MONACO (Reuters) - Here are some details about Prince Albert II of Monaco who will marry Charlene Wittstock, a former South African Olympic swimming champion.
— Albert was born on March 14, 1958, the son of Prince Rainier III, Louis Henri-Maxence-Bertrand and American actress Grace Kelly.
— Educated in Monaco and the United States, he studied political science, and then worked in Paris and New York and served in the French Navy.
— He dreamt of a career in soccer, took part in the Paris-Dakar rally in 1985 and became a judo black belt. He represented Monaco at the Olympic Games in the bobsleigh five times, from Calgary in 1988 to Salt Lake City in 2002, as a member of the national bobsleigh team. A member of the International Olympic Committee since 1985, he is President of the Monegasque Olympic Committee.
— Albert has been a roving commercial ambassador for his country’s booming business interests for years and also served as head of Monaco’s delegation to the United Nations.
— Albert ascended the throne in July 2005 in ceremonies that delighted the principality after months of mourning and revelations about his love life. His father, Prince Rainier III died in April 2005.
— The prince promised he would continue efforts made over the past few years to clean up Monaco’s financial image. Critics said laissez-faire regulations made it attractive to money-launderers and tax evaders. “I intend to have ethics as the basis of the behavior of Monaco authorities,” he said after being blessed at a Roman Catholic mass. “Money and virtue should always go hand in hand.”
— Albert’s admission in July 2005 that he had an illegitimate son with a flight attendant of Togolese origin had threatened to overshadow his enthronement which came after a three-month mourning period for his father.
— In 2006, Albert created the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation which supports sustainable and ethical projects around the world focused on climate change and developing renewable energies; combating the loss of biodiversity; and water management (improving universal access to clean water) and fighting desertification.
— He became the first incumbent head of state to reach the North Pole when he took part in a Russian Arctic expedition, reaching the North Pole at Easter 2006.
— Albert undertook a three week scientific journey in the Antarctic in 2009. He visited a large number of scientific stations and rejoined the South Pole in the company of the explorer Mike Horn. Together they made a film of this journey “Antarctique 2009, Terre en Alerte” (Antarctic 2009, Earth on Alert).
— A civil wedding will take place in the Throne Room of the Prince’s Palace on Friday. After the ceremony, the newly wedded couple will appear on the balcony of the Salon des Glaces in order to salute the Monegasque people.
— The religious wedding will take place in the Main Courtyard of the Prince’s Palace On Saturday.
Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit