07/17/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT
It was a treat for the schoolkids attending Expo 2000 in Hanover, Germany, June 15—a glimpse of royalty in the person of Prince Ernst August. But suddenly, according to witnesses quoted in Germany's Bild newspaper, the husband of Monaco's Princess Caroline urinated near the entrance to the Turkish Pavilion. "We all saw it, even our teacher," one child told a reporter. "It was kind of embarrassing."
It was also just the start of a new round of troubling publicity for the 46-year-old prince. Hours after his alleged Expo-sure—which Hanover authorities are investigating—a flush-faced Ernst August collapsed at a piano recital and was taken to a hospital. Not long after that, he entered a German health center that offers massage and stress-management treatments. (Neither the prince nor Caroline, 43, who was seen at the center, had any comment.) The prince then phoned Bild from the center and, using vulgar language, harangued a female editor. (That incident is also being investigated.) "He's not a bad person," says a royal watcher who shares friends with Ernst August. But, he adds, "he seems to be lacking some kind of inner equilibrium."
The prince—who made headlines in January for punching out a restaurant-and-bar owner—took out a full-page ad in a German newspaper explaining that he did relieve himself but not on Turkish property. Since then he has kept a low profile, skipping a sculpture exhibition in Monaco that Caroline attended with her father, Prince Rainier, who has kept a dignified silence about the scandal. "He is temperamental," says one veteran Monaco watcher of Ernst August, "and he seems to care primarily about enjoying himself."