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    Monaco's Palace Watchers Debate Transition, as Prince Albert Assumes Ailing Father's Duties

    Lisa Bryant

    Prince Rainier of the tiny nation of Monaco is in critical condition, and his son, Prince Albert, has been made regent of the tiny principality. In this VOA report, from Paris, Lisa Bryant looks at the implications of a transition of power, after more than half-a-century of Prince Rainier's rule.

    The medical bulletin published Friday on Prince Rainier was grim. It said the health of the 81-year-old prince, who was hospitalized three weeks ago for breathing, kidney and heart problems, remains precarious. There was little hope, the statement added, of a favorable outcome.

    Prince Rainier's 47-year-old son, Albert, has moved a step closer to inheriting leadership of the world's second smallest country, after the Vatican. On Thursday, he formally took over royal duties from his father. Educated in Monaco and the United States, Prince Albert is an accomplished sportsman, who competed on Monaco's bobsled team in several winter Olympics.

    The second of Prince Rainier's three children with his wife, the late movie-star Grace Kelly, Prince Albert is widely described as a kind man, who once confessed in an interview with Paris Match magazine that he had little interest in governance. But he is extremely popular among Monaco's 32,000 residents, who consider him unpretentious, warm and accessible.

    Author Frederic Laurent lives near Monaco, and has published a biography of Prince Rainier and the royal family.

    Mr. Laurent predicts that, if Prince Albert succeeds his father as Monaco's next ruler, as expected, he will be a far less authoritarian figure than Prince Rainier, whom Monegasques sometimes call 'le patron,' or, the boss. By contrast, Mr. Laurent predicts Prince Albert will delegate more powers, and that Monaco will be a more democratic statelet under his rule.

    Prince Albert's only obvious handicap is that he is unmarried and childless, despite having dated several celebrities, including model Claudia Schiffer. Palace watchers predict that, if Prince Albert remains a bachelor, one of the children of his older sister, Princess Caroline, might be designated as Monaco's next heir.

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