PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Prince Albert of Monaco, son of late Hollywood star Grace Kelly, will marry South African Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock next July, in what will be a star-studded event likely to boost the principality’s image.
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 Wittstock since 2006.
His palace said on Thursday the religious marriage will be on July 9 and a civil ceremony held the day before.
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.
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 blonde, 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 in Stockholm, when they attended the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria, heir to the Swedish throne and could attend Thursday’s Diamond League athletics meeting held in Monte-Carlo.
A palace spokesman declined to give details of the ceremony or the guest list, but as with all royal weddings, a mixture of celebrities, politicians and royals will add sparkle to the proceedings.
Tourists will also head to the Cote d’Azur city, which stages high-profile sports events like its Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Michel Bouquier, managing director at the principality’s tourism authority said the marriage was a unique event that would boost tourism for years.
“The world’s spotlight will again be on the principality and it’s up to us to make a stunning event,” he told Reuters.
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.
More camera-shy than his siblings, Albert once said press intrusion was partly to blame for his prolonged bachelorhood.
“Life will not be easy for my future wife,” he told Le Figaro daily before he met Wittstock.
Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre Grimaldi was born on March 14, 1958 and educated in Monaco and at Amherst College in Massachusetts.
Fluent in English, French, Italian and German, Albert became a roving commercial ambassador for his country’s booming business interests for years and also served as head of Monaco’s delegation to the United Nations.
Former child-carer Wittstock was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in January 1978 and represented South Africa as a swimmer in the 2000 Olympics. Her sporting career was later curtailed by a shoulder injury.
Although Albert has fathered two children, under the succession rules in the Catholic principality only children born within marriage may succeed to the throne.
Additional reporting Bate Felix. Writing by John Irish; Editing by Steve Addison