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Wittstock retired from swimming in 2007, after moving to Monaco to be closer to the prince. Locals say she’s maintained a low profile.

“You see the prince all the time, just walking around, but you never see her,” said Stive Osmont, a waiter at a restaurant near the palace. “It’s understandable because she didn’t have an official role for all those years. But now that she is going to be princess, we’re really looking forward to getting to know her better.”

Prince Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre, Marquis of Baux, is the second child _ and only son _ of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier, who ascended to the throne at the tender age of 26. Albert, on the other hand, was 47 when he became reigning prince in 2005, after his father’s death.

Though he dated a string of famous beauties said to include U.S. actress Brooke Shields and supermodels Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell, Albert’s reluctance to tie the knot was known to have strained relations with his father and also sparked persistent rumors he was gay.

Albert repeatedly denied it, but the rumors were squelched only after the prince acknowledged fathering two children out of wedlock.

Jazmin Grace Grimaldi was born of a 1991 tryst with Tamara Rotolo, a California woman who had been vacationing in the Mediterranean, while Alexandre Coste was born in 2003 to a former flight attendant originally from the west African nation of Togo.

Still, as long as he remained single, the prince’s acknowledgment of the two children did nothing to calm succession worries, as Monaco’s constitution specifies that only “direct and legitimate” descendants can assume the throne. As the problem posed by Albert’s bachelor status dragged on, the constitution was revised to allow Caroline to succeed him.

Albert and Wittstock have stressed their desire to have a family.

“I love children and have always wanted to have children of my own,” said Wittstock in an interview with France’s BFM television. “We’ll see in the next couple of months or years.”

With her steely blue eyes and shoulder-length platinum locks, Wittstock has more than a passing resemblance to Grace. Still, she struggled at first to match the late princess’ legendary elegance, and some of her first public appearances with Albert were marred by fashion faux pas.

With the help of Giorgio Armani, Wittstock has blossomed over the years into the very picture of understated chic, in beige sheath dresses and sharp-lined gray pantsuits.

When her engagement was announced last June, there was little doubt the Italian couturier would design Wittstock’s wedding dress. That also meant there has been none of the frenetic guessing games that surrounded the identity of the designer of Kate Middleton’s wedding gown, kept under lock-down until the moment the now-Duchess of Cambridge stepped into Westminster Abbey.

Indeed, authorities here appear determined to avoid many of the excesses of the April 29 British royal wedding, which with an estimated 2 billion viewers may have been the most-watched event in history.

There’ll be none of the commemorative kitsch that abounded at the British wedding, where everything from tea bags to toilet seat covers were emblazoned with the royal couple’s broadly smiling faces. Souvenir shops in the principality will be selling only a handful of palace-approved memorabilia, including porcelain with the couple’s names but no images, vendors have said.

Monaco is also getting a makeover ahead of the wedding, with workers racing to touch up the peach-colored facades of the 2-square-kilometer country’s many high-rises, Art Deco casinos and five-star hotels.