(ATR) HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco weds Charlene Wittstock of South Africa in a match made in Olympism.
Albert, a five-time Olympic bobsledder, met Wittstock, a swimmer at the Sydney Olympics, when he presided over a swimming competition in Monaco in which she was competing.
They were married in a civil ceremony on Friday in the palace throne room, followed by a religious ceremony Saturday at the foot of a double marble staircase in the courtyard of the Prince’s Palace. About 40 members of the International Olympic Committee, of which Albert has been a member since 1985, mingled with heads of state, royalty and stars of the fashion world and the silver screen.
Wittstock will now be known as Charlene, Princess of Monaco.
IOC President Jacques Rogge led the IOC delegation, which also included Frank Fredericks of Namibia, chair of the athletes’ commission and Sergei Bubka of Ukraine. The Grand Duke of Luxembourg and Pal Schmitt, president of Hungary, received invitations as heads of state as well as IOC members. Albert invited all of the 100-plus IOC members to the festivities.
The IOC members will then hustle to Durban, South Africa, for the 123rd Session, where they will be joined by Albert and his new bride. The honeymooners will host a party on July 7 for IOC members.
Nicolas Sarkozy, president of the French Republic, attended the wedding, but will not travel to Durban to speak on behalf of Annecy in its bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. The vote will take place on July 6. During previous presentations by bid cities, Albert has often asked questions pertaining to athletes.
Also from the sports world, a gymnastics royal couple, Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner, attended the "Princely Wedding," along with swimming great Donna de Varona. Former IOC members Pernilla Wiberg, a skiing gold medalist from Sweden who lives in Monaco and is now part of the Annecy bid, and Charmaine Crooks of Canada were also on the official guest list.
Glamour on the Riviera
The extravaganza, which featured a concert by the Eagles, fireworks and elaborate dinners, reportedly cost $75 million. It had echoes of the 1956 wedding between Albert’s parents, Prince Rainier III and movie star Grace Kelly.
Albert and the new Princess said their "Ouis" in front of about 850 people, including Albert’s sisters, Caroline and Stephanie. Before entering the courtyard, Charlene and her father walked through a crowd of about 3,500 people, who had seats outside to watch the ceremony on giant television screens. Charlene’s satin dress, featuring a long train, was designed by Giorgio Armani. According to the palace, it was embellished with 40,000 Swarovski crystals, 2,000 mother of pearl drops, platinum coated thread and 30,000 'golden stones.’
The groom wore the white dress uniform of the Carabinieri royal guard, which had gold crowns on the lapels.
Albert, 53, occasionally winked at Charlene, including just before their vows and after he placed the Cartier ring on her finger. She burst out laughing as she put his ring on his finger.
Albert’s cousin on his mother’s side, Chris Levine, was best man and Donatella Knecht de Massy, whose husband Sebastien is a cousin on Albert’s father’s side, was maid of honor.
Opera star Renee Fleming and Italian singer Andrea Bocelli sang at the wedding, which was live streamed on the official palace website – and in 3D in France, Spain and Poland. A monogram with a back to back "A" and "C" under a crownappeared on the screen.
After the Wedding
The couple was showered with petals as they walked outside the palace to their car, provided by Lexus. The license plate, naturally, was 001M.
After driving through the streets of the principality and waving to the crowd lining the streets below flags of Monaco and South Africa, they arrived at a small chapel, Saint Dévote’s Church. Just as Princess Grace did 35 years earlier, Charlene went inside to lay down her bridal bouquet, accompanied by her prince. In her one emotional moment, the new princess dabbed tears from her eyes.
They wedding dinner, prepared by chef Alain Ducasse, and a royal ball took place at the Opera Garnier and on the Terraces of the Opera.
The two-day event was a public holiday in Monaco. Charlene has lived in Monaco since 2006 and took French lessons and converted to Catholicism before the nuptials.
Nicole Manzone of the National Council said, "Princess Grace gave three beautiful children to Monaco, and we affectionately called them ‘the little ones.’ We’re marrying the prince. It’s not the prince who’s getting marrried, rather we are marrying the prince."
The nearly 8,000 Monegasques hope the marriage will produce an heir to the throne, but a future Olympian would also be likely.
Sporting bloodlines run deep. According to his official IOC biography, Albert has practiced athletics, rowing, football, handball, judo, swimming, tennis, riding, skiing, squash, golf, windsurfing, fencing, volleyball, bobsleigh. He drove a Monaco bobsled in the five Winter Olympic Games from 1988 to 2002.
Wittstock, whose mother is a swimming coach (and whose father is a photocopier salesman), was on the South African 4 x 100 medley relay team that placed fifth. She swam the backstroke leg.
Since 1984, Albert has been president of the Monegasque Swimming and Athletics Federations. He is also president of the Monaco Yacht Club and creator of the Monaco-New York TransAtlantic race. Albert was head of the Monegasque delegation to the Games of the XXIII Olympiad in Los Angeles in 1984; founder/president of the Monegasque Federations of Bobsleigh, Luge and Skeleton and of Modern Pentathlon and has been president of the NOC of Monaco since 1994.
Albert is also Honorary President of the International Union of Modern Pentathlon; Honorary President of the International Athletics Foundation and Member of the Honorary Board of the International Paralympic Committee.
With the IOC, Albert has been Vice-Chairman (1989-2008), then Honorary Member (2008-) of the Athletes’ Commission; Member of the following Commissions: Cultural (1990-1992), Coordination for the Games of the XXVI Olympiad in Atlanta in 1996 (1991-1996), Eligibility (1997-1998), Marketing (1998-2001), Nominations (2000-2006), Coordination for the XX Olympic Winter Games in Turin in 2006 (2000-2006)
For those who would like a token of the wedding, the Boutique Official is offering a collection of memorabilia. The items range from a photo for 12 Euro and a keyring for 25 Euro to an 18-karat charm for 480 Euro.
Written by Karen Rosen.