Monaco’s Prince Albert II has formally ascended the throne of the tiny Mediterranean principality, taking the title of His Serene Highness three months after the death of his father Prince Rainier.
The 47-year-old bachelor prince was accompanied by his two sisters, Princess Caroline and Princess Stephanie, in a celebration that began with a solemn Mass at the cathedral where their father was buried in April.
His mother, Hollywood actress Grace Kelly was also laid to rest in the same cathedral in 1982 after being killed in a car accident.
Hundreds of Monegasques took advantage of the national holiday, filling the white stone building to watch the ceremony conducted by the archbishop of Monaco, Monsignor Bernard Barsi.
It was the family’s first official outing after an extended mourning period for Rainier, who reigned for 56 years over one of Europe’s oldest monarchies.
Following the 75-minute church service, Prince Albert walked to the nearby palace for a garden party reception.
A more up-beat tone greeted the 6,000 guests invited to the party which ended with a festive ball, fireworks and the music of Pink Floyd and U2.
There will be a final formal investiture, inviting foreign heads of state, on November 19.
In his first public speech as ruler, Albert pledged to clean up the country’s image as a tax haven and centre for money laundering, hand in hand with an ambition to strengthen Monaco’s enviable banking and business success.
“Money and virtue must be combined permanently,” the prince said.
“The importance of Monaco’s financial market will require extreme vigilance to avoid the development of the type of financial activities which are not welcome in our country.”
Albert appears to be marking his succession with a new openness after just last week confirming news reports he had fathered a child out of wedlock with an Air France flight attendant.
The prince said the boy, 22-month-old Alexandre Coste, would “want for nothing” and has reportedly offered a villa near the palace for the child and his French-Togolese mother, Nicole.
Overnight, Prince Albert alluded to the possibility that there may be others waiting to step forward with paternity claims.
In an interview with France’s TF1, the prince refused to elaborate saying only, "We will answer when the time comes.”
Prince Albert’s illegitimate son will not be in line to inherit the throne.
However, a change to Monaco’s constitution in 2002 has opened the way for the Grimaldi dynasty to continue to rule through the female line, should Albert remain unmarried and heirless.
But aides have predicted that Albert, like his father before him, may have waited until succeeding as ruler before making any plans to marry.