Sunday, December 20, 2009

The royal who lived next door

Intrepid reporter to prince: "And your name is?"

When Prince Albert of Monaco visited Cuba in April 2001, he settled in to a beach house next door to where I lived in Tarara, east of Havana.
I knew nothing about royals, but thought it would be great to interview a prince - any prince. I spent 10 minutes surfing the Internet to learn about this VIP from Monaco before heading over to see if I could talk to him. I had a dial-up connection back then and the best I could do was to find a short biography and a photo.
I printed out the photo so I'd recognize the prince, then went over to the beach house and knocked on the door.
A man answered.
I went through my spiel, hoping to land the interview.
The man listened patiently.
"So is the prince available?" I asked.
"You're talking to him," Prince Albert said.
Yikes! I had studied his photo, but still didn't recognize him when I saw him in the flesh.
He looked way too ordinary to be a royal.
I recovered from my embarrassment and we scheduled an interview, which I carried out before the prince left Cuba.

OK, Prince Albert didn't really live next door, but he was there for a few days

The prince was an absolute gentleman, very unassuming for someone who is now No. 9 on the Forbes list of wealthiest royals with a fortune of $1.4 billion.
While in Cuba, the prince met with then-President Fidel Castro, whom he described as "a truly exceptional person."
Prince Albert had gone to Cuba to take part in the 2nd International Conference on Physical Education and High Performance, news reports show.
He is president of Monaco's Olympic Committee. He has a brown belt in judo and has been on Monaco’s Olympic bobsleigh team three times.

Estimated fortune: $1.4 billion says:
Prince Albert has never married and is known as the most eligible prince in the world. When Prince Rainier died, Albert became Monaco's 32nd ruler.
Link: Palace of Monaco photo library

London's Daily Mail says the prince has a "playboy reputation." Previous lovers, the paper says, include:
* Tamara Rotolo, a Californian woman who had a daughter, Jazmin Grace Grimaldi, with the prince in 1993.
* Former Air France air hostess Nicole Coste, from Togo.
* Actress Angie Everhart
* Actress Brooke Shields
* Supermodel Claudia Schiffer.
In recent years, Prince Albert has been dating South African Olympic backstroke champion Charlene Lynette Wittstock.

Prince Albert with the former swimmer, Charlene Wittstock. Source of photo: Whale Cottage Portfolio blog
More of the prince and Wittstock. Source of photo: Royal Romance blog

Last, but not least: The prince and his girlfriend encounter a nude sunbather in France. Photo: Hello magazine
Hello magazine described the scene:
During a jaunt to the seafront in Saint Tropez with companion Charlene Wittstock, the Monegasque sovereign managed to keep his composure on passing a man in his birthday suit. Keeping a grasp of his girlfriend's hand and possibly even advising her to keep her eyes averted, Albert cannily avoided her getting an eyeful of any body parts. With the danger over, the couple continued their stroll along the resort's Pampelone beach and even signed autographs for a (fully clothed) well-wisher.

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