Playboy Prince and a reluctant bride kick off a wedding spree

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The Independent Online

The Playboy Prince, Albert II of Monaco, and his allegedly reluctant bride, the former Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock, began a busy weekend of celebrity weddings last night, tying the knot hours before the model Kate Moss and her long-term beau Jamie Hince married in the sleepy Cotswolds village of Southrop.

It has been widely reported that Ms Wittstock, who will officially become known as Her Serene Highness, Princess Charlene of Monaco, had rushed to nearby Nice airport earlier in the week after discovering more details of Albert's long and chequered life as a bachelor. The 53-year-old Prince has been forced to admit that he is the father of two children after DNA tests proved what he had previously denied. Rumour has it that Ms Wittstock left for the airport after learning of a third lovechild.

There are no such concerns for Kate Moss, but that has not stopped locals in Gloucestershire nicknaming her nuptials, "Mosstock" after the Woodstock music festival. Iggy Pop, Snoop Dogg and Beth Ditto are among the acts signed to perform at the party after an intimate church service at Southrop's St Peter's Church.

In Monaco, the House of Grimaldi, which has ruled the tiny principality for more than 700 years, has been at pains to say that reports of Ms Wittstock's dash to the airport are untrue. Yesterday's civil ceremony will be followed today with a religious service at the Catholic Cathedral, which will be attended by President Nicolas Sarkozy and the model Naomi Campbell.

Ms Wittstock is famously uneasy in the public gaze, but she has been paraded around the two-square-kilometre principality in an attempt to show that there were no concerns about the three-day celebration, which will host 3,500 guests and is thought to have cost as much as £50m.

To make matters worse, denials of the bolt to the airport were met with new allegations, that officials had to take away Ms Wittstock's passport to prevent her boarding a plane for South Africa on the eve of the wedding.

As heads of state, celebrities and other friends of the couple began arriving, a member of the Monaco police was reported in several newspapers, saying: "Charlene had her passport confiscated so that the Prince's entourage could persuade her to stay."

Prince Albert's lawyer, Thierry Lacoste, called the stories "madness", adding: "I heard everything about the [illegitimate] child, white, black, who has been born, not yet born ... it has to stop, it's I don't know what. There is no child, it's a totally false rumour and absolutely without foundation. It's easy to do your job as a journalist to check that Charlene did not go to the airport. It's clearly false; she and the Prince were around all last week."

Mr Lacoste's denials have done nothing to stop gossip. "It's certainly all the buzz," said Susan Langella, who had travelled from her home in New York to witness the ceremony. "But it's far too late for her now; the whole thing's far too gone for her to back out now.

"They've certainly tried to given the impression that all's well. We saw them the other day at the swimming pool; he was careful to give her a little peck on the cheek. But who really knows?"

The show of togetherness continued on Thursday night when the couple, wearing matching black outfits, attended a public concert by The Eagles. The rumours may have taken the glossy shine off what is supposed to be the happiest day of the couple's lives, but for the super-rich and multinational population here there is still an element of pride. Maybe because for once the country is in the spotlight for something other than being a tax haven.