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Albert, Charlene set for Monaco religious wedding
MONACO (AP) - A day after the civil wedding that transformed one-time Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock into the Princess of Monaco, the South African and Prince Albert II prepared to say their vows in a star-studded religious ceremony Saturday.
The bride appeared to tear up behind the veil as she took her place at the altar inside the princely palace where the Catholic ceremony was taking place.
VIP guests including Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld, former James Bond actor Roger Moore and former French first lady Bernadette Chirac joined European royals, heads of state, top models and world-class athletes streaming up the red carpet and into the palace.
Photographers shouted at Czech supermodel Karolina Kurkova, dressed in a sober navy skirt suit, to strike a pose, and the crowd of thousands of the principality’s citizens following the festivities on giant screens just outside the palace broke into cheers as French musician Jean Michelle Jarre swept by.
Other 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, U.S. soprano Renee Fleming and Giorgio Armani, the Italian designer who made Charlene’s wedding gown.
More than 2500 hours of work, 80 meters (88 yards) of silk and 40,000 Swarovski crystals went into the gown, the palace said.
Celebrated French-born chef Alain Ducasse prepared a multi-course dinner for 450 guests.
Ducasse, who like many in his tax bracket has taken citizenship in Monaco, is the first chef to earn three Michelin stars in three different cities, including three for his Louis XV restaurant in Monaco. He has said freshly caught fish and vegetables grown on Albert’s farm will be on the menu. A fireworks extravaganza will follow.
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 blond beauty died in a car crash nearly 30 years ago, and this tiny principality on the Riviera had been without a princess ever since. Known as a notorious ladies man, 53-year-old Albert long eschewed marriage, and many in Monaco 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. Rumors 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 rumors” prompted by spite and jealousy.
Charlene, 33, has told interviewers she would like to have children.
Only Monaco’s fewer than 8,000 citizens and their partners were allowed access to the Rocher, the rocky promontory presided over by the palace, to follow Saturday’s service on two giant screens.
By Brahma Chellaney
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