Monaco: Monaco`s reigning prince, Albert II, wed Charlene Wittstock of South Africa today in a long-awaited civil ceremony that transformed the one-time Olympic swimmer into the Princess of Monaco.
Wittstock succeeds Hollywood beauty Grace Kelly, who wed Albert`s father, Prince Rainier III in 1956, had three children with him but died in a car accident in 1982.
Residents of the principality on the Riviera swarmed the plaza outside the palace where the ceremony took place, hoping to catch a glimpse of the newlyweds during the first of two days of royal wedding events.
Wittstock wore a silken blue jacket with ankle-length pants, an outfit that famed fashion house Chanel created for the civil ceremony, which will be followed tomorrow by an elaborate religious wedding ceremony and a star-studded wedding gala.
When asked if they take each other in marriage, both quietly responded "Oui." The marriage became official, and Wittstock became a princess, when Philippe Narmino, president of Monaco`s Council of State, pronounced "I declare you united by the bonds of marriage."
The royal couple signed the marriage register with a specially created pen in gold and precious stones and adorned with their monogram made by German luxury penmaker Montblanc.
Although Albert, 53, was seen for decades as one of Europe`s most eligible bachelors, he had long resisted marriage. Many in Monaco, known the world over for its lax tax laws and glamorous casinos, feared he might never tie the knot.
Monaco`s 7,618 citizens and their partners were invited to post-ceremony cocktails on the square today, to be followed by a concert by French composer Jean Michel Jarre and a laser light show.
With her bright blue eyes and delicate features, the 33-year-old Wittstock has often been compared to Kelly, an American movie star known for her iconic fashion sense.