Prince Albert of Monaco and Charlene Wittstock finally put to rest rumors that their wedding was off as they became husband and wife in a civil ceremony at the royal palace on Friday.
Thousands cheered in the palace’s plaza as the former Olympic swimmer from South Africa became the Princess of Monaco in a Throne Room ceremony that marks the first day of a two-day affair dubbed the most high-profile event in Monaco since the 1956 wedding of Albert’s late parents, Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly.
Images of the prince, 53, dressed in a dark suit, and Wittstock, 33, donning a pale blue suit and diamond earrings, flashed on screens around the palace as they said “oui” to their vows and signed the marriage register.
“Their witnesses were their thousands of subjects,” the Palace said in an official statement.” Also in attendance: Albert’s sisters Princess Caroline, Princess Stephanie, the prince’s cousin and chief witness, Christopher Levine (the son of Princess Grace’s sister) and Donatella Knecht de Massy, who’s another cousin of Albert’s and Wittstock’s chief witness.
The wedding festivities, estimated to cost upwards of $65 million, commenced Thursday with a public concert by The Eagles, and Friday’s wedding events will continue with a nighttime reception at the Monaco Port, where synth-pop icon Jean Michel Jarre will oversee a light and music extravaganza.
Royalty from Spain, Sweden, Lesotho, France, Germany and Belgium, the presidents of France, Iceland, Ireland, Lebanon, Malta, Germany and Hungary will help the couple celebrate Saturday with a traditional Catholic ceremony in the palace courtyard, reports the Associated Press.
Rumors swirled earlier this week that Wittstock was a runaway bride after learning about Albert’s allegedly less than “exemplary” behavior – seemingly linked to the two children he fathered out of wedlock.
Albert and his bride met in 2000 at a swim event in Monaco and began dating in 2005.
BY DANA KENNEDY AND ALISON SCHWARTZ