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Monaco

A look at how Prince Albert and Princess Charlène’s wedding broke with tradition and transformed the Princely Palace


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It has been a tradition for centuries that civil royal weddings are held in the Princely Palace of Monaco. However, Prince Albert’s marriage to Charlène Wittstock in 2011 broke ranks and made the Palace the location of their religious ceremony, as well. 

Once they compiled the guest list, they realised that not everybody could fit into the traditional venue for religious weddings in Monaco – St Nicholas Cathedral – where Prince Albert’s parents had gotten married in 1956. 

They subsequently decided to transform the main court of the Princely Palace into a makeshift church, complete with an altar and a pulpit for readings. 

The court has long been the centre of the public life of the Princely Family and has been the scenario of many ceremonies and key moments ever since, including hosting celebrations for National Day every year. 

The Palace’s history is strictly linked to that of the Grimaldis, pirates from Genoa who were conceded the use of the fortification as a defence against Saracens.

The fortress was built in 1191 by Genoans and conquered by the Grimaldis in 1297; since then, the Grimaldis have governed the fortress, first as a feud and, since the XVII century, as Sovereign Princes. 

Because of the small size of the territory, the Grimaldis didn’t have enough land to build new palaces, as more powerful and bigger monarchies were able to do. As a result, in 1997, the Grimaldis celebrated 700 years of governing from the same place.

The palace is a blend of different architectural styles because sovereigns would renovate existing pieces of the fortress throughout the centuries rather than building anew. 

In its current form, the façade is from the Renaissance, towers from the Medieval times were rebuilt in the 19th century, and the main Medieval core remains more or less intact. 

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The Throne Room, where Their Serene Highnesses celebrated their civil wedding, is the biggest of the State Rooms in the Palace. It is decorated with frescoes by Orazio de Ferrari that depict the surrender of Alexander the Great, and the floor is made entirely of pure Carrara marble. 

The throne, which can be seen in the ceremony behind the bride and groom, was created in the Empire style and sits underneath a red silk canopy surmounted by a gold crown. 

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The Court of Honour is at the centre of the Princely Family’s relationship with the public. Its Carrara marble staircase has become famous all over the world as the background of official ceremonies and memorable moments. The staircase leads to a gallery decorated with frescoes by Orazio de Ferrari that depict the life and labours of Hercules, which is the place from which new royal babies are presented to the population. 

In short, the Princely Palace is a place that perfectly combines its state functions with versatility and has been shown to be able to house a wide range of different events including the wedding of Monaco’s Head of State.