Monaco Royal Wedding: The childhood of a true golden girl in pictures

A beautiful girl with flaxen hair, wearing a pretty sun dress, smiles confidently at the camera.

This is Charlene Wittstock as she was aged three, basking in the warm African sun in her parents' garden in Zimbabwe before the family emigrated to South Africa. Who had any inkling then of the glittering destiny that awaited her as the first lady of Monaco?


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Certainly, not her mother Lynette, whose sunny looks she inherited. The resemblance between them is clear in another picture of a set released by the palace of Monaco in time for her wedding to Prince Albert.

In it, mother and daughter pose with one of Charlene's younger brothers, their faces beaming with similar happy smiles, giving an indication of the warm and loving childhood she enjoyed.


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But Lynette, a swimming instructor, and former competitive diver, had passed on another gift to Charlene - her ease in the water.

So unsuprisingly, many of the images illustrate her international swimming career, the culmination of which was a spot on South Africa's Olympic team.

By the age of 18 she had already won her adopted country's national championship. Then, in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics when she was 21, her team came in fifth.


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It was while competing at a meet in Monaco, that same year, that the athlete came across her prince. "I knew he was the one," she says simply when asked. 

Charlene might have have felt "a profound sense of destiny", but her first love - competing - still had a hold on her.

A backstroke specialist, she went on to win three gold medals at the World Cup and become a Commonwealth silver medallist, before retiring with an injury.

It was to be a full seven years after their initial introduction that the royal tempted his aquatic angel to move to the principality for good and a further three before their engagement was announced.

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