. The first child born into the storybook marriage of actress Grace Kelly and her dashing Prince, Rainier of Monaco, Caroline spent her early years enduring the scrutiny of a world searching for signs of her mother's Hitchcockian beauty. Eventually her looks blossomed—but in a darker, warmer, more sensual form. At 21, Caroline made headlines with her highly unsuitable attachment to French playboy Philippe Junot. She was still recovering from the embarrassment of that short-lived marriage when her mother (who had opposed it) died in a car accident in 1982.

As her father and her siblings, Albert and Stephanie, foundered, Caroline honored her mother's memory by energetically assuming her royal duties. Though he shied from the spotlight, Stefano, the businessman Caroline met and married in 1983, was widely credited for her new sense of purpose. With Stefano, the Princess found the stable home life she craved. Family friend actor Alain Delon said he mourned Stefano's death, "especially for what it does to Princess Caroline."

Her mourning period officially ends Jan. 3, three months from the day of Stefano's death, but her ravaged appearance and teary outbursts since the funeral indicate that it may take much longer for her to regain her emotional equilibrium. Even then, some wonder if she will ever find the happiness she knew with Stefano. Caroline reportedly said it best in a 1982 diary entry that today seems prophetic. "I do not think I am the ideal woman for a man," she wrote, "with my tormented past, my uncertain present and perhaps my melancholy future."