Royal watchers rub shoulders with F1 fans

Fanatical royal watchers descended on Monaco’s princely wedding seeking regal glamour, but found themselves crowded alongside Formula One aficionados, electropop nostalgics and bemused holdaymakers.

The tiny Mediterranean principality of Monaco hoped Prince Albert II’s wedding to South Africa’s Charlene Wittstock — now Her Serene Highness the Princess Charlene — would pull in crowds of free-spending tourists.

They appear to have won that bet: the enclave’s shops, restaurants and casinos were heaving with cheerful crowds on Friday night after the civil ceremony and first full day of festivities.

But not everyone was here for the same reason.

“I’ve been following the Monaco royal family for 35 years, and the other royal families for that matter. So for Mother’s Day my daughter booked me a visit,” beamed Aline Pla, a Frenchwoman in her sixties.

Pla and her husband, who run a vineyard outside the French city of Perpignan, travelled more than 380km for the show, but would probably have come further if they had to.

“The Grimaldis, like the other crowned heads of Europe, are almost part of the family,” she said. “I saw them when they were young: Albert, Stephanie, Caroline, their children. I loved watching them grew up.”

Pla can rattle off the birthdays and marriage dates of all the Grimaldi children, but most of the tourists who spoke to Agence France-Presse were far less obsessive, and some seemed to have an only passing interest in the marriage.

“It’s very nice to see the South African flags everywhere and especially to see someone from our home become a princess,” said Marcelle Graindor, visiting the chapel where fellow South African Charlene was to deposit her bouquet.

‘She reminds you of Grace Kelly?’
“She reminds you of Grace Kelly, no?” exclaimed her husband Jos, as the retired Belgian-South African couple marvelled at the life story of their homeland’s former Olympic swimmer.

A Dutch couple, 66-year-old Ans Geelen and 68-year-old Jan, were having fun but were happy to speculate on whether the marriage would truly mark the end of Monaco’s lengthy search for an heir to 53-year-old Albert.

“We hope Charlene’s the right one!” joked Ans. “There’s 20 years between them …” worried Jan.

For others, the royal wedding was just a pretext. For them, the true star of the show was 63-year-old synthesiser king Jean-Michel Jarre, who ran through three decades of hits at Friday night’s waterfront show.

Tens of thousands of French and Italian visitors swamped the marina for the sound and light spectacular, only to head home again afterwards.

“I’d like to thank Prince Albert for inviting Jean-Michel Jarre. That proves he has good taste,” declared a 27-year-old French electrician and superfan who came 900 kilometres to see his idol crank out “Oxygene” one more time.

A group of Cypriots had come still further — but not for the wedding.

“We only heard about the wedding on Thursday, but we’re not here for that,” said 23-year-old Valentinos Pilavakis as his gang piled out of the station, street maps in hand.

“Me, what I want to see is the Grand Prix circuit! Do you know where the tunnel is?”

Others were even less clued in, and had no idea there was a wedding on at all, sometimes only finding out on arrival, and to their annoyance.

One young Korean woman trekking across town under a pitiless sun with her luggage and constantly running into crowds, security barriers and police, gasped in exasperation: “There’s a marriage? Today? Oh, a prince …”

Perhaps misunderstanding the levels of security and protocol involved in such an event, 30-year-old Chinese tourist Fei Fei Zhou was delighted to find out about the wedding: “We’re going to go and see the castle!”

But an Italian couple was less impressed.

“We were rudely turned back by the police because we were not standing where we should! But there are no signs to tell you,” snorted Giuseppe Benaglia (65) leading his wife tottering on her stilettos back to the station.

“That’s it. We’re off.” – AFP

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Your M&G

Hi , To manage your account please click here.

You can access your digital copy of this week’s paper here.


Stella set to retain her perks

Communication minister will keep Cabinet perks during her two months of special leave

Covid-19 grounds Nigeria’s medical tourists

The country’s elites, including the president, travelled abroad for treatment but now they must use the country’s neglected health system

Press Releases

Rahima Moosa Hospital nursing college introduces no-touch facial recognition access system

The new system allows the hospital to enrol people’s faces immediately, using artificial intelligence, and integrates easily with existing access control infrastructure, including card readers and biometrics

Everyone’s talking about it. Even Kentucky

Earlier this year South African fried chicken fast-food chain, Chicken Licken®, launched a campaign for their wallet-friendly EasyBucks® meals, based on the idea of ‘Everyone’s talking about it.’

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world