Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Three's a crowd: Prince Albert takes new wife Charlene for honeymoon lunch (but South African president Jacob Zuma comes along too)

By Emily Miller

Elegant: Prince Albert and Princess Charlene arrives at the residence of South African president Jacob Zuma in Durban for lunch

Prince Albert of Monaco and Charlene Wittstock today enjoyed a late lunch overlooking the sea - with South African president Jacob Zuma.

Heavy on protocol and light on romance, the function was the among a string of public engagements the couple have booked in the bride's home country this week.

The pair arrived at the statesman's residence, smiling in an effort to quash rumours of marital strife sparked by claims that the prince recently fathered a love child.

A tanned Charlene, 33, wore a white crochet dress and thanked her new husband, 53, as he helped her out of the car. Asked how she was, she replied, 'Fine thanks.'

The prince is rumoured to have fathered a third baby out of wedlock, a scandal which allegedly prompted former Olympic swimmer Charlene to try to flee through France ahead of the nuptials in Monte Carlo at the weekend.

Today the couple joined Mr Zuma, 69, at his seaside residence, King's House, in Durban on South Africa's east coast.

As they left the house, the prince tried to silence rumours about his marriage by planting a careful kiss on new bride Charlene's cheek.

The monarch made the tentative gesture after emerging from lunch with Mr Zuma and his wife Thobeka Madiba.

Puckering up outside the president's mansion, he put his arm around her back for a brief moment of affection.

The couple departed in separate cars, as the prince was due in Durban city centre to vote at the International Olympic Committee conference, which is choosing the 2018 Winter Olympics host country.

Before leaving he said: 'Durban is very close to Charlene's heart so it's great that I have the chance to get to know it.

'It has been an incredible pleasure and really momentous. It's a wonderful coincidence that the 123rd IOC conference happening at the time of our visit.'

New wife in white: The Prince and Princess of Monaco are greeted as they arrive at the President's residence

Heads of state: The Royal couple posed with Preisdent Zuma and his wife Thobeka Madiba after their lunch

The new princess appeared tense as she embarked on among her first official state appearances since her marriage.

Polygamist premier Mr Zuma, who chose Ms Madiba, 39, for his visit to Britain last year, said ties had today been strengthened between South Africa and Monaco.

He said: 'I'm so pleased that this courtesy call has taken place. It was very good to meet.'

Mr Zuma is understood to have had at least 20 children, both in and out of wedlock.

Prince Albert and Princess Charlene will tomorrow host their South African wedding reception at the £4,600-a-night Oyster Box hotel at Umhlanga, a stretch of golden sands north of Durban.

Around 400 guests are expected for red and white-themed cocktails and dinner at the romantic getaway where it is understood they are keen to dodge the global spotlight.

Signaling their desire for privacy, security has been stepped up around the rambling colonial buildings, where they have booked the luxurious presidential suite.

But much of Prince Albert's time is being consumed with a conference of the International Olympic Committee taking place this week in Durban.

As a member of the organisation, he is expected to attend meetings before a vote on whether France, Germany or South Korea will host the Winter Games 2018.

Last night the couple appeared at a black-tie launch of the meetings at Durban Playhouse theatre.

Dressed in black, the new Princess stayed close to her husband at a champagne reception and smiled demurely for photographers.

Umhlanga is an expensive resort popular with an international crowd including Prince Harry and former girlfriend Chelsy Davy.

The working honeymoon: The couple were also at an event for the opening of the International Olympic Committee session on Tuesday night

The Princess grew up in the Johannesburg suburb of Benoni, but is said to be fond of Durban and stayed at the Oyster Box during a trip home in February.

But she will have little time to relax there, as reportedly a string of charity visits have kept her diary full.

The former Olympic swimmer is said to be leaving Durban for Cape Town early on Friday to visit three development projects, local charity the Giving Organisation Trust said.

Keen to use her new-found resources for good works, she is also due to meet former archbishop Desmond Tutu during the day.

On Saturday she is expected in Johannesburg to see another programme.

Prince Albert has reigned the tiny European state of Monaco since 2005 when his father Prince Rainier died.

He has had two other children out of wedlock - Jazmin Grace Grimaldi, 19, and Alexandre Coste, seven.

Ceremony: The pair exchange glances during their wedding in Monaco on Saturday

Pomp and ceremony: An official photograph from the wedding of Charlene and Albert which took place on saturday in Monte Carlo


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