19 NOVEMBER 2007

Key members of the royal house of Monaco, led by Prince Albert, joined festivities for the principality's National Day on Monday. There was no sign, though, of the most-talked about member of the fold, Charlene Wittstock, the Monegasque sovereign's pretty South African girlfriend, as the Grimaldi dynasty's most elegant figures spilled out of the cathedral in Monte Carlo.

Engagement rumours have gathered pace of late as the swimmer is now a very much a permanent fixture at the 49-year-old's side. Her absence on Monday and Albert's smiling but 'business-as-usual' demeanour is evidence, however, that royal watchers may have a little longer to wait for a wedding announcement.

Saluting the assembled well-wishers with Albert were his sisters, Princesses Stephanie and Caroline, who were joined by the latter's children and husband, Prince Ernst of Hanover.

Now celebrated on Saint Rainier's Day in honour of Albert's father, the principality's previous ruler, the holiday usually concludes with a spectacular evening firework display over the harbour.

Photo: ©
At the celebrations Albert was joined by a large gathering of Monegasque royals, but his girlfriend Charlene was conspicuous by her absencePhoto: © Getty Images
Photo: ©
Saluting the assembled well-wishers with the 49-year-old prince was his sister Princess Stephanie (far right), his nieces Charlotte Casiraghi and Princess Alexandra of Hanover and his nephew Pierre Casiraghi Photo: © Getty Images