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90 Years of Grace: Who is Prince Albert?

By The Chancellery of the Senate of the Republic of Poland, CC BY-SA 3.0 pl

The man more commonly known as Prince Albert II of Monaco was born Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre Grimaldi on 14 March 1958. The second child and only son of the then monarch of Monaco, Prince Rainier III, and his wife, Princess Grace, Albert was a prince and the heir to the Monegasque throne from birth. He was baptised on 20 April 1958 with Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain and Prince Louis de Polignac as godparents.

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As the son of an American, he was entitled to American citizenship, but he renounced that at the age of 21. However, he has had strong connections to his American roots his whole life. He attended camp and later served as a counsellor at Camp Tecumseh in New Hampshire. While there, he was given the nickname Albie.

Prince Albert attended Amherst College in Massachusetts. Known as Albert Grimaldi while there, he earned a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science from Amherst in 1981. He was a member of the Chi Psi fraternity and played soccer but generally preferred to be quiet. Albert and his parents preferred that he have a low profile at college and that he be treated as a normal student. Albert showed the affection he still has for his alma mater when the Prince Albert II Foundation, on his behalf, donated $2 million to establish a Green Revolving Fund in 2016. The goal is to support the study and discovery of innovative conservation methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In 1982, Albert’s mother, Princess Grace died suddenly at age 52 from injuries sustained in a car accident. Albert was only 24 when his mother died. In recent years, he has confessed that the loss of his mother was traumatic for him and that he was “never the same man” after.

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A lover of sports, Prince Albert competed in bobsleigh in five different Olympics from 1988 to 2002. His highest finish was when he placed 25th in the two-man bobsleigh at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary. In addition, Albert has been a member of the International Olympic Committee since 1985.

Albert was named regent of Monaco on 31 March 2005 when it was determined that his father Rainier, who was in ailing health, no longer had the capacity to perform his royal duties. Rainier died six days later on 6 April 2005 at which time Albert succeeded him as the Sovereign Prince of Monaco.

Unlike many other European monarchies, the monarch in Monaco still maintains a good deal of political power to this day. Under the current constitution, Prince Albert possesses most of the governing power in Monaco although the legislative and judicial branches have some independence. Prince Albert has one of the largest fortunes among European royals. Estimated to be worth about $1 billion, his fortune reportedly includes about one-fourth of the land in Monaco.

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In June 2010, Albert announced his engagement to Charlene Wittstock, an accomplished swimmer from South Africa. Their wedding took place over two days. On 1 July 2011, their civil wedding ceremony took place with the religious ceremony following on 2 July. Since their wedding, Charlene is known as Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco.

In May 2014, it was announced that Charlene was pregnant. An announcement in October of that year confirmed that she was pregnant with twins. On 10 December 2014, Charlene gave birth to twins Princess Gabriella and Prince Jacques. Even though Princess Gabriella was born first, Monaco practices male preference primogeniture, meaning males take precedence over females in the line of succession. As such, Jacques is known as the Hereditary Prince of Monaco.

Prince Albert II of Monaco (R) holding Princess Gabriella, and Princess Charlene of Monaco (L) holding Prince Jacques, appear on the balcony of the Monaco Palace during the celebrations marking Monaco’s National Day, on November 19, 2016, in Monaco. AFP / VALERY HACHE/Getty Images

Prince Albert also has two children born out of wedlock, Jazmin and Alexandre. Jazmin is the daughter of Prince Albert and American Tamara Rotolo and was born 4 March 1992. Alexandre is the son of Prince Albert and Nicole Coste, a flight attendant from Tongo. He was born 24 August 2003. Both were confirmed to be Albert’s children through DNA tests though neither are in the line of succession as they were born out of wedlock. However, each retains the use of the name Grimaldi in their names. Jazmin is known as Jazmin Grimaldi while Alexandre is known as Alexandre Grimaldi-Coste.

In 2020 and at age 62, Albert will have been the reigning monarch of Monaco for 15 years. During his reign and throughout his public life, Albert has made environmentalism a key component of his reign. In 2009, Albert was the second recipient of the Robert Revelle Prize for his work to protect the environment and promote conservation. The first recipient was former Vice President Al Gore. In addition, Albert has taken on more than a dozen roles with various organisations in various fields, in Monaco and internationally.