Prince Albert pledges to clean up Monaco's image


  • World
  • Wednesday, 13 Jul 2005

By Pierre Thebault

MONACO (Reuters) - Prince Albert of Monaco, son of Prince Rainier and Hollywood actress Grace Kelly, ascended the throne on Tuesday in ceremonies that delighted the principality after months of mourning and revelations about his love life. 

The 47-year-old prince promised he would continue efforts made over the past few years to clean up Monaco's image as a centre for money laundering and loose financial controls. 

Monaco's Prince Albert II holds the keys to the city of Monaco during ceremonies to mark His Enthronement in Monaco, July 12, 2005. (REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier)

"I intend to have ethics as the basis of the behaviour of Monaco authorities," he said after being blessed at a Roman Catholic mass. "Money and virtue should always go hand in hand." 

Monaco has long had the reputation of a tax haven, but the tiny principality has considerably tightened its financial guidelines in recent years under pressure from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 

While stressing his determination to ensure business respects ethical standards, the prince stressed he wanted the city-state near the French-Italian border to "play a more important role in international financial markets." 

Albert's recent admission that he had an illegitimate son with a French flight attendant of Togolese origin had threatened to overshadow his enthronement which came after a three-month mourning period for his father, Prince Rainier. 

But the scandal did not dampen spirits here and several hundred people attended the mass celebrating his enthronement and many others watched on screens outside. Monaco citizens later attended a public reception to celebrate the event. 

Albert's sisters Stephanie and Caroline, whose stormy love lives have been splashed across Europe's gossip press much more than his discreet affairs, both held his hands at the ceremony marking a change of generation in the tiny principality. 

Red and white national flags fluttered on buildings and lamp posts across the principality. A fireworks display and an open-air ball were planned later on Tuesday, and Monaco's mayor was to give Albert the city keys in a symbolic handover. 

"We're very proud of our prince, our little prince," said a middle-aged woman at the cathedral where Rainier's marriage to Princess Grace brought glamour to the tiny Mediterranean state. 

Tuesday's ceremonies officially installed Albert in power although he has carried out duties as head of state since his father's death on April 6. 

TROUBLED DYNASTY 

The Grimaldi dynasty has ruled Monaco for more than seven centuries and is no stranger to tragedy and bad publicity. 

Soon after Rainier's death, Paris Match magazine reported Albert had fathered a boy called Alexandre and published photos of him with the child, now aged two. 

The prince acknowledged the boy last week and promised to meet his duties towards him. Albert, often portrayed as a playboy, admitted others could come forward with paternity claims, but said: "We will respond when the time comes." 

The boy will not succeed Albert because under Monaco's constitution only a child born in wedlock can become monarch. 

Rainier's marriage to Grace, who was killed in a 1982 car crash, wedded Hollywood to one of Europe's oldest dynasties. 

The prince led Monaco into an age of skyscrapers and big business, but he faced accusations that the principality turned a blind eye to money laundering. 

Albert, born in 1958, has been called one of Europe's most eligible bachelors. He dreamt of a career in soccer, took part in the 1985 Paris-Dakar rally and is a judo black belt. He represented Monaco at the Olympic Games in the bobsleigh four times and finished 7th in the world championships. 


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