The Bride and Groom (2)
The Royal - or more correctly Princely - wedding of Albert II of Monaco and Miss Charlene Wittstock has taken place in Monaco. Here, we take a look at the backgrounds of bride and groom.
HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco
The son of Grace Kelly
and Prince Rainier III was always destined to play an extraordinary role and to live an extraordinary life. Educated first in Monaco at the school named after his father's grandfather, and then in his mother's homeland at Amherst College, Massachusetts, HSH Prince Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre
graduated in 1981 with a degree in political science before spending six months with the French Navy. Training in law, marketing and finance followed, with time allotted, again, between America and Europe.
His dual nationality manifests itself most evidently in the Prince's softly-spoken American-accented English; and it is that understated but authoritative voice which has in recent years made the Prince the perfect spokesman for international concerns to do with the environment - from the shores of his Mediterranean principality to the wider picture presented by threats to the global ecology.
Named after his paternal great-great grandfather HSH Prince Albert I
, it's hardly surprising that the young Grimaldi prince should show an inclination towards the sea, navigation and environmental protection. In 2006, the 100th anniversary of the first Prince Albert's famous expedition to the Arctic - which inspired the foundation of the Monaco Oceanographic Museum - his namesake set up the Prince Albert II Foundation
, which supports the
initiatives of public and private organisations and companies in the
fields of research and studies, technological innovation and
socially-aware practices. In the last five years the foundation has donated millions to the cause of sustainable development on an international scale.
HSH Princess Charlene of Monaco
Prince Albert's betrothed, soon to be Princess of Monaco, is a girl with a very different background. In the early 1900s when Albert's great-grandfather was heading north, Charlene Wittstock's great-grandfather Gottlieb had already headed south from his native Germany to settle in King William's Town, South Africa, hoping to make a fortune in diamonds, one which eluded him. His son, Charlene's grandfather Dudley served in Somaliland, Abyssinia and the Western Desert, fighting against Rommel in Lybia in 1941.
Charlene was born in 1978 in Bulawayo to businessman Michael Wittstock and his wife Lynette, who had been a competitive diver in her youth. The young Charlene followed suit, joining a Durban-based swimming team and later the Tuks Swimming Club in Pretoria, and within a few years was already a South African champion. The high point of her career came in 2000, when she represented her country at the Sydney Olympics
, coming a very respectable fifth in the 4x100m medley.
As part of her practice for that event, she had attended the annual Mare Nostrum
international swimming meeting in Monaco, where among the spectators was a certain Prince Albert. And the rest, as they say, is history.
After an arm injury put paid to her hopes of qualifying for the 2008 Olympics, Miss Wittstock has dedicated more time to charitable interests, especially those concerning children. She has said in a recent interview with German television that having a family is one of the things she is most looking forward to in the coming years.
There's no question that both prince and princess will have many calls on their time, but equally there's no question of the strong desire among the Monégasques to see the Grimaldis maintain their rule of the Principality, unbroken since the thirteenth century.