Monaco royal wedding: intimate pictures from Charlene's day of destiny

A simple sentence quietly but firmly uttered, ushered in a new era in Monaco and changed the life of a young South African woman forever.  Just after 5.30pm the reigning Grimaldi family's registrar said: "I now pronounce you man and wife".

With that time-honoured phrase, spoken in French to Prince Albert and his bride in the red silk damask-draped Throne Room of the royal palace in Monte Carlo, 33-year-old Charlene Wittstock became the newest member of a clan that has ruled the glittering principality since 1297.

 

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The statuesque blonde, a former Olympic swimmer, wed her beloved prince - the man she met, aged 22, and whom she recognised immediately as 'The One' - on Friday during a touching civil ceremony.

It all took place in the very same room in which the groom's parents Princess Grace and Prince Rainier III wed on April 18, 1956.
No one could fail to notice the parallels with their union. Then too, an exquisitely attired bride, capped off her smart suit with a halo of flaxen hair.

The start of a new chapter

And Albert's actress mother was also closing one chapter of her life, leaving behind Hollywood and America for a new start far away in a European court.

Essential aspects of the script were different, though. Grace's story was hailed as a fairytale.  

Saying 'oui, je veux', while their friends and family looked on, Charlene might have been tempted to reflect on the unkind rumours and sniping directed at her, if that was her way. Those who know her say it isn't.

The road which led her to the sumptuosly-decorated Throne Room - where for centuries the principality's rulers have taken their sacred oaths - has been a long one.

And the resilient African, who is described by the prince's journalist friend Stephan Bern as having "nerves of steel" hasn't faltered under the weight of expectation upon her any more than she did during her gold-medal-winning sporting career.

Another friend, Albert's Olympian colleague Mark Thomas notes: "She has handled the pressures of the relationship with dignity." No mean feat for someone following such a  beguiling precedessor.

This ceremony - during which she became Her Serene Highness, Princess Charlene of Monaco - is seen as a new start for the people of the principality, who are hoping the marriage heralds stability after centuries of ill-fated royal unions

Then, there is Albert's past as one of most sought-after prizes on the royal marriage market – and the scrunity she faces as the women who finally got him to settle down. 

All that was far from her, mind, however on Friday. Charlene looked radiantly happy, the smile never left her face. Though she did look a little shy when saying her vows in French – a language she has been making an effort to learn in the time since she arrived in Monaco.

Charlene's joy

While she was no doubt saving her most spectacular outfit for Saturday's religious ceremony, the glam blonde still looked gorgeous in a sky blue suit. Her hair was pulled back into an elegant chignon.

Albert looked deeply moved during the ceremony - the first princely wedding to take place in Monaco in the last 55 years - while his bride was beaming.

He even winked at her several times, and at one point leant over and took her hand and placed a tender kiss on it

During the ceremony, the doors of the room were left open, symbolising the union of the couple in the presence of the public.

Just 80 guests were present – among them Charlene's parents Michael and Lynette.  Also sharing in the joyous occasion were Albert's sisters Caroline and Stephanie, whose eyes misted over.

And fashion designer Isabell Kristensen and Donatella Knecht de Massy, Albert’s cousin – both of whom planned Charlene's New York hen party.

Thousands more were watching the historic moment unfold on giant screens in the Palace Square.

Conducting the civil service - in English, French and the local Monegasque dialect - was Mr Philippe Narmito, President of the State Council.

"This is the marriage that counts"

"In the eyes of the people, it is this marriage that counts," said the president ahead of the ceremony.

Upon their arrival, he spoke - first in English, then in French - of the joining of Monaco and South Africa by the union.

"Charlene, you are marrying not only a prince, but a counry as well," he told the pretty South African.

He asked for the free consent of the couple, asking them if they wished to take each other as husband and wife.

And when Charlene uttered the phrase, je veux, there were jubilant cheers from those watching outside, and the flags of both nations fluttered from every corner of the square.

He declared them man and wife. 

And then there was time for another kiss before the newlyweds signed the marriage register with a pen especially created for the occasion by Montblanc. Adorned with precious stones, the unique piece also featured their official monogram.

With their union sealed, Albert took his new wife's hand and led her out of the Throne Room and off to begin her new life.

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