Page last updated at 17:37 GMT, Tuesday, 12 July 2005 18:37 UK

Profile: Prince Albert of Monaco

Prince Albert of Monaco
Prince Albert has been part of the national Olympic bobsled team

Monaco's new ruler, Prince Albert II, has traditionally kept a lower profile than his two sisters who have long fascinated the gossip columns.

At 47, he was better known as an accomplished sportsman and a confirmed bachelor than for any antics in his private life.

That was until he admitted he had fathered a son - Alexandre Coste - to a French-Togolese air stewardess during a relationship of several years.

He confirmed the news at the end of the three-month mourning period for his father, Prince Rainer - and days before his assumption of Monaco's throne.

The boy, while set to benefit from some of his father's considerable fortune estimated at some 2bn euros ($2.4bn), is not in line to succeed Albert because Monaco's constitution requires its rulers to be born in wedlock.

Comments like, 'At his age, he should be married!' have always stupefied me
Prince Albert

In 2002, the principality's constitution was changed so the Grimaldi dynasty could continue through the female line if the ruler died without an heir.

But Albert also told French television on Monday that other paternity suits were a possibility, although he refused to confirm or deny that he had fathered other children.

"I know there are other people who present more or less the same case," he said. But when asked if such paternity claims were false, he replied: "We will answer that when the time comes."

Sporting talent

His longstanding bachelorhood had long been a subject of public scrutiny.

It is in marked contrast to his sisters Caroline and Stephanie, who between them have married five times and have seven children.

Prince Albert with sisters Caroline (left) and Stephanie (right) on the day of his enthronement
Albert's sisters have traditionally drawn more public attention

"Comments like, 'At his age, he should be married!' have always stupefied me," Prince Albert told Le Monde newspaper last week.

"At what age? I looked around everywhere, and I didn't find any age limit."

His aides predicted that the prince, like his father, was waiting to succeed as ruler before making any wedding plans.

New vision

The second child and only son of the late Prince Rainier and the US film star Grace Kelly, Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre Grimaldi was born in March 1958 and educated in Monaco and the US.

After serving briefly in the French navy, he worked as an intern for a variety of companies in France and the US.

After his mother's death in a car accident in 1982, he returned to Monaco, where he devoted his time to his sporting talents.

He took part in the last five Winter Olympics as a member of the national bobsled team and in 1985 took part in the Paris-Dakar motor rally.

He was appointed to the International Olympic Committee in 1985 and later became president of the Olympic Committee of Monaco.

Prince Albert has little experience of public life, but in recent years has assumed some public functions, representing Monaco in international forums such as the Council of Europe.

He is also his country's top ambassador.

He has vowed to clean up Monaco's image over money laundering, which he says has been unjustly accused of closing its eyes to the practice.

"We must absolutely free ourselves of this equation that Monaco equals money laundering."

In pictures: Monaco mourns Rainier
15 Apr 05 |  In Pictures
Obituary: Prince Rainier III
06 Apr 05 |  Europe
Life in pictures: Prince Rainier III
06 Apr 05 |  In Pictures
The Grimaldis after Rainier
06 Apr 05 |  Europe

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