By Sam Greenhill
Nuptials: A lawyer for Prince Albert of Monaco, pictured with fiancee Charlene Wittstock, has denied he is due to be exposed as the father of another illegitimate baby
The ‘reluctant’ bride-to-be of Monaco’s Prince Albert had her passport taken away to prevent her fleeing today’s £50million royal wedding, it was claimed yesterday.
Charlene Wittstock was said to have had the document confiscated by police at Nice airport as she apparently attempted to fly to her native South Africa on a one-way ticket.
The 33-year-old former Olympic swimmer is reported to have been trying to leave Monaco after hearing a rumour that her groom had fathered a third illegitimate child.
Lawyers for Prince Albert, 53, have said categorically that the rumour is false.
But the extraordinary claims mean that when Miss Wittstock walks down the aisle, at 4pm UK time, she will do so under a cloud of suspicion.
A senior Monaco detective, who was involved in the later stages of the ‘incident’ at Nice airport, confirmed: ‘Charlene had her passport confiscated so that the Prince’s entourage could persuade her to stay.’
And respected French newspaper Le Figaro reported: ‘This speculation has been given credibility by the indiscretions of the Monaco police.
Scandal: Prince Albert fathered a son Alexandre with former Air France hostess Nicole Coste, pictured. DNA tests proved he was the father of the child, now six
‘Last Sunday, one among their number revealed that his colleagues had intercepted the future princess at Nice airport because she wanted to leave. According to this officer, the young lady’s passport was taken.’
Following the alleged incident, Miss Wittstock returned to her gilded life, but Prince Albert is said to have been furious at the rumours, taking his bride-to-be on a high-profile tour of his principality to prove to the world the wedding was still very much on.
Last night the lavish three-day celebrations got under way with an open-air concert by The Eagles.
It meant Miss Wittstock spent her final night as a commoner in the grand palace as the lyrics to the band’s biggest hit, Hotel California, drifted across the harbour: ‘You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!’
Elaborate: The room where the civil ceremony between Prince Albert and Charlene Wittstock is due to take place on Saturday. Reports have claimed the South African Olympic swimmer was stopped at Nice airport and had her passport confiscated to prevent her getting on a plane
A-list event: Chef Alain Ducasse tastes vegetables in the Hotel de Paris Louis XV restaurant in Monaco. He has prepared the menu for the wedding
The wedding is the first of a reigning prince in the Mediterranean state since Hollywood icon Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier in 1956.
The palace last night released names on the star-studded guest list, including supermodel Naomi Campbell and Giorgio Armani, who has designed Miss Wittstock’s bridal gown.
Prince Albert’s first illegitimate child is Jazmin, 19, whose mother is Tamara Rotolo, a U.S. estate agent. His second, Alexandre, seven, was born to former air hostess Nicole Coste, from Togo.
He issued fierce denials before DNA tests proved he was the father in both cases.
Rift: Souvenirs on display in a shop window in Monaco. French magazine L'Express has stood by its story that Miss Wittstock tried to leave after hearing a rumour of an illegitimate child
Yesterday, the prince’s lawyer Thierry Lacoste poured scorn on the fresh allegations in Paris news magazine L’Express, which stands by its story.
‘I heard everything about the child – white, black, who has been born, not yet born ... it has to stop,’ he said. ‘There is no child, it’s a totally false rumour and absolutely without foundation.’
Meanwhile, Miss Wittstock’s father Mike told a South African radio station last night that the only time his daughter had come close to an aircraft recently was to fly to Paris to buy a hat and shoes for her wedding.
It had nothing to do with her boarding a one-way flight back home, he said.