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Princess-to-be admires iconic items from yesteryear


Charlene Wittstock inspects exhibits featuring the late Princess Grace at the 'Museum of Style Icons' in Co Kildare

Charlene Wittstock inspects exhibits featuring the late Princess Grace at the 'Museum of Style Icons' in Co Kildare

Charlene Wittstock inspects exhibits featuring the late Princess Grace at the 'Museum of Style Icons' in Co Kildare

IT wasn't the grainy, black and white Pathe 1961 news footage that sparked the smiles of nostalgia yesterday, but a green woollen dress and coat worn by Princess Grace.

It was an appropriate colour for the Hollywood actress-turned princess to wear the day she stepped on to Irish soil in May 1961 for a second honeymoon with her Monegasque prince.

Yesterday, Prince Albert's 33-year-old fiancee Charlene Wittstock was accompanied by four of Prince Albert's cousins from the Kelly clan of Philadelphia on an emotion-filled private trip. They were at the Newbridge Silverware Style Icon Museum in Co Kildare to examine artefacts which celebrate Princess Grace's 1961 visit.

From images of yesteryear, fast forward half a century and yesterday a statuesque, elegant blonde, hair in a chic chignon and a strand of pearls around her neck, held the spotlight. History was repeating itself.

Just three months before her July 3 wedding to Prince Albert, the Zimbabwean-born, Olympic swimmer looked relaxed and intrigued as she toured the museum.

Ms Wittstock admired Princess Grace's Givenchy-designed fitted dress and short, fringed jacket which Newbridge Silverware MD William Doyle bought when the iconic outfit was put up for auction by the Princess Grace Foundation.

Such was the interest in the Givenchy suit, it was later sent to Farmleigh for display at last night's official party hosted by Prince Albert.

"Susan, come and see the turban," Charlene called out to Albert's first cousin, Susan Kelly von Medicus -- daughter of Princess Grace's only brother Jack -- when she saw the pictures of Grace's floral 3-D turban.

Susan stood back maternally as she surveyed her younger relatives as they soaked in all the nostalgia. She smiled over at the princess-to-be as she carefully read the inscriptions on the many photos.

"I'm very pleased for Albert finding such a beautiful young woman. He took his time," she said.

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Dressed in a cashmere coat with vertiginous black heels and carrying a small clutch bag, super-slim Ms Wittstock is already being tipped as a new style icon. And her relaxed demeanour yesterday hinted that the wedding plans are going well.

"It's coming along really well; it's quite something, nerves and all," she said.

As for the all-important wedding gown, there were no clues to the style and she politely but firmly side-stepped any comparisons to Princess Grace, whose Helen Rose-designed gown with tiny pearl detail was copied for years.

"People are different and styles change, it's 50 years on," she said diplomatically.

With an easy, friendly manner, Ms Wittstock greeted all the staff at the former cutlery factory and the group enjoyed a light lunch of roasted halibut.

There were poignant moments for Chris Levine, son of Grace's youngest sister Lizanne. With his artist wife Vicky, he watched the footage showing Grace visiting the Kelly homestead in Drumuria, Newport, Co Mayo, from where John Bernard Kelly left in the 1860s for a new life in America.

Ms Wittstock smiled as she looked at photographs of her future husband as a young boy, dressed in a sailor outfit, as he happily played with his mother at Carton House, Maynooth, in 1963.

And while she arrived wearing a single string of pearls, she left with a gift of a three-string pearl necklace, something Irish for her wedding trousseau.

After her wedding, Ms Wittstock will become Princess consort of Monaco and gain the title of Her Serene Highness, Princess of Monaco, the title once held by Grace Kelly.

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