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Monaco royal wedding: The world watches as Prince Albert and Charlene seal their love

July 2, 2011
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Reporting: Mulenga Hornsby, Ian Cowley, Katherine Robinson, Gemma Strong and Alexandra LightIf the civil service was an intimate union of husband and wife in front of their nearest and dearest, then Saturday's religious ceremony was a chance for Monaco to invite a global audience to salute their new sovereign princess.All eyes were on the newly-created Princess Charlene as she made her way across a red carpet in the Cour d'Honneur, the royal palace's main courtyard, on the arm of her proud father Michael Wittstock.

LIFE-CHANGING WALKAmid the pomp and grandeur, there were flavours of a normal family affair.The gruff South African - who was famously reluctant to take a call from Prince Albert asking for her hand because it would have interrupted the football World Cup - reassured his daughter on the four-minute walk to the altar.

Later on, he was seen jigging to the music of The Click Song - a song of the African Xhosa tribe, sung at weddings to bring good fortune.The courtyard had been turned into an open-air cathedral, where Monseigneur Bernard Barsi, Archbishop of Monaco, was to conduct a Catholic wedding mass consecrating her marriage to the Monegasque sovereign. With her head ever so slightly bowed, and a composed smile, the 33-year-old, who was raised thousands of miles away in humble circumstances, looked like she had been born to the role.Watching her every step intently were the 3,500-strong congregation; plus 800 more celebrities and dignitaries who had been ushered into the inner courtyard.And millions more – watching on TV screens and through the internet across the globe - witnessed her life-changing journey down the red carpet.

SPECTACULAR TRAINThere were gasps at her breathtaking appearance. Charlene's gorgeous Armani dress, featured a spectacular train and her hair was gathered at the nape with a jewelled headpiece.A version of Paul McCartney's Standing Stone was sung by a soprano as Charlene - once an athlete, now one of the most closely followed newcomers on the royal scene - glided to stand before her prince. Albert, dignified in his white uniform of the Carabinier guards, awaited her at the 17th-century Carrara marble double staircase. He took his bride's hand briefly, as if to reassure her.

While her glacial beauty recalls Princess Grace and her poise will obviously be compared to her dazzling predecessor, the couple want to write their own story.

In 1956 it was Albert's mother who waited for Rainier III because being head of the principality he made his entrance last.On Saturday, this tradition had been overturned reflecting modern times. And in another gesture showing the partnership of equals, her country's flag flew high above the palace.


Charlene and Albert had wanted the largest number of guests possible to share in their big day, hence the choice of venue, rather than the cathedral, which holds only 500.Its cross, altar, and two chairs and kneelers for the bride and groom had been moved outside.

A  temporary roof had been put in place to offer some shade. Still temperatures rose, causing many guests to use their order of services as a makeshift fan.FAMOUS WITNESSES

Among them were Albert's former girlfriend Naomi Campbell and fashion kaiser Karl Lagerfeld.Foreign royals included Sweden's Princess Victoria and her husband Prince Daniel.Another couple who found love through sport, Denmark's Princess Mary and Prince Frederik were also there. They were joined by Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and his wife Maxima.Representing Britain were the Earl and Countess of WessexCharlene was supported by her matrons of honour - fashion designer Isabell Kristensen and Donatella Knecht de Massy, Albert's cousin – both of whom planned her New York hen party.She was also joined by six flower girls in traditional dress  – children of Monagasque residents.

ceremony front

The mass was celebrated in French and Afrikaans.

Albert's nieces had starring roles too: Princess Alexandra as a ring bearer, and Pauline Ducruet and Charlotte Casiraghi reading lessons. In a crystal clear delivery from the first letter of St John, Princess Caroline's elder daughter Charlotte read: "If we love one another God remains in us and his love is brought to perfection in us.

In his sermon, the Archbishop the congregation: "We thank God for helping a great love grow in the hearts of these two people."

He added: "May god allow them to live happily and to old age together."

Then came a message came from Pope Benedict.  "He is with you spiritually, he is praying for you," said the Archbishop.

Exchanging vows

Before pledging themselves to each other, Charlene and Albert were asked to renounce all evil and state their belief in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Would they love and cherish each other till the end of their days was the next question. The answer, of course, was "oui".

After the blessing of the rings, Albert placed a Cartier ring in 18-carat white gold and platinum on Charlene's finger.

Then it was the princess' turn. "Take this ring, it is a sign of your love and fidelity to Albert," said the Archbishop. Trying to persuade the slightly reluctant ring onto his finger, the bride broke into a grin and laughed.

Laughter was followed by a peck on the lips - Charlene pulled back her veil and kissed the man who has courted her for ten years.Another high point came when famed tenor Andrea Bocelli sang Ave Maria for the newlyweds

ceremony 2

DEEP EMOTIONThe signing of the marriage register in the palace chapel, was with the same gem-encrusted Montblanc pen they had used the day before.Charlene's face broke into a radiant smile for a moment as she re-emerged with her husband, her arm linked through his. For most of the service she had cast her eyes downwards, as if trying to compose herself.It seemed the scale and seriousness of the event had overwhelmed her - and the new princess only allowed herself to show her emotion later, when her eyes misted over during the laying of her bouquet in the Saint Devota Church.And as they entered the main square of the palace, to be showered in petals, there was a huge round of applause for the new princess.

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