Charlene Wittstock and Monaco's Prince Albert see summer 2011 wedding

Charlene Wittstock, a former Olympic swimmer from South Africa, will marry Monaco's Prince Albert in the summer of 2011.

Lionel Cironneau/AP/Pool/File
Charlene Wittstock and Prince Albert of Monaco dance in this March 27 file photo.

Monaco will see a royal wedding in the summer of 2011, Prince Albert II was quoted as saying Thursday as his future father-in-law described him a "nice chap."

Albert expressed hope that the population of his tiny Riviera principality will "welcome with kindness" his future bride, Charlene Wittstock, a former Olympic swimmer from South Africa who is 20 years his junior.

"I know the Monagasque population was waiting for this moment," Albert, told the Nice-Matin newspaper in his first comments since the engagement announcement Wednesday. He still gave no exact date for the wedding.

The father of the princess-to-be, Michael Wittstock, said he received a call from Albert on Tuesday afternoon.

"He phoned me so I could give him the blessing to put the ring on her finger," Wittstock said in an interview published Thursday in The Star, a Johannesburg daily.

But Wittstock said the prince could work on his timing — South Africa's last World Cup match, against France, just about to begin.

"He called me just before kickoff and I wanted to get the whole thing over and done with" before the game, Wittstock joked. South Africa won 2-1 against France, but both failed to advance.

He described the prince as a "nice chap" and said the family was excited about the engagement.

Albert has stubbornly remained a bachelor prince. Now, his fiancee must step into the shoes of his mother, the style icon Princess Grace, who was killed in a 1982 car crash.

The people of Monaco, a moneyed principality on the Mediterranean Sea near the French city of Nice, have long hoped that Albert would settle down and provide a legitimate heir to the throne, royal watchers say.

Alfred met the willowy blonde Wittstock during a 2000 swimming competition in Monaco. Wittstock then began appearing regularly at social events and moved to Monaco in 2006, raising expectations.

"I hope that Charlene, who loves Monaco and who already knows it well, understands all (its) specificities to fully integrate into the life of my country ... and that she also appreciates what her culture and her new regard can bring to us," Albert told Nice-Matin.

Charlene has discretely participated in the public life of this glitzy financial center but still remains a mystery to many.

"She has a solid personality built on the values of sports," Albert said, when asked to describe his future wife. "Her interest in humanitarian causes, particularly in problems that affect children, is an expression of her great sensitivity and her acceptance of others."

Both are Olympians — Albert was a bobsledder — and share English as one of their native tongues.

Wittstock swam for South Africa at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. In the All Africa Games the year before, she won gold in the 100-meter freestyle. Before moving to Monaco, she also worked as a schoolteacher.

Albert, one of three children of Grace and Prince Rainier III, took the throne in July 2005 after the death of his silver-haired father. Alfred has admitted to producing two children out of wedlock, acknowledging in 2005 that he had fathered a boy, Alexandre, with a former flight attendant. The following year, he acknowledged an American daughter, Jazmin Grace Grimaldi, now a teenager, born to a California woman.

Neither can assume the throne because they were born out of wedlock.

The couple attended Sweden's royal wedding in Stockholm earlier this month, jolting protocol services uncertain about how to deal with an uncrowned commoner accompanying a head of state, according to Stephane Bern, a noted royal watcher for the Le Figaro newspaper.

The marriage will give Wittstock the title Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene of Monaco, among others. Bern says she will share in the 136 titles conferred on her prince.


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