The fairy tale royal wedding that has Monaco abuzz, and a playboy prince preparing to settle down, may now be in limbo.
New reports have surfaced that the country's future princess-to-be, Charlene Wittstock, has bolted for the airport ahead of her $80 million dollar wedding to Prince Albert, with a one way ticket back to her native South Africa.
Wittstock, a 33-year-old former Olympic swimmer from Zimbabwe, is scheduled to wed the 53-year-old prince in a three-day celebration planned for later this week.
Recent reports have said that she has been overwhelmed by preparations for the wedding, by her lack of friends in Monaco and by her failure to speak French, the official language of the tiny but wealthy European nation.
Sources say Wittstock has also become concerned with allegations regarding her fiancée's notorious playboy past.
Prince Albert has dated a string of celebrity women through the years, including American actresses Brooke Shields and Gwyneth Paltrow, and supermodels Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell.
The seemingly perpetual bachelor has also had his fair share of high-profile scandals. He has fathered 2 children out of wedlock, but under Monegasque law, neither child can become a legitimate heir to the throne.
Even in light of the engaged couple's rumored troubles, all of Monaco has been preparing with great anticipationfor the upcoming royal extravaganza.
The flags are flying, the harbor is crowded with yachts, and those who want to land their jets in nearby Nice must prove that they are invited guests.
Palace officials have so far denied any allegations of Wittstock's cold feet.
Of the rumors, a palace spokesperson told People magazine: "None of this is true, and we think it comes from utter jealousy."
So, for now, the wedding, planned to include a concert, two ceremonies, 3,500 dinner guests and fireworks, is expected to go on.
"I think it's a huge deal for Monaco," Catherine Ostler, a contributing editor to the Daily Mail , told "Good Morning America." "They haven't had a wedding this big for 50 years, since Rainier married Grace Kelly."
The entire world was fixated on that fairytale wedding – of Monaco's Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly , an American movie star – in 1956. The union produced three children – Prince Albert and his sisters, Princess Stephanie and Princess Caroline.
Wittstock competed in the 2000 Olympics for South Africa. She was born in Zimbabwe to working-class parents: her father, Michael, is a sales manager and her mother, Lynette, a retired swim coach.
After the wedding, Wittstock will assume the title of Her Serene Highness, the Princess of Monaco.
The event is already being compared to the recent royal wedding of Britain's Prince William and Catherine Middleton. But those in the know say the three days of festivities planned at Monaco's royal palace will outshine the April 29 ceremony in Britain.
The concert by rock legends, the Eagles, will start the countdown tomorrow.
There will be a civil ceremony on Friday and a religious one on Saturday. About 3,500 people have been invited, and a fireworks display is planned.
"I don't imagine anybody in Monaco will get sleep for days," Ostler said.
There was a time when no one in Monaco imagined a royal wedding involving their prince would ever really happen.
In his bachelor days, it seemed nothing could pressure Prince Albert to tie the knot. In 2006, he told ABC's Ron Claiborne that he had no plans to marry in the "near or distant future."
The wedding must be a relief to Monegasques, Ostler said.
"It looked like by the time a man gets to 53 you start wondering if it's ever going to happen," she added.