Monaco newlyweds prepare to jet into Durban

Newlyweds Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco were preparing a trip to South Africa, as her father dismissed reports of a pre-wedding rift.

The couple were formally wed on Friday in a civil service and said “I do” for a second time on Saturday in front of 800 royal and celebrity guests in a lavish ceremony rounded off by fireworks and a ball for 200 friends.

A wedding brunch followed on Sunday in the private gardens of the tiny principality’s royal palace, prepared by French chef and creator of the main wedding feast, Alain Ducasse.

The royal couple were on Tuesday due to fly to Durban where 33-year-old Charlene trained as a swimmer and where the prince (53) was due to attend a meeting of the International Olympic Committee, of which he is a member.

The committee will vote to select the host of the 2018 Winter Olympics on Wednesday.

In a statement on Sunday ahead of the session, South African President Jacob Zuma said: “It is particularly special for us to welcome the newlyweds … to Princess Charlene’s home country.

“We continue to treasure the pride Princess Charlene brought to South Africa as an Olympic swimmer.”

The princess’ father Mike Wittstock meanwhile dismissed reports that the wedding preparations had been disrupted by a last-minute crisis, in an interview with the <>Sunday Times.

The weekend’s pageantry had been dimmed by media reports of rumours that the bride-to-be had tried to flee to South Africa earlier in the week.

Palace officials said only that there had been a “hiccup” in the wedding preparations when Charlene learned that Albert may face demands for a paternity test after a claim by a former lover.

“I am so disappointed that people believe this nonsense,” Wittstock told the newspaper.

“I am also very disappointed in the South African media who picked up on the story and ran with it before finding out the facts for themselves. It’s rubbish.

“I was with them the entire time until late at night. It did not happen,” he said in an interview given late on Friday night.

He also spoke of his delight at his daughter’s royal marriage.

“It’s just such a proud moment that I cannot describe. We are so happy for them,” he said.

“It feels as if we’ve just won the World Cup.”

The wedding was broadcast live on South African television, and the Sunday Times splashed across its front page a photo of Charlene in her veil and gown, captioned “Fairy Tale”.

The prince paid tribute to his new wife during their wedding dinner on Saturday evening, telling his bride: “Charlene, thank you for putting up with my busy schedule, my absence sometimes … “

Smiling, he said: “You are an incredible woman … and patient with me at times!” prompting laughter from guests.

Monaco officials on Sunday hailed the success of the celebrations.

Tourism chief Michel Bouquier summed up the event as glamourous but at the same time warm-hearted, describing the wedding as “top class”.

No details of the couple’s honeymoon plans are to be made public, but a further party was planned in Durban on Thursday, palace officials said.

In Monaco, the wait for a royal heir has begun.

“The main thing is that the marriage took place,” said a local doctor who did not want to be named.

“What we need now is an heir, that’s the only thing Monegasques are interested in right now.” – AFP

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