Monaco royal wedding: The world watches as the regal couple seal their love

If the civil service was an intimate union of husband and wife in front of 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.

 

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Taking her hand, the gruff South African - who was famously reluctant to take a call from Prince Albert asking for her hand because his attention was on the football World Cup- reassured his daughter as the took the four-minute walk to the altar.

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, but with a composed smile on her face, the 33-year-old, who was raised thousands of miles away in a humble South African family, looked like she had been born to the role.

Watching her every step intently were the 3,500-strong congregation; plus 800 more celebrities, royals and family members 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 train

There were gasps from the attendees as they took in her breathtaking appearance – her gorgeous Armani dress, with its spectacular train, and her hair which 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 Carabineer guards, awaited her at the 17th-century Carrara marble double staircase. He took his bride's hand briefly, as if to reassure her before the service began.

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 waiting for Rainier III because, as the 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, the South African flag flew high above the palace.


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The couple had wanted the largest number of guests possible to share in their big day, hence they chose to conduct proceedings in the courtyard, rather than in the palace's cathedral, which can only hold 500 people.

Items from the chapel had been moved outside, such as the cross, the altar, and two chairs and kneelers for the bride and groom.

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 faces taking their seats included Albert's former girlfriend Naomi Campbell and fashion kaiser Karl Lagerfeld.

Foreign royals included Sweden's Princess Victoria and her husband Prince Daniel, King Carl Gustaf and Queen Sonja and their younger daughter Princess Madeleine.

Denmark's Princess Mary and Prince Frederik were also joined by Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and Princess Maxima.

Representing Britain were the Earl and Countess of Wessex

Charlene 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 bridesmaids – children of residents of Monaco and the surrounding communities.

The cute group of youngsters were dressed in traditional costume

 

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Providing the musical accompaniment throughout the service were the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Monte-Carlo opera Chorus – who were joined by some renowned international soloists – and the Monaco's cathedral choir and Les Petits Chanteurs de Monaco..

The boys' choir – made up of around 30 boys aged between nine and 15 – was originally founded in 1974 by Albert's father Prince Rainier III.

The mass was celebrated in French, English and Afrikaans.

Readings were done by Pauline Ducruet. – Princess Stephanie's eldest girl, and Charlotte Casiraghi – Caroline's daughter.

Charlotte read the first letter of St John in French. "If we love one another God remains in us and his love is brought to perfection in us," she read to the congregation.

The Archbishop gave his homily, saying: "We thank God for helping a great love grow in the heart of these two people."

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

Then a message came from Pope Benedict, who had - the Archbishop said - written to the couple to say: "he is with you spiritually, he is praying for you".

Exchanging vows

This began with a statement of belief - Charlene and Albert were asked to renounce all evil and state their belief in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

The Archbishop invited the witnesses to take their place beside the couple, before they were invited to state their intentions - that they came freely to be joined as husband and wife.

As they joined hands, they were asked if they would love and cherish each other till the end of their days. The answer of course was "oui".

After blessing of the rings, Albert was the first to put a ring 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'sbroke into a grin, and she laughed.

The couple were then serenaded with The Click Song - a South African song of Xhosa people, sung at weddings to bring good fortune.

The Eucharistic prayer was followed by Motzart's Sanctus, then the bread and wine was blessed in preparation for the giving of Holy Communion.

Charlene pulled back her veil for the first time when it came to the part of the mass to offer peace to fellow congregation members. She did so to give Albert a brief kiss.

After communion and the blessings, famed tenor Andrea Bocelli sang Ave Maria for the newlyweds

 

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The couple then signed the marriage register in the palace chapel, with the same gem-incrusted Montblanc pen they used in the civil ceremony the day before.

Symphony No 3 in C minor, Opus 78, by Camille Saint-Saens brought proceedings to a close as the couple made their way back through the courtyard.

Deep emotion

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 on, when she shed a tear while offering her bouquet in the Saint Devota Church.

There was a huge round of applause as they entered the main square of the palace, to be showered in petals.

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