Freedom was on tap to everyone in the world on July 4th weekend. Except apparently the fiancée of Prince Albert of Monaco. The 33-year-old former Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock was allegedly stopped by airport officials last week as she tried to leave Monaco on the eve of Friday’s civil ceremony and Saturday’s lavish, multimillion dollar wedding.
The royal press corps denied the story. The couple went through with both ceremonies over the weekend. The admitted postscript is that Prince Albert faces paternity tests and scandal following allegations of an 18-month-old illegitimate child with an Italian woman.
Now I respect anyone who takes marriage vows seriously and commits to “til death do us part” matrimony. When it works, marriage is the best deal going.
I also respect anyone who backs out prior to the wedding ceremony, whether the change of heart comes a few days or a few minutes before the vows.
It logically follows that members of a society that upholds the sanctity of marriage – including airport officials – should support anyone brave and honest enough to admit, especially at the last minute, that he or she cannot go through with a lifetime commitment.
I should know.
Five days before my first wedding, my fiancée strangled and beat me at seven in the morning because I yelled at my computer (I didn’t even yell at him!).
I knew I shouldn’t marry him.
He apparently knew he shouldn’t marry me either, because my dad had to hunt him down in a Cambridge, Mass bar minutes into the wedding ceremony and drag him to Harvard’s Memorial Church.
I am still baffled by my, my fiancée’s, and my family’s peculiar insistence on supporting a clearly doomed union. We would have saved ourselves four years of pain, suffering and money if we had called the wedding off. It was irrelevant whether the cancellation came five days before or five minutes before our picture-perfect wedding in Harvard Yard.
Instead, we both learned the difficult lesson that it is far easier to back out of an engagement than to go through the agony of a failed marriage and the torture of an expensive, nasty divorce.
Prince Albert, the heir to the tiny European tax haven of Monaco, is one of the wealthiest, most famous bachelors on the planet. He is the son of one of the most beautiful dead women in the world, the America actress Grace Kelly. He already has two paternity-tested out-of-wedlock children, a six-year-old son, Alexandre, through former Togolese flight attendant Nicole Coste, and a 19-year-old daughter, Jazmin, with Tamara Rotola, an American estate agent. Plus this third possible child. A simple descriptor fits Prince Albert more perfectly than any crown: playboy.
So there is plenty of evidence that he is a risky man to marry.
But there was also plenty of pressure on 33-year-old Charlene Wittstock to go through with the ceremony. She met the Prince in 2000 and has had ample time to vet his character and decide on the pros and cons of marrying him. The Prince certainly has not hid his indiscretions. Maybe she was tempted by a lifetime of royal perks.
Thousands of Monaco residents – and the world of royal watchers — have all been riveted to the wedding countdown. Upon marriage, Wittstock – the daughter of a humble South African photocopier salesman – would become Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene de Monaco. The silk Armani wedding dress, laden with 40,000 Swarovski crystals and 20,000 mother-of-pearl teardrops, was ready. Eight hundred guests and a Roman Catholic priest were waiting for her to say “I do.”
Under these circumstances, it takes a strong, independent-minded person to stop any wedding steamroller. The pomp and circumstance of the wedding machinations stacked against her. It seems almost logical to take the vows – it is easy to divorce if it doesn’t work out, right?
Wrong. A bad marriage can undermine your faith in love and loyalty, and in your own judgment. Staying in an unhappy marriage is like living in prison. Divorce sucks. And bringing children into this kind of flawed union is beyond irresponsible.
Perhaps the new royal couple have made their own independent deal with each other. Charlene reportedly smiled during the “forgiveness and fidelity” vow verbiage. And Prince Albert winked at her before they sealed their commitment with a kiss. But my view is that if you take a lifetime of commitment seriously, this is no way for a couple or a country to honor marriage.