Monaco celebrates as Prince finally weds
Monaco - Monaco's Prince Albert II married South African beauty Charlene Wittstock and made her his princess on Friday, throwing open the gates of his palace to celebrate with the entire Mediterranean nation.
All 7 810 adult Monegasque subjects were invited to a buffet reception at the Grimaldis' medieval palace, overlooking the tiny tax haven's main marina, and the crowd cheered when the nervous-looking couple made their vows.
"Once again in its seven-century history the Grimaldi dynasty is opening up to a new world," declared Philippe Narmino, the chairman of Monaco's state council, as he conducted the civil ceremony.
"In joining it, mademoiselle, you are bringing the freshness of your youth, the richness of another culture, and the modernity of your gaze," he said, as Charlene - clad in a powder-blue Chanel gown and jacket - smiled shyly.
The throne room ceremony was transmitted to the crowds on giant screens, before the couple emerged onto a balcony, shared a brief kiss and waved to the crowd to cheers before descending to join them to cries of "Hurrah".
Well-wishers waved flags in the red and white of the Monaco royal house and the rainbow banner of South Africa and cheered the couple, in what some saw as a national sigh of relief after many years of waiting.
"We've been waiting for this marriage for quite a while," said a 30-year-old onlooker, herself to marry next month. "It's a modern marriage, international, not dynastic. He chose someone simple, and discreet, like us."
Following Friday's civil ceremony and celebrations for the Monaco people, the couple were to wed again on Saturday in a Catholic religious ceremony attended by fellow royals and stars from fashion and showbusiness.
Now the local elite hopes the wedding, and the accompanying feast days, will give the Grimaldi image a boost, just as the year's previous royal wedding in London gave the British monarchy a much-needed shot in the arm.
"This marriage will complete the image of the principality, allow the wider public to see beyond the cliches," Monaco tourism chief Michel Bouquier told reporters. "We are going to astonish, and astonish by giving pleasure."
Later in the evening the crowd was to head to the port for a braai, a traditional barbecue in swimming champ Charlene's homeland, and drinks with thousands of the wealthy foreign residents who live in the principality.
A pink beer brewed with cranberries has been produced by Monaco's own small brewery, and entertainment was to be provided by sexagenarian electropop pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre and a massive waterfront sound and light show.
Bouquier said the wedding budget had been doubled to $12m, but the principality hopes to generate much more in tourist revenue and has laid on extra trains from France.