- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 12, 2005

MONACO — Prince Albert II yesterday acceded to the throne of a 700-year-old dynasty, a bachelor prince coming into his own as a modern ruler who wants to clean up the image of this Riviera tax haven and has unblushingly acknowledged fathering a child.

After a lifetime in the shadow of his father, Prince Rainier III, who died in April, Albert was proclaimed ruler of Monaco at a Mass in the cliff-top cathedral where his father and mother, Hollywood beauty Grace Kelly, are buried.

Albert knelt as a choir sang a traditional Monaco prayer asking God to protect the prince. For the first time, the white-robed singers invoked Albert’s name instead of Rainier’s.

“We praise God for our new prince of Monaco, whom we receive … as a gift,” said the archbishop of Monaco, Monsignor Bernard Barsi, during his homily.

Cries of “Long live Prince Albert” greeted the new ruler as he descended the cathedral’s red-carpeted stairs, flanked by his sisters, Princesses Caroline and Stephanie.

Then he slipped on sunglasses and headed off for more festivities, continuing late into the night with a fireworks display set to tunes by U2 and Pink Floyd.

A national holiday was declared yesterday, and red-and-white banners — the national colors — hung in the windows of the royal palace and shops.

Prince Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre, Marquis of Baux, bears a name that rings with royalty, but he is a sporty 47-year-old bobsled enthusiast who is concerned about the environment.

Long seen as shy and retiring, he has shown a more forthcoming side since his father’s death. Last week, as the three-month mourning period for Rainier ended, Albert confirmed press reports that he fathered a child with an African-born Air France flight attendant.

Little Alexandre — Albert’s son with Nicole Coste — will never be eligible for the throne, because Monaco’s constitution excludes illegitimate children from the line of succession.

Albert automatically took royal powers upon the death of his father but did not formally embrace his role as His Serene Highness until yesterday. His accession to the throne is a two-step event, with another ceremony expected to draw heads of state on Nov. 19.

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