By PETER ALLEN
Centre stage: Princess Charlene of Monaco points skywards as she talks on the microphone in Monte Carlo Harbour alongside new husband Prince Albert and Jean Michel Jarre
Catholic Church service will take place today
Guests to include Nicolas Sarkozy, Roger Moore, Naomi Campbell and Karl Lagerfeld
Prince Albert's lawyer denies Charlene Wittstock had passport confiscated at Nice
airport during last-minute attempt to leave principality
But new bride hits out at 'vicious gossip' trying to sabotage royal wedding
A former Olympic swimmer from South Africa was officially declared Princess Charlene of Monaco today following her marriage to Prince Albert.
Dressed in a sky-blue jacket and skirt, 33-year-old Charlene Wittstock smiled radiantly as she said 'I do' in a civil ceremony in the Royal Palace throne room of the ancient Mediterranean principality.
Her new husband, 53-year-old Albert, looked on proudly in a dark suit and grey tie as he put sensational rumours about his personal life behind him.
Royal knees-up: The Prince tied the know with South African Charlene Wittstock in a civil ceremony yesterday, followed by a concert and fireworks
The French press even compared the nuptials to Britain's Royal Wedding – while lamenting the fact that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had sadly had to decline their invitation to Monte Carlo because they were on an official trip to Canada.
Less respectful Gallic commentators were, meanwhile, suggesting that history's first Princess Charlene might not have the same ring to it as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.
Miss Wittstock had, in the words of Le Monde, 'tried to escape' last week – back home to South Africa after learning that Albert may have fathered a third love child.
As the mystery deepened, Albert's two love children and their mothers stayed away from today's 40-minute ceremony at the Royal Palace.
No expense spared: Jean Michel Jarre performs in Monte Carlo Harbour as part of the royal wedding celebrations
Glitter: Hundreds of people watch a huge firework display over the harbour after the civil ceremony
Entertainment: Thousands of people crowd the harbour to watch French musician Jean Michel Jarre, right, perform for the royal couple
Spectacular: There were concerns over the wedding after rumours Prince Albert had fathered another love child
They are also expected to be absent from the Catholic Church ceremony tomorrow.
Instead French President Nicolas Sarkozy is set to join celebrity guests including James Bond star Roger Moore, former supermodel Naomi Campbell, and veteran fashion designers Karl Lagerfeld and Giorgio Armani.
Princess Charlene today hit out at the rumours her wedding nearly fell apart over rumours of her husband's infidelity.
She told vogue.com: 'It is a shame that those rumours came at such a bad time, but I think they were timed to sabotage such a happy occasion.
'They are categorical lies. I won't dignify them with any response other than to say that the photographs of me and Albert in love and getting married will speak louder than any vicious gossip and empty rumours.'
Sealed with an awkward kiss: Prince Albert and his bride Princess Charlene kiss on the palace balcony after their civil wedding service in Monaco this evening
Happy couple: The newly-married couple wave to crowds that gathered below the balcony of the royal palace
Sister act: Princess Alexandra of Hanover, Princess Caroline of Hanover, Pauline Ducruet and Princess Stephanie of Monaco enjoy the cheers of the crowds
The former swimmer compared her big day with competing in the pool and said it was no less challenging than diving into a freezing cold pool every morning as she trained for the Olympics.
And she talked about her wedding day outfit, a powder-blue corset, chiffon pleated palazzo pants and a powder blue jacket decorated with tiny silver and pearl buttons, which she designed with Karl Lagerfeld.
'It is my creation and I'm proud of it. It's feminine and keeps with tradition yet has a little twist that reflects my personal style.
'I thought it was a nice change to go for trousers instead of a skirt, especially since I'm an athlete and have always kept my clothes clean and simple.'
Marriage: Prince Albert of Monaco and Charlene Wittstock are seen on a giant screen outside the palace during the civil ceremony
Organisers of the £55million celebrations surrounding the wedding – which included a concert by The Eagles last night – hope that it will rival the 1956 wedding of Albert's mother, Hollywood star Grace Kelly, and his father, Prince Rainier.
Philippe Narmino, president of Monaco's Council of State, officiated today, and confirmed that the former Miss Wittstock was now officially a Princess.
Before the 5pm ceremony, Mr Narmino said: 'It's the event of my life. Me, who as a magistrate, has dealt with hundreds of divorce dossiers during 27 years, will be marrying a couple for the first time.
Referring to the Paris news magazine which broke the story about Charlene's attempted flight, and which still stands by it, Albert's lawyer Thierry Lacoste said: 'I heard everything about the child – white, black, who has been born, not yet born - it has to stop, it's I don't know what.'
Scandal: The preparations have been dogged by claims that Prince Albert had fathered a third love child
He said: 'There is no child, it's a totally false rumour and absolutely without foundation. It's easy to do your job as a journalist – to check that Charlene did not go to the airport. It's clearly false, she and the prince were around all last week.'
In fact a senior detective from Monaco, who was involved in the later stages of the 'incident' at Nice airport, has confirmed that 'Charlene had her passport confiscated so that the Prince's entourage could persuade her to stay'.
Albert already has two children - six-year-old Alexandre, the son of Nicole Coste, a former Air France air hostess from Togo, and Jazmin, 19, whose mother is Tamara Rotola, an American estate agent.
Miss Coste was spotted in Monaco earlier this week, but was said to have been advised to stay away from the wedding to avoid 'media exposure'.
Mr Lacoste infamously issued fierce denials before DNA tests proved Albert was the father of Alexandre and Tamara.
Prince Albert has two love children - including Alexandre - pictured with his mother Nicole Coste
Despite his strong denial this time around, Mr Lacoste confirmed that he was taking no action against L'Express.
And Christophe Barbier, editor of L'Express and a close friend of French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, said the magazine had no intention of removing the story from its website, saying: 'We stand by our information which was supplied by three different sources.'
Mr Barbier said it was important to give Charlene's attempted return home publicity because of the 'number of crowned heads and representatives of various states that are expected at the marriage'.
Despite such enthusiastic predictions, the guest list for the wedding – which had been shrouded in secrecy until today - revealed that many senior royals who had been expected to attend were not in fact coming.
Miss Wittstock, who was born in Zimbabwe and moved to South Africa as a child, met Albert during a 2000 swimming competition in Monaco.
He has been an International Olympic Committee member since 1985 and competed in five Winter Olympics as part of Monaco's bobsled team.
Until now the name Charlene has been most commonly associated with Charlene Robinson, Kylie Minogue's character in the Australian soap opera, Neighbours.
Saturday, 2 July 2011
Monaco bathed in fireworks for wedding of Prince Albert and his 'runaway bride'... but were there any in the bedroom?
By PETER ALLEN