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Wedding ends Prince Albert's colorful bachelorhood

Prince Albert II of Monaco appears with his bride Charlene Princess of Monaco at the Monaco palace, after the civil wedding marriage ceremony, Friday, July 1, 2011. AP

(CBS) The civil wedding Friday of Monaco's reigning Prince Albert II to Charlene Wittstock of South Africa brings to an end one of Europe's most colorful bachelorhoods.

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The 53-year-old prince, who has dated movie stars and models as well as fellow royals, was married in a low-key ceremony on July 1, 2011, in the Throne Room of the Monaco palace. A more extravagant religious ceremony, attended by 2,000 people including heads of state, royalty and Hollywood stars, will be held Saturday evening in the palace courtyard.

Educated at Amherst College in Massachusetts, Prince Albert is the second child and only son of American film legend Grace Kelly and Monaco's Prince Rainier III. He acceded to the throne after the death of his father in April 2005. His mother died in a car crash in 1982.

Although he has been linked with such stars as actress Brooke Shields and model Naomi Campbell, the prince showed no inclination to marry. In fact, the absence of an heir became such an issue that in 2002 Monaco adopted a law providing that if a reigning prince dies without a legitimate heir, the throne passes to his siblings and their descendants of both sexes.

Even so, some Monagasques were worried that succession to Princess Caroline or Princess Stephanie or their children would create instability in the principality. Without a Grimaldi successor to the throne, Monaco would become part of France.

The prince has acknowledged fathering two illegitimate children: a daughter with an American travel agent and a son with a Togolese flight attendant, but neither can succeed him. A third paternity suit brought by a German topless model was dismissed after paternity tests failed to prove the prince was the father.

Earlier this week, Monaco was awash with rumors that Wittstock was flying home to South Africa and calling off the wedding after reports of yet another illegitimate child surfaced in a French newspaper.

The palace denied the reports and the two were later seen strolling about Monaco shops.

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Pictures: Prince Albert II and Charlene Wittstock
Pictures: Charlene Wittstock

"These rumors have no other goal than to severely damage the reputation of the monarch and thereby that of Miss Wittstock and severely undermine this happy event," said the palace, which is banking on a wedding tourist boom.

Wittstock's father, Mike, said his daughter had been heading to Paris for some last-minute wedding purchases.