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Sat Oct 25 03:28:18 SAST 2014

Charlene Wittstock remembered at former primary school

Sapa-AP | 30 June, 2011 12:23
Prince Albert II of Monaco's fiancee Charlene Wittstock attends the Saint Jean procession in Monaco
Charlene Wittstock
Image by: ERIC GAILLARD / REUTERS

Teachers and students at the South African school where Charlene Wittstock once studied are celebrating their link to the future princess of Monaco.

Wittstock, who will wed Prince Albert II of Monaco in a civil ceremony on Friday followed by a religious ceremony the following day, attended Tom Newby Primary after moving to South Africa from Zimbabwe.

She later swam for South Africa at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and met the prince that year during a swimming competition in Monaco.

"It's an honour to think that she swam in our pool," said Savannah Barman, the 12-year-old captain of the girls' swim team at the school in Benoni, near Johannesburg.

The middle-class community of Benoni also has another claim to fame: Academy-Award winning actress Charlize Theron grew up here.

Wittstock attended Tom Newby Primary from 1988 to 1991. A photograph of her swimming, with a portrait of her in her school uniform tucked into a corner of the frame, hangs along the hallway leading to the school's staff room.

Teacher Priscilla Grobler said Wittstock will have "a wonderful opportunity to make a difference" as a princess.

Grobler and fellow teacher Marlene Albertyn remember Wittstock as a reserved, well-mannered girl.

"She was very quiet, always a lady," Grobler said. "She was just an absolute princess, even as a small little girl."

Albertyn said Wittstock will bring that personality to her role as a public figure.

"She'll cope with it like a real elegant lady, like a princess, through and through," Albertyn said.

Teachers and students at Tom Newby have given Wittstock's father a glass vase to pass on to the royal couple as a wedding gift.

"I hope she has a happy life," said Leah Stainton, an 11-year-old member of the Tom Newby swim team, adding she wants Wittstock to "enjoy the fame".

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