Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Monaco Palace: Prince Albert to marry Charlene Wittstock

For years, many royal watchers in Monaco have had but one problem with the fairytale principality on the Riviera. Though they had two beautiful princesses, Caroline and Stephanie, who had bore six legitimate heirs to the throne between them and the continuation of independent rule from France was all but secure, their heir to the throne - and subsequent Sovereign Prince after the death of Prince Rainier III in 2005 - Albert remained unmarried and without legitimate heirs of his own. Many hoped that someday soon, Albert would finally marry and settle down to a steady relationship. Well at last the wait is over: Prince Albert II of Monaco, who has spent many of his 52 years in bachelorhood, is engaged. Just five days after Albert and Charlene attended the romantic wedding of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Daniel Westling together, which many had predicted to be a signal of Albert and Charlene's impending nuptials, the Monaco Palace officially announced the engagement of Prince Albert II of Monaco to Charlene Wittstock in a communique released at lunchtime today (12:23PM, 23 June 2010). The statement said that the engagement between the two was announced on Wednesday but indicated no date for the wedding.

Laetitia Pierrat, a palace spokeswoman, said that Albert had met his future bride in Monaco in 2000, when she had attended a swimming competition in the tiny principality. Whilst the pair briefly dated, Charlene returned to South Africa to continue her swimming career. It seems fate, however, had different plans. They reconnected at a New Year's Eve party in Cape Town, South Africa and hit it off, restarting their relationship. "There was a glint in his eye," says a former associate of the Prince. "It suggested she meant more to him than most women." But asked whether Charlene might be pregnant, Pierrat said: "Honestly, I don't think so." She added that she wasn't privy to such private matters but said had Wittstock been pregnant, an official announcement would likely have been made. Pierrat said that according to protocol, royal couples must wait at least six months between announcing their engagement and their wedding day.

Royal watchers are reveling in the news. "It's been 30 years since Grace died, 30 years they've been waiting for a First Lady, a princess, a dream beauty, glam. And voila!" said Colombe Pringle, executive editor of the French celebrity magazine Point de Vue, which covers Albert's private life regularly. Pringle told the Associated Press that she hasn't heard any rumours that Wittstock might already be pregnant but she added, "Obviously, there is going to be an heir."

While his father's reign was defined by his marriage to Princess Grace, Albert was known for being a longtime bachelor - so much so that Parliament in 2002 changed the constitution to allow one of his sisters' sons to take the throne if he never produces an heir. Pringle suggested that Albert's advancing age, and the long time since his mother's passing, meant that the time was right for him to give up bachelorhood. "He's 50-something. It's time," she said. She said Wittstock has spent their years together preparing for this. "She has learned a lot, she has done a good personal job to fit with her job, there are many years of learning there behind her. Now it's a question of involvement and engagement in her new role. We'll see how she does," Pringle said. "She really wanted the job."