The wedding was a festival of lavish excess: the bride in an Armani dress of ivory duchesse silk that revealed her impressive swimmers’ shoulders and the portly groom in a medal-festooned ceremonial jacket.
A guest list of royalty and celebrity, plus a breathtaking backdrop of Monte Carlo glamour — from the rose-tinted palace rising above the Mediterranean and fireworks in the harbour to Californian supergroup The Eagles as the wedding band — added to the fairytale atmosphere.
But what made this marriage even more remarkable was that it was taking place at all. Just two days before the ceremony, rumours abounded that Prince Albert of Monaco’s wife-to-be, Charlene Wittstock, a former Olympic swimmer 20 years his junior, had booked a one-way ticket home to her native South Africa.
The stories of the ‘runaway bride’, as the media nicknamed her, remain online to this day on multiple French outlets.
But while the marriage of Their Serene Highnesses Prince Albert and Princess Charlene has survived — they mark their 13th wedding anniversary in July and have twins Gabriella and Jacques, now nine — the rumours refuse to go away.
This week extraordinary claims of Albert’s spending — on his wife, on his former mistresses and on the children he had out of wedlock — have emerged.
The allegations, revealed by a disgruntled ex-employee who kept meticulous notes of the Grimaldi family payroll, may have far-reaching political and fiscal consequences for the Principality, which has always ferociously guarded its secrets.
Now, in the latest tranche of drip-fed revelations made to French newspaper Le Monde, comes an eye-popping detail. Within six months of that hedonistic, three-day wedding extravaganza, Albert had apparently instructed his accountant-cum-factotum Claude Palmero to find him a flat. Discretion, Palmero was told, was the order of the day.