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Video: Royal couple dispels runaway bride rumors

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    >>> case you missed it, britain's prince william wasn't the only royal who tied the knot this year. four months ago prince albert of monaco turned south african turned princess charlene wittstock . the wedding was watched by millions and made tabloid headlines when rumor was made charlene was a runaway bride . i spoke with them about that and a lot more. prince albert ii was born to grace kelly and prince rainier ii of monaco . their own storybook wedding brought global attention to the tiny principality and the world has paid attention ever since. for years the love lives of prince albert and his sister's caroline and stephanie have splashed across tabloids. he was painted the eternal playboy prince. in 2005 he ascended to the throne of monaco , still a bachelor. but on july 2nd of this year, after a five-year romance, the 53-year-old prince took the plunge, marrying a 33-year-old olympic swimmer from south africa , charlene wittstock . this has been some year.

    >> it's been an amazing year.

    >> much had been made of the fact that you were a little older when you got married, my age, so i don't want to make it sound too old.

    >> see?

    >> you were going to do this on your own timetable and it may be awkward to ask this with your bride next to you, but why this time? why now? why this person?

    >> you know, i against it's just the question of timing and feeling that it's right, and the heartfelt thing to do.

    >> do you feel the pressure, though? i mean from within the palace and from the people of monaco to settle down?

    >> a little bit. a little bit in the family, but mostly outside the family.

    >> i don't think i have to tell you this, you haven't married into the jones family . you have married into the grimaldis. as a swimmer, spent a lot of time in the spotlight here, olympian, was there any way you could prepare yourself for the level of attention that surrounded you especially in the days prior to the wedding?

    >> no, i think i went into olympic mode where i was in the zone.

    >> training.

    >> and i don't think anything was affecting me at that time. obviously there were a lot of things going on at the time, and you know, obviously really focused on what that day meant for the two of us.

    >> did you hear the rumors? people were saying you were reluctant. and there's always jitters. every bride and every groom wahas jitters but people were saying you were particularly reluctant about getting married. set the record straight .

    >> why would he go through the effort to have our most intimate dearest friends join us for us to be reluctant? it sounded a bit hilarious.

    >> so there was no runaway bride .

    >> not at all.

    >> details were splashed across the french press claiming the princess had cold feet and had to be stopped at the airport before boarding a plane home. one report even claiming her passport was revoked. i wonder if you stop to think where does this come from? because there were details involved that were unusual for rumors.

    >> yeah. you know, i think there were, you know, part jealousy, part people that were envious or did not like the fact that we were finally, i mean, together and marrying.

    >> there was also a wonderful opportunity for them to ride on something, a negative spin because people would buy the magazines or listen to all the negativity.

    >> on the day of the wedding, much was made of your expressions and some people said you were more serious than a bride and groom in bliss should be. was there pressure? were you feeling the weight of all those stories on that day, and if so, how do you get that day back? that's unfair.

    >> it is unfair, and you know, i thought i paid attention to you and smiled at you many times, but maybe that's not enough for some people.

    >> is there a lesson? going through something like that, your highness, do you learn a lesson? is there something you take out of it that you can use in the future?

    >> when all the rumors had started and people were questioning this and that and i just totally ignored it, not to take things so seriously, and to just let it go.

    >> and it's behind us now.

    >> it is, and --

    >> hopefully it will never come back.

    >> with prince albert 's marriage, minds in monaco are turning to thoughts of the royal succession . albert already has two children by two different women who were not his wives. they cannot succeed him on the throne. i was reading about something recently in advance of your marriage because you were single there was a change in the constitution in monaco that allowed the grimaldi dynasty to continue through the female line.

    >> what it means is that then it can go through other siblings of the family, so in this case my sisters.

    >> then it raises the question if you two have a daughter, would that daughter be in line for the throne?

    >> yes.

    >> as he begins to build a legacy of his own in monaco , prince albert and his wife come to new york to ensure his mother's legacy lives on, the princess grace foundation celebrated the 29th annual princess grace awards, supporting emerging talent in the arts.

    >> i'm still amazed at how many people not only remember her but look up to her as a model and as an icon, her incredible generosity and her passion for the arts.

    >> there's an obvious connection between you and americans and the united states with your mom.

    >> yes.

    >> do you think that connection still lasts? do you still feel it as you come here and walk the streets?

    >> oh, i feel very much a connection, still very much alive, not only in my family connections and i still see a lot of my relatives every year and i've been very fortunate over the years to be able to experience a lot in this country. i've been in every state and i don't think many people can say that.

    >> most americans can't say that.

    >> and, but i've enjoyed my time here over the years tremendously, and i want to share it with charlene.

    >> pleasure to see you again. what a pleasure to meet you.

    >> thank you.

    >> thanks for your time.

    >> thanks.

    >> prince rainier iii was known as the builder prince for bringing monaco into the modern day . i asked prince albert what his vision for the future was, he said it was green. the prince is very committed to building sustain abable businesses in monaco .

    >> i'm still so glad you let me sit next to

By
TODAY contributor
updated 11/2/2011 9:32:48 AM ET 2011-11-02T13:32:48

Charlene Wittstock looked serene at her July 1 wedding to billionaire Prince Albert II of Monaco. But up until the day she said “I do,” she was dogged by reports she had tried to run away from her opulent nuptials.

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In an exclusive interview with Matt Lauer on TODAY Wednesday, the 33-year-old former Olympian from South Africa said that she was a victim of the press’s overactive imagination in the hoopla leading up to a royal wedding.

Video: Royal couple dispels runaway bride rumors (on this page)

“Why would you go through all this effort to have this fantastic, you know, couple of days and have our most intimate, dearest friends come and join us for us to be reluctant?” Princess Charlene said as she sat alongside her new husband. “You know, for me, it just sounded hilarious.”

Story: Royal weddings to commoners more common

Days before the wedding, the French weekly paper Le Journal du Dimanche reported Whittstock made up to three attempts to flee Monaco in advance of her wedding to Prince Albert. The paper reported she sought refuge at the South African embassy in Paris when she was being fitted for her wedding dress in May, tried to leave the country again at the Formula 1 Grand Prix race and then, just days before the wedding, was stopped from boarding a helicopter flying from Monaco to Nice, France as officials persuaded her to stay and go through with the wedding.

Slideshow: Monaco’s royal wedding (on this page)

Princess Charlene told Lauer she understands the European media was latching onto a story of royal magnitude — even if it was imagined. “It was a wonderful opportunity for them to ride on something, you know, (a) negative spin, because people would buy the magazines or listen to all the negativity,” she said.

Prince Albert may understand the story even better — the only son of the late Prince Rainier III and the late American actress Grace Kelly, Albert had generated headlines all his adult life for his rich and varied dating life, during which he fathered two children born out of wedlock. That the lifelong bachelor was finally marrying at age 53 may have signaled an end to the press’s obsession with his personal life.

“I think there were, you know, part jealousy, part, people that were envious or did not like the fact that we were finally coming together and marrying,” Prince Albert told Lauer.

Slideshow: The wedding of Charles and Diana (on this page)

Still, Prince Albert faced even more scrutiny for allegedly looking more serious than blissful at the Catholic wedding ceremony before 800 onlookers at the royal palace in Monaco.

“It is unfair,” he said, turning to Princess Charlene. “I thought I paid attention to you and smiled at you many times.” Laughing, he added, “Maybe that’s not enough for some people.”

Now, media types are on a royal baby watch as they wonder when Prince Albert, who ascended to the throne with his father’s passing in 2005, will produce a legitimate heir. The 19-year-old daughter he fathered with a California woman and the 8-year-old son he fathered from a relationship with a flight attendant from Togo are not, per Monaco’s Princely Law, considered heirs.

Image: 117794620
Valery Hache  /  AFP - Getty Images
Prince Albert II of Monaco kisses Princess Charlene after their second ceremony on July 2, 2011 in Monaco.

With Prince Rainier in failing health in 2002 — and his only son still not married — the Monaco constitution was amended to include females in the line of succession. It means that if Prince Albert II passes before producing an heir, the throne would fall to either of his sisters, Caroline or Stephanie.

Story: Low-hanging princes: The world’s eligible royals

“What it means is that it can go through the other siblings in the family,” Prince Albert told Lauer. But Albert also noted that should his marriage to Whittstock produce a daughter but not a son, she would be first in line for the throne.

But for now, the royal couple seems to be reveling in their first year as a married couple. Princess Charlene joked that her training as a world-class competitive swimmer has come in handy.

“I think I kind of went into Olympic mode, really,” she said of the spotlight that shone on her nuptials. “I was in the zone, and I don’t think anything was affecting me at that time.”

Story: Bhutan's 'Dragon King' marries his commoner bride

Prince Albert also said he is ever mindful of his family’s American connection via his mother, the Philadelphia, Pa., native who rose to big screen stardom before retiring from acting to marry Prince Rainier in 1956. Prince Albert and Princess Charlene attended the 29th Annual Princess Grace Awards benefit in New York City on Tuesday.

He said it warms his heart at how warmly his mother, who died in a car crash in 1982 after suffering a stroke, is remembered.

“I’m still amazed at how many people not only remember her, but look up to her as a model and as an icon,” he told Lauer.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Photos: Monaco’s royal wedding

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  1. Prince Albert II of Monaco and Princess Charlene of Monaco depart from the Monaco palace after their religious wedding ceremony in Monaco July 2. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. The newlyweds smile as they leave the palace, July 2. The Roman-Catholic ceremony follows the civil wedding which was held in the Throne Room of the Prince's Palace of Monaco on July 1. (Andreas Rentz / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Prince Albert II of Monaco kisses Princess Charlene of Monaco during their religious wedding at the Main Courtyard of the Prince's Palace on July 2. (Valery Hache / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Princess Stephanie's daughter, Camille Gottlieb, right, speaks during the wedding mass of Prince Albert II of Monaco and Princess Charlene, July 2. Princess Charlene's dress was created by Italian designer by Giorgio Armani. (Bruno Bebert / Pool / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Michael Kenneth Wittstock, left, escorts his daughter Princess Charlene on the red carpet at the Place du Palais for the religious wedding ceremony with Prince Albert II at the Palace in Monaco, July 2. (Benoit Tessier / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Princess Charlene on her father Mike Wittstock's arm, walks to the altar for the wedding ceremony, July 2. (Bruno Bebert/pool / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Monaco's Princess Charlene arrives at the religious wedding ceremony in at the Palace in Monaco, July 2. (Jean-Paul Pelissier / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. British model Naomi Campbell and her boyfriend Russian property mogul Vladimir Doronin arrive for the wedding mass of Prince Albert II of Monaco and Princess Charlene, July 2. (Emma Foster/ Pool / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Giorgio Armani and guest attend the religious ceremony of the Royal Wedding of Prince Albert II of Monaco to Princess Charlene of Monaco, July 2. (Sean Gallup / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Sweden's Princess Madeleine arrives for the wedding, July 2. (Emma Foster / Pool / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. French President Nicolas Sarkozy attends the religious ceremony of the Royal Wedding of Prince Albert II of Monaco to Princess Charlene of Monaco, July 2. (Sean Gallup / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld arrives for the wedding mass of Prince Albert II of Monaco and Princess Charlene, July 2. (Bruno Bebert / Pool / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Crown Princess Mary of Denmark and husband Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark attend the religious ceremony of the Royal Wedding of Prince Albert II of Monaco to Princess Charlene of Monaco, July 2. (Sean Gallup / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Sophie Countess of Wessex attend the religious ceremony of the Royal Wedding, July 2. (Sean Gallup / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Victoria Silvstedt attends the religious ceremony of the Royal Wedding of Prince Albert II of Monaco to Charlene Wittstock, July 2. (Andreas Rentz / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Princess Charlotte Casiraghi, left, and Princess Stephanie of Monaco attend the religious ceremony of the Royal Wedding of Prince Albert II of Monaco to Charlene Wittstock, July 2. (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. French former professional tennis player Henri Leconte, left, and his wife Florentine Leconte arrive at the Place du Palais, July 2. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Lalibert, left, arrives with his wife Claudia Barilla at the Place du Palais, July 2. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Prince Albert II of Monaco and Princess Charlene of Monaco greet people on the balcony after their civil wedding at the Prince's Palace on July 1, 2011 in Monaco. (Valery Hache / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Prince Albert II of Monaco (R) and Charlene Princess of Monaco leave the Monaco palace after the civil wedding marriage ceremony. (Lionel Cironneau / Pool via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A couple look at television screens as newlyweds Prince Albert II of Monaco and Princess Charlene wave on the balcony of the Palace. (Jean-Paul Pelissier / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Princess Caroline of Hanover (2R) and her daughter Alexandra of Hanover (L), Princess Stephanie of Monaco (R) and her daughter Camille Marie Kelly Gottlieb pose on the balcony after the civil wedding. (Valery Hache / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. The Mayor of Monaco, Georges Marsen, shakes hands with Princess Charlene as Prince Albert II of Monaco looks on outside the Monaco palace. (Bruno Bebert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Princess Charlene's parents, Lynette Wittstock (2-R), Mike Wittstock (L), and her brothers Sean-Michael Wittstock (2-L) and Gareth Wittstock (R) appear at one the palace's balconies after Princess Charlene's civil marriage ceremony with Prince Albert II of Monaco. (Bruno Bebert / Pool via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Andrea, left, Pierre, center, and Louis, right, sons of Caroline and Stephanie of Monaco stand outside the Monaco palace after the civil marriage ceremony. (Bruno Bebert / Pool via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. People gather to watch the wedding outside the Monaco palace on Friday, July 1. (Lionel Cironneau / Pool via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. The night before the wedding, Prince Albert II and his then-fiance Charlene Wittstock pose with a guitar, a gift from the Eagles, who performed that evening to kick off the three-day celebration. (Francois Mori / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A Monegasque decorates the law courts with Monaco's flags and flowers to prepare for the wedding. (Eric Gaillard / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. A lingerie shop window in Monaco displays a picture of Prince Albert II and Charlene. (Lionel Cironneau / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Prince Albert II of Monaco and Princess Charlene of Monaco depart from the Monaco palace after their religious wedding ceremony in Monaco
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    Above: Slideshow (29) Monaco’s royal wedding
  2. Image: Royal Engagement
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    Slideshow (14) The wedding of Charles and Diana - Wedding
  3. Baby Diana
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    Slideshow (20) The wedding of Charles and Diana - Life
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    Slideshow (21) The wedding of Charles and Diana - Style
  5. Last moments
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    Slideshow (10) The wedding of Charles and Diana - Final moments
  6. Image: Storms And Strong Winds Batter UK Coastal Areas
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    Slideshow (51) The lives of princes

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