Prince Albert, who marked his accession to the Monegasque throne on Tuesday, celebrates with sisters Princess Caroline (left) and Princess Stephanie - as well as 7,000 of his subjects - at a royal garden party
Photo: AFP
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Andrea Casiraghi (right), who is now second in line to the throne, attends a special mass in honour of the new monarch with his siblings Pierre and Charlotte
Photo: AFP

12 JULY 2005

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Its sparkling waterfront and scenic streets bedecked with red and white flags, the Mediterranean principality of Monaco launched a new era on Tuesday as Prince Albert, the only son of the late Prince Rainier, formally began his reign.

A morning mass marked the beginning of the day of ceremonies celebrating the 47-year-old bachelor's accession to the throne.

As crowds gathered outside the 19th-century cathedral, the archbishop of Monaco, Monsignor Bernard Barsi, led a solemn service in which he asked God to grant the new monarch "wisdom and intelligence" as well as "a kind heart, to govern fairly and distinguish between good and evil".

Among those taking a place of honour during the 75-minute service were the prince's elder sibling Princess Caroline, her husband, Prince Ernst-August of Hanover, and younger sister Princess Stephanie. Also in the congregation were a number of Albert's nieces and nephews, including Caroline's eldest children, Andrea who is now second in line to the throne behind his mother Pierre and Charlotte.

During the morning's sermon, the archbishop declared that the newly enthroned prince should be considered "the head of our family". And in the spirit of that sentiment, it seems, Albert made sure that Tuesday's events were truly a family affair for his subjects. After the mass, the prince returned to the royal palace to host a garden party for 7,000 Monegasques born in the principality.

And as the prince brings the evening to a close with a lavish ball, nearly 25,000 residents and visitors to Monaco are expected to enjoy a spectacular fireworks display on the waterfront.

Tuesday's celebrations, however, are just the beginning of ceremonies to ring in Albert as Monaco's new leader. On November 19, statesmen from around the world are invited to an official enthronement accompanied by the royal pomp and circumstance befitting Europe's newest monarch.

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