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Spirit of Grace Kelly lives as gorgeous Charlene dazzles at State banquet

WITH her perfectly coiffed blonde hair, oversized diamond jewels and designer gown, even the most seasoned fashionista would have to do a double take at Charlene Wittstock.

Prince Albert of Monaco's fiancee looked every inch the royal beauty for the first day of her trip to Ireland, but it is her striking similarity to his late mother that had everyone talking.

Although the former Olympic swimmer (33) is regularly compared to Grace Kelly, it was last night's ensemble that cast out any doubt that she is anything but a style icon in her own right.

She and her royal other half jetted into the capital for their monarchy's first official visit in 50 years, and after making a quiet entrance to the country on Sunday night, staying at Kildare's exclusive K Club, they were whisked off to Aras an Uachtarain to meet President Mary McAleese yesterday.

And while she looked classy, yet comfortable, in an oatmeal-coloured trouser suit for her travel attire, it was her show- stopping ensemble at a State banquet last night that has drawn the Princess Grace comparisons.

The statuesque beauty opted for classic elegance for the occasion, wearing an asymmetrical grey gown, peep- toed crystal heels, accessorising with a crystal clutch, oversized diamond earrings, a diamond bracelet and, of course, her gigantic engagement ring.

Princess Grace of Monaco has often been hailed as one of the premier style icons of our generation, namely as one of the few beauties who could list both movie star and princess on their CV, but her son's future wife is climbing her way to the top of the royal style ladder.

And it is her striking physical similarity to the late princess that has earned her the title of the 'new Grace Kelly' by royal watchers around the globe.

But the South African stunner has reportedly been undergoing years of training since the beginning of her relationship with Prince Albert, in order to be fully prepared for life as a royal.

Charlene clearly wasn't holding back during her stint in the capital either, and was spotted in upscale department store Brown Thomas sporting three large bags after just 20 minutes of browsing, one of which was by shoe maverick Jimmy Choo.

The high-profile pair are in town for another two days, and have a trip to Newport, Co Mayo lined up, where his mother's grandparents Henry Kelly and Mary Costello left for the US in the 1800s.

Today, Prince Albert visited Trinity College as well as the city's docklands, and he will also inaugurate an exhibition in honour of Princess Grace at Farmleigh House. They will then travel to Oranmore in Galway to visit the Irish Marine Institute.