Another wedding, another balding royal; but this time there was something slightly peculiar about the ensemble, something Mediterranean. In the tiny, Hyde Park-sized principality of Monaco, Prince Albert II married his South African bride Charlene Wittstock in the Saturday sunshine. There was no carriage ride, no cavalry guard, no scarlet tunics or polished riding boots. Instead, the Grimaldi scion wed in an ivory-white military uniform that clashed rather awkwardly with his wife’s sleek-but-dull Armani gown. Fellow royals from Sweden, Great Britain and Holland were also clad in white – famously the least favoured of all dress-uniforms – and the addition of white shoes made their ensembles ever so slightly absurd.
Unlike his father, who famously wed Grace Kelly in a pompous but more fittingly regal navy tunic, embellished with gold thread and spurious military awards, paired with sky blue and gold-braided trousers and accessorised with a jewelled sword, Albert – a ruler in charge of the smallest military force in the world – looked more like a ship’s captain from a 1940s Pacific & Orient pleasure vessel in the summer uniform of the palace guards. Whereas Grace was allowed to gleam, Charlene had to clash; in the sheen of her gown, there was no sign of the legendary elegance of the groom’s mother who had so influenced the bride of the year’s other royal wedding. As one has come to expect from Armani – a gifted but scarcely imaginative designer – the dress itself was flatteringly simple and, alongside the pleasure-cruise uniform of her new husband and the crowd of bluebloods, entirely disappeared.
There was something rather flabby and carefree about the Prince’s ensemble, and indeed that of other royals. For a place that is considered to be the world’s most glamorous superyacht marina, the uniform was certainly appropriate but it lacked the sober majesty of other royal wedding tunics. It was an aesthetic redolent of sweet vermouth cocktails and sticky nightclubs – apposite for a ‘party Prince’ but jarring with the reverence of a Catholic ceremony: it is a rare wedding that allows the groom to be ‘the meringue.’ The majority of the attendees, including Karl Lagerfeld, Sir Roger Moore (orthopaedically shoed) and Bernard Arnault, were in formal morning dress but there were a number of uncovered female shoulders, despite requests to abide by cathedral dress codes, and more than a few pairs of loafers. This was very much a Med wedding.
And yet, as shocking as Albert’s seasonal uniform was, in the beating sunshine and azure background of the glittering Mediterranean, it looked far more apropos than the double-breasted waistcoat and tails sported by others who looked like dazed colonials, shipwrecked on their return from India, squinting into the sun. The military whites looked like dashing sailors taking shore leave in a sunny paradise.
As ridiculous as it was to smash the bride’s white prerogative, Albert’s pristine uniform matched the gleaming and manicured buildings in the quiet and ancient Monaco-Ville; had he climbed into a carriage it would have been preposterous, instead he climbed into a new Lexus landaulette. It was a little gauche, and would certainly have made other royals wince, but it did fit the occasion. Albert does not pretend to be a knight in shining armour – indeed, with his reputation and flutter of rumours regarding a paternity suit, he most certainly could not. Unlike Kate Middleton, who beamed with unnerving consistency at her marriage to a prince, Charlene Wittstock rarely deployed her smile. Perhaps it was the paternity rumours, or possibly the service? Or maybe it was the sight of her husband, gleaming and winking in white; for clashing with his bride on her big day, even a prince might have some grovelling to do.