10 April 2012

Royal Splendor 101: Prince Albert's Accession

Albert and Rainier, with Princesses Caroline and Stephanie
Prince Albert II became the Prince of Monaco on the death of his father, Rainier, on April 6, 2005. Despite the fact that Albert had spent his entire life as heir to the throne, being prepared for the day his time would come, many found it hard to imagine him filling his father's shoes.

Rainier III was Prince of Monaco for nearly 56 years, making him one of the longest reigning sovereigns in the world at the end of his life. His reign saw great change for Monaco, including restoration of the principality's finances and a removal from complete dependence on gambling revenue as well as a new constitution. He also put the tiny Mediterranean country on the map for many outsiders when he married movie star Grace Kelly.
The family at Prince Rainier's funeral
After half a century, it's hard to picture anyone else taking the reigns, and Albert made an easy target for the naysayers. Some accused him of being more concerned with sport and fun than politics, while others took the opportunity to saddle the unmarried forty-seven-year old once again with the Playboy Prince title.
Mass during the July 12th celebrations
Nevertheless, Monaco had a new reigning prince. Though he became the Prince on Monaco when his father passed away, Albert didn't officially take the throne until after the end of the three month mourning period. His enthronement came in two parts: celebrations in July and November.
Evening celebrations on July 12th
On July 12, a day of celebrations including a mass and a party for the people of Monaco marked the official start of his reign. A later coronation of sorts was held in November, on National Day. Joined by representatives from foreign royal houses, the Monegasques celebrated with a mass and gala. (Click here for a more in-depth look at those celebrations.)
Prince Albert II kneels during the mass for his enthronement held in November
Now several years into his reign, Albert has indeed settled down: he married Charlene Wittstock in 2011. If and when the couple have children, they will be next in the line of succession. Albert has two recognized illegitimate children, Alexandre and Jazmin, but as they are illegitimate they are not eligible to take the throne.
Video from the November celebrations
The line of succession has changed in the past few years; the process began during Rainier's reign while Albert was still a bachelor in no rush to settle down. The initial law restricted the line of succession to descendants of the reigning prince only (meaning Caroline and Stephanie would have lost their rights when their brother acceded the throne, and he would have no heir); the revision provides succession rights for descendants of past reigning princes. This makes Albert's older sister Princess Caroline and her children next in the line at the moment; Caroline is the Hereditary Princess of Monaco.

Photos: Zimbio/Getty Images