Sunday, December 11, 2011

Albert II, Prince of Monaco

Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco (Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre Grimaldi; born 14 March 1958) as of 2011 is the head of the House of Grimaldi and the ruler of the Principality of Monaco. He is the son of Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, and the American actress Grace Kelly. His sisters are Hereditary Princess Caroline and Princess Stéphanie of Monaco.

Prince Albert is one of the wealthiest Royals in the World valued at more than $1 billion, this includes vast amounts of land both in Monaco and France, and which does not include the Prince's Palace but does include Société des bains de mer de Monaco. His wealth does not include other members of the House of Grimaldi which are valued altogether at over $2.5 billion (as of 2010).

Early life
Born in the Prince's Palace of Monaco, Monaco, Albert's godmother was Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain. Albert attended the Albert I High School, graduating with distinction in 1976. He was a camper and later a counselor for six summers at Camp Tecumseh on Lake Winnipesaukee, Moultonborough, New Hampshire in the 1970s. He spent a year training in various princely duties, and enrolled at Amherst College in Massachusetts in 1977 as Albert Grimaldi, studying political science, economics, music, and English literature, and also joined Chi Psi fraternity. He speaks French, English and German.

He spent the summer of 1979 touring Europe and the Middle East with the Amherst Glee Club and graduated in 1981 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. Albert also undertook an exchange program with the University of Bristol, at the Alfred Marshall School of Economics and Management in 1979. Albert was an enthusiastic sportsman, participating in cross country, javelin throwing, handball, judo, swimming, tennis, rowing, sailing, skiing, squash and fencing. He is a patron of Monaco's football teams. He competed in the bobsled at every Winter Olympics from Calgary to Salt Lake City. He has been a member of the International Olympic Committee since 1985. (His maternal grandfather John B. Kelly, Sr., and maternal uncle John B. Kelly, Jr., were both Olympic medal winners in rowing and were actively involved in the Olympic movement.) The press reported the prince refused any special treatment during his Olympic stints, and lived in the same bare-bones quarters as all the other athletes.

On 25 October 2002, Albert visited Miami, Florida for a World Olympians Association fund-raiser at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. The group's mission was to have the 100,000 Olympians get involved with their communities and talk to young athletes about dedication and training.

On 7 March 2005, Albert's father Rainier III, Prince of Monaco was admitted to a hospital in the principality; he was later moved to an intensive care ward. The Prince was being treated for breathing, kidney, and heart trouble. On 31 March 2005, the Palace of Monaco announced that Hereditary Prince Albert would take over the duties of his father as Regent since Rainier was no longer able to exercise his sovereign functions. This decision was reached by the Crown Council of Monaco, a body made up of notable local figures with residual powers to make judgments about certain constitutional matters. The 47-year-old prince spent his first day as regent of Monaco caring for his critically ill 81-year-old father, who was Europe’s longest-serving monarch and the world's third longest-serving monarch.

However, Albert's regency lasted barely a week.

On 6 April 2005, Prince Rainier III died and Hereditary Prince Albert became Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco.

The first part of Prince Albert II's enthronement as ruler of the Principality was on 12 July 2005, after the end of the three-month mourning period for his father. A morning Mass at Saint Nicholas Cathedral presided over by the Archbishop of Monaco, the Most Reverend Bernard Barsi, formally marked the beginning of his reign. Afterward Albert II returned to the princely palace to host a garden party for 7,000 Monégasques born in the principality. In the courtyard, the Prince was presented with two keys of the city as a symbol of his investiture. The evening ended with a spectacular fireworks display on the waterfront.

The second part of his investiture was on 19 November 2005. Albert was enthroned at Saint Nicholas Cathedral. His family was there in attendance, including his elder sister (and now his heir presumptive) Princess Caroline with her husband Ernst, Prince of Hanover and three of her four children, Andrea, Pierre and Charlotte; as well as his younger sister Princess Stéphanie, his paternal aunt Princess Antoinette, Baroness of Massy, his godson, Jean-Léonard Taubert-Natta de Massy, and his cousin Elisabeth-Anne de Massy. Royalty from 16 delegations were present for the festivities throughout the country. The evening ended with an opera performance in Monte Carlo.

Personal life and relationships
Over the years, there has been much discussion of the prince's continual bachelor status. Although he has received much press attention for dating well-known fashion models and actresses, his apparent disinclination to marry gave rise to rumors that he is homosexual. Prince Albert has consistently denied this suggestion, most notably in a 1994 interview published in the French magazine Madame Figaro. "At first it was amusing", he said, "but it becomes very irritating in the long term to hear people say that I am homosexual". He has since confirmed that he is the father of two children.

In October 2005, the German magazine Bunte reported that Prince Albert was dating Telma Ortiz Rocasolano, a sister-in-law of the Prince of Asturias. However, in November 2005, the Prince instructed his lawyer, Thierry Lacoste, to commence legal proceedings against the French newspaper France Dimanche for violation of privacy and false information regarding the story.

Prince Albert married former South African swimmer Charlene Wittstock on 1 July 2011. They announced their engagement on 23 June 2010. They had been seen together since 10 February 2006, at the opening ceremony of the Torino Olympics when Prince Albert was accompanied by Wittstock. They were seen again together at the Monaco Grand Prix. The Prince and Wittstock attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the "Bal de la Rose" and the Princess Grace Awards Gala in 2009. They also attended the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Olympics. As a couple, they also attended the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Daniel Westling in Stockholm four days before their own engagement was announced and the wedding of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine Middleton on 29 April 2011. The wedding took place over two days: the civil marriage ceremony took place on 1 July 2011, followed by the religious ceremony on 2 July 2011.

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