Monaco's Prince Albert to wed Olympic swimmer

Wed Jun 23, 2010 9:57am EDT
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MONACO (Reuters) - Prince Albert II of Monaco, son of late Hollywood star Grace Kelly, announced his engagement on Wednesday to South African Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock, ending decades as one of Europe's most eligible bachelors.

Albert, 52, has been linked to a string of beautiful women and has acknowledged fathering two illegitimate children, but he sought to shed his playboy image after succeeding his father Prince Rainier in 2005. He has dated Whittstock since 2006.

"The prince's palace announced on Wednesday, June 23, 2010, the engagement of his Royal Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco with Mademoiselle Charlene Wittstock," a palace statement said. It did not give a date for the wedding.

The last time Monaco celebrated a wedding of its ruling prince was in 1956, when Rainier married Kelly, bringing a huge dose of glamour to the tiny Mediterranean principality.

But the Grimaldi dynasty that has ruled for more than seven centuries is also familiar with tragedy and bad publicity: Kelly died in a 1982 car crash, and her children, Albert, Caroline and Stephanie, regularly made headlines for the wrong reasons.

Once dubbed Dirty Bertie by the tabloid press, Albert in his younger days was photographed accompanying a stream of famous women, such as Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Brooke Shields, Lisa Marie Presley and Kylie Minogue.

But unlike his two sisters, who have a clutch of marriages and seven children between them, Albert never showed any indication of wanting to settle down until he started going out with the blond, elegant Wittstock in 2006.

Rumors occasionally surfaced that they were set to marry, but the pair remained silent about their future until now.

They were last seen together in public at the weekend in Stockholm, when they attended the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria, heir to the Swedish throne.   Continued...

<p>Prince Albert of Monaco poses with Charlene Wittstock in Monaco in this June 23, 2010 handout photo released by the palace. Prince Albert II of Monaco, son of the late Hollywood actress Grace Kelly, is to marry former South African Olympic swimmer and model Wittstock, the prince's office said in a statement on Wednesday. REUTERS/Amedeo M.Turello/Palais Princier/Handout</p>