Monaco royal wedding: Prince Albert II marries Charlene Wittstock
There's a new Princess of Monaco: Prince Albert's South African bride Charlene Wittstock, who on Friday married the reigning prince in a civil ceremony that was part of a larger itinerary of royal events.
The bride, 33, wore Chanel palazzo pants and a jacket while the groom, 53, donned a dark suit and white tie to exchange vows in front of Philippe Narmino, president of Monaco's Council of State. "I declare you united by the bonds of marriage," Narmino said, officially making Wittstock "Her Serene Highness."
Princess Stephanie and Princess Caroline, Albert's sisters, were among those in the audience in the throne room. Only 80 family members, friends and dignitaries witnessed the 20-minute ceremony, according to the Daily Telegraph. After the ceremony, the newlyweds appeared at a palace window, waved at the cheering crowd and kissed each other shyly, sparking another round of cheers.
"Vive le Monaco, thank you and happy celebrating," the prince told the crowd, his bride at his side.
The ceremony Friday at the palace was far from the spectacle that surrounded the April wedding of Prince William and the former Kate Middleton, now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. However, on Saturday, the newest royal couple will hold an elaborate Catholic wedding ceremony with 3,500 guests in the palace courtyard and a star-studded wedding gala to follow.
The festivities started with a non-royal treat on Thursday night: a free concert by the Eagles. Then about 5,000 of Monaco's 7,618 citizens and their guests -- many decked out in suits and fancy dresses in the hot sun -- followed the ceremony Friday on oversized screens set up on a square in front of the palace. Post-ceremony cocktails on the square were to follow, leading into a concert by French composer Jean Michel Jarre and a laser light show.
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The guest list for Saturday's festivities includes the kings of Spain, Sweden, Lesotho and Belgium, the presidents of France, Iceland, Ireland, Lebanon, Malta, Germany and Hungary, France's richest man, celebrated opera singers, top models and race car drivers, with three-time triple-starred Michelin chef Alain Ducasse preparing a three-course meal.
The bride, a swimmer in the 2000 Sydney Olympics who was born in Zimbabwe but raised in South Africa, met Prince Albert at a swimming competition in 2000. Albert has been an International Olympic Committee member since 1985 and competed in five Winter Olympics as part of Monaco's bobsled team.
Grace Kelly, the previous princess, died in 1982 in a car accident. She and Prince Rainier III, Albert's father, married in 1956 and had three children together. Prince Albert has admitted fathering two children out of wedlock. Rainier died in 2005 at age 81 after being treated for heart, kidney and breathing problems.
Earlier in the week, palace officials denied a French tabloid report that Wittstock had tried to leave from nearby Nice airport on a one-way flight to South Africa, and had required intense convincing by the prince and his entourage to stay.
"The sole intention of these rumors is to seriously damage the image of the Sovereign, as a result of damaging that of Miss Wittstock, and bear down on this happy event," the palace said in a statement.
-- Christie D'Zurilla
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
Photo: Prince Albert II and Charlene Wittstock are officially married in a civil ceremony on Friday in Monaco's royal throne room. Credit: Eric Mathon / Princely Palace Monaco / EPA