Prince puts on a brave face as bride's 'cold feet' are talk of town
Monaco's ruler went on a royal walkabout yesterday to scotch rumours that Charlene Wittstock, Prince Albert's bride-to-be, had last minute cold feet because of revelations about his private life.
With mud flying less than two days before the royal wedding, the message from The Rock -- the ancient promontory on which Monaco's palace stands -- was "on with the show".
To calm his fretting subjects, Prince Albert (53) was all smiles on a very public stroll with his statuesque South African fiancee, an Olympic swimmer.
Wearing black jeans, a white tunic and a black necklace, Ms Wittstock (33) looked relaxed as the prince slung an arm around her for the cameras and they observed preparations for an "historic 48 hours".
The civil wedding takes place tomorrow and the religious ceremony on Saturday in front of hundreds of guests, including heads of state and monarchs.
Guests will include French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, model Naomi Campbell and designer Giorgio Armani.
Despite the smiles, the palace was desperately trying to find out who was behind the rumour that, according to the French newspaper 'Le Parisien', set "Monaco fretting".
The talk of the town is that Ms Wittstock, whose father was a photocopier salesman, bought a one-way ticket to South Africa after receiving distressing news about Prince Albert's private life, and was stopped by French police as she tried to board a plane at Nice airport.
'L'Express', the weekly news magazine which broke the story, stood by its claim that Ms Wittstock tried to leave after discovering that "the private life of the man she was about to marry was not as exemplary as she had imagined".
Prince Albert has fathered two illegitimate children -- six-year-old Alexandre, the son of Nicole Coste, a former air hostess from Togo; and Jazmin (19), whose mother, Tamara Rotolo, is an American estate agent.
The prince admitted he was the father only after DNA tests, and agreed to pay for the children's upbringing. Neither child will attend the wedding to save them from "media exposure".
Stephane Bern, France's best-known royalty journalist, who is close to the prince, said he had expected a last-minute upset.
"It was too perfect. I was certain such a stinking ball would taint the preparations," he said.
Prince Albert's legal team demanded that the magazine reveal its source to prove its claims. The magazine declined.
An official statement from the palace said: "The Prince's Palace firmly denies the allegations. These rumours, spread a few days before the wedding have only one purpose -- to seriously damage the sovereign's image and that of Ms Wittstock and to cause serious prejudice to a happy event." (© Daily Telegraph, London)