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Fri Nov 28 13:00:12 SAST 2014

Zim girl tames prince

Sapa-dpa | 19 June, 2011 03:37
Prince Albert of Monaco and Charlene Wittstock are getting married in the tiny principality next month. She says they are planning to have a child soon

Prince Albert of Monaco was for many years considered one of the world's most eligible bachelors but has finally found lasting love in the form of his relationship with Charlene Wittstock.

The 53-year-old self-confessed sports fanatic - also known as Lord of Saint-Remy, Count of Carlades, Marquis of Baux, Sire of Matignon and Baron of Buis - is set to marry the Zimbabwe-born former Olympic swimmer, who is 20 years his junior, on July 1 in the Throne Room of the Prince's Palace of Monaco.

Wittstock appears to be the perfect match for the prince, who has been involved in a variety of sports all of his life, including sailing, javelin, skiing and swimming. Prince Albert also competed in the Olympics five times with the Monaco bobsleigh team but never managed better than 25th place.

He was appointed to the International Olympic Committee in 1985 and later became president of the Olympic Committee of Monaco.

In recent years, the prince has turned his attention towards protecting the earth's environment as well as looking at ways of making the tiny principality of Monaco on the French Riviera near Italy more than just a tax oasis for the rich and famous.

Prince Albert traditionally kept a lower profile than his two sisters, Princesses Caroline and Stephanie, and on leaving college he served with the French Navy before becoming president of the Monaco Red Cross in 1982.

The young prince became increasingly involved in humanitarian work as a result of the poverty he witnessed while competing in the Paris-Dakar Rally in 1985, leading him to set up the Monaco Aid And Presence Association.

Albert's father Rainier, began giving his son greater involvement in the running of the principality from the late 1980s onwards. His new duties included representing Monaco on regular trips to the United Nations General Assembly as well as closer to home, when the world's second smallest country after the Vatican State became a member of the Council of Europe in 2004.

Rainier died a few months later and at the end of the three-month mourning period for his father, Prince Albert took over all official duties when he ascended to Monaco's throne.

At this point, the prince drew a line under his bachelor past by admitting he had fathered two children, including a son - Alexandre Coste - to a French-Togolese air stewardess during a relationship of several years.

Neither child is in line to succeed Albert because Monaco's constitution requires its rulers to be born in wedlock within the Catholic Church, the state religion of Monaco.

In 2006, Prince Albert was part of an expedition to the North Pole in an effort to highlight global warming. Three years later, he reached the South Pole, becoming the only head of state to have travelled to all five continents and both the poles.

Prince Albert has also worked hard to change Monaco's image as a haven for tax fugitives, making tax evasion a criminal offence for the first time as well as tackling money laundering and corruption in the principality.

As part of the new policy, Monaco has signed tax agreements with around two dozen other countries while at the end of last year a huge advertising campaign was launched depicting the principality as a vibrant and cosmopolitan location.

This is hardly surprising as Monaco prides itself on spending 5% of its annual budget on the promotion of culture.

Although it has taken Prince Albert a long time to finally settle down, it appears the happy couple is already planning for an heir to the throne.

"A family is in our plans. We hope to have a child soon," said Wittstock with a smile on her face when asked about the subject.

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