|Wedding of Albert II, Prince of Monaco, and Charlene Wittstock|
1 & 2 July 2012
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The wedding between Albert II, Prince of Monaco, and Charlene Wittstock took place on 1 and 2 July 2011 at the Prince's Palace of Monaco. It has been described as Monaco's "biggest party in 55 years" since the wedding of Albert's father, Rainier III to Grace Kelly. Prince Albert and Wittstock first met in 2000 at a swimming competition in Monaco in which she was participating. They announced their engagement on 23 June 2010.
Prince Albert II is the current Sovereign Prince of Monaco, having succeeded his father Rainier III in April 2005. Charlene Wittstock was born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) but moved to South Africa with her family when she was 12. She has represented South Africa in swimming, and participated in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She met Prince Albert at the 2000 Marenostrum International Swimming Meet in Monaco, which he presided over. She retired from swimming in 2007. Prince Albert was also an athlete, competing in bobsleigh in five Olympics.
The couple were first seen together in 2006. Speculation was rife that they were getting married in 2009, and they finally announced their engagement on 23 June 2010.
During the week before the wedding, the palace was forced to deny reports that Wittstock had been getting cold feet. French weekly L'Express reported that Wittstock tried to leave Monaco on Tuesday, 28 June, after rumours surfaced that Albert had fathered a third illegitimate child. The report claimed Monaco police intercepted her at Nice Côte d'Azur Airport and confiscated her passport, and that it took "intense convincing" by Albert and palace officials for her to stay. The palace called the stories "ugly rumours" born out of jealousy.
A two-day public holiday for the celebrations has been declared.
Commentators have said that the wedding is important for Monaco to survive as a tax haven. Monegasque authorities believe the event will increase tourism.
The wedding dress of Wittstock was designed by Giorgio Armani. Lexus was the official car supplier for the wedding. The bride and groom traveled in a Lexus hybrid car to Sainte-Dévote Chapel, where Princess Charlene laid her bridal bouquet to Saint Devota, the patron saint of Monaco, in accordance with Monegasque tradition.
Festivities kicked off on the night of 30 June with a concert at the Stade Louis II by American rock band the Eagles. The concert was attended by 15,000 Monegasques and the couple.
The civil ceremony took place on Friday 1 July 2011 in the Throne Room of the Prince's Palace. The ceremony was conducted by Philippe Narmino, Director of Judicial Services and president of the Council of State. Wittstock wore a silken blue jacket with ankle-length pants by Chanel. After the confirmation by Narmino, the newlywed couple signed the marriage register with a specially created pen made by Montblanc in gold and precious stones and adorned with their monogram . In connection with the civil ceremony, Wittstock received the formal style Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco. The 20-minute ceremony was also attended by Prince Albert's sisters Caroline, Princess of Hanover and Princess Stéphanie of Monaco, as well as the best man Christopher Levine and the maid of honour Donatella Knecht de Massy, who acted as witnesses for the groom and bride respectively.
After the ceremony, the couple appeared on the balcony of the Salon des Glaces to salute the crowds. They waved and kissed each other shyly, prompting another round of cheers from the crowd. The couple were also joined by Princesses Caroline and Stéphanie with their children as well as Charlene's parents and brothers.
They joined other Monegasques in the Palace Square for a specially prepared buffet with Mediterranean and South African dishes by Chefs from South Africa and Monaco, headlined by multiple Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse.
A free concert was performed by French composer Jean-Michel Jarre and his group at 22:00 hours on the Port Hercules, with an attendance of 100,000. It included a diplay of lights, lasers and fireworks. The new couple appeared on stage with the Princess adorned in a bespoke necklace made of 18K rose gold set with diamonds and pearls designed by acclaimed jewellery house Tabbah.
The religious ceremony took place the following day in the courtyard of the palace. Unlike other recent royal weddings and the wedding of Rainier and Grace, the religious ceremony was not held in a cathedral. The ceremony was conducted by the Archbishop of Monaco, Bernard Barsi. The palace gates were open so that up to 3,500 visitors can follow the ceremony on giant screens in the palace square. Screens will also be set up throughout the tiny principality. The couple then left for Sainte-Dévote Chapel to place the bride's bouquet, during which they were greeted by the public along the procession route. Part of the ceremony was in Afrikaans, a language of Dutch origin, which is spoken in Charlene's home country of South Africa.
The dinner reception took place on the terraces of the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, followed by fireworks and the opening of the Opéra Ball. The Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Opéra Choir performed under the direction of Lawrence Foster. Other performers included Andrea Bocelli, Renée Fleming, Pumeza Matshikiza accompanied by French guitarist Eric Sempe and percussionist Patrick Mendez, Juan Diego Flórez, Lisa Larsson, Wiebke Lehmkuhl, Kenneth Tarver, and Alexander Vinogradov.
Their honeymoon started out at the International Olympic Committee meeting, in Durban, South Africa, where they stayed in the £4600 a night Presidential Suite of the five star The Oyster Box hotel in Umhlanga, just north of Durban, South Africa. After the meeting was over, they flew to a paparazzi free honeymoon in Mozambique.