Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Princess Charlene and Prince Albert
In his first interview since returning from a visit with his wife and children in South Africa, the 63-year old sovereign provided a medical update and fired back at media reports that suggest marriage troubles, not medical issues, have kept their family apart.
The princess has been "grounded" in South Africa since mid-May due to a series of medical procedures intended to correct a previous ENT surgery and combat the infection Charlene, 43, developed after the procedure.
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"She's ready to come home," Albert tells PEOPLE exclusively. He notes that her return date to Monaco "depends on what her doctors say," and if her progress continues she could plan her travel for as soon as this month.
"I know she's said possibly 'late October,' " says Albert, "but that was before this most recent round of appointments. I'm pretty sure we can cut that time frame a little short."
He shares, "She's ready. She's jokingly said that she's ready to stowaway on a ship to come back to Europe."
Albert tells PEOPLE that his wife's well-being has improved since her most recent four-hour long surgery on August 13. "She was in good spirits."
During their family reunion last week in South Africa, Albert accompanied his wife on a doctor's appointment where they met with the surgeon who performed her most recent operation to get "a new reassessment about how things are holding up."
"Of course she was delighted to see us and to spend time with the kids," says Albert.