Charlene Wittstock & Prince Albert – Why Now?
This month, royal watchers were speculating about the odds of another royal couple’s engagement. Daily Beast editor Tina Brown opened a Pandora’s Box of hopes and doubts relating to a couple of “missing” dates on the Court Circular, that monthly bulletin of scheduled activities for the British royal family. Alas, to the surprise of few, if any, Prince William and Kate Middleton demonstrated (again) that they will not be cornered into marriage by anyone, least of all anyone in the media.
What did come as a surprise, however, was the announcement — at the head of Monaco’s prestigious five-star equestrian tournament — of Prince Albert II’s engagement to his 32-year-old “official companion” of four years. Many had long ago resigned hopes that the 52-year-old Sovereign would ever marry. The announcement raised a couple of questions: Why now, and why like this?
The daughter of Michael and Lynette Wittstock, Charlene was born in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia at the time of her birth) and raised in the Gauteng province of South Africa. Mom Lynette was a competitive diver and Dad “Mike” is a computer business operator. She has a brother named Sean. She started swimming competitively at the age of 16. She graduated from the University of Pretoria, where she was on the swim team. A one-time Olympian, she is also South Africa’s two-time 50m Women’s Backstroke Champion. However, after 2005, a shoulder injury, added to an increasingly serious role as the Official Companion to Monaco’s Sovereign Prince, she declared her retirement from competitive swimming and her wish to “get involved in charity work, and development work with athlete’s commissions.”
The day after the announcement, on June 24, People magazine reported that Charlene met Prince Albert at Monaco’s International Swim Meet in 2000. According to the magazine, Prince Albert was smitten from the moment he saw her do the 200m backstroke, and the couple dated off and on from that time, although their relationship wasn’t publicly recognized until they were photographed side-by-side at the opening ceremonies for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games.
So… why now? Apparently, Charlene’s training for the role of Princess of Monaco required the past four years. She had to learn the French and Monegasque languages. She had to become a Catholic (as she was born Protestant) and learn court protocol. Besides that, she did lots of on-the-job training, getting glam’d up for the galas and handing out prizes and cutting ribbons — and, lest we forget, dealing with the paparazzi! It can only be supposed that the engagement was agreed upon when she was ready for it, and it was announced when her country of naturalization was hosting the soccer World Cup, and her country of adoption was hosting its annual equestrian tournament. It came shortly after she accompanied her prince to the wedding of the Crown Princess of Sweden.
The announcement didn’t specify for a wedding date, but on the following day, the Prince told Nice Matin that the wedding would be next summer.Filed under Monaco
Tagged Albert II of Monaco, Biography, Engagement, Media, Princess Charlène of Monaco.
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