It's Prince Albert II's big day. After decades of waiting on the sidelines, the 47-year-old bachelor will be sworn in as the top dog of the principality of Monaco.
The "Playboy Prince" has declared he wants to lead his tiny, sun-drenched Riviera territory with a focus on ethics and honesty, starting with himself. Just last week, Albert admitted he was the father of an illegitimate son.
Illegitimate children and numerous love affairs seem to come with the territory for the royal family in Monaco. No one seemed particularly shocked about Albert's dalliances considering his sisters' soap opera-style lives. However, Albert did wait until he no longer had to fear Dad's wrath.
Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre was born March 14, 1958, in Monaco, the sovereign principality on the northern Mediterranean coast -- a state about the size of New York's Central Park. He is the only son of Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly, the stunning American actress who died in a car accident in 1982 at the age of 52.
What better way to usher in a new leader than to throw a party?
That's exactly what Prince Albert has planned. Festivities start on a serious note with a Mass at 11 a.m. local time. After an afternoon snooze, the palace hosts an official ceremony before the real fun begins at 10 p.m. Expect music, fireworks and food (Mediterranean specialties) along with dancing.
The palace has given 2:30 a.m. as the approximate end time but Albert's known as a party animal so you can bet the inaugural shindig won't end until breakfast. Perfect, since Monaco is particularly proud of its doughnuts. Might as well party hard, it's been more than 50 years since the last coronation and if Albert has as much stamina as his father, don't expect another ceremony for a long time.
In case you're wondering, Albert declared the day an official holiday so no one will miss out on drinks and revelry. But before you head to Monaco, know that the party is only for those born in Monaco, known as Monegasques. That means only about 7,000 people can attend the garden party in the palace courtyard. But the 24,000 other residents need not despair -- they're invited to the festivities on the port.
Don't bother trying to bust in, authorities will be checking ID, so unless you've got a couple of million dollars and a fast-track resident application, kiss that royal dream goodbye.
"His [Albert's] wish was to make it a celebration of ties between his family and the people of Monaco, that's why it's restricted," explained a consulate spokeswoman.
Oh well, I hope Albert enjoys himself at least. God knows he's been groomed by Rainier to take over for years despite concerns about his son's confirmed bachelorhood, his perceived lack of toughness and his preference for sports over politics.
It's been hectic for Prince Albert since his father died April 6 at the age of 81. A month after Rainier's death, one of Albert's former lovers revealed to the world that she wanted her almost 2-year-old son to be officially recognized by Albert.
Bombshell Nicole Coste, 33, a former flight attendant, recounted her love affair with the heir-apparent with photos of Albert holding the tot during visits to her Paris apartment. Their affair started innocently enough in July 1997, according to Paris Match magazine.