Monaco wedding celebrations underway

2011-07-01 15:52 Monaco - On the eve of the ceremony, the royal couple joined a 15 000 - strong crowd of their subjects and Monaco residents to cheer California rockers The Eagles at the stadium of the principality's recently relegated football team.

They may have made the appearance to lay to rest persistent rumours that the 33-year-old blonde athlete has cold feet about going through with the marriage, but they appeared to share the joy of the crowd.

A smiling Charlene, who already appeared relaxed and content earlier on Thursday when she arrived for a wedding rehearsal, even tried out some dance steps with His Most Serene Highness as the fans cheered.

Charlene showed off her broad swimmer's shoulders in a black bustier, despite reports that she is trying to modify her exercise routine to achieve a more classically elegant shape, and Albert wore a dark jacket.

'Happy day'

The Eagles played their standout 1976 hit Hotel California early in their set, but kept the crowd amused by dedicating Love will keep us alive to host Albert who has kept Monaco waiting for a bride.

Charlene is to become Princess of Monaco on Friday, when Philippe Narmino, Monaco's top legal official and president of the state council, pronounces the couple man and wife.

Late Friday the entire enclave will resound to the pulsing electropop of 63-year-old French showman Jean-Michel Jarre, then on Saturday the couple will wed again in a Catholic ceremony attended by celebrity guests.

"I'll let the music run its course," said an 86-year-old local who still remembers the 1956 nuptials of Albert's father Rainier and Hollywood siren Grace Kelly. "It's a happy day. Monaco has seen enough grief."

But, reflecting the view of many who talked to AFP, he also moved quickly onto the next big question: "The important thing is that there be an heir."

Albert has illegitimate children with two other women but has yet to produce a royal heir, a matter of some concern to Monaco constitutionalists, who fear instability should the throne revert to his sister Caroline.

Since the 13th century, Monaco has been run by the Grimaldi family, the crown passing through the male line. In 2002, fearing Albert would die without an heir, Monaco changed its constitution to allow a princess to inherit.

If Albert should die in the absence of any heir, Monaco would become a French protectorate, and might lose its lucrative tax-free status.