From Monaco With Love: The Story Of Prince Albert And Princess Charlene
What are the odds that a South African Olympian would fall in love with a Prince of Monaco? In the case of Princess Charlene and Prince Albert, pretty high.
The couple first met in 2000. Charlene Wittstock was a participant at the Mare Nostrum swimming competition in Monte Carlo, Monaco. Prince Albert at the time had earned himself a reputation as a playboy with two children out of wedlock.
Monaco had been clamoring for the royal prince to pick a bride and settle down. As fate would have it, the couple met and struck a chord. This was the beginning of their relationship. But they did have some differences that made them stand out.
For starters, Prince Albert was 20 years older than Charlene, and she was not a royal. This perhaps was the most obvious concern for many observers.
Princess Charlene was born in Zimbabwe to Michael and Lynette Wittstock. He was a humble sales manager, and his wife, Lynette, was a former competitive diver and swimming coach. Prince Albert, on the other hand, was a son of Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace of Monaco.
Theirs was not an instant fairytale. They were first seen together in 2006 at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics. However, Prince Albert and Princess Charlene dated for 11 years before their engagement. And their wedding turned out to be one of the most spectacular events of the year.
A royal wedding
It was July of 2011. Monaco was flooded with visitors, family and friends from all over the world. The lavish event was planned to take three days. Princess Charlene was a sight to behold. Dressed in a spectacular dress by famed Italian designer, Charlene Wittstock looked every bit the regal princess.
The highlight of the wedding was the exchange of vows, which happened at the Sainte-Devote Chapel in Monaco. In many ways, this wedding almost mirrored that of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III in 1955.
Much like Prince Albert, his father, Prince Rainier III, married outside royal bloodlines, an act which the reigning prince confesses was a big influence on his choice to marry Princess Charlene.
Troubles before the wedding
Their romance was like many, fraught with concerns. For starters, there were speculations that Charlene at the time was having cold feet about her engagement and pending nuptials.
Rumors came to a head when some paper reported that she tried to flee Monaco on Tuesday, 28 June, 2011 - only days before their July wedding.
These claims were denied by the palace, and the couple went ahead with the wedding on 2 July, 2011.
Living the royal life
It has been seven years since the royal wedding and clearly, the Prince and Princess of Monaco have found a rhythm. Talk of turbulence in their relationship has long died down, and Princess Charlene (now 39) has been fully accepted by the people.
Three years ago, they welcomed twins, Jacques Honore Ranier and Gabriella Therese Marie. The new Prince and Princess were born at the Princess Grace hospital in Monaco and named after their late grandmother.
At the official announcement of their birth, their happy father said:
I wish to share this moment of happiness with the Monegasque people and more widely with all my country's residents.
Love reigns supreme for this delightful pair, and their public showings of affection are living proof of that. In a speech Princess Charlene gave in 2015, she happily expressed her love for the Prince in a poem recited in French:
[Prince] Albert I was the Explorer, Rainier III was the Prince-Builder, and you are the Prince of Hearts, of my heart.
The prince also had this to say about married life:
Well, I think it's, wonderful. I can't speak for Charlene, but she will be able to answer you. But we're having a wonderful time.
We hope the royal couple lives happily ever after.