One passion that Gloria has relinquished is the fashion addiction that once kept her swathed in Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana. “If you want to have a certain look, you have to have the figure to go with it,” explains Gloria, who gained some weight after retiring from the Eighties social scene. “Also, you have to have the money to spend. It was different when my husband paid for all my clothes.” (Prince Albert gained control of the family’s $2 billion fortune when he turned 18.) “Now I’m a widow, and I have an income which lets me live comfortably, but I surely don’t have the budget of the heir of Thurn und Taxis.” Meanwhile, Albert—who’s currently studying for his Ph.D. in philosophy—has completed his gradual transition from awkward teenager to handsome prince–cum–race car driver, and is perennially mentioned as one of Europe’s most eligible bachelors. (His eldest sister, Maria Theresia, 29, is an artist; Elisabeth works at Finch’s Quarterly Review.)
Although you won’t find Gloria competing with her children for mentions in Hello! or trying to squeeze into Elisabeth’s Balenciaga, occasionally she still dresses up and parties like it’s 1985. At a rollicking black-tie soirée at Maxim’s in Paris a few weeks ago, a joint 50th-birthday bash for Gloria and art dealer Thaddaeus Ropac, she turned up in vintage pink Pierre Cardin and hopped onto the stage to belt out the soul classic “Hard to Handle.” That prompted Lee Radziwill to hit the dance floor with Mario Testino as Tatiana Santo Domingo and Lord Rothschild looked on.
These days, though, the Princess’s wardrobe tends toward no-nonsense. When it comes to Gloria’s appearance, Elisabeth says that her mother probably has the same insecurities as any 50-year-old woman but that she’s accepting middle age with a pragmatic kind of grace. Of her peers who battle fate with too much surgery or too-tight jeans, Gloria says, “it’s really a shame. Because it means that they’re not happy in their skin. I love getting older. I think it has fabulous advantages, like being self-assured. What were we insecure about in our 20s and 30s? I thought that nobody took me seriously, that everybody must realize immediately that I’m a total fool. When I came into a room, it was like, Oh, my God, can I deal with this? Today, I don’t care.”
Perhaps because New York is a city teeming with brazen social strivers, it has always welcomed those rare beings who are rich enough, royal enough or just plain kooky enough to really be themselves, with no apparent compunction to please or to seduce. Princess Gloria, at 50, may be one of those lucky few. Currently single, she says she’s not in the market for a mate. Certainly not a husband, who might make the loft seem a bit crowded.