17 MARCH 2008

There were kisses galore as Monaco's Prince Albert marked his half century with a cake-cutting ceremony this weekend. Apparently absent from the festivities, however, was the one person patriotic well-wishers were expecting to see at his side - girlfriend Charlene Wittstock.

As he sliced into a massive strawberry cake the eligible royal was accompanied by his sister Stephanie rather than the pretty South African swimmer he's been squiring to engagements for the past few years. Charlene's absence indicates that for the moment at least a wedding for the Grimaldi clan is still some way off.

Also joining Albert at the festivities, which were awash with flags in the principality's red and white colours, was a local boy who shares the prince's March 14 birthday.

Charlene won't miss out on the chance to congratulate her beau altogether as the family plans to hold a private party at its residence in northern France.

Another date which the attractive blonde is unlikely to skip is next week's Rose Ball. Always a glittering affair, this year's charity bash takes as its theme Spain's colourful La Movida movement, which was spearheaded in the Eighties by, among others, flamboyant Spanish director Pedro Almodovar.

Photo: © Alphapress.com
The Monegasque prince congratulates little Mateo, who shares the same birth date Photo: © Getty Images
Photo: © Alphapress.com
Albert receives a congratulatory kiss from his younger sister Stephanie. Atop the prince's enormous strawberry birthday cake was the Grimaldi family coat of arms, which features two monks brandishing raised swords and the royal motto 'With God's Help'Photo: © Getty Images
Photo: © Alphapress.com
One face well-wishers at the celebrations may have expected to see was that of Albert's girlfriend Charlene, but it's thought the pretty South African will celebrate with her prince at a private family partyPhoto: © Getty Images