When Princess Grace died in 1982 the world mourned and everyone watched to see how the family would cope with the loss. Friends and royal watchers began to observe that there seemed to be quite a bit of Princess Grace in Hereditary Prince Albert. Those who knew him were unanimous about Albert being a kind and compassionate man, the nicest guy in the world many said. His buddies also claimed that he was quite the ladies man and had girls at the top of his list of interests, however, everyone was impatient that he settle on one girl, get married and start a family. To the consternation of people around the world Albert showed absolutely no interest in marriage. With the loss of Princess Grace it was no secret that Rainier III was in despair and there were rumors that he planned to abdicate as soon as Albert got settled. Needless to say, Rainier III never abdicated.
As Albert passed the age at which his own father had married, the chattering only increased. He was known as one of the most eligible bachelors in Europe; he was handsome, charming, dripping with money, a certified prince and of course very, very, very nice. He had beautiful women on his arm at every special occasion and formal event and yet he never seemed to have a steady girlfriend. What could possibly be the problem? Rumors finally began to go around that Albert was gay and he was even featured in a number of gay magazines despite everyone who knew him assuring the press that this was not true. Albert himself said he found the rumor funny at first but that it lost its humor very quickly.
Later on the world would find out in a public way that, contrary to the gay rumors, Prince Albert certainly liked girls and, truth be told, probably a little more than was good for him. Nonetheless, he ignored all of the gossip, tabloids and rumors of the chattering classes and devoted himself to being a good heir and preparing for his future job as the Sovereign Prince of Monaco. He made sure to keep up to speed with business, economics, social issues, environmental issues and charitable work as well as continuing his long association with the Olympic Games. However, as the years went by and Prince Rainier III became increasingly frail the marital status of the Hereditary Prince began to become a matter of politics as well as the society page. If he were do die without issue the Principality of Monaco would, legally, be absorbed by the French Republic, which was the last thing anyone wanted.
In 2002, with Albert still showing no sign of interest in tying the knot, a new succession law was worked out to remove the threat of a French takeover and ensure that if Albert never had children the crown would pass to his older sister, her children and so down the family line according to male primogeniture. This might have taken some of the pressure off of Albert, but if he was ever under any stress about his lack of a wife he certainly never showed it. He already had more than enough to keep him busy and girls he dated did complain that even those closest to him had very little time alone with the busy prince who always had some business to attend to, some ceremony to oversee or some event to appear at for the benefit of his tiny country.
In early March, 2005, Rainier III went into critical care in the hospital and by the end of the month the Palace announced that the Reigning Prince could no longer carry out his duties and that Hereditary Prince Albert had been appointed regent to act on his behalf. This turned out to be a largely symbolic action as Albert spent most of his time with his ailing father and was regent for only about a week before it was announced that Rainier III had died and his son had succeeded as Reigning Prince Albert II of Monaco. The new prince led his country in three months of mourning for his father before the start of his reign was officially celebrated starting on July 12, 2005 at a mass in St Nicholas Cathedral with Monsignor Bernard Barsi, Archbishop of Monaco, officiating. There was a party held at the Palace for the Monegasque natives and the day of celebrations ended with a fireworks display on the waterfront. The formal enthronement came on November 19, 2005 at St Nicholas Cathedral. It was a grand occasion of pomp and ceremony for the principality with the princely family gathered together, including the new heir-to-the-throne Hereditary Princess Caroline of Monaco, her husband Prince Ernst of Hanover, her children Andrea, Charlotte and Pierre as well as younger sister Princess Stephanie. Even his controversial aunt, Princess Antoinette, attended. Various national delegations also attended including 16 other royals from the assorted houses of Europe. The day was ended with a fitting elegant opera at Monte-Carlo.
As Albert II began his reign he had the benefit of numerous qualities which make for a successful monarch, being educated, athletic, popular, compassionate and, of course, being just a real nice guy. The only thing he still does not have is a wife and children and as each year passes the constant rumors of impending marriage become harder to believe. However, he has also been married to his country and has taken the duties of his job very seriously. Of course, a very important part of those duties are attending lavish parties, traveling the world, bringing attention to Monaco, encouraging new business and keeping the principality on its feet. He has also done a great deal of charity work, particularly for orphans, and has become very interested in environmentalism. He has done a great deal to educate himself on the subject as well as reviving the traditional Grimaldi patronage of causes for marine wildlife. Sometimes all of these causes and his own sense of adventure overlap and make for some exciting excursions. Albert II, in 2006, earned the distinction of being the first and only Head of State to visit the North Pole and in 2009 it was announced that he has an expedition planned for the Antarctic.
Romantic rumors began to fly again in 2006 when Albert was attending the Winter Olympics and met the South African swimmer Charlene Wittstock with whom he was spotted on several occasions thereafter. However, there was also considerable evidence come to light that certainly put to rest the gay rumors. In 2005 Albert, through his lawyers, admitted to fathering an illegitimate son with a flight attendant from Togo named Nicole Coste. In 2006 DNA tests also proved that Albert was the father of another illegitimate child by a woman from California named Tamara Rotolo. The child, a daughter, was named Jazmin Grace Grimaldi who was invited by her father to live and study in Monaco if she wished but has so far remained with her mother in San Juan Capistrano, California. A topless model from Germany had also claimed that Albert fathered a child with her but blood tests proved the claims false.
In the summer of 2011 Prince Albert II married longtime girlfriend Charlene Wittstock in one of the biggest royal weddings of the year and the largest such celebration in Monaco since the marriage of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier. Thus, there is now the chance that offspring may be produced to continue the Grimaldi-Polignac line of Rainier III. In any event, until such time as Albert II and Charlene do produce legitimate issue his heir remains his elder sister Caroline, Princess of Hanover.