Marriage of Monaco's Princess Caroline Rocked by Photo Scandal

Marriage of Monaco's Princess Caroline Rocked by Photo Scandal
Prince Ernst August of Hanover and Princess Caroline of Monaco, in June 2008
Thierry Orban/Abaca

01/07/2010 AT 08:10 AM EST

The already-tumultuous marriage of Monaco's Princess Caroline and husband Prince Ernst August of Hanover appears to have hit a new bump with the publication Thursday of photos showing the 55-year-old Ernst August over the Christmas holiday walking the sand, sunbathing on a beach in Thailand and kissing in the surf – all with someone other than his wife, who was skiing with the couple's children in Switzerland.

In a four-page photo spread headlined "Amorous Escapade in Thailand," Thursday's editions of France's Paris-Match show Ernst August and an unidentified woman locked in an embrace. "The Prince and his friend," the publication says, "only had eyes for each other." Meanwhile, Germany's Bunte also published the photos, declaring, "Monaco's First Lady Is Being Publically Duped."

The photos raise a new round of rumors concerning a possible divorce action by Lüneburg, 52, and Caroline, the daughter of the late Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly.

They also show the latest in a chain of indiscretions that has made the couple's 11-year marriage a royal soap opera starring Ernst August in incidents of public drunkenness, hospitalizations, scuffles, alleged infidelity and one all-too-well-documented episode of public urination at Expo 2000.

The couple – who were seen together on only three occasions in 2009 – have been living apart for some time. In September, photos allegedly revealed the Prince's close friendship with a Parisian socialite. Days later, while Ernst was in Libya celebrating the 40th anniversary of Colonel Khaddafi's reign, Caroline moved out of the family's Fountainebleu home, taking their 10-year-old daughter Alexandra with her and resettling in Monaco.

A press spokesperson in Monaco told PEOPLE on Thursday that the Palace had "no comment" regarding the photographs.

Publication of his holiday snapshots couldn't possibly have taken place at a less opportune moment for Ernst August. Next Wednesday, after months of negotiations, a court in Hanover is to hear testimony from a newly discovered eyewitness in Ernst's appeal to have a 2000 battery assault conviction against him overturned.

That eyewitness is none other than his wife.

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