Prince Albert's Take on Taking the Throne

ByCommentary by CHARLOTTE SECTOR via logo

Oct. 27, 2005 — -- "Playboy Prince" Albert has less play time these days now that he's the ruler of Monaco, but he's not complaining.

"Obviously, with the main responsibility of being head of state and having to lead your country is a pretty heavy responsibility, and I'm aware of that, but I don't think it's changed me at all," he told "Good Morning America" in an interview broadcast today.

After decades of waiting on the sidelines, the 47-year-old bachelor was sworn in on July 12 as the top dog of the principality of Monaco. The prince has declared he wants to lead his tiny, sun-drenched Riviera territory with a focus on ethics and honesty, starting with himself. In early July, he admitted fathering 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 the dalliance considering his sisters' soap opera-style lives. However, Albert apparently waited until he no longer had to fear Dad's wrath. His father, Prince Rainier III, died on April 6 at the age of 81

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 City's Central Park. He is the only son of Rainier and Grace Kelly, the stunning American actress who died in a car accident in 1982 at the age of 52.

Rainier spent years grooming Albert to take over, despite concerns about his son's confirmed bachelorhood, his perceived lack of toughness and his preference for sports over politics.

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.

Asked how he reacted to his old girlfriend going public with news of his son, Albert said he wasn't pleased."It's part of your private life and it was supposed to stay in the private domain for a very long time. So, obviously, I didn't react very well to it."

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. "What he represented wasn't important to me," Coste said in the Paris Match interview. "He really was charming."

Over the next five years, Coste, originally from the West African country of Togo, came to call Monaco home at least one weekend per month. "He never hid me," she's quoted as saying of her numerous visits trips to Monaco where she stayed at Albert's posh apartment away from the palace.

Rainier did not approve, according to Coste, and eventually the prince told her it would be best if they stayed friends.

Albert is not the only one of Monaco's royalty to lead a soap opera-style life. Caroline, Rainier's eldest daughter, defied her parents in 1978 and married a Parisian man-about-town who happened to be 17 years older. The marriage didn't last and Caroline had to fight long and hard to get the Vatican to annul the whole affair so she could remarry and have children who would be recognized as legitimate.

In 1983, she exchanged vows with Stefano Casiraghi and lived happily until his tragic death in 1990. After a period of mourning, she resurfaced six years later out and about with Prince Ernst of Hanover. No matter that the German royal was the lawful wedded husband of a close friend, she married him anyway.

Meanwhile, Albert's younger sister, Stephanie, became tabloid fodder with her poor choices in men. The princess made Rainier's blood pressure skyrocket when she announced that she was pregnant and the father was her bodyguard, hunky Daniel Ducruet. The couple had a second child -- again out of wedlock -- before marrying in 1995. But marriage didn't guarantee happiness for Stephanie, who divorced Ducruet after he was caught fondling a topless Belgian model. Stephanie left Monaco, got another bodyguard and, in 1998, had another illegitimate child. Once again her bodyguard was the father.

The bodyguard thing didn't work out because in 2003 she got married to a circus acrobat (bodyguard to the chimps?).

By now you've gotten the picture. Legitimacy is important to the Monaco family, but all in good time.

Albert never walked down the aisle despite his father's stern encouragement to settle down. The prince, nicknamed "Sporty Prince," preferred soccer and bobsled, fueling Rainier's fear that the principality wouldn't get an heir. His father was worried enough to change the constitution in 2002. Under the terms of a 1918 treaty, if the ruling prince died without producing an heir, Monaco would become part of France. The constitution now allows power to pass from a reigning prince who has no descendants to his siblings or their offspring.

With that problem out of the way, Albert kept wooing pretty ladies around the world, including Coste. Although Albert's affair with Coste had cooled off since Rainier had made clear his displeasure, she insisted on celebrating her 31st birthday with the prince in December 2002, according to Paris Match. Albert arrived late and she was pouting, but they still ended up doing more than just blowing out candles.

Coste calls it a night of destiny, saying a baby wasn't planned. She said when she informed Albert a few months later about her pregnancy, he said, "I don't promise I will marry you, but keep it and don't worry," according to the magazine.

Reports differ on what exactly ensued. Albert's tune may have changed when he realized the consequences of an out-of-wedlock child, especially a baby boy. Albert avoided Coste but visited his son, Alexandre, two months after his birth on Aug. 24, 2003.

Despite the "cold entente" between father and mother, Coste said Albert remained a "perfect gentleman." Or, rather a perfectly "generous" gentleman. Coste ditched her apartment and started living in the prince's Parisian apartment in lavish style with a $15,000 monthly pension, according to published reports.

But that didn't seem to satisfy her. She hired a bunch of lawyers and tried to force Albert to officially recognize his son. On Dec. 15, 2003, after haranguing phone calls and legal pressures, Albert signed papers recognizing Alexandre on the condition that it be made public only upon Rainier's death.

After Rainier died in April, Coste still couldn't get her playboy prince to fess up. Albert had imposed a period of mourning until July 6, but Coste feared he was stalling yet again.

Photos in hand, she gave an interview to Paris Match in early May saying that she "wanted an end to the lies."

Coste got what she wanted. On July 6, Albert's lawyer and confidant, Thierry Lacoste, released a statement on the prince's behalf acknowledging his "secret son."

The child, aged 22 months, would not be in line to the throne and would not have the name Grimaldi, according to the statement.

Albert declares that honesty is the way he wants to lead his "Rock on the Riviera" and what better way to do so than by starting with himself?

Thus, his vision for Monaco was born.

"Monaco is a country in its own right, cause there are still a lot of people who think, you know, Monaco's not really independent, that it's so tied in with France, that it's not -- our ties with France are very friendly and there's great cooperation but we are an independent sovereign nation like another -- like any other country, even though we are small," said Albert on "GMA.".

The prince has vowed to make sure that Monaco will never again be associated with money laundering.

"Monaco is a healthy place in which to do business," said Albert adding that his principality is "very strict on any illegal financial transactions," especially those dealing with terrorism funds.

As for his future, the prince reiterated to ABC that marriage is something he envisions but that it would have to be with the right person.

Girls, we still have a chance to be a princess!

If you get chosen, definitely ask to wear a tiara. Prince Charles' wife Camilla took out some family jewels this past week and, whoa, she dazzled the world.

Just remember that Albert's future wife will inevitably be compared to his stunning and elegant mom, so arm yourself with resolve and smiles. And uh, brushing up on your French will be key because with Albert's heavy duty shift and all encompassing princely role, he may need some help with palace affairs.

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