Monaco's royal palace is vehemently denying reports that the fiancée of ruler Prince Albert tried to skip town a week before their wedding.
On Wednesday, an aide to Prince Albert II of Monaco dismissed as "ugly rumors" news reports the sovereign's fiancee, Charlene Wittstock, attempted to call off the wedding and return to her native South Africa.
Christiane Stahl described the reports, which have appeared in several European publications, as "the very incarnation of jealousy." Stahl told Monaco-Info that "only jealousy could push people to start such violent, such ugly rumors just a few days before a marriage."
Albert and Wittstock, a 33-year-old ex-Olympic swimmer, will be married in elaborate festivities stretching over Friday and Saturday.
Stahl said the couple were "affected" by the rumors but added they are concentrating on last-minute preparations.
Earlier this week, French magazine L'Express reported on its website that Wittstock went to the airport in nearby Nice last week to board a one-way flight for South Africa, where she grew up.
It required "infinite persuasion" by the prince and members of his entourage to convince her to change her mind, the magazine said.
A lawyer for the couple, Thierry Lacoste, denied the report and told the daily Le Figaro he had started legal action against L'Express."It's sheer madness, everything is false," Lacoste told the newspaper. "This rumor has been going on three weeks ... I was just with the Prince and Charlene Wittstock in Paris three days ago and I can promise you everything is fine." Thousands of guests, including dozens of heads of state, are expected to attend the lavish Monaco ceremony on Saturday.
The 53-year-old head of the House of Grimaldi, son of Prince Rainier III and Hollywood actress Grace Kelly, met Wittstock in 2000 while presiding over an international swimming event in which she was competing.
Albert has ruled the small city-state surrounded on three sides by France since the death of his father in 2005.