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Stars descend on Monaco for princely wedding

Celebrity guests from around the world flocked to the tiny principality of Monaco on Saturday to celebrate the wedding of Prince Albert II and South African swimmer Charlene Wittstock.


AFP - Prince Albert II of Monaco and his bride Princess Charlene welcomed hundreds of world leaders, fellow royals and stars of sport and fashion to their tiny Mediterranean realm Saturday.

The second day of their royal nuptials was to be marked with a spectacular open-air religious ceremony in front of 800 honoured guests and 3,500 of their subjects in the courtyard of the Grimaldi clan's fortress-like palace.

Monaco's Royal Wedding

Organisers hope the glamour of the spectacle will overshadow what senior Monaco officials now privately admit is the "truth" of the rumour that Albert II faces a paternity test following a claim by at least one former lover.

Reports the South African princess was furious and threatened to leave when she learned her prince's latest secret marred the build-up to the wedding, but the event itself has gone smoothly and the Monegasques are philosophical.

"We can't remake the prince. It's a modern marriage. Charlene has known him for a long time and accepts it," shrugged a 30-something wellwisher, insisting on remaining anonymous like most of Monaco's 7,810-strong native population.

Albert, at 53 two decades older than his blonde bride, has two children from previous relationships, but even if a third or a fourth is confirmed he will still not have an official heir until his lawful wife bears him one.

"We just want the Grimaldi dynasty to continue," said a 72-year-old Monegasque, a direct descendant of a group of Genoan migrants who settled the rocky Riviera outcrop and future tax haven in 1775.

Charlene appeared tense but poised at her civil marriage ceremony on Friday in the throne room of her palace, but relaxed slightly at a buffet reception for Monaco's people, where she posed for pictures and hugged babies.

Later, she and the prince joined an estimated 80,000 people, double the normal population of the state, at the waterfront for a spectacular sound and light show by veteran French electropop pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre.

On Saturday, the Armani-clad bride and her beau plan to cross the city state in an open topped Lexus hybrid, a gesture to the prince's green credentials amid otherwise extravagant scenes of champagne quaffing and fireworks.

Indeed, whatever carbon is offset by the couple's choice of vehicle, will itself be more than compensated for by the 200-strong fleet of BMX 7 Series saloons that will ferry the guests to the ceremony.

The wedding feast will be held at Monaco's landmark casino, a site of true glamour in an otherwise slightly grim jungle of concrete 1970s blocks, and -- with private banking -- the source of much of the city-state's wealth.

The most senior guest will be France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose pregnant wife Carla Bruni is holidaying at her family's nearby villa, and Britain's royals will be represented by Elizabeth II's son Prince Edward.

Several more European and African kings and princes will be there, along with supermodels such as Naomi Campbell and several sporting friends of Albert and Charlene, who have both represented their countries at the Olympics.

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