|Prince Albert II poses for photographers during celebration to officially proclaim him as new ruler of Monaco|
Monaco is celebrating its new ruler in lavish style. The tiny Riviera principality is draped with red-and-white banners bearing the royal Grimaldi crest, and the 6,000 native monegasques have been invited to a ball and fireworks this evening.
The day-long celebrations began with a morning mass at Monaco's cathedral, attended by Prince Albert's two sisters, Princesses Caroline and Stephanie. No foreign heads of state were invited to the celebrations.
Son of Prince Rainier III and the former Hollywood actress Grace Kelly, the 47-year-old bachelor prince was named Monaco's regent earlier this year, as his father lay dying. He was officially declared the principality's new ruler Tuesday after a three-month mourning period, marking Prince Rainier's death April 6.
Already, observers say, Prince Albert is putting his own stamp on the throne. A gifted athlete and avid environmentalist, the prince is described by his friends as down to earth and kind.
Observers say he is very different from his authoritarian father and will likely be a very different monarch as well. Prince Rainier was sometimes referred to as 'the boss' during the more than half century that he ruled Monaco.
Already, Prince Albert has caused a stir by acknowledging paternity of a nearly two-year-old child born out of wedlock.
Prince Albert says he wants to make stamping out corruption in Monaco a top priority during his reign. The principality was long dogged by accusations of being a haven for drug dealers, money launderers and other criminals. But it has polished up its image considerably in recent years.
Still, some palace watchers like journalist Roger-Louis Bianchini believe Prince Albert will have a hard time ridding Monaco of another reputation: As a fiscal haven for tax evaders.
In an interview with France Info radio, Mr. Bianchini said he believed Prince Albert will do what he can to rid Monaco of money linked to drugs, arms sales and other criminal activities. But he says Monaco survives by harboring tax evaders.
The principality argues otherwise. Today, it says, Monaco's revenues come from many other legitimate sources than from its very rich, foreign residents.