Monaco's Prince Albert marries in royal pomp

South African Charlene Wittstock becomes part of Monaco's royal family in an opulent ceremony attended by international elite.

Monaco wedding 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Benoit Tessier)
Monaco wedding 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Benoit Tessier)
MONACO - Monaco's sovereign ruler Prince Albert wed South African Charlene Wittstock on Saturday in an opulent ceremony attended by European royalty and the international elite, fanning hopes for a new era of glamor.
The 53-year-old married Wittstock, 33, in the courtyard of his palace at the foot of a marble double staircase lined with white flowers.
Grapevine: A princely invitation Royal wedding fever hits the streets of... Modi’in UK withdraws Syria's royal wedding invitation
The long-awaited nuptials are the first of a ruling prince in Monaco since the prince's father, Prince Rainier III, married the Hollywood star Grace Kelly in 1956, and comes two months after Britain's wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton.
Albert winked at his bride, who smiled shyly, as they sat on red velvet chairs holding hands, while the voice of a South African singer filled the courtyard.
The long white train of Wittstock's Giorgio Armani duchess satin gown encrusted with thousands of tiny crystals flowed over the red carpet. The groom wore the white dress uniform of Monaco's Carabinieri royal guard.
Albert's sisters Princesses Caroline and Stephanie, both dressed in pink, smiled as they watched the couple wed in front of a crowd including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld, Armani and opera singer Renee Fleming.
Gathered to witness the event was a who's-who of Europe's royal families: Albert, King of Belgium, Princess Madeleine of Sweden and Felipe and Letizia of Spain among others.
Another 3,500 attendees sat outside to watch the festivities on giant TV screens.
The couple married in a civil ceremony in the palace throne room on Friday.
The wedding puts a spotlight on the tiny principality built around images of luxury and its ancient House of Grimaldi whose family members have ruled since 1297.
One royal fan travelled from the Netherlands to cheer and thousands of well-wishers are expected to flood the city state surrounded on three sides by France.
"We have followed the whole history, the life of the principality of Monaco," said Meina Meyes. "We really feel like part of the family because we know everything about them."