Monaco set for royal wedding

2011-07-02 13:17

A day after the civil wedding that transformed one-time Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock into the Princess of Monaco, the South African and her prince, Albert II, prepare to say their vows in a star studded religious ceremony today.

Guests expected at the Catholic service and gala dinner include assorted European royals, heads of state, top models and world class athletes.

Household names expected to converge on the princely palace – an Italian Renaissance castle where Monaco’s ruling Grimaldi dynasty has resided for centuries – include French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, US soprano Renee Fleming, former 007 Sir Roger Moore and Giorgio Armani, the Italian designer who made Charlene’s wedding gown.

Celebrated French-born chef Alain Ducasse is preparing a multi-course dinner for 450 guests. He has said freshly caught fish and vegetables grown on Albert’s farm will be on the menu.

The couple was married in an intimate civil service on Friday inside the prince’s palace.

Albert’s sisters, Princesses Caroline and Stephanie, were among several dozen guests at Friday’s ceremony, which was held in the palace’s sumptuous throne room where the prince’s father, the late Rainier III, wed Hollywood legend Grace Kelly in 1956.

The blonde beauty died in a car crash nearly 30 years ago.

Known as a notorious ladies man, 53-year-old Albert long eschewed marriage, and many Monegasques had resigned themselves to forever having a bachelor prince.

The constitution was even modified to ensure the continuity of the Grimaldi line, one of Europe’s oldest dynasties, in case Albert never produced an heir. The prince acknowledged having fathered two children out of wedlock, but only his legitimate offspring would be able to succeed him.

Rumours have swirled in recent days that a third illegitimate child had surfaced – prompting Charlene to allegedly try to call off the wedding and return to South Africa days before the festivities.

The palace has denied the reports, dismissing them as “ugly rumours” prompted by spite and jealousy.

Charlene (33) has told interviewers she would like to have children.

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