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Stephanie sets the stage for some big top fun

January 18, 2006
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Princess Stephanie of Monaco got some moral support from a friendly giant when she kicked off her homeland's annual circus festival on Wednesday. The mother of three, who has stepped into her late father's role as president of the event, was standing side by side with one of its most impressive performers when she spoke to reporters in Monte Carlo.

Her burly escort, an enormous Indian elephant, stood patiently by her side throughout the question and answer session. And the royal obviously felt at ease in his company, as she wrapped an arm around his trunk while chatting with members of the press pack.

The herculean creature wasn't the only friendly face at the princess' side, as she was also accompanied by several clowns and trapeze artists. Stephanie said she wanted to make the 30th edition of Monaco's world famous festival a special tribute to her late father Prince Rainier. The 2006 event will therefore feature only artists who have won the prestigious Gold, Silver and Bronze Clowns in previous years.

"We had wanted to do this anyway, but it's even more important now as a great gift to my dad," she explained. "The 31st festival will start again as it was before, with the competition, the prizegiving and the jury."

When Prince Rainier passed away in April last year, his youngest child was the obvious choice to take over organising his beloved circus festival. The 40-year-old has been in attendance every year since the event was first staged back in 1974 and she has also served as vice-president of the jury for the past 18 years. "At the first festival I was part of the junior jury," she revealed. "I like all the acts but I always enjoy seeing animal acts in the circus because it's very important. You ask a child what is the circus for him and he always says clowns and animals."

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Photo: ©
The princess was accompanied by some colourful friends on Wednesday afternoon. "You ask a child what is the circus for him and he always says clowns and animals," said the royalPhoto: © Getty Imagesy
Photo: ©
Stephanie's affinity with the giant circus star was obvious as she gently wrapped her arm around its trunk Photo: © Getty Images

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