Prince Albert II of Monaco and Princess Charlene married in a religious ceremony in their palace on Saturday, one day after their civil wedding, finalising their union in front of 800 guests.
The couple each said “oui” in the courtyard of the Grimaldi dynasty’s home overlooking the Mediterranean, at a service led by the Archbishop of Monaco Bernard Barsi, who blessed their relationship.
The archbishop held the couple’s hands together and declared: “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder,” then blessed their relationship.
Then, in front of witnesses, the couple — Charlene, noticeably less tense than she had been at the first ceremony, and occasionally smiling — exchanged 18 carat rings in white gold and platinum by the House of Cartier.
A South African singer celebrated with a popular, upbeat wedding song: “Diviner of the roadways, the knock knock beetle / It just passed by here, the knock knock beetle.”
The smiling couple shared a brief exchange and the congregation prayed.
The bride appeared to tear up behind the veil as she took her place at the altar inside the princely palace where the Catholic ceremony was taking place.
Charlene wore an off-the-shoulder gown by Giorgio Armani, and a long veil.
VIP guests including Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld, former James Bond actor Roger Moore and former French first lady Bernadette Chirac joined European royals, heads of state, top models and world-class athletes streaming up the red carpet and into the palace.
Photographers shouted at Czech supermodel Karolina Kurkova, dressed in a sober navy skirt suit, to strike a pose, and the crowd of thousands of the principality’s citizens following the festivities on giant screens just outside the palace broke into cheers as French musician Jean Michelle Jarre swept by.
Other household names expected to converge on the princely palace — an Italian Renaissance castle where Monaco’s ruling Grimaldi dynasty has resided for centuries — include French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, US soprano Renee Fleming and Giorgio Armani, the Italian designer who made Charlene’s wedding gown.
More than 2 500 hours of work, 80m of silk and 40 000 Swarovski crystals went into the gown, the palace said.
Celebrated French-born chef Alain Ducasse prepared a multi-course dinner for 450 guests.
Ducasse, who like many in his tax bracket has taken citizenship in Monaco, is the first chef to earn three Michelin stars in three different cities, including three for his Louis XV restaurant in Monaco. He has said freshly caught fish and vegetables grown on Albert’s farm will be on the menu. A fireworks extravaganza will follow.
The couple were married in an intimate civil service on Friday inside the prince’s palace. Albert’s sisters, Princesses Caroline and Stephanie, were among several dozen guests at Friday’s ceremony, which was held in the palace’s sumptuous throne room where the prince’s father, the late Rainier III, wed Hollywood legend Grace Kelly in 1956.
The bachelor prince
The blond beauty died in a car crash nearly 30 years ago, and this tiny principality on the Riviera had been without a princess ever since. Known as a notorious ladies man, 53-year-old Albert long eschewed marriage, and many in Monaco had resigned themselves to forever having a bachelor prince.
The Constitution was even modified to ensure the continuity of the Grimaldi line, one of Europe’s oldest dynasties, in case Albert never produced an heir. The prince acknowledged having fathered two children out of wedlock, but only his legitimate offspring would be able to succeed him. Rumours have swirled in recent days that a third illegitimate child had surfaced — prompting Charlene to allegedly try to call off the wedding and return to South Africa days before the festivities.
The palace has denied the reports, dismissing them as “ugly rumors” prompted by spite and jealousy.
Charlene (33) has told interviewers she would like to have children.
Only Monaco’s fewer than 8 000 citizens and their partners were allowed access to the Rocher, the rocky promontory presided over by the palace, to follow Saturday’s service on two giant screens.
Several thousand residents came out for the civil ceremony a day earlier, many of them sporting dark suits or evening gowns and heels despite the scorching temperatures.
One of the attendees, 72-year-old Marie Malghreli, was still glowing from her family’s brush with royalty.
“My husband last night touched the prince’s hand and then the princess touched my husband’s hand — my husband was touched — and I was standing next to him and I was jealous,” she said. “She is really pretty, she’s delicious.”
Charlene was wearing a blue, ankle-length ensemble press handlers said was designed by the princess herself. – AFP